Getting older, looking forward.

I turned 25 this week. It’s funny — I remember when that seemed so old.

I’m exactly where I want to be right now. But I spent the week traveling, and as happy as I thought I was here, I’m starting to see that I will eventually need to leave.

I love DC. It’s a fun, family-friendly, pedestrian-friendly city where I’ve been able to find great jobs and advance in my career. I love my apartment, I love my neighborhood, I love my job and my friends and the connections I’ve made here. I love how easy it is to get around — a quick metro ride to the airport or a quick bus/train ride to New York, Boston, Philly, Maryland, Virginia, wherever I want to go on the east coast. I’ll have to visit the Carolinas while I’m living here, too.

I landed last night after a week-long adventure, and I thought I was so happy to be home. I was.

Then, I woke up. And it was cold outside. And I’ve been feeling distant from my friends.

I went to brunch today, and I overheard a conversation between two men that I didn’t want to hear. But it perfectly encapsulates the things I want to run away from.

These guys were educated, well-dressed, articulate. And yet they were total fucking chauvinist bros.

Bro #1 goes to Bro #2: “I offered to buy this girl a drink, and she goes, ‘Oh, I have a boyfriend,’ – I was like ‘And I have a goldfish. Why are we talking about shit that doesn’t matter and is not here?'” Bro #2 laughed at how absurd girl at bar was for rejecting a free drink. Bro #2 says, “You’re doing something for her,” as though stupid girl at bar should’ve just accepted the drink from Bro #1. The conversation went on that way — banging girls, etc. You’re so cool, bros. So very cool.

Maybe it’s just today, but I don’t want to live here anymore. I want to live in a place where people are friendly, where education is important but people are humble. I want to live in a place that’s diverse and easy to get around without a car. Ideally, this place is also warm, but that’s not as important anymore. Though I’m generally happier when it’s sunny and beautiful outside.

I want to buy a house soon, but it’s hard when I don’t know where I want to be.

I spent some time in LA, Austin, and Florida this week. It was amazing. It was perfect. It made me a little sad that I left so many wonderful friends behind. It’s strange how badly I wanted to leave, how I didn’t give it a second thought, how I left and barely said goodbye. I was so tired, but I was tired because I pushed myself to that point. I volunteered all the time, trying so hard to save the world. I loved how much my friends relied on me. I wanted to be everyone’s caretaker, everyone’s life counselor, everyone’s mother.

I bent over backwards for everyone, and I resented them for it.

When I was living in New York, I relied on my friends and the men in my life to feed me, house me, clothe me, and be there for me in every way. I was a taker; I had nothing to give. Once I had a stable life and a home, I wanted to help everyone else. But I give more than I have. Then I get worn out.

Or maybe it’s just cold outside, and I hate that.

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We got very comfortable on the plane.

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Max has gone swinging in three states, and he’s not even a year old.

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He’s smiling, but the sun was in his eyes. Because it was incredibly sunny and beautiful in LA.

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LA swingin’

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Beverly Hills pumpkin patchin’

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This was the cheesiest thing I could’ve possibly done for my 25th birthday, but it was free, the food wasn’t bad, and Max was amazed.

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Out late in Austin, waiting for the bats to come out.

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Santa Monica Pier — these photos are in no particular order.

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I also enjoyed free breakfast at my favorite restaurant, IHOP. (Red Lobster got demoted for the day because it would only offer me a free dessert.)

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We fit right in.

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Cowgirllll selfie #NotATourist

I want a live-in nanny.

I want a live-in nanny:
someone who’s cheerful, friendly, playful, patient, and considerate;
someone who’s familiar with and supportive of attachment parenting;
someone who loves babies and young children –
but particularly mine;
someone who will sing and read and play;
someone who calls when they have questions and admits their mistakes;
someone who preferably speaks Spanish or Arabic –
English isn’t necessary;
someone who has gotten (or will get) their flu shot;
someone who loves cats –
or cats who think they’re dogs;
someone who wants to live in Bloomingdale with free room & board
and a reasonable monthly stipend;
someone who’s available Monday through Friday from 9-5pm,
or at least three of those days during regular working hours;
someone who’d like to make extra cash if they babysit outside of regular hours.

I’m still brainstorming, but I’m putting this out there in the world for now while I figure out where to advertise. Please help me find my dream nanny!

UPDATE: Here’s the official ad on DCUM.

You are young, and life is long, and there is time to kill today.

On January 28th, a clerk at Walmart asked me, “When are you due?”

“Today!” I said, almost chuckling. I’d come to believe that I’d be pregnant forever.

When I went into labor that day, I thought, “This is it! Finally!”

And when he still wasn’t born 48 hours later, I went back to believing that I would indeed be pregnant for life.

This is all to say that, 8 months later, it just seems unreal that Little Guy’s here, crawling around, growing into his own person, and eating one of his blocks right now.

One of the most important lessons I’ve learned about parenting — a lesson I’ve learned again and again throughout my life — is that I can only do so much for him; I have to let him live for himself. It’s one of the hardest lessons to learn and to remember, even when I’ve seen so many people make this same mistake — from my own mother to former supervisors to myself in relationships and in past management roles: doing for others what they can and should do for themselves.

It’s logical reasoning based on faulty premises. I’m making the assumption that he can’t do something, and he needs me to do it for him. Or worse: I know that he can do it, but it’ll be faster or easier for me to do it instead of teaching him or guiding him, when that’s my primary role in his life.

I have to accept that he’s more capable than I tend to think. He understands more than I assume, and there are certain things he can do for himself, like holding his own bottle when he drinks his milk.

I’m coming to the point at which it’s important to start setting boundaries. As a believer in positive parenting, I’ve steered clear of yelling or using the word “No,” and I aim to be patiently repetitive in teaching him which behaviors are appropriate and which are inappropriate.

But I know when he knows he’s breaking the rules.

He’s still a baby, of course, so right now, there aren’t many rules. In fact, there are really only two rules. The first one is we don’t eat cat food. The second one (a new one created today) is that we have to keep our shoes on, or keep a blanket over our feet, while we’re outside when it’s cold.

On the first rule, I started reacting to his newfound interest in cat food by moving Lucy’s food bowl into the bathroom. But as Little Guy has grown into a speed racer, I turn around for a second and he’s gone. When he’s not under the table, I can usually find him in the bathroom, swinging the food bowl, pouring its contents all over the floor…and chewing. So rather than hiding the bowl, I have to teach him, “This is not your food; this is Lucy’s food.”

And he knows.

So when I catch him back at the food bowl again, he kinda grins at me because he knows what’s going to happen: I’m going to say, “Max, this is not your food; this is Lucy’s food.” and then I’ll pick him up and swing him and call him a silly goose before I plop him in front of his toys and tell him that that’s where he can play.

We had a similar situation today when we were heading back from Tenleytown. It was getting cold out, and he’d taken his shoes off repeatedly, so I let him keep the shoes off and later wrapped his legs up in a blanket like he was a little merman. But he’d kick the blanket off! So I’d crouch down in front of him and say, “Hey! Did you kick off your blanket again? Your feet are going to get so cold!” and I’d kiss his feet, and he’d laugh, and I’d rewrap his legs and tell him that he was such a cute little merman, and then we’d keep going until he kicked off his blanket again three minutes later. We did this maybe 10 times or so, and every time I’d crouch down in front of him, he’d laugh because he knew I was going to rekiss his tiny frozen feet and rewrap his chubby legs and that he was going to kick off the blanket again; it had become a game.

In both cases, and in general, I don’t think it’s a big deal that I’m playful about how I handle silly behavior like eating cat food or kicking off a blanket. It doesn’t bother me very much, and it’s not hurting anyone (hopefully — I’m not sure how the human infant digestive system handles cat food). But I also know that it can’t always be a game and that at some point I’ll have to be serious and set boundaries.

For now, I think it’s just important for me to accept that my baby is growing up and becoming increasingly capable, and that’s a beautiful thing.

I love October. And pumpkin mac ‘n cheese.

October is the best month ever. I think I used to only enjoy summer, and I didn’t appreciate this fantastic month — this wondrous season — as much as I probably should have. But all of that is about to change.

In fact, it already has.

Did you know that it’s National Pizza Month?!?! WHAT AN AMAZING MONTH.

Beyond that, my stolen pumpkin spice syrup has resulted in MORE PUMPKIN SPICE SYRUP THAN I COULD HAVE EVER HOPED FOR.

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In your face, hipsters!

In other news, I discovered a recipe for pumpkin mac ‘n cheese, and then I made it, and though I once believed that my son was the greatest thing to ever happen to me, this pumpkin mac ‘n cheese calls those earlier assumptions into question…

Here’s the recipe:

Pumpkin Mac ‘n Cheese

IMG_1476Ingredients

  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 2 1/2 cups cheddar cheese
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 cups macaroni
  • some salt
  • some peppa
  • nutmeg

Directions

  1. Open up a bottle of Octoberfest because HALLELUJAH, it’s the best month of the year!
  2. You don’t really have to follow step one to make this mac ‘n cheese, but it does keep things interesting.
  3. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  4. Aren’t you glad I told you to preheat the oven in an early step rather than at the end like last time? I’m getting so good at this.
  5. Boil your macaroni.
  6. Octoberfesttttt
  7. Why do babies choose to play with boxes rather than toys?
  8. You have so many toys!
  9. Over medium heat, melt the butter, and slowly mix in the flour.
  10. Switch from kids’ music to lullabies to give the kid a hint that it’s bedtime, even though mommy’s cooking.
  11. Slowly pour the first cup of milk into the butter-flour mixture.
  12. And then the second cup.
  13. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and nutmeg.
  14. Stir, and continue to heat for 10 minutes or until the sauce thickens.
  15. Mix in the best part: pumpkin puree.
  16. Add 2 cups of cheese, and stir.
  17. Pour the sauce onto the macaroni, and add the rest of the cheese on top.
  18. Bake for 25 minutes.
  19. You can spend this half hour praising me for bringing this amazing dish into your life.
  20. You’re welcome.

WHAT AN AMAZING LIFE I LEAD.

today.

Every now and then
I look back at the decisions I’ve made
and think to myself
how different my life could’ve been,
had I been less wise,
had I been less foolish,
had I been less rational at times,
had I been less emotional,
had I been less spontaneous
or less practical –
and every time I look back,
I think to myself:
I’d do it all over again
exactly the same way
if it meant it’d bring me back
to where I am today.

You’re so worth it; youuu are.

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Pumpkin-flavored everything

Happy fall, y’all! I know what you think this post is going to be about — especially if you heard me raving on Monday and Tuesday about how much of a genius I am for having the idea to order pumpkin spice syrup to add to my coffee at work…and then heard me rant on Thursday and Friday about how my pumpkin spice syrup was STOLEN by a certain household that must not be named…but that’s not what this blog post is about at all.

I made a bunch of other pumpkin-flavored things, and i wanted to share the recipes with you, because they’re amazing.

Pumpkin Cranberry Quinoa Casserole

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup tri-colored quinoa
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/3 onion
  • Garlic powder
  • Olive oil
  • 1/2 cup cranberries (I used dried cranberries, AKA craisins)
  • maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 tbs. ground flaxseed
  • parsley
  • cinnamon
  • a teensy bit of salt

Directions

  1. Place cranberries in a bowl, and drizzle with maple syrup. Stir.
  2. In a separate bowl, combine milk, pumpkin puree, and ground flaxseed.
  3. Separately, boil a cup of water and add quinoa. Cook for 15-20 minutes.
  4. Read a Buzzfeed article about Snapchats from cats. #snapcats
  5. LOL.
  6. Chop an onion.
  7. Cry over a letter from the Covenant House. Put the letter down. Walk away. This is exactly how you ended up accidentally signing up for $100 monthly contribution online the other day. What a mess. You had no idea you were going to check the monthly box — you forgot to even adjust the amount.
  8. Why would they assume that everyone’s going to give $100? Or expect people to notice that $100 is the default?
  9. No one has that kind of money.
  10. Heat the olive oil in a saucepan, and add the onions and garlic.
  11. Top it with parsley. Call it a party. Invite the whole family.
  12. By “invite the whole family,” I mean combine everything — quinoa, cranbyrup, pumpkmilk (milpkin?). Add cinnamon.
  13. More cinnamon.
  14. MORE.
  15. You kinda overdid it on the cinnamon.
  16. This is when you’re supposed to add the salt, too. If you want. I’m not much of a salt girl.
  17. Mikey D’s calling! Finally. You’ve been trying to reach him for ages. Ignore it for now – you need to write this down. He’ll understand.
  18. Put the mixture in a casserole dish. Were you preheating the oven? You should’ve been preheating the oven to 350. If you hadn’t done that already, you can do it now and start the cookies (below).
  19. Is this Soko singing Robyn’s “Call Your Girlfriend” on Spotify?
  20. No, but it’s a cool acoustic version by Allison Weiss.
  21. Bake your casserole for 30-35 minutes, let cool for about 10, and then enjoy!

Peanut Butter Pumpkin Pie Cookies

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup oats
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • pumpkin pie spice, as much as your little heart desires
  • a teensy bit of salt
  • the rest of the pumpkin puree
  • 1 cage-free, free-range brown egg (I swear, chicks who are treated better make tastier babies)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • peanut butter chips

Directions

  1. Beat the sugar and butter together in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Tweet about #pumpkinbasedcrime, and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  3. Combine flour, oats, pumpkin pie spice, and salt in another bowl. (And add brewer’s yeast if you’re still trying to produce breastmilk. All cookies = lactation cookies.)
  4. Add pumpkin, egg, and vanilla to the sugar-butter mixture, and gradually stir in the dry mix.
  5. Ideally, you’d now let it sit in the refrigerator overnight.
  6. I didn’t do that.
  7. Add peanut butter chips, and roll gooey mixture into balls (if you can – you really should’ve waited the night. Patience is a virtue. Did you really need cookies tonight?)
  8. (Of course you did.)
  9. Bake for 15-18 minutes.
  10. Let them cool.
  11. I said let them cool!
  12. Enjoyyyyyy!

Not his fault (entirely).

Everyone has a story.

When I first started considering the new job at Polaris, I spent hours and days and weeks learning about the organization, its history, its mission, and its values. One of the organizational values is non-violence and respect, which seems pretty straightforward and self-explanatory. But when I read the description, it really struck a chord with me.

Here’s the detailed explanation from the website:

Polaris strives to encourage the practice of non-violence among our staff and volunteers, not only because we believe it is right, but also because we believe it is most effective. The practice of non-violence requires us to first ask how we can be better or help others be better, rather than destructively criticize or support the disempowerment of others or other organizations. It is the ethic that helps protect movements from destructive internal politics and in-fighting, while encouraging self-improvement as organizations, and mutual constructive support and collaboration.

The practice of non-violence reminds us that even those who commit the most heinous acts are human beings, and should be understood and cared about even as their behaviors are condemned and their ability to cause further suffering is curtailed. Humanization of all parties leads to a more realistic understanding of the motivations and experiences underlying the behaviors, and facilitates more effective and comprehensive solutions.

Non-violence as a personal practice among staff and volunteers helps transform the self-defensive reaction to being attacked or criticized into an attitude of love, appreciation, and groundedness. This practice supports growth and openness and helps protect against the risk of burn-out.

The most important part of this value of nonviolence/respect, I think, is that it serves to remind us that we’re all human. Even those who commit the most heinous acts. Even people who enslave and traffic others. Even people who abuse, rape, and kill.

The Ray Rices and the Chris Browns and even the Peter Bronkemas of the world have their stories, too.

I think it’s necessary to follow up my last post, as it was originally written about a year ago, with a more thoughtful look at the situation, not just from the perspective of a domestic violence survivor but as a fellow human being.

I’ll start by saying that I don’t blame myself for the abuse. I don’t believe in victim-blaming, but I also think that demonizing someone isn’t an effective way to understand their motives and the causes of their actions and thereby fix greater problems like the worldwide epidemic of violence against women.

Because it is an epidemic. You can blame the individual only so much before you recognize that misogyny is ingrained in and reinforced by our culture — and by cultures across the globe.

I don’t mean to say that individuals shouldn’t be held responsible for their actions, but I think we need to look harder at the ways that we’re holding people accountable and we need to do more about the systemic problems that cause people to behave the way that they do, particularly when the behavior is aggressive or violent. We need to look more closely at cultural problems like racism and sexism. We need to consider mental illness, and we need to consider addiction. We need to remember that mental illness and addiction are sicknesses and not shameful personality traits. We need to think about the way we treat both sicknesses and the accessibility of those treatments.

So, here we’ve got these guys, and they objectify women, and they seek to control women, and they abuse women. What do we do about it? Sometimes we strike back; that’s never a good idea. Sometimes we send them to jail, but “prison magnifies these kinds of sexist attitudes and can intensify acts of gendered violence.”

We need to tackle the problem at its core. We need to fix the culture. Where to begin? One idea is to crack down on gender-segregated settings like football teams and fraternities in which misogynistic beliefs are tolerated and reinforced.

My ex was hazed in his college fraternity. When I first met him, he would regularly recite chants from his fraternity days. Usually — well, always — it was completely out of context and totally confusing. It was like he’d been reprogrammed or brainwashed.

Add his addiction to the mix, and you had a recipe for disaster.

Here’s this guy who had no control – his brain was wired to make him feel dependent upon alcohol; he had misogynistic views drilled into him; even after multiple arrests and car accidents, he couldn’t stop drinking; even after multiple failed relationships, he couldn’t stop abusing the women he loved. And suddenly it’s not “What a terrible, cruel, abusive monster.” Suddenly he’s not just the villain; he’s a victim himself.

It’s not easy to remember to humanize people who commit cruelty. If all the problems in the world were black and white – villain vs. hero(ine) – we could just lock up the bad guys and wash our hands clean. Identifying the cultural, social, and systemic factors driving some people to behave violently is essential to tackling the problem at its core…and it requires a lot more work.