Traveling with kids is too easy these days. Our recent spring break trip to New York with the kids is Exhibit A. Does anyone else remember the god-awful trips we took as kids in the 70s/80s? There were valuable grit-building lessons on the miles of road in a hot, sticky, boring van. Is all the technology really helping or hurting us?Read More
It’s horrible and heartbreaking and…utterly predictable. We had another school shooting. I’m just one of millions who are sick about it and trying to make sense of the senseless.
What I will say is that the reactions this time feel different. The voices demanding that “something must be done” seem louder and are coming from people I haven’t heard speak up before.
It’s the discussion of what that “something” is that has me thinking. The very serious, complex problem of mass gun violence is being met with a chorus of seemingly simple solutions. Everyone seems to have a different idea of what the source of the violence is and how to fix it.
A. It’s loose gun laws and the NRA. We should out the motives of politicians who take their money and create stricter laws around gun buying.
B. It’s mentally ill people. The stigma, lack of training in recognizing symptoms, and barriers to care are real issues. We have to increase the quality and amount of mental health care service in this country, and make it more available to those who need it.
C. It’s the ease of getting into public buildings. More metal detectors at schools and government buildings would deter would-be shooters from even trying, and stop those who do try. We need to increase security and screening for all our public institutions.
D. It’s the lack of information. We still don’t fully understand why mass shootings happen, or what things could be done to prevent them from happening in the future. Research shines a light on the causes and effects. We need to further investigate possible causes and contributing factors like violence in the media, illegal gun sales, and lack of education.
Of course, saying that all mass shootings stem from one of these issues is a false choice. The right answer is E. All of the above.
What’s remarkable to me about this challenge is that we all agree on a desired end goal: No more shootings. No more senseless murders. And even with so much agreement, we’re still stuck on how to get to that end goal.
We’d be much further along if our answer to every proposed solution was “yes, and…” instead of “no, but…” The notion that there’s a single, silver bullet solution out there is as ridiculous as it is ironic. If only it were so simple.
The reality is that all these factors and many more contribute to the epidemic of mass shootings in our country. Toxic masculinity, teaching young boys that violence makes them strong and empathy makes them weak, and an ever-increasing focus on incarceration over rehabilitation all contribute. Which means that our solution must be just as multifaceted if it’s to be effective.
So, while we’re waiting on God to answer our “thoughts and prayers,” isn’t there something else I can do? After all, I’m just sitting here—waiting while obsessively clicking the sad and angry emojis.
I can’t sign bills into law myself, but I can sign petitions, make calls, march, and vote. I can’t check someone into a mental institution, but I can advocate for more community mental health resources, seek help for those I know who are at risk, and speak-up when I see threatening comments and behavior. I can’t stand in front of the school every day and check credentials, but I can follow the rules myself. I can support budget requests for security. I can show up to city council meetings and write letters to the editor. I can make my support clear to our teachers and administrators. (In a moment of desperate imagination, I saw redesigned school uniforms redesigned with built-in bullet-proof vests.) I can’t crunch the numbers but I can support research and science that helps us better understand what causes and prevents mass shootings, and why.
As I write this, I feel some pressure to get this thought out while it’s still fresh. And then a little voice says, “Don’t worry. You can write this piece after the next one.” I don’t want there to be a next one. But there will be a next one as long as we hang on to the idea that there is a single (even big) solution out there.
Instead, let’s address all of the above.
I went on a field trip this week. It was just me, a couple dozen other moms, and as many teachers. Oh, the entire first grade at my daughter’s school was there too. Seven buses pulled up. Walkie-talkies were involved. Kids were counted and recounted. And then, seven buses pulled away.
Right away, I was happy- or relieved, I should say. We won the bus seat lottery and got the 2nd row. This is because Marin is the self-nominated line leader serving a no-limit term. We were next to the teacher and a bunch of other ponytailed girls. I sent a little “see ya, wouldn’t wanna be ya” wish of luck to my co-chaperone: Mom #2 in the back with the boys.
As I do when I’m the passenger in any moving vehicle, I immediately grabbed my purse and dug for my phone. This move got Marin’s attention.
She said, “Do you have your water bottle?”
“Yes, are you thirsty?”
“No, I just want to make sure you don’t drink it. There’s no drinking on the bus,” she said pointing to the black and white sticker above the driver. She read it to me. “No eating, talking loudly, or getting up.” She went on (adlibbing), “You have to face the front at all times. And, no singing.”
“You made that last one up.”
“Yeah, well. I don’t like when you act crazy in front of my friends.”
“What if I sing quietly?”
“No. Let’s play the animal game.” She seemed anxious to get me engaged in some productive, non-embarrassing activity.
So, we did.
Then after some stops and starts in traffic, we arrived. All gazillion of us got off the buses and started the 14-mile trek to the theater. It was 3 degrees, and the winds were whipping at, like, 40 miles per hour. It was cold.
As I do when I’m trying to pass the time, I got curious and started to interview those around me. I hung back in the line to ask the other kids what they were looking forward, whether they’d ever been to a show, what their moms packed for lunch, etc.
The line leader gave me this look.
She was not amused. I looked at the ground and hurried back to my place at the front.
The show was the show. It was a musical about a monkey making meatballs. It eventually ended.
We made our way back to the bus and reclaimed our 2nd-row seat.
This time, I was determined to make Marin proud and follow the rules. For her, that’s having a good time. And, of course, when she's happy I'm happy. I wanted her to be glad I came on the trip. It’s both about enjoying the morning together and one of those motherhood box-checking exercises. I must admit that part of this is me wanting her to remember me going on field trips- and following the rules.
Chaperoning is part of a long, complicated equation that weighs fairness, school involvement, kid wishes, and other stuff. My hope in the end is that I've strung together enough experiences that add up more than they subtract.
I like a good plan. Actually, I just like a plan.
A plan can’t be judged as good or bad until later, so I can’t worry about it. At any given moment, I like to know the goal and how we’re going to get there. That’s why I like planning with clients. And, that’s why every weekend starts with a family meeting that only ends after we have a bulleted list and what we’re going to accomplish with our 2 “home days.” Many, many years ago I was told by a boyfriend that dating me was like being in the Army. I was so flattered (and mean no disrespect to our actual armed forces.)
My goals and resolutions are screaming for a plan. Whether they know it or not, the fam needs some goals and a plan too. So, I need to come up with something for them (with their input, of course.)
As a start on my list, here’s what I’d like to work on. I’m going to pick one a month and make a little 30-day challenge out of it. If you read the blog earlier in the week, you know that the writing one is first up for January.
- Write consistently. This means writing just to write, writing for the blog, and for business stuff like Inc and Alexa. I will re-establish my daily writing habit by getting 500 words on the page each day without worrying about what. This goal is just about being disciplined about writing something, anything.
- Better catalog ideas. This goal is partly about reading more books but not completely. I read a lot of non-fiction now but most business books are really just a single idea drawn out for tens of thousands of unnecssary words. I’ll read the book summaries I get and pull the ideas out. What I need is a better system for cataloging and capturing the ideas I want to follow-up on in some way.
- Learn how to compile and edit videos. I have a lot of family videos and want to take more. I want to post them purely to prove to the kids later on that their childhood wasn’t, in fact, like being in the Army, and that we had fun too.
- Reduce clutter. This will be my list of “to dos” for the rest of my life. The house, my computer, and my brain just require constant attention and ruthless editing. Bring it.
- Increase confidence in public speaking. I want to feel more confident in front of an audience. This would be at conferences and presentations- not meetings. Even if the same number of people are in the room, I’m fine to lead a group through exercises and an agenda. I start to tighten up though if I’m there to convey any information and be authoritative on a topic.
- Market differently. I sell work now through two primary means- referrals and follow-ons. I’d like to stretch and try different ways to market and sell work.
- Try new recipes. Our current process rocks, I must say. Everything is planned and groceries are delivered each week. There are rarely last-minute trips to the store. However, we get into ruts and eat some of the same things each week because I know the kids like them. I’d like to get them trying new things, so I could do better at coming up with ideas for inducing new recipes.
Some of these ideas came from the Ink+Volt list. Others are just things I want to do. Over the next couple of days, I’ll figure out what makes sense for February. They aren’t ordered in any way. And, I still need to add the kid’s stuff.
If we’re related by blood or marriage (or just good friends) and have other things you’d like to see me work on, I’ll talk to you offline. 😊
I should probably write something. But, I can’t. For God’s sake, people, there is a missing library book. The Gap is offering another 40 percent off online. They’d be disappointed if I didn’t at least click around a little bit. And, don’t even get me started on email. I have unanswered (possibly important) emails from, like, clients and coworkers. Who could focus on writing when there are all these other things to do? I’ll write when my plate is clean. While distractions abound...
The real reason I haven’t written in a while is that I haven’t written in a while.
Since I'm already avoiding writing, come with me on a little visualization.
Imagine dozens of rocks in a stream. They’re roughly scattered in a line- just higher than the flushing water below. They form a path from one bank to the other. The rocks are each about the size of my foot and worn smooth. They’re my habits. Each day, I make it across and back, from day to night, hopping from one habit to the next.
Rock #1: Wake up and look at my phone. Let the dog out. Pour a cup of coffee while looking at my phone.
Rock #2: Sit down at my desk and immediately open email. Remind myself that I shouldn’t be opening email. Read the subject lines and tell myself they can wait. Respond to a couple anyway. Review my calendar for the day. Have the thought that I should check the news real quick with a little promise not to get sucked in. Get sucked in. Feel depressed.
Rock #3: Hear the kids wake up and start down the stairs. Quietly berate myself for not writing as the window of opportunity closes. Vow to get up earlier and write tomorrow.
And, so on…
The important rocks are lined up for a reason. I occasionally skip one or two or veer off to the side. The next day, I’m tempted to skip them again because I know I can. So, I do. I'll still make it across. "Those rocks will be there tomorrow," I think. Later, I remind myself why I have to step on each one. They’re not just my responsibilities; they’re my aspirations too.
For many, many days in a row, I skipped the writing rock. I have my excuses handy but I'll spare you. That changes today.
I will write 500 words each day going forward. This won’t count the thousands of necessary “who is picking up the kids?” kind of logistical messages I write. It also won’t count the things I'm (grateful to be) paid to produce. These 500 will be just my words on the page for the good-enough reason that I enjoy doing it. Of those 500, I’ll post some. Others, I’ll delete in disgust. The rest will be saved for the mythical day when I’ll have more time to come back and rework them.
Why? For 2018, one of my goals is to write more. And for me, writing more means writing consistently.
I believe that reaching a big goal requires us to break it down into hundreds of tiny pieces. What seems overwhelming at first is actually freeing. Setting a goal that will take six months to achieve is actually signing up for six monthly, 26 weekly, or roughly 180 daily goals, for example. The daily action taken to reach the big goal is a habit. It's a new rock that I must thoughtfully place in the stream with the commitment to step on it each day.
So, here I go...
This idea of "better" is a good reminder for me on Thanksgiving morning and something I should reread as we crash towards Christmas. “Better” to me applies to food and friends, play and work, and giving and receiving. And, better is precisely what I’m thankful for this year.Read More
Have you flown recently? Getting on the plane is such a pain. There has to be a better way, right? Here are 6 different ways we could try to try to board that would make the process a lot more interesting-- though probably not any better.Read More
I've heard about people who eat the same thing everyday. Actually, I haven't just heard about them, I live with one. Brian has the exact same breakfast, lunch, and snacks every day. This is regardless of the day of the week, weather, meeting schedule, mood, or anything else that might impact what you feel like eating.
I can't relate. I can hardly choke down one night of leftovers let alone think of eating the same thing two days in a row. So as the primary food-fixer in our family, dinner is different every night-- though I don't think Brian would care if I never switched it up.
I was curious to know whether it's possible to get everything you need nutrient-wise through one, simple and standard meal plan. After a bit of research, I found a bunch of articles and even a Harvard study that I shared in this Inc post.
So, if you were to follow this plan, what exactly would you cook? Here are a couple of recipes I've tried.
- Breakfast: 8 oz nonfat yogurt with a cup of papaya and kiwi and 14 walnut halves. Okay, you don't need a recipe for this one but it did remind me of this great podcast interview on How I Built This With Guy Raz and Gary Hirshberg, the founder of Stonyfield Yogurt.
- Lunch: 1 small whole-wheat pita with a green salad including 1 cup of dark green lettuce, a red pepper, 1 cup of tomatoes, ½ cup edamame, and unsalted sunflower seeds sprinkled on top. Don't despair! You can add olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and pepper as dressing. Here are 10 different options from one of my favorite food blogs, Kitchn.
- Dinner: 4 oz broiled wild salmon (about the size of your palm) with a yogurt sauce. On the side, a ½ cup of barley and lentils with a cup of steamed asparagus or baby bok choy.
They're simple and pretty tasty-- though I still know I couldn't eat them forever.
The last of our summer "crops" are ready to leave their comfy garden beds and meet one vicious set of kitchen knifes. What's left? Some crazy hot habaneros and a lot of 'em.
Don't ask me how we ended up with these. Well, okay... since you insist. Brian was looking for something with a bit more kick than our standard jalapenos but not quite as screaming-crying-temper-tantrum-throwing hot as these feisty little guys.
They're not good for a single thing except hot sauce. So... hot sauce it is. I adapted this Belizean-style habanero sauce recipe this afternoon. It has the predictable onions, garlic, and vinegar plus a couple of more interesting things like carrots, orange juice, and mangoes. No fewer than 10 raw habaneros were added to the mix. I also threw in key lime juice and honey from Country Mouse Farm. As you can see, it came out bright yellow.
On it's own, I thought it was inedible because it's so spicy. But then on our dinner of stuffed bell peppers tonight, it was hot but not overwhelming.
Alas, this baby has no name. Help Brian and I come up with something descriptive or interesting. If it's funny, all the better.
If your suggested name is picked, I'll send you some in lots of bubble wrap and an appropriate warning label. If you're local, I'll deliver.
Recently, my little middle, Baya, and I took a trip to Mobile, Alabama. We went with a two-fold purpose: see my cousin Rachel walk down the aisle and hang out with my grandfather- more commonly known as Pawpaw. This was not the kind of trip that’s exciting because you’re exploring someplace new. Instead, it was about reconnecting with something familiar.
Pawpaw lives alone in the big, old, old house he’s called home for more than 60 years. Nine of his ten children live within his same city limits. Proximity makes most of his nearly 100 family members day visitors. They come by to chat over a cup of coffee. They bring left-over chicken and rice in carefully labeled, microwavable plastic containers. They bring birthday cake at the right time and shuttle him to numerous eye doctor appointments.
My dad is the only one who moved away from this big family in a small city. That makes my parents, sisters and brother, and our families the few overnight visitors at Pawpaw’s house. And over the years, we’ve collectively spent hundreds of nights upstairs in the big, old, old house.
It’s a place where little ever changes.
Tires on the white gravel driveway sounded the same this weekend as they did when I was ten years old. Coffee, biscuits, and aftershave mix to create a distinct smell. The furniture, the phone, the mail, the trinkets, and the mementos haven’t moved. There are always a few new family pictures on the giant collage that are his kitchen walls but that's about it.
It’s no surprise that his stuff doesn’t move. Old people don’t need or want new stuff. They’re creatures of habit and know what works for them after 90+ years of living.
What’s surprising is that our stuff- leave-behinds from us few overnight visitors- doesn’t move either.
Because Pawpaw’s bedroom is on the first floor, the second-floor guest bedrooms are rarely disturbed. Going upstairs is like going back in time- but not in a fun, retro “Back to the Future” kind of way. It’d be fascinating to see the stuff leftover from a time when my aunts and uncles were teenagers in the house.
No, the three upstairs rooms were redone in florals and stripes after they left. Anything personal (and really interesting) was taken away in boxes a long time ago. Instead, it’s going back in time to trips my siblings and I made to this house in more recent years. Pawpaw has a lovely woman come to help clean and dust every other week but clearly doesn’t know what to throw out. So, stuff left behind stays put.
What happens at Pawpaw’s house, stays at Pawpaw’s house. Literally, for like, forever.
Here are just a handful of examples I came across on our recent weekend trip…
Here’s a gossip magazine. Oh no! Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert broke up?! Sorry that was breaking celebrity news back in 2015. Just look a Blake’s sweet, sorta sad, sorta happy face. I look into those eyes and want to tell him, “Don’t worry, Blake. You’re having a baby with Gwen Stefani now.” Figuring out the owner of this leave-behind was too easy. It’s Anna’s. You can tell by the address block.
The rest weren’t as obvious, but I think I figured them out.
Here’s an old stick of deodorant. It’s called Canoe. Yes, Canoe. I mean, really? I had to read it twice. What kind of name is that for a hygiene product? There are a lot of great things about boats. The smell is not one that comes to mind. Either way, this has to be my brother’s. I guess CVS was all out of “Oil Rig.”
While we were there, I had a runny nose and got tired of leaving a trail of tissues. What luck! I found a box of DayQuil! It was a bit dusty so I flipped it over to check the date. Damn. It expired in January 2007. January 2007 was BEFORE MY WEDDING and that was 10 years ago! This has to be Molly’s. She must have had a cold sometime during the second Clinton administration. I'm guessing this was about when her passion for universal healthcare started.
Alas, moments before leaving for the wedding, I realized I needed a razor quick, or there wouldn’t be any Y-M-C-A-ing for me. No problem. This Daisy was in the medicine cabinet. Only one of the two blades rusted and it did the job. Thanks, Kelly. You always plan for contingencies like that. This had to have been yours.
The owner of the last leave-behind had me a bit puzzled, but I figured it out by process of elimination. This bottle of LA Looks conditioner couldn’t possibly be from one of my siblings. We’re more of a Finesse kind of family. That leaves the brothers-in-law. Since two out of the three are entirely bald (not to mention Republicans from New Jersey), there’s only one man left. Mike! Mike, your 1980s-era investment in hair care is holding up well. It’ll be exactly where you found it on your next trip…ready to give you that yes-I-might-just-be-Matthew-McConaughey shine-enhancing look.
In addition to these things, there are dozens of little hotel soaps, travel toothbrushes, one lonely gold bangle bracelet, and ponytail holders. There’s a travel hairdryer, a boarding pass, and a fresh copy of 50 Shades of Gray. (Kidding. Dad put that one right back in Anna’s carry-on after realizing what all the hype was about.)
I love that a trip to Pawpaw’s house is so predictable. You know precisely what to expect. All the little, value-less items upstairs peacefully coexist with the heaps of kindness, laughs, and memories in this big, old, old house. The leave-behinds will eventually be thrown away while we cling to the rest.
To my brother and sisters: There might just be a few new leave-behinds for you from Baya and me to discover on your next visit.
At 94, Pawpaw reminds me life is a marathon. We put one foot in front of the other each day for something. Our unique combination of dreams and obligations propel us forward. For my grandfather, he’s driven to do the right thing. His life has always been focused on the basics: love, work, and just being. While those things aren’t unique, his style is. Everything he does is done in the gentlest, most kind way possible. He’s simply the sweetest person I know.
I took this picture while we ate dinner from Panera and shared a bottle of wine. I had 7 glasses, he had 1, and only 1/3 of the bottle was gone! The next morning, I had 6 cups of coffee... with no jitters! In addition to being the sweetest person, he has the smallest glasses I've ever seen.
And while I'm at it... have you ever noticed how flirty old ladies are? My goodness!