Random Thoughts: The Not One Word Edition

I didn’t post here once this week before today.

It’s usually poetry day, but I haven’t been good about that, either.

Mostly, it’s because of time and technical difficulties.

1. The books I am reading — currently Toni Morrison’s Home, previously… oh, just check my Goodreads account — have me thinking about bodies, and the way certain bodies are uniquely vulnerable in the society we live in. The default representation in our culture is the white male body.

And everyone else is expendable.

I will attempt to expand on this when I get a chance. Between the World and Me pretty much is based on this entire premise. He’s not wrong.

2. Uh. Yeah. Lots of this going on. I get started on a thought, and I don’t have time to sit with it — through my own choices, my own scheduling.

Plus, we’re currently snowed in, and Dan just started the original Star Wars (Episode IV, A New Hope) for the children. So I’m a little distracted. As per.

3. I am finally getting around to setting limits with the children and their Christmas tablets. Those things really took over their lives — when they are at home, it’s all they want to do. I waited until family dinner last night to put the boundaries in place so Dan and I would be on the same page. Weeknights: one half hour after chores and when I am home; one half hour after dinner. Presumably, they are doing their homework at Bella’s when they arrive home, and if that stops happening they lose the tablet for a day. They are not allowed to watch them after bedtime in their room — this has been a limit from the get-go, but they still try to get away with it. Weekends: two hours, tops.

We’ll see how it goes from here.

4. I may take further advantage of being snowed in by plugging myself into my music, and into my borrowed laptop, AND WRITE SOME MORE OF MY NOVEL. Sheesh. I just gotta get it done already.

Happy snow day! What are you up to?

Snowy backyard sunrise.
Backyard sunrise. It’s not not pretty, but I prefer not driving in it!

Random Thoughts: The Fighting a Friday Funk Edition

It’s been a rough week, and I caught myself nearly crying in my car this morning as I drove to work. Nothing terrible has happened, but I’ve got the blues. I am feeling very helpless in my ability to affect my life to get on with better things. I feel heavy-hearted.

Plus, I am tired. I’m tired because I’m sad; I’m sad because I am tired. It’s a vicious cycle.

I’m tired because I’m going to bed too late, and I’m going to bed too late in the service of a worthwhile project (NaNoWriMo), so that’s not going to change anytime soon.

It’s toward the end of the day, and I’m on the cusp of Thanksgiving vacation, so let’s talk about some things that are helping me not go into the bathroom and cry.

1. It’s my father’s 70th birthday today. I called him from the car while we were waiting for Kate’s bus, and she sang happy birthday for him. Michael also wished him a happy birthday, but more quietly than Kate. I hope it kicked off his day right.

He’s a good dad. I’m glad he’s 70. I hope to make many more happy birthday phone calls to him.

Dad, Kate, Mom
My dad (plus Kate and my mom). He’s a good egg.

2. I am going to this event tonight to meet some fellow Pittsburgh bloggers and have a beer. If you’re bored, you should come on out.

3. A visit to my chiropractor made me feel physically quite a bit better. Vintage Black Keys on the ride back to the office on this sunny day helped too.

4. I do have a long vacation coming up shortly. We will be leaving for North Carolina on Sunday. Let’s hope a week of writing, rest, and family and food helps lift me out of my funk. Bonus: New baby snuggles.

5. I truly do have the best husband in the world (for me). He texted earlier today, insistent that I go see Mockingjay tomorrow with my friends. I still don’t know if it’ll happen — I’ve got writing to do, plus I’d like to get in a workout, cleaning, and packing so we can hit the road early on Sunday. PLUS: New hairs Saturday night. Oh, and Mass. But how funny is it that my husband basically has to force me to go have fun. He’s such a jerk.

Dan and Michael
Dan snuggled up with M in the woods last year. Look at what a jerk he is!

6. I have one little niggling worry about next week, and it’s the fact that I have to find a place and steal the time to write. I know that Dan has my back.

Mom and Dad, I hope you will understand too. I figure I’ll do it early, with coffee, and be done early.

It’s pretty serious. It means a lot to me. I’m finally writing a book!

What gets you out of a funk?

Random Thoughts: The Whatta Weekend Edition

I have so much to tell you!

1. I attended MomCon on Saturday for the first time, and it was amazing. Inspiring. Affirming. Just incredible. I brought things home to my family, and I’m going to tell you about some of them too. I need to get myself together a little bit.

2. I am 11,000+ words into NaNoWriMo.

In eight days, I have written MORE THAN ELEVEN THOUSANDS WORDS.

I am doing the thing. It is as hard as I suspected it was going to be, and it is exhausting — I’m going to bed too late most nights because I don’t start until after 9 p.m. and you know what, I DON’T CARE.

3. Right here (ha, I just typed ‘Write’) I have to give props (do people still give props?) to my husband and love of my life. When I told him I wanted to take on NaNoWriMo, he didn’t say, “Do you think that’s a good idea?” or “What about this that and the other thing?” or “Do you really have time to do that?” (We both knew the answer was No to that one, but here we are almost 12,000 words in.)

Last night, I said to him after dinner — as he cleaned the kitchen, mind — “Do you want me to bathe M now or start writing?” Without even thinking about it, he said, “Start writing.”

I ran into the office, and cranked out 800 words before helping remake the beds and putting the children to bed.

He has never, not once that I can think of, been anything less than supportive of my creative ideas.

Dan and I selfie
Me and my boo.

“I knew who you were when I married you,” he said last night when I thanked him for saying yes with me to this endeavor. “You’re a creative person. Go create.”

4. The other thing that made me feel good this weekend, made me feel that we are pointed in the right direction, was shopping.

Just simple grocery shopping made me happy — which is not always the case. After not having a good meal plan the past couple of weeks, I managed to put together a 10-day plan, and then shop for it without breaking the bank.

When I checked out of Aldi on Sunday, my total was $68. I just looked at the cashier. “Is that it?” I had bought basic stuff — canned beans and tomatoes, eggs and milk, some vegetables, some meat. The stuff in my cart would’ve cost $150 at the Big Bird.

I said to him, “You wait, once people figure out how great prices are here, this place is going to take off.”

I was being ironic. The store was packed — and still not an unpleasant place to shop — and a new Aldi pops up every other week.

We also had to make a Target run. Looking over my list, I estimated that we would spend at least $150 there — we had non-foodstuffs to buy too. Now my trick to shopping at Target is twofold: their mobile app Cartwheel and my debit Red Card, which takes 5% off my total no matter what I buy.

So, after getting almost everything on the list (I couldn’t find shell pasta for stuffed shells), plus some impulse buys — hi, scented candles and a new purse for me that was on sale for $24 — my bill started at about $180, but Cartwheel plus the Red Card dropped it by $10. And I spend 0 minutes clipping coupons. (Cartwheel does take a little effort — I would estimate that searching through the app adds about 5-10 minutes to my shopping trip. Totally worth the time.)

I again raved about the savings to the cashier. I should’ve been a customer testimonial this weekend.

Plus, we are going to eat good this week. My meal plan is full of quick delicious dishes. I’m excited to get cooking. Which is not something I often say on a Monday.

What’s your favorite meal that you are making this week?

Random Thoughts: The Where Have I Been? Edition

I have been exactly where I am, only a little busier. Or so it seems.

The one thing I want to write about… is eluding me a little bit. So, I need to sit down and take a look at that.

Children, homework, housework, shopping and cooking.

Reinventing. (Same job, so far; new me.)

Gymnastics, soccer, earlier bedtimes, monitoring and measuring.

When I have a daily writing prompt, and it’s not for my blog, I apparently don’t blog quite as much.

Looking ahead:
We are off to the woods for the weekend, and I thank goodness. I am ready to unplug all the things: phones, children, television, my brain. I am ready to sit by campfires, and dry wet shoes, and play board games.

Where have you been?

Child walking by stream.

Random Thoughts: The Monday Music Edition

First item: A study finds that empathic people like mellow music, and “systemizing” personalities — that is interest in understanding the rules underpinning systems — favor “intense music”.

Here’s the article about the study.

So now, when Dan asks why I listen to angry music (his term), I can say that I am interested in underpinning systems.

Dan is a psychologist, and a damn good one. Guess what kind of music he prefers.


Second item: The other night in the car, Flora was switching radio stations around. We came across Nirvana’s “Come as You Are” and I made her leave it on. You would think I was driving bamboo shoots under her nails from her reaction.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vabnZ9-ex7o&w=420&h=315]

After it was over, she lost no time in finding a country music station.

Man, I hate country music.

This is, of course, the nanny’s fault. She is a country fan. So part of Flora’s rebellion will take the form of listening to country, apparently.

What do you think? Should I limit the listening of country to her room? My rule in the car is that it has to be at least mutually tolerable. Country is not mutually tolerable.

Sorry, Kim. It’s just not.

Curse you, Country!
Curse you, Country!

But I’m not going to forbid it. I know how that ends.

What do you do when you are with someone whose taste in music is wildly divergent from yours?

Random Thoughts: The Changing Plans Edition

1. My girls’ school district abruptly changed the first day of school on Monday, making it a week later than originally planned. Since my nanny returned to her teaching job in West Virginia ON WEDNESDAY, this left us in a bit of a lurch.

With some scrambling, some help (thanks to @mattieflap and my in-laws), and TWO work-from-home days, I’ve gotten everything covered. Whew.

F and K goofing
Don’t worry, we’re covered.

2. We were supposed to go up to Erie the weekend of the 22nd, but we decided to hold off on that. It’s a bummer because we haven’t been to Erie all summer. Friends of our specifically reached out to invite us up, which was nice. And we were planning the trip, but I don’t want to travel the weekend before the girls start in their new schools. We’re looking at dates in September instead.

3. Apparently Target started a firestorm by deciding to take the word “boy” or “girl” off aisle signs in toy and household departments. It started a big social media and online brouhaha, and I just went clicking around yesterday to see what the story was. And the story is pretty much that: Instead of saying “girl building sets” or “boy bedsheets” the aisle signage will simply say “building sets” or “bedsheets”.

I think nothing of this. Seems pretty straightforward to me. Not all girls like pink, and not all boys like Star Wars.

Then I made the mistake of reading the comments, and people done lost their damn minds.

Some very angry people are not going to shop at Target anymore. Honestly, reading through comments, it seemed like people thought Target was single-handedly going to end the use of the words “boy” and “girl”.

Some people are very confused about the difference between sex and gender.

And, honestly, the subtext I got from many of these angry people was, “I like my gender stereotypes JUST THE WAY THEY ARE, TARGET. How dare you challenge my comfort level? Boys play with cars and girls play with dolls; boys are blue and girls are pink AND THAT’S IT DO YOU HEAR ME?”

I wanted to tell everyone to go do some deep breathing. It was crazy.

I’ve talked about the pink toy thing a little bit here, and I have many thoughts on gendered marketing — just ask me sometime! Short version: Do not like.

I’m glad Target is not going to sell girl bathroom sets or boy Legos. They will just sell household goods and toys, and I don’t think it’s a problem. And if you can’t figure out what to buy your niece because it doesn’t say “girl” at the end of the aisle, just get her a gift card. What she decides to buy herself might just surprise you.

What do you think of the Target move? Think other stores will follow their example? Where will all those angry people shop?

Random Thoughts: The Weekend Update Update Edition

1. Kate’s swimmers ear is responding to her antibiotic drops, and she is feeling so much better. She still needs to stay out of the water for another week or so. And when she does venture back in, we will have to work to make sure her ears get dried right after swimming. Which shouldn’t be difficult, because she was in a lot of pain, and I bet she will want to prevent that from happening again.

2. Once you become used to shopping at stores other than The Big Bird, if you do find yourself shopping there it is an exercise in frustration.

Michael and I hit the farmers market Saturday morning. I put together the weekly menu on the fly, and figured I would hit the Moon area Giant Eagle for the dozen or so things I needed to complete the menu. I had a lot of stuff at home already, but needed some vegetarian ingredients. The Giant Eagle was the closest store.

Never again.

First of all, the prices are outrageous. I hadn’t realized how very high they are when you compare them to Aldi and Target.

Second of all, it has to be the least efficient store I’ve ever tried to check out of. The first self-checkout line I got into, I was behind a guy with a full cart and (I noticed as he started checking out) a pile of coupons. Now, I have no problem with coupons, but why try to use them at a self-checkout?

So I switched to another self-checkout lane — and discovered that I couldn’t use it because I didn’t have my loyalty card with me. So *then* I had to get in a regular line, and it took a long time. A LONG TIME. And while I didn’t time it, when you compare it to the time it takes to check out at Aldi or Target, where you do not wait in line, it took a long time. Fifteen minutes, possibly 30.

M was an angel. And I mean an angel. He didn’t act up, he didn’t melt down, he didn’t ask me for fifty eleven things (we had already picked out a pack of gum as a reward). He was chatty and patient and didn’t climb endlessly on the cart or wander off.

Third of all, why in heavens name do they have so. much. stuff? I mean, aside from acres of foodstuffs to choose from, there are toys and books and middle-of-the-aisle kiosks of razors and travel size shaving cream. WHY?

Fourth of all, our cashier was incredibly slow. She seemed to be flummoxed by the whole system of scanning objects in a certain order and placing them in the bags. The customers in front of me didn’t seem to be a big help, but they sure did want to chat with her.

Ugh. It was just the worst. I’m never going back.

I’ll send Dan, and only when absolutely necessary.

3. My friend Kim and her family were in town to see a production of Kim’s play A Skewed Nude, and we had them over for dinner, and they brought us beer from Chicago, and we had a nice, nice evening.

Chicago craft beer!
Chicago craft beer!

And Kim’s play is *funny*.

All-in-all, a delightful visit, and I do hope Kim and her family got lots of rest after returning to their hotel.

Got any updates?

Random Thoughts: The Brain Freeze Edition

I’m having one of those weeks. I have a lot on my mind, and a lot of different stuff to do, and I’m getting what Dan and I refer to as DITH: Deer in the Headlights. I’m just kind of frozen.

brain freeze face

The job search has been unsuccessful so far. To say the least.

The current job — well, I’m still looking. That’s all you need to know.

Although I am very busy, and the projects are marginally more interesting. I have to move a lot of content by tomorrow because…

We are out of town (the annual Seven Springs excursion) from Saturday to Wednesday.

We were supposed to go to Kennywood on Saturday, but do you know how expensive Kennywood is on a Saturday? Unless you have season passes, and/or go on a weekday, Kennywood is hella expensive for a family of five. If I had managed to get the $23 tickets, and/or they had just general admission tickets (i.e. no rides — Kate claims she won’t go on anything), it’s out of our current budget. Which is a real disappointment.

Also, while we are in Seven Springs, we are having a not-shower for Dr. Sis (have I shared here that Dr. Sis is expecting a baby? Well, she is. Due in September. PRAYERS FOR HEALTHY MOM AND BABY WELCOMED.)

And I gotta print out some games and get some prizes for the not-shower.

Best Wishes
This seems like a nice thing to provide for guests at the shower. What do you think?

And drop off the girls’ registration paperwork for school. And pack. And two more days of work, right.

My thoughts are a little ranty, too, re: Donald Trump running for President, the Ashley Madison hack, and Nicky Minaj on the VMAs. I mean, I can’t even.

So: I’m out for the time being! Have a great weekend! I gotta go make some lists and check shit off.

In the meantime, my children are with their cousins, doing this:

Happy almost weekend!

What do you do when you’re like a deer in the headlights?

Random Thoughts: The This is Bullshit Edition

1. I am hardly reading books at all right now. I don’t know what’s going on. I’m in the middle of a non-fiction book that is super interesting, Hellhound on His Trail. I get sucked in every time I pick it up. I only pick it up about once a week.

Hellhound on His Trail by Hampton Sides.
Good, non-fiction book that I am not reading.

I did plow through Mr. Mercedes and Finders Keepers, both by Stephen King, on the Chicago road trip. Good summer books, although Mr. King could really use an editor with some backbone. I don’t think Advil was available as a brand in the 1970s, and one cannot turn off a cell phone, and then pick it up and speed dial someone. Just little things. Didn’t make me regret reading!

I also picked up Life of Pi, which is a beautiful book. And I’m just not perusing.

2. I attribute this lack of reading to dropping and breaking my Kindle. I am a victim of my own clumsiness and carelessness. Do you have any idea how easy it is to get library books on the Kindle? SUPER EASY. It makes going to the library to actually pick up books seem like a trip to the moon. (Hyperbole much, RPM?) Plus, I never have late fees anymore! The book just disappears off the device.

I miss reading. Twittering and Facebooking my way through an evening isn’t satisfying or good for my blood pressure. Dan and I have been watching movies and TV shows via Netflix (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt). Highly entertaining, highly comedic, not inspiring deep thoughts.

I can feel my brain turning to oatmeal.

Give me some books I can request from the library. I promise I’ll go tomorrow. It’s supposed to rain all day anyway, isn’t it?

3. I seem to be accidentally raising a racist kid. He won’t go near brown people — I’m not even exaggerating. We were at the dentist office yesterday, and he had to go to the bathroom. When we got back, a little Indian boy was playing with dominoes in the playroom.

Michael didn’t want to go in the room. He told me he doesn’t like the color brown.

I pointed out that nothing was wrong with having brown skin. He insists that it’s not about brown skin; he just doesn’t like the *color* brown. He likes blue and green. I then pointed out that people don’t come in blue and green; they come in white and pink and brown and yellow.

I need to meet new people.

4. The idiots on Twitter who think @SCOTUSblog is the actual Twitter account of the Supreme Court of the United States.

5. I shouldn’t let Dan go to the State store or the grocery store by himself. Though, I have had a thirst for some bourbon lately.

bourbon and potatoes
Holy packaging, Batman. And that is the biggest bottle of bourbon I’ve ever seen.

What is your favorite bourbon cocktail?

Random Thoughts: The High-Low-High Chicago Edition

First High: Visiting with friends.

On Sunday, we went to visit a college-era acquaintance of mine and her family. (The bright side of social media — she wrote about it here.) We hit the Midsommer’s Day Festival in Andersonville. It was a wonderful stroll through a Chicago neighborhood that we otherwise would not have seen. Kim, her husband John, and her two children were lovely and fun hosts. The children got their faces painted, climbed a wall, and ate french fries and chocolate frozen bananas. I believe her oldest and my two girls have a life-long bond formed in Minecraft.

Katie with face paint.
Katie Cat.

We also spent much time with my friend Erin and her husband Brian. I have dubbed Brian The Angel of Chicago for all the logistical help he gave us. They are both wonderful with our children, and if I had to guess, they have big giant soft spots for Kate especially. We stayed with them Sunday night through Tuesday. Monday morning they absconded with the children at 7 a.m., enabling Dan and me to sleep past 9 a.m. for the first time since we had arrived. They could not have been more welcoming or generous.

Angel of Chicago
Our guide and friend with a sassy M.

The Low:

We lost some stuff, most notably my debit card and — for about two hours — Dan’s phone. He must have gone to put it in his cargo shorts pocket as we were getting off the train on our last day (Tuesday), and he dropped it instead, and didn’t notice until the train pulled away. It was… panic inducing and infuriating, to say the least. Dan leapt into the car (with my phone, from which he had texted, “I am texting from my wife’s phone. If you find this, please turn it into the lost and found.”) The Metra conductor found it, and held onto it until Dan got to Harvard, IL. I mean, he held the train for 20 minutes to return Dan’s phone. He was a hero.

So, Metra, the conductor of the Harvard 5:33 express on Tuesday June 16, went above and beyond to help an out-of-towner. He wouldn’t even accept a cash tip as a thank you.

And, as I mentioned, logistics were tricky. I love the city of Chicago, but driving there is a nightmare, parking is outrageous, and we only navigated the Metra because The Angel of Chicago helped us.

The Other High: Pretty City

The ferris wheel at Navy Pier.
The ferris wheel at Navy Pier. No filter.

Chicago is such a photogenic city. If I had a real camera, I would’ve taken a thousand pictures, half of them at Cloud Gate (aka The Bean) alone.

Cloud Gate
Cloud Gate, aka The Bean, and aside from Legoland, M’s favorite.

All-in-all it was a good trip. It had its ups and downs, and despite two attempts, we never did get through the doors of the Shedd Aquarium. We walked *a lot*, and the children feel they didn’t get to swim enough. Driving home overnight on Tuesday was brutal — because of the phone fiasco, aside from the hour he was at Erin and Brian’s to eat a little dinner and finish packing, Dan was in the car for nearly 14 hours — but worth it to be at home getting organized to return to our regularly scheduled program.

Buckingham Fountain
Buckingham Fountain on low because of the wind.

What city could you spend hours walking around?