Three things — 9.21.17

Three things I’m loving this week

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TP Link Tether App. I knew there had to be a way to shut the wifi off to certain devices in my home without shutting the modem off completely, which means Dan & I can’t watch Netflix or surf the web after the kids go to bed. Last week I discovered an app that works with my new TP Link wifi router and…voila…I’m able to turn wifi off on all the kids devices with a few taps on my smartphone. (Lauren, a.k.a. miss Sassy mouth…is screwed).

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Swimoutlet.com. I’m sure this online retailer has been on my “things I’m loving” list before but I literally said “I love swimoutlet.com” out loud twice this week (got Lauren three lap suits for upcoming swim team season for $68 total….I think I paid more than that for her first lap suit at the Erie Sports Store two years ago).

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‘yakking at sunset. We went to Shade’s Beach on Saturday night and kayaked in the lake at sunset…it was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. Definitely going to have to do that again.

Things I’m not loving this week

The way 45 treated Katy Tur. This Fresh Air podcast with reporter Katy Tur, who covered Donald Trump’s campaign, made me hate him even more than I already do….and I’d have never thought that was possible. Belittling her….threatening her in front of all his rabid rally fans…kissing her(!!!!)….I think I yelled “You, son of a bitch” at least 5 times.  (I also listened to this podcast about psychopaths on the Stuff You Should Know podcast — and 45 is like a textbook case. Ladies and gentlemen, we have a bonafide psychopath for our president. God Bless America, eh?).

Samsung Televisions. We bought a $600 55-inch Samsung smart TV in November. A month ago, it just stopped working. It’s under a 1-year warrantee, so Dan called the company. They sent out a repairman. It took longer than you’d think, but…whatever. Guy wasn’t even halfway down the road when the TV blinked out again. They are basically big computers now and he said something was causing something else to short/burn out and he’d have to call Samsung. They told us they’d replace the TV since it could not be repaired. Fine. We told them we wanted to buy an extended warrantee on it, given the trouble we’ve had with this one. They said fine. Then, they called back to tell Dan that they forgot to mention the replacement TV is a refurbished TV and only has a 3-month warrantee. Uh…no. So, Dan called BACK to say…no, not acceptable. They are now “checking the recordings” to see if he was told earlier that it would be replaced with a refurbished TV. They can check all the want, but…we’re not accepting a used TV (that was broken and repaired) in place of a new one that didn’t even last a year.

Novel narcolepsy. Soon as I crack open a book at night, I’m out. I can’t get through a half a chapter before my brain shuts the whole operation down for the night.

 

 

 

 

 

Worth Reading — 9.20.17

A random collection of articles, blog posts, books, and other things I think are worth sharing.

Bullet Journal: Minimalism: Interview with Jousha Fields Millburn

Speaking of minimalism….

Scary Mommy: Our Obsession with Stuff and Status is Out of Control (This is so excellent and so on-par with my thoughts that it’s like she’s inside my head.)

“I prefer experiences to belongings, hands down. Too much stuff triggers my anxiety and clutter makes me ragey.”  (Again…me, too, the reason my home and office is neat and orderly is because clutter makes me anxious)

Deep Roots at Home: Reasons Today’s Kids Are Bored At School, Feel Entitled, Have Little Patience & Few Real Friends

HuffPost: The Thing All Women Do That You don’t Know About

Guys, this is what it means to be a woman. We are sexualized before we even understand what that means. We develop into women while our minds are still innocent. We get stares and comments before we can even drive. From adult men. We feel uncomfortable but don’t know what to do, so we go about our lives. We learn at an early age, that to confront every situation that makes us squirm is to possibly put ourselves in danger. We are aware that we are the smaller, physically weaker sex. That boys and men are capable of overpowering us if they choose to. So we minimize and we de-escalate.”

 

Just Write 155 ~ Runnin’ Family

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Somewhere after Kelly and before Lauren, I started attending weekly track workouts (speed work) at McDowell High School hosted then by Erie running phenom, Barb Filutze or maybe it was Carmen Garrison, by then.  I’m not sure because it’s been 15 years.

My memory is fuzzy about it now, but I remember two things about after-work summer speed sessions at McDowell: it was hot as hell, and I absolutely hated it. But I kept going back because I started to like the people there and sharing the misery.  Commiserating with other runners while we gasped for air at the end of an 800.

At some point (again, the memories are fuzzy), Carmen invited me to a sleepover at her friend Linda’s cabin-in-the-wood behind her farmhouse in McKean with a handful of other running women. To this day, I cannot believe I said “yes,” and then actually showed up to sleep with a half-dozen strangers, most of whom were at least 10 or more years my senior.

Despite my hazy memories about most things from that long ago, I recall vividly being in my car with my pillow, sleeping bag, snack, and overnight bag, and driving to Linda’s thinking, what am I doing? I don’t know hardly any of these women and I’m going to spend all night with them? This is insane. I’m just going to turn around and tell Carmen something came up. What grown woman accepts an invitation to spend the night in a cabin in the woods with a bunch of people she doesn’t know?

I am eternally thankful that I didn’t turn that car around.

Hanging out with them that night was like being 15 again and having a circle of friends to talk, giggle, and eat a bunch of junk food with. Only we could drink, too, which made it even more fun.

Exhibit A:

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Carmen, Barb, and I in the cabin.

I had an absolute blast that night and the women that I met there (and, later, the women I met through them) have enriched my life in ways I can’t even put into words. Their friendship, advice, support, and presence in my life has been constant and unconditional.

Some have come and some have gone. Carmen moved to Washington a dozen years ago. Karen, Sarah, and Dottie moved, too. Others quit running and then fell away from the group. But, we’ve invited new friends in, too. And, it’s not always just women (though we do love our girls-only events), but the husbands, too. We hang out together on holidays and at events. We started a book club. We’ve gone on a bunch of weekend and week-long vacations together.  Everyone knows each others’ kids.

 

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When I was 7+ months pregnant with Lauren, I went to a girls-night at Linda’s and they had organized a little surprise baby shower. I teared up because it was just so sweet. Also, I was pregnant, so I cried about pretty much everything then. I remember sitting at the table in Linda’s kitchen, opening presents — little yellow outfits, pictures frames, and teething toys.

This weekend, that baby in my womb, now a 14-year-old girl, circled around that same table in Linda’s kitchen, trying to pick which piece of Linda’s homemade pie she wanted. It was cider day at the Huegels’.

Every September, John and Linda invite dozens of friends to bring boxes of apples and make fresh cider using John’s 1800s-era cider press. It’s quite an operation, but one that so many of us have done for so many years, that we easily switch jobs and jump in where needed.

 

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Cider Day a couple years ago.

After the work is done, Linda feeds the whole crew a chicken-and-biscuits dinner, complete with dessert. Every single bit of it is homemade (that’s the only way Linda cooks, thank you.) I think she said she used 17 pound of chicken this year. Dan loves going to Linda’s because, as he puts it, she “cooks with love,” (which in Dan-speak means plenty of butter and natural fats).

Even Lauren, who tends to be a pretty big homebody, gives us no complaint when we say we’re going to Linda’s (which is quite often because Linda and John are the rare breed of people who enjoy hosting parties and having people over for dinner). Lauren who complains about anyplace we ever have to go, jumps right in the car. Ready to go.

Adventure awaits at the Huegels’ house. There’s the creek, the bridge over the creek, the cabin in the woods, the rope swing, the hammock and, of course, tons of other kids to play with, not to mention plenty of food.

My daughters have literally grown up with our running friends and see them as an extended family. In fact, when Lauren was a toddler and we’d tell her we were going to a party or picnic, she’d often ask:  Is it our real family or our runnin’ family?

It’s never lost on me how lucky my daughters (and I) am to have not just our own large families (Dan and I are both from family’s of five), but an even wider circle of adults who love and care for them.

All because I didn’t turn the car around that night.

Here’s a photo of Kelly, my niece, Syd, and another “runnin’ family” friend, Joe Lang, in the loft of the Huegel’s cabin — the very place I rolled out my sleeping bag and slept next to a bunch of strangers that became family:

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Aren’t we lucky?

 

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About Just Write: Just Write is my adaptation of free writing, a technique in which a person writes continuously and quickly without little regard for spelling, grammar, or topic. It helps writers overcome blocks of apathy and explore everything from meaningful topics to mundane observations with the same effort and without the pressure of crafting perfect prose. I just start writing.

“What ends up revealing itself when free writing is that everything has meaning. That is a magnificent gift of writing. If we write from a free heart-gut place, our souls start speaking.”

Three things — 9.14.17

Things I’m loving this week

Loud metal. I forgot how completely awesome hard rock is because I live with two teen girls and a 47-year old man so I mostly listen to pop or 70’s music (I’m so sick of the 70s, by the way). But, twice in the past week, my mind recalled old lyrics from Iron Maiden and AC/DC  songs which sent me to YouTube to reminisce a bit about my rebellious years. They’re still kick-ass songs. Also I forgot how therapeutic angry metal is.

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Concord grapes from North East. I know some people think these slip-skin grapes are gross, but I grew up eating them and I love them. I stop at roadside stands all the time in September and then I totally hide my stash in the back of the vegetable crisper so my kids don’t eat them all.

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This shirt. I’m putting it on the top of my holiday wish list. Merry Christmas to me….

Things I’m not loving this week

Roasted brussels sprouts and cauliflower soup. I’m usually a big fan of Skinny Taste recipes, but this one looks like vomit, doesn’t taste much better. IMHO, of course.

Mar-a-Lago is still standing. Irma, you had ONE job.

This story. If this doesn’t terrify you, I don’t know what will. (Probably immigrants or red cups at Starbucks).

 

 

Worth Reading — 9.13.17

A random collection of articles, blog posts, books, and other things I think are worth sharing.

New York Times Magazine: Michigan Gambled on Charter Schools. It’s Children Lost.

GQ: A Most American Tourist: The Making of Dylann Roof (LOOONG, but….wow….).

When you’re done reading it, listen to this Longform podcast with the writer.

Parent.co: How to get on with your in-laws  (I have pretty good ones, but…I know not everyone does. Some useful advice here if you’re in the later category.)

NY Times: Only Mass Deportation Can Save America

“Bottom line: So-called real Americans are screwing up America. Maybe they should leave, so that we can replace them with new and better ones: newcomers who are more appreciative of what the United States has to offer, more ambitious for themselves and their children, and more willing to sacrifice for the future. In other words, just the kind of people we used to be — when “we” had just come off the boat.”

Washington Post: How 9/11 triggered democracy’s decline  (I thought I was the only one who thought this…guess I’m not).

“Osama bin Laden famously promised to expose America’s decadent culture and destroy the United States. Despite his death at the hands of U.S. Special Operations forces in 2011, he accomplished many of his goals.

Since Sept. 11, 2001 …The federal government has enabled increased surveillance of citizens, including phone and email usage, without a new body of law to ensure privacy. Aggressive interrogation and deportation of individuals residing within the United States have escalated during this period without necessary protections against intimidation, racial profiling and cruelty. As a whole, the federal government has pulled back from enforcing rights, allowing unequal treatment of citizens to deepen in law enforcement, housing, employment and education.”

Just Write 154 ~ Older and wiser?

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You’re supposed to get smarter as you get older, but it seems the older I get, the less I know. Or maybe it’s the less that I accept to be true.

Things I thought I knew or believed about something or someone seem so much fuzzier now that I’ve got years of living experience that have revealed to me a lot of shades of gray. I’ve learned sweeping generalizations never hold up when you sit down and actually talk to a person or experience something or see it from a perspective you’d never considered before.

A globe-trotting professor friend posted a link to this Washington Post story about how Donald Trump is forcing all of us to see America in the way that the rest of the world has long viewed us, which is to say mostly unfavorably.

We are the obnoxious, semi-wealthy, overweight, bedazzled second-cousin with a Gucci bag and Payless shoes that loudly shares her opinion on everything from politics to the speed of the cashiers at the local Piggly Wiggly.

I just turned 46 years old, and I’m ashamed to admit to you that it comes as a surprise to me that we are not globally loved and admired. I believed America was the greatest country in the world and that everyone else in the world looked up at us and wanted to be us. It’s what I was always told and taught. Why would I question it?

American execeptionalism turns out to be just another in the list of things I believed to be true until I grew up and learned otherwise.  Like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny and much less innocent things like how our forefathers “discovered” America. A continent that was already inhabited by Native Americans.

I never knew we stole this country from Native Americans. I mean, I knew, but I didn’t know-know the way that I do now.  They glossed over the bad parts (rape, murder, devious land deals) in U.S. History class.

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Religion is another thing that is no longer cut and dry for me.

I walked away from it a few years ago when I finally admitted to myself what I’d believed all along — it was all just made up in the Dark Ages before science and literacy, to make people feel better about the afterlife, to quell fears of death, to try and explain the unexplainable, to provide a “higher power” people can find comfort and peace in.

The truth is that I’ve known all my life that none of it added up. I was raised Lutheran and went to church every week. I sat through Sunday School and First Holy Communion and Confirmation classes. When I got older, I taught Sunday School. Later, I had my children baptized and took them to Sunday School and church.

But then they started asking questions. How could all those animals live on one boat without eating each other? How could a God who loves us create Hell? How can a sea part…and where did all that water go? Is there really a whole ‘nother world in the sky? How can so many people live there?  If God made Jesus in his image, is God Jesus? How good do I have to be to go to Heaven?

These are a lot of the same questions that I had when I was a kid. Back then I remember thinking: I’m a kid, they’re adults, they must know something I don’t. So I just ignored all the things that didn’t jive or sounded like a fairy tale and I just accepted it, like we accept talking animals in Disney movies. Because that’s what everyone else was doing and that’s what they told me I needed to do — Just believe. Just have faith. Don’t question God or the Bible.

I distinctly remember a morning in church a few years ago, my elementary-school-age daughters beside me in the pew, when I stood to recite the Apostle’s Creed and realized we all sounded like a cult and that I didn’t want to be there and that all of it meant nothing to me.

Having seen/admitted in my heart what I tamped down for so very long, I couldn’t unsee or unknow it.

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We never went back to church again. We dropped out completely. How could I go? I’d have been an imposter…a pretender…a mother who is deliberately perpetuating a myth and passing on false information to her children.

I never missed church or the obligations or getting my kids up & out of the door at 8:30 a.m. on a Sunday, but I do miss not being able to “give it to God.”

In moments (usually of fear or desperation or anxiety), I wish I still believed in a higher power and I envy those who do. They can still find tremendous comfort and peace in God.

Occasionally, I’ll even find myself silently pleading with God for something: “Please God, don’t let this happen…or that happen…” and then I’ll think: “Who am I talking to here?”

I’ve got nothing to fall back. Nothing to assuage my fears and worries. And, I’d be a total liar if I didn’t admit that it sometimes that makes me sad.

It would be so much easier to “give it to God” or just “have faith” that “God has a plan.” It would be so much easier to believe someone else is in charge of my life.

But I don’t think that’s the case.

Or maybe it is, but just not in the way that it’s been sold to us all of these years by organized Christian religion.

See what I mean about knowing less as I get older? Things aren’t so black and white anymore. I wish they were. Life is easier that way.

But, there’s a lot of gray in this world. The older I get, the more shades I see and the less I feel like I really know or understand anything at all.

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About Just Write: Just Write is my adaptation of free writing, a technique in which a person writes continuously and quickly without little regard for spelling, grammar, or topic. It helps writers overcome blocks of apathy and explore everything from meaningful topics to mundane observations with the same effort and without the pressure of crafting perfect prose. I just start writing.

“What ends up revealing itself when free writing is that everything has meaning. That is a magnificent gift of writing. If we write from a free heart-gut place, our souls start speaking.”