Monday.

I haven’t kept up with the things I’ve been meaning to keep up with here. For example:

  • The new recipes we tried in May and June through the haze and hubbub of downsizing, moving, unpacking, and conference travel.
  • The races I ran back in April
  • The toddler’s latest obsessions
  • The books I’ve been reading (because I’ve actually been reading!)

I don’t have time or head/heart-space to do most of this justice right now, but I can do a quick mid-year check in on my 2017 resolutions:

  1. Eliminate credit card debt.
    Done. We hit our savings back in February to make this happen, and have been paying off balances each month. We’re still using our cards more than I would like, and are repaying our savings more slowly as a result, but we’re making it happen (and earning some travel points along the way).
  2. Take action every week.
    No, and I feel terribly guilty about that. At some point the many-times-daily asks for money overwhelmed me, and lacking an immediate way to prioritize, I shut down. I’m trying to get back in the swing of things.
  3. Finish Brain Pickings book club list.
    This has been so much fun so far! I don’t expect that we’ll read all 16 books, but that’s just fine with me.
  4. Incorporate professional development into my schedule.
    I’ve gone to conferences, but that’s about it.
  5. Finish weaning.
    We’re in the final throes of night weaning right now. We had planned to do this months ago, but it didn’t happen, and then we were moving and didn’t push it, and then it sort of organically happened around my work trip. Progress!
  6. PR at any distance.
    destroyed my 5K PR back in April, then ran a painful half marathon the next morning. A PR at both distances was within reach, but I have no regrets about letting the second one go because the first one was so huge for me!
  7. More regular visits with family.
    This one is happening! We’ve seen my family about once/month, including a trip to Iowa for my grandma’s 99th birthday in May.
  8. At least two blog posts/month.
    I managed to keep up with this until last month. Not bad!
  9. Try at least four new recipes/month.
    We’re still doing relatively well at this one. My parents gifted us with a Blue Apron gift certificate to help take some hassle out of moving meals, so that’s been a nice infusion of ideas. (We have free meal codes if anyone wants to try the service.)
  10. Make time for monthly dates.
    Thanks to the extreme generosity of our friends and my mom, we’ve been able to go out a few times, though definitely not every month. It’s progress!
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An afternoon list

Because my brain is melting due to survey analysis, a too-large cold brew, and possibly too much sugar, an afternoon list about our new life in Hyde Park:
  1. This morning I left my house a little after 7, biked to the gym (5 minutes), ran to the other gym to meet my running group, ran around Washington Park, ran 1 km repeats on the track, then ran back to my gym to get cleaned up before work. By 8:30, I was at my desk, fighting off the warm sleepies of a hard workout.
  2. While I was doing all of that, my family walked to Jackson Park to take in the Japanese garden, more properly known as The Garden of the Phoenix, where they looked at the birds and the leaves, and where the toddler ran freely amongst SKYLANDING, Yoko Ono’s only installation in America.
  3. On Saturday, we took a walk to the 57th Street Art Fair,which was a much more pleasant experience than the art-on-sticks onslaught of Ann Arbor’s Art Fair, but perhaps that was because we could dip in and out, our toddler falling asleep in the stroller as we walked down the shaded streets.
  4. The toddler and I attended a “nature playdate” at the pocket park out our back door. The park used to have the typical playground apparatus, but has been converted into a nature playground, with lots of sticks and rocks and tree stumps and a big sandbox for digging and exploration. Basically, it’s toddler heaven.
  5. We’ve developed an (unhealthy?) obsession with Roti, a Chicago-based chain with a location a short walk from our new apartment. Many ways to configure a vegan meal plus delicious non-vegan options for me plus extra pita bread for the toddler makes for a happy family.
  6. In addition to a wonderful independent grocery store at the end of our alley, we’re within a 10 minute walk of two other grocery stores, with other options a short bike ride away. It’s great to not have to pile into the car every time we need something – it’s also much more convenient since a smaller kitchen with smaller (Euro-sized, not dorm-sized) appliances means we have to shop more often.
  7. When we walk up the stairs to our third floor apartment, the toddler says, with emphasis, “New house!”.
  8. My family has been walking me to work, and then heading over to the quad to visit the ducks. We won’t do this every morning, of course, but it’s been a nice change from the mornings where I had to extricate myself from a crying child to get in the car and sit in traffic on my commute (which, while not terrible by Chicago standards, was still a driving commute).
  9. My commute is now a 15 minute walk or a 5 minute bike ride.
  10. I hate commuting, so my new commute is life-changing.

2017 Resolutions

1. Eliminate credit card debt.

Debt elimination has been a rolling goal for the last few years. I keep saying that this feels realistic, and then it keeps not happening. Last year I knocked out my student loan. This year the credit card debt has got to go.

2. Take action every week.

We all need to do all of the small and large things we can do to keep our country (or state or city or neighborhood) moving forward. I was stuck in terrible gridlock this morning (20 minutes to travel 20 miles), so I used the time to make (hands’ free!) calls to elected officials about House Republicans’ attempts to hobble the Office of Congressional Ethics.

3. Finish Brain Pickings book club list.

Along with a couple of friends, I’m making a book club out of the 2016 favorites list from Brain Pickings. First up: Hidden Figures.

4. Incorporate professional development into my schedule.

Attending a couple of conferences each year isn’t enough. I need to find ways to stretch and grow professionally every week.

5. Finish weaning.

I’m not in a hurry to do this – I’ve always said that I’ll be guided by the toddler’s needs and development – but it’s time to start the process.

6. PR at any distance.

I came really close to knocking out both a 5K and half PR in last year’s Illinois races. If I can make strength training and speedwork happen, I think this is feasible.

7. More regular visits with family.

It did my heart good to see the toddler interacting with his grandparents and cousins over the holidays and during our visit to Belgium in the fall. While we don’t expect to get to Belgium this year, we can get out to Rockford (and Michigan and Iowa) more often.

8. At least two blog posts/month.

This seems pretty straight forward.

9. Try at least four new recipes/month.

This should be relatively easy as well.

10. Make time for monthly dates.

This is hard but important, especially with a toddler! But we need to make it happen.

This is what maternity leave looks like.

This is what maternity leave looks like.

 

I go back to work on Monday after 3 months at home with my little family. To say that I have mixed feelings is putting it lightly.

I’ve always wanted to have a family, but for a variety of reasons, it didn’t happen in previous relationships. For the last decade, my career was one of those reasons. I could NOT imagine being happy as a stay-at-home parent, and I could NOT imagine giving up the career I’ve worked pretty hard to attain, and I could NOT imagine  (or afford) putting my child in daycare. And so in those relationships, we chose to not have children. That changed with this relationship, obviously.

Family leave in this country is ridiculous in comparison to pretty much any other developed nation, so I feel incredibly grateful to have had as much time as I did: 6 weeks paid, 3 weeks cobbled together from vacation, personal, and holiday time, and 4 weeks unpaid. I kept my benefits during this time, and was able to space out the unpaid weeks so as not to break the bank. We are very fortunate.

But I find myself at the end of my 13 weeks at home with a cooing baby on my lap, wondering how to make it all work. It physically pains me to think about leaving him next week to go to the office. I’ve been crying about it every day for weeks. While it’s been very hard at times, I’ve so enjoyed this time at home with my guys, and I can’t imagine what it’s going to feel like being away from them all day, particularly with the baby growing and changing so quickly.

I haven’t suddenly had a change of heart about being a stay-at-home parent, but I have missed work a lot less than I expected. It’s been a wonderful gift to just turn that part off for a few months. I’ve been checking my email, but haven’t had to really think about it for a long time – which has been good because it’s not like I’ve really been able to think all that much. While I’ve been home, we’ve spent a lot of time talking about what we’d like our future to look like, and where we might go next, and I’m excited about the directions we’ve plotted out together, however far off they may be.

On Monday, there will be a new normal, one that doesn’t allow for extended mornings in pajama pants or cuddled up post-nursing naps. No long walks to the park, or mid-afternoon coffees before a trip to the lake or the zoo with a sleeping baby in the carrier on my chest. It will be hard. But it will be OK.

Charles Richard Fesenmeyer Jr, 1948-2012

On Thursday, I drove to Iowa to bury my uncle. He passed away at home last week.

Unlike my grandpa, I don’t have photos of my uncle to post here. I don’t have affectionate stories about him from my childhood. I’m not traveling through the stages of mourning, as we didn’t really have a relationship to mourn. When I got the news last Thursday, I was – and remain – honestly more upset by my lack of reaction than by any feelings of loss.

I had the unpleasant task of contacting Rich’s Facebook friends to spread the news of his passing. I can think of few less appropriate ways to notify someone of this sort of thing, but we had no other way to reach these people, and no indication of others that he would have wanted us to contact. The responses I received described a man I never knew.

After the brief service on Thursday, the lot of us went out to lunch: my parents and grandma, my mom’s siblings, a cousin, and a few friends. My grandparents’ angel neighbor asked my mom and her siblings about their favorite memories of Rich, and it’s telling that most of them involved conflict, but that they could be told with affection and laughter.

So this is what I know of my uncle: he was wildly intelligent, and applied this intelligence to the things he was passionate about: astronomy, model trains, cameras, motorcycles, computers. He He hated the military, and gained weight to avoid having to serve in Vietnam. He had a friend who was poet laureate of some South American country, and when his friend received this award, they drank a station wagon full of beer. Until this fall, he held the family record for the half marathon – when I beat his time by several minutes, he reminded me that he had run the race in a storm with an injured plantar fascia. He was difficult and argumentative – as wildly intelligent people often are – resulting in polarized relationships with his family, but deep respect from his friends. He loved cats, and is buried with the ashes of some of his late feline friends. He smoked enough pot in the 70s that he developed an allergy to it. He was proud of me and my siblings, and told his friends that my sister and I were beautiful, though we never heard it from him.

He didn’t believe in God, and would have turned in his grave – or walked out – at the words of compassion and grace meted out by the pastor at the service. Regardless, I hope he’s at peace tonight, wherever he may be.

A Family Photo

There are a few things I want to tell you about, but for now, let me just share this:

IMG_8079

My brother waiting for the arrival of his bride. My parents and grandmother in the late afternoon sun. I was crying when Shane took this photo, and I’m choked up now. I’m so thankful and fortunate.

Fondue!

My brother Mark is getting married in a few weeks, capping off a wedding season that has seen our attendance at or involvement in six weddings, two showers, and one reception since May, all but two of those occurring out of state.

Guests of Honor

In my experience, bridal showers are painful as often as they are enjoyable. My sister and I were determined that the shower we cohosted for Mark and Evonne would be different. First of all, no games – especially no games involving toilet paper. Second, it would be a couples’ shower. And third, there would be good food.

Two kinds of cheese fondue and savory snacks – the acorn squash fondue was the biggest hit and yielded nearly twice what we expected, while the Dubliner fondue separated in the saucepan and never quite came back together.

Acorn Squash Fondue

Savory Snacks

Chocolate fondue, sweets and spiked cider. The chocolate fondue was an unmitigated success, and the pound cake was polished off by the end of Sunday’s breakfast. The cider didn’t survive the evening.

The Full Spread

Sweet Snacks

Laughter and party crashers:

Laughing Shane

Party Snacker

A lovely time was had by all.