Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Looking for Hope: a drop in the manifesto bucket.

Are you tired of political posts?  Me too, but this election is something I think about daily.   If you are still reading, there's room in your brain for one more battle cry.  It won't be long, I promise.  I am not one for long written political rants.  I prefer my political soapboxes to be a live performance.  In this difficult time, there are still people inspired by hope, inspired that flawed people can still help steer this country in a good and positive direction.  I find that is beautiful.  I don't care as much about who you are voting for as I do that you are really, really thinking about it.  I hope that you ponder all the possible outcomes of your choice not only for you, but for your fellow citizens.   I hope we ask ourselves difficult questions like : What will my voting for a third party candidate really do?  What experience has this candidate had in leading and uniting people?  Is this candidate motivated by hope or by fear?  I hope that my choice (and yours) on voting day engenders more love, more kindness and more unity in our beautiful-flawed, beautiful-because-it's-flawed, country.

New music Tuesday

Well... new to somebody.  First of all, anything that brings more glitter to this world is a good thing.  This first group has been making music for quite a while, but together as Hive Riot they are still relatively new.  But they've got this glam/synth/pop thing on lock.  Razzle-dazzle.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

This is my fight song (part one)

I remember in middle school feeling really, really angry for a little while.  I felt this power boiling inside of me and there was quite literally nothing I could do about it and no way to give it expression.  I felt like I had this lioness inside me that just wanted out.  I was tired of being quiet, I was tired of being sweet;  tired of having to fit into some mold that I was never able to fit into.  I would like to finish this little story with a quick and tidy line about how I stood up for my individuality and lived happily, radically ever after.
Not so, grasshopper.  My desire to conform won this round.  I chained the beast, I took up running to tire her out, and tried my best to find my way without making too many waves.  I finished highschool, went to college a the conservative Brigham Young University (I loved my time there, by the way, it is a great school), went on a mission and went to graduate school, got married and had kids.  The beast rattled the cage occasionally but it wasn't until about 5 years ago that I really started to notice how much I missed her...
Luckily, blessedly, things change.  People change.  I have been given another chance to bring out that beautiful beast.  I can't believe after 20 years of stuffing her in the closet that she is still so vibrant.   But I am writing this post to tell you, and her/me that I am done with trying to fit into a role that I never chose in the first place.  I am not always going to agree with you anymore.  I am going to push back.  I am going to challenge the consensus (as well as my own hidden prejudices as well).   Of course, I am not out to start a fight, but I am letting my girl out of the cage.  Honestly, I quite like having her around.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Under Paris Skies

Hi friends. I am sitting here surrounded by boxes, thinking of the tiny apartment in the 17th arrondissement in Paris that will be our permanent residence as of Monday next week. Jeffrey's transferring jobs to the Paris office (hah! I feel like laughing all crazy-cat-lady-like at how light and breezy those sentences sounded. Oh, yes, we are just moving to Paris and Jeffrey is just transferring. In reality, this transition process and all of it's red-tape bureaucratic mess have been the mental equivalent of pushing a child out of my body).  Incidentally, what do people do to indicate a side thought with out using parenthesis?  It is something I struggle with.  I love parenthesis too much, I fear.
 We are all a little nostalgic about leaving our rough-around-the-edges-but-endearing Thionville for Paris. Here's hoping that we don't kill each other in our small apartment, and that our (future) visitors don't mind sleeping on a pull out couch.  I think it is going to be a great thing once we finally get there and figure out how to manage our space efficiently.  There is a list of wonderful things I am looking forward to seeing and experiencing in the most beautiful city in the world, but that will have to wait till the next blog post.  À bientôt mes amis!


Wednesday, July 27, 2016


Oh, I'm being eaten
By a boa constrictor,
A boa constrictor,
A boa constrictor,
I'm being eaten by a boa constrictor,
And I don't like it--one bit.
Well, what do you know?
It's nibblin' my toe.
Oh, gee,
It's up to my knee.
Oh my,
It's up to my thigh.
Oh, fiddle,
It's up to my middle.
Oh, heck,
It's up to my neck.
Oh, dread,
It's upmmmmmmmmmmffffffffff . . .

-Shel Silverstein

I was really struggling with adulting yesterday.  My anxiety reared it's head and started nibbling at my toes, my ankles, my knees and almost swallowed me whole.  There is no way to explain to your children, and all the people you interact with when you feel that way that you might be acting weird or off, or touchy (or shout-y...) because you are trying to climb out of the mouth of anxiety.  Breathing helps, a little.  Being by myself helps, listening to music, exercising, all help a little.  But I've found that most of the time trying to make it go away makes it worse.  When I remember, the best way to make the beast leave my toes alone is to accept that it's there.  The best case scenario is for me to say: "I see you, I know you are there and I'm not going to make you leave.  You are a part of me and sometimes you'll be here and sometimes you won't."  For me, anxiety is a very strange coping/avoiding strategy.  When something scares me or stresses me out I will feel anxious about something completely different, often off the wall or illogical.  When I can look anxiety in the eyes and ask, what is the thing I don't want to face or think about that is making this anxiety surround me? That is what helps the most.
I don't write this because I'm some expert on anxiety.  All I know is I have it sometimes, and that is ok.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Traveling with Kids

My friend had the following comment about traveling with kids: "They are fun to live abroad with but travel with kids?  It's exhausting!"  I would definitely agree.  Traveling with other adults is a lot easier, but for some of us that isn't an option.  With family far away and no budget for an au pair, we mostly HAVE to travel with kids if we want to travel at all.  Having traveled a fair amount with children in tow, here are a few things that I have found helpful:

1. Airbnb.  Hotels are small.  Staying in a hotel with small children starts to feel like Animal Planet in about 20 minutes and not in a Mommy and Daddy's special hug sort of way either.  Oh, and sharing a hotel room with small children makes "special hug" time extra hard.  Airbnb's are around the same price as a hotel, but you can often get a one or two bedroom apartment for the same price.   Living in an apartment means you can pick and choose when you eat in a restaurant and when you just eat at your apartment.  Perhaps your children are all tiny little diplomats but I know we can only handle one meal in a restaurant per day.  Bonus: Some Airbnbs are rented out by families so there are toys already there for your kids!  However, some hotels offer babysitting or daycare, you'll have to weigh the pros and cons.

2. A comfort item like a portable night light.  Sleeping in lots of different places can prove stressful for our kids so we make sure to pack these items:

One is a pillow pet of sorts and one is a penguin night light.  Both items have been with us in over 10 countries with stays ranging from 2 nights to 4 months.  They really help with the bedtime routine.  

3. Snacks.  Every parent knows this, but as soon as you step in the car/plane/bus/train without provisions and it becomes a sob-fest to rival the last session of an Eat Pray Love book club.  

4. Lowered Expectations.  I walked up to the Sagrada Familia Cathedral in Barcelona and my husband and I decided not to go in.  Our children were extra squirelly at the moment and I knew it wouldn't go well.  We went to the other side of the massive cathedral where there was a playground, sat on a park bench and admired the amazing outside.  I am ok with it.  Also I hope I can go back someday.  Perhaps next time I'll bring tranquilizers.  Just kidding.  Maybe.  I have found when I find a way to work with my kids schedules, maybe they give a little, and I give a little things work better. When I just drag them everywhere I want to go feeling like they owe me at least this for all I do for them I end up resenting them and not enjoying it anyway.  Congratulate yourself when things go well and figure out how to re-tool your plans when you start feeling like a lonely cat-herd.  

5. Cajones.  That's right.  Balls. Or for you ladies out there, the va-jay-jay to actually travel with kids.  You can do this. You can do hard things.  It just takes some careful planning.  Give yourself lots of pep talks with lots of well placed swear-words.  It works for me.  

6. Remember Spartans weren't taking a trans-atlantic flight when they packed their tiny suitcase of tube socks, underwear and toothpaste.  You are a parent.  Ask yourself, how long exactly does your 3 year old walk by him/herself before collapsing in a sobbing heap on the sidewalk.  If they are 4 or under, pack the damn stroller.  Kids need equipment.  Unless you live like spartans at home, they are going to need some of the things on the road that they do at home.  I'm not saying over pack, but just don't imagine that there is going to be a miraculous scenario when you don't need a certain item unless that scenario regularly happens at home. That's why suitcases have wheels, so parents can bring all their crap to keep themselves and their children sane on trips.  

7.  These little guys see things I don't see.  A lot of times its rocks and sticks, but sometimes it is a smell or the way a painting makes them feel.   It can be an enriching experience to watch how they discover a new place.  Or at least console you that you won't be sitting calmly at a nice restaurant with your spouse casually sipping your drink as you laugh about how much disposable income you have.  

8.  Keep it simple.  Our best days are ones where we plan two main activities.  One activity for the morning (like going to the museum or going to the beach), and one for the afternoon.  Allow for playground pit stops.  It will give you some time to plan transportation to your next activity. 

9. Mattress protection.  Save yourself the stress of having to frantically scrub out pee stains from a mattress (if you are staying in an Airbnb).  If you have an occasional bed-wetter, chances are the stress of travel and perhaps a fear of going to the bathroom in a new place could trigger the yellow tide.  Slip one of those babies under the fitted sheet and rest easy.  

In conclusion, you can do this.  You can travel with kids.  It will make their lives better and you might just enjoy it.  And also it's illegal to leave them home by themselves.  

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

New week, new song.

I have always loved Tom Waits. Perhaps that's funny coming from a classically trained singer and voice teacher. But his singing has the most important quality of all: sincerity. He sings in a way that makes you feel for him, for yourself and for everyone else in that moment. Here is a song I just discovered sung by a younger version of the Tom Waits that I am used to:
 That's vulnerability, man. It is what every performer hopes for.