March 29, 2016

Musings on Personal Evolution

In a different life I wrote my MFA thesis about discovering myself as a person. It was, it still is, a collection of short stories - "a novel of publishable length," was the requirement. I called it Skins. The stories are about the personalities I flowed through while growing up to end up the adult I was when writing it.

The loafer wearing, prudish, smart-girl in the under-performing middle school.

The patchouli wearing, Deadhead morphed Phish Kid, who followed the band in the summer, but sneaked off to hotels to shampoo and shave, while the die-hard's went au naturale at the campgrounds. 

The record collecting, show-going, Indy rocker who hid Martha Stewart Living magazine like contraband under her bed.

The college-age, activist-feminist who felt kissing girls and guys who were not her significant other was fair game as long as it was during spin-the-Crown-Royal-bottle.

The college grad facing real life, mourning a dead boyfriend and spending nights at the corner bar.

At 26 when I was writing the collection I felt solidified. But a decade later, I realize that I have continued to morph this entire time.

The empowered, single, confident, city dweller with different dates every weekend.

The female half of a dual income, happy couple living in sun drenched So. Cal, enjoying monthly facials and lunches al fresco.

The new mom giving all those previous people she'd been away in exchange for this new little person and then searching for the next identity the comes.

And so where am I now? The first thought that came to me was Costco membership having Ohio mom. But fuck that. No offense to Ohio mom's, but when I was a person who thought herself an artist, a writer, an adventure seeking occasional guitar player, I would not have been satisfied with that definition of myself.

But defining yourself in a moment is always easier in hindsight. So here's another crack...

The mature, working mother, who hasn't given up on worldly adventure, but has put it on hold for a moment until she gets her money right and the kids are old enough to travel more easily. 

So where have you been? Who are you now?

March 2, 2016

Activism in the Bluegrass State - #AskBevinAboutMyVag

Bridget Kelly's happy uteri - obviously in a Bevin-less KY government

Recently I had the pleasure of dropping into Louisville's Mama's Hip during Crafternoon. This happens most Saturdays at the shop and community space, owned by Shannon Stone Porter - an all around catalyst for community change - but this particular day was not your average gathering.

In the back of the yellow room Bridget Kelly was working her magic on the sewing machine as Emily Van Bogaert cut red and pink fabric into long strips. The craftivists, if you will, (you really shouldn't - sorry I couldn't help myself) were preparing felt vaginas and uteri (the plural of uterus - I looked it up) to take to a reproductive rights rally in Frankfort, KY and give a very special shout out to Matt Bevin, KY Governor, who has succeeded in setting the state back 20 years.

Last month, Molly Shah (pictured in the middle of the floor making protest signs) started a Twitter barrage of major proportions in reaction to Bevin signing a bill requiring KY women to jump through unnecessary hoops before making decisions about their own bodies.

#AskBevinAboutMyVag was born and took off like wildfire. In my opinion, this is exactly what Twitter was created for. I highly recommend going through and reading the extremely clever and spot on tweets, but here are a few of my favorites. (This could have been a really long post, there are so many gems.)

"It really helps to laugh about it," Emily told me. "Otherwise, we're just so mad." The group wants the hashtag trend to spread to other states.

#AskKasichAboutMyVag  amiright Ohio?! But it wouldn't be the same protesting Kasich here in Columbus unless the gang from Mama's Hip comes for a visit and does a tutorial or making vulva sock puppets. Or at least that's my secret wish.

I am so proud to know these brave ladies and have been part of the Mama's Hip's community myself at one time. Keep up the awesome work!

Vs Up!
From Left: Emily Pickett, Bridget Kelly, Shannon Stone Porter, Molly Shah, Emily Van Bogaert, Kristin Dennis, Bethany Heaberlin, Whitney Boswell
Post Script: Follow @MollyOShah on Twitter to read all about the despicable behavior she and other peaceful protesters endured at a Trump rally in Louisville last night (Super Tuesday). 
March 1, 2016

Read On: The Sorcery Code

I'm pretty much a nerd about stories that fall into the magical fantasy genre and when I was asked to review The Sorcery Code by Dima Zales which is billed as a, "captivating tale of intrigue, love, and danger in a world where sorcery is entwined with science," I thought - heck yeah!

The story is set in a magical land where the people are separated by their ability to perform or not perform magic in a haves vs. have-nots class system. All but one of the charters in the book are sorcerers who perform magic in a mathematical way, similar to computer coding. The adventure begins when the protagonist, Blaise, creates a creature through magic that could hold the answers to the deep divide between the classes or be the end of civilization entirely, depending on who you ask.

Initially I was bored by the traditional male fantasy, virgin/whore construct that is set up between Gala (the magical creation, who takes the form of a young, naked girl) and Blaise's ex-fiance, Augusta (who is beautiful, sexually confident, snobbish and mean.) But I was won over by the smart and new way the characters use and wield their magic.

The book is a classic first book of a series, in that it leaves you with almost nothing tied up, lots of questions and wanting more. A good read for quiet weekend.
February 16, 2016

Mothxr Lover

Something you may not know about me, because I write about my kids so much, is that I am a three-alarm, freak level lover of music. I dread seemingly innocuous questions like - what's your favorite band? My palms get all sweaty, I start chewing on my lip, and I say something like,"Favorite band, not musician, right? Um, The Pixies...wait. Led Zeppelin, no Built to, can you like narrow it down to a year or sub-genre or something?" Because, who can take the pressure of being asked to declare such a thing? Choosing a favorite band of all time would be like choosing a favorite hair on my head. I like them all separately, but I love them as a collection. Great music does not exist in a vacuum...but you can make music with a vacuum.

I typically don't write music reviews on this blog. But then sometimes I do. When that happens, it's usually because the music has evoked a feeling larger than those I typically feel and I've become slightly obsessed.

Enter Mothxr.

(Full disclosure: I came across this band because I think Penn Badgley ridiculously handsome and I follow his Instagram - not to be sexist, he's apparently very intelligent and talented as well - but his looks have zero to do with why I kept listening.)

Their debut album has yet to be released (2/26) and I can hardly get enough of the guiltless-pleasure, electro-poppy sound of the three tracks that came with my pre-order. Penn's casually sexy vocals drift naturally in and out of an electronic falsetto, but he shows off his impressive range on the impending album's title track - Centerfold - traveling way down into Stephin Merritt territory at times.

On my favorite track (for today), Touch, guitarist, Simon Oscroft, who IMO wins the band's best hair award, plays sweet little jangley riffs pulled together by bassist, Darren Will, for a mood that is simultaneously chill and dancey.

I'm assuming producer/drummer Jimmy Giannopoulos is responsible for the beats and synthy melodies that have just the perfect kiss of Eighties, but without ever sounding dated or like they're trying too hard.

To sum up - Highly enjoyable. I'm beyond psyched to hear the entire album.

Note to Hill: They're playing in Columbus two days before my birthday, so... date night!

February 11, 2016

An Impassioned Plea

Earlier this week there was a bomb threat at a Jewish preschool, at which my best friend happens to be the Director. My first thought was -

What. The. Entire. Fuck.

Then I thought - I'm so glad they are all fine.

Next I thought this (I'm about to get a little taller, standing up here, so get ready)

We need to do better.

I saw the writer, Elie Wiesel, speak at Ball Sate University when I was a senior there a million years ago and he said two things that I scribbled into the back of my copy of his book Night. One of them was this:

"Human being in not a state, it is a goal."

Right now, as Americans, we are not coming even close to reaching that goal. Everyday the media sprays the hate speech that current presidential candidates spew (ahem, Donald Trump) and people are eating it up.

Let me be clear this is not a Democrat vs. Republican thing. I have my own political views and you are entitled to yours. This is about something more sinister, another group that is trying to fit themselves into our political landscape, but they are not leaders. They are fear spreaders; fueled by hate and misinformation, their followers are scared and uninformed (if I'm giving them the BOD) and in my opinion this has no place in our political landscape or our country. This carving out of what it is acceptable to be and what it is not - this color, that religion but not if you're from this country or that one.

Be political, not hateful. Until we all realize that reaching the goal of humanity is a package deal and trying to intimidate, hold down or stamp out any group within it will be to the detriment of us all, we will continue to fail.

Black, Christian, Gay, Hispanic, Republican, White, Muslim, Wealthy, Trans, Refugee, Feminist, Democrat, Straight = People. If you must hate, hate hate. Love the rest.

Let's work hard toward the goal of human being. Do better.

Upworthy made this awesome video that seems to get at the crux of the matter.


Post Script: There was no bomb in my friend's school, it was the threat of a sick, angry person against innocents. The bright side is this sentiment from my friend and it's a great example of doing better: "I could not be more inspired by our preschool family. Roughly 30% of our families are Jewish. Yet every family has shown unconditional support. It has truly left me humbled."
February 10, 2016

Barbie Bodies

I've taken a pretty firm stand with my family regarding Barbie gifting to my daughter - when she gets to that age - and that stand has been: please don't. But I have to say, I'm changing my tune a bit with the introduction of different body types to the Barbie repertoire. In addition to regular (aka completely unrealistic proportions) Barbie is now available in petite, tall and curvy. I will of course, request that Lo get a mix of skin tone and body types to round her imaginary doll Universe.

I am a little bummed, however, that my doll of choice, Lammily, will probably take a hit from this decision by Mattel.  She's a doll based on average proportions of young women. In early 2014 Lammily was put into production after a Kickstarter campaign, which I happily supported and have a first edition doll waiting in the wings for Lo when she's a bit older to show for it.

It's always been important to me that the toys my kids play with represent the values that my husband and I hold dear and a healthy body image, which Barbie has traditionally not promoted, is one of them. Lammily is a great Barbie alternative or addition to the now more diverse world of dolls.

Regardless of her future, I think Lammily and her creator deserve a big thanks for bringing around this positive change at Mattel, because I have a feeling it would not have come about without her. 

February 7, 2016

Learning to Love Lazy

These first winter weekends of the year have been very low key for us. In fact, you could say, down right lazy. And I kind of love it. I'm an expert at relaxing. Many times I've thought I should be one of those people who are always running around accomplishing things. They have sparkling homes, their kids make educational art projects and they  go around saying things like, "Oh it's no big deal, I just have a hard time sitting down for very long..."

Never in my life.

I should teach classes in frittering away a day. I pretty much invented Netflix and chill - if by that you mean eating a pint of ice cream while binge watching Gossip Girl.

I don't ever go into the weekend thinking that I probably won't get off the couch until Monday. Usually I have pretty big plans about tackling one project or another. But when the Littles say, "Hey mom! Let's stay in our pj's all day and snuggle up in front of a movie," it's really hard to turn them down. Especially when the alternative is putting the books on the shelves in the library in color order.

So I'm soaking up the cozy snuggle time. Because as soon as spring hits life shifts into warp drive and it's hyperspace straight to Christmas. So the books can wait.
January 18, 2016

Taking A Moment For Dr. King

We try and do screen free Sundays. The kids are screen free Mon-Fri afternoon, but on Sunday Hill and I put away the phones and we have a big old family bonding fest. We do TRY. Some days by 3:00 I am wrapping my son's hot little hand around the remote control, duct taping them both to the sofa, pouring myself a giant glass of pinot and staring at my Twitter feed for an hour.

But yesterday, we had a planned interruption of screen free Sunday. Beck has the day off from Kindergarten today in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., as do most kids. To their credit his school did a unit on him and Beck was talking about why he had the day off. Which sounded like:

"Mom! Did you know that people used to be separated because of the color of their skin?! That doesn't make any sense!" No, kid, it doesn't.

I didn't want it to just be a day off for him, so I decided to supplement what he learned at school a bit. Naturally I did what anyone looking for materials appropriate for young children on the Civil Rights movement would do. I checked Pinterest.

I found two short YouTube videos that I felt were right for our situation. They talk about MLK and his life and accomplishments, they don't gloss over the hard stuff, but explain in a straightforward, matter-of-fact way that I've found works well with young kids. Could I have done more? Yes! Probably like printables and art projects and themed sensory play. But that's not really my style. I do want to use the holiday as an opportunity for volunteering in our community when they are a bit older and I feel like I have my shit together a little more. Right now, these short videos were a great way to dip their little toes into a whole ocean of conversational material.

 First this -


Because LeVar Burton and Reading Rainbow can tackle any topic - no matter how weighty or complicated.

And then this -

Because...Kid President. Enough said.

I sat on our sofa with my 2.5 and 5 year old children as we watched these well said, hopeful and even a little funny videos and sobbed. Even Beck got a little choked up at the story LeVar read us. But I'm not entirely sure why I was crying. Perhaps it was just that the emotion of this story I know so well came across new to me as I heard it told through new voices. It was probably a little because of all the ugliness in the world my kids are just starting to learn about. And I think a lot of it was because of the two vessels of hope for our messed up world that were sitting on either side of me and the weight I felt from the responsibility of making sure that they are part of healing this crazy place.
January 12, 2016

Cursing Kids

Sailor Lo
Not too long ago my family was sitting at the dinner table with my parents, who were visiting, enjoying some delivered pizza when my two-year-old knocked over her sippy cup. Without hesitation she spit out, "deezuz tiest!" While righting her cup, my mother asked her to repeat herself because it takes a few days to get used to Marlowe speak and they had just arrived. My five-year-old was all to happy to help translate, "oh, she said Jesus Christ."

Thanks for your help on that one, buddy.

Luckily, my parents aren't the type to be offended and they suppressed a chuckle at our budding truck driver. Around our house this kind of language is not exactly permitted, but no one gets in trouble for saying words. I was actually kind of proud of her for using it in a "correct" way. The week before, she was saying "dammit" in a sing song voice as a response to questions like "do you like this dress?" So without instruction, she was making progress here.

I am a lover of words and the use of them to convey any emotion or thought to another person in hopes that they mean the same thing to them that they do to me. If you think about it, it's really a gamble to spout these abstract sounds into the ether and expect someone else to know what you actually mean. Know what I mean? These kids were non-native speakers just a few years ago and much of the time when they speak to us they are just throwing things at the wall to see if they stick. So I am really pro them launching whatever words they have in their rapidly growing arsenal to let us know what is going on inside those adorable little heads. Because since even before conception, I have been DYING to know.

Now, having said that, there are teachers and others who may be offended by my two-year-old swearing. I do not want to pretend like they can say any thing they want to just anyone. So around language use we have two rules.

1) Be careful the words you use to describe someone, because yes, words can hurt. So more simply - don't call people names.

2) There are some words that mostly grown ups use - Dammit, Jesus Christ, B has only dropped an effe bomb once and that was in asking if he could say it - so unless it's inside our house, be careful where you use them.

The kids seem to get it so far. Sometimes in the grocery store B will say, loudly - Lolo said dammit in public - but she'll catch on. Clearly, he already has.
January 7, 2016

Simple Here We Come

The kids just playing in the tub, occupying themselves, while I sip some Thursday night wine.

We recently downsized from a full on diaper bag to a little preschool sized backpack. We keep a diaper or two, wipes, a spare pair of leggings and a spare set of undies for the boy, who at 5 still has the occasional accident. Normal boy thing. We rarely use anything in the bag unless we're on like a 5 hour trip to Goggi and Grandpa's house.

Lolo is potty learning and she's doing pretty well. Yesterday as I was wiping her tush, I thought, this has gotten SO much easier as of late. Now, hold on, before you start to tell me how it just gets harder as they grow, attitudes, back-talk, puberty, etcetera, etcetera. I mean, easier logistically.

In a few weeks, maybe months, I'll have two children, out of diapers, fully able to get around on their own steam, capable of telling me exactly where on their head it hurts or if they'd prefer Joe O's rather than oatmeal. We no longer have to haul a Pack n' Play, a high chair, the Ergo (baby carrier for the unacquainted), 17 swaddling blankets, 40 changes of clothes in case of multiple blowouts or some sort of feeding catastrophe, 2 packs of diapers, 3 packs of wipes, 2 lovies, lovey backups and a modified first aid kit the size of a tackle box on a long weekend adventure. Okay, I still actually bring the first aid kit with us when we travel.

While of course, I get a little sad when I think of how amazing they were as babies, and time is like sand slipping between our fingers. I'm going to let myself do a little jig over the fact that we get to move around the world a little more unfettered than before and my kids have gained skills that make it easier to parent. Once we lose the umbrella stroller, we'll be practically gear free!
January 4, 2016

Pushing the Limits of Family Time

Lolo is potty learning, hence the trainer, no pants.
We really pushed the limits of cozy family time over this long weekend. It started NYE when B came down with his 40th bout of an upper respiratory infection since the Fall and we knew at least some of us would be skipping the New Years Party we'd planned on attending. However bummed I was that we wouldn't be leaving the house to ring in the new year for like the fifth year in a row, I was kind of ready for some solid family time.

I went to the grocery, got makings for peanut butter cookies, soup for New Year's Day and some other fun treats, like canned biscuits and orange juice, which are not on our normal grocery list. And for much of Thursday, Friday and Saturday we gorged ourselves on snuggle time, movies, board games and delicious food. It was glorious!

Until it wasn't. Sunday morning sounded something like:

Beck - She pulled my hair!
Lolo - He won't watch Daniel Tiger!
Hill - Can you two just be quiet for five minutes?
Me - Breakfast? I've been cooking for you kids all weekend. Cereal is in the cabinet.

It wasn't pretty. Then I stepped on a flashlight someone left in the middle of the kitchen floor and I momentarily left my body, and my father (who presumably also left his, I should ask him) inhabited my body and screamed: "The next toy I find lying on the ground is going in the garbage!"

Both kids stopped, stared at me and then fell to the floor in fits of hysterical laughter. I yell to that degree almost never so I'm glad I didn't make them cry...I think.

Today is now Monday and a collective sigh is heard around the country as most of the school age children in North America return to their regularly scheduled education. That includes my kindergartener, Beck. And while I reveled in the good parts, boy am I ready to be out of that house!

I know my husband will hate this post, because he's a screen writer and stay-at-home dad, so he doesn't get to remove himself, as it were. But having Beck back in school and getting Lolo back into her routine will certainly change the energy around here for the better. We had a nice bedtime tonight where I explained my outburst and the feelings around it and we all agreed we're ready to get back to normal life. Except Lolo, who is only okay with the normal routine if her and I are physically touching at all times.

And at work I'll tell everyone what a relaxing and rejuvenating start to the new year we had. That my two-year-old is the snuggliest of cuddlers and I don't care if she never grows out of this phase and about all the puzzles and games my five-year-old and I played together. I'll probably leave out the part about threatening to throw out all their toys though.
January 2, 2016

Resurrection of The Manifesta

(Look! I'm already breaking all the rules by doing a text only post! Don't be mad.)

I am lucky to have a handful of best friends who are scattered, quite literally, across the country, from LA to New York, Chicago to Louisville, Kentucky. They are amazing friendships made throughout different phases in my life. I know that with each of these people, it doesn't matter how long it's been since we've talked, emailed or texted, that when we do, it will be like no time has passed.

A few months back, after a few weeks of feeling like I needed to organize all drawers and closets in my house, not to mention alphabetize the records, filing cabinet and the spice rack - which is a personal flag that something is amiss within or without; I wrote to one afore mentioned bestie who has known me since high school and I said something like:

"I have no idea what's up with me lately. I'm in deep organization mode and I can't pin down the reason, all is well with the new house, the kids are thriving, marriage is in a good spot and work just really couldn't be better. WTF?"

Sometimes we take weeks to respond to each other, but whenever one of us sends and SOS email we're pretty good about getting back. She had an answer that was short, sweet and right on par. She said something like:

"Well if you are good on all those fronts, my guess would be you're not writing."

And I'm not, or I wasn't. Knowing she was right, I wrote for a while just for me. But damn, that's just kind of boring. I'm going to be honest here and just admit - that I like writing for people to read it. And I do have reservations about bringing this blog back because people are just so super great at making blogs and I am not a designer, photographer or programer. Also, I am not an expert in food, fashion, beauty, travel, politics or music but I do have interests in all of those things. I am really good at being a person who works and raises kids and has lots of other interests and I'm going to write about it to you and I hope you like it.

So here it is, back from a hiatus, stint as straight up parenting blogger and then another hiatus - the Porcelain Manifesta.