Archives For On a Personal Note…

This past weekend I took a much-needed solo trip to Atlanta to visit my longtime BFF, Lauren. I haven’t been feeling quite myself lately, but there’s something about spending time with someone who has been a friend for more than half of my life to help me remember who I am. It was the first time I’d ever spent more than a day away from Jack and I reveled in the luxury of not being responsible for anybody but myself for nearly 72 hours. We did all kinds of wonderful things I wouldn’t normally do–sat around and read during the day, drank as much wine as we wanted at night, got pedicures, and stayed up late talking about the past. It was, in a word, indulgent. There were even cupcakes.

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I usually don’t enjoy driving long distances, but I was able to load a couple of audiobooks from the library onto my phone and play them through the car’s Bluetooth. Yay technology! It was my first audiobook experience and I am definitely a fan. The miles flew by as I immersed myself in lowbrow literature. And I laughed when one of the characters, a psychologist, said to her longtime best friend as they were discussing past relationships, “I didn’t spend six years at Vanderbilt to have some punk I’ve known since before we got our periods tell me I don’t know what I’m talking about.” Lauren and I have, in fact, known each other since before we got our periods (too much information?), but neither of us would dare tell the other she doesn’t know what she’s talking about. And although Lauren is a successful businesswoman and I have a master’s in social work I look to her for emotional guidance as much as she does me.

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I really, really needed that short vacation. It was so refreshing. As for Nick and Jack, they survived, but yesterday morning Jack felt hot and a trip to the doctor confirmed that he has strep throat. I’m glad I’m back home to be with him. I missed his little face!

The bad news: I started smoking again. The good news: I quit again already. Smoking is one of those things that nothing good can come of, and yet I really do love it. If it weren’t so disgusting and dangerous I’d never quit. I gave up smoking in 2010 and to this day I count quitting among my greatest accomplishments. Once or twice a year since I’ve shared a cigarette with a friend, but it was overpowering and made me wonder why I’d ever loved it.

Then a few people in my life started using electronic cigarettes and I thought they were the best thing ever! They were less powerful than tobacco cigarettes, but almost as fun. I picked up a disposable e-cigarette (equivalent to a pack or two) once every couple weeks when I was feeling feisty or planning to spend my evening at home with a glass of wine. Then we went on vacation and I wanted an e-cig but couldn’t find an inexpensive disposable at the beachside gas station. So I bought a pack of Camels, figuring it was okay to cut loose a little on vacay. Over the next few weeks I started craving cigarettes more and more and before I knew it I was up to half a pack a day.

Smoking is frowned upon no matter what, but I felt especially ashamed to be smoking now that I was a mother. I knew I had to quit. I waited until a week when I was scheduled to work every day, since I’ve never smoked at this job before. Being in a different environment really helped, but I couldn’t have done it without nicotine gum. I used the gum to quit back in 2010 and it was a lifesaver. Because while smoking is a habit, it’s also a chemical addiction. You know how sometimes when you’re thirsty, it’s not necessarily because your throat is dry or any other specifically identifiable issue, but you just want something to drink? Your brain is just telling you, hey, give me some water. That’s what craving a cigarette feels like. I want one like a thirsty person wants water, even if I don’t want the stink, chest congestion, and carcinogens that come with it. A piece of nicotine gum can help me satisfy that craving and then it’s easy for me to slowly back off the gum. I haven’t smoked in a week but just writing about it is triggering a craving–good thing I’ve got a few pieces of gum left!

So why did I start smoking again? The nicotine got me hooked, of course, but why did I start in the first place? I’m not sure. I smoked through most of college and grad school and a lot of people I loved smoked when I was growing up. Despite knowing all the risks I have a lot of positive memories associated with smoking. Maybe at 29, with my career well established and an ever-more-independent toddler at home, I’m a little restless. I’m craving some adventure. This weekend I’m heading to Atlanta to visit my best friend from high school. It’ll be the first time I’ve traveled on my own since Jack was born and I think it’ll be good for me. I need some quality time to myself and despite my distaste for driving long distances I think all those hours alone on the open road will give me plenty of time to think.

Even though Nick is a very involved father this will be the first time he’s had Jack all to himself for this long. He keeps calling it “Guys’ Weekend” and talking about all the fun they’re going to have. Hopefully I won’t miss them too much! Fingers crossed that I come back feeling more relaxed.

If you stumble, make it part of the dance

Have a great weekend, y’all.

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I started out this summer devouring several books in a row, but lately I’ve hit a bit of a dry spell. I’ve started a few books and just can’t get into any of them. So, what are your favorites that you’d suggest? I like to really be able to get to know the characters, bonus if there’s a romantic element. Here are some I’m considering:

The Secret Keeper: A Novel During a summer party at the family farm in the English countryside, sixteen-year-old Laurel Nicolson has escaped to her childhood tree house and is happily dreaming of the future. She spies a stranger coming up the long road to the farm and watches as her mother speaks to him. Before the afternoon is over, Laurel will witness a shocking crime. A crime that challenges everything she knows about her family and especially her mother, Dorothy—her vivacious, loving, nearly perfect mother. Now, fifty years later, Laurel is a successful and well-regarded actress living in London. The family is gathering at Greenacres farm for Dorothy’s ninetieth birthday. Realizing that this may be her last chance, Laurel searches for answers to the questions that still haunt her from that long-ago day, answers that can only be found in Dorothy’s past. Dorothy’s story takes the reader from pre–WWII England through the blitz, to the ’60s and beyond. It is the secret history of three strangers from vastly different worlds—Dorothy, Vivien, and Jimmy—who meet by chance in wartime London and whose lives are forever entwined. The Secret Keeper explores longings and dreams and the unexpected consequences they sometimes bring. It is an unforgettable story of lovers and friends, deception and passion that is told—in Morton’s signature style—against a backdrop of events that changed the world.

Margot: A Novel Anne Frank has long been a symbol of bravery and hope, but there were two sisters hidden in the annex, two young Jewish girls, one a cultural icon made famous by her published diary and the other, nearly forgotten. In the spring of 1959, The Diary of Anne Frank has just come to the silver screen to great acclaim, and a young woman named Margie Franklin is working in Philadelphia as a secretary at a Jewish law firm. On the surface she lives a quiet life, but Margie has a secret: a life she once lived, a past and a religion she has denied, and a family and a country she left behind. Margie Franklin is really Margot Frank, older sister of Anne, who did not die in Bergen-Belsen as reported, but who instead escaped the Nazis for America. But now, as her sister becomes a global icon, Margie’s carefully constructed American life begins to fall apart. A new relationship threatens to overtake the young love that sustained her during the war, and her past and present begin to collide. Margie is forced to come to terms with Margot, with the people she loved, and with a life swept up into the course of history.

The Secret Life of Bees When Lily’s fierce-hearted black “stand-in mother,” Rosaleen, insults three of the town’s most vicious racists, Lily decides they should both escape to Tiburon, South Carolina—a town that holds the secret to her mother’s past. There they are taken in by an eccentric trio of black beekeeping sisters who introduce Lily to a mesmerizing world of bees, honey, and the Black Madonna who presides over their household. This is a remarkable story about divine female power and the transforming power of love—a story that women will continue to share and pass on to their daughters for years to come.

The Invention of Wings Hetty “Handful” Grimke, an urban slave in early nineteenth century Charleston, yearns for life beyond the suffocating walls that enclose her within the wealthy Grimke household. The Grimke’s daughter, Sarah, has known from an early age she is meant to do something large in the world, but she is hemmed in by the limits imposed on women. Kidd’s sweeping novel is set in motion on Sarah’s eleventh birthday, when she is given ownership of ten year old Handful, who is to be her handmaid. We follow their remarkable journeys over the next thirty five years, as both strive for a life of their own, dramatically shaping each other’s destinies and forming a complex relationship marked by guilt, defiance, estrangement and the uneasy ways of love. As the stories build to a riveting climax, Handful will endure loss and sorrow, finding courage and a sense of self in the process. Sarah will experience crushed hopes, betrayal, unrequited love, and ostracism before leaving Charleston to find her place alongside her fearless younger sister, Angelina, as one of the early pioneers in the abolition and women’s rights movements. Inspired by the historical figure of Sarah Grimke, Kidd goes beyond the record to flesh out the rich interior lives of all of her characters, both real and invented, including Handful’s cunning mother, Charlotte, who courts danger in her search for something better. This exquisitely written novel is a triumph of storytelling that looks with unswerving eyes at a devastating wound in American history, through women whose struggles for liberation, empowerment, and expression will leave no reader unmoved.

I know the easy solution would be to download a free sample of each to my Kindle, but I wanted to ask your opinions, plus inquire as to whether there are any others I might like. So what say you?

(all book descriptions are from amazon)

Way back in April Nick’s parents gave us a pair of twin beds that their boys slept in when they were kids. I used gel stain to darken the wood and then had to wait a while until we could get a mattress and hardware.

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The stars aligned this weekend and Nick was able to bring a truck home from work on a weekend when we already had plans to visit his parents about an hour away. They had a twin mattress that wasn’t being used so we loaded it up. We decided to only set up one of the beds for now because Jack’s room is so small. Someday we may move him into the larger guest room and set both beds up then, but for now one bed is plenty. These beds have been in storage for a while and the accompanying hardware is nowhere to be found. I tried tracking down replacement hardware, but from what I understand there is no standard sizing for these sorts of fasteners and the company that made the beds has since gone out of business.

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I decided to just attach the rails with some sturdy brackets instead. Nick and I measured, marked, and drilled until brackets were attached to all four posts, then measured and pre-drilled holes in the rails before attaching them in place. I’m considering adding another small bracket on the top or side at each corner but they’re surprisingly sturdy as is.

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The bed came with a set of slats and what google tells me is called a “bunky board.” I love that it offers more support than slats alone without the bulk of a boxspring.

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I made up the bed with a set of basic white sheets and this blanket (in gray pickstitch). It’s so much softer and cozier than anything I saw in the kids’ section and I love the way it looks.

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Jack was really excited about making the move into his new bed! I think it helped that my mom got him this book for his birthday a few weeks ago. Here he is at bedtime on that first night (Sunday).

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As excited as he was, he definitely needed a little more support falling asleep that night. I ended up laying down with him for a little while, then sitting in the chair, then sitting in the living room with his bedroom door open and telling him to lay back down whenever I saw him sit up on the video monitor. But I am shocked to report that he never got out of bed! Even in the morning! I’m also hopeful that we won’t need the guardrail for long, but I’ll watch him carefully for a while to be sure. He hasn’t moved around much at all so far. I still need to add a waterproof mattress cover and contraption for toddlerproofing that outlet behind the headboard (both on order from Amazon), and I have plans to rework the mobile that I made to hang above his crib, but setting up the new bed was the only major change required to take this space from nursery to kid room.

It feels like the end of an era, y’all. As I stood on his bed to remove the mobile hanging from the ceiling above I remembered being hugely pregnant and climbing into his crib to hang it a little over two years ago (I actually bent the metal mattress support standing on it with my big pregnant self). Here’s a throwback pic for nostalgia’s sake:

And OMG I can’t even.