Thursday, April 17, 2014

New baby and other bits

My sister had her baby! Dell Benjamin has arrived, and I can't wait to get back up to Ohio to smoosh his fat little cheeks.

There was much discussion before his birth about what this child's name would be. Dell came out of nowhere in the last week before he was born. I love it. 

---

The Blathering will be the same weekend in 2015 as the Boston Marathon. Mike is considering running again, but even still, he told me to book my ticket to Seattle.

"Plenty of times you pick up for me and adjust your life ... It's the least I can do," he said.

That husband of mine is awfully good to me. I'm putting this in writing now to refer to the next time I complain about him.

---

My boys have discovered the underwear/under where joke, which means I have to constantly be on my guard. Beastie, from the bathroom the other night (apparently he needed potty joke entertainment while on the potty), hollered, "HEY MOMMA! What's under there?"

I nearly answered, "toilet paper," thinking he meant under the bathroom sink, because what else would he be asking about? But then I saw Mike's smirk and The Boy's grin and realized what was up. The Boy couldn't take the suspense and shouted back, "Under where?"

And of course, Beastie yelled, "Ha ha! You said UNDERWEAR!" It just never gets old. (Yes, it does. It does get old. Heaven help me if they learn guess what/chicken butt.)

---

I haven't done my usual quarterly books post because I've read a great deal of crap this year so far. I'm in a bit of a reading funk. Suggestions are welcome if you've read anything fabulous.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

BFFs, wind beneath my wings, etc.

The fall after Michelle, Mike and most of my best friends graduated college was difficult for me. A year behind them all in school, I had to return to Athens without them, and as beautiful as Ohio University is in the fall, I wanted to be anywhere else. I missed my friends. I was ready to get a job and start a real adult life.

Michelle, meanwhile, was in Columbus, living at home, working at a weekly paper, dealing with a jerk in an off-again, on-again relationship. She wanted to be back in Athens often.

We sent many emails. I've saved most of them and they are hilarious and mundane, poignant and pointless. We emailed about work and relationships and blurry memories of nights out on Court Street and plans for getting together and things that made us laugh and movie stars that made us swoon. We kept emailing as I graduated and moved to Virginia, then to Florida. Michelle discussed her wedding plans before she even was engaged. Then we both were engaged and planning weddings. We navigated real estate and family planning together over the Internet. Emailing turned into Facebooking turned into texts and chats. 

I was chatting with Michelle last month over gmail about Veronica Mars and work and everything else -- and as usual, our conversation was a bright spot in my day -- when it occurred to me that we marked 14 years of friendship this January. 

Michelle and I became friends winter quarter my freshman year of college when I accidentally joined a sorority, her sorority. You're rolling your eyes at the word accidentally, but it was an accident. I did not set out to join the Greek system. I was adamantly opposed to it. But my roommate that winter asked me to go with her to a rush party.

"No," I said.

"But what if I get raped on the way home?" she said.

"Fine," I said.

We got to the house and lo and behold! there were a bunch of Posties, people who worked at the newspaper with me, including Michelle. Also, a girl named Cecilie (with whom I'd later share a room in the sorority house) who spent the entire evening talking with me about books. Next thing I knew, I was wearing Greek letters. It all happened very quickly.
Michelle was a big reason it happened. She lived on the same green as I, and we got in the habit of walking home together from The Post or the sorority house. I once saved her from a rabid raccoon she thought was cute as it dug through the trash in broad daylight. She encouraged me to take on more work at The Post. We went to parties together and passed afternoons bitching about work and classes and the sorority and boys. 

When I left for winter break my sophomore year, I tried to escape the house without saying goodbye to Michelle. I don't like goodbyes, but Michelle does and she wasn't going to see me for 16 weeks -- our winter break was six weeks long and I was spending winter quarter studying in Mexico. She literally ran me down and hugged me, calling me every foul name you can think of for trying to run out. And honestly, even as I squirmed in that hug, I felt so ... well, loved. It seems silly, a very Victorian sentiment in this modern age, but I did and I do. 

Years later, Michelle and I interned in DC at the same time and my parents came to visit for the Fourth of July. My mom, like me, doesn't deal well with goodbyes and they left town without stopping by my apartment. Even though I understood, I was pissed and hurt and homesick. Michelle sat in her room with me and listened to me cry. 

That same summer, Michelle and I fought so loud and often that my roommates threatened to stage an intervention. We don't always agree, and part of the reason we're such good friends is that we each are honest and open people who don't deal well with fakery. What I mean is: We call each other on our bullshit, like Michelle running me down for that hug or my telling her she was dating a total asshole long before she was ready to admit it. But no matter how much we screamed at each other, we always ended up sitting on her futon giggling over some story or another. 

There are a handful of people in the world I know, without a doubt, will always be on my side: my mom, my sister, my dad, Mike, Michelle. 

When we were in Ohio a couple weeks ago, Michelle was in DC for work. She got home Thursday -- and on Friday night, she and her husband let us invade their house. We spent several hours chatting that night in person. We've talked on the phone several times since. We've texted. We've liked each other's Instagram pictures. And yet when she called today because a text I sent made her laugh, this is what I said to her: "We need to have real talk, a long talk, soon." 

I don't really know what my point here is except I'm so glad we're friends, and that we live in a time when technology makes it easy to stay in touch despite 1,000 miles between us. Everyone should have a Michelle. 

Saturday, April 5, 2014

In my bag, the clean version


I love these posts people have been doing about what's in their purse because I'm nosy. But I've been shamed by them because no one else seems to have the rat's nest of receipts, molting tissues and pens that generally fills my purse. Not wanting to show off this mess, I haven't done a post of my own. 

Until today. 

Let me be clear: I am sharing now a sanitized version of the mess I usually cart around. This is what every purse starts out like. This is what I clear it out to every couple weeks. But this is not the norm. It's only like this today because I was switching out to this new purse (Target. Meh. I bought it because it's big, neutral and has both a shoulder and cross-body strap, as well as outside pockets.)

So, what's inside ...



  • My work ID. This rarely leaves the depths of my bag. 
  • An umbrella. This thing is crappy and barely keeps rain off, but it's little and works in a pinch, and I live in Florida. In the summer, you need an umbrella every afternoon. 
  • Kleenex, Wet Ones (also, hand sanitizer inside the little bag of tricks). Because Beastie is determined to use every disgusting bathroom or portapotty we come across. 
  • Lip stuff. Revlon Just Bitten Balm Stain in Honey. 
  • Bag of tricks. Doesn't everyone carry a mobile medicine chest/make-up counter? This contains a nail file, various medications, band-aids, bobby pins, face powder, chapstick, etc. 
  • Pens. These two will breed and within the week I'll have about 100 pens in various states of usefulness rattling around the bottom of my bag. 
  • Lint roller. I have a dog, a cat and two kids. 
  • 2014 planner. My version of a bullet journal before bullet journals were cool. I've been using this planner (in different cover colors every year) since 2007. I like it because I can see months at the front, plan by day/week throughout, and there's space for notes at the back. My yearly goals are in here, work lists, packing lists, etc. 
  • Gold case. Found this cigarette case at a thrift store and it's engraved with the name Maxine Rogers. I love it and would carry it even if I didn't need my cards. 
  • Wallet. This sucker zips, which makes it impossible to accidentally open and spill in my bag like my last wallet, and there's space for my phone. I use this on its own quite a bit. 
My phone and keys always are in there, too. And often a reporter's notebook or steno pad. 

So 'fess up: You all are carrying around half a box of wadded up tissues at any given time, too, right? 


Monday, March 31, 2014

Marriage motivation

Somewhere around hour nine of our 16-hour trip back to Ohio, Beastie declared he was going to marry me. I'm not sure why it came up, but then roadtrips always seem to stir up conversation. We started talking to the boys about marriage, teasing at first -- who are you going to marry? -- and then more serious, telling the boys why we got married.

"Daddy doesn't bore me," I said. "You have to make sure whoever you marry is interesting."

I was mostly kidding Mike, grinning at him out of the corner of my eye when I said it, but as the words came out, they struck me as true.

We spent 16 hours in a car together, and then made sure to find a half hour in the craziness of putting the house back together to sit on our patio chatting over a beer. I never get tired of talking to him. I like the way his mind works. I like the silly puns he makes. I like the big ideas he has and the plans he makes. I like how he listens to me. I like the questions he asks.

Mike believes every person has one true love. (That's another thing I love: He's more than a bit romantic.) I've never been a believer in the idea of The One. I lean more toward the idea that committed love is a choice, something that can be sustained if people choose to work toward growing together.

Other guys might have made my life more dramatic; some, maybe simpler. They might have seemed  more interesting, laden with angst and snark. But Mike is the only one who has never bored me.

A few weeks ago, I was out with friends and we started talking about marriage. I said then, as I've written here, that marriage is the hardest thing, much harder in my mind than parenthood.

"It makes NO sense," I railed, probably scaring the 20-something guy at the end of the bar. "It's not like medieval times, when you needed marriage for property and protection ... Marriage makes no logical sense now. You chain yourself to this person for life because why? What if you don't want to sacrifice and do what's best for each other? It's hard. It's work, constant work."

Of course, conventional wisdom says marriage is worth the work for the sake of the children, for financial security, for the happiness that comes with having a support system. Those are good reasons. But here is the truth for me, selfish and petty as it may seem: Because Mike doesn't bore me, because he challenges even as he accepts me, because I respect his opinion, because I am curious what he thinks, because his jokes make me laugh, because he's a delightful-to-me mix of smart and silly, I am willing to work for our relationship.

Why do you work for yours?

Friday, March 28, 2014

34

I sat in a hotel room alone on my birthday this week. It was both a great and admittedly sad moment for me. I got teary when the husband and the girls called to sing to me first thing in the morning. I missed them terribly and couldn't wait to get home to them.

But I was in a hotel room in Washington DC, one of my favorite cities. The city I spent a summer filled with very happy memories with Hillary and her (now) husband. The city that even in just those few days that I spent there this week gave me some great memories and stories.

My first morning there, I started the day with the Capitol police wanding me as John McCain walked by. I had breakfast with a senator in a dining room that when I looked around, there were at least four presidential hopefuls. I met with other lawmakers who are trying to make a difference.

For people who live there, I'm sure seeing politicians doesn't seem like that big of a deal. For a girl who is still coming to terms with the fact that she's a grown up, it's pretty amazing.

When I was in my 20s, I always looked forward to my 30s. Women in their 30s seemed to have it together. They knew what they were doing, what they wanted, where they were going. I'm not completely there yet but my 30s feel pretty damn good so far.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Books for boys update

I went on a quest last year for books for boys, books that I could read to my boys or recommend to them when they were ready to read chapter books on their own that would get them excited about reading. I wanted books with strong, smart characters and good plots. You all gave me lots of suggestions, the Newberry shelf was a great place to start, and RA and I have a running email conversation about books we loved or have found that fit this bill. (Seriously, if my boys are well-read bookworms, RA and her suggestions will have played a huge role in that.)

You guys, this project has been so worth it. First of all, reading so many children's novels reminded me how great children's literature can be. Strong, simple but active plots, good character development, humor, action, maybe even a lesson or two. Many authors writing for adults would do well to look back at some of these books. Secondly, the boys really have loved the books, even when I was skeptical. 

We started Adam of the Road about a month ago. It's a Newberry winner, written in 1943 and set in 1294 England. Adam is a minstrel's son and the book is all about his adventures on the road, first with his father then, after they are separated, alone on a quest to find his father. I loved it; however, I was a little worried it might be a bit old for my boys yet. I bought it to have, thinking we'd wait a few years, but the boys spotted it and begged -- we had just finished The Sign of the Beaver, which they loved -- so I gave in and started. The first couple chapters were rough, with lots of pauses for explanations, especially for Beastie: what are matins? why does Adam live in a church? why does he call his dad Roger? what's a minstrel? wait! who is Nick again? (The DOG, Beastie, Nick is the dog.) 

But then, about the third night of reading, we hit this part where Adam, faced with a snobbish, highborn boy he knows he'd be foolish to beat up, even though he'd like to, decides instead to uses his words to make a point. "Farewell, Sir Honeycomb!" our hero says to the snob, dripping with sarcasm.  Now, I played up the part as I read, but I still worried this joke was going to go above their heads and under their feet, as my mom likes to say. Before I could even finish the sentence though, Beastie busted up laughing. The Boy was giggling, too. Weeks later, I still hear them building it into their Lego play scenarios or saying it to each other to get a laugh. 

Credit goes to Michelle for the other books they're really loving right now. She bought Beastie two Roald Dahl books for his birthday: Dirty Beasts, a collection of poems, and The Enormous Crocodile. The poems all are about animals, most of which want to eat up children. In one, a cow can fly and poops on the head of a mean man. Beastie loves that one. The Enormous Crocodile is longish picture book about a crocodile set on eating children much to the horror of the other jungle animals. 

We've had many nights lately where, by the time we get home from baseball games, it's just too late for more than maybe one short picture book or a couple poems before bed. On those nights, The Boy pleads with me to read another chapter. I think he mostly just wants to stay up a little later, but he is pretty tied up in the stories, too. When we finished The Sign of the Beaver, the boys applauded. 

We're about halfway through Adam of the Road now. I'm thinking we might try Charlie and the Chocolate Factory next. What are you all reading lately? 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Paddling around


The boys surprised me with a stand-up paddleboard for Christmas. We had rented one a few times last spring on the Indian River Lagoon and I shocked myself by loving it. I don't play organized sports and generally dislike physical activity -- you think I'm joking, I'm not -- but paddleboarding is peaceful and playful and lets me splash around the water with the boys. Though we had talked, sort of joked, about buying one of our own, I never expected to see one sitting under my bougainvillea on Christmas morning.

Of course, neither the Prius nor my beat-up old Saturn had a rack, so we had no way to haul it at first. I'm ashamed to admit our first trip out -- when this picture was taken -- wasn't until February, and then only because good friends agreed to stack it on top of their board and go out with us for the afternoon.

But we finally forced ourselves to go car-shopping and got the Rogue, with a rack on top, and this weekend, we took the board out on our own, just the four of us. We puttered up the barrier island -- and I do mean puttered. Mike, who has had two car-top carriers fly off vehicles he was driving, was paranoid about the board on top of the car and refused to go faster than 35. We went first to a popular inlet beach, but it was choppy and crowded with boats, so we came back toward home and found a tiny little unofficial pull-off. Other than a couple kayakers and a few fishermen, we had the river to ourselves, and Mike and I took turns taking the boys out.

The Boy counted 29 fish jumping out of the water. We watched half a dozen pelicans fish for their lunch. We spotted two blue herons. Mike and Beastie spotted the manatee first, and The Boy and I went chasing after it when it was our turn. We had just given up hope when the manatee surfaced for air with a sigh that sounded like Brucie Dog when we tell her we're done playing fetch.

We had peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches in the back of the Rogue for lunch, and it was mid-afternoon when I took both boys out on the board for the last paddle of the day. The Boy spotted a fisherman wading in the water, then another as we rounded the mangroves.

"It's TWO fisherMEN!" he shouted.

"We're paddleboard men," Beastie said. "No. Actually, we're two paddleboard men and one paddleboard WOMAN."

I laughed at him. "What a good feminist you are!"

"What's a feminist?"

So I explained a feminist was someone who thought boys and girls should be treated the same and could do the same kinds of things. They both acted like I'd said the stupidest thing ever, like, why would you need a word for that? The Boy went back to counting leaping fish. Beastie continued his story about Little Blue, the blue heron.

We stopped for ice cream on the way home. Beastie took a two-hour nap. I have sore muscles today.

Do I have to tell you I can't wait to take the board out again?