13

Hardly seems possible.

 

Hello, our teenager. Stay silly.

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Cat Pictures

I’m closing out this November with a picture of our cats. They won’t pose. They have no interest to be models.

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But I love them anyway.

 

Over and out, November. I have mixed feelings.

 

 

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How To Get A New Kitchen Floor

…have a pipe break under your kitchen floor. Your kitchen floor that doesn’t have a basement under it.

 

Good times.

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Silver lining – we never did like the tile on this floor. What a great opportunity to get a new one!

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Cousins And Coffee

The post will be short tonight as I’ve spent the day driving four hours to Duluth and back to say goodbye to my Grandma. Her 92nd birthday is just over a month away. She’s lived a long life. But I hate when people say that. What life is ever long enough? Maybe her best years were still to come. I don’t know.

 

All I know is I don’t want my death to feel like weak coffee, worn furniture, a cramped room, hushed voices, and visits with cousins that I only see when someone is dying. I’m thinking I want some stupid expensive red wine for everyone to share(or maybe some margaritas), mod and colorful furniture, loud voices with laughter, and cousins who make sure they see each other several times a year. In fact I want these cousins to see each other so much that they know pet names and favorite movies and have inside jokes.

 

I don’t know. I’m glad I went and had weak coffee and sat on worn furniture in this cramped room with stranger cousins because I got to hold my grandma’s hand, stroke her hair, and talk to her for awhile. I kept tickling her feet just hoping she’d wake-up to see me and smile just one last time – but knowing her, she would’ve woken up and asked me why she never received a thank you note from Astrid’s birthday. And believe me, I’m living with that guilt, Gram. And I loved seeing your “boys” and their families surround you today. You look beautiful.

 

And ironically, my grandpa’s picture was on the front page of the Duluth paper today. He piloted the Vermont tug for years, and was helping the Edmund Fitz back out of the harbor at one point before she sunk on this day 40 years ago.

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Maybe this was a sign that he is out there somewhere letting Gram know that it’s okay to say goodbye to us, and that he’s waiting for her. I take comfort in that. I can see them enjoying some weak coffee together soon.

 

xo

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50 Reasons Why I Am Not Blogging

1. I am not blogging because Summer.

2. I am not blogging because my cat sits on my keyboard.

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3. I am not blogging because I am still depressed about Jon Snow.

4. I am not blogging because my hands are messy from sidewalk chalk.

5. I am not blogging because hanging out with my kids is more fun.

6. I am not blogging because I am reading so many books.

7. I am not blogging because I’m at the pool.

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8. I am not blogging because I’m going to bed early.

9. I am not blogging because I like naps. And I can’t write when I’m napping.

10. I am not blogging because I forgot my blog password.

11. I am not blogging because my job is super busy right now.

12. I am not blogging because my husband keeps grabbing my butt and I have to run away from him and never do make it back to my computer.

13. I am not blogging because I’m mowing the lawn.

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14. I am not blogging because I’m watching Odd Mom Out.

15. I am not blogging because I’m watching Jimmy Fallon on YouTube with my kids.

16. I am not blogging because my kids are baking and the flour on the floor needs to be mopped up.

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17. I am not blogging because I’m gardening.

18. I am not blogging because I’d rather run instead of blogging about running.

19. I am not blogging because I’m licking peanut butter straight out of the jar. This is a two-handed job.

20. I am not blogging because I’m enjoying a refreshing glass of Prosecco.

21. I am not blogging because I haven’t found the right metallic wedge sandal for summer and I fear it’s now too late.

22. I am not blogging because we are headed to the beach.

23. I am not blogging because I’m driving my kids to dance class.

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24. I am not blogging because I’m reading about how Gwyneth Paltrow got her bikini body.

25. I am not blogging because I’m trimming my bikini area so we can go to the pool. And…

26. I am not blogging because this ad makes me both cringe and laugh.

27. I am not blogging because I am STILL doing sleepaway camp laundry.

28. I am not blogging because I’m looking for the perfect Mother of Dragons t-shirt.

29. I am not blogging because I’m planning another trip to Haiti.

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30. I am not blogging because I’m mopping my sticky summer floors.

31. I am not blogging because I’m braiding someone’s hair.

32. I am not blogging because I’m making someone a snack.

33. I am not blogging because I’m snuggled on the couch with my kids watching a horrible Disney Channel show.

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34. I am not blogging because I’m staying up late watching Tour de France updates.

35. I am not blogging because I’m watching the early news.

36. I am not blogging because I’m sitting in the sun.

37. I am not blogging because I’m looking at rescue dog pictures at the local shelter.

38. I am not blogging because I’m checking flight prices to France as Eloise turns 13 this year and 10 years ago I promised her France. FRANCE. How is she 13.

39. I am not blogging because she is turning 13 and I cannot cope.

40. I am not blogging because I’m having coffee with friends.

41. I am not blogging because I broke a nail.

42. I am not blogging because Facebook.

43. I am not blogging because I’m already buying school supplies.

44. I am not blogging because posting to Instagram is just easier.

45. I am not blogging because we went on a bike ride instead.

46. I am not blogging because we were at swimming lessons.

47. I am not blogging because I needed to take a shower.

48. I am not blogging because I rarely open my computer anymore.

49. I am not blogging because I need my reading glasses to use my computer..and I have misplaced them again.

50. I am not blogging because Summer.

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So how’s your summer going?

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Heart Of Haiti – Trade Not Aid #HeartOfHaiti

I have no pictures of our hardest day in Haiti. The only pictures I have are the snapshots of the children, the babies, the parents, the doctors, and the families that I have forever burned into my memory and my heart. And how easy for me to say that it was “our” hardest day – when really it was an easy day for us just being there to witness the tragedies that we don’t have to live with daily. How easy for us to get on a plane and try to forget.

 

But we cannot.

 

We cannot begin to imagine the decisions that parents in Haiti have to make for their children. The decisions that they have to make between education and food and life and death and never seeing their children again because they cannot afford their care.

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Imagine yourself and your child – at the poorest hospital in Haiti. Dead children in the waiting room who didn’t even make it in to see the doctor, babies abandoned and crying, flies being hit away by grandmother’s who keep watch over their grandchildren while the parents are at work or finding money to pay for medicines. Imagine the doctor giving you a choice for your child – either pay for the medicine to save them, bring them home to die, or abandon them so that they will be a ward of the State to get the medicine they need to live…but they are no longer yours.

 

We touched just a few hundred of the hundreds of thousands of children who are orphaned in Haiti. Orphans with parents. Haiti doesn’t need another orphanage. Haiti needs a way for people to make a living wage to support their families, feed their families, give their families an education to build even a stronger Haiti, to afford medicine to stay healthy, and most importantly – to keep families together.

 

As we walked through General Hospital – we comforted the abandoned babies, we talked with the children who hadn’t seen their parents in weeks – asking us for help finding them and wondering where they would go when they were well, we had to turn away grieving parents who needed so little money to save their child who would die without the medicine that day. We saw how the system is broken – with most Haitians making less than $400 per year – how can they afford a $40 medicine to save their child?

 

One company that is doing it right is Macy’s Heart of Haiti. Haitian artisans make a living and sustainable income from their incredible work – enabling them to send their kids to school, live a healthier and safer life, afford healthcare, and give hope to the next generation. And what is most important – it keeps families together. Heart of Haiti artisans receive half the wholesale price of every item they make. I love the importance of focusing on TRADE-not AID. Without a sustainable income and industry – the cycle of poverty and child abandonment will not change.

 

Macy’s Heart of Haiti sent me the Erzulie Cocktail Napkins to enjoy and share with you. I cannot wait to send them to someone special as a surprise gift.

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If you are looking for an easy way to give back, please consider giving to organizations who promote jobs, sustainability, and families in Haiti – and Macy’s Heart of Haiti embodies that.

 

I will always remember the children who died, who were abandoned, who were left alone sick with no one…and I will forever honor the parents who had to make decisions that no one should ever have to make. I ask you to remember them to and work with programs that give back to long term solutions to end the cycle of poverty and child abandonment. No one should ever be without hope.

 

We visited a local artisan shop while in Haiti. I’ve fallen in love with their amazing metalwork. The artisans use almost all recycled material – anything they can find – for the products. The metalwork is made from recycled oil drums. It’s truly amazing.

 

 

Please follow Heart of Haiti on Facebook and consider them when making your next purchase.

 

“I am a member of the Everywhere Society and Everywhere has provided me with a product for review for this post. However, all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.“

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The Unraveling of Mercy Louis (Book Review)

I finished The Unraveling of Mercy Louis the same way I read it from the beginning. I kept the book in my handbag – next to my wallet, phone, lip gloss, keys, and my old paper pocket calendar. I took it everywhere with me for three weeks. Not having the luxury to binge read – because moving, life, kids – I could only read in small, rushed and hungry snippets of time. I got to know Mercy instead in the carpool lane, while stirring dinner, while folding laundry, but mostly when I was sitting on a dusty floor outside of the gym in the high school basement as I waited for my daughter for an hour and a half each Wednesday evening.

 

Little did I know the irony of reading in this place and this time when I opened this book and first met Mercy Louis on the last day of her junior year of high school. “Girls will cry. It’s the last day of school, and endings are always extreme. Like the Great Tribulation before the Rapture……Maybe if I stay right here in my room in the stilt house, the final school bell won’t ring, dismissing us into the anarchy of summer.

 

I watched the high school students pass by each evening as I sat on the dirty, after school gym floor and got to know Mercy. The band kids walking by to play at the JV basketball game, the cheerleaders practicing in the hallway outside of the bathroom, the kids waiting for their parents – screwing around, flirting, showing off, doing homework, laughing, quiet, in a group, alone.

 

And while I am not completely enamored with aging, Lord save me from ever having to be a teenager again.

 

I was a horrible teenager. I still have anxiety thinking about it. Wanting to be someone, wanting to be loved right, wanting to be good at something, wanting to stand out. Looking back I know now that if I would’ve spent more time loving others and lifting up others than I did with my own insecurities – well high school probably wouldn’t have sucked so bad.

 

Well Mercy and her “friends” brought this back full circle for me as this book explores the brutality and anxieties of girlhood in America. From starting out with a horrifying discovery of a dead baby, to placing blame on every high school girl in town, to judging and condemning, comparing and modeling, and never measuring up. From parents, to ministers, police, teachers, and friends – is anyone really worthy or better than? The Unraveling of Mercy Louis hits hard and close to home and makes me angry as a parent, as a girl, as a human. It unravels and uncovers the truth of behaviors that we all need to check at the door each morning.

 

This book kept me riveted as I wanted to just take each girl in my arms and whisper that they are good, good enough, and amazing. And I wanted to shake those who feel they have the right to ever judge.

 

The wallflower of the book, if you will and you let me go all Breakfast Club on you, had one of my favorite lines told about her towards the end of the book(without giving away the end). “…she arrived at the realization that not much separates her from someone as exceptional as Mercy, and what distinguishes them from each other isn’t beauty or talent or control…

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You’ll have the read the book to find out what she discovers as what best distinguishes us. And it will leave you in a puddle.

 

I hope by reading The Unraveling of Mercy Louis that all of us can take a lesson in being gentle with each other. We spend so much time in loving care of our babies – but maybe it’s time we give our friends, neighbors, strangers, cool girls and wallflowers a lot more grace.

 

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The Unraveling of Mercy Louis is Keija Parssinen’s latest novel. Keija directs the Quarry Heights Writers’ Workshop and works with students in Cedar Crest College’s low-residency Pan-European MFA program. She lives in Columbia, Missouri with her husband and son. She earned her MFA at the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she was a Truman Capote fellow. Find out more about Keija here.

 

 

 

This incredible book releases tomorrow, March 10th – and you can preorder here.

 

I was thrilled to receive a proof to read and review. Be sure to check out more reviews this week from Ann’s Rants and The Flying Chalupa.

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The End of #Nablopomo

Mon dieu – seriously if that wasn’t the longest yet the shortest 30 days of my life, I don’t know what was.

 

The longest because I *had* to write everyday for my commitment to NaBloPoMo. And the shortest because I cannot believe the things that happened in 30 days.

 

On November 1st at 11:48am we bought a new to us home.

 

And last week we put our home on the market.

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And in between – for almost three straight weeks I packed. And packed. And packed some more. Clearing our home of probably 4/5ths of what we own – every toy, every piece of china, every wine glass(yes, a plastic kid glass from Ikea works just fine with wine thankyouverymuch), our books(MOM – WHERE ARE MY BOOKS!?!?!?!?), our clothing, shoes, family pictures, albums(Yes, we still have some of those), office papers, excess furniture, and allthestuffedanimals known to man.

 

We cleaned until our hands were raw, fingers numb, and eyes burning from fumes.

 

And during this time we had birthdays and conferences and plays and games and the most crazy school schedule ever. Oh, and Jed was gone for 11 days.

 

Life is busy – and I’ve finally accepted the busy – and that maybe this is just the way it will be for the next 13 years. My mother laughs at me because it seems we just cannot stand still.

 

So maybe that’s what I need to focus on after the holidays and our move – standing still for a few minutes each day.

 

And with all three kids now in school all day – maybe that’s just what I’ll do from 10am until 10:05 or so.

 

We will see how that goes.

 

As I know one thing I won’t be doing every single day in December is blogging.

 

Bring on December – it’s time to relax.

 

Said no one. Ever.

 

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What A 12 Year Old American Girl Wants For Her Birthday

What a 12 year old American Girl wants for her birthday….In no particular order..

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A puppy

A kitten

A puppy and a kitten

Second holes in her ears

An instagram account

A Pinterest account

A puppy

Chevron scarves

Taylor Swift concert tickets

To be Taylor Swift’s sister

To not have to babysit her little sister ever again(unless Taylor Swift was also a sister)

Inspirational posters

$4354 worth of Lululemon headbands

A kitten

For Justin Bieber to never ever sing a song ever again.

Privacy

A lock on her door

More freedom

Fewer chores

To end hunger

An instagram account

A phone to use to take pictures so having an instragram account would make sense

World peace

Henna tattoos

For her sisters to stop being so annoying

Unlimited Starbucks gift card

Chevron throw pillows to go with her scarves. Picture something in a gray or mint.

Backpacks that are super cool, but aren’t practical – i.e. will not fit books or snowpants

No snowpants ever ever ever ever again

A trip to Paris

CHEVRON!

INSTAGRAM!

TAYLOR SWIFT!

 

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Reading And Loving

Jed and I are doing what we used to do before we had children. We’re going to bed and reading for awhile. This seems like such a luxury lately and I’ve missed this habit. I think we used to do this before we had Wifi too -you know way back in 1999..so we could not bring work or Facebook to bed. Instead we just had a book and a warm body to be next to.

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Since the New Year, I’ve been shutting down my computer early, not even making it to the 10pm news, and heading up to bed to read.

 

Jed never quit reading before sleep. And I’m glad I’m getting back into the habit.

 

What we are all reading and loving right now:

 

Jed is finishing the last book in George R. R. Martin’s Game Of Thrones Series. I have no idea what it’s about or how it is – but he’s read them all now, so let’s just assume they must be okay. I was going to ask him for a review – but I didn’t want to interrupt his reading.

Esther finished Kate DiCamillo’s latest book last month – Flora & Ulysses(Winner of the 2014 Newbury Medal!). We’ve read and loved all of Kate’s books(and not just because she’s local and we’ve met her), but because she fills her books with wonder and love. Esther said it was a super fun book to read and it made her laugh and she loved the comics!

Eloise has read so many books lately that I wasn’t even sure which one to pick – so I’m going to pick one that we’ve both read lately. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. Eloise knew a little about the holocaust from reading The Diary Of Anne Frank and discussions at home, but I don’t think she fully understood how devastating it was until she read this book. Narrated by Death – The Book Thief is so unique from any other book I’ve ever read. A story about a foster girl learning to love and trust again, while learning to read and the power of words. The characters in this book are so rich and interesting and the storyline mesmerizing. Eloise had a few questions as she read the book as it is historical, so she wanted some clarifications of what and why as the war progressed in Germany. I would say that she is on the ‘young-side’ for reading this – but she thoroughly enjoyed it, as did I. It is probably the book I would recommended the most to anyone looking for a powerful read with a beautiful, yet tough message.

Astrid is reading(and having read to her) as many books as humanly possible. That’s the beautiful thing about being the youngest child – your bookshelves overflow as older siblings outgrow books and they become yours. I think we will need to open a library just for Astrid and start moving out furniture that no longer fits. I know it’s time to go through some of our old board books but I just cannot part with any of them yet. So Astrid owns a gazillion books. So I will just tell you about one of her favorites that I just happen to read for her class last week.

 

First a funny story though – I actually read this book for Eloise’s class too back when she was in preschool, and as I finished reading, a little precocious girl stood right up and pointed at me and said “That was the most boring book that I’ve ever heard!” Gotta love kids. Also, that is why I don’t teach preschool.

 

The book is Millions Of Cats by Wanda Gag. There is not a children’s book that I love more. Maybe it’s because I have a link to New Ulm,  where Wanda is from, or maybe it’s because I love cats…but really it’s because the story is so sweet, the prose so lovely for both kids and adults – with repetition, an interesting story, lovely illustrations, and a nice moral to the story about humility. Who doesn’t want to read about hundreds and thousands and millions and billions of cats. If you don’t own this book – buy it now and you will keep it around for your grandkids.

 

What are you reading and loving right now?

 

*Affiliate links above

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A Survival Guide For Cold Weather Running

The temperatures for much of the country are plummeting to well below zero over the next few days – even in places in the South that never see such extremely cold temps. And wind chills are expected to be in the -50 to -60 range for us here in Minnesota by Sunday and Monday. The Governor has officially called off school for Monday and even the zoo has now announced it will be closed.

 

Many of my friends have contacted me over the past week asking how to brave the cold when running when running outside in this cold, cold weather. Many more will probably opt for the treadmill and stay inside where it’s warm. They are probably the smart ones, but for some reason I just cannot run on a treadmill. It makes me feel like a hamster on a wheel and drives me completely crazy. The only way I can feel good is still to battle the cold and just get outside and run.

 

The coldest temperatures I’ve run in are about -35 actual temps with wind chills in the -60 range. And it was actually fun. Believe me – I would rather run in -40 than +80 any day! I just cannot get naked enough to stay cool running in those hot temperatures. And nobody needs to see me run in the nude.

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I mean sure people driving by think you’ve lost your mind and if you step into a gas station the attendant might drop to the ground because you look like a robber in all of your scary gear – but it’s worth the risk.

 

But running in very sub-zero temperatures is very possible, easy, warm and downright fun if you do it correctly and safely! I’ve been doing it now for over 20 years, so either I like it or my brain is permanently frozen.

 

The most important thing you can do is have the right gear for the cold. I am NOT a gear-junkie – in fact much of my cold weather running clothing is pushing 20 years old. See that’s the thing – there is an investment for good, warm, quality gear – but it’s not like you are going to replace it every year – unless you have an obsessive personality and need to look good and have the latest and greatest gear. I run at 5am – so I don’t care what I look like. And during the coldest days I’d rather not wear my light performance running gloves – instead I’d rather trade them in for my husband’s beat-up choppers and trade fashion for warmth!

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When gearing up before your run – and remember it might take you awhile to get geared up – because LAYERS – it’s best to remember the importance of ‘W’s’ when layering….

-Wicking

-Warmth

-Wind and/or wet

 

Wicking – You need to keep your body dry and core warm and make sure all moisture is wicked away from your skin. So a thin long-underwear type layer is essential. And it cannot be the old cotton long-undies of your grandpa’s. No red union suits here people. Get some good performance wicking stuff.  I like a light under-layer – so I LOVE the Capilene series from Patagonia and prefer the silkweight. However – they also have midweight and expedition weight base layers for you to choose from. I cannot brag about Patagonia’s base layers enough. (And yes ladies of course you still have your jog bra under your wicking layer. I love mine from Brooks.)

 

Warmth –  Over your wicking layer you need something warm – so get a good fleece. I have 3 different fleeces based upon the temperature outside. I admit that my fleece tops and bottoms are also pretty old. You can find amazing fleece leggings that I wear for fashion also when the temps dip low.  Again – I love the fleece selection from Patagonia as they make a fleece for all weather and temps. (If the temps fall below -20 I also add another layer between my wicking and fleece).

 

Wind – You need an outer layer to stop the wind and keep you dry in case of snow. This layer is critical but I typically don’t find I need this layer until the temps have reached down to 10 above or if the snow or rain is heavy. I have this one from Brooks and love it. It’s breathable, wind and water resistant and has reflective attributes also. I also have wind-proof pants and I LOVE my Swix pants that I bought in 1998(gulp) as I can use them for both running and cross-country skiing. In fact I use a lot of my skiing and/or running gear interchangeably which makes any investment in winter running gear totally worth it! OR just grab and wear a large heavy-duty garbage bag if you don’t plan on investing in a jacket. It works! (Cut a head-hole though….).

 

Now that your core is warm(so so so key) – let’s talk about the other important parts of your body that risk exposure.

 

Head – You need a hat. I am cheap and easy(ha) and actually just run in my ski hat – but there are tons of great fleece hats out there. Just keep your ears covered and wear something comfortable.

 

Face – I wear a mask (awesome one from REI) when the windchill falls below about -15. Some people like to use them at higher temperatures but I feel like I get too warm. It’s good to have though as it filters the cold that you breath also and reduces the amount of skin that is exposed to possible frostbite. Still expect some awesome icicles to form on your eyelashes and frost on your hair!

 

Trust me – THIS…

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..is sexier than frostbite. I’ve had this mask since 1993 and LOVE it as it’s neoprene with a soft fleece wrap. In a pinch I’ve also used my kids’ balaclavas. (Not to be confused with baklava, the Greek pastry).

 

Hands – I wear gloves when it falls below about 35 and then switch to mittens at about 10 above. Mittens will allow more warmth sharing and you can invest in technical gloves or just wear something warm and insulated that you would play in the snow wearing.

 

Feet – Typically I just wear normal running socks and my regular shoes. But when temps dip below about -25 I put neoprene socks on with a wicking inner layer for warmth. You don’t want frozen toes. Typically your feet won’t get too cold as they are moving – but they could get wet because of the snow and if you are going any longer than six miles I would suggest a cold blocker like neoprene if you can wear them comfortably. Don’t want to invest in neoprene – wear a plastic bread bag on your feet over your socks. Totally not kidding.

 

A few more things regarding safety to think about if you are cool enough and brave enough to run in the cold:

 

1. Make sure you wear reflective clothing and/or vests so you can easily be seen. If the roads are bad with snow and ice – typically drivers are focused on the road and not on you – SO BE SEEN!

 

2. It WILL most likely be icy. I do not run with spikes or cleats in the winter – but I find I do have to change my stride on icy days and run with more care. I have fallen a few times in my 20 years of winter running – so it can happen. Just run with a little more care and maybe on the extra icy days – jump on that treadmill.

 

3. Getting cold. I typically dress for about 20 degrees warmer than it is so I do feel cold when I step outside – and know I will warm up quickly once I start moving.  I also limit my time outside when the weather is well below zero. Instead of a 10 miler I will just do 3-5 and make up my miles if I need to when the weather warms up a bit. I’d rather stay safe and have fun then risk being out in the elements too long.

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Do you like running in the cold? Hopefully these tips will keep you motivated and running outside well through this cold weekend!! Have fun and enjoy the sweet reward of a little hot cocoa by a fire when you get back from you run.

 

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Soft Landing

Eloise received a giant stuffed panda bear for Christmas. ‘Po’ has now become more treasured than the cat, a bed companion, excellent lounge chair, and is constantly being dragged around the house. He even has a chair at the dining room table as he’s required to take meals with us. Eloise takes him to sleepovers(sorry sleepover-hosting people) and I’m required to kiss him goodnight as I tuck him into bed each night next to her.

 

Certain sisters use him as a napping stop when Eloise is not at home and must leave Po behind. I might also rest against his soft, fuzzy belly in the cold afternoons.

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I was surprised when Eloise asked for a giant stuffed animal for Christmas. It was the only item on her list. Most tweens probably asked for new iThings and video games and cool clothing and things that sparkle or beep.

 

But she just wanted a soft spot to land each day.

 

Don’t we all. And I admit that I like Jed even a little more when he wear a soft fleece vest that feels nice when I rest my head on his chest as we snuggle on the couch.

 

Life can be very hard and sharp some days. This season the winter storms beat on our faces with ice pellets, words can be sharp against us, and love can be complicated. My dry skin cracks and hurts in the same way that the dark days of now can so easily determine bad moods of depression.

 

Sometimes it’s so hard to see the sun through the gray and to know that when you are home you can find that soft place to land. Soft in heart and love as you are surrounded by your closest trust circle, but also now by an overly large panda bear who has found just the perfect home.

 

I think Eloise has been feeling a bit ‘alone’ lately. Growing quickly out of little girl looks and wants and into a new chapter of her life. I think she needs me more than she cares to admit, and as a shy girl she’s unwilling to ask questions or inquire about important and even frivolous life things. She’s not a cuddler and will duck away if you try to steal a hug or kiss. She is sharp herself – bony and angular without a physical hint softness to help her land.

 

But her heart is pure and soft and kind. When you meet her and know her she kind of feels like it does when you watch one of those cute baby panda videos as they slide or play with a ball. You can’t help but smile and feel like the world is pretty much perfect because they are in it.
Maybe that’s why Eloise likes pandas so much.

 

And I hope that Po will give her the soft landing she needs for many years to come. We all need a friend like him.

*****

My friends Alison and Greta are hosting a year-long photography project “Through The Lens Thursday” – and I would love for you to click over the learn more about it. The theme this week is ‘soft.’  My goal in 2014 is to meet my camera again. “Hi Camera! I’ve missed you!” and perhaps their project is just the soft kick in the designer skirt I need to get started again.

******

In other exciting news – A new site is launching soon called the Twin Cities Mom Blog and I am thrilled to be a contributor! More info coming soon when we launch later this month!

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On Being Vulnerable

Jed has texted, called, emailed and smoke-signaled hundreds of middle-aged men over the past week with this simple message…

“If you want to get lucky in the bedroom, have heart surgery. Trust me on this one.”

 

Which is why every middle-aged man in Minnesota has been giving me this strange, knowing look all week. They point to me in the grocery store, whisper about me at the coffee shop, and give me a sly wave as I drive by in my minivan.

 

I am now an urban legend.

 

But truth be told – good sex has nothing to do with heart surgery or hospitals. It has more to do with remembering why we fell in love in the first place, and admitting to needing to be loved even after 16 years, three kids, and hundreds of cat puke piles cleaned off of the carpets.

 

But most importantly – being able to finally let go of our egos and be vulnerable again.

Vulnerable – leaving yourself open to emotional hurt.

 

Because I think that’s what is missing in our home. And frankly it’s exhausting when you cannot admit that you really need someone or something to get by with the big, but also the small tasks each day.

 

I mark my days as a mother in a kind of “I can do it myself so just get the fuck out of my way” attitude. From bringing home bacon to frying it up in a pan, to managing loads of laundry, mountains of bills, and an extracurricular schedule for three kids that would make a wedding planner in NYC cringe.  And in my own way I do okay with this. Maybe I truly don’t need help, but maybe just maybe Jed needs to be needed just a little bit more. Whether it’s letting him pick up groceries sometimes or putting Astrid to bed or not getting mad when he folds the towels wrong.

 

It’s okay for me to accept help and be vulnerable for him.

*****

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I dropped Jed off at the hospital the day of his surgery. He told me he didn’t need me there and not to worry about trying to juggle the kids and burden friends or family just for him. But he looked very alone when I dropped him. So I took the kids to my aunt’s house and returned to the hospital. I gave the receptionist Jed’s information and that I was his ‘wife’ and was now there for him if there was news.

 

She acted like she expected me. This is what people do it turns out – married people – people in love – they are there for one another. The alternate plan that we had made – the one where I left him at the hospital alone was strange and uncomfortable like a coat two sizes too small bought at the thrift store that tugged awkwardly at my arms and didn’t quite zip.

 

This is not how a marriage is suppose to feel.

 

But as I sat in the waiting room -the room with other wives and husbands and children and loves – I felt a peace I hadn’t felt in a very long time.

 

The feeling of what it’s really like to love your spouse.

 

A few minutes later a nurse came out looking for “Mrs. Duncan” and asked if I wanted to see Jed before he went in. My strong sense of self and independence didn’t even rear its ugly head to correct the nurse’s error of ‘my’ name.  I was letting go.

 

When I saw Jed he was drugged, hooked up to numerous things, tubes and medication, and alone. And he reached for my hand and cried.

 

Vulnerable.

 

And that’s when I wanted to jump him right then in there in the surgery prep room. Not because he was weak(his words) or because this might be good-bye. But because we need each other more than we want to admit. And it shouldn’t take this to bring us to this new now. But it did. And it’s strange being grateful for a medical emergency to fix a marriage.

 

Maybe that’s why we focus on motherhood so much and forget about the work it takes to be married.  Kids need EVERYTHING – from food to shelter to boo-boo kissing to doll dressing to homework help. If my tween won’t let me kiss her anymore I can still whip up a bowl of popcorn with extra butter and she knows that I love her.

 

We are born vulnerable.

 

So when does it become a weakness to admit needing something.

 

I even find I stray from vulnerability when I write. I want to write the happy things, the clean things, the neat things, the easy things, the things that don’t ask for advice.

 

But when I’ve opened up about the hard things, the hard to admit things, and the messy-not-so-perfect things, I feel the weight lifted off of my chest. This weight that you all take from me piece by piece as loved ones do as you work in combination to carry a burden and protect me as I can finally be vulnerable and breathe again.

How long have I been holding my breath.

*****

I met Jed in the recovery room. I sat gently on his bed, kissed his forehead and put my head near his as I stroked his hair for a very long time. He slept on and off and I was just there. I didn’t think of him as weak in those moment – actually the exact opposite – that he was strong enough to want me to be there.

 

Being vulnerable is sexy.

 

A few days later I told Jed something that I needed. I haven’t asked Jed for anything in years, but for the first time in a long time I felt a level of trust, love, connection and mutual vulnerability that it felt freeing to truly ask him for something that was important to me.

 

“Jed, I need you to accept my past. To acknowledge and love me not only for now and the future with our family, but for what brought me to today.” I said quietly. “You fell in love with not just me, but what I’ve done – the good and bad, my life experiences, and the 29 years I had before life led me to you.”

 

Sometimes Jed likes to pretend he married a quiet, trust-funded, virginal, blond, Catholic girl from New England.

 

But Jed instead fell in love with an opinionated, middle-class, divorced and experienced, Atheist woman from the Midwest.

 

Now 16 years later he needs to finally be okay with that. And be vulnerable enough to know that it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks of my past – especially him.

 

Because if I cannot start talking about my whole life, then I will continue to live a closed-life that is lonely, full of walls and stifling to not just my creativity and ability to love, but to our relationship and future.

 

So I asked Jed to be vulnerable with me. To admit to mistakes and failures and to look for help and more hugs and to live true and messy lives together.

We are checking our egos at the door this year. We have to if we expect this marriage to last a lifetime.

 

And we’ve found each other again. Those two people who met on an airplane to Bangkok 16 years ago. And remembered the honest and open conversations we had for those 20 hours – about divorce and loves and heartbreaks and dreams.

 

And good sex is truly such a bonus. I just need to wear dark glasses now when I go to the grocery store.

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Love and Marriage

Jed is asleep on the couch. He’s been resting for about three hours. During that time I’ve taken down the tree and thrown it across the front yard. The girls have put away their Christmas presents and played Just Dance 2014 so many times that they’ve learned the words to Blurred Lines – which is interesting to listen to and now we all just want to get nasty. I’ve also done four loads of laundry and cleaned the bathroom. I need Jed to wake-up though so I can vacuum as I’m trying to be more considerate.

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Jed came home from the hospital acting like he was just fine and could move on with his weekend just like a normal weekend. But I’m glad the couch caught him when he needed it and he’s taking the time he needs to heal. Hospitals and surgeries do strange things to people.

 

I found that the hospital made me kiss him just a little longer when I picked him up yesterday. As we were kissing. For evidently too long. I could all of a sudden feel Astrid hug me from behind and then whisper to us both “Are you guys playing the quiet game?”

 

Yes, that’s exactly what we were doing. It’s always nice to get a new code word for something. And Jed is already asking me several times per day if I’d like to play the quiet game with him.

 

Jed is uncomfortable when I talk about him on my blog or on Facebook. But then sometimes he gets angry at me because he seems to be missing from our life if I go too long without a mention of him. THIS IS VERY CONFUSING.

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Life is complicated like that when it comes to marriage. Sometimes we only want to show and see the strong and easy days, the long kisses also known as the quiet game, and that our laundry is almost always certainly clean.

 

But love and life doesn’t work like that. Instead it’s messy, sometimes complicated and frankly sometimes I’m just really not in the mood to be a good wife.

 

We’ve been together nearly 16 years and daily we learn for one another. For Jed from me – “Hey Hon – if you ask me what I want for Christmas and I tell you what I want and even give you the catalog circled with the exact thing – THAT IS REALLY WHAT I WANT!”  “Also my love, if you have to start a sentence with ‘I don’t mean to sound sexist’ – it means that YOU WILL SOUND SEXIST!”

 

And for me – I will give you credit for trying more often, that deodorant is evidently sometimes optional, that a nap after reading the paper on Sunday is not a bad thing, and that you work very hard for our family. And maybe in the future I’ll respect your privacy a little more when I post on Facebook.  Also, I’ll try to appreciate a little Dave Matthews music(OMG NO!).

 

I’ll tell you all of this when you wake-up in a little while. But for now I just wanted to document it here so I don’t forget.

 

Now just don’t get mad at me for publishing a post about you.

 

Because you are sexy – especially when you look like Harry Styles father. Especially then. When you look like this I want to play the quiet game with you all.day.long.

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It’s okay – I’ll wait while you Google who Harry Styles is.

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It’s The Holiday Season

I started wrapping presents last night and found that most of my paper has water damage. It’s hard to believe since I store it about a foot away from the basement drain and right next to the wash machine tub in our 105 year old basement.

 

So today I need to buy paper. Or just not wrap anything – which is starting to seem like a brilliant plan. But I will probably take my chances and head to Target with all of my credit cards because I like living on the edge of financial ruin.

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I had to laugh when they said “Check your credit card history if you’ve shopped at Target between Black Friday and 12/16..” Because I shopped at Target approximately 436,000 times during those few weeks. So they already had all of my money, credit availability and my last platelet draw.

 

When I wasn’t shopping at Target, I was dressing up our cat, Truffle. Now I know for sure how people become crazy-old-cat-ladies – because dressing up your cat is FUN! And Truffle is such a willing participant. He doesn’t look like he might murder me in my sleep, right?

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And Astrid now only sits on the couch like this….

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This habit might be awkward for her when she’s 16 and goes to meet her boyfriend’s parents. Unless of course she is still wearing reindeer-footy pajamas.

 

We were in Duluth over the weekend because we like to walk around and look at lights when it’s 20 below zero with a wind off the lake so we can hear complaints(MINE!) about the cold.

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But it’s nice to see a tree that looks better than ours does. Does your Christmas tree look like this?

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And finally, I ran out of Holiday cards. I apologize  – so if you are one of those that did not receive one from us this year…it’s not that we don’t love you. We just love you a little less than someone else who actually received our card this year.

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So this is for you – the ones we love just a little less – or the ones who don’t share their address with me because they know I would probably stalk them.

 

Happy Holidays my friends. May you stay warm and enjoy some quality time with family this season!

 

Love yous. xo

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45

I’m been writing little notes about turning 45  on ‘Canal Park Lodge’ mini paper for the past 36 hours. How I want to say that my life is better at this age without botox, or how I look better now than at 18, or how I’m so practical that I prefer a gift of fuzzy slippers over lace undies. On how I can still rock a bikini and appreciate a birthday morning spent in a hotel pool in Duluth instead of waking up next to my husband in a hotel on the Left Bank in Paris with my kids thousands of miles away.

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But that is all bullshit.

 

Because my reality and my here and my now and my imaginary wants of life are all a blur right now as I hit nearly a mid-century. My reality still has three kids at home – three honestly very little kids without total freedom from college educations until I’m nearly dead and botox is clearly a moot point and a weekend in Paris is waiting in line behind mortgage payments, bathroom remodels, medical bills and finally those college educations.

 

And there’s nothing wrong with that.

 

But I hate my birthday.

 

There I said it. I feel so much better than I did 14 hours ago when I woke up and had to pretend, mainly to myself, that I was excited for the day. Because frankly the 146 messages on Facebook are the only thing that makes birthdays in 2013 exciting for me.

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(well and maybe dinner with my grandma)

Don’t get me wrong. I like a good hug and wish from my kids, and maybe a well thought out gift and plan from my husband….but it will never feel less awkward to celebrate my birthday.

 

I’m that one who is impossible to please as I ask for nothing yet expect something. Truly I’m the perfect Minnesota Mother Martyr who typically gets weepy by noon because I can already tell that this birthday is going to suck.

 

No cake, no presents, no dinner plan and it’s all I can do just to fold some laundry, clean up some cat puke and ask if I can boil somebody a meal of buttered noodles to take my mind off of it all.

 

And it’s not that I want to be spoiled. I just want somebody to really ‘get’ me.

 

And I worry for my daughters that they will never find that person who does.

 

Because honestly I don’t like fancy underwear, udon noodles or fruit mixed with my chocolate.  I don’t feel complicated, but maybe I am.

 

So tonight I didn’t feel like making my own last minute birthday dinner plans. Instead I let Jed get the kids take-out and I went to a friend’s house to have a glass(or two) or wine and cry a little and laugh a lot with a group of women who have turned 45 and have raised families, had careers, written novels and experienced good and bad birthdays also without botox.

 

And I came home feeling better than I have in a long time.

 

I love my family more than I could ever explain. They sustain me. They are me in so many ways. They are my 24/7 and my past and future and I cannot imagine love more than the love I have for them.

 

But today on my 45th birthday I needed a bunch of wise women to teach me that it’s okay to be where I am today – ‘just’ a mom in the trenches of making lunches and swimming at hotel pools on my birthday – and that Paris isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

 

So today I am going to take a deep breath and remember good and simple things still happened today. Things I want to fold up like a tiny piece of paper that I put in a pocket next to my heart. Tiny moments of my children’s very brief childhood that are indeed reminders that they are the most precious gifts that I have.

 

I will remember Eloise and Astrid with their heads pressed together on the panda pillow on Eloise’s bed. Eloise was reading a large and complicated chapter book to Astrid, and Astrid told her that the book was a bit boring without pictures. So Eloise had the two of them drawing pictures together at the end of each chapter. They illustrated five chapters together today. Astrid came downstairs and explained the whole book to me with her detailed drawings.

 

And during this time my Esther played The Price Is Right on the Wii. This deserves a post of its own – but let’s just say that kids these days are really missing out by not hanging out at their grandparent’s house and learning the value of a new washer and dryer set.

 

So now I sit content with an hour left in my birthday. I’m wearing my fuzzy slippers and very un-sexy underwear. My make-up is smeared and my hair in a ponytail. My husband snores from the couch, my kids are asleep, and the 10pm news is almost over.

 

And I am finally okay and tear-free on a day that brought me more emotions than I would like to admit. Mainly because soon I will be 45 years old and one day and the pressure to care what the day brings will be over.

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Letting Go

I’m writing this at 11pm because we got home so late from Starbucks. I brought all three kids to Starbucks at 9:30pm for hot cocoa and croissants. And maybe a Cranberry Bliss Bar for me to go with my non-fat latte with an extra shot of espresso. Does anyone else want to spell ‘espresso’ with an ‘x’ – ‘expresso!’

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This may also explain why I’m not tired.

 

I wondered how many people looked at us and thought “WTF” as we entered the coffee shop. This mom taking her kids…including a FOUR YEAR OLD…out for cocoa this late. Two hours past their bedtime. And trust me, not too many years ago I’d be giving you the nasty glance over my grande latte for doing something like this with your kids.

 

But now I say COCOA FOR EVERYONE AT ANYTIME!

 

Because I need to let things go.

 

We’re having a crazy weekend as are you I’m sure. From plays to programs to shopping to parties to baking to wrapping to trying to shovel up and out all of the stuff that accumulates with the holiday season. So I’m doing things that I’d never do – like taking kids for cocoa at 9:30pm and last night at 10:30pm you would’ve seen me at the grocery store buying cupcake ingredients with Eloise. Eloise even said “Whoa grocery stores are kind of spooky this late at time!”

 

Then I had to stay up late dealing with an issue over some panda stuffed animals that arrived wrong for Eloise’s birthday party this weekend…which of course cannot be fixed at midnight or within 24 hours…so I woke the kids by 6:30 this morning so we could run to the mall by 8am to buy PANDAS. ALLTHEPANDAS. Even though we probably could’ve just skipped the pandas.

 

BUT WE CANNOT SKIP THE PANDAS! The birthday party would suck without pandas(in my mind).

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And we still haven’t gotten our tree. I played a joke on the kids and bought a $4 tabletop pink tree and told them that this was really our tree this year and I think I made them cry. And I was totally kidding. So we must get a tree this week. Kids crying over a tree does not smell of Christmas cheer. We tried today – but somehow a time never stuck for all five of us to go. Maybe we are reaching the point in our lives that it’s okay to just go with three or four people to grab a tree. Tomorrow maybe? But first we have to frost the cupcakes and have Eloise’s birthday party. And I like to clean before the tree comes in.

 

Do I have time to clean tomorrow?

 

I’m finding right now that I cannot plan for anything. Maybe I just need to let go and breathe in and let things fall as they will.

 

Like seeing Santa without planning on it. We walked by the Jolly Old Elf at the mall on Friday. We were at the mall because we needed so many things for this weekend and for gifts that needed to be shipped to arrive before Christmas. When we saw him Astrid immediately said “I’d like to talk to him.” So she did. She gave him a hug and chatted with him for quite awhile.

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Astrid is interesting that way – last year she would not even step in the room where Santa sat. This year she needed to talk to him. That’s the thing about Astrid – the girl knows what she wants and when she wants and when she makes up her mind about something – it will not be changed.

 

Also she still wants a talking scale.

 

And we’ve crossed something off our lists.

 

Our holiday cards have arrived. Need to buy stamps – now on my to-do list.

 

Jed is home and is okay. Tired. Concerned. But okay. Thank you for your kind words from the interwebs.

 

Life is uncertain – from wanting to see Santa, a visit to the ER, an impromptu trip to Starbucks, or whether your kids will get your jokes. I need to remember this lesson of living with the beauty of an uncertain yet still very blessed life. Because while I cannot control what will happen each day, I can remember to just let the moments take us where they may.

 

And be comforted by the small moments of each crazy day that make cocoa at 9:30pm sometimes feel like the most normal thing we can do at the time.

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