Jake is playing for Lyric Theatre's production of Xanadu. It's all fun and games, but to sum it all up, he doesn't get home until 10:00 every night. It has a three-week run. We're almost to the half way point. I'm hanging in there, but I'm tired. It's 8:29, and I have cozily been tucked into my bed for the last 15 minutes. What can I say, I like my room.

Today I muscled my way into the post office with two packages, birthday invitations, a birthday card, and two girls. I feel like I expended half of the day's energy in those 15 minutes. I kicked the door to open it for Cora who was in front of me. Kicked is an overstatement, it was more of a strong nudge with my foot because one arm was carrying Magnolia and the other one was carrying a club pack sized box of diapers and the other box. I overestimated the weight of the door. It was really loud when it hit the wall. Whatever. I don't think anyone cared when they saw me come in.

I might as well confess that the birthday card and one of the packages was for my mom's birthday, which is tomorrow. Which means I have epically failed at timing this one. And when I got back to the car, I realized I forgot to put the Mr. Goodbar in. Strike 2.

Cora has been writing stories at school. Well, she draws a pictures, and then tells her teacher the story of the picture while her teacher writes it down. They are amazing! But wouldn't you know, our scanner is being ridiculous, I mean, it's just straight up dead. I can't wait to scan them all to share.

To conclude:

Dear Salsa,

If loving you is wrong...

I refuse to be right.

Dear Robyn

To the one who introduced me to Ace of Base when she would take me to 2nd grade in her old skool Datsun wagon - which would be so freaking rad now. Who saved me from nearly being hit by a car when crossing Brown on our way home from 7-Eleven. Who gave me asthma from her second-hand smoke (Don't worry, I forgive you. It was before all the research came out about how toxic it is - and you tried to keep it contained in your room). And to the one who introduced me to the counter scraper that Pampered Chef is probably most famous for...

I can't believe you're gone. Like literally the shock hasn't worn off yet. I have so many really fond memories of you. Like how you showed me that Taco Bell had green sauce, and you could order it and they would give it to your for free. Piping hot in its own little container. I'm sure you're the reason why they now have salsa verde in their famous little packets.

You lived with my mom and I when you were pregnant with Kailei. She was your first girl after three boys. The first time I saw her, I fell in love with her. She had the sweetest little chubby face and so much black hair on top of her head. I kept her baby picture with me for a long time. She slept with you every night, and when I asked you if you were ever afraid you would roll over on top of her, you said "No because I just always know where she is." When I had my own babies and they slept so cozy next to me, I understood exactly what you meant.

Your life wasn't easy. It was full of choices and occurrences that led to really hard lessons. I've so enjoyed reconnecting on facebook over the last few years. You were cheerful and optimistic. It seemed you were in the middle of trying to make a happy ending for yourself. I'm sorry you had to go during this time in your life.

I still think of the pictures that went up our stair case. Some were my mom's, some were yours. Your kids, your siblings, you. They're all still framed and hanging in my memory. And you so young and beautiful will be etched in my heart and mind forever. Godspeed.


My extended family has experienced two losses in the last week. One week ago today marks the day I received a text saying that my cousin Tisha's husband had passed away. In my old* age I seem to cry less. I've become much more of an internalizer of emotion. But receiving that news was such a huge blow. Tears came instantly. My heart broke for my cousin. They have a son who is two months older than Cora. I couldn't imagine trying to explain to Cora why Jake wouldn't be around anymore. That coupled with the tragic way he passed completely overwhelmed me.

I'd been following the updates about services and the family that my cousin Robyn, Tisha's oldest sister had been providing, and praying for the family constantly. Kimmel's (Tisha's husband) funeral was yesterday. I called my mom yesterday evening to see how things went, and she told me that we had another tragedy. I instantly thought something was wrong with my Grammy because she hadn't been feeling well, and I knew my mom had taken her to the doctor on Monday. It wasn't Grammy.

She told me that Robyn passed away earlier in the day. It's so tragic - certainly enough to break a heart in two several times over. I'm so sorry for the family. And for my Aunt Brenda who is now part of that exclusive club that no mother ever wants membership in - outliving your children. 

God be with you till we meet again. When life's perils thick confound you, put His arms unfailing round you. God be with you till we meet again.

I'm Dwelling On This

"There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. ... No artist is pleased. [There is] no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others."  
Martha Graham to Agnes de Mille

Weekly Menu and a Partial Shopping List

I'm pretty excited about this weeks menu. There are some oldies but goodies and some newbies I've been looking forward to trying. [I really did just say oldie, newbie, and goodie in the same sentence.]

The mail just got here. I love our mail carrier. When I was putting Christmas lights on our house, he was eating lunch in his mail car with a perfect view of what was happening. It made me feel good to know that someone would be able to offer assistance if I needed it, and it made me feel a little self-conscious because I was pretending to be way taller than I am in order to make the 6 ft. ladder work. On the second day of my pursuits, he delivered our mail and told me, with a smile, I was being dangerous. It's good to know your mail carrier has your back. I might leave him a valentine in our box.

I went to the Midtown Y for the first time today. What in the world?!? It's amazing. Super beyond amazing. My favorite, hands down. It's small and cute, and the girl in charge of the child watch is a student of Child Development at UCO. And her and her husband just became vegetarian. She looks really familiar to me, and I to her, but we couldn't come up with a connection. Anyway, I even did some strength training. Like on the machines. Which I never do. Because I didn't ever want to sit at one and go "uh-buh." But today I didn't care. And I rocked some leg presses [and other things] in an attempt to work my bottom half.

My cardio for the day was some interval work on the treadmill. I went for 30 minutes and like 2.5 miles, I think. I laughed about it. My record time/distance was 19-ish minutes for 3.1 miles. I mean, this very body that I still occupy did that once upon a time. I already confessed to someone the other day that I don't like running much [at all]. I really want to, sort of. Is it one of those mind over matter things? Tomorrow is yoga - my real true love. [Unfortunately not at the Midtown. Unfortunately not less than a mile from my house. I will drive those 25 minutes with pride, though.]

Yoga and Mother Guilt

The first critical paper I ever wrote was during my junior year in high school. The book was the Scarlet Letter, the topic was our own to choose. The title of my paper ended up being Guilt: the Ultimate Destroyer of the Human Soul.

Fast forward to last year some time. I'd been a faithful Y[MCA] member,but Magnolia was in the middle of teething. She would cry and cry when I left her in child care. My attendance grew more spotty until finally I didn't go at all. For a long time. All the while the membership fee was being automatically deducted from our account each month. That last point made me feel guilty on two points. Guilty for leaving my child and guilty for the frivolity of an unused gym membership.
(Magnolia is into dressing up)

Well then Cora started school in August. I couldn't begin to imagine dedicating mornings to me when she would have to get to school in the afternoon. Would it be too much? I went to Yoga a few Saturdays ago with the girls. I got called out 20 minutes in because Magnolia had been crying for 10 minutes. The next Saturday, I left them with Jake and couldn't decide why in The world we were paying for a family membership to get "free" child care if I didn't want to go unless I left them home. Blah.
 (Googli McGoogerson)


I went today. Like I got up early, we got the girls fed and dressed, and then I looked up the times for child watch at the Midtown and Downtown Y's, was disappointed and drove 20 minutes to Bethany where it started a little earlier and where yoga was offered at the perfect time. I spent a little time on the elliptical, then went to yoga. 30 minutes in, I had to go change Magnolia's diaper. She smiled when I left, and I got back just in time for corpse pose. It was wonderful. We fit everything in. No guilt.
 (Cora climbing at the children's area in the Boathouse District on MLK Day - part of the Devon Boathouse in the background)

One of my big secrets, you know, in case you thought I was perfect or something, is that sometimes when go to bed at night I'm terrified because I know when I wake up I'll have no idea what I'm supposed to do with myself. Like sure the tasks that get our family through each day, like food and diapers and cleaning up little messes, but will I learn something new? Will I have made this day count? Will I have wasted too much time on things that mattereth not? Will I have contributed to making my childrens' childhood a happy one - the stuff dreams are made of? Sometimes being in charge of my own time is completely liberating, but also completely debilitating.
(She's really into doing "tricks." This is one of them. "Hey Mom, watch this trick," and it's usually followed by hopping on one foot or doing something similar to the tree pose.)
Tonight when Jake got home, we exchanged hellos and goodbyes and I went out the door to visit someone from church. I really enjoyed the visit, and when I got home, I pulled into the garage, began making my way down the sidewalk to our house, and it hit me. No, not the BIG answer to everything...

The smell of Downy, coming from our dryer vent. The whole corner [Dot lives on a corner] smelled like our clean warm clothes. And suddenly the guilt lightened a little because of the bit of structure I added to the day for me. I've been starting to think about what I want to do with myself after my girls are a little older, you know, my career. It's been exhilarating and terrifying, mostly for the guilt thing, because guilt is the ultimate destroyer of the human soul. Live more deliberately, less timidly. And if deciding to go to the Y can help me do this, then I'm hoping my muffin top and saddlebags will start headin' for the hills.


Leap pad in one hand, Bear in the other. I love observing her quiet little moments.

PS: Magnolia slept through the night for the first time ever last night. 7-6:45. 19 months might be the charm.

Grocery List

Gentrification and slumlords

I've been writing this post in my head ever since I dropped one of Cora's friends off at her house. She'd been randomly left at the park with me while her mom took her two little sisters home to get a head start on dinner. When I walked up to the house, I instantly noted the tattered blinds, the boarded up attic windows, and the way it stuck out like a sore thumb on the block, well, it and the two houses on either side. All three are white, with some sort of window boarded up somewhere.

I took my suspicions to the county assessor site, entered the address, and low and behold, the house is owned by someone who lives in one of the more prominent areas of the city. So were the other two. This person owns 25 properties around the city, including their own home in Quail Creek and a commercial property on Western. I've looked at several of these properties, and they all look pretty much like this (except for their personal property of course - and for real, are the following properties (plus several others) this person's dirty little secret when they drive through their neighborhood and up to their home every night?):

(Imagine this one without shutters because that's what nearly 7 years worth of more dilapidation has done)
 (I wish this front door belonged to Dot)

 (I think it looks festive enough...)

What's my point?

Our neighborhood is an historic neighborhood that has largely undergone the gentrification process. Home values range from ours (not too much) to the multimillion dollar range. This is the neighborhood where all of the first movers and shakers of the city lived. It went through hard times, but overall, people have moved back and proudly made it their own. But there are still the property owners that bought several of the homes when they were going for nothing, and then didn't do much with them, and I'm sure they have no intention to. Easy money. They don't live in this community, they have no investment in it (expect that they own part of it).

Why does this yank my chain? The obvious answer is that this is my community and I care about it. But that's not it. I know it doesn't have to be this way. Before moving to Chicago, Jake and I lived in a lovely duplex in Jefferson Park, one block east of the Paseo (the city's self-proclaimed Arts District). Our property owner owned our building and three others down the street. She flipped a home across that street that Jake and I loved before we ever lived in our duplex. She single-handedly revitalized an entire block in a vulnerable part of town. And way before it was cool to live there, mind you. Dianna Harding, you are a pioneer of revitalization.

 (Our old duplex on Hudson)

She bought low and reinvested money into the properties and inevitably the community. When we moved back from Chicago, we lived in another one of her homes in a different neighborhood. It used to be the eyesore on the block, but she made it lovely. Her rent isn't ridiculous, and aside from our one CRAZY neighbor who lived below us in the duplex for a few months, she has wonderful tenants. In the last email I shared with her, she was excited that three of her duplexes were going to be paid off soon so she could rebuild the garage behind our old duplex. She's an exception, I know.
 Our post Chicago house before Dianna got it.
 After (I wish I had a better picture)

I want to know is if there's a way for a community to stand up for its homes. Can it put pressure on landlords who don't care to fix up the homes to the standards of the neighborhood? 

Disclaimer: I don't think that renters are bad, not in the least. I just wish property owners would take care of their properties and add to a community rather than take away from it.


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