Retreat-ing

I’ve never been to any kind of writing retreat thingy. I’ve never taken time away from the real world to think creatively (outside of school, but oh shit that’s not any kind of “break” when you’re working full time and schooling and trying to just LIVE goddamnit!). I’m generally put off by most writing retreats at this point because they all take so much time. And I don’t feel like I have it. Six weeks away from work and kids? I just can’t. Two weeks? That feels like it should be spent on a family vacation. Do I want these things? Yes! But not right now. Right now my time is needed most on the hustle, on the babies, on the grind.

But where does that leave me? Void of ideas most of the time. My brain turned to mush by the end of a day filled with reading and editing and using every ounce of training I can remember, using every ounce of work experience I’ve collected. Being professional AND creative. I am spent.

A few months ago I was invited to join an artist retreat. Art/Eat/Repeat. Creative people running away to an island to commune together over wine and food and the quiet spaces where you can finish projects and recharge your creative batteries. Color or read or write or knit or whatever. Discuss books, add to your to-read pile through recommendations from people who GET YOU. Stay up late watching Princess Bride or talking about your strategies to publish and where and why and how and when. Walks in the woods, walks on the beach, forever looking out the window willing whales to appear.

These are the moments you say yes to. These are the events that can flitter by without you unless you grab hold. These are the self care moments that keep you human in a world that tries constantly to chomp at bits of you until there is nothing left. Not even on purpose really, but the world is a selfish beast and all it knows is take take take.

Things I successfully accomplished:

  • Eating enough carbs for the month. Mmm… no regrets.
  • Walking 9 miles in a day – and that wasn’t even my main goal or accomplishment of that day!
  • Finally finishing The Underground Railroad and feeling broken inside after it was done.
  • Seeing an otter, and some wild ferret creatures, and a snake, and some bunnies, and many deer!
  • Walking on rocky beaches.
  • Reminding myself what I need to refill my creative buckets that I have been empty for a solid two years.

That last one is important. Because what I reminded myself – more like what I fully acknowledged after denying it for a while now – is that what MY creative self needs to function is solitude. How did I write a book in a year? I took a lot of long walks where I talked to no one and had no time limit. How did I write so prolifically in my early twenties? I had a lot of quiet people watching – whether it was commuting or bored at work or whatever – where I created worlds and scenarios and allowed my mind to unfurl. I do not currently unfurl. I run and then I sleep.

Did I complete my next great novel or re-write the short story I can’t shake? I did not. I finished a bunch of stuff on my to-do list that was filling me with guilt. And the space to do so is a goddamn gift. I also realized the reason for those longer retreat times – you need the space in the beginning to sit and do nothing and take long walks and stare out the window and drink 700 cups of tea and eat milanos and catch up on podcasts as you stare at the ceiling before you can write. You can’t come from a life that needs everything from you and jump into a life that demands of you to create. The transition is necessary.

When I left Kamel said, “I can’t wait to read what you write!” And when I get home he will ask me what I finished and I will say “nothing.” But I reminded myself how. I remembered how and why and what and where and when. I know it’s there waiting for me whenever I make the time to grab it.

Episode 33: Your Call is Important to Us

You guys. YOU GUYS. I was all like “guess what? Imma post once a week!” And then I disappeared off the face of the Earth. It’s how I keep you on your toes.

What happened? WELL! Kamel and I recorded a podcast again. YAY! We are BACK!

Then we went away for a beach vacation with my parents. It was delightful. The kids had a blast. The weather is fantastic. There was swimming and kite flying and sandy toes and board games. The best.

THEN Kamel went away for a business trip to Florida and abandoned me with the children. So it has been a go-go-go month and it will continue to be this level of crazy until after the holidays. But I’ll be here, in this space, as much as I can.

For now, PODCAST. Send us your marriage disputes. We’d love to pick sides.

 

 

I Died My Hair Purple

After Fae was born I felt like sunshine (tired tired sunshine). I felt like some blonde sunkissed hair suited me. I wanted to shake things up and feel fresh and I did!

And then the elections happened and I didn’t feel so sunshiney. I didn’t feel like I wanted to look like I had just returned from a long trip to the beach. I hadn’t. So, why bother? Did I feel fresh and fun anymore? No. I did not. I do not. I felt and still feel dark and stormy.

I also have spent a lot of my life looking at other people’s fun hair, fun fashion, risk taking images and felt envious. Envious at their confidence and how they took risks. Envious at how COOL they looked! Thinking I could never do something like that. I was too nervous when I was younger and now I’m too old.

I am not too old. But I am more confident.

The purple smelled like grapes. But I didn’t want to ask about it in case it was all in my head. It was supposed to be more of a bayalage situation. Where it stuck in the blonde but it only created a shine in the light on the rest of my hair. It came out more purple EVERYWHERE than expected. With definite highlights of magenta. But I liked it! The unexpected is always an adventure!

But here is why I will most likely never color my hair a fashion color again…

No one told me about the upkeep! The color bleeding! The mess! The amount of thought I have to now put into my hair situation.

For the first month my bath tub walls, shower curtain, and bath tub were died purple from the run off AND the use of the purple shampoo I have to keep my hair purple and not a sad washed out pink that it will eventually turn. It took a lot of clorox scrubbing it get it out, and now the run off is not so bad. But there are still purple splatters everywhere.

Easily for a month I slept with a towel on my pillow because my hair would bleed onto my pillow cases at night. Now I just use dark pillowcases.

I can’t use my nice cream colored fluffy towels, and instead use one of the kid towels that are actually purple so that I don’t get purple die all over my nice stuff.

I wash my hair very very infrequently in order to prolong the life of my color. Which is extra annoying when the only shampoo I’m using is the purple shampoo (which is almost like a gak consistency?) leaves a sticky/greasy residue on my scalp. So either, that’s just the color depositing life, or the shampoo isn’t really cleaning anything (Even though I am scrubbing, because I wash my hair literally one time a week and workout 4 times a week and sweat in my sleep ALL TIMES a week). Even rinsing my head causes color bleed, so I try to limit that as well to only once a week.

My nails are almost always purple. If I scratch my head, purple comes off under my nails. My mouse at my desk is stained purple. my keyboard keys have a purple tinge.

So, the upkeep sucks. But I love the look. I don’t want to just say “fuck it” and use normal shampoo and go back to my usual hair routine because then I will not get the most out of my purple hair experience. And if I’m only going to do this once, might as well do it right. Dark and stormy till the end.

What’s Happening?

I dropped off the blog with no announcement. My book club schedule  gone awry. Podcast… what podcast? What is even happening anymore?

I don’t know.

There are a good number of things I want to talk to you about. That I want to write about.

Things like… how I died my hair purple.

… how I LOVE IT.

… how I will never ever do it again.

Things like… what happened with my kitchen!

… how all of the construction finally ended.

… how now we have a space that feels more like me, like us, like ours.

… how the first summer in our home feels.

Things like… Fae is almost 2. She turns two on Thursday.

… how did that happen?

… how that is making me feel unaccomplished and frustrated.

So many things. So many marriage things I want to talk about on the podcast – which WILL return. With willpower. And time.

But I’m also enjoying feeling not rushed to the computer. Feeling like I don’t have 3 jobs. Feeling like I don’t even have time to think about what I think about, let alone write it down. There is no leisurely tea drinking, gazing out the window time over here. I have been so busy and feeling like I’m barely holding it all together. Barely squeaking past the deadlines, barely grabbing the kids on time from school. Barely making it to my bed before I fall asleep.

Kamel gets annoyed that I need to sleep so early. 9pm? Delicious. But I explain to him how I go hard all day, from the minute a child forces my eyes open, I am go go go. On the weekends we are up! and going! to the zoo! and to the store! and to the park! and snacks! and lunch! and naps! and yardwork! and laundry! and and and. During the week it is everyone to school, everyone to work, shoveling salad into my mouth in front of the computer, finding 45 minutes to sweat until I maybe feel like I’m going to barf. Kids. Dinner. Bath. Chasing babies in the backyard, beach towels, sprinklers, wiping down counters, folding more laundry, turn fans on, cracking open bedroom doors. Realizing I haven’t showered since….?

And being in it is good.

I want to be here too.

I’m finding my way back.

(TWO on THURSDAY. HOW.)

Vegas

A few weeks ago I went to Vegas with my best friends. A bunch of married ladies, three of us mothers. People who are busy, who are tired, who spend weekends in yoga pants under piles of laundry or just life. Piles of life.

And for a long weekend I ran away and remembered who I am without all of the other stuff. Without having to consider nap time or early morning wakeups. Without having to consider another person’s hunger or comfort. I wore big shoes and short dresses.

I stayed out by the pool all afternoon. I ate rich, amazing, adventurous foods and started dinner past my children’s bedtimes. I spent too much time on my hair and makeup. I crawled over VIP sections to sit on the back of a couch with two of my best friends spitting distance from Calvin Harris in the DJ Booth like we were 23 and had nowhere to be.

And it was just so fun and so freeing. And I’ve been trying to decide what I wanted to say about this trip and I think I’ve figured out two things.

First, I feel that there is an electricity in the air sometimes, an aura if you will, that tut tuts at women, mothers, wives, who go off on extravagant get-aways without their partners/children/blahblah. There is an “aww womp womp” thing that exists towards the left behind party. There is a “well, where do they get to go then?” like I must have to pay this freedom back in some way… right? Nothing is free.

But… that’s stupid. Partners who keep score are not good partners. Partners who aren’t supportive of escapes into the night are not good partners.

The second thing I’ve been thinking about is: Investment. I’m old(er) and tired(er) and the time I have is precious. It is important to choose, actively choose, how I want to spend that time. We hadn’t all gone somewhere together since 2009. Since before any of us got married. It’s important to invest in the stories of our friendships. It’s important to invest in the stories that we will retell for years to come.

It’s important to invest in who we are when no one is looking, in the late night dancing, and the dress up and the pool time, and the naps in the middle of the day like who are we? People without responsibilities?

It’s important to be that hot girl for a second, because the work of life is always there. It’s always there yelling at you and pulling you back into deadlines and chores and wiping snotty noses and alarm clocks and workouts. It’s important to plug your ears every once in a while, buy a 50 dollar dress that is made from some kind of stretchy terry cloth, and run out into the night.

The Dishwasher Part 1

Remember when I talked about the bats in the attic? How we all have fears knocking on our doors that we turn the volume up on? We ignore them or leave them for another day. Home ownership has removed a few of those fears (will we be able to afford the next rent hike?), but has added new ones.

Like: Will our roof suddenly leak?

Like: Will we be able to afford the sudden expense of something failing?

Like: Infestations.

Like: What if I don’t know that something is wrong because I don’t know anything about anything and then it’s too late and we have a problem that is 3x what it should be because Lauren is stupid.

And then last week our dishwasher leaked. And we discovered this problem when Kamel went into the crawl space and there was water there. And water was leaking from above. Through the insulation. We discovered this at 8pm. The plumbers came the next day. And the day after that the restoration people.

(Thanks, dishwasher, you piece of shit.)

The day the restoration people came was Gabe’s birthday and we were supposed to have a family party at our house.

Except that, um, this was our kitchen:

I did not bake him a cake for the first time… ever. We moved the party to my parent’s party room in their condo, and when we got home from Gabe’s birthday shenans the restorers were still working. They had a 12 hour day ripping up 7 layers of floors. Surprise! No one ever removed old flooring before putting new ones down! which means new floor will be about an inch lower than it was before.

The fans in the kitchen were blowing 24 hours a day for two days and then fans in our crawl space were blowing 24 hours a day for 4 days. We have no cupboards on that side of the kitchen and our counter top is being held up by those pieces of wood you see.

We do most of our dishes in the bathroom sinks.

The insurance guy comes tomorrow but this is still going to cost us SURPRISE money. And take months to fix.

Just a few days before we discovered the leak I had booked, with the help of a lovely internet friend (Hi Bri!), a family vacation to San Diego for May. Our first family vacation with just our family since Gabe was 18 months old. But, because we try to be responsible adults whenever possible, we had to turn around and cancel it because…. see above.

The kitchen is tented off with plastic zipper doors on the two portal entrances. And we are trying to keep our cooking/eating footprint as small as possible. It has been a mild inconvenience at best, and at worst it is an absolute scramble. We can use the kitchen, but I have to keep the kids out of there (zipper door wins!) and that makes cooking dinner and solo parenting difficult when I can’t see them and they can’t see me. Even when the doors are unzipped.

So the first homeownership bad thing happened. A sudden kitchen remodel. Surprise! I wonder what will happen next…To Be Continued.

Heading Into 2017

On the morning of New Year’s Eve we were on our way to the zoo with the kids. Kamel said to me, “Wait. Is TODAY New Year’s Eve? Is it? Oh my god it is! I thought I had another day! I feel robbed of a day!”

And that is a perfect explanation of how the year went for us.

Most of 2016 for us was a mad-dash. I made plans and then promptly forgot them, only to be reminded the day before, hours before, etc. I skated through by the skin of my teeth in all things. If your experience with me has been that I have all my shit together. Well, friends, that is all smoke and mirrors. My children are lucky to have clean pants and I am always surprised there is food in the fridge.

A lot of people wanted the last few months of 2016 to zoom by. They wanted to skip ahead to 2017. But I had the opposite feelings. I’m afraid of 2017. I am not really hopeful. I am not looking ahead to a clean, shiny new year. I am dreading the climate in the U.S. I am dreading the portrait change in the federal buildings. I am looking ahead with trepidation that the safety of my family may be in jeopardy, that the financial future looks uncertain, that the world is not a kinder, better, healthier place than it was a year ago. The end of 2016 has left me sad and full of feelings with no outlets.

So in 2017 I march.

In 2017 I will be stronger. I will run further.

In 2017 I will spend more time outside.

I will give more than I ever have to institutions who work to protect all of us.

In 2017 I will be sad but I will also be in action.

I will be kind but I will be unyielding.

In 2017 I will be tired, but I will do it anyway.

I will read.

I will drink less and sleep more.

And when the world is bleak and I feel lost, I will play. Because there is always hope somewhere and I need to remember to look for it.

Episode 31: Welcome Home – Now With YouTube

Today we are finally finally FINALLY revealing the house we bought! In all of it’s incomplete, bare-walled glory. The podcast will be audio AND visual. So, that means if you would like to see the house and hear us talk about it, go here: https://youtu.be/E8g3pjS40f0

You can hear audio only in the normal podcast download/link on the blog.

Thank you to everyone who was so supportive during our house-hunting journey. It was a long long long process and I never thought the house we ended up with would have been the end result. Life is weird.

 

(Long!) Weekend-ing 40

Thanksgiving happened!! And we roadtripped with the kids up to Vancouver BC to spend the long weekend with my best friend, Maris and her family. The end result was kid-palooza! And both Kamel and I talking about how much we LOVE to travel with our kids and wished we did it more often. More family vacations please. More more more.

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(That is real joy on my face after spending a really long time waiting for my to-go order before hitting the road northbound!)

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Our Vancouver airbnb was amazing. It was the perfect size and had a great kitchen, heated bathroom floors, and the kids thoroughly enjoyed running in circles all over it.

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When we got there, Gabe really wanted to document the place. So this next series of photos is all him. “Cheese with the movie!” (TV) “Cheese on the couch!” “Cheese jumping!” and so on.

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And then everyone jumped and promptly fell off the slipper odoman, so…

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The night before Thanksgiving was piling into Maris’s apartment with burgers and fries and all the babies.

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Gabe doesn’t sleep well alone in new places. So on vacation he usually piles into bed with Kamel and I if we have a king bed. This time around he got his own room, while Fae was in the packNplay in the master with us. Gabe was very excited that there were TWO pillows in his bed so that there would be room for one of us too!

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So I slept with Gabe the first night and Kamel slept with him the other two. Everyone sleeps, everyone is happy. Baby snuggles!!

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And then it was back to Maris’s where we headed out for a donut breakfast to kick off the holiday right.

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Exploring new playgrounds is one of my favorite things to do on vacation with the kids. It gets you out in the neighborhood, enjoying the day, and it makes everyone happy. We have playgrounded in Boston, Miami, and now Vancouver. Where will we playground next?

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Thanksgiving evening was total utter chaos. Because Thanksgiving with kids and babies and the cooking and the heat of the cooking and the children and the children and oh yeah the children… but it was chaos completely surrounded by love and family and the amazing spread Maris whipped up.

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Gabriel would not, could not stop talking about pumpkin pie. When will he get pie? Where is the pie? Is this the pie? Is it in the oven? Can he have it now? Why can’t he have it now? How about now? Is it pie time?

The whole time I had doubts as to whether or not he would actually EAT THE PIE because Gabriel… oh have you heard? DOESN’T EAT.

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He totally ate pumpkin pie. We all held our breaths and looked away and he proclaimed, “I’M TRYING NEW THINGS!….I get at treat because I am trying new things.”

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(Modern motherhood with my best friend, you guys.)

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The next day we had a relaxing start with bath time and Curious George before heading out to explore the neighborhood.

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(Classic auntie Maris, using her butt as an anchor.)

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In the afternoon we went to Kitsilano Beach Park and playgrounded hard.

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On our final day we made one last pitstop at Chez Maris for Uncle Alex’s Famous Crepes.

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And then… Maris and I literally ran to catch our booked sea-plane tour. Only to show up 5 minutes BEFORE the scheduled time and be told we couldn’t get on the plane because we needed to be there 10 minutes before.

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This is us after we watched our seaplane depart without us into the mist. Which probably caused a crappy tour anyway, so there.

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So we went on this super cheesy FANTASTIC video ride experience instead and it was amazing.

Meanwhile the kids were dry and warm, eating snacks.

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And then we drove home. And the next day we went to the zoo, which there are also photos of. But this post is getting to be literally a mile long so I will stop here.

I hope your weekend was fantastic and it somehow restored lost hope in humanity. Because yes.

Episode 27: 2,400 Square Feet

We are back in podcast land!!!

I don’t have a ton to say about this one. We break down the move experience and the hustle that happened right at the very end. We also discuss how the transition has been on us. Hint: Hard on me. But you knew that.

Sometimes it is really hard to admit that something you think you should be stoked about, something everyone expects you to be excited about is just… hard.