another reminder

all last year, i freaked out about the whole "my kid is in high school!" thing. the idea that henry is almost out the door and on his way into adulthood - and into the years when he doesn't need us and won't be around - doesn't exactly fill me with glee. but for the most part, his freshman year looked a whole lot like middle school: same friends, same swim teams, same interests, no major changes.

then his sophomore year arrived.


and with it, hours a day spent on homework (i mean, pre-calculus? who is this child??) drastically increased, making time to let him drive the car became a thing, and ... then there was a girl.

it started with:


him: is it okay if i go to homecoming?

me: game or dance?

him: dance.

me: of course. why wouldn't it be okay?

him: well ... wouldn't i have to get a suit or something?

me: are you thinking of taking a girl?

him: ... maybe.


and then he DID ask the girl. and she said yes. and then he asked her out for a date before the dance to make sure they were comfortable together. and then they decided to label themselves a "couple".

this is so, so new. and different.

but she's an adorable girl, and they seem to really get along well. and the dance came, and with it plans to hang out with friends before and after, and they had a great time (from what i hear).














these are great kids. and i know they will have great times in the next three years. and it's fun to see them becoming young adults ... especially the ones i've known since they were in first grade.


but it's all just another reminder that they are growing up. and it's fun to watch.

but it also kinda hurts.

opening up to the universe


as we get closer to the mid-point of the year, i'm realizing that this has been a hard one on me. i'm exhausted. i feel beat down. depression that i've controlled and kept in its cage for a dozen years has tried desperately to escape and chase me down. i've let go of relationships that do nothing but hurt me, and have tried to be mindful to nurture the ones that build me up. i've also learned to become more vocal about my needs and concerns, and advocate for my own well-being and desires alongside everything i do for everyone else.

now that i am in my 40s and have one child who is getting ready to leave the nest in the next few years, it has started to sink in that i have no idea what is next. 20 years ago, i had it all planned out. super organized, hyper-focused, type-a ... i had a goal and by god i was going to get to it.

and then i didn't.

i can't tell you where i went off the rails, but somehow i started to put the needs of others ahead of my own - my husband's career and ambitions, my kids' schedules, etc. ... everything else seemed to need my attention more urgently than anything i wanted. and suddenly, it's 20 years later, my husband is a success, my kids are great, and i'm left looking at the rest of my life and wondering, "now what?"

it all came to a head a few weeks ago. marc and i were having our typical bi-annual "disagreement", and - bless his heart - he was trying his best to be a help and be supportive. but the problem was, he didn't know what needed to be helped or supported, so i heard his words as patronizing and clueless. which, of course, didn't help anything.

and i heard myself saying the words, "sometimes i just want out."

in all honesty: i don't. i don't want out. i love my husband, i love my kids, and i love my life. however, i am not IN any of it. i am stage crew, in the black shirt, invisible in the dark yet maneuvering all of the ropes and props that makes those on stage look flawless. and i sit there in the darkness, going through the checklist of all the things i do well, and think, "what the hell?? why am i doing nothing with the talents i've been given? i'm in my 40s and have nothing to show for it."

yes, i have a lovely family and a lovely home and i can make a kick-ass pot roast. and if that was all i'd wanted for my life, then that would have been great. but it isn't. i wanted more.

somehow, my subconscious figured it out before i did, and in the middle of sobbing, i confessed to marc, "this isn't who i was supposed to be."

turns out, it's not that i want "out" of my life ... i want "in".

i'm not a 1950s housewife. i never relished the idea of being a stay-home mom, whose day revolved around my children. deep down, i know i am capable of more, and have just never done it out of fear that putting myself first would look bad. or that i might be good at something and would then have to sustain that. my life hasn't been full of successes or praise, so i think i'm genuinely confused by it and scared of it when it happens. so i don't let it happen very often, and don't offer up my best for fear that it will raise expectations that i am bound to dash. and then i'll be right back where i started, only more disappointed.

there are times when i wish i could start over, make different choices, follow a different path. but i can't. instead, i need to find inspiration in fearless women like julia child, who was nearly 40 when she said, "you know what? i'm gonna go to cooking school."

there is a lot of maneuvering that would need to take place in my life in order for me to pursue anything - marc still travels, we still have no family nearby to help out with the kids, henry doesn't yet drive, there is still school and transportation and swimming and meals, et cetera, to work around. and much of that is why i haven't done anything for or with myself. i don't want the kids to get the short end of the stick when there are so few years left with them. i know many families in which both parents work and yet they manage to coordinate the kids' schedules. however, in most cases, either they have family nearby, and/or they are both home in time for activities. if marc is in dallas or san diego or boston, he can't by home by 5:00 to be part of the swimming/meal/homework/bedtime conveyor belt.

which is the wall i beat my head against every time. there are hours in my day when i could do something, but i haven't figured out what to do when that "something" butts up against all of the roadblocks in my way. and in his desire to help, marc suggests, "i'm sure there is something you could do for a few hours a day, something that would reconnect you with adults." but it has nothing to do with being with adults; i don't need to be with adults. truthfully, i don't need to be with people. and i don't want a job for "something to do"; i want something to do with my life. that's different than part-time at starbucks.

or maybe i just learn to let go of the frustration and discontentment, and make peace with the fact that in this lifetime, i didn't get to be what i thought i might be. i'll get to my late 40s and find a hobby instead of a career. play the cards in my hand instead of reshuffling. but then i wind up at the end of my life wondering why i didn't do more with it when i had the chance.

i know where my passions lie, the trick is figuring out what to do with them, and how to get over the hurdle that i have placed in front of myself, the one that says, "if you don't do it the right way then you are a fake, a poseur." i've been so convinced my entire life that action requires education and preparation, but maybe that isn't the case? i read this post today and it screamed at me in the way that only a serendipitous message from the universe can.

i just need to do. where i am, with what a i have.

stop putting off, stop feeling unworthy, stop feeling unprepared.

just DO.

if it's meant to be, a way will show itself, right?

the inertia needs to be replaced by excitement and possibility, and that will all start when i stop being afraid to say, "this is what i want and this is what i need."

i'm an adult; i've earned the right to stand up for myself and make the rest of my life what i want it to be. and i need to take ownership over the skills i have, work hard to teach myself what i need to know better, and put myself out there. because the universe may speak to me, but if i keep it to myself, then i have only myself to blame.



so ... did you all know that easter is this weekend? am i the last person to be aware of this?

just checking.

in other news: i shall be taking harper shopping for nice shoes this week.

carry on.

palette cleanser

it's been the year month week from hell, and thankfully it's now friday.

yesterday, i played complete hooky. i was so over all of the stress and heartache and major things going down in our world that i just hit the snooze button on life for the day. once the kids were fed and on their way to school, i made myself some breakfast and settled into the couch to watch tv ("designing women" - god, i loved julia sugarbaker - and, did you know bobby flay has a show all about brunch?! i'm all over that.), then headed upstairs for a bubble bath. after that, marc had some free time, so we headed to edina, where we had a delightful lunch at barrio, then i dragged him through anthropologie and paper source. birthday credits that expire next week were burning a hole in my pocket, and there never seems to be enough time to run out and shop just for fun. an hour later, i had a kitchen towel, candle, recipe box, spoon rest, and birthday gift for my mom, and a smile on my face.

we got home, harper got home, she started her homework and i started a little nap. when i woke up, she was still doing homework, and immediately launched into the What's Wrong With Harper Today? game. Tired of dealing with it still, i called the doctor, got her an appointment, and dragged her into the pediatrician's office to run yet another test and either a) find something we can fix, or b) call her bluff. as with the previous two visits in the past two weeks, she's 100% fine and healthy. just, apparently, batshit crazy. (we've also been to the therapist twice, chiro twice, talked to her teacher numerous times, she's been out of school for a day, i've driven her to/from school nearly every day and dealt with the sobbing fit and clinging as i try to extricate myself and shove her into the school before the bell rings. and from what she says, there is nothing at school that is bothering her. her teacher says she's happy and fine once she gets to class. it's just for me, this little routine. i feel so friggin' blessed.)

so, finding her healthy - still, we popped into a quick dinner (she ate a bowl of edamame. seriously. on top of everything else she's putting us through, she's also on a hunger strike.), headed home, and it was bedtime. amazingly enough, she seemed to go to bed without incident for the first time in weeks ... we talked, we snuggled, i read her a chapter of "little women." it was good, and i felt optimistic. until she came downstairs with new things to complain about an hour later.

ooooooooohhhhhhhhmmmmmmm ...

regardless, it was a lovely day. much needed.

this morning started, again, with her complaints. and it's friday. and i have things to do this afternoon. but to center myself and calm my nerves, i've been pinning and drinking coffee. finding my bliss, so to speak.

here's what's blissful right now ...










it's becoming apparent to me that i'm craving a more spare, black/white/neutral palette. time to get the christmas stuff put away strip down to the bones of our rooms and edit a bit. these winter/life blues need to get shaken out so we can all find more calm and peace. it's a necessity at this point.


it's a new year, in more ways than one.

yes, the calendar rolled over. but beyond that, my personal calendar rolled over (41, thankyouverymuch), my mindset rolled over, things in our household have been rolling and tumbling and trying to figure out where to click into place.

as with every year, i started january 1st with the best of best intentions: i made my planner, wrote down my list of things that needed to get done, wrote down my list of things i wanted to get done, made a menu plan and a grocery list, filled out the calendar with all of the swimming dates and times, appointment dates and times, marc's travel schedule, etc.

and then it all went to hell.


we're 13 days into the new year, and pfft. just like that.

i'm not going to go into detail, but suffice it to say we're dealing with some major stress in our house right now, and it has gotten me off my game completely. the schedule is gone, all of the planning was for nothing, my mood sucks, i'm turning to ben & jerry for comfort when i had planned very carefully to have time for exercise and clean food.

but you know what? a whisper in the back of my mind reminded of the philosophy that i would tell clients when they wanted to book a photo session, then stressed over their coordinated outfifts and perfect location. i would say, "this is real life. come as you are. i just want to see YOU! and how YOU are together."

and then i realize: i'm not 29 anymore. i have wrinkles on my forehead and am no longer a size 8. there are days when i literally want to run away. my husband is no longer muscled and fine, and has become a voice of criticism when what i really need is appreciation and patience. my daughter is a handful of stress and anxiety and frustration. (and also joy and laughter and love. but right now? the other stuff.) my son ... well, he's actually doing well. except he's going to be gone in three and a half years and that is too hard for me to accept most days.

there are all these things that could push me over the edge and depress me daily. instead? i need to remember: this is real life. this is US. this is who we are right now, in this moment.

we had made tentative plans last fall to head to southern california for spring break this year. i didn't care where we went or what we planned; my only requirement was: family photos with tara whitney. she just GETS people, and i want that. need that. we haven't had family photos taken since henry was three, and that was just a posed portrait in a studio. as much of an advocate as i am for getting the photos and being in them, i have failed my own family. so: california. tara. and i thought, i have seven months to get in shape, look better. if we're going to finally do this, i want to look like ME again.

except? i've done nothing toward that goal. life has been way too intrusive, and i've been way too tired. but also? i do look like me. maybe not the me in my memory, but the me who i am right now. and i need to learn to love her again.

on my birthday, i had more than 100 well-wishes and beautiful messages on facebook from dear friends who took time out of their day to send me a message. and i realized, i am loved. no matter how i am feeling or how hard days can be, or how long i can go without actually seeing friends in person and being present in our friendship, i am loved. and it isn't because i'm a size 8 or have a successful career or perfect children. it's because of my flaws. they make me who i am. and the trick is to remember that no one is perfect, and we love each other because of those imperfections, not in spite of them. they are the things that make us real to each other, and real in our friendships.

and then i was thinking of our family photos and remembered something i had seen on tara's blog awhile back. something that spoke so loudly to me:

Well your body shows up every day, every breath and tries. Really hard.
Despite donuts, pop, chips, coffee or pie.
It shows up and puts out effort for you.
And if after every heartbeat, step, every breath, and grocery bag lifted, you have the nerve to say
“Why aren’t you thinner, or rounder or longer, or lusher, or more radiant?” then I think you need to take a long look at the way you treat the best friend you have, your body.
Your legs are shorter than a supermodel? But they carry you?
You have 50 bones in your feet, paint those toes!
You have hips that sway and a belly that houses the mechanical miracles that ensure that the odd carrot or glass of milk turns into what you need to keep going.
Give your lungs a walk in the air.
Give your hair a shake.
Stop being a bitch to your best, best, only best friend.
Be grateful, be mindful, show some friendship to your parts of your partner.
It is not your body’s responsibility to decorate the world for the gaze of others. It is not a guarantee of love or an advertisement of your worth.
You are not your ass, your hair or your dress size
Take care what you put in it, where you run it or walk it, and treat it with the love you’d give to a helpless baby.
No one else is going to do it if you don’t.

-The Speech From The Crone


i mean, really. right?

and extrapolating more deeply: we are not our current situation. we are not the stress in our home. we are not the frustrations and ugly cry and ben & jerry's and swearing and hiding away. we give and give and give, and sometimes good things come back. sometimes not. and that's life. but it's LIFE. there will always be bad and ugly and stressful and sad. but there is also joy and beauty and laughter. and that's what gets us through the other stuff. so we need to embrace it.

i need to embrace the current environment, because right now it needs an embrace. it needs to be told that it will all be okay. and even if it isn't okay, that's okay, too. i need to look at myself in the mirror not with a critical and disappointed eye, but an eye that says, "who cares. you are healthy and smart and loved and who the fuck cares if you are no longer built like an athlete? that only matters to YOU. no one else cares."

and if life isn't run like a neat checklist, with schedules and plans and tick marks beside all of the things i accomplished in a 12-hour period, then so be it.

life is dynamic. we have to roll with it, not contain and control it. embrace it rather than smother it. "it is what it is" may be a philosphy, but so is "peace."

2015: the 'to do' list

lately, i've been preoccupied with the "have to" items ahead of me, and it occurred to me that if i look at everything as a "have to" i will get overwhelmed and throw in the towel because i feel like i can't get it all done in the manner and/or timeframe in which i want them done.

i've begun to jot down rough drafts of the sort of daily/weekly/monthly planner that would make all of those lists bite-sized and therefor less intimidating and overwhelming. i'm just about ready to make the pages i need and print it out and get going.


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during the process, though, i've realized that a) i miss writing things down in a planner that i can flip through and organize and change ... i'm just not a "gadget" girl; and b) i need to see both the big picture as well as smaller lists that feel doable; the have to and need to and want to items.

back in the day (college) i was attached to my day planner like it was my lifeblood. in fact, it kind of was. keeping track of school work, work schedule, deadlines for the school paper, activities, volunteer hours, etc., was mandatory. i had a large month-by-month calendar on my desk for further out deadlines (the "big picture"), but i also had my book-sized day planner that didn't leave my side. it included multi-color highlighters for different things, multi-colored sticky notes, and every last bit of information i could possibly need at a moment's notice. i was hyper-organized.


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marc mocked me a bit for it, but i didn't care. i needed that book like it was crack.

after graduation, my planner became much lighter. while i needed to keep track of work and life things and wedding planning, i no longer had all of the class and social commitments. and five months later, when we were married and moved to minnesota, i had literally nothing to write down. i got out of the habit of needing my organizer. i moved from an extrovert, super Type A person to a much less organized, much less harried, much more "relaxed" personality. marc's laid-back nature began to rub off on me once we started living together, i didn't find a permanent job right away in minneapolis so i had less to schedule, and we had no friends or family with whom to make plans. i tucked myself into our apartment and went days without any real need for a plan.

that became a bad habit. even when i did start working, my heart wasn't in it. i no longer felt the drive i had felt only a year before. all of my big ambition and plans went out the window, and i became - literally - a shadow of who i had been and who i thought i would be.

we bought an old fixer upper in a downtown neighborhood and i briefly became Motivation Girl again, but then was surprised with a pregnancy that kept me sick and tired most days. after that, motherhood, choosing to stay home, post-partum depression ... i became a shadow again.

now, i'm no longer a shadow, but rather a blur. the calendar is once again full of things, but they are things like the kids' swimming schedule, marc's travel schedule, people needing to come to the house to fix something or install something or have access to something, and i am the one trafficking it all. so while the need for organization has come back to the forefront, my own personal ambition still has not.

but that changes this year. this year? i To Do like a mothereffer. and to be solid with that? i need a planner.


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i'm ready. i'm psyched. i'm pumped. in fact, i'm a One Little Word flunky, but this year?




that's my word. i'm going to put it where i can see it daily. i'm going to live and breathe it. 2015 is going to be the leanest, meanest, most streamlined and efficient year yet. and i have to think that all of that lean, mean efficiency will remind me of who i am and who i was meant to be.

i'm still here.

more in spirit than physically, but hopefully that will change in '14.

i'm applying that "change" idea everywhere this year. let's don't call it a resolution, but more of a proclamation: i'm making changes.

photography? gone. done. i can't compete in this shoot-and-burn overgrowth of Moms With Cameras, who do a "shoot" and give every photo (200? 300?) to the "client" for $50. i'm sorry, sweetie, but if you have such little respect for your own time, you don't deserve to call yourself a photographer. but still ... it has killed my business and killed the enjoyment i once got from it. and really? in the past year? the vast majority of photos i took of my own kids were on my phone. that's crazy. but it just shows how burnt out and bitter i've become, and i say "no more." i want to enjoy shooting again, so i'm taking the stress out of it.

my health? a priority this year. it has to be. i turned 40 (there. i said it.) and realized that all those people and magazine articles that have stated it all gets harder after 40? they were talking to me. i'm now officially in the "it's harder now" zone, and that doesn't sit well with me. so in response to both that and the nomophoto thing, i am converting my studio/office into an excercise room. we purchased an elliptical, and right now are in the process of finishing the crafty room (it's taken only 29 months ...), which will allow us to deconstruct the studio/office, which will allow us to utilize that room for fitness. marc bought a tv for the room, we're moving a shelf in there to hold work-out dvds and equipment, and this is going to happen. it is.

and on that note, i'm getting back into the swing of cooking. things have been far too busy, and i miss cooking far too much. right now, we have a five-week lull between swim seasons, so i'm going to use this time to get it together and  get back into the kitchen. i'm looking forward to it, and have been scanning pinterest and reading through clean eating mag to make a list of all the things i want to make. the hard part will be combining the clean eating i want to do with the caloric and protein/carb needs of a swimming teenager, with the picky palate of my youngest, with the "every meal needs to have meat and a double starch" mindset of my husband. i refuse to make more than one meal at a time, so either they are going to have to adapt or i'm going to have to get creative.

i've found another health outlet that is taking the place of the photography income, as well: i signed up to be a distributor for young living oils. over the past year, i've been seeing several friends post on facebook about how amazing these oils are. i did nothing more than glance over each update. at one point, though, i saw a testimonial from one of them a migraine blend, and i became intrigued. marc had been suffering with a return to migrainland, and we were at the point that he was willing to try anything. so i ordered a bottle of m-grain a couple of months ago. while sitting at one of henry's meets, marc felt a migraine coming on. i asked if he brought the oil and he said he had. he rubbed a drop on each temple, and a drop on the back of his neck/base of his skull. half an hour later, i asked him how he was feeling, and he said, surprised, "the migraine never actually hit." it was astounding. after that, i looked into the oils in earnest. i had also been growing increasingly skeptical and fed up with the whole big pharma/big insurance scheme to take our money. when every medication advertised comes with a list of side effects longer and more horrible than what the medication is treating, that's ridiculous. remedies should not hurt; they should help. so i went into research mode and eventually came to the conclusion that the oils were worth a shot. i ordered a few, and was so happy with what they did that i ordered the starter kit. the whole family was sold, and everyone i talked to about them was curious, so i jumped into the business side. it wasn't my intention, but by god if i can help my friends and loved ones, i'm going to. and i firmly believe these oils can do that. in the past six weeks? they have cleared up a candida-related toenail fungus that i've battled for years, and have reduced the candida flare-ups i get each month when my progesterone levels spike; they have warded off colds in all of us, and have reduced the severity of the one cold harper managed to almost catch; they have cleared up a molluscum outbreak in henry's armpit in a matter of weeks - not the "months" that others have gone through, and without the expense of meds that don't work or the pain of having the molluscum cut off; they have removed a plantar wart on harper's foot; they helped marc get a good night's sleep, after weeks of being on the road stripped him of the ability to rest and stay asleep; they have curbed my snoring (oh, the joys of getting older: snoring.), and that's just a sampling. next on the list: weight loss. several people in the distributor group have lost anywhere from 10 to more than 40 pounds using oils. i'm in for that, man.

(and i truly suck at sales so maybe this isn't the best route for me to go, but i believe in these oils and that it's worth it to try. if you want more info or are curious if there's an oil for something, let me know. i'll do the research and help you out.)


moving down the list of proclamations: craftiness? with the repurposing of the office for exercise, it has become necessary to finish the craft room. and i'm excited. i can't wait to start pushing paper around again and getting our stories and memories down on paper. one of the biggest hurdles over the past ... man ... six years? is that my printer became a thorn in my side, and it wasn't a priority to figure out why, so i haven't had a printer for photos or words since then. and i just stopped; i walked away. but that ends now, i will get back to the crafty, and harper will have her own space to create her own art. we're both happy.

these are simple proclamations, and seem totally doable. up until this week? it seemed less doable. things were crazy.

high school swimming season finished, with two meets per week. henry earned a spot on the true team sectional team (only the top four swimmers in each event from each school, and he swam both individual events and relays), which actually won their sectional for the first time in years, so he was then on the true team STATE team that competed at the U ...

and he also earned a spot on the varsity sectional team that swam last week at the end of the regular season. he qualified in the 100 backstroke, and came in 23rd out of 28 high school boys in the section. he was the only 8th grader on the team who made it. so that was exciting.

also exciting? he turned 14. he blows us away with how amazing he is. recently? he took the ACT explorer ... an assessment ACT to see where he stacks up to other 8th graders in the nation ... and he scored in the 100th percentile. seriously. where did he come from?! the aptitude section also confirmed that his career goals are on the right track - he wants to work in astronomy or statistics, and scored high in aptitude for both (physical science/physics, and statistics).


which was lucky for us, because we rocked our little budding astronomer's world at present time:


IMG 6261 from michele skinner on Vimeo.

luckiest kid in the world, i tell you. totally spoiled, but not a spoiled bone in his body.

not to be left out, harper has also been around.

she continues to do a great job with piano. we've found, though, that it's best to leave her alone and just let her work through her practice pieces. the minute one of us tries to get involved and help, it becomes a battle and she freaks out. and that's the end. so we tell her to practice, and she does.

key to harper: leave her alone.


she is also taking an art class after school through a program called young rembrandts. it isn't your typical after school doodle-and-craft art class; it is technique-based and is teaching her how to really see what she's drawing, and draw what she sees. the work she's brought home is amazing, and she absolutely loves it.

we did get her to leave the house last weekend and attend the father-daughter dance at school. she knew her best friend was going, so she also wanted to go. but she didn't want a new dress ... in her words?  "i just like simple." works for me. (we did, however, buy her new shoes. from the women's department at target. size 6. what??) and she didn't want to have dinner or do anything like that. she just wanted to go.




and then an hour and a half later? they were back. she was done.

and she ran upstairs, put on her jammies, and climbed into a chair to watch her brother play on the computer.

and that's harper in a nutshell.

she will really benefit from the less crazy schedule we have for the next month, and i'm hoping all of the extra time and the intentions of getting into a better routine will be good for her and her anxiety, which is good for all of us in return.

so, that's where we stand. i am still here. and hopefully will have more interesting things to talk about soon.


so you know how a) the muppets and b) steve martin are two of my favorite things in the history of ever?

i saw this the other day, and it made me smile big-like:

and it reminded me of the first time i saw - and decided i loved - steve martin:


in the intervening 30-odd years, i've fan girled him every step of the way, through his work in movies and writing and playing the banjo.

(that's not creepy at all, right?)

when he started to tour with the steep canyon rangers a number of years ago, i wanted desperately to go to the concert because i thought, "here's my chance to see him live!" but the date they were in minneapolis didn't work out for me, and i was seriously bummed. when i heard he was coming again this past summer, i immediately called my concert buddy, sue, and said, "yes?" she said, "yes," and it was on.

and i was so happy.

i think the reason i loved steve at three is because of the banjo. it was a sound that was always in my house. my biological dad played (plays), and it was totally normal to see him plugged into the stereo, headphones on, playing along with some bluegrass album. to hear the banjo on the muppets, well, it was like comfort food. it was familiar. and so i snagged on to steve martin.

after my parents divorced and visits with my dad became less and less, hearing the banjo was still a constant during the time i was there. and it was a comfort to know that even though there were 360+ days a year i didn't get to know my dad, that part was always the same.

regardless of my limited exposure, i fell in love with the sound. i'm oddly compelled toward bluegrass, even though my preference is for indie and alternative and folk. but when bands like mumford & sons and trampled by turtles and the avett brothers and the lumineers and the civil wars, et al, became well-known - and even popular - using the banjo, suddenly my affinity for it seemed, well, acceptable.

and maybe even cool. did you see this go around? of course you did.

(on that note: dear santa, could you please put jason bateman under the tree for me? i know i've asked before ... since the 80s ... so don't you think it's time? thanks so much.)

anyway, i couldn't wait for the concert. to see steve - LIVE - in person!! and, on top of that, now he's touring with not only the steep canyon rangers but also edie brickell?! who is amazing?? and is married to paul simon??? stop it. i was over the moon.

and then the night of the concert arrived. sue and i had a fancy little dinner at restaurant alma, then headed to the theater. and i was just zingy with excitement. then the lights went down. and it started. and there was steve.


and the show flew because it was so amazing. and wonderful. (and yes ... our seats were crap.)

strangely enough, while steve - and edie - were fantastic and everything i thought they would be, i found myself absolutely in awe of the steep canyon rangers. their talent is transcendent. and their fiddler? astonishing. absolutely. he's so kinetic when he plays that he nearly levitates. it was ... astonishing. that was my only word for it. i even told him so, after the concert, when i found him inexplicably working the goody booth.


see for yourself:

(obviously, their seats were crap, too, but you can almost make out the fiddler's crazy legs on the left side of the stage.)

see? astonishing.

and on the way home, i got to thinking about how i wish i could play something. i didn't grow up around my dad, so i never got to do the whole "my dad taught me to play" thing that other kids have. i'm sorry about that. doubt it will happen now. but i would love to learn to play the guitar. when i think about what music i would put on and zone out with, i come up with paul simon ... and brandi carlile ... and the lumineers ... and joshua radin ... and cat stevens ... and so on. the guitar is calling me.

after seeing the concert, i started to talk to my friend tina, who sings, about this need i have to play something. she is currently part of a band of 40somethings who get together to jam and just enjoy themselves, and she agreed that she's always felt the same way about learning an instrument. now we're floating the idea of taking guitar lessons together, and i am swearing right now to make it my mission - my birthday present to myself - to start after the holidays. every time i put on a cd by someone who inspires me, i wish i could do as my dad does: grab my guitar, sit on the couch, and play along.

i felt it, on some level, at three. and i still feel it today. there's a part of me that feels completely untapped, and i'm gonna tap it. and seeing steve may have pushed me over the edge.

so thanks, ramblin' man.

sooo ... THAT didn't go as planned

remember how i got all excited about fall? i was going to Get Stuff Done? couldn't wait?

yeaaaahhhhh ...

we DID get the gallery wall up in the great room. still need to shoot pix of that. (i KNOW, jen.) however, right now there is too much glare. why, you ask? because i was going to finally get around to having the curtains hemmed (oh. we also finally put up curtains.), but wanted to have them cleaned first since the bottom 7" were covered with mario fur. but when i took them to the cleaner, they had a bad reaction to the dry cleaning and turned yellow.

how does white linen turn yellow when cleaned?? why did linen have to be dry cleaned in the first place?! but it did. so i called the manufacturer, they are sending us replacements, THEN i'll get them hemmed, THEN i'll take pix of the gallery wall.

however, once the gallery wall was done and i was ready to move on to other fallish things, i got busy with this:

and this:

and this and this and this (parts 1 and 2):

and suddenly, it's the last week of october, and i've done nothing but edit photos for a month. and go to st augustine, florida for a weekend for one of my oldest and dearest friend's 40th birthday slumber party ...

and marc and harper were in indy for a weekend for his dad's 70th birthday ... and henry had a swim meet and a science project ... and marc traveled ... and henry got bronchitis then a double ear infection then gave it to me ... and marc's parents stopped by for 36 hours on their way from denver to chicago ... and literally nine hours later, his sister and her family stopped by for about two hours on their way to a conference ... and our neighbors had a halloween party, wherein marc dressed as a skeevy girls' basketball coach and i was a knocked-up player ...

and this week, marc's gone a night, then he turns 40 has a birthday, then halloween. and maybe we'll carve the pumpkins we bought two weeks ago, when we combined Hit The Orchard with Celebrate Our Anniversary. (17th = Year of the Apple Cider Mini-Donut, FYI.)

(yes, my children are that tall. yes, henry is this close to the 6' mark.)

so perhaps i shall Get Stuff Done in November.

then again, maybe i should stop assuming i will ever get anything done. that seems safer.


it used to be july.

just this morning i realized i hadn't uploaded pictures from my memory card since the beginning of july. and, in that month, i took less than 100 photos altogether.

bad bad bad bad bad.

however, july was a really strange month. i've been dealing with a lot of heaviness - lots of emotions, lots of feelings being worked through, lots of learning to accept what is and let go of what will never be. lots of saying, "it is what it is," and lots of deciding that i'm done with things that make me mad and sad and frustrated and don't make me feel good or heard or happy. i've made big decisions - some are decisions people won't like. but you know what? i'm flippin' 39 years old. i'm tired of making decisions out of fear or worry that it won't make others happy with me. like me, don't, stay, leave. whatever. i no longer care.

(and this has been a running theme all summer. sorry if i keep beating a dead horse. it's been a long, hard, draining summer, emotionally-speaking.)

all that to say, i haven't downloaded a picture from my camera since july 4th.

which is too bad, because july 4th was pretty awesome.

last year, we opted to stay home for the 4th and experience fireworks from the air conditioned, non-mosquito-y bliss that is Home. and this year, when i asked the kids if they wanted to head to the casino or the lake for fireworks this year, they both said no.

so we stayed home.

and we made homemade ice cream.

and we played settlers of cattan.

we went outside to set off our small stash of fireworks.

but the mosquitos became so frenzied with blood lust that we called it and ran inside, heading upstairs to wait for real fireworks to begin.

i wandered back and forth between our bedroom and the loft. soon things started up to the south, over the lake. some were fired off by people on the lake, but others were from neighboring towns.

and then the kids yelled from the loft that multiple things were happening to the north.

in all, we saw a dozen different fireworks shows. but the best were from mystic lake ... a mile to the north, and we had front row (climate controlled, bug-free) seats.

it was super amazing, and we all agreed that nothing beats july fourth from our own home.

the rest of july flew by after that. henry finished his swim season ... which he actually participated in very little, given how busy june was. he missed the majority of the summer meets, and qualified for only three events in the long course finals. but he did a good job, and has been happy to have august off to focus on cross fit and hanging out.

harper finally got to have some time with her "best best friend," and they spent it all outside picking flowers and running around.

the native grass/wildflower part of our backyard finally took off this summer and looked beautiful. full of all sorts of frogs and butterflies and dragonflies and color.

which of course means the city didn't like it and we were told we had two weeks to mow it down and replace it with sod. so all the flowers are now gone, and we're waiting for the landscapers and irrigation guys to come scrape it down, put in new sprinkler heads, and sod, to the tune of about $4500 for something that was okayed two years ago.


it is what it is.

seriously ... that might be my next tattoo.

but that was july for you. highs and lows. glad it went quickly. hopefully august will be kind. so far the weather has been wonderful and we've been productive. though we're still waiting on the landscapers and the irrigations guys to show up.

maybe i'll have more to tell you in september. why break the "once a month blogging" streak now, right?