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5.31.2020

I'm White and I'm Getting it Wrong, but I Don't Want to be Silent Anymore



America is suffering right now. Black America is suffering more. The death of George Floyd and those who came before him is heartbreaking. His life was sacred. He was wonderfully and intentionally created and his life was stolen from him while onlookers did nothing. He died scared and alone at the hands of someone who failed to see the fullness of his humanity.


Like most children, I was raised to love everyone regardless of their physical appearance. Race has never been a determining factor to me in befriending and loving someone. However, as I've begun learning these last few years- it's not enough to befriend someone of color. It's not enough to say you love someone and yet remain silent regarding the institutions that oppress them.


The more I learn the vocabulary of anti-racism and the more I understand the historic legacy of racial discrimination in this country, the more ignorant I feel. The more I know, the less I feel I have the right words.


I am someone who strives to be open-hearted. Someone who does the right thing and someone who wants to leave the world better than I found it. I am also someone who lives in a small town that is 90% white. I am someone who was educated in a school district that had an even smaller minority population.


I can say that I love and support my Black friends and neighbors. But the truth of the matter is that this isn't enough anymore. And the fact that my upbringing has been so starkly WHITE means that I have some unconscious biases that I need to dismantle and contend with.


For many years I've dreamed of adopting a child from East Africa, the place I fell in love with over a decade ago.  But recently, I've really had to examine my motivations and challenge myself to answer the question of whether I truly know how to parent a black child in this day and age. My desire hasn't dissipated, but I have some serious work to do.


When I remain silent, it is not because I don't see the injustice. It is not because I don't empathize with Black mothers whose babies are being murdered. It is because I don't have the words. I don't want to get it wrong and I don't want to inflict more hurt because of my own ignorance. However, I read something recently that convicted me- my fear of getting it wrong is about ME. And nothing about what is happening in our country right now is about me.


I'll leave my stream of consciousness with this- I am learning. I am reading and listening to voices far more knowledgeable and important than my own. Please don't misunderstand my silence as complicity, but humility as I come to terms with the reality of the laws and institutions that have actively benefited me for my entire life while harming and oppressing my neighbors of a different skin tone.


I'm getting it wrong, but I don't want to be silent anymore.


5.28.2020

35 BEFORE 35

35 Before 35: A 3-Year Bucket List


*1. Take an international trip | This is a carryover from my 32 Before 32 bucket list. I haven't traveled out of the country since our Jamaican honeymoon in 2012!

2. Earn a second professional designation | I earned my first professional designation in 2019 and had planned to work toward a second in 2020. I think this is totally within reach, but perhaps not as soon as I had planned due to the Coronavirus.

3. Pay off ALL student loans | | This probably won't happen within the next three years. I've calculated out our debt snowball and we're realistically looking at a 4-year timeline unless our household income dramatically increases. It's unlikely, but who knows what the future has in store.

4. Renovate basement half bathroom to a full bathroom | I think we're all ready to stop fighting over our single shared bathroom. It's long overdue to turn our non-functional basement half bathroom into a bathroom people actually use!

5. Schedule a monthly family day trip | Before the stay-at-home order, we were actually doing a good job of this. In February, we paid a visit to the Newport Aquarium and we in early March we took a day trip to the COSI museum in Columbus with Chuck's brother and his family. I like being intentional about spending time together as a foursome and introducing our boys to new experiences.

6. Join a nonprofit board | This has been something I've been interested in for awhile, but the timing has never worked out. 

7. Install new kitchen and basement flooring | Our basement carpet and grimy kitchen tile has got to go.

8. Open Roth IRAs for Chuck and Me | Debt payoff is the name of our game right now, so we're not in a place to begin investing and saving for retirement (outside of our 401ks) just yet. Hopefully, this will change in a couple years' time.

*9. Host a foreign exchange student | This is another carryover from my 32 Before 32 list. I've always wanted to host a foreign exchange student because my own study abroad experience was so impactful. Chuck has been supportive, but continues to remind me that the timing isn't right quite yet. He's been right, of course, but it's only a matter of time before I wear him down.

10. Deliver 35 meals to someone who needs it (0/35) | Loving on people with food is one of my favorite things to do. I make a mean veggie lasagna and I love blessing new Mamas and friends going through tough times when I'm able to. It's something I'd like to do more frequently. 

*11. Run a half marathon | I trained in 2018 and 2019, but due to work obligations and a heat advisory, my Half never happened. I have two scheduled in 2020- in August and October. They're far enough out that I still have time to train, but running definitely hasn't been a top priority during lockdown.

12. Teach Charlie + Crosby how to swim | For a couple years, we took the boys to weekly lessons at Goldfish Swim School in Dayton and loved our experience there. However, when I returned to work full-time, it just became too logistically difficult for us to continue. We have a local community pool that opens in the summers and at some point I'd like to get our boys back in the water and swimming independently.

*13. Replace our back porch | Our back porch is in rough shape and we've had to have broken stairs repaired more than once. Eventually, we'd like to replace it, reconfigure the stairs, and add some built in planter beds.

*14. Visit Frankie's grave | It feels impossible to believe my fake big brother has been gone for 7 years. We were actually supposed to be headed to DC at the end of April on a family trip en route to a friend's Maryland wedding and I planned to visit Arlington National Cemetery while we were in the area. Due to COVID, her wedding has been rescheduled for September so hopefully I can visit my Frankie G once and for all.

*15. Attend a cooking class | Cooking has become one of my favorite weekend activities. Getting meal subscription boxes like Purple Carrot has been so useful in teaching me new skills, but I'd really like to up my game by taking a class.

16. Deliver my Daddy's ashes | When my Daddy passed in 2018, his Last Will & Testament stipulated that he wanted half of his ashes spread over his Mom's grave in Upstate NY and half of his ashes were to be delivered to his best friend in California to be spread in the Pacific Ocean. My sister haven't had the means to deliver his ashes to the West Coast...yet. But I'm hopeful that we'll be able to do so in the next year or two.

17. Take a romantic vacation for our 10th anniversary | Our 10th anniversary will fall on September 2, 2022. Honestly, our bar for a romantic vacation is so low at this point. We'd take a long jaunt to a Taco Bell if it meant we got some alone time! Ideally, we'd like to do a Caribbean trip of some kind reminiscent of our Jamaican honeymoon.

*18. Get a fourth tattoo I've had a tattoo idea I've wanted to do for several years now, but could never justify spending the money when there are childcare and student loan payments to be made! 

*19. Install planter boxes in our front yard | In 2018 while we were out of town, Ohio was hit with a huge ice storm and we lost both of the beautiful trees in our front yard. Since then, our house has lacked any curb appeal. I'd really like to build wooden planter boxes to plant some flowering perennials and add some color to our property!

20. Run a 5k with Charlie | Charlie is quickly becoming my little running buddy! He's accompanied me on his bike on a few of my trail runs and always wants to come with me when I head out. The kid has got some serious speed and I think it would be such a fun bonding activity to do together.

*21. Purchase a minivan | We paid off my car in February 2020, so right now I'm enjoying having no car payments for as long as possible before we take the plunge into minivan ownership.

*22. Run a race in 3 different states (1/3) | This is a carryover from my previous bucket list. So far, I've only raced in my home state of Ohio!

23. Plan an annual sister weekend | A few months ago, I called my sister and asked her, "Do you feel like we've been growing apart?" It was a heartbreaking realization to come to that as we've been getting older and creating lives that are states apart, we're just not involved in each other's day-to-day the way we were as kids. We decided to commit to an annual sister weekend and had even made plans for a weekend in Denver in July...before COVID hit. 

24. Refinance our mortgage | Once we've built up a little more equity, we'd like to refinance so we can get a better rate and expedite our payoff. 

25. Attend a concert with Chuck | It's been years since Chuck and I attended a concert together which is insane because we're both huge fans of live music. Obviously, I don't foresee any large gatherings in our immediate future, but I look forward to this day when life returns to some semblance of normal.

26. Replace living room furniture | Having two toddlers and a puppy has not been kind to our sofa. It's gotten to the point where we rarely even use our living room because the furniture is in such terrible shape. I want to change this ASAP because our living room was my favorite room in the house until recently.

27. Take a Mommy + Me class with Crosby | While running is an easy bonding activity for Charlie and me, I also want to find a one-on-one activity for Crosby and I to enjoy together- whether, it's art, music, cooking. I cherish spending quality individual time with my kiddos. 

28. Learn how to can veggies | Chuck lovingly bought me a hot water bath for Christmas several years ago that still hasn't seen any use. I've always wanted to learn how to can veggies in the summer, but have either been too intimidated or just plain lacked the time. As my kids age and become less dependent on me, I'm hoping I'll have some more time to pick up a couple new hobbies. 

29. Replace backyard fence and repair driveway | I'm thankful to have an enclosed backyard to contain our energetic pup, but the chain link and patchy asphalt is really unattractive. I want to continue making our backyard a place we want to be in. 

30. Visit my BFNSCF | My high school best friend and I have lived states apart for our entire adult life and have not seen nearly enough of each other in that time. The last time we saw each other in-person was when Crosby was six weeks old and I made the spontaneous decision to spend a week of my maternity leave with my bestie in North Carolina. 

31. Host an annual ladies' brunch | Since moving back to Chuck's hometown in 2013, I've found myself in a group of terrific women. I've held a couple Galentine's Day and Christmas Cookie exchanges since then, but I'd like to be more intentional about hosting my friends. In a house full of boys, having time with female friends has become so important to me. 

*32. Paint and install new counters and kitchen backsplash | Since the day we bought it in 2015, my kitchen has been my least favorite room in the house. It's a small, dark galley-style kitchen that is in desperate need of a coat of paint. If I'm going to spend hours of my day cooking for my family, I want it to be a happy, welcoming space!

33. Decide whether to grow our family | I shared the state of our family a few months ago, but the truth is, we still don't know what the future holds for us. Will we remain a family of four or will we grow in number either biologically or through adoption? We somehow still don't feel confident in the answer, but I'm hoping we'll know someday soon. 

34. Increase our tithing by 10% each year | I've only recently begin a habit of monthly giving versus sporadically giving when we happen to show up to church on Sunday mornings. It's a small amount until we're debt-free, but I'd love to give more to the faith community that has given me so much. 

35. Send 35 birthday/thank you/etc. cards (0/35) | I feel like this is such an easy goal to embark upon during the time of COVID. I've kept every card I've ever received since the 6th grade and I want to do a better job of sending little parcels of TLC to my friends and family.

*Indicates a carryover from my 32 Before 32 bucket list


During this time of anxiety and uncertainty, it feels good to have hope in better days to come. I don't know what the next year has in store for me, my family or my country, but I'm hopeful that by my 35th birthday, I will have some accomplishments to reflect back on and celebrate. 

What is something you're looking forward to if and when life returns to normal?



4.27.2020

32 BEFORE 32: Final Check-In

Yesterday was my 32nd birthday. It was not the birthday I envisioned- I wasn't able to enjoy the typical warm, sunny April weather I've become accustomed to. And of course, throwing Ohio's stay-at-home order into the mix added a whole other unprecedented dynamic. But all-in-all it was a good day. This isolation life has been exhausting and my sweet hubby treated me to a day of relaxing and recuperating.

He brought me my morning coffee, locked my bedroom door and kept the boys at bay all day while I read to my bookworm heart's content. I emerged just long enough to eat, shower and do a quick 30-minute yoga class via the Peloton app before I retreated back to my hermit cave and proceeded to continue reading. After nearly a decade together, what can I say? My man knows what I like!



My sister and Mom both called in the morning and we had a nice little video chat. My mom hilariously asked "So, how old are you?" and when I responded she replied, "Oh my God, you're old! I thought you were only 30." I pretty much feel the same way. Thirty two feels very...thirties? 

Despite my weird thing with odd numbers, thirty-one was a good year for me. I passed my second registration exam and earned a professional designation. Not to mention, our family really got our debt snowball rolling! I'm hoping thirty-two brings with it more financial stability and professional accomplishment. But being that we're in the midst of a global pandemic, I'm keeping my expectations low.

Thirty-two will also be the year that Charlie goes to Kindergarten and Crosby will head to his first year in Pre-K. I'm honestly really excited for the next season of parenthood. I'm rarely the Mom who laments about the passing years (I'm sure that will change when they're 18). I love watching my kiddos grow into their personalities. Quality time is my love language so I feel at my most fulfilled as a Mommy when I can spend one-on-one time with them sharing a mutual interest- whether it's running, reading, yoga, etc. That is significantly easier with older kids than it is with babies and toddlers!

Since yesterday was the day I turned the big 3-2, I figured it was a good time to check in on my 32 Before 32 goals and see how I did. I started this bucket list around my 30th birthday and my last check-in was this time last year so there's a lot of ground to make up!



32 Before 32: A 2-Year Bucket List



1. Take an international trip | INCOMPLETE

2. Host a foreign exchange student INCOMPLETE

3. Pay off a student loan | INCOMPLETE And to think, if my stimulus check had come a week or two earlier I could have crossed this one off!

4. Return to work full-time | COMPLETE! (June 4, 2018) This goal feels silly now, but was heavy on my mind as a 30-year old stay-at-home/part-time working Mama.

5. Visit a new state INCOMPLETE Clearly, no travel goals were met as we focused on paying down our debt

6. Convert attic to a fourth bedroom | IN PROGRESS  It is legitimately insane how long this project is taking us. Although the bulk of the room is done- window, new lighting, and shiplap wall have been installed by our friend. I still need to paint and we need to install a closet to make it a real bedroom.


7. Take an anniversary trip | COMPLETE! (September 1, 2018) Chuck and I took a quick, overnight trip to Louisville, KY. It wasn't the best experience- we couldn't get into the distillery tour we were hoping to and our hotel wasn't the best. But we still enjoyed a kid-free evening together at a dueling piano bar.

8. Adopt a four-legged friendCOMPLETE! (December 21, 2019) Of all the items on my list, this one honestly surprises me the most! Chuck and I knew we wanted to get a family dog, but since we both work full-time and commute we just didn't feel like the timing was right. Then in a sleep-deprived haze shortly before Christmas I submitted an adoption application and the next day, Reggie was ours!

9. Run a half marathon | INCOMPLETE And of all the items on my list, this one disappoints me the most! I trained in 2018 and 2019, but due to work obligations and a heat advisory, my Half never happened. I have two scheduled in 2020- in August and October. They're far enough out that I still have time to train, but running definitely hasn't been a top priority during lockdown.


10. Replace our back porch INCOMPLETE

11. Visit Frankie's grave | INCOMPLETE We were actually supposed to be headed to DC this week on a family trip en route to a friend's Maryland wedding. I had planned to visit Arlington National Cemetery while we were in the area. Of course, her wedding has been postponed to later in the year so this one hasn't happened yet, but I wouldn't have made the cutoff date anyway.

12. Attend a cooking class INCOMPLETE This is definitely one I'd like to rollover to my next bucket list!

13. Pay off all credit cards (3/3) | COMPLETE! (May 2019) All I can say is- WOOHOOOOO!!!

14. Renovate our kitchen INCOMPLETE 

15. Get a fourth tattoo INCOMPLETE 

16. Take a family camping trip INCOMPLETE 

17. Update my wardrobe | IN PROGRESS Since starting at my current job back in June of 2018, I've slowly been building up my professional wardrobe primarily through ThredUp with the occasional Stitch Fix thrown in when I can justify the splurge. There are still things I could use- new jeans and more shoes, but my closet is in better shape than it's ever been.



18. Add a railing to our front porch COMPLETE! (October 23, 2018) 

19. Try 10 new restaurants (2/10) INCOMPLETE  I didn't do a very good job of tracking this so I'm not positive what the final tally is. But I know it's not 10. We tried maybe 2 or 3 new restaurants, but typically stuck to more local places on our rare date nights since we never felt like driving and wanted to be close to the kids.

20. Enroll Charlie in preschool COMPLETE! (June 2018) He "graduates" next month and will head to Kindergarten in the Fall!



21. Landscape our front yard IN PROGRESS I'm going to call this one "in progress" even though it's been ages since we last did anything to our front yard and won't be doing anything in the foreseeable future. In November of 2018 while we were out of town enjoying Pre-Thanksgiving, Ohio was hit with a huge ice storm and we lost both our beautiful trees. After having hideously unattractive stumps for almost a year, we had a landscaping company come out and grind them and lay down grass seed. It fixed the stump problem but our yard still leaves much to be desired.

22. Meet a blogging friend INCOMPLETE  #MomLife?

23. Plan something for Chuck's 30th birthday COMPLETE! (April 15, 2019) Chuck celebrated his 30th birthday last week by taking a weekend trip to visit his sister in Kansas City, MO. It required very little planning on my part, but it was what he wanted, so we were both happy. On his actual birthday, I picked up a Chocolate Peanut Butter cake from a cute little bakery that recently opened in our town and had pizza delivered. It was a low-key, simple way to celebrate my low-key, simple man!

24. Purchase a minivan | INCOMPLETE  We paid off my car in February 2020, so right now I'm enjoying having no car payments for as long as possible before we take the plunge into minivan ownership.

25. Take a photography class | COMPLETE! (January 2019)  Our family photographer offered an Intro to Photography class and I was so excited to kick off the new year by completing an item on my bucket list. It wound up being just the two of us and I was so appreciative of the time we spent together.

26. Pay off all medical bills from Crosby's birth (3/3) COMPLETE! (June 2019) We made the final payment on our outstanding medical bills from Crosby's birth just months before his third birthday. Ugh!

27. Run a race in 3 different states (1/3) | INCOMPLETE  Just in my home state of Ohio!

28. Visit the American Sign Museum | INCOMPLETE 

29. Paint and finish decorating our master bedroomCOMPLETE! (January 2020) I have no recollection of when I was finished with our master bedroom so I'm going off of the date I rearranged it to its current setup when I was stir crazy this past winter.



30. Take the boys to an amusement park | INCOMPLETE 

31. Visit Old Man's Cave in Hocking Hills | INCOMPLETE 

32. Attend a concert COMPLETE! (July 13, 2018) My sister-in-law and I have made a tradition out of an annual country concert. In 2018 we saw Miranda Lambert and Little Big Town. Last year we attended Outlaw Music Festival which included Willie Nelson, Bonnie Raitt and Luke Combs (who I was unfamiliar with, but she adores).

TOTAL GOALS ACCOMPLISHED: 11/32


 > > >

My batting average wasn't great the last two years, but I'm proud of the things I did accomplish and look forward to rolling several of these into my 35 Before 35 list. Stay tuned!

4.19.2020

QUARANTINE LIFE: One Month Check-In and Silver Linings



After one month under Ohio's stay-at-home order, I've been reflecting on what life looks like for us right now. What's working, what's not. Time has honestly lost all meaning, but I know that for about a month now Chuck and I have both been working remotely from our respective home offices. Him, in his basement/man cave. Me, in our office/guest room. We've also been effectively running a daycare center simultaneously for Charlie (5) and Crosby (3).

SILVER LINING: Both of our jobs were already set up to function remotely.



Not only was the transition relatively pain-free (I won't say stress-free), but I was reminded recently that we are both insanely fortunate to both work for businesses deemed essential when a friend expressed stress over not having a paycheck and only having a small amount of savings to keep them afloat for the foreseeable future. There are a lot of people out of work and hurting right now and I'm trying to remain mindful of that, give where and when I can, and be as fiscally responsible in the midst of so much change and uncertainty.

In terms of the adjustment for our family, the adults are...struggling, while our kiddos have managed to take it in stride. They are at the worst and best age. On the one hand, they are not yet old enough to consistently feed and entertain themselves. Our mornings are completely unproductive and I am interrupted no less than 26 times before lunch for snacks, cuddles, and drink refills. (This doesn't include the amount of times I have to stop what I'm doing to referee whatever the current screaming match is).

SILVER LINING: My kids are so resilient.



On the other hand, in spite of the fact that they need to be fed three meals and countless snacks per day, they've adapted well. In the afternoon, Crosby goes down for a nap which allows me a few productive hours before I clock out. Charlie has been amazing at occupying himself and respecting the fact that Mommy and Daddy have important work to do. A few days ago, I marveled at the fact that while he was laying in the guest bed in my office watching cartoons, he instinctively knew to pause his show every time I answered a work call so I wouldn't have any background noise. It's little things like this that make me so proud of him and how he's adapted.

Because of their age, they don't fully grasp what's going on so there's no real fear or confusion. They know they're not allowed to see their extended family or go to the store "because of the virus." There have been a couple times when Charlie has cried over missing his cousin/best friend Lucie who he usually sees several times a week this time of year. And he's mentioned missing his friends and teacher at school. But for the most part, they are just thrilled to have all this time with Mommy and Daddy.

SILVER LINING: Family time.



There aren't words to sufficient to describe the level of exhaustion we're (and everyone else) experiencing right now. Trying to work regular full-time hours while attending to small children is something I never wanted and the lack of structure and stress of not having enough distraction-free hours in the day has led me to tears on more than one occasion. However, I feel like my kids have aged so much just in the last month. Charlie is becoming such a responsible young man. And Crosby has morphed from my baby into a very opinionated and insightful little person. I feel their childhood slipping away and I'm thankful for this special time with them before they become school-aged and get sucked into the whirlwind of all that entails. So, although the threenager in the house is driving me crazy more often than not, I'm able to appreciate how much he's grown when I take a step back to reflect.

SILVER LINING: My kids are being kids.



Whenever we used to stay with my Grandma for the summers and complain about being bored, she would always reply "Only boring people get bored." I love that expression and I see now why boredom is such a gift to our kids. Don't get me wrong, my kids have consumed far more Paw Patrol in the last month than I am proud of. But even infinite computer time loses its luster after awhile and I have seen my kids play independently with Play-Doh, read more books, and spend more time outdoors all because of the gift of boredom.

I can't say I'm necessarily viewing this situation through rose-colored glasses. I am still really struggling. I remarked to Chuck this morning that it feels so unfair that after a combination of my own proactive self-care and a mild Ohio winter, for the first time in a long time I didn't have to contend with my usual seasonal depression. Then what should have been a sweet reprieve of Spring has brought with it some serious mental health challenges. I am in a funk. I miss my church and community, I miss the ability to be 100% present at work, I miss working toward my bucket list goals. Now my only goal is "Survive this Shit without Losing my Shit."

In the midst of this really ugly and trying time, there is a beautiful irony to the fact that the two little people who are my greatest sources of stress and exhaustion are also where I am gleaning my greatest joy and hope for a healthier and happier future.

I hope you're hanging in there, friends. COVID-19 is changing all of our lives. Over the aspects that we can control, let's be cognisant of the silver linings and make sure the most lasting changes are for the better. 
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