October 18, 2018

Year 31

Today, I turn 32.

My 31st year was full of highs and lows. Quite frankly, there were probably a few more lows than I would have liked. As of late though, I feel like the tide is finally turning in my favor.

This past year my marriage has faced challenges but withstood them and is beginning to blossom in such a beautiful, albeit unexpected way. I went through (but overcame) a bit of a depressive slump and have two wholly unplanned but meaningful tattoos as a result. I've been increasingly concerned about the state of the world but I've stepped up to the plate instead of retreating in fear.

But before I can officially put this year in my rear-view mirror, I must revisit my 40 by 40 list of things I hoped to accomplish this decade. Here's a brief rundown of what I've marked off my list in Year 31:

Wear (and Rock) Red Lipstick (Level 1)

Honestly, I've always been more of a Chapstick kind of gal. But when one of my best friends got married in France and I found a striking red dress and fascinator for the rehearsal dinner, I decided that I simply could not avoid my self-assigned red lipstick challenge any longer. I received so many compliments on my dress and fascinator but I was most surprised that people noticed (and loved) the lipstick. It went over so well that afterwords, I branched out and decided to occasionally wear lipstick to work and once, I even sported this bright red shade again just to get drinks with friends at a local wine bar. I mean, I don't even know who I am anymore! Who am I and what have I done with my Chapstick loving self? Just kidding -- there are currently at least three tubes of Chaptstick within my immediate reach so I haven't strayed too far from my roots. But I can appreciate the art of red lipstick now and even more, I think I may actually like it.

Participate in a Podcast (Level 2)

So I can't tell you which podcast I participated in nor can I tell you what we discussed, but I swear it happened. This year, I got to be an anonymous guest on a very popular website's new(ish) podcast. Let's say that this website is a sort of specialized advice column. I had written in with a question and much to my surprise, the webmaster asked if I would be interested in discussing my letter (and the issues in it) on the website's podcast. I was a little hesitant (mainly because like a lot of people, I'm not really a fan of my own voice) but Adam was super encouraging. He kept reminding me of this item on my 40 by 40 list and saying that there was no time like the present. Quite frankly, when I wrote this item on my list I was not envisioning participating in a podcast that had such a wide audience but I did it! I ended up really enjoying the experience itself and really enjoying the feedback I received on my question (both on the podcast and in the comments and feedback posted on the website following the release of my episode).  All in all, I'm very happy that I listened to Adam's encouragement and marked this one off my list when I did.

Stay the Night in a Castle...er, Chateau (Level 4)

As I've mentioned, one of my dearest friends got married in France in May of this year. The trip was amazing save for the fact that I feel within hours of landing, I fell down a flight of stairs and broke four ribs (ouch!). One of the coolest things about the trip was the venue my friend chose to host the festivities and guests. We got to stay in this amazing Chateau (that's literally French for "castle" y'all). According to Wikipedia, a "castle" is typically agreed to be a private, fortified residence of a lord or noble. The castle we stayed in was the the Chateau de Jalesnes and it dates back to 1610.  The Chateau's first occupant was the Marquis de Jalesnes -- Charles de Jalesnes. A "Marquis" is a nobleman who ranks above a count but below a duke. The Chateau had stately guest rooms, intricate gardens, heavy iron gates, and even an abandoned moat. So as far as I'm concerned, the Chateau de Jalesnes counts as a castle and I'm marking this one off my list.

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And while I can't mark them off just yet, I've made strides towards accomplishing the following this year:

Write/Send letters to 3 mentors who have impacted my life (Level 2)

I wrote a letter this year to a dear mentor at my old law firm who has truly led an inspiring life dedicated to public service and progressive values. He is an older gentleman who has seen some of the worst things humanity has to offer and yet, he always looks for the bright side. In my letter, I recalled once taking Holland with me to the office while I chatted with some old co-workers. This man came came upon us and found Holland scribbling away with pens and highlighters at a friend's desk. He got on her level and spoke to her gently. When he got ready to depart, Holland gave him the piece of paper she had been coloring. My friend joked, "You may want to hang onto that, it could be worth something one day." This gentleman, without missing a beat responded sincerely, "It already is." That simple statement is an embodiment of everything he is and everything I strive to one day be. I am grateful that he has been a part of my life.

Visit three countries in Europe (Level 4)

It is very clear by now that we went to France this year. That's one European country down -- two (and hopefully more) to come!

Read Three Classics I Haven't Read Before (Level 1)

I had high aspirations of getting through at least three classics this year. I started off strong -- finishing (and loving) both Jane Eyre and Catcher in the Rye by the end of April. I took some time off to focus on work and preparing for our France trip. Sometime in July I started For Whom the Bell Tolls and strugggggggleeedddd my way through each page for months. Literally months. Every time I picked the book up I would just have this overwhelming sense of dread. I couldn't connect to the characters or to the writing. I found myself wanting to skip paragraphs then entire pages. It was, quite frankly, a disaster. A few weeks ago I finally admitted defeat and checked it back into the library half read. Shortly thereafter, I quickly powered my way through Eat, Pray, Love. But I don't think that Eat, Pray, Love qualifies as a "classic" so my quest for another classic will have to continue into Year 32.
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So that's been Year 31. Bring on Year 32 baby!
Happy Birthday to me. 

September 11, 2018

We Don't Have a Village

Parenting isn't for the faint of heart.
It is of course, wildly fulfilling and but also terribly consuming. It makes me unbelievably happy and fulfilled and yet, there are days that I want to pull out my hair and run away.

In the busy and delicate balance of juggling work, parenting, and marriage we are told not to forget about ourselves. We are encouraged to find time away from the house with friends. We are told to pursue our individual interests. We are told to find time to indulge. We are told to prioritize our marriage.

What we are not told is that all of those things are harder to do when you don't have a village.
Villages are supposed to raise children. But our family does not live in a village.
Our family resides on an island. With a single house. And perhaps a partially rusted skiff tied to the dock.

Parenting is harder on an island.
On our island, there are three humans. One of them is fairly small but quite demanding.
We tend to revolve around her.
And the two larger humans are sometimes exhausted and cranky.
Okay, fine.. we are often exhausted and cranky.

Our island occasionally gets visitors. Grandparents drift in with general supplies and offers of childcare services. Their visits are nice and always appreciated. But they don't live on our island. They don't live anywhere near it. Sooner or later, they depart our little piece of shoreline and once again, we will find ourselves alone.

In the day to day of life our island is quite lonely. And it can be tough.

It is pretty difficult to escape our island. If we want a date night or any time away together, we have to make arrangements for someone to come to our island. And they don't make the trip for free. This means that our nights out are usually spent constantly watching the clock so that we can get back to our island before it costs us a small fortune. And of course,  picking the most frugal and often-times least fun activities so that we can even pay for the privilege to leave our island. 

I must admit I am often jealous of parents with villages.
I'm sure a village has drawbacks, but I long to have a reliable village to raise my daughter in. A village that would support us in our parenting goals and methods. A village that could offer her encouragement and love in our absence. A village that I knew I could count on when life got tough. A village that my daughter could come to rely on.

As I sit on my lonely shoreline, I see other islands. I see other parents in need of companionship and support. I see other islanders desperate for respite. And I start to wonder... maybe we should form an archipelago?

We could connect our islands.  We could actively form pathways between them.
I can pledge to be there for another mom and she can pledge to be there for me.
My child becomes hers and hers becomes mine.

What if, instead of dreaming of a village I don't have, I just make one for myself?
For my family. For my daughter.
For your family. For your children.

Children grow best when they have broad experiences and exposures.
Children grow best when their parents are intentional.
Children grow best when mommy and daddy have a little sanity left over at the end of the day.

So I propose that islanders like myself decide that we longer live on a lonely islands with only our children. Rather, let's dive in and connect our lives to create a massive chain of islands with lots of children.

Perhaps children do grow best in villages.

But maybe they can grow just as well in an archipelago.

I'm certainly down for trying.
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