2014 Review

2104 was busy. We grew, we saved, we traveled, we swam, we planned, and we tried new things. I got better at cooking, Eva got better at talking and Sosh got better at coding stuff (and explaining to me what he was coding.) We got a year older, two of the three of us changed jobs, one of us mastered object permanence and saying ‘please’ (it’s exactly who you’d think), all of us forgot to call various peoples on their birthdays, and we all toyed with new hobbies- woodworking, jewelry-making, and potty-training (again, exactly who you’d think).

2015 is opening up some new opportunities for the Howells of Atlanta. There’s some stuff we’ll have to let go in order to make room for the new possibilities. To that end, I’m letting go of old identities, styles, and expectations. Also, I cleaned out the fridge. 2015 is off to a running start!

Dancing in Space/Time

I used to consider myself “A Dancer.” It was a persona I adopted and one of the first things in life besides reading that I ever established a flashy proficiency in. I lived/loved/breathed dancing for a number of years. Long after I didn’t do that anymore, I still considered myself “A Dancer,” just one that was on a break. 90’s kids know how well that worked out for Ross and Rachel.

Yea, 2015 is the year I let that go. I’m no longer “A Dancer.” I’m someone who occasionally dances and could slide through a swingout if the moment were right. I just can’t pretend anymore. Moving on…

2015 for the Howells of Atlanta

We’ve got a lot happening this year. We’re planning to move to a house with a real yard, Sosh sold his first company and is moving on to his next adventure, we will (so help me 8 pound, 6 ounce Baby Jesus) potty train our Little Tater, I’m working on new business ventures that will hopefully render me a thousandaire in the near future, and we’re starting a bunch of new family traditions now that Eva is old enough to remember them.

One of the first family traditions we will be starting will be a belated Virtual Christmas card to everyone. It should roll in around late February, like a little gift you weren’t even expecting. I could pretend that next year I’ll get a Christmas card together and out in time, but I think realism is more fun.

We’re doing virtual cards to save trees and time and so that I can do a longer update on what our family is doing.

(By the way, thank you to everyone who thoughtfully sent us Christmas cards! They were all so gorgeous and orgainzed and timely.)

Other family traditions on the “To Start’ list:

  • beach vacation!one of my fav pics ever of Eva and I !!
  • a family portrait
  • celebrating Halloween with actual costumes and celebrations
  • exploring Atlanta with Eva
  • decorating for each of the holidays

…really everything after that I can think of after that is just a hopeful plan for activities we’ll enjoy, like getting out more and spending time with friends. Not really traditions, but ways to enjoy life.

Seriously, we’re busy but in a very good place. It’s been tough to let go of the identity of ‘Dancer’ (more for me than for the Hubs), but I think I’m finally there. We’ve got a lot of adventures planned for our Little Tater this year, and I’m looking forward to see what 2015 will bring!


 

Full disclosure: I wrote that in early January. How time does fly!

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Halloween and the Onset of Fall

Holy Hell, it’s Fall.

Fall.

Of 2014.

How did that happen?

2014 Recap

I’ve been slow to post for the past- year or so, ever since I took a full-time job and (gently) packed my Wee One off to Daycare. Suddenly I went from having ‘free time’ to take pictures and post to having not even a semblance of free time. But I wanted to shout out a quick update before the downhill roll into the holiday season just gets completely out of control.

2014 has been a good year, by several measureable standards. Professionally, not my best, but I’ve learned a lot and I wouldn’t trade it. Personally, I’ve enjoyed getting to know the magnificent little human my daughter is turning out to be, and I’m enjoying the hell out of teaching her new things. Socially, we are still hermits, and what has been amazing for me about this past year is rediscovering what an introvert I can be. Not in a semi-romantic, ‘taking-time-for-long-walks-to-discover-and-recharge-myself’ sort of way, but in a ‘scurries-from-sunlight’ kind of way.

It turns out, I can be REALLY introverted, and as long as I get my occasional jaunts out into society to see other humans, I seem to do just fine with minimal social contact. Since this was not the case two or three years ago, I’m pretty sure (hopeful?) I’ll cycle back around to a more balanced way of being. Something with more talking and attention to personal hygeine. I’m working on it. But the chaos that comes in the wake of a tiny person does not leave me with a lot of higher-level congnitive energy.

It’s been a fast-moving year, and we have no doubt that 2015 will be even more so, as we intend to try and find a new (bigger) house and shift to accommodate a growing toddler’s needs. (We need storage space. Badly.) We’re looking forward finding out what next year has in store, but lest I dive straight into a New Year Resolutions post, I’ll stop there.

Halloween 2014

Halloween with EvaOther parents somehow got their cherubs into costumes this year. I didn’t. We tried to get my Ankle-Biter to wear the Minnie Mouse costume I got her, but she just didn’t seem interested in dressing up, and I wasn’t going to push it for the sake of one lousy picture with her screaming/crying as Minnie Mouse.

But she did want to walk, so my mom and I grabbed her pumpkin pail and wandered the neighborhood to the five or so houses that were offering candy. It was just enough to get her interested in the idea of Trick or Treating, but not interested in the candy itself. Since we don’t let her eat candy, it was more about the exercise of learning to knock on strangers’ doors and expect to receive things. We have weird traditions.

I think next year, she’ll really ‘get’ the whole holiday a bit better. I’m not really in a hurry. We are now sliding into my FAVORITE season of the whole year! I can’t wait for the holiday season!!!

In the meantime, I will say that in two days, we three Georgia Howells are getting on a plane- Again- On Purpose- to go all the way to California to see the California Howells. If you don’t remember the last time we flew on a plane, it was a disaster on several levels. I blogged about it, though I can’t find the post now because I didn’t tag it correctly. After last time, I said I wouldn’t fly with her again until she was visiting colleges. Well, eat my words, here we go again. But this time, she’s more directable, so we’re hoping that our old buddy Elmo will help distract her for some of the flight.

Either way, I’ll have an interesting story for you this weekend, with an update on our flight.

 

The 2-Day Arden’s Detox

Right off the bat, I’ll say that I’ve not eaten solid food in over a day and a half, so mentally I’m not really driving the bus, so much as I’m sitting with the key in the ignition, staring at the wheel and wondering where I was supposed to be going.

Maybe I shouldn’t drive today.

Arden's DetoxI’m sliding to the end of the 2-Day Arden’s Garden Detox. It’s a 2 day, juice-only cleanse that helps the body release toxins and allows certain organs to rest from the onslaught of sugar, dairy, processed stuff, wheat, and other junk that passes for modern food. If you can’t hear your kidneys screaming for help, you probably need this. I had recently reached a point where my entire torso felt stiff with misuse and less-than-stellar-food-choices. I felt sluggish and tired and grouchy. And I could feel my body craving crap food, like a spoiled child who had to have cake- now!

So off to Whole Foods for the two one-gallon jugs and a sulky promise to myself that if I’m forking over roughly $30 for liquids, it’s going to be to better myself as a person, damnitall. No cheating, not even celery.

I do this exercise in masochism every few years, and always start to question why about three hours after I start. The Why is that your (my?) body feels so GOOD afterwards that it’s amazing. It really, truly is. You feel light, more alert, calmer, and not really hungry (by the end). Hell, your blood feels cleaner afterwards. Do you know what clean blood feels like? It feels amazing.

Usually, however, it’s very, very hard. I work within 30 feet of my kitchen. There’s food in there, and my body doesn’t get why we’re not going in there to get some. Each time I’ve done it in the past, it’s been a difficult mental battle from hour 2 all the way to the end, and I hate the process.

Not this time though. This time has been…easy. I can’t believe I’m saying that, since last time I did this I would have done many illegal things just for a bite of bread by day two. But this time, it’s easy. I feel cleaner, not hungry, cold, and I already have more energy. I’m so pleased with myself that I’ve been able to stick with it that it’s been an overall positive experience.

I think that just underscores how badly I needed to push myself outside my comfort zone. Now if only I could work up the desire to exercise (she says, wearing full yoga gear, as if she’s going to the gym).

Where was I supposed to be going? Mabye I shouldn’t drive today.

Domestic Advances

I do so much unpaid labor (as most of the worth-while stuff is unpaid), that is easy to forget how much I get done.

Taking Stock

This past month,

  • I’ve arranged for several repairmen to handle various projects at my home. I paid them, and when I ran out of money, I did it myself.
  • I single-handedly painted my kitchen and downstairs bathroom.
  • I moved 19 boxes of 30+ pound tile from the store to my living room.
  • I purchased/arranged to have dozens of necessary supplies on hand, including $800 of tile underlayment and a new bathroom vanity.
  • I’ve cleaned up up countless renovation messes.
  • I’ve changed the towel that is catching a small leak under the sink at least twice a day for three days. I’ll continue to do it until our handy-man comes back tomorrow with a piece that fits.
  • I’ve continued to keep my little Boo alive and thriving through all of this renovation madness.
  • I’ve worked full time, and started two new campaigns for my company.
  • I’ve completely redone my professional website, learning certain things from scratch.
  • I’ve showered- at least twice.

I’m taking a moment to celebrate finally completing a project that I’ve wanted to do for years- finish the kitchen.

When we moved in, it was like this:

IMG_3843 IMG_3907

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We did a few repairs, and ended up with this:

_DSC0841 _DSC0842

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now, we have this:

final kitchen shots-3

 

final kitchen shots-4 final kitchen shots-5 final kitchen shots-6 final kitchen shots-8 final kitchen shots

Let’s Talk About Our Cultural Double Bind- A Work-Life Balance

There are a lot of messages that people get from our modern American culture- one of the most pervasive is the message that you can achieve work-life balance, if you just do it right. I’ve always thought this idea smelled strongly of bullshit, but I’ve never really been able to articulate why.

Women, especially, are told that we HAVE TO master this, or else our children/marriage/health/careers/appeal/earning power/worth will suffer irrevocably. And the implication is that it’s completely doable.

Just seize the day!

(And do it without compromising your dedication to others or your job.)


I’ve recently discovered a new blog that I’ve been devouring. It’s the business/career advice blog of a self-described ‘neurotic Jew with Asperger’s Syndrome-‘ Penelope Trunk.

penelopeHer writing style is crisp, blunt and utterly-free of brand-management bullshit. Her topics are relevant and intensely interesting. She’s open about where she flounders in a way that seems totally un-staged.

It’s hypnotic. I’ve been binge-reading her blog for days and I just keep going deeper and deeper into her perspective of current culture.

The post I read yesterday that absolutely stopped my internal world was this: a post about Work-Life Balance and how it’s a myth.

Women need to hear this- often and loudly. She points out an often ignored piece of reality- that adulthood involves sacrifices and that you can’t have it all. You really, really can’t.

You choose to care for kids, and you will take a career hit. You choose to focus on career and you give up something of the flexibility that is vital to raising kids. It’s next to impossible to do both, and the celebrities/public figures who make themselves out to be just-another-working-mom who manage to actually handle this challenge (I’m looking at you, Marissa Mayer) are full of it. Period.

Our culture doesn’t reward the hard, full time work that is raising kids. There is lip-service paid to Moms (and Dads), but no monetary recognition of the contribution they make to society. I’d like to think the least we can do is not lie to ourselves and others about the sacrifices that are an unavoidable part of parenthood.

You can’t raise kids and commit to a full-time career in the way that American Culture demands. We just aren’t set up for it. At some point, you have to choose where your priorities lay, and accept the consequences of that choice.

I love the fact that Penelope Trunk actually points this out in a clear, unapologetic way. She points out A LOT of other things about our culture that are very poorly arranged. I may not agree with all of it, but she makes very interesting points, and I do agree with almost all of it.

Just wanted to share this tonight. Please read a bit of her blog and see if some of her points resonate with you. If you’re a woman (kids or not, married or not), trying to balance life in the face of an entire mountain of Shoulds, please read some of this and let me know if you see what I see- an open letter about all the double binds that our society pretends are not there.

But we feel them. Right?

Toddler Tantrums (my daughter has them too…)

Author’s Note:  If you like my writing, please share it! Share it on social media with friends! Unless you don’t want to. I don’t want to be that friend who makes you feel awkward about it. Unless that would work. Would it work?  Seriously though, please share if you feel inclined. I’m not trying to make money off of this (yet) or anything. Just trying to grow this blog. 


Knowing Your Weaknesses (a.k.a. Your 30’s)

I’m old enough now that I know damn good and well what I handle poorly. (Don’t ask me to do/say anything when I’m hungry or sleepy. It won’t end well. For anyone.) And I know when I need to walk away…most of the time. Okay, some of the time. I just don’t always do it.

Let’s back up here. I’m old enough that I know what I can’t handle well.

I don’t handle unfinished projects well. I want them done.

I don’t handle repetitive whining well (like a 1950’s stereotype, I think you should suck it up unless you have a severed artery, in which case you drive yourself to the ER after fashioning your own tourniquet).

I don’t handle ceaseless work well. I like my breaks, and they like me.

I don’t handle social situations where I can’t leave well. If you know me, you know.

I don’t handle situations that can’t be calmly and rationally discussed well. (Disclaimer: the Hubs will add that this is true only if I’m also right, which I usually am, so I don’t see why he brings that up.)

I don’t handle mess/disorder well. The chaos of the cosmos unnerves me. 

I don’t handle distraction well. Though I think ANYONE in this society would have ADD, I actually DO have it. And I can tell you, it’s not fake, and I’m not doing it to piss anyone off. I really can’t stay on topic that long.

In short, I never should have had kids. Or married. I should have gotten a plant or two, moved into a tiny apartment in a boring town and joined a bridge club. Yet here I am, with a Hubs, a fast-moving Toddler, a full time job (technically- two full time jobs), a house undergoing crucial rennovations, a business… and a front porch full of plants that might one day overgrow the entire front of my building. Absolutely nothing in my life is in check right now.

I’m not complaining. Just pointing out how, despite knowing my triggers, I still set up a life where I regularly bump into All. Of. Them. I’m eyeball-deep in the business of life, doing stuff I’m not good at and getting by. And that’s the part that stuns me- I’m getting by.  Amazing.

Toddler Tantrums

My little girl is a typical toddler. She whines, she smooches, she spills fresh yogurt in her lap and smears it on the table, she shrieks just to hear her voice bounce off the walls, she runs into things, she refuses to share, she does all of these things and only occasionally (right now) drives me to the edge of sanity. I knew I wouldn’t handle this stage well, but I’m surprising myself how much better I’m doing than I thought. My mom was right…it’s different when they’re your own.

Time with my girl comes at the expense of other things, and for now, that’s doable. I don’t like it, but it’s doable. I’d rather be with her than away from her, if that makes sense. I just miss hobbies. And money. And sleep. And friends.

I don’t have any grand epiphanies to share with you tonight (Unless you count discovering that my mom was right. AGAIN.). Just wanted to share my recent thoughts about mothering a toddler.

Oh, and humans are hard.

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Coming soon…pictures of the recent renovations.

Start Simple.

I LOVE minimalism- as a philosophy, as a goal, as a way of moving through the world. We are overwhelmed physically, psychically, verbally, visually, every-type-of-ally with stuff/clutter/trivia/junk/excess/unnecessary/irrelevant/in-the-way-ness. And, in consequence of that modern condition, we constantly have too much. But we don’t feel that, because if we don’t have what we think we want, we feel that we don’t have enough.

I’ve never been unintentionally hungry a day in my life. (Intentionally, yes, but that’s another psychosis for another post.) I’ve never been cold for lack of clothes or shelter. I’ve never been denied care that I needed. I’ve never lacked for a loving, supportive family. Yet I can’t remember the last time in my life when I felt like I had enough. Ever. That’s a long time of striving, and I’m tired of it.

Let’s Do the Damn Thang!

I want more time in my life to enjoy things like family, trips, friends, learning computer-related stuff, and not spending time taking care of my shit or getting more. I have enough. Enough. (Sure, all new furniture would be nice, but a 401K would be nicer.)

So here’s how it’s getting real:

  1. I’m starting the 333 Project. There, I said it. Thus let it be done.
  2. I’m cutting back answering [personal] emails to once every other day. If you need me, call me.
  3. I’m cleaning out my closets/home and documenting it on this blog.
  4. I’m cleaning up my financial life. Closing cards and eliminating debt. Tyler Durden would be proud.
  5. I’m decluttering my friends list. If I haven’t seen or spoken to you in three years, I’m letting you go. Not that you’d notice. But I will.
  6. I’m cutting back my expenses- I can eat cheaper than I do.
  7. I’m decluttering my home of accumulated junk we haven’t touched in years. This includes powertools (You’ve been warned, Pookie).
  8. I’m cutting back my commitments- stop laughing. I am.
  9. I’m not starting any new hobbies for a while, unless it involved experiences. No more thinking I’ll learn knitting or guitar. Nothing that involves gear or special equipment of any kind.

My home now is cluttered with enough primary colors to stun even Elmo. (Speaking of, that little red bastard is going to quietly rule the world while we are all on guard against Russia and Iran. Did you know he’s building an army of toddlers?) Anything we had of value has- at minimum- milk and rice stains. So, in addition to this project, I’m scouring Groupon for some house-cleaning deals.

It may not be cleaner after this, per se (I blame the toddler living my house), but it will be…cleaner?

Check back for a link to my ebay store soon.