January

A bunch of mostly small things have happened in my world this month, and that is my excuse for why it is January 31 and I have yet to talk about my aspirations for the year, much less anything else. We were all ferociously sick for a few days, and then it was so cold that the kid was literally climbing the walls, and then I accidentally bought sickly-sweet strawberry fizzy water at the Polish grocery store because I was overwhelmed. I turned 38 and failed to obtain timely birthday ramen but did have this completely absurd taste adventure:

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We started rewatching Battlestar Galactica, and I’m afraid to say that all of the new TV we’ve tried pales in comparison. I finished a book and two podcast series that challenged me in pretty significant ways (that I hope to talk about here). Two important cats died (not ours – she’s as fat and funny as ever). A faculty member at my institution thought it was a good idea to invite a noted white nationalist to campus, so I attended my first organizing meeting. I made Ottolenghi’s sabih and read a lot of Frog and Toad. I got a standing desk.

I’ve made a tradition of sharing my resolutions in this space, and of posting semi-regular updates measuring my progress toward and/or commitment to these goals. This year it took quite a big longer than normal to settle on my hopes for the next year, in part due to moving pieces that hadn’t quite sorted themselves out. Many of the things on my list look more like intentions than easily measurable goals.

So, for me: acceptance and mindfulness. Reading more books.
For my family: focusing on connection and patience. Reducing consumption.
For my relationship: encouraging and listening. Making time for us.
For my loved ones: expressing pride and gratitude. Connecting with family, especially my  99 year old grandma.
For my work: reasonable expectations. Saying no.
For the world: center marginalized voices. Find sustainable ways to take action.

This week, here and there:

  • The Parents’ Guide to Affairs with Esther Perel – The Longest Shortest Time – holy cow, all the feels throughout this incredibly insightful and compassionate conversation about infidelity and the importance of choosing and defining the relationship you want, not just making the best of the relationship you find yourself in. (Despite the headline, this episode is not in favor of infidelity. I also think it could have been improved by eliminating the section on non-monogamy, but that’s a whole other topic.)
  • What Does it Mean to Die – The New Yorker – a fascinating and devastating article about one family’s struggle to challenge their daughter’s diagnosis as legally dead, and a deeper dive into how ‘death’ is and has been defined (and by whom).
  • How Carob Traumatized a Generation – The New Yorker – we were literally just talking about carob after a bulk foods PLU mix-up. Now I’m worried that we might traumatize our kid with our food choices.
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2017 Resolutions In Review

1. Eliminate credit card debt.
Done. With a balance transfer about to start accruing interest, we decided the best thing we could do was use some of our savings to pay off the remaining debt.

2. Take action every week.
I kept this up for a couple of months, but like many, I lost steam.

3. Finish Brain Pickings book club list.
Good enough! We didn’t finish the list, but we kept the book club going all year, so I’m going to treat this one as a success.

4. Incorporate professional development into my schedule.
I managed the conferences, but didn’t manage much else. I have a couple of things that I want to work on this year, so maybe I’ll rededicate myself to this one in 2018.

5. Finish weaning.
Despite my sad post a couple of months ago, we’re still nursing pretty regularly. I broke out the pump last night, and that made me feel like I was ready to be DONE all over again.

6. PR at any distance.
DONE. I blew away my 5K time in Champaign in April. I had hoped to PR in the half, but considering how hard I’d run the night before, I was totally fine with just finishing.

7. More regular visits with family.
Done. The kid absolutely will not nap when we’re out in Rockford, so since he’s doing better with car naps (and in the car generally), we were able to make more day trips happen.

8. At least two blog posts/month.
Technically done. By the numbers, this was a success, though posting dropped off pretty significantly after the beginning of the year.

9. Try at least four new recipes/month.
Done, for sure.  The My New Roots cookbooks were my go-to source.

10. Make time for monthly dates.
Monthly dates didn’t happen, but we did manage some child-free time about every other month. In 2018, I would love for us to GET AWAY! OVERNIGHT! WITH NO CHILD! but that continues to be a tall order.

2017 in Meme

1. What did you do in 2017 that you’d never done before?
What did I do in 2017? Participated in a protest march; ran the entire Lakefront Path; made an impressive-looking maqluba; potty-trained a kid; broke a finger; baked with aquafaba; kept a book club going for the entire year; submitted an article for publication; went an entire year without getting my hair cut*.

2. Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
About half of them, and probably.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
My sister, sister-in-law, and several friends had babies this year.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
My friend Molly passed away at the beginning of the year.

5. What countries (or new places) did you visit?
No new places this year. Conference travel to Atlanta, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Indianapolis. An overnight to visit my grandma in Davenport. A one day trip to East Lansing for a football game with Mom. A quick trip to Madison to celebrate the kid’s third birthday.

6. What would you like to have in 2018 that you lacked in 2017?
An actual vacation, as Timehop keeps reminding me that I haven’t been out of the office for a full week since we went to Belgium in September 2016.

7. What date from 2017 will remain etched up on your memory, and why?
At the moment, nothing stands out.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
I’m pretty damned happy with some of the work I did this year.

9. What was your biggest failure?
I have basically lost my last shred of patience over the holidays between multiple days of sickness and extremely cold weather have kept us cooped up inside. I’m sure there have been days when I was grumpier, but not in awhile.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
In August, I broke my right ring finger while getting on my bike. Yes, you read that correctly. I also had a wicked stomach bug over the holidays.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
We picked up an electronic keyboard for $30 a few weeks ago, so that’s been the standout purchase recently. Other great buys for the year include the Fjällräven totepack N bought me for my birthday and the terrible spiralizer I got for free that convinced us that we would actually use a spiralizer. Oh also we finally bought an actual bedframe after multiple years on the floor.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
I never cease to be proud of and amazed by my sister.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
Most elected officials’.

14. Where did most of your money go?
Food and drink and rent, as usual.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Aquafaba, spiralizing, weekend long runs (miss u, warm weather), being able to walk to work.

16. What song will always remind you of 2017?

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
i. happier or sadder?
Happier

ii. thinner or fatter?
I’m striking this question.

iii. richer or poorer?
More money and less debt than this time last year.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
The usual: sleep, running, time with friends, lying on the couch doing nothing.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Emotional labor.

20. How did you spend Christmas?
We’ve made a real effort to keep all holidays low-key. Sometimes it’s really hard, but sometimes it’s really worthwhile. This was the first year the 3 year old was excited about “Christamas”, and basically everything about the last month was magical for him: making decorations for our tiny tree, opening the doors of the paper advent calendar, drinking hot cocoa and shaking sleigh bells at the winter celebration in the park, looking forward to eating apple pie at my parents’ house on Christmas Day. The day itself was hectic and exhausting after a 4:45 wake up, but he was so happy, and there were big hugs all around, and now I understand why parents work so hard to make these moments special, even if their kids won’t remember.

21. Did you fall in love in 2017?
We finally moved to the neighborhood where I work after almost six years in my job. When I first moved to the city, I had absolutely zero interest in living in this neighborhood as it felt like the suburbs, and that was NOT the point of moving to the city. Priorities change, however, and the move has been such a net positive for our family that it’s caused me to see the neighborhood in a whole new light.

22. How many one-night stands?
Also striking this question.

23. What was your favorite TV program?
Comrade Detective, followed distantly by The Crown, Game of Thrones, and Twin Peaks. Also let me just tell you that texting about TV with my pal Jimi makes just about any show better.

24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
See above re: elected officials.

25. What was the best book you read?
This was the year that I maxed out my library account – apparently you can only check out 50 books at a time from the Chicago Public Library? Most of them were for the kid’s obsessions with dragons and Mr Putter and Tabby, of course, but I read a number of good books as well – more than in the last few years put together. My top three were:
Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life – Amy Krause Rosenthal
Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? – Roz Chast
Liturgy of the Ordinary – Tish Harrison Warren

26. What was your greatest musical discovery?
The new lcd soundsystem album was the first album in a looooooong time that I deliberately chose to sit down and absorb the first time through rather than treating as background noise.

27. What did you want and get?
Good news.

28. What did you want and not get?
Impeachment.

29. What was your favorite film of the year?
Moonlight absolutely destroyed me.

30. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I got a brand new birthday buddy – niece #4 was born on my 37th birthday. My fell on a Monday, so a friend babysat the night before so that we could go out for a wonderful birthday dinner at Dusek’s. I was pretty hung over the next day. We went out for lunch and coffee, and apparently had pizza for dinner, though I can only tell you that because I’ve been keeping track of our dinners in my planner all year.

31. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
More time at home with friends. I sincerely miss having the people I love in my home, even (or especially) when it’s for no good reason.

32. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2017?
My Lent challenge this year was trying out a capsule wardrobe. My core wardrobe was something along the lines of 4-5 sleeveless tops, 3 cardigans, 2 skirts, a favorite t-shirt, and a pair of jeans (and maybe other things that I’ve forgotten because it was 9 months ago). These were, of course, the things I gravitated towards wearing anyway, but I was surprised to find that it wasn’t difficult at all. Of course, you’ll note that workout clothes aren’t included in there – or pajamas, for that matter – but these 12ish items worked out just fine for me. So: drapey sleeveless tops, a colorful skirt OR sweater paired with a dark sweater or skirt, kneesocks or tights, and practical shoes.

33. What kept you sane?
Running. My sister.

34. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Nicolas Jaar tweeted about frogs and I replied and he liked my tweet and it was basically the best.

35. What political issue stirred you the most?
Everything was terrible all year. It’s hard to pick just one.

36. Who did you miss?

*I may have actually gone a year between haircuts before, but not in at least a decade, and since that’s long enough for things to fall off a credit report, I think that’s long enough to count here.

Why #MeToo Matters

I attended an out-of-town conference earlier in the week. The conference hotel was a little too pricey, so I booked a well-reviewed Airbnb within walking distance. My host was wonderfully communicative, and the location was great, and while the building was a little shabby, the apartment was very comfortable. I left a positive review when I got home.

But I also emailed the host because of an experience I had with one of the building’s tenants.

One night, coming back from dinner, I took the elevator up to the 6th floor, where I was staying. The elevator stopped at the 5th floor to let another woman off. A man was waiting to take the elevator down, and greeted the woman warmly – they seemed to know each other – before spotting me and giving me a once over. He stepped into the doorway of the elevator – preventing it from going up or down – and proceeded to introduce himself and hit on me while the woman in the hallway called for him to leave me alone.

Eventually he stepped into the elevator and rode up a floor with me, asking me if I was alone, how could I be alone, was I was married, why I wasn’t wearing a wedding ring. He told me he was a decent man. I couldn’t get off the elevator fast enough, hurrying down the hall to the apartment as he called after me, hoping that he wasn’t going to follow me. I shut the door and locked both locks. I assume he got back on the elevator as I didn’t see or hear him again.

Once I was safely inside the apartment, I tried to brush it off. I chatted with my partner before bed. I took the stairs in the morning. I didn’t mention it to the host as we emailed back and forth about my departure. I didn’t mention it when I got home.

And I probably wouldn’t have mentioned it if it weren’t for #MeToo and the ongoing coverage of all of the men who have abused their power to harass and hurt.

But the more I thought about it, the angrier I felt that my immediate response had been to brush it off, to minimize it, to try to believe the man’s assertion that he was a decent man. To tell myself that it was no big deal when in other circumstances, it could have been a very, very big deal. To normalize another experience where a man’s needs or desires were allowed to impinge upon my privacy, my personal space, or my safety.

I hate that it takes even one victim sharing their story to get us to take this stuff seriously. It shouldn’t be necessary. We should believe women. But we don’t, and so the harassing and hurtful behavior is normalized. And because we don’t believe women, women don’t tell their stories. And because women don’t tell their stories, the harassing and hurtful behavior has no consequences.

So I’m telling this story.

Five minutes of appreciation

1. I am the current chair of a local professional development group, and it has been an absolute pleasure. We’ve just wrapped up a search for new members of our steering committee, and at every step, my colleagues on the committee have proved themselves to be thoughtful, generous, and engaged. I don’t know how I happened into such a wonderful bunch of colleagues, but Library UX Chicago, you guys are the absolute best.

2. My Brain Pickings book club is also the best. We met today to discuss our most recent book, but were interrupted in the middle of a really personal conversation about how reading about death has informed the ways we are choosing to live our lives right now. It takes vulnerability and openness to return to that conversation and go even deeper. I am so grateful for these friends – long-time and new-to-me – and our ongoing engagement with books and each other.

3. I am also extremely grateful for a number of thoughtful colleagues (local and distributed) who regularly challenge and support me in all facets of my life. Whether it’s texting about data points during a meeting or inviting me to a running group or sharing very personal beliefs or talking about why goat pupils are unsettling or just bringing donuts – I can’t believe how lucky I am to be surrounded by such fantastic people. If you’re wondering if I’m talking about you, I probably am. Thank YOU for the gift of you.

#MeToo

For all the times my friends and I signaled to each other that a dude was getting too close in a club, that we needed help at a party or an out in a bar.

For the necessity of the late night check in to make sure that everyone made it home safe and with the right people (or without the wrong ones). For the mornings after, making sure that everyone was still OK with the previous night’s happenings (because it’s OK to not be OK, even if you thought you were in the moment).

For all of the unwanted comments about my body in all kinds of situations. For having to harden up and play deaf in order to run in my neighborhood in the clothing in which I felt comfortable.

For the unwanted exposure. For the furtive grope. Both addressed in strong enough terms that they never happened again.

For all the sex I had, in relationships and out of them, where I didn’t want to go along with it but didn’t know how to get out of it.

For the med student who didn’t do anything inappropriate, but whose specific phrasing made me want to stop doing the best job I’ve ever had. I went home and cried in a very hot bath and emailed my boss because our job was primarily to teach the students technique and secondarily how to treat patients with respect and compassion, and this one did well at the former but not the latter.

For every single fucking comment that has ever been made about my breasts. Yes, I have them. Yes, they are big, or at least they were. They serve a purpose. Right now, that’s feeding my child. Feeding my child is not about you or my breasts or my body. It’s about feeding my child.

For the relationships in which my body and my sexuality were treated as performative and property. Where I felt I had to be a specific kind of physical and sexual creature to be valued. And for the harm that caused to people I care about.

For the jerks driving by on Western Ave when my heart was full after a late night walk with someone new. My skirt may have been short, but that’s no excuse for honking and hollering. My body is not for you.

For having spent years clawing back my self image and hating to feel like covering up was necessary. Fuck you for making me feel like I am worth anything less than I am because my body is or isn’t what you think it should be.

Listen to women when they tell you these stories. Believe them. If you don’t, you’re part of the problem.

Ends and Beginnings

Out of nowhere, the three year old has abruptly started losing interest in nursing. I knew this would happen eventually – and he is right on track  – but he’s been so committed to it for so long that it was easy to forget that it would actually happen.

We night-weaned back in June. I went away for a few days, and when I came back, we decided that the night time nursing was done. It wasn’t hard. We were all ready. We get better sleep. It’s the best. Should we have done it earlier? Probably, but there were always excuses. I can’t regret what felt like a good choice, even if it wasn’t the best choice.

I’ve talked to lots of friends as their kids weaned. They talked about losing interest, getting distracted, nursing for short periods of time – or of just being done one day, with no warning. I knew materially what to expect, but I didn’t know what it would feel like, not really.

Three years and one month is a very long time. I feel extremely fortunate. So many friends have had a hard time of it, needed to stop before they wanted to, struggled with the realization that it just wasn’t going to work. It hasn’t always been easy, but compared to many, it has been effortless.

There have been windows of time when I felt like I was ready to be done, where the physical contact was just too much, where my nipples hurt, where I was just over being pawed at all the time. But there have never been windows of time when it felt like he was ready to be done – not until now, when there are as many nights that he doesn’t want milk as there are nights when he does, when I’ll ask and he’ll say “no, stories!” and snuggle up with his papa, leaving me to sit on the couch sort of blankly staring at my phone instead of holding my kid close.

He’s three. I knew this was coming. But that doesn’t mean I’m not a little wrecked by it.

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