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A Tale of Three Timehops

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My parents used to have a nightstand full of pictures next to their bed. It wasn’t organized in any way – just two drawers jam packed with several decades’ worth of printed photos from real cameras, polaroids, and, eventually disposables. My dad always liked to say that if there was ever a fire, that nightstand was the thing he’d save.

I have this app on my phone called Timehop. It basically searches through your Facebook posts and camera roll to tell you what you were up to on this day in past years. It’s sort of like the digital version of me flipping through the pictures in that nightstand – and it’s a hell of a lot more portable in case of fire.

Probably I have given some terrifying corporation permission to sell my liver on the black market or something by signing the terms of use, but I really love looking at the little gems it finds for me every day.

Sometimes it’s hilarious throw back photos – from shenanigans with my sister, or the early days of my relationship with my husband, or Ella June in years past.

And sometimes it gives you something to think about.

Today’s Timehop is a little bit of both:

1) Ella June at two weeks old, sitting up on her own and squinting at me. It’s clear she is sizing me up and correctly determining she can find a way around me to assume household leadership.

2) Ella June pleased as punch with herself after being forcibly removed from the foam pit at gymnastics two years ago. I had asked her before class if she was going to behave and I got a big grin and a “NOPE!”

If Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s popular quote is at all correct, this kid will be making a large amount of history.

3) From last year, a Facebook post reading, “Twelve working days until winter recess.”

What a difference a year makes.

On this day last year, I was desperately trying to salvage a major project with an impossible deadline and zero cooperation from the department dictating the rules. This was a major project – A Really Big Deal – something that would have an impact for years. In other words, not something you should rush and not something you can produce in a vacuum. But that’s what I was trying to do. It almost felt like I was being set up to fail, and knowing what I do now, that might not be far off from the truth.

I had started counting down to winter recess early to try to preserve my sanity, not knowing yet that I would put in insane hours, winter recess would never happen, and the leadership I was working with would then decide to kick the can down the road.

I lost time with my family – Christmas time, with my exuberant three year old who was just starting to understand the whole Santa thing – and I wound up in the doghouse at work anyway for not having completed an unaccomplishable project that in early January the powers that be decided could wait a few months anyway.

Here’s the thing:

It sucks to get laid off after a year of doing your best to meet unreasonable expectations. It really sucks to get laid off when you are a) too pregnant to be very marketable and b) too pregnant to get even unpaid maternity leave if you do find another job. It sucks that I tried so hard with no possible chance of success, and it sucks that I sacrificed so much to try to please some people that had already decided, I think, that I wasn’t worth collaborating with. It sucks that it’s almost Christmas and I’m counting pennies to make ends meet some weeks. And it sucks to know there was really no way I could have prevented any of this without a crystal ball.

But.

But.

Yesterday was Monday. My husband put the coffee on a timer so I could have a leisurely cup while Ella still dozed. She and I kicked off the week with a donut date at a great local stop. We did our errands, which used to be stressful and squeezed in on the weekends but are now some of my favorite things Ella and I do together all week.

Then we had time for a good snuggle on the couch before I had to get ready for an audition – an audition for an incredibly relevant show that would pay me a little money to do theater again and that would have been an impossibility if I was still at my old job, although it is certainly possible for me to work full time even if I get cast.

I might not get it (it is a little insane to turn up at a theater where you know no one and suggest they just trust you that you are not usually this pregnant…) but I’m proud of myself for having the balls to try.

Today is Tuesday. I’m making bread, getting Ella off to school in time for my yoga class, setting up the baby’s changing area, continuing to decorate the tree, starting some Christmas crafts, and catching up on some family finance stuff I’ve been putting off.

There’ll be some work-related work in there and some networking, too, but basically I’m taking care of myself and my family in a way I couldn’t have imagined this time last year.

Thank you, God, for this reminder that I’m where I’m at right now for a reason, even if I can’t always be sure what it is. Thank you for helping me find the right path forward in the next few months so that my gifts don’t go to waste. And thank you for Timehop, which, while rarely this thought provoking, is my favorite way to start my morning and also easy to save in case of fire.

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We did it!

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*This is a picture of all the champagne I will drink after I have this baby to celebrate meeting my November blogging goal.

Woohoo! It’s November 30! And as long as I hit “publish” on this post before I fall asleep in front of this laptop, that means I’ve blogged every day this month. That’s about 21,100 words in 30 days. Not all of them were great words (or good words, or even correctly spelled and used words), not all 30 posts were particularly interesting or well thought through.

But, I said I would do a thing, and I did it. That’s not something I can often say.

I’ve written before about how I have sometimes struggled with follow through. Probably most people feel like that at some point, but it’s something about me that worries me on a fairly regularly basis. It’s something I’ve always been aware of, but it hasn’t gotten any easier to make my goals a priority now that I have a family.

Actually, it wasn’t even having a baby that did it. I think the first time meeting my own personal goals was impossible because of an external force of some kind was actually when I took my first specialized job at Harvard – I stepped out of a support role into a position that asked a lot of me, a lot of the time, and suddenly the personal projects I had going got thrown on the back burner, or into the trash.

It’s really important to me that Ella, and the new baby when she’s here, see me making time for myself and the things I care about. I don’t think it’s useful for them to learn from a mom who is burned out from caring constantly for other people and continuously neglecting herself.

For some reason, this feels even more important when I’m not working full time. I’d always hoped that if I found myself in my current circumstances (suddenly unemployed), I’d find a way to focus more on my own writing. It was scaring me for a while there that, even now when I have more free time than I’d ever anticipated, I hadn’t managed to making my writing a priority.

And this weird, wonky 30 days of posts has helped me do just that.

So, I’m going to keep it going. I’m going to lay off the volume a bit to focus on quality, which includes a new layout that will hopefully make it easier for me to know what people are actually interested in reading. And I’m going to commit to sharing more broadly and branching out on social media.

Thanks for taking this crazy ride with me this month. I hope you’ll stick around for more, and I hope better, content in the months ahead.

Thank you, God, for this little adventure. Thank you for WordPress and spell check and the notes app on my cell phone, which let me write a lot of these posts from bed. And thank you for my glorious life, which, while probably not always riveting, always gives me something to write about.

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So close!

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Tomorrow is November 30. That means that, unless something insane keeps me from blogging tomorrow, I will have written every day for a month.

I haven’t been over the moon about anything I’ve churned out this month, but I’ve definitely learned some things, and I have some new goals I’ll tell you about later.

One thing I’m thinking about is how often to post going forward. Writing every day hasn’t been hard, necessarily, but it also hasn’t left much room for editing or planning and that sort of thing. Also it’s not like I’ve had something fascinating to say daily! I’m kind of leaning towards every other day going forward, but we’ll see.

That might be a good compromise, particularly since I know December is going to be crazy between getting ready for Christmas and getting ready for this baby.

Here’s a little list of the fun stuff I want to do with Ella in the coming month:

1. cut down our own Christmas tree
2. Make some quasi-homemade soap to give to people
3. Make some Christmas cookies to eat and to give away
4. Go to the enchanted village at Jordan’s
5. See the Christmas Revels in Cambridge
6. Go ice skating (actually I probably can’t do this – someone else will have to take her and I can watch!)
7. See that movie The Star (which I think is the Nativity story but from the animals’ point of view)
8. Read some Christmas stories
9. Learn some Christmas carols
10. WATCH ALL THE CHRISTMAS MOVIES
11. Go downtown for our town’s holiday stroll event
12. Send a letter to Santa
13. Do a few secret Christmas crafts
14. And probably some other things I am forgetting right now!

On the one hand, that means I should maybe plan on writing a little less, since our life will be chock full of Christmas-ing.

On the other hand, it seems like I’ll have a lot to tell you about!

We’ll see how it all shakes out, but in the meantime, I want to thank you for stopping by to check in on this little corner of the Internet. It means a lot to me to see people reading and commenting, even when I haven’t done much to promote this space. I’m very grateful for your support and I hope that if there’s something you’d like to see here, you’ll let me know.

Thank you, God, for helping me stay committed to the challenge I set for myself this month. Thank you for the nice folks who’ve kept reading, even after I posted that insane rundown of the rainbow party! And thank you for keeping me on track after December rolls around, so I don’t lose momentum in the middle of all the holiday and baby chaos.

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I Can’t, I Have Yoga

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Whew, it’s been a busy few weeks! Lots of fun and family and food, all of which has been wonderful.

For some reason, I had this past weekend in my head as The Last Hurrah. I don’t know why, really – I could keep on being pregnant for another two months before anyone would try to induce my labor.

But this week was earmarked, at least mentally, as the week I start to really slow down and take it easy on myself. I’m still getting baby stuff together and organizing bit by bit, and I’m only getting started on Christmas stuff. For the most part, though, I’m giving myself some space.

This is not easy for me to do, as you might guess if you’ve read any of my posts about the insane projects I take on or how busy I tend to keep myself. But I’m trying to be very intentional about it.

One piece of that is really protecting my yoga time. I take a prenatal yoga class twice a week right now, and although it would be very easy, given how very large I am getting and how very frantic this season tends to be, to start blowing it off.

Yoga was a huge part of how I got ready for labor with Ella. I don’t even think I knew that’s why I was doing it at the time – I just liked the relaxation and the particularly badass group of women I met at my old studio in Salem. Even without my knowing it, all those weeks of stretching and breathing and focusing wound up being critical practice for childbirth.

So that’s partly why I’m making my yoga class a priority. I feel like I’ve done so little to focus on and prepare for this baby. With Ella, I felt like I already knew her by the time she was born – this new daughter still feels like a tiny stranger. Yoga is a way to prepare for having her, and it’s also dedicated time to connect with the little human living inside me.

But there’s more to it than that.

It took almost two years for me to get pregnant with this baby. In the time between, I gained a lot of weight. I tried and failed to breastfeed. I came down with every illness that went through any of Ella’s daycares, whether or not she got them herself. I took less care of myself than I’ve ever taken, and I lost a lot of confidence in my body – the body I was so proud of during my pregnancy with Ella June, the one that amazed me with the way it brought her into the world.

Natural childbirth was, for me (at least last time!) intensely athletic, physically and mentally. The last thing I need going into round two is any lurking doubt about my body’s strength and ability to do something it was literally designed to do.

So yoga is another way to build a little of that confidence back. Hell, if I can stand on one leg and wave my arms in the air without falling when I look a lot like the freaking Hindenburg around the middle, I can do anything, right?

Which is why twice a week, from now until the day this kiddo decides she’s had enough of riding shotgun, I’ll be planning around my yoga class. Because there’s only so much time left before I’m flying solo in this body again, and anything that helps me enjoy that time is worth prioritizing.

Even when I’m tempted to be too busy. And even when we’re on a tight budget and I feel a little iffy about spending the money.

Thank you, God, for giving me this outlet, which is basically the only fitness activity I have ever enjoyed. Thank you for giving us the basic financial stability to be able to continue this sort of thing, even with my current employment status. And thank you for helping me stay motivated to keep this as a priority for the next month or so, so I can be at my strongest when I bring this baby into the world.

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‘Tis the Season…

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…for panicking about paper goods!!

Just kidding.

Here is a not very secret secret: I looooove paper. Stationery, greeting cards, invitations, fancy envelopes with liners. You name it, I have spent a stupid amount of money on it at some point.

I’ve spent a stupid amount amount of money on paper because good paper costs a stupid amount of money!

I first realized this when I went to find a stationery suite for our wedding. Champagne taste, meet champagne of beers budget. This was back before the DIY wedding thing really took off, so there weren’t too many resources out there for someone looking to tackle this on their own.

I started with our save the dates, although I had no idea what I was doing. I pulled a random antique map image from a google search, slapped some text over the top, and hoped for the best in terms of color matching with our peach and sea foam green theme. Then I sent it off to Vistaprint and waited with baited breath.

Spoiler alert: these were a hilarious disaster with bad margins, poor paper quality, pixelated text, and a pumpkin/olive color combo that actually turned my stomach a little. But, because of aforementioned champagne of beers budget, those vibrantly awful postcards are what went in the mail.

I learned some good lessons from that little adventure. So when it came time to do my actual wedding invites, I got serious about quality. I still did the design myself, but I worked with a local nonprofit letterpress studio that focused primarily on teaching printing. They were a) absurdly inexpensive for letterpress, and b) infinitely patient with me, helping me discover and fix design issues, choose a quality but affordable stock, and adjust my expectations about color.

Since then I fancy I’ve become a better than average amateur designer, despite having no particular talent for anything visual and no access to fancy design programs.

In short: I am a real graphic designer’s worst nightmare, as a number of colleagues from my professional career can attest. (Sorry, Jess and Cathy!! I love you!)

I’ve designed wedding suites for friends’ nuptials, baby shower invites, and numerous birthday party invitations for my daughter.

So this holiday card season, when my champagne of beers budget is actually more of a “hey can I have a sip of YOUR beer?” budget, it seemed like designing my own was an obvious solution.

I’ve been down this road before though – the “I don’t want to pay full price for this so let me spend four times as much to buy all the stuff to do it myself from scratch” road – so this time I did the responsible thing and priced out the graphics and fonts I’d buy, the printing costs, the cost for buying envelopes separately, etc.

And hey, what do you know, even when I factored in the specials some of my favorite paper goods vendors (Minted, Shutterfly) were running, it was still going to cost me less than half to design and print my own.

SO, here’s what I did.

I chose four of my favorite photos from our family photo minishoot this fall (done by Liz Oberacker at Pure Style Photography – she is awesome!). And then I poked around online to get some ideas for elements I liked on other cards that could fit four photos.

Once I had a general idea of what I was going for, I went onto Creative Market and favorited about 200 graphic sets I could use to piece together something myself. See, I don’t have Photoshop or anything fancy right now, so I need little graphic files I can paste together to make something pretty.

Let me just say that if Creative Market existed when I first got engaged, that save-the-date fiasco would never have happened. There are so many people hawking so many awesome, easy to use design options. No one from Creative Market is paying me to say this, I just love that site.

I narrowed my choices down and picked one graphic suite (this one!) plus one package of rustic backgrounds (this one!). It took a long time because I wanted to buy All The Things, but I am a grownup and I am being financially responsible, so I did it.

I will be accepting medals for this later, just FYI.

Then I did some Googling to get some ideas about free font pairings that look good together. This was overwhelming and unproductive.

Seriously, try it. Click here and see what happens.

In the end, I landed at a font site I’ve used before and picked a script and a not-script (see? Not a real designer! What do you call something that isn’t a script?!) that were free for personal use.

Then I put them together. And actually hated them.

I finally went with a script that was already on my computer, plus the not-script font I’d found online.

And then I played around in Publisher for about a million hours, moving bits and pieces of graphics around, supplementing some of the already assembled graphic pieces with some of the individual files the package I’d purchased included, messing around with colors and switching up fonts.

I used the specs provided by Vistaprint to build a double sided postcard. Yes, I know, Vistaprint is where I printed those pumpkin/olive Save the Dates and it was a horrible mistake. But Vistaprint has actually gotten a lot better in the last few years, and they have a great matte recycled stock I’ve used for some birthday invites recently that looked downright high end. SO that’s what I went with!

I also ordered these envelopes in Botanic green from Cards and Pockets, which is a great resource for DIY paper goods. I heard a rumor it was founded by a woman from my high school, which makes it even greater.

I did, in the name of financial responsibility, opt to skip the custom return address stamp I’d planned on ordering. I have the handwriting of a serial killer, but since I’m only sending 50 or so of these, I should be able to scratch out our address carefully without getting carpal tunnel.

And here’s the big reveal!

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I’m not sure I didn’t go overboard with the wreaths on the back, but I’ve already ordered these so please don’t tell me if I’ve made a huge mistake! I may not be a real designer, but I saved us a good chunk of change and still get to send out holiday cards with our favorite family photos.

It’s a particularly special year for our little family, so I’m pretty happy I was able to find a way to afford this, even though we’re down an income, house poor from our move, and trying to scrape together a nest egg in time for this baby to get here. Plus, it’s always fun to have a creative project to work on to kick off the holidays.

Thank you, God, for the wonders of the internet, where you can learn to do just about anything and find just about any resources you need to do it. Thank you for giving me the time to dive this far down the rabbit hole on something creative I enjoy doing. And thank you giving us a year worth sharing with our family and friends via holiday card. It’s been a great one.

 

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Day of Rest

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Pretty sure the person who wrote that part in the Bible about Sunday being a day of rest did not have children.

Weekends are rarely a restful time for our family. Even with me out of work and running the mundane errands during the week to take the pressure off, Saturdays and Sundays tend to be full of household chores and obligations.

And if they’re not, they are vast expanses of unstructured time, during which our four year old requires infinite snacks and entertainment.

Not today, though. Today, we needed a real day of rest.

I had an awesome time planning, getting ready for, and then celebrating this weekend and last, with the added bonus of Thanksgiving thrown in the middle.

But boy, this mama is B.E.A.T.

The thing about me is that I like to be busy, most of the time. And I’m kind of like a car battery – if I just keep moving, I’ll just keep charging myself up. But the second I stop… crash.

That’s kind of what happened today. Even after the party was over yesterday, I kept going, like the Energizer bunny, cleaning up, packing away leftovers, putting everything back in its place, long after I should have called it a night.

So it shouldn’t have been a surprise when I woke up at 7 this morning to Ella wandering in that I felt like I’d been hit by a truck.

That makes it sound like I resent the work I’d put into all of this festivity over the last few weeks. I don’t! I really did have fun.

So, let’s say I felt like I’d been hit by a party bus, because that sounds funner.

Most weekend mornings, Jon will get up with Ella while I wake up for a bit so I can have a little quiet time and so Ella can get a little daddy time, since she’s still asleep when he leaves during the week.

Today though, instead of poking around on Pinterest while I waited for the cobwebs to clear, I fell completely, snoringly, out-cold asleep after they went downstairs, for a solid hour and a half.

It was amazing. God bless my husband, because he must have been tired too, and Ella June was definitely even more tired, which does not make wrangling her an easy task.

We had some friends over to visit this morning – dear old friends, the best kind, the ones you don’t need to clean up for before they come over. As soon as they left, I tucked Ella into our bed with her current favorite show on the TV, because she’d been in meltdown city all morning. She’s not a napper, but she was in desperate need of some enforced downtime, so I crawled in with her around 1pm to encourage restfulness…

…and I woke up at 4:30.

Now it’s almost 10. Ella went down before 8, which hasn’t happened in months. I took some time after she went to sleep to finish designing our holiday cards (which I’ll share tomorrow), but I shut down early.

Tomorrow is a mumma Monday, as Ella calls them. We’ll run a few errands and pick an activity or two. I’ll be on all day, although we’re going to try to take it easy.

So right now, I’m calling it and winding down for even more rest.

Goodnight, folks. I hope your holiday weekend was both bustling with love and food and family, and also restful.

Thank you, God, for giving me the energy to see the plans I was so excited about through, and for giving me enough energy at the end to be able to actually enjoy it. Thank you for slowing my body down when I couldn’t do it myself. And thank you for Jon and Ella, who both made giving me the rest I needed a priority today so I can be back on my feet and back into the swing of things tomorrow.

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Warming the House

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We had an open house today – just for family, many of whom hadn’t seen the new place yet.

I spent the last few weeks going completely nuts with food preparation, for no real reason. We cleaned the house and spring for fresh flowers. Basically, this was A Very Grown Up Party.

I wasn’t sure why I was going so overboard on this one until everyone got here. I made a lot of jokes about how I should probably get back to work since I’m obviously bored, or how I felt like I needed to pull my weight somehow since I’m not contributing much financially. And sure maybe there’s a little truth in both of those.

But when our house was filled with family and we were giving the fourth tour of the day, it hit me that this is, God willing, our close-to-forever home, and I wanted the people we love to love it as much as we do. I went crazy on the snacks and baked goods and cleaning and decorating because I wanted everyone to see how at home we are here and how much sense this house makes for us.

When our house was filled with family, I kept thinking that this is why they call it a house warming. It’s a home now, warm and settled and ours.

And also one less fuzzy explanation, which didn’t occur to me until after everyone went home and I mentioned to Jon that I had a lot of fun figuring out the logistics of the whole thing.

“You’ll get back to big idea logistics again,” he told me.

And he’s right. There’s a big part of my brain I haven’t been using in this weird unemployment time. Planning and making an overly complicated menu for a party we didn’t 100% need to throw let me stretch that neglected brain out a bit.

I’m loving being home with Ella right now, but I’m going to need to figure out some outlets – creative outlets, thinking outlets, social outlets – or I might lose my mind. Not right away. The baby will give us plenty to focus on for awhile. But longer term, if I’m home and not working, it’s going to be really important to make sure I’ve carved out space for me, too.

So, fun party, warm house, small life epiphany. Great day, great family. Happy preggo.

Bedtime.

Thank you, God, for my wonderful family. Thank you for letting me share our home with them, and for giving me a completely unnecessary project to focus my energy on. And thank you for my husband, who knows me better than I do sometimes.