The Short List: May

Pacific Park Ferris Wheel Santa Monica

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Summer break is here! Are the kids out of school where you live yet? While we’re all ready to be done with early mornings and homework, I kind of wish we’d go into June and not go back until after Labor Day. You just never know about Indiana weather in late May and early June. Just the other week we needed our winter coats and had a freeze warning!

Speaking of summer break, I’ve been doing some thinking. I’ve been blogging for nearly 10 years now, and I’ve never taken a true vacation. I may skip a week or two of posting when things get crazy, but I’ve generally tried to make sure I’ve had at least one or two posts up every week … for a decade! Summer is always tricky for me, as I’m not great at writing ahead and so I always feel pulled between blogging, real life, and parenting.

Unlike other years, I’ve noticed a new feeling when it comes to this blog, though. Instead of feeling like I want to write here, I’m feeling like I have an obligation to do so. I think, more than anything, I’m tired of the hustle. The hustle is everything but the writing. It’s the staging of photos to make everything pretty for Pinterest. It’s trying to come up with witty bylines for Facebook and Twitter, and the self-promotion. It’s worrying about page views and likes and shares. I don’t want to hustle anymore, and I’m not exactly sure what that means for me, for my writing, for this blog.

And so I’m going to do what my heart wants and what my head has been so scared to do in the past: I’m going to take my own summer break. I’m going to finish up my California trip write-up as well as a round-up of the books I read this spring, and then I’m going to step away for a bit. I really and truly don’t believe it will spell the end, but I’m hoping it will give me time to think about what’s important in my life right now and spark that creative flame again. I don’t have many summers left with my kids. To spend another one hustling while their childhoods march away just as rapidly doesn’t feel right this year.

I promise I won’t leave you hanging, though, wondering if and when I’ll ever return. In the meantime, you can always find me on Instagram. I’d love to connect with you there as well, if we aren’t connected already. And if you’re dreading your own hustle, whatever that might mean for you, I encourage you to take a step back as well. The things that mean the most to you will still be there when (or if) you decided to rejoin the race.

In lieu of the normal short list, I thought I’d share a few things that spoke to me as I thought about what I wanted this summer to look like and how I could be more intentional about enjoying this season.

This episode of Gretchen Rubin’s podcast, Happier, is part of what sparked me to really think about summer break. I’m always so hopeful it will be different from the other seasons, and then I’m disappointed when it’s over and it feels like I didn’t enjoy it to its fullest. Here’s to having some experiences that make summer feel truly different from the rest of the year.

This article about how making time for books made the author feel less busy really resonated with me. As technology creeps into every aspect of our lives, I find that taking the time to shut the “chatter” out and read a book is extremely calming and restful.

I just finished Julie Lythcott-Haims’ “How to Raise an Adult.” In this article she talks about skills every 18-year-old should master before leaving for college (something she also discusses in the book in more detail). We’ll be working on these skills this summer!

I was craving a gin and tonic a couple of weeks ago, and accidentally bought club soda instead of tonic water. I made a gin rickey, and inadvertently discovered my official drink of summer (although the dark and stormy will always be near and dear to my summer heart).

I hope you have a wonderful summer! In the words of one of my favorites, Garrison Keillor: “Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.”

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When a Marriage Grows Up

Anniversary flowers

Mike and I celebrated 19 years of marriage this week, the same age we were when we first met. It wasn’t love at first sight, and we didn’t marry our best friend, but dammit – we make a good team.┬áIf our marriage was a person, it would be an adult now. It could drive a car, vote, and go to war.

As we raise our own teenager, I can’t help but reflect on this second half of marriage. I’m realizing that as our marriage leaves its teen years behind and we begin our third decade together, our marriage has grown up. Just like raising a kid, the changes are subtle. I didn’t wake up and think, “Oh glorious day! We’ve been through so much, and our marriage is perfect now!”

No, the first time I really thought about it was after we’d had an argument. I couldn’t even tell you what it was about – we argue over a lot of stupid stuff, along with a handful of some big stuff. (I’m very suspicious of people who say they never argue with their spouse. These same couples also seem to have sex multiple times a week after years of marriage and have never had a conversation with their spouse while the other one is pooping.)

The argument was resolved without any slamming doors, whatevers, or a prolonged period of existing with each other while doing everything we could to pretend the other person wasn’t actually there. (If that doesn’t describe at least twenty arguments you’ve had with your spouse, you may want to move along. Nothing to see here.) Soon after, Mike commented that he was happy that we were at a place where we could argue and get through it without hating each other for the next three days. Here’s the crazy thing: I was thinking the exact same thing.

Somewhere along the way our marriage had grown up to the point that we were able to fight fair. Lord knows we’ve had lots of practice, but being able to hash out grievances without name-calling or dropping totally unrelated emotional bombshells on your partner is a game-changer. It doesn’t mean we just call each other out willy-nilly. Instead it means that there is room for all kinds of growth and hope for our future – and that’s a beautiful thing when you hope to spend another few decades together.

Part of not calling each other out for every little petty thing has been learning to let go of control. After nearly twenty years of marriage, we have a pretty good idea of what our individual strengths are. Knowing that the other person is better suited to handle certain things didn’t mean the other person didn’t feel compelled to micromanage or share their (unsolicited) opinion. I’ve noticed in the last couple of years, though, that we’re both more comfortable with letting each other be responsible for handling certain things and being okay with keeping our hands off of those things.

At the same time, we’re getting better at not tuning out completely. Yes, Mike pays the bills and reconciles all the expenditures against our checking account. I used to let this be his completely, to the point where I’d let my receipts pile up and hiss at him if he tried to enter them into the budget for me. But once he showed me exactly what he does, and how difficult the job can be if you get too far behind, I understood where he was coming from. It’s still his domain, but I can be as helpful as possible to make the job easier and grateful that he does this task for me. I’m in charge of the kids’ schedules, from dentist appointments to rugby carpool and homework routines. But it’s not cool to have a clueless spouse, and so we worked together to figure out a calendar system that we both use and check routinely. He may not ever need to take a kid to the doctor, and he may not be responsible for getting home in time to get Elena from her choir rehearsal, but he knows when it happens and appreciates the time I spend getting everyone where they need to be any given day.

The other big thing I’ve noticed as our partnership has matured has been the most important thing of all. More often than not, we speak well of each other in front of others. In the infancy of our relationship, this didn’t seem like a big deal. Of course we would gush about each other! We chose each other for all these amazing reasons, and don’t you want to hear about each and every one of them? But then someone won’t un-ball their socks before putting them in the dirty laundry even though you’ve told them it makes you want to stab someone, and the other person keeps trying to sneak weird stuff in your food and changing perfectly good recipes, and GOD, CAN YOU BELIEVE I MARRIED SUCH A HEARTLESS IDIOT?

We struggled with this for so long, often using each other’s “quirks” as fodder for conversation with other couples. It’s passive-aggressively amusing for the one doing the talking, humiliating for the other. And for what purpose? I’ve yet to change any of my annoying ways because Mike told that “hilarious” anecdote over dinner with friends. Once we stopped doing it (mostly), it made me realize how terribly awkward it must’ve been for everyone around us. Once you’ve been the couple on the receiving end of one of these exchanges, where you’re not sure if you’re supposed to laugh or tear the offending a spouse a new one, you think long and hard about calling your partner out.

That doesn’t mean if you invite Mike and I over for drinks that we’re going to fawn all over each other and tell you how wonderful the other person is. Nineteen years is a long time to come up with reasons we’re not so wonderful. And also, we’ve seen each other poop. But we will try our best to follow the sage advice of Thumper, and if we can’t say something nice about each other we’ll change the subject or suggest tequila shots. And because we aren’t each other’s best friend, we each have a small handful of trusted friends with whom we can vent when we absolutely need to.

If that sounds terribly difficult (and believe me, I know in some seasons of marriage it truly is), try to take a step back and see your partner as others see them. Up close we all have faults, and no one knows them better than the person we married. Step away, and suddenly you’re able to see them in a completely different light.

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Happy anniversary, Mike. Thanks for giving me a place to sit and a warm bowl of Kraft Mac and Cheese when I got locked out of my apartment 22 years ago. You’ve been keeping me safe and cozy ever since, and I’m so very glad.

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A Life Reimagined

“Are you interested in life coaching?”

Weathered wood Michigan dunes

It seemed a simple enough question, and the answer was yes. I’ve always been interested in introspection and self-improvement. Life coaching falls cozily beneath both umbrellas. Three obstacles stood in the way between me and a potential life coach, however: the phone, the car, and my wallet.

As I strive to know myself better, I’ve learned that there are a few surefire ways to get me to avoid doing something. If it involves making a phone call, having to leave the house for an appointment, or digging deep into my wallet, I’ll probably put it off or not do it at all. Strangely enough, this applies not only to things I wouldn’t want to do anyways (the DMV, the dentist, the gym), but also to things that I know I’d enjoy, like a massage. I hate making phone calls, filling my calendar makes me anxious, and – as a classic under buyer – I have a hard time spending money.

So, yes. I was interested in life coaching, but not motivated enough to call around, make an appointment, and write a big check. And that’s why I was game for giving Life Reimagined a go when I was approached to try it and participate in a focus group. Life Reimagined would bring the benefits of introspection and life coaching to me. I could fully participate and reap all the benefits without picking up the phone, leaving my house, or spending a hefty sum.

I spent some time navigating the site and answering some questions about myself and what I was looking for in this season of my life. As I reflected on these things using the tools provided, I created a Life Map and a purpose statement that continues to guide my days long after the exercise was complete. I met with a certified Life Coach from the comfort of my home, via video chat on my computer. We chatted for an hour, with my Coach putting me at ease immediately. I had countless a-ha moments in that hour, and furiously scribbled notes that have provided me with tools and inspiration I use daily.

For the first time in a long while, I feel that my days are structured in a way that leaves me feeling complete. I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing, when I should be doing it. I feel balanced, doing things that benefit myself, my family, and my work. And as I contemplate what life looks like for me in the next few years, as my kids grow and I begin exploring what career opportunities are out there for me, I feel like I have a map made just for me.

I’m a fan, and I’m thrilled to share my Life Reimagined testimonial with you:

Yes, I was able to try Life Reimagined at no cost to me. And yes, I did get to spend time in New York City while filming my testimonial. But that was where my obligation to Life Reimagined ended. And yet I feel compelled to share this service with you, not out of any obligation to Life Reimagined, but out of an authentic desire to share something that has really and truly been of great value in my life. For less than a dinner out with friends or a few cups of coffee, you can give yourself something that will quite possibly change your life.

If you have any questions about my experience or want to chat further about details, please reach out to me, either through the comments or at justlikethenumber@gmail.com if you prefer to discuss privately. I’d be more than happy to share more if anyone is interested.

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