12.05.2016

Three Stories on Aging Love

Most love stories focus on the beginning, maybe on the demise of love. I've recently become aware of how much I love hearing about love in its old age. Three examples:

1. Modern Love, The Race Grows Sweeter, podcast read by Mary Chapin Carpenter 
I love Modern Love about 75% of the time and love the podcast, where actors read the essays and then the authors discuss them, about 50% of the time. This one was a slam dunk and made me tear up while cleaning my bathroom. It's about a woman who finds love in old age. Mary Chapin Carpenter does a beautiful reading, and talks in the podcast of how much she loves 'old love' (enough to write a song about it).  A quote:
OLD LOVE is different. In our 70s and 80s, we had been through enough of life’s ups and downs to know who we were, and we had learned to compromise. We knew something about death because we had seen loved ones die. The finish line was drawing closer. Why not have one last blossoming of the heart?
I was no longer so pretty, but I was not so neurotic either. I had survived loss and mistakes and ill-considered decisions; if this relationship failed, I’d survive that too. And unlike other men I’d been with, Sam was a grown-up, unafraid of intimacy, who joyfully explored what life had to offer. We followed our hearts and gambled, and for a few years we had a bit of heaven on earth.

2. My Young Man, by Kate Rusby 

I sing Kate Rusby to Jamie as lullabyes a lot. Her songs are beautiful stories and her range is in my wheelhouse. This wonderful song is a woman singing of her aging husband, who is now frail and needy, and how much she still loves and needs him. 

Listen to it.

Lyrics:
My young man wears a frown

With his eyes all closed and his head bowed down,
My young man never sleeps.
The rain it falls upon his back
The dust before his eyes is black,
Oft the times, oft the times my young man weeps.

My young man wears a coat,
Once, long ago, a bonnie coat
Which my young man wore with pride.
Now I dress the coat all on his back,
For love for him I will not lack,
But to see it now, that collier's coat, I can't abide.

My young man, where's he gone?
Once in his eyes my whole world shone
Now my young man he looks away.
Man and wife we used to be
Now he's like a child upon my knee
And in my arms I help my young man through the day.

A young girl no more am I
But I shall not weep and I will not cry,
For my young man needs me still.
If someone's watching up above
You'll see how much my dear I love,
So leave him here, I need him now and always will.
Oh if someone's watching up above
You'll see how much my dear I love,
And If he must go, let your best angels keep him well

3. The Notebook
I watched the Notebook on Halloween (classic Halloween movie. . .) for the first time in years and I was reminded that however charming (and steamy!) Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams were portraying young love, the real story and true tearjerker was the James Garner/Gena Rowlands telling of old love. What happens when one person outlasts the other, how do they need need and take care of each other. It's inspiring. And the scene where Gena Rowlands remembers and then forgets, James Garner's face is utterly heartbreaking.  I can't find it on YouTube, but I did find this one, which is also sweet.

3 Pieces of a Perfect Thanksgiving

Brian and Heather told us months ago they were thinking of driving down to Utah for Thanksgiving and that they realized they could fit both their family and ours in their van. Squeezing four children and four adults into a van for a 14 hour drive through the middle of the night was enough of a taunt that we took them up on it, but decided to fly home to compensate. It was such a great trip! Here's the recipe for how to make a perfect Thanksgiving:

1. Family. All the family if possible.

Two brothers and their families are already living in Utah, my parents just moved there, so we figured we'd have four out of five kids there for the holiday. Kelsie and Jake live in Florida now so it's a bit of a haul for them and I don't expect them to make it west as often as they do. But they got a great deal and made it happen. On top of that, Trish was able to fly standby to come out for a couple days over the break so even Porter had all his family too. Sometimes when we all get together it's fun in theory but actually really crowded and frustrating, but this time there was enough space between everyone and the houses were laid out in such a way that it didn't feel like nonstop chaos. I LOVE MY FAMILY. We played an elaborate version of a white elephant game one night that was giggly fun. It was SO great to see Jamie play with his cousins. Bonus: I got to meet up with FOUR friends who feel like family. That's holiday efficiency right there.

2. Festivities
Games. Going to see lights at temple square. Taking snowy walks. Eating a Thanksgiving feast. Eating leftovers. Eating pie. Sitting around listening to the guitar. Christmas decorations. Breakfast out at Kneader's.

3. My parents
Okay, most people don't have this as an option, but my parents are really the best. They moved earlier this year and even though it's not like I saw them tons before they moved, I really underestimated how much I had been missing them. I feel so so so lucky to have two models of unconditional love. They are tireless, generous, and talented.

Lucky me!











11.01.2016

3 Books on Race

I've been on a reading kick lately and unintentionally read a succession of books that have given me a perspective on race in America that I've never really had, especially not with such a personal narrative historical lens.

1. Island Beneath the Sea by Isabella Allende
This somehow ended up loaded to my Kindle, though I have no recollection of downloading it or having heard of it before. The book starts in the late 1770's in Haiti with a slave named Tete and a French slave owner named Valmorain, and winds its way through Haiti's revolution (the only successful slave uprising in the Caribbean!), to settlement in Louisiana, throughout Valmorain and Tete's lives, and their children's lives, covering issues of free slaves, mixed race men and women, and white people who hated the whole "just because you have a drop of black blood mean you are considered a subservient human/animal" thing.

This is a time and place I have never ever really considered fully. I've pictured slave sales, the ships across the Atlantic, and as much of the awfulness of the day to day as I think is possible for a white girl born after the Civil Rights movement. But Allende does a really beautiful job bringing to life the details. Particularly memorable for me was recognizing the emotional and logical disconnect that whites had to make to maintain their superiority. The other major takeaway was insight into those that didn't fit the black vs. white mold: a white man who had a black wife and black children whom he loved, but who kept them hidden; a mullata (mixed race) woman who gained power through (high class) prostitution; and a mixed race child who looked white, was educated with whites, but was raised with people of color (impossible in its own complicated way). These perspectives reminded me of just how diverse the experience of racism can be.

2. Grace by Natasha Deon
I heard an interview where Natasha Deon read an excerpt of her novel and did something I very rarely do: bought a brand new, full price, hardcover book off Amazon and was impatient for how long two days shipping felt (I'm usually a library/used books for $1 kind of girl). This book is set twenty years before the Civil War and during/after the Civil War, told from the perspective of a mother and the life her daughter. Deon writes with such strong voice I could just picture Naomi, a young black woman who both experiences and observes racism in the South. I can't think of many books I've read that have a more compelling first chapter (I'm sure hearing that author read it herself helped).

Another time and place I've thought little about (checking my privilege, presently), I learned a lot about the chaos of the Civil War. Like how when the Emancipation Proclamation came out it wasn't as if slaves could just up and leave. And how the Underground Railroad only went as far south as Virginia. There were interesting race relations in this book as well: a white brothel owner who saves Naomi and technically frees her but is all sorts of manipulative about it, a white man who I belive truly lived Naomi but who ultimately sucks at life, and Naomi's mixed race daughter, Josie, who also looks white (I didn't think blonde hair was possible in scenarios like this, but these two books are telling me otherwise).

There's a scene at the end where Josie and her black husband are being chased by some white supremacist vigilantes and I had this sinking realization that all this ugliness drudged up by Trump and Co. this election season is VERY OLD. This sense of not just racial superiority but a sense of responsibility to make right what 'them activists and yankees' are turning wrong (that being, you know, actual racial equality and integration). It's truly nauseating to think of how generations learn from their elders and that racism is one of the things that sticks so strongly.

3. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
I'd never read it! Not even I high school via SparkNotes. This, I had picked up a couple months ago from a friend offloading her bookshelves so I got to read her 8th grade son's margin notes along the way. After my 18th and 19th century looks at slavery and race, it seemed only appropriate to move onto one of America's greatest classics. Most people know the premise, but basically it tells the story of a young white girl in Alabama whose lawyer father Atticus Finch defends an innocent black man accused of a crime.

I'll be honest, I spent the first half of the book wondering why everyone loved it so much and guessing at all the ways Boo Radley was going to show up to either save or ruin the day to justify how much time was spent talking about him. But by the time they got to trial, I finally can see why everyone loves Atticus and how obvious it is that we, as white folk, are just awful at coming clean with our own racism. I get really frustrated when I hear people say they have no racial bias. I just don't buy it. Studies prove it, and I can look at my own heart and see the best of intentions but the reality of preconceptions and unfairness. For the town of Maycomb, it was a lot worse than what's in my heart, but the major takeaway for me way this obstinacy we as humans can have to admit our wrongs and fears. Fear of the other, fear of change, fear or admitting that these things we've been telling each other and we've learned from our grandparents are not only untrue but are unjust.

I'm halfway through Go Set a Watchman, (To Kill a Mockingbird's sequel/prequel/first draft) set in the 1950's and am enjoying it so far, but I have a feeling I'm going to finish it feeling even more discouraged.

10.19.2016

3 1/2 Days in Cuba


Here's some starter reading: http://kottke.org/16/04/a-brief-history-of-america-and-cuba


If you ask the Internet, every forum and travel advice article will tell you you could never do Havana justice in 3 days. There's just too much throw-back splendor to take in to step outside downtown.


I call B.S. No, a day and a half is not enough time to go to every museum, club, and cigar shop in the city but it's plenty to get the vibe of the city and even fully take on a few top attractions. And that leaves a day and a half to experience one of the country towns (of which there are many, Cuba is way bigger than I ever realized. The biggest island in the Caribbean,believe it or not.)

Here's what Maria and I did:


Day One:
  • Fly from Cancun to Havana, get settled, walk. We stayed in El Centro (the area just outside the touristy downtown) since Old Havana was booked up. This area lacks the Unesco World Heritage funds and tourist attention of Old Havana so I like to think it's more real. As in lots of scrappy dogs, 5 cent pizza vendors and seriously dilapidated buildings. As with many hot countries, there's a bazillion people in the streets (doing what I'll never know. Squatting, hurrying, whatever) but I was surprised at how few shops and restaurants were open air. There must be some law about it?
  • Head east to the beaches. At the edge of Old Havana is a cheap bus to the beaches, which were, honestly, not that different than any other beach I've ever been to: beautiful white sand, warm ocean, chairs and drinks for sale for a couple bucks each. A great place to forget that you woke up at 3 am again. On the bus to Playas del Este we met a solo traveler, Alfred, who is Egyptian American living in Columbia who was fun and interesting and happened to know Maria's boyfriend. I also had mediocre lobster and a fantastic nap.
  • Have dinner and enjoy nightlife. One of the things I'd read about Havana is that there is music on every corner. It's true! Old classical Cuban groups straight out of Buena Vista Social Club were mostly in restaurants (in Old Havana, and down Obispo street which we walked end to end, restaurants were much more open air and shop doors wide open). Everyone is smartly dressed and charmingly flirty, as only sharp-dressed old Cubans singing along with a stand up bass and trumpet can be. We ate at a restaurant with a classy band and salsa dancers and then had dessert a few blocks down where a man and woman were serenading. It was very romantic flan.
  • There's a ton of clubs to go to if you don't follow old lady hours like maria and I do. I don't do late nights well so I missed out on Havana's infamous dance scene #sorrynotsorry #sleepwins
  • *Newbie tip: exchange all your money at the airport. The exchange rate in town isn't much different and the money change lines are long.
  • *Cuban food isn't great. Low expectations made meals much more enjoyable

Day Two:
  • Old Havana shopping, sites, and wandering. There are about a hundred museums to choose from. We chose the Museum of the Revolution (mostly because I realized once I got there that I actually had no idea about Cuban history, Fidel, Che, or really anything about the country besides samba and Cuban sandwiches (which are apparently Barely a thing outside the US) and El Morro, the fort across the bay, which we ended up seeing with the help of a Cuban guy who I'm sure was trying to seduce us for a night on the town until he realized he picked two old ladies who don't drink or party and are pretty cheap, but are really nice anyway. Jose got us onto the apparently Cubans only allowed public buses and filled in a bunch of blanks for me about Cuban history, culture, and how excited everyone is Obama came ("progress finally!")
  • Salsa lessons from Omar Chocolate. Yes, that's his name, and for 10 bucks a piece
  • Walk the Malecon and nightlife. There's nothing particularly interesting going on except fresh air and half of the city wandering the 3 mile long promenade. Besides an uncomfortable number of beggars (which I feel totally complicated about, especially in a communist country) and would-be Romeos (seriously, we're babes, I get it, but never have there been so many romancers anywhere else I've been (our casa owner had warned us emphatically about hangers on and apparently he wasn't exaggerating)). Lesson for the night: I just love maria. She's so fun, smart, thoughtful and amazing and I'm lucky to have traveled with her and to have her as a friend.
  • optional: more nightlife. Guess what we did?
  • *newbie tip: the antique market in the park has the only non-trinkety things to buy, but it's not cheap! Since there are no atms and us credit cards don't currently work, we counted and recounted the cash we brought multiple times a day. If I'd brought more cash I would have bought a could pocket watch or something.

Day Three:
  • Head to the country. We chose Vinales because the pictures looked amazing and it is close enough for a day trip. Ultimately we decided to stay overnight due to some mix-up with our reservation and I'm so glad we did.
  • Nicolas, our casa owner from Havana, set us up with his friend who arranged another casa for us and a horseback riding tour through tobacco country, including a cigar rolling demonstration, swim, and cave visit. Even for a non smoker who hates the smell of cigar smoke, the cigar farm was the coolest. Riding the horse itself was pretty great too, even if the last hour was excruciating on my tailbone, knees and hips and I walked funny for a couple days after (oddly like postpartum pain...). Pancho, our guide was rugged and charming and also amazed at my dedication to fidelity (Cuban men, who knew!)

Day four:Head to the airport and home


Photo dump:







8.18.2016

3 Thoughts on Traveling Child-Free


I've often heard my mom give the advice that every year you need to go on a Family trip, and Friend trip, and a Couple trip. The family trip makes memories, the friend trip reminds you that you are You, and your Couple trip strengthens your marriage.

Wise advice!

I've had the luxury of having more than one of each types of these trips so far this year and I want to write some things about the third.

1. I am so grateful to have people who can watch Jamie without me

This includes Porter. He watched Jamie while I was in Cuba and I realize that one, not every mom has a partner at all and two, not every mom has a partner who has the flexibility to take over.

Beyond Porter, I have a group of friends and family who have been so wonderful at watching Jamie while I'm away, no more than porter's mom trish. She had him the entire time we were in Italy and I am so so so lucky that she is willing, capable and that Jamie is getting to bond with his Nana. She is so fun and loving and honestly, probably more safe and healthy than I am. This trip, her best friend Pat came out to help out and I'm so glad for her too! We got semi-regular updates and cute photos of Jamie being happy and that he isn't waking up every two hours feeling abandoned.

I recognize just how lucky I am to have her.

2. Traveling without Jamie makes me feel very complicated.

It's hard to not feel like I'm being an awful person and awful mother just up and leaving my baby. I read all these advice forums for moms and we're fed a pretty steep diet of 'Your child needs you' and how attachment in the first 3 years sets the tone for a child's ability to love later in life and blah blah blah. It's hard to not feel bad for not being there for every smile and cry and, in the case of Jamie, every heavy thing he lifts.

It's also hard to not feel indebted to Nana, because I know he's probably more clingy than usual, and I know how many diapers he's going through, and that he's wiggly and a handful and maybe not sleeping great while I'm away.

But it's also preeeetty fantastic to be away, to sleep in, to read uninterrupted, to have few responsibilities and to get to hang out with Porter, undivided in attention.

But I also miss him so much! Porter and I fought over who got to watch videos first and how long we got to ogle snapshots Nana sent. I saw kids and playgrounds and strollers and kid's stores and just wished he was with me. Every good thing I experience I want him to experience and it would be made sweeter with him around. Except it wouldn't because traveling with a baby fundamentally changes the experience. But it sure would be great if it didn't.

3. Child free time is so great and important

Man, I love my husband.

3 Reasons We Moved to Anacortes

It's been four months since we decided, not entirely on a whim, to move to Anacortes. It's funny how right a decision can feel when the gut response to the many times I've been asked 'Why Anacortes?' has been to note just how obvious it is. And how everyone should want to move here. Here are some of my reasons:

1. Seattle is crowded and expensive. The city is going through some serious growing pains, caused in great part by a healthy job market. The area has everything it has always had (access to water, mountains, city, and country, all relatively close; a strong academic, cultural, and entrepreneurial landscape), and the preponderance of desirable employers has snowballed: good companies attract talent, which attracts more good companies, and then all the business and services that come with all those companies and people (for example, know a guy who worked for a company whose sole function was to manage storage units for people being moved to and from Microsoft positions, how's that for a random job).

All this to say that there's a housing crisis and a traffic crisis and the whole situation means most people are cramming into small spaces and paying a larger portion of their pay to live closer or more comfortably. Also, spending bucket loads of time on the freeway either commuting or just getting about. I hate that I had to plan when to visit family in Kirkland or friends in Seattle around when I-405 would be a nightmare or the bridge wouldn't be at a standstill only to find out that it's a nightmare most of the time, and without a lot of rhyme or reason.

So, to start we were interested in getting away. But to where?...

2. Small town with a self-identity, walkable downtown, slow pace, strong community, good schools

I have reached the stage in life where my community matters to me. I want to matter in my community and plant my little family in a place where we connect with others around us. That's hard to do in any metro area, where neighborhoods and suburbs run into one another. Some neighborhoods do it better than others-Mercer Island gave us a little taste of what it felt like to have distinct borders (people there really care about those on the island!).

It's part of what I love about small towns. And that they are usually a lot more peaceful and less rushed, which works well for my frazzled self.

3. Maritime identity, town festivities, strong local businesses

We're a boat family (that's what happens when you're married to WPBIII) and Anacortes is a boat town (The town vision statement says so). There are ship builders and ferry riders and kayaker, yachtees, and day sailors. And a lot more marinas per capita than probably makes sense. It was actually at the Waterfront Festival last year that it clicked that this was the perfect town for us and we went from regularly visiting Anacortes for fun to compulsively looking at neighborhoods, real estate listings, and asking strangers what they loved and hated about living here (for the record, most could only hate on "old people who think they run the town" oh boo hoo).


Four months in and it's everything I could have ever dreamed of.




3 Reasons I Love Flying Southwest Airlines


There was a minute there where I was flying a bunch (yay summer!) and I remembered how much I love flying Southwest. They don't have as many nonstop flights out of Seattle as they used to (thanks to Delta and Alaska having a million each), but I still choose them, because:

1. Open Seating and Family Boarding

Especially now that I am flying with a walking time bomb/puppy/small child, I appreciate more than ever unassigned seats. Throw in Family Boarding (where families with children get to board after first class and before two-thirds of the rest of passengers), and I get to choose how important a window or aisle is for me at the current moment (window when he's feeling curious, aisle when I know a diaper change is coming) AND people who board after me can self-select if they are into sitting by a kid or not.

In July, I flew 7 legs and I twice chose to sit by a 13 year old who ended up being awesome with babies (one girl I actually ended up giving $10 at the end of the flight because I was flying without Porter and she was so incredibly helpful, plus her mom kind of seemed like a wreck), I had two grandmotherly women choose to sit by us (and ooh and ah and play peekabo and use voices and all that good grandmotherly stuff), once had someone in front of me move when I sat down (no offense taken, lady, I get it!) and once got the row to myself even on a very full flight (thank you Southwest flight attendants for making my dream come true!).

There's all sorts of commotion about parents giving goodie bags to passengers around them and I don't buy it. I truly think children are usually more well behaved and bring more joy to strangers traveling than headache, but I get that lots of people don't like babies and don't want to deal. In fact, much of the stress of flying is not just handling the moods and whims of the small child, but reading the people around you to make sure you aren't making them grumpy. Southwest makes this much much easier.

2. Companion Pass and Points points points
I am a airline loyalty miles junkie (haven't paid cash for a flight in 5 years, knock on wood) and Southwest happens to have a really great program.

First, the Companion Pass, which you get if you accrue 110,000 points in a calendar year (by flying on SW, purchases made with the SW credit card, or my personal favorite, sign-up bonuses). Once you get to 110,000 points, for the rest of that year and the following calendar year, you can have someone fly with you ANYWHERE SOUTHWEST FLIES, WITHOUT EXCEPTION, only paying fees (for a domestic flights, fees are $5.60). So when I fly, I buy a ticket with SW points and Porter (my designated Companion) flies for free, add in a free lap child and that's three of us flying roundtrip for $12 out of pocket. It feels like stealing.

We've been through three years of the companion pass and our is expiring this year (sobbing emoji) so we'll see if we decide to get creative and get it again for next year.

In addition to the Companion Pass, between Porter and I, we use several Chase credit cards tied to the Chase Ultimate Rewards program which, conveniently, transfers to both Southwest and my other preferred airline United. It is helpful that Porter has to buy mountains of shirts, medals, and cones that accumulate points, but really everyone in their day to day makes enough purchases to get points and should be using a credit card that works to their advantage. (To be clear, we don't ever carry a balance and any credit card is paid off in full each month.)

3. Generousity and flexibility

There is no cancellation fee, no fee for checked bags, no fee to change your ticket. It's wonderful. They also give out a lot of snacks (no meals though).





5.25.2016

3 Cute Coats. 3 Adorable Looks.

1. Rain man

2. Punk rocker

3. Husky (in the laundry)


3 Areas I Need Regular Validation

I like to think I'm a confident person, somehow spared from the weight of caring about what other people think about most aspects of my life. There are a few exceptions.

1. Your bangs look great.

I do this thing every couple years where I pine after bangs, ask everyone I know who has them all about them (how they style, how often they trim, etc), consult with a stylist (who usually says that my hair isn't well-suited for bangs), then one day impulsively get bangs cut. Then regret it for 4 months until they reach this magical place where I love them for 3 weeks. Then I hate them all over again. It's really a pitiful dance I do. Not unlike the woman who goes back to her abusive lover for the rare spark of magic. But I can't stop. The three weeks of bang heaven (that's what 'she' calls it too) somehow seem to make it all worth it.

In the meantime, I complain, I fidget, I style and re-style, and bemoan how greasy my hair gets and stringy the strands get and LOVE more than anything an unsolicited "Your bangs look great!"

2. Take your time/I'm in no hurry.

I'm aware that I'm a slow mover when I'm on my own, so when I'm with someone doing something (like shopping for example, or site-seeing, or enjoying any number of activities with a friend or loved one), I get weirdly preoccupied with accommodating to their speed. So it's so wonderful when I am reassured at the lack of hurry so I can revert to my own pace guilt-free.

3. You are a good mom.

I actually do think I'm a good mom, It's just the mommy industry and all the mommy chatter are a near constant attack on the idea that anyone could or should think they are a good mom. Even if there's not a right way or wrong way, there's a better way, and usually you don't find out about the better way until you've already been doing it the just OK way for so long that changing to the better way is no small feat. If I've learned anything from the many kick-ass moms in my inner circle it's that there's a million ways to mom. But still... it's nice to hear I'm doing OK.



3.25.2016

3 things I wish were cordless

I just spent freaking five minutes untangling my laptop cord and I'm about to murder something. And I realized just in this moment writing this why my laptop is more mangled than it ought to be: Cords make me crazy, I knew, but they also turn me into a cursing old lady who hates newfangled gizmos and electricity.

The three things that turn me into an electricity curmudgeon are:

1. Laptop Cords.

Not even cell phone chargers in all their tendency to disappear and stop functioning make me more annoyed than the bulkiness of my laptop cord. Why am I always trying to figure out which side the port is on? Why is there a giant box in the middle of the cord that detaches when I inevitably yank the cord? Why is it too long, too short, or too three pronged to be used in every place I want to use it?

Because it's obnoxious and I want a laptop that never dies.

2. The blowdryer

I already am handicapped at doing my hair, the blow dryer cord just gets in the way and makes me feel bad about myself and compels me blame the cord for being cumbersome and limiting movement. If only it were cordless, surely I would have the freedom of movement to make loose, beachy curls.

3. The blender

Not so much for usage but for storage. I've got a Vitamix, which packs a lot of power and a cord to match and unlike the vacuum, the blender people haven't provided an easy notch to guide the cord wrapping so mine usually ends up in a pile, with the outlet tail hanging out of the cabinet door.

Curses.