Thing 20: Vote Democratic

I’ve heard the Internet is a great place to discuss politics, so pull up a seat while I pitch in my two cents.

I’m a white lady from an upper middle class home in the tightest notch of the Bible belt. I have voted for the Republican candidate in all both elections I’ve been eligible.

(Basically this means I’ve never voted for Barack Obama which makes sad because now I’m in love with the First Family).

So what happened?

Well, I saw some really passionate Facebook posts and changed my mind.

False.

I’ve lived a little more and I’ve seen a little more and I’ve tried to listen a lot more. These are my experiences. They aren’t right or wrong or even up for debate. These are true stories that have changed the way I feel about two issues fundamental to a candidate’s view.

A wall is not the answer.

A student sat at her desk with her forehead buried in her arms. She hadn’t moved all morning. I assumed she just needed some space. Perhaps she woke up too early or maybe wasn’t feeling well. In the hustle of morning routine, I let her be. I assumed she would work through whatever was bothering her or come talk to me when she was ready. When it was time for PE, she still hadn’t moved. I sent the rest of the class on and stayed behind with her. I sat down next to her and began rubbing her back. smoothing her jet black hair off of her face. She finally looked up at me with wet brown eyes and said, “They took my dad.” I pulled her close and not knowing what else to do, I began to pray for her aloud. I knew that those actions could get me in trouble, but I also knew that comforting this girl was worth the punishment. It took some investigating but I found out that her father had in fact been deported the night before.

It’s easy to point fingers and say Mexicans are taking our jobs and breaking the laws and should be punished immediately. Because that’s true: her dad was breaking the law. He came to the US illegally and was working illegally. Under the law, that should be punished. But he made these decisions to better provide for his family. He had three children in elementary school.

Here’s what else I know: if I needed to break a law to give my son an infinitely better life, I wouldn’t hesitate.

Build a wall if you have to. But there are people on the other side of it. People Christ has commanded us to love. They are literally our Neighbor. No asterisk. No footnote. No buts. No room for interpretation. Love Your Neighbor. I don’t know what the solution is, but I know it isn’t a wall.

Gun control and the Second Amendment can coexist.

I come from a family of hunters. I grew up around guns. There was (and I’m pretty sure still is) a gun cabinet in my parent’s basement. I don’t think this small arsenal ever made me feel either unsafe or protected growing up. It was just there. My parents were always very clear: If I want to touch the guns, just ask. I was never interested because the fact that I could touch them if I asked made them boring. They might as well have been my grandma’s china boxed away in the pantry. They were there and they weren’t to be played with and that was the end of it. Those guns were for hunting and protection while hunting.

Fast forward to January 2013, three months after the attacks on Sandy Hook Elementary.

I’m getting ready to lead 24 nine and ten year olds in a fantastic writing lesson. I am pretty pumped about it. Then we heard the principal’s voice over the speaker: Mr. Red is in the building.

“Mr. Red” was the code name for lockdown, so as not to scare the children.

My class huddled in the corner of the room farthest from the windows and away from the door. They sat cross-legged and silent, looking to me for comfort. I craned my neck and stretched my eyes, trying to bend my vision around the window of the door and get a sense of what was happening inside the main building. I couldn’t see anything except the trees and the darkened windows of the second grade hallway across the lawn. I pulled paper over the window and sealed it with masking tape.

I smiled at my students remembering the goal for all this: don’t scare the children. I didn’t know of a drill scheduled for the day (the fact that schools have drills for active shooter situations is absurd enough). I checked my inbox, even though we had been specifically instructed to keep all electronics off so their lights didn’t give away our location. No new messages. I texted my friend who taught kindergarten and whose classroom windows opened to the front of the building.

–What’s going on?

–Lots of police cars.

And then nothing. This wasn’t a drill. Mr. Red was in the building.

Enough time had passed my students started coming to the same conclusion. A group of girls wrapped their arms around each other and their whispered prayers rose up from the their circle. Several boys stared at their sneakers. Their tears wouldn’t stay in their eyes. Another had a book open but I knew he wasn’t reading.

I opened a cabinet door, signaling to the kids that I was preparing for our next lesson. Among the reams of construction paper and glue sticks, there was a basket full of rounded edge scissors, some spray adhesive, and a small hammer I had used to hang up wall decorations at the beginning of the school year. With enough force, the hammer could probably stop an active shooter. I slid it off the shelf and snuck it to the book case closest to the door, hopeful no one saw me. Don’t scare the children.

Half an hour had passed. A few others joined the prayer circle. I almost joined them but sat instead between the door and my huddled students, the hammer within arm’s reach.

A person who believes semi-automatic weapons don’t need more regulation has never quizzed math facts to a room of terrified students in an effort to drown out the sound of sirens. They have never fought to kept their body language in check while assuring crying children everything is okay. They’ve never tried to explain why their classroom is a safe place even though twenty 6 year olds were shot to death in theirs.

I’ve done those things. I never want to again.

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If you’ve not yet voted, here are some quick links on each of the candidate’s views on two issues which have come to be important to me.

Donald Trump on immigration

Hillary Clinton on immigration

Gary Johnson on immigration

Evan McMullin on immigration

Donald Trump on gun control 

Hillary Clinton on gun control

Gary Johnson on gun control  (although this is not from his campaign site and I’m not positive about the bias of this particular site)

Evan McMullin on gun control 

Jill Stein’s platform on all issues

 

Thing 19: Learn how to do makeup like an adult

I’ve done my makeup the same way since I learned that eyeliner isn’t just smudged down mascara and body glitter doesn’t count as a cosmetic.

I’m basically fine with that. I’ve got a husband bagged and don’t feel a need to impress many people. I’d rather spend my time taking a full shower or eating pizza or alphabetizing my canned goods. Really anything. Spending more than a few minutes to leave the house is boring and I’m impatient.

But that’s the thing: I pretty much look the same whether I’m going to church on Sunday morning or a hot date with the aforementioned bagged husband. I can take some self-deprecating mirror selfies all day long, but if I’m actually trying to look nice in a picture, I get sweaty. I’ve been putting off learning how to properly apply makeup because of that same insecurity. If someone is close enough to my face to teach me, she will see my lazy eye, my top lip that disappears when I smile, 15 years of cystic acne scars, an eyebrow without an arch, and a forehead that stretches for days. Then she’ll go to some cool bar with her #eyesbrowsonfleek and tell her friends about the train wreck of a face she helped some poor frazzled mom fix. I don’t need that.

But deep down in my unclogged, makeup free pores, I wanted to learn. I booked an appointment at the beauty bar at Sephora.

Other people have done my makeup three times: sophomore Prom (my face looked like I sort of just rolled it around on the residue of a clown’s makeup counter then called it good), junior Homecoming (similar esthetic but less heavy on the lipstick). The third was my wedding day when, weary of the failed attempts of makeup artists, I asked my mom to do it. She’s always done hers very naturally and looks lovely. I learned a good rule of thumb that day: if someone is going to do my makeup, I should like the way they do their own.

So walking into Sephora, I looked around nervously at each of the artists and hoped the one assigned to me was none of the dudes (obvi) or the girls with fun neon lipsticks or perfectly smokey eyes. I heard someone behind me ask if I was Allyson. My makeup artist had found me, but nothing could have prepared me for what I saw when I turned around. It was Mystique. From X-Men. Mystique was assigned to do my makeup, slicked back red hair, full blue face, black swirlies on the forehead. It was equally amazing and terrifying.

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I looked at this face, which was an average of four inches away from my face, for an hour. At this point, my rule about liking my makeup artist’s makeup sort of went out the window.

I told her my situation and she listened really well and helped me find a few products I could use to create a dressed up face rather than just my regular “I woke up like this” face.

I gave her a goal of finding me some sort of lip color that didn’t make my teeth look yellow (I drink a lot of coffee). She showed me a trick of using a thin layer of blue lip gloss that contrasts with my teeth to make them look brighter. I totally bought it. I bought blue lip gloss from Mystique.

She showed me how to stamp on liquid eyeliner rather than try to draw a straight line. She asked how committed I was to “doing my brows” and when I responded “not very”, she put away three or four products, then came back with one, a tinted gel. Her eyeshadow demo was fantastic and I almost bought a palette, but when I realized it didn’t come with a brush, I opted against it because let’s be real, I couldn’t be buying TWO products I may not use. I wanted to start with a few simple ones (like blue gloss) to see how much I actually cared.

Last Sunday I used a Q-tip to apply a bit of eyeshadow I found in my bathroom and smeared on some “cream lip stain” for church. I felt pretty confident in my efforts. I kissed my son on the cheek as I dropped him off in the nursery and smiled at the lip marks I left behind. Mommy is growing up and everyone just needs to deal with it.

 

Thing 18: Go to the senior center

I took little guy to a community music hour at a retirement home up the street. We had so much fun I almost feel bad about counting it. But I didn’t think it would be fun.

I was afraid if I came here, I’d be washed with guilt. Six hundred miles away, my own grandma sits in an assisted living center much like this one. I visit when I’m in town, but that’s rare. I could call her anytime but I don’t. I don’t know who will answer. It might be my grandma who taught me how to paint and solve crossword puzzles and made me turkey sandwiches with butter, or it might be her shell with no memory of who I am or the hours we’ve spent together decades ago. Selfishly I stare at my phone and choose to not risk my hurt feelings rather than make her day. I wish I chose to call more often. I need to call. It didn’t feel right to visit with old folk strangers when visiting with my own grandma scares me.

I went because I have an adorable son. I knew he would make people smile. And also the 4pm start time fit nicely in that ridiculous time period between nap and dinner that feels like eternity.

I wandered around the halls a bit before I found the right room. As soon as we walked in, a sweet lady in the corner waved us over and hollered that the blonde baby wants to sit by her. Her hair looked to have been recently coifed and her makeup fresh, though her eyebrows seemed drawn with a shaky hand. Her lipsticked smile stretched across her face as we sat down. She reached out her manicured hand, cold and delicate and clenching a tissue. It should have made me wince but it only reminded me of my grandma. I shook her hand and told her my name and Rafe started performing some his adorable baby tricks. She clapped and was more delighted with each move he made. I was glad he was there as a buffer, because I know I was still acting nervous, waiting for the wave of guilt to wash over me. It never did. It felt good to be there. Laughing and playing with other grandmas doesn’t mean I love my grandma less.

(I know that sounds silly, but it was a legitimate fear.)

I’ve heard it said that there is no such thing as other people’s children. So maybe that means there aren’t other people’s grandpas and grandmas either. We can all just take care of each other. It reminds me of one of my favorite lines of poetry: “At the end of the day, we’re all just walking each other home.” Alright so that’s not a line of poetry at all. I thought Anne Lamott wrote that, but Ram Dass did. I have no idea who that is, but my ignorance doesn’t make the sentiment less beautiful.

So we sat in a circle and shook our shakers and sang our songs and listened to the kazoo club perform a few songs from its repertoire. (If you aren’t chuckling, go back and read that again. The senior center has a kazoo club. Amazing.) A man played the spoons like my great grandpa George used to. I heard another man make two separate jokes about condoms within an hour. My friend with the squiggly eyebrows asked three times how much longer this was supposed to last before she grabbed her walker and made a run for it.

The whole afternoon was such a joy. We can’t wait to go back. But first, I need to call my grandma.

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It didn’t feel appropriate to take pictures at the senior center, so here’s one of little guy visiting with grandma. Aren’t they precious?

Thing 17: Prepare The Lamb

Three years ago I read The Supper of the Lamb for the first time. Robert Farrar Capon changed how I see the act of eating.

(Take note of “the act of eating” as opposed to “food.” It was written in 1969 and encourages a ridiculous amount of pasta consumption. We will get to that.)

The book marries my loves of Jesus, wine, and cooking and eating food. If you are into at least two of those things, you definitely should buy it here.

I am trying my best to find the perfect pull quote for you, one that encapsulates the essence of this book. It’s impossible. I would end up quoting the whole thing. So here is my incredibly insufficient, sophomore-level summary of a book I have read multiple times and still don’t quite understand.

When we cook and consume food here on earth, we prepare our tastes and sensibilities for the wedding supper of the Lamb, the day we sit with the Bridegroom and feast and drink the best wine in the history of the world.

Imagine how differently the act of eating becomes when instead of supplying your body with nutritients, you are practicing for heaven.

Really good meals make me cry.

Everything we eat should prepare us for that, including the quality and preparation of our food. Get to know your food. One of the beginning chapters recommends spending two hours with an onion.

I got to know a leg of lamb.

Sprinkled through all this theology, there are recipes (it is a cookbook after all). The flagship of those is Lamb for Eight Persons Four Times. Here’s a good spot for a pull quote:

“Lamb for Eight Persons Four Times is not simply a recipe. It is a way of life. It does indeed produce thirty-two servings from a single leg of lamb, but at the same time, it opens the door to a  school of cooking that has produced some of the greatest dishes in the world.”

This series of recipes teaches the “wholesale and deliberate manufacture of leftovers” to produce four different meals that are each lovely. Meal preppers rejoice!

Plus, I’d never made lamb, so here we go.

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Lamb & Vegetable Stew. I added some of the leftover noodles from my Grandma’s recipe. Capon writes that bread and pasta should be homemade.

All four meals came together without much excitement. I struggled through the process with following directions. The first time I read this book I learned so much about taste testing throughout a cooking process and following my intuition and tongue when adding ingredients and spices. I became quite stubborn.

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Lamb & Spinach casserole with bread. I’m not sure anything is more satisfying than pulling a loaf of freshly baked bread from the oven.

I’ve eaten lamb twice before this. I grew up eating the meat my dad shot and as it turns out, lamb hunting is generally frowned upon. (Rafe and I reminded each other several times throughout these four meals to not think about the meat being lamb or else it became sad.)

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Lamb Fried Rice. I ran out of chopsticks so these are definitely bamboo skewers. Food photography is hard.

I wanted so badly to learn something profound about myself or the world or the symbolism of the Lamb. I tried to keep an open mind. The book has changed so much of my life and I hoped so badly for another revelation of some sort. I’m still mulling the week over and searching for higher truths.

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Lamb & Barley Stew. The flavor here comes primarily from the leg bone, which Atticus happily finished off. So really, there were five meals from one leg of lamb.

As of right now, I am still waiting. Nothing may change and that’s okay. The process of preparing and eating these dishes with good company was enough of a foretaste to keep me satisfied.

I leave you with this, a long excerpt and the greatest toast ever written. You should tell it at parties.

“I wish you well. May your table be graced with lovely women and good men. May you drink well enough to drown the envy of youth in the satisfactions of maturity. May your men wear their weight with pride, secure in the knowledge that they have at least become considerable. May they rejoice that they will never again be mistaken for callow boys. And your women? Ah! Women are like cheese strudels. When first baked, they are crisp and fresh on the outside, but the filling is unsettled and indigestible; in age, the crust may not be so lovely, but the filling comes at last into its own. May you relish them indeed. May we all sit long enough for reserve to give way to ribaldry and for gallantry to grow upon us. May there be singing at our table before the night is done, and old, broad jokes to fling at the stars and tell them we are men. We are great, my friend; we shall not be saved for trampling that greatness under foot. Come then; leap up on these mountains, skip upon these hills and heights of earth. The road to Heaven does not run from the world but through it. The longest Session of all is no discontinuation of these sessions here, but a lifting  of them all by priestly love. It is a place for men, not ghosts—for the risen gorgeousness of the New Earth and for the glorious earthiness of the True Jerusalem. Eat well then. Between our love and His Priesthood, He makes all things new. Our Last Home will be home indeed.”

**An Update:

My higher truth arrived.

I’ve had great experiences with this book before. In preparing the lamb, I was ready for another great experience. So much so that I missed what was happening in front of me. I tried to turn something that was already sacred into something more sacred and in doing so, I lost the sacredness.

Capon says, “Man’s real work is to look at the things of the world and to love them for what they are. That is, after all, what God does, and man was not made in God’s image for nothing.”

The little lamb kept me excellent company through four Sessions and I missed it because I was searching for something more life-changing.

So I guess the lesson I learned here is to not miss what is happening in front of me while I am waiting for something else. My son still doesn’t sleep through the night. I often tell myself how much better things will be when he’s a little older. But now I’m afraid of what I missed in the right now, which is now lost forever to the back then.

It’s okay if you think it’s silly that I am able to come to such conclusions after cooking a bunch of lamb. You’re probably right. But I’m telling you, that’s the beauty of this book.

 

Thing 16: Make Grandma’s noodles

My family makes noodles.

Really, really amazing noodles.

They are the reason I cried the first (and every consecutive) Thanksgiving after moving away. They are the smell of home. They are warm squishy feelings when the world is cold and abrasive.

The chicken noodles have been at every family gathering for generations. Each aunt has her own spin on them, and they are all delicious. As far as I’m concerned, they put green bean casserole out of business. I’m not even sure why they bother with a turkey. Ladled into a mashed potato crater, they are a complete meal, sure to leave you feeling fat and happy for hours after you wake up from your food coma.

I needed to learn how to make my great grandma’s chicken noodles. I needed my son to feel the warmth of slow digestion and love emanating from each hand cut noodle, to know that while I added a little bit of salt, he is mostly tasting his mama’s sweat and tears.

Thursday’s attempt was a massive failure. But look how cute I felt about beginning: I drew a heart in the flour!

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The “egg well in the middle of the flour” method was a no-go.

The dough quickly became too stiff and unworkable. I was determined to make the noodles just has my grandma would have done. But when my KitchenAid with the dough hook gleamed brighter and brighter on the countertop, I threw my hardened ball of blah in and the let the machine do its work. It struggled. I added another egg. I added more flour. I added more water. I added more flour. I let it rest. I couldn’t get my ingredients to a proportion that the dough could agree with. After a few hours, I happily threw the mess in the trash.

I quit relying on my Myers blood and my flawed intuition about how much “looks right.” I called my mom and went straight to the source: our family cookbook.

Friday’s attempt was glorious: the dough came together smooth and warm. It stretched under the pressure of my fists, and then under the rolling pin made by my great grandpa George.

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I cut each noodle how I like, careful to avoid the strained reach of curious little fingers.

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I thought of my great grandma, my great aunts, my mom cooking noodles for the first time trying to earn my dad’s approval (they are his side’s tradition after all), of my cousins watching these strong women work the dough into submission, then cut it with love. I remembered running around my aunts’ homes, and when the family outgrew them, the community center, with my cousins. I remembered eating noodles out of a Solo cup because the adults had already packed up the plates.

I grew up good.

I hadn’t realized how many memories were tied to this ball of flour until I rolled them all out myself. To my Myers kin, I haven’t seen most of you for years, but you’re in my heart and you’re in my blood and I love you.

When my broth came to a nice boil, I watched with wide eyed wonder my concoction of flour, eggs, and milk turn into rustic carb heaven.

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It was 94 degrees. But if you turn the AC down real low and focus on the football, you can sometimes convince yourself that Texas has an autumn.

Watching my husband and my son snarf brought such joy. I’m thrilled to continue this tradition even with a different last name. With any luck, there will be generations of Schaefers eating noodles and running wild, even after the grown ups have told them to quiet down.

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He approves.

Thing 15: Take all the boys’ money

Rafe and I have been watching football together since the first time he conned me into making dinner for him at his dorm in 2007.

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Doing our best to indoctrinate our nephew in April 2009.

I grew up in an NFL house, but when we moved to Austin for law school, the Longhorns quickly became our team and I adopted the NCAA as my league.

 

Together we wear our burnt orange and cheer loud. Together we maybe cried a little when Justin Tucker kicked the field goal against A&M. Together we decided season tickets the last year of law school was a good idea. We ushered Mack out the door. We watched with excited anticipation as Charlie took over the program.

Last season though, Rafe told me that something had changed. I just didn’t seem as “into it” he explained. (I suspect it had something to do with the newborn baby laying on my chest, but WHO KNOWS.) He suggested it was because he had joined an office football pool and I felt left out. It was no longer only important that our team won, but that they won by a certain number of points. And also we needed to watch ten games a weekend. And care that the right team won each of those by the right number of points.

It was stressful.

He had a solution: I should join the pick ‘em league as well.

I hesitated, because well, Rafe was right. I wasn’t as into it. I barely knew the starters for our own team and couldn’t tell you much about any of the other schools. Buying into this pool would be irresponsible because I was uninformed. As with most things I do, I was afraid of looking dumb. The other participants are mostly guys he works with. I didn’t want my poor performance to reflect on him professionally.

“Well Mr. Schaefer you’ve been doing really great work here at the firm and we’d love to bring you on this very big, very important case. But you see, your wife picked Florida State over Mississippi, and that’s dumb and we can’t have that here. Fired.” 

Totally plausible, right?

I don’t remember for sure how Rafe talked me into committing, but I think Yoda had something to do with it.

So last week I printed off my pick sheet and began to look at the teams. I would make a pick against the spread, then rank each pick 1-10 as my confidence level to determine how many points I received for each game.

ESPN was running all sorts of (insert Conference here) preview shows, so I crammed. I read the news section of the ESPN app and briefly tried the Bill Simmons podcast. It was Friday evening and picks were due Saturday morning. I started ranking my confidence levels on the teams but ran out of low numbers pretty quickly. I didn’t feel like my research helped at all. I had nothing left to do but hit submit and hope for the best.

The weekend was full of insane upsets, double overtimes, and second half comebacks.

I won first place.

I cannot stop laughing about it. The manager of the league sent out an email saying there are four women in the pool of 55 entrants and reminded everyone that one of them won the entire league last season and that the girls are likely to take all of the boys’ money. I’m happy to do it.

So I leave you with this question:

Who run the world?

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Hook Em. ❤ Schaefers

Thing 14: Chase the green fairy

I haven’t done much rebelling in my life. I worked just hard enough in high school. I went to a Christian college. I loved my job at the church. I got married when I was 19, which some may call rebellion, but when you do it because you’re in love and starting a life in a new state and preparing for graduate degrees together, it hardly seems recalcitrant.

So when I went friends to an absinthe bar so cool it doesn’t have a sign out front and ordered this mysterious, fairly-recently-legalized drink, I felt rebellious.

Absinthe was sometimes referred to as The Green Fairy because of its high alcohol content and its alleged hallucinogenic properties. That was why so many writers and artists drank it—it was said to boost creativity. The drink was legalized in the US only after proving the spirit was free of thujone, the chemical compound responsible for absinthe’s psychedelic effects.

(Can you smell the Wikipedia in that paragraph?)

The bar, creatively named Absinthe, is marked only by two glowing green lights. It is obnoxiously dark. We were the people that used our cell phone lights to read the menu. The bartender did not appreciate this. He poured us what he said was the traditional way to drink absinthe, over sugar and water. The only enjoyable part of the licorice-tasting spirit was the presentation, because fire.

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The bartender lights the sugar cube on fire then it dissolves into the liquid. I think.

I didn’t have any creative breakthroughs or sudden urges to cut off an ear. Perhaps those require more than the one drink I could choke down or maybe the cell phone light scared the fairy away.

I left feeling like we had wasted a night with a babysitter and frustrated that the Uber couldn’t find us because WHO DOESN’T HAVE A SIGN and thankful that I never have to drink absinthe again.

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Thanks for coming with me, friends. I’m sorry I made you do that.

 

 

Thing 13: Show people a blog I’m writing

Hi guys. Welcome to my blog.

I don’t like that word. Blog. More like BLAAHHg, amirite? So many blogs are written and exactly three of them are worth reading. So let’s call this my “project” instead.

I’m doing twenty-seven things for the first time. I started as a way to celebrate my son and his birthday, which is the day after mine. Becoming a parent changed every possible aspect of my life. Through the last year, I found myself terribly ill-equipped for these changes. So many things brought me out of my tiny comfort zone and made me scared. It didn’t take long for me to realize I didn’t want my son to be afraid of people, of the world, of the unknown like I was (am). So I started working on facing my fears by doing new things. Some are big like rotating my tires. Some are small like going to a spin class. This biog is a way for me to document the process.

Twenty-Seven Things serves another purpose. I’ve always loved to write (or at least the ego boost that came with seeing my name in print). As Dorothy Parker said, “I hate writing, I love having written.” I quit my job as a writing teacher to focus on my own writing. The decision was hasty and naive. I thought that I could really just sit at my desk in my sweats and pop out a quick best seller. I imagined meeting with publishers and nonchalantly calculating inches of my book’s shelf space at Barnes & Noble. I had picked out an outfit to wear the first night of my book tour. I had everything I needed to be successful except a book. Because as it turns out, writing books is hard. I need practice and a lot of it. I need a way to write every day and something to keep me accountable. If writing here can help me march toward10,000 hours of practice, I’m thankful. So here we are.

This is actually my third endeavor in the blogging world (not counting the cultural masterpiece that was my high school Xanga account). I started the first one during Rafe’s first year of law school. We were newlywed, newly Texan, unemployed college kids. It was a terrifying, exciting time. I figured writing about our experiences would help others and help us sort through the complicated emotions and decisions of that year and maybe also lead to a book deal that would make us super rich and famous. I wrote one post.

The second was the summer 2014 when Rafe’s job gave us the incredible opportunity to live in London. I had just quit teaching to Be A Writer and was quite smug about it. I pranced around museums and coffee shops writing thought-provoking and witty anecdotes about my experiences in my head. I was a real writer and much too sophisticated for a blog, so my stories stayed in my head next to my National Book Award. It makes me ache that I didn’t write much down.

I was afraid of the failure. I was afraid of looking stupid. I was afraid I’d say the wrong thing and be judged. So that’s where I am now: confronting my fears of failing and looking dumb. I’m certain I’ll be judged because I have judged myself. And that’s okay.

My goal here is to Tell the Truth. In other writing attempts, I’ve told what I wanted to be the truth or what I think people want to be the truth. That’s surely a big reason why they have failed.

The truth is hard.

I’ve seen quite a bit of ugly in myself that I don’t like. I was able to hide it in the safety of my comfort zone. Popping that bubble is sort of like popping a festering pimple — it hurts and it makes a mess and it takes time to heal. So bear with me as I smear my insecurities, my prejudices, my fears with Retin-A and attempt to make my way through the world with fewer blemishes.

It feels okay for me to be afraid of the world, but when I think about passing those fears onto my children, I don’t like it. Though the world is scary, it’s far too beautiful to be feared or shut out.

Follow along with me if you want (though mine probably isn’t one of the three blogs worth reading). Try some new things on your own.  Let’s stop being afraid together.

Thing 12: Boss my dad around as he makes over my backyard

I didn’t exactly grow up in the country, but I always felt like I did. We went to archery ranges on the weekends where I learned what poison ivy looks like and how to pee outside. I walked up a dirt road (though it’s paved now) to a creek and looked for animals and went swimming, even though my parents told me not to. We played tug-o-war with a snake my brother shot with his bb gun. These are country kid experiences. I love all of them.

My son lives in the middle of a street in the fourth largest city in the country. We can see a star or two at night if the smog isn’t bad. This sounds much more terrible than it really is; we have a lovely home in a safe neighborhood in a city that I love. But I’m still afraid he will grow up afraid of insects and not knowing what the sunset looks like.

So I’m working at turning my backyard into an oasis. A place Tom Sawyer would love if Tom Sawyer drove a Camry and knew the fastest route to avoid traffic.

We stained and reassembled a swing set and stained and assembled a picnic table, both meant to increase our outdoors time.

The biggest part of this renovation (for me) was building a raised garden bed. It was a project I had meant to tackle by myself. I researched and priced boards and techniques and knew what to do.

Baby in tow, I picked through the cedar planks at Lowe’s and quadruple checked my measurements and even brought my tape measure with me to avoid any return-policy scammers like when I did the bathroom. Guys. Twenty-four 8-foot planks are not light and are not easy to sort through. As I pushed a shopping cart carrying my baby and pulled a weighted down lumber cart, I finally got someone to offer help. I told him I just needed the boards cut.

GUESS WHAT HE SAID?

“We can’t cut those.”

(If this isn’t shocking to you, read about my bathroom remodel here.)

Oh hey Lowe’s, what’s the point of the giant saw you have in the back corner of your store?

Apparently, the 2x6x8s are actually thicker than two inches and wouldn’t fit in the saw. I unapologetically left the cart full of lumber in the aisle out of protest.

I voiced my frustration that this guy watched me load up the lumber without saying a word. He suggested I go to Home Depot next time and asked me to follow him on Instagram because he “makes funny videos.”

So that’s why I needed my dad, or at least his truck and more powerful power tools.

The first Thing I did was Plant a Vegetable. Those seeds died within about two weeks, but when I tried again, I have some plants that look little more promising. I’ve always wanted to learn how to garden and experience the joy of eating food from my yard. My thinking is that this hefty investment will give me enough motivation to keep trying. The saying “cheaper than dirt” doesn’t ring as true when you need 100 bags of dirt.

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Today’s workout: move 4000 pounds of dirt for time.

My dad got us a “good guy discount.” This American Life did a segment on this phenomenon. Basically, it’s when you ask for a discount at check out, following some variation of “I’m a good guy. You’re a good guy. Is this the best price you can give me?” You’ll be amazed at how often that works, or at least how often my dad can get it to work. I tried it at the lumber yard and the manager laughed at me.

All together, we moved 100 40-lb bags of dirt and compost twice. My garden bed is completely beautiful and as of now, fruitless. But give me time and all the tips you have and in 651 zucchinis, the bed will have paid for itself!

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Finish product in the background and a much deserved glass of wine in the foreground. A lovely way to celebrate a finished product. Thanks ma n pa!

Thing 11: Host a one year old’s birthday party


A day or so after Rafe turned 11 months, I received an email from a place we registered for baby gifts when I was pregnant. The email said that I should begin shopping with them for his first birthday party and “get it right the first time.”

It hurt my feelings — the idea that I or any loving parent could screw up their child’s birthday party.

So when I began planning the party, I wanted to make sure that everything I was doing was truly for my son. I fought the temptation to scour Pinterest for a jillion ideas that I knew would ultimately leave me overwhelmed and disappointed. I threw a simple party for my son and it turned out more lovely than I could have imagined. Hanging the decorations and preparing the food was the easy part. If I can brag a little, I’m really good at hosting parties. And I love doing it.

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TADAH. I bought this dress when I was like 30 months pregnant last summer. It’s loose and flowy and I thought it’d be great to wear home from the hospital. lolololol.

The scary part of this Thing, the reason it counts, is because of the guest list.

For starters, mixing friend groups makes me sweaty.

What if my super conservative friend ends up in a corner with my super liberal friend? 

What if I introduce two people knowing that they went to the same college, but as it turns out, they are actually exes?

What if someone feels left out?

What if someone cusses too much and then my mom thinks I hang out with HEATHENS?!

It’s all just too much. I had four baby showers to avoid this situation. I usually have multiple dinner celebrations with each friend group. It’s just easier.

But not today. Today, basically everyone we know (I was slinging invitations left and right) gathered in our dining room and ate donuts and crafted concoctions at the bloody mary bar.

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pickled vegetables + bacon = bloody mary bar.

Secondly, there’s the issue of mom friends. This is a new group of friends I have. They are women that I would not have met if they didn’t have a kid and I didn’t have a kid. Our common denominator is a kid and the goal is to find other common denominators to see if we can be friends. It’s hard. As a first time mom (I say that because I’m hoping this fear dissipates as more baby(ies) come), speaking is terrifying. We are all terrified and doing our best and just want to love our babies the best way we know how but the thing is, we don’t know how. We are new at this. So we put up a front to try to convince ourselves and others that we got this. There are so many different ways to love our babies and not one of them is wrong. But understanding that in the beginning is hard. So I invited momfriends. It meant opening myself up to criticism for not properly baby proofing my kitchen and feeding my baby copious amounts of sugar and any number of other things that might be grounds for judgement.

And I’m so glad I did. I made myself vulnerable and I turned some momfriends into real friends in the process.

Happy birthday, sweet son. Mommy got you some new friends to play with.