Learning as We Go

Last year I got married. When I moved back from Germany the big question was what I would do. I wanted to go back to school, and I didn’t. I knew it would be an adjustment to go back in my thirties, but also knew that unless I did, many doors would remain closed to me.

So I enrolled, as most of you know. The first semester was comedic and exciting. Great professors with great quirks. It had challenging moments, but for the most part was a breeze. I nannied for a family with a newborn and though the newborn was fussy it was an easy way to spend my time and LOW stress. THEN Christmas came. I need to say that we stayed here for Thanksgiving and Christmas due to the extensive use of our vacation time for our honeymoon. Lady A invited me to come to the wholesale show in Atlanta with her and I was so excited to escape for a few days, but a blizzard came and she literally got the last plane out of town. I should have known then the Spring would be a long, cold one.

I took 5 classes this semester. I have no idea why. No idea. The mom of the baby I was nannying for made the decision to stay home. I was scrambling for a job in February. I found a job nannying for two boys… in Arlington. So I drive to Charlestown for school, Sommerville to pick up A from pre-school, Waltham to pick up E from homeschool co-op, back to Arlington to their house and then to Brighton to go home. Shoot me. I feel like I should drive a mini-van. I don’t want one. But I feel like I should. Did I mention that my car has some sort of nominal issue about every 6 weeks? The total amount of that work exceeds the amount we agreed to buy the car for (currently still paying for it) and the check engine light came on again today… A great feeling when you are carting kids all over the green earth. Somewhere in there the lady that I worked for last year that I am pretty sure thought she was paying me too much for nothing, called me and begged me to take her kids on Wednesday. I agreed, I only had the boys two days a week. Until their other caregiver quit, then I had them three days a week. That’s right. 15 hours of school. 2 hours of driving. And 20+ hours of work a week. I had over-committed. I was maxed. I stopped exercising and sleeping. Our house lived in cycles of chaos between school holidays or blizzards. And the winter just ended this week. Not. Even. Kidding.

I basically melted down about three weeks ago and explained to Justin that I had the capacity to study, sleep and work, that was it. He stepped up in a real way, and we made it. I managed all As and one A-. I am still negotiating on that A-. The class that I deserved it in I didn’t get it in and the class that I did not deserve it in, I got it in. Figures.

In the midst of this I was told that the big girl school I applied for could not really look at my application until I took STEM, Cal and Trig. Um. OK. They also conspicuously encouraged me to beef up on my science classes. Um. WHY??????? So I am. Then my English professor recommended me for a program at Vassar. In June I am moving there for 5 weeks. Yep. In the dorm. With a roomie. Like when I was 18. Then I am coming back and cramming that STEM class into the 6 weeks before school starts so that I can take Cal in the fall. I know. I know. I NEVER LEARN.

Can I tell you some of the amazing things that happened. We found some of the friends of our life in Lady A and Architect A. Our dear and old friends kept in touch with us and loved us well. My dad came for his first slumber party and it was drama free while he was here. I completed my first semester back at school with all As. The extra work brought extra money, which we were able to use for the various things that arose. For the most part there was enough, and that was a HUGE gift. I was accepted to an ENDOWED program at VASSAR! I had an incredible trip to New York over spring break. I found a friend and mentor and ally in the wife of one of J’s co-workers who went to the big girl school I applied to. She has become one of my absolute favorite humans of all time. She has a daughter named Magnolia. I find this magical. We have seen what we are made of, and feel encouraged. I had an incredible math professor who is willing to teach me STEM in 6 weeks at the end of this summer, you guys have NO idea how huge that is. I realized how DESPERATELY I need to work on my perspective and attitude, it is the most significant thing steering how fantastic or difficult our life is. I consider one monumental step when I realized that this semester had not been hard, hard was my time in Berlin, this was challenging, something difficult and intense but not emotionally threatening.

So this is what we ARE learning. That I am a door slammer. That Justin does well with detailed instructions. That I continue to be bad at saying no. That we are not making rational decisions about the car, time to do something extreme. That I need to leave for some place warm at some point in the Winter/Spring or I am attacked by seasonal depression. That we really do need to be up at 5:45 and asleep by 11 for our lives to work. That we absolutely love being together no matter what we are doing. That family is incredibly supportive, even when they are in the midst of some of the greatest battles of their lives. That part makes me cry. That we are going to be an Aunt and an Uncle and that is such a precious honor. That marriage takes work, and different kind of work than we thought. That large public schools are cheaper, but more frustrating. That buying text books is the black hole of money. That we want to start our own business. That we love to wander. Anywhere. Anytime. We are wanderers. That I am even more of an introvert and perfectionist than we ever really thought. Who knew people people could be so wildly introverted. That I love my professors whether I love their classes or not. That for the most part I really love class. That Justin is very ambitious and a sponge like learner.

We are learning as we go. We are trying. We are doing our best to love each other well, and be ourselves. I am learning to be supportive and kind. Justin is learning to help me draw healthy life boundaries. We both know nothing about long-term money and need help to figure out how to not just live to meet our budget and basically save. That we like the underdog (our car.) We are learning that we need dear friends (so thankful to have a small circle of dear friends here), that we have a much smaller capacity than we realized. We love to have people here and we love to entertain, together. We love and miss our families more than they could ever know. We are learning. I am learning. We are in process. We know less at the one year mark than we did the day we got married. I am still learning how to learn, and I need a lot of help there also.

There is no point where we arrive. As I am learning from AM, the most important thing we can do is call a spade a spade, look it directly in the face and then have the best and most honest attitude that you can. I am learning from her to give yourself a minute, or an hour or a day and then chin up and move on. We are never trapped, there is always a place where we can improve our attitude or our circumstance and we are victims of nothing. I know these things, but I am learning to live them. As I go. In process. Hoping that I learned a lot from the last few months. Here are some future goals:

October 2, Marathon.
August, Launch some small portion of the business.
Attempt a debt free life other than school loans.
POSITIVE POSITIVE POSITIVE perspective and attitude.
Quiet and Still time every morning to read, meditate and get our focus right.
Exercise before we start our day.
6 week break bad habits/focus on health from July 18-September 13th. thinking about going raw.
DE-CLUTTER!!! Minimize, minimize, minimize. Beginning with a garage sale in two weeks.
Make a rational decision about cars in our house, we need one, but maybe not two.
Make the best use of our CSA and meat share.
Attend church regularly.

I’ll keep you posted. This is quite a journey that we are on. Goals are crucial and attitude is everything. I realize that as this semester progressed it was easier to focus on the difficult than the good.

So now you are up to date. And we are moving forward from here. Looking forward to the best that is yet to come. And experiencing the great benefit from all the big life lessons that I learned during the challenge that was this Spring semester!


Friends in the South, Some Winter Weather Advisories

OK, I can see on Facebook that you are all freaking out. SEVENTEEN DEGREES IS FREAKING COLD. So I thought I would offer you a bit of advice I’ve learned over the last few years. As Markus, David and Christoph so enjoyed me saying, EVERY TIME I slipped on my boots on the cold Berlin winters, “You can take the girls out of Texas, but you can’t take the Texas out of the girl.” And the part you can’t take out, is the part that likes WARM weather.

So, here it is:

For every 10 degrees below 40 add an additional layer of clothing. I choose tights. Here I have fleece lined tights, but you guys don’t have time for that. So, go into your drawers. You may not know this, but you can layer tights. Today when we woke up it was 11 degrees, so this is what I wore.

1) 2 pairs of tights
2) 1 pair of fleece lined tights
3) One pair of skinny black pants from the gap – wear something tight knit or HEAVY jeans. I have no idea why, but the tighter the pants the warmer.
4) I wore a long sleeve under shirt, a turtle neck from Zara (to say that it was lighter, not some heavy bulky ski tn) and then a sweater.
5) Wear your ski socks. Trust me. Smart Wools are the only way I survive.
6) I wear wellies or snow boots, but we have 60 inches of snow outside. Just remember when you’re pulling on those boots you bought at anthropologie that when you walk in snow or get out of your car that snow has been treated and will ruin your suede or leather, even if it’s been treated. So leave them inside and get over your fashion. Wear your rain boots. With wool socks. And then you can feel like a rock start when Perez shows Kate Hudson in the same outfit leaving the Grey Dog.
7) If you are a runner put your running gloves on under your normal gloves, believe me.
8) Wear a hat. I generally only give into this when it’s 20 or below, but no matter what it does to your hair, your ears and body temp will thank you.
9) Be prepared to look like the kid in a Christmas Story. In so many layers, once you put your coat on, putting your arms down is only a dream.
10) When you are cursing the weather Gods remember that this weekend when it’s 60 for you our high will be 30 if we’re lucky… UNTIL MAY. I am pretty sure you can handle a day or two of it.

Love your bitter, cold and slightly amused friend in Boston.

Fashion Blogs, 4.0, and Unexpected Free Time

When I finished my first marathon Return of the Jordi’s Mom, who is yet unnamed on my blog, I need to think on it, she needs a good one, something involving animal print I think. Anyway, she gave me this beautiful gift which has the Confucius quote, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” That is, in fact, how I began running. One step at a time. Same way I’ve gone back to school. One step at a time. It’s been as difficult. Maybe more so. Especially thinking about leaving the safety of community college and heading to big girl school. However, I got my grades back. Let me tell you the last time I got straight As was definitely Mrs. Wallace’s class in second grade. I could not be more proud. I have to honestly say that I was not sure I was well suited for the academic setting. I thought maybe I was good at reading the New York Times most read and trying to feign intelligent conversation… I am not saying a four point from BHCC makes me an academic, but it does now make me capable of completing a second semester not on academic probation, which will be a first for me. Now that’s worth celebrating!

I am currently testing the waters as a guest blog writer. A friend asked me if I was up for doing some posts for a men’s fashion theme. Ummmm… OK? I am not saying that I don’t love fashion, I am just saying that it’s a bit harder than I thought and I am not sure that I am much of an expert. I mean, I stalk the Satorialist, and his book is one of my favorite gifts Boo ever gave me. I did cry when I watched this video that he just posted on his blog!

Despite all these things, I am not sure that I am qualified to guest blog… We’ll see how it goes.

So, since my trip to Atlanta was abruptly cancelled due to poor organization on the part of AirTran, and suffocating snow I am trying to use this extra week to do productive things. That includes, long long overdue thank you notes, blogging, guest blogging, and catching up on movies while I am doing it. I am also listening to my landlord sneeze in an inappropriately loud manner, freezing in my own home, eating Sugar Cookie dough, avoiding cleaning and laundry, and craving chick-fil-a. So there you have it. Don’t be jealous. Interviewed for a nanny position yesterday with a family that I adored. Should know late this weekend if it’s going to work out, as the German’s would say, “Press your thumbs for me.”

Heather Armstrong/Liz Lambert, It Gets EVEN Better and Breast Cancer

Kendall Gayle is one of my favorite people in the whole wide world. Her blog is my second favorite blog of all time (dooce.com wins #1) You can find a link to Kendall’s blog here. I need to warn you that reading it today, the two year anniversary of when she lost her mom, might make you cry. Normally her blogs make you laugh, but this, this loss has been her most difficult journey. One can understand why. Once Kendall featured me on her “People I Love” section. Today as I think and pray for her in this terrible loss of her mom, I remember that love never dies. People die, but love doesn’t and that’s the hard part. When from the beginning of your life you have been fashioned to love someone and then they are gone, then it’s kind of like having unrequited love, which we all know is the very worst kind. This week, reminded of Kendall’s mom Sweet, my cousin Missy who is fighting stage 3 breast cancer and my dear friend Maggie’s mom, SherBear who was just diagnosed with breast cancer, I feel sad that we haven’t solved the problem of this killer. But I know that love is sometimes painful, and that sometimes love isn’t enough to heal pain, but today I send love to my dear friends and pray for strength, comfort, hope and good girlfriends to take them out for drinks.

Heather Armstrong (Click Here) and Liz Lambert (Click Here) are my current heroes. I follow them on Twitter and promote them relentlessly, Heather aka Dooce for more obvious reasons, 1)She’s funny 2)She’s honest 3)She is in the stage of life all of my friends are in 4)She swears in her blogs, which I respect 5)She’s really pretty and makes me laugh out loud. But do not underestimate the power of Liz Lambert . She’s dating Amy Cook, and they both exude the kind of cool born of “I don’t give a *&#% what you think” security. Liz was an attorney in New York (of course I think she’s cool) but she left and bought a flea bag motel called The Hotel San Jose which through hard work, grit and allowing prostitutes and pimps to maintain residence and pay rent she turned into the hip place where JF organized a 25th birthday party (just 8 short years ago) and we gawked at Bob Schneider who was patronizing the bar… It quickly became THE place in Austin. She promoted all sorts of incredible live music and realized that the area needed some life so she opened this little place that we all know, love and have pictures at. Where do you go from pioneering revitalization of the SoCo region of Austin? Oh… How about Marfa? Boutique trailers and UFO spotting? Perfect. It’s like Texas’ little form of Sedona. Well it wasn’t enough. There was an old B&B on Academy back in SoCo. She bought it and turned it into a RocknRoll hotel, no really, unbelievable Rock n Roll posters in every room. This video was filmed there, oh… And this picture was taken there

This one too:

So was this one…

(incredible photography by normally exclusively Rock n Roll photographer MCM)
Needless to say, Hotel St. Cecilia played a significant roll in a big day in my life… But I’d recommend it to anyone. It’s breathtaking, you’ve never had this kind of service, or quality. Ever. And I’ve stayed some nice places. It just gets better, recently Liz opened up a hotel in San Antonio that’s getting rave reviews. Basically, I am looking for the perfect letter pressed stationary to send LL a handwritten letter begging her to let me work for her for free for my back to school internship – surely she’d want a 33.5 year old who is starting all over mid-prime? I mean, if I were her, I wouldn’t look past “free.” We’ll see. Maybe I’ll drop the letter off at Bunkhouse when I’m home next week, considering the fact that she ignores my Tweets (it’s not like I tried to her to tell Patty Griffin hi when she, LL and AC were in Paris last week, but I should have) I am keeping my expectations low.

HOWEVER – I did write HA an email this morning and ask her to write a letter for my It Gets Better series. This is what I realize, LGBT are on to something. Life is hard, making it is hard, we all need people who have done it to tell us how and that we can make it. Joel Burns is a freaking hero, but I consider these two women pretty incredible as well. They are ballsy, successful, creative and HAPPY. Both are in committed relationships, somehow balancing success and private life, and both continue to invest in the community and raise awareness on a broad level. We would be fools to not beg them to share their wisdom with us. So I did. I don’t have a lot of hope that Dooce will write a letter to her younger self or that either one of them will take me as an unpaid intern, but they should. I think we’d all learn a lot in the process.

That being said, one thing that I have learned in life that I want to pass on. ASK. If you see someone successful that you admire (male or female – I just happen to love these two ladies style and panache) gather your guts and think of a couple quick and concise questions that you can ask them about the things that you admire. We are here to learn. In my opinion all of us should have leveled relationships – people who mentor, peers and people that we are investing in. I have some great mentors, some incredible peers and currently I am mentoring Troll through daily hugs, the Gucci girls through Blog mockery and the little girl I nanny by playing her really good music that she otherwise would not know about. I mean how else would a 4 month old hear about Patty G and Lucius? Some MOPS group? Unlikely. She’ll thank me later when she’s cooler than all of her friends.

In other news, I ran 11 miles the other day. I started at the park and then I ran to the salt and pepper bridge, I listened to Bill Simmons 2nd to last podcast which was something with “Cousin Sal” it was an hour of picking the lines in NFL – shoot me. I thought it couldn’t get any worse until I turned around and ran 5.5 miles into the wind the entire way home. I did listen to two 30 for 30 podcasts, which were more helpful, except that I wanted to die and have literally been STARVING for the last two days. Seriously. Don’t get near me I may eat you.

That’s todays update. No recipes. If you’re hungry you can check out Liz’s brother’s restaurant Lamberts Apparently, much like myself, being awesome is in the Lambert family.

Passionate about stripes

I think stripes are the little black dress of casual fashion.  My Aunt Lauren said once that she knew why my Aunt Julliete (who is French) was always dressed like she was ready to go out.  Because when she went to Paris people were always dressed like they were ready to go out.  I have also learned in my relationship with Boo that I have an elevated sense of casual, which I have to guess, I acquired from my family.  I will say this, I almost always feel comfortable.  It is rare that you will find me clothed in anything that I am not incredible comfortable in.  I have been on the hunt for the perfect Audrey Hepburn black and white stripe sailor shirt.  I am pretty sure that it’s an old school french fashion, and I am almost positive that if I could get back to Paris I could find one in a shop on the side of the road (for a lot more money I am sure than Boo would want me to spend.)  I will however say, I think everyone should add striped to their wardrobe, especially this season, when JCrew’s signature collection has stripes in 8 out of 14 of their season’s signature look slides.

Here’s my other unsolicited fashion tip of the day.  Wear what you want, with confidence.  It’s the #1 key to fashion.  It doesn’t have to be a materialistic or narcissistic  thing, it can be affordable, enjoyable and an empowering, confidence building expression of you.  SO – go buy some stripes from H&M, JCrew, or Saks -whatever your price range allows and throw some bright, chunky, plastic jewelry on top of it.  We are returning to the 80’s you know.

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