Category: something cool (page 1 of 6)

The World Keeps Spinning

I know there are big things going on the world. Things that make no sense. Things that are making us all feel a little uncertain about the sanity of our neighbors and countrymen. Things that make us wonder what century we are living in. Things that make us feel small, and things that make us feel big. And maybe, just maybe, it feels like the world has stopped spinning. Or is slowing down while we all stand, mouths agape and off balance.

It’s a mad mad mad mad world. Right?fastfriendsBut here, in our little world, it’s just little things. Little things that let us know that the world is, indeed, still spinning. At it’s normal pace, at least. Maybe a little faster.

In our little world we are learning (and stressing about) how to write 5-paragraph essays and to cite evidence from the text.toothlessoliverWe are losing teeth and feeling pretty pumped about it.

We’re excited about our first gymnastics classes and about sleeping in cardboard boxes.

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And we’re learning to breathe, learning to blink, learning to not freak out when not in direct contact with another human being.

That kind of thing.

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Our newest little person arrived on March 10th at 5:28am. We’re pretty sure he’s the handsomest baby boy we’ve seen in years.

(All biases duly acknowledged.)

And while the world in general seems to be off its rocker, we’re happy to rock our baby to sleep and call it a day.

 

(I’ve had this post in my drafts for a few weeks . . . and just got around to posting it. #newbornlyfe)

Between Worlds

I’ve had a tab open in my browser for months now. I don’t read it a lot, but I do see it frequently, and when I do  I am reminded: other worlds await. I have felt this past year that I have been between worlds. There were so many parts of my life that were going so well just over a year ago. I was sure I was finally finding my groove as a writer, feeling comfortable as a mother, finding confidence in myself and my relationships.

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And then, both suddenly and slowly, that world ended.

*Wipe your tears

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It’s not the end of the world.

It’s the end of a world.

The week after I miscarried (last November), I begged off a writing assignment I had previously accepted. I lost the many trains of thought I was trying to follow into interesting and thoughtful essays. I would sit in front of a blank page and realize it was reflecting my mind and heart back at me. There was nothing there. Nothing to share. I have yet to find my groove or find even a thread that I can follow back to where I was and what I was doing.

It’s the end of the world

you’ve known.

Other worlds await you.

Worlds you’ll inhabit.

Worlds you’ll create.

But in the blank space, there are important things I feel like I have learned about motherhood this past year. For example, washing the dishes is actually not part of the job description. I don’t mind letting them sit while I join in the fun and games for a little while. And that has solved two problems: feeling resentful that everyone else gets to have fun while I have to work, and feeling guilty that I am a mom who is always around, but not always present.

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I have also made an effort to be more forthcoming and assertive in approaching difficult topics with the kids. They should hear things from me and Micah, and know that we are open to talking about anything and everything. We’ve had chats about miscarriage and the various ways babies can be born—surgically or naturally—in the past couple of weeks.  I hope that this lets my kids see me as a person who knows things and feels things.

However, I also look at my kids these days and see how chummy they are, how well they play (and fight) together, and I worry about this baby that is way behind my projected/hoped for schedule. Will he be part of the crew? Or always too little, too young to be included. I look at pictures of the 3 of them, and I can’t imagine another child breaking into that fraternity, and I worry for him, and I think of what might have been.

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Mourn now,

my child

Mourn this world

coming to an end.

Grieve the dreams

that will never come to be.

And if my kids’ relationships cause me angst, so do many of my other relationships. I gave myself a pass this year on so many things—including interacting with people. I had no energy for anyone or anything. And so I drifted. I can see and feel the distance in many of my relationships—and in my work, and in my hopes.

I see it and think of it and I wonder how I’m ever going to bridge the gap, to get back to where I was, or even to somewhere better. It feels like too much and I wonder if maybe I’ve just stopped drifting, but I’ll never get up the strength to build anything new, to build any momentum, to become anything new or to go anywhere other than where I am.

I try to remind myself that I have to give it time. I may not still be falling apart or falling away, but it takes time to rebuild, and especially if I am to grow into something stronger and better.

After every apocalypse

you will rise again,

my child.

One world ends,

another begins.

I think of that passage from Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis, about the house that is being remodeled, about walls being knocked down, new wings and towers and courtyards being built. About becoming a palace. I think of that, and I am comforted, but I also wonder: what if it never gets done? What if the walls get knocked down, but they never get rebuilt? What if the roof is always leaky, the drains are still backed up, and everyone agrees it was better off the way it was before?

After this year of sadness

there’ll be an ascension,

the joy tomorrow

is already inside

the grief today.

I have been waiting and hoping for signs that I am being rebuilt, that my life and my relationships and my family and my work will not suffer permanent, irreparable damage from this past year. I have a seriously hard time imagining myself ever saying, “It all worked out for the best,” even though I can imagine seriously good things rising from the rubble.

But I have also realized that if good things are going to come, if I am going to stop drifting, I will need to pick up the slack. It will take work. And sacrifice. I will need vision and inspiration. And commitment and patience. Lots and lots of patience.

With the new year dawning, I feel more and more determined to find what other worlds are out there, what other places I will find and people I will be, what my relationships will become. I am imagining what it will look like, and gathering my courage to go after it.

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Other worlds

await.

Worlds that you’ll make

with your hands.

Dreams of seeds

watered with the now tears. 

I know so many women who have been through similar experiences, whose lives have taken unexpected turns, whose hopes have fallen apart. I see them and I see that life can and does go on, that hearts are healed, that flowers still bloom after even the harshest winters. I am grateful for their lives, for the world they belonged to before they came into mine, a different being. And I hope that, like them, I can move forward. Begin again. Try again. Grow again.

 

*poem by Omid Safi

Cocoon Stories: Launched and Loaded with Good Stuff

We launched my podcast a few weeks ago. It was a close one. We almost delayed on that first episode. But then we decided that it was our deadline, what we had was good, we could tinker forever or we could put it out in the world and learn from our audience and our mistakes.

Thankfully, we’ve had a really great response so far. Lots of people saying nice things, sharing the podcast, telling their friends.

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Ellen and Ben sing and play “Cou Cou,” our theme song.

I published it on a Wednesday afternoon as I sat in our relatively quiet apartment. (Maybe the kids were playing in their bedroom?) There were no fireworks, no handshakes or hugs or backslapping congratulations. It was just me waiting for someone to notice what I’d done. But that takes a while when you are waiting for feedback about a 40 minute podcast. People have to find time to listen. Then they have to actually listen.

After about 2 hours, I got tired of waiting and texted my sisters so they could reassure me that efforts had not fallen on deaf ears. And then the feedback started trickling in. They loved it. Other people loved it. Everyone was excited to hear more.

And suddenly, Valerie and I realized how much we still have to do. Newsletter and social media and outreach and responding to our new fans. (If that is actually what they are.)
newandnoteworthyWe have 3 episodes posted now, and several more in various stages of production and planning. We are getting reviewed and rated and featured on the iTunes “New and Noteworthy” page for Kids and Family podcasts.

We are thrilled and excited and relieved . . . and working hard to keep it up.

 

p.s. If you’ve had a chance to listen, we’d love to hear your feedback. Shoot us a note on our website, or (even better) leave a review on our iTunes page.

How I Met My Mentor

We moved to Brooklyn eight years ago. Manchild was about 4 months old. I was starting grad school at NYU. The program I had been accepted into was an interdisciplinary program and was not what I had planned to do. In fact, I only applied to it after NYU rejected me from the journalism program. However, they had helpfully recommended that I apply to this other program just a few weeks later. I was accepted into it, and promptly turned down two other journalism programs because I knew that New York was really where I wanted to be. I planned to fill my elective hours with journalism classes—assuming I could find a teacher that would let a non-journalism student into his class.

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So I did some research. I looked at the intro-to-reporting classes. And I googled the professors. One of them stuck out to me. He had a daughter who shared my named. I sensed an in. So I emailed him. I asked him if I, as an interdisciplinary student with an interest in journalism, could take his class. And I held my breath and waited.

Within a day or two he responded. Sure, why not? was the gist of it. I showed up on the first day of class to find Tim, a somewhat rough and gruff guy who had all the softness of an eggshell. (I know several of my classmates felt like they were walking on eggshells whenever he addressed them . . . .) But I surprised myself by not being intimidated. My pathetic attempt at a news story was the first he critiqued in front of the class and I didn’t even cry when the first paragraph was deemed too long and too wordy and too academic. Actually, I felt . . . grateful. I knew I wasn’t any good. That’s why I was there. To get better. And I appreciated that Tim didn’t bother to sugar coat anything.

I didn’t love being called out and put on the spot, of course, and I also put a lot of pressure on myself to not let my status as a new mom be an excuse for me. So I worked hard. I completed my assignments on time and I stepped out of my comfort zone even more to pitch some of my student work to real newspapers.

By the end of the semester, Tim was asking what I was doing in a silly interdisciplinary program and I was telling him I didn’t really know. He told the head of the journalism program that I was in the wrong place. The head agreed, and let me reapply and be accepted into the journalism program.

The next semester I was a full-time student there, in the second half of Tim’s intro-to-reporting class. I would say that the rest is history, but Tim has continued to mentor and encourage me, even though my career has been mostly fits and starts since I graduated. In fact, it’s often Tim’s voice I hear in my head when I am feeling a little skittish or timid about taking a step forward.
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There have been times when I’ve wondered if I really should have gone to grad school. I’m willing to bet that not a lot of journalists have a graduate degree. But I’m sure I couldn’t have found a mentor like Tim without going to school, and without his encouragement, I’m not sure I would have done anything or gotten anywhere.

So cheers to Tim.

(Photos are from Tim’s lake house. He’s kind enough to invite us out every year.)

Cocoon: Stories of Gestation

Ugh. Life. Somehow it always gets in the way of what I really want do be doing, which is to sit and swap stories over chocolate chip cookies and milk. Or maybe a plate of nachos. There really isn’t enough time for that, IMHO. 

But I’m working on it. Maybe not so much the chocolate chip cookies part as the swapping stories part because that’s what my new project is about: telling stories. And I mean really telling them. With voices. Your voices. Which I (and my best gal pal Val, aka Valerie Best) will record, and then edit, and then share. Via podcast. 

It’s called Cocoon: Stories of Gestation. And those are the kind of stories we’ll be gathering and spreading—stories of pregnancy, of change, of growing and becoming something new and different. The focus is on the figurative gestational year, from deciding to pursue this parenthood thing (or from discovering the pregnancy, if that came first) to the shock and awe of holding that screaming newborn in your arms. Anything that happens during that time is fair game: from things like crazy cravings and fashion snafus and naming issues to heavier stuff like infertility, birth trauma, and loss. 

Basically, it’s all about this transitional time. What you, as moms and dads (or hopeful moms and dads, or would-have-been moms and dads), made of that strange and sensitive time—and what it made of you. 

So that’s what it is. And as we are working toward launch date (still TBD), we were hoping to get a bit of insight from all ya’ll. We’ve been working with the talented Linsey Laidlaw to come with up the look of Cocoon. She’s done some excellent work that we are really excited about, and we thought we’d ask you which one you are most excited about. Check out them out and let me know which one looks more, to you, like the Cocoon described above. What do you see? What speaks to you? Why? I can’t wait to hear. 

   

 

For A Cause

Way back in January I read “Marathon Woman” by Kathrine Switzer, the first woman to run the Boston Marathon with a bib. She was basically attacked and nearly kicked out of the race for her efforts, but went on to run it—and other marathons—many more times and then to promote women’s running for the rest of her life. Encouraging women to run, and showing them that they could, was (and is) her life’s work. 

Seems pretty awesome, right? To have a cause, a vision, a focus for all your efforts as a human being? I admit to being slightly jealous.  At the time I read it, I was going through a little crisis of my own and none of my favorite things—running, writing, mothering—felt very inspired or inspiring. After several years of paddling along just fine, writing about my life and my loves, running races, and feeling the sweet soreness and strength of all of those things, I was dead in the water. 

Writer’s block, runner’s low, mama’s blues. 

 

I had hoped that this is what I would do forever, on one scale or another. Run and raise my kids and write about it. I loved doing that, and love it still. I plan to do it for a long time. But I have come to accept that I can’t be as productive as I want to be all the time. I can’t always be inspired. I can’t always be improving. Sometimes I just have to be.

It’s been hard to let those things go, to not see the music and magic in my mundane life raising these kiddos and to not be sharing those things here and elsewhere as often as I can. I miss that very, very much. (Though I admit that it has been nice to make the effort to actually be a part of the action, rather than just observing it: playing video games and ignoring the dishes is something I could maybe get used to. Assuming I don’t always and forever come in last place in MarioKart.) 

However, in the fallow field of my mind and heart a new plant has taken root. A new idea is springing up that I am excited about. I have a great vision for it and I think that it can and (I hope) will be something beautiful and inspiring and even healing. 

That’s just a fancy way of saying that I have a new project I’m working on. It is different and bigger and, I think, more important than anything I have ever imagined up before. And I am excited to share it with you.  

 

For now I just wanted to let you know that I have what I believe to be “a cause.” And it feels pretty good. 

More to come.

Good Grief: guest post by Heather Cosby

A few months ago, my friend Heather posted some thoughts on her blog about grief and motherhood. It really resonated with me and over several weeks the topic kept finding its way into my conversations with other friends. I finally asked Heather if she wouldn’t mind sharing it here on MotherRunner, and she graciously agreed. Without further ado, here’s Heather.

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As I sat nursing my baby, Emily, this morning, I saw my phone sitting on the ottoman at my feet. I thought of a funny text I could send to my husband, Sam, but I knew if I picked up my phone I’d end up fiddling around on it till Emily was done eating. Knowing this was one of my rare moments of peace during the day with my son at preschool, I resisted and instead shut my eyes and tried to focus on the weight and warmth of Emily’s body against mine, her hand brushing my skin, her contented little mmm’s as she ate.

Eventually, my thoughts turned to my son, Levi, as they often had lately. We always seemed to be battling one another and we were both exhausted by it. And though I was trying not to wrestle with his formidable will, the other ways I tried to connect with and motivate him weren’t working, so we almost always resorted to threats to get things done. This of course left him feeling angry and me feeling guilty.

Though recently, I had started reading, “Parenting Without Power Struggles” by Susan Stiffelman and it gave me plenty of parenting wisdom to ponder on this quiet morning. Stiffelman suggests that at times when your child won’t be getting his way, you should approach them as if they were grieving. After all, they’re experiencing a loss of something important to them. As she detailed the stages of grief—denial, anger, bargaining, depression or sadness, and acceptance—I realized these were exactly the emotions and tactics my son was experiencing several times a day.


levi copyOur job as parents, Stiffelman says, is to walk our children through those emotions more quickly and as allies. That way they then come to accept the situation on their own, without our forcing it on them. Instead of wading through the refusals, bargaining, yelling, running away, whining, crying, and resentfully cooperating, you give your child the freedom to mourn their loss. You’re on their side as you tell them how sorry you are to see them sad, and they feel supported as they come to understand they’re not going to get their way. So far, it had worked with Levi. He finally felt like someone was listening to him, and I was more compassionate towards him as I saw him grieving.

My thoughts then slid, as thoughts do, to what my life would look like in the context of grief. In the past several years I’ve dealt with anger, depression, and nearly constant change. I thought maybe moving too often—seven times in eight years—was the source of pain, but I’ve loved the adventure. I’ve seriously considered going back to school or work, but when it came down to it, I knew I would regret not staying home when the kids were small and we had the resources to make it possible. I’ve struggled with medications and injuries. But in the last year and a half, all that has gone away and I still get flashes of deep sadness or feeling adrift or feeling like something is missing.

As I sat with my eyes closed, snuggling my tiny baby, I finally asked myself, “Is there something you’re grieving or mourning?” Without knowing how, it was like a weight was removed from my heart. It’s not that I don’t love my life or my family. It’s not that I regret the choices I’ve made, because when I look back they really are indicative of my true desires. It’s that as a young woman I had expectations for my life and myself that have not been realized, and I am mourning them.

I had expected to be more involved in my community through a career or intense volunteering. I had thought running would always be a part of my life. I thought I’d be as healthy as I’d ever been. I thought I’d be an energetic and creative mother. I thought I’d have new friendships as deep and lasting as my old ones had been. I thought I’d be the person others needed rather than needing other people so often.emilyandlevi copy

In the same way that it was hard to say goodbye to my grandmother and grandfather who I loved and admired deeply and who gave me hope, I was finding it hard to say goodbye to the woman I thought I would be, a woman who is strong and smart and fit and kind and capable and seems to be all of those things all of the time. I’m mourning the loss of her possibility.

Realizing this, that I had seen the long, slow fading of a remarkable woman who had long been my companion, tears came to my eyes. I was filled with compassion for myself. I sometimes feel so torn inside and feeling like there’s no reason for it just adds to the pain and shame of it. But stepping back and seeing myself in grief and mourning lets me be kinder and gentler. It lets me sit with the pain, quietly, and let myself say goodbye again, as many times as I need to.

When I was baptized into my church, I promised God I would be “willing to mourn with those that mourn… and comfort those that stand in need of comfort.” We are able to do this because each of us knows sorrow in our own way. Life never happens the way we expect, and when that woman who seems to be all the things we want to be holds our hand, or cries with us, or sits in silence with us, we know that she too has mourned her own losses and dreams.

Somehow, through that sisterhood, and through our quiet hours grieving with and comforting our own broken selves, we are slowly reborn. As we say goodbye to the person we thought we’d become, the person we are becomes more real, more true. Like a new child, we are small, fragile, and tender, but the weight of our hands and the warmth of our touch are undeniable.

A Gift For You (GIVEAWAY for NY/NJers)

UPDATE: lucky number 7! Melissa Jeppesen and her boys are the lucky winners! Thanks for shining a new light on New Jersey for me, friends!

Or at least for one lucky family who lives in the New York/New Jersey area.  :)

It’s Christmas time and we’re all about giving, right? Well, last weekend our family was given the opportunity to go to the Liberty Science Center, which is just on the other side of the Holland Tunnel, in Jersey City. And now I’m giving all you local people the lowdown on it, as well as one lucky family 4 tickets to the center.

Because it’s Christmas! (And also because I have 4 tickets to give away!)

lscnerdsSo first, the lowdown. I know that New Yorkers like to kind of get a little snooty with New Jersey (all in good fun!), but it’s kind of hard with the Liberty Science Center. It makes our Brooklyn museums look so . . . small. In fact, our expectations were such that we planned to spend only a couple of hours there. It took us only a few moments to realize our mistake. Lots of floors with lots of cool things. Plan to spend the day.

Because of our lack of foresight, we ended up picking just a few things we wanted to see/do and giving ourselves a few minutes at each place. There were entire floors we didn’t touch. We had to pull our kids away more than once when they clearly could have been there for hours. (Give Manchild a Rubik’s Cube . . . .)

lscinfinityclimber3Some favorites:

The Touch Tunnel. I thought it would be a tunnel in which you touch different things. Just based on the name. I was wrong. It was a tunnel, and you did use your sense of touch. I ended up with a 25-pound monkey child riding on my back because she could not figure out what was going on, and Micah did the same for a 35-pound monkey child, while the 50-pound monkey child sped through the maze and made it look easy. We emerged on the other side feeling like we accomplished something. (Both Little Miss and Squish were all smiles at being able to see again.)

The Infinity Climber. This is a little hard to describe, so we have photos. Netting. Petal-like platforms. Three-stories above the floor. Maze-like. Winding and twisting. Everyone had a good time trying to find each other and stay together. There were lots of people climbing around and a few traffic jams, but we lived to tell the tale and agreed that it was pretty cool.lscinfinityclimber4Processed with VSCOcam with b1 preset

Beyond The Rubik’s Cube. Puzzles puzzles puzzles! Pigs in Clover, 15, tangrams . . . and more. This is where we spent most of our time, and we barely made it beyond the entrance to the exhibit. I was kind of bummed that I had to supervise my kiddos and help them with their puzzles because I would have loved to explore the exhibit more deeply on my own. But then again, it was also super fun to see them go so deep into shapes and colors and fitting things together.

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Animals! On our way through Lower Manhattan as we drove to the museum Squish kindly informed us that he’s really into animals these days. (He was deflecting attention from his older brother who had just wowed us with an unexpected feat of deduction.) So I guess it was his lucky day when they pulled the snake and the tarantula and the hissing cockroach and the scorpion out of their boxes, eh?

But really, the kids were fascinated. As were Micah and I because WHO KNEW ALL SCORPIONS GLOW UNDER BLACK LIGHT?? Not us. Kind of blew our minds.

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We also spent a few moments observing the fish. There were lots of them, some of which were bigger than some of our children.

 

Regrets:

I really wanted to check out the guitar exhibit. And the surgical robot exhibit. And the communication exhibit (obviously).

Again, we were kicking ourselves for not planning to spend the whole day. Learn from us, people! Take your time!

GIVEAWAY DETAILS: Now . . . the LSC really wants to help you out over the Christmas break. They really want to you to be able to get your kids out of the apartment and give them something new to explore, some space to roam, some thing to obsess about for the next month or so. And so they gave me 4 tickets to give to one of you!

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If you want them, please leave a comment on this post by Dec. 24th (Christmas Eve!) at midnight (I know you’ll be awake!). Tell me what you love about New Jersey. (Mine is the views of Manhattan.) I’ll pick a winner and send you the tickets post-haste so you can have them on hand for that 2nd week of no school when you’re feeling claustrophobic and counting down the minutes until school starts again. (Or whenever you want over the next year or so: the tickets expire Jan. 31 2016.)

Sisters in Beauty

I get a little bit annoyed sometimes at how focused we are on beauty. I mean, can’t we go a little deeper than that? Can’t we get beyond appearances to the meat of who people actually are? But then again, I am as much a sucker as anybody for someone telling me I’m pretty or that they like what I’m wearing or that my hair looks nice.

As much as I hate to admit it, it matters. It really does.

And I got to see why yesterday when I went to Dove’s Self-Esteem Weekend kick-off. I listened to teenage girls from the Girl Scouts, from Girls Inc. and from The Boys and Girls Club talk about beauty and confidence and how they can influence each other to feel good about themselves. Dove’s focus this year is on your beauty legacy — how others feel about themselves because of you.

I know that I have a lot of responsibility for my kids (and for my daughter especially), but one of the things that stood out to me was the sisterhood of the whole endeavor. “Confident people encourage others” was one of the takeaways of the event. Once you get to a place where you are happy with yourself — with who you are and what you can do — you are not threatened by others. You can bring out the best in them because you recognize the best in you.

Too often girls (and women) are so catty because they feel like if anybody is pretty or smart or talented, it means they are less pretty or smart or talented. (Guilty as charged!) And we bring each other down when we could be moving up and beyond the basics and actually getting stuff done.

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And that, I suppose, is as good a reason as any to focus on beauty. Because maybe if we master it in ourselves, we can help our sisters find it in themselves. And then maybe we can relax a little bit and see what we really have to offer.

Commentary, Here and Elsewhere

I honestly didn’t know when I wrote my last post that I would be “expanding my reach” so soon. I pitched Motherlode a month ago and had been thinking it was time to move on and shop my essay around elsewhere when I found out they wanted to run it. You can read it here. Along with the commentary. Oh, yes, the commentary!

That’s something I’m learning to deal with. The questions. The insinuations. The declarations of disgust. Not just on my writing, but on my life in general. I admit that I bring it on myself because I do live my life relatively publicly—via my writing and my cycling/running/walking. I—and my family—are often out in the open. We’re not cocooned in a car with the radio turned up, deaf to whatever anyone else may be saying about us. It’s hard for me to not want to respond to everybody. I really want to get the last word, to clear up misconceptions, to give the whole story, not just the little bit I am able to share in 750-1000 words.

Mostly, I don’t read the comments on my essays. Mostly. But that doesn’t mean I can’t hear what people say. Today, as I loaded up the bike with all my purchases from Costco (yes, I rode my bike to Costco), some lady walked by mumbling something about the crazy lady with her bike. Mumbling about me. Just loud enough for me to hear her. Some other women had walked by earlier and mentioned how brave I was. I know the line between ‘brave’ and ‘crazy’ is sometimes a thin one, and it’s probably true that I am often dancing all over it. I don’t mind. I think other people are crazy and/or brave for the way they choose to live their lives, too. So I tried to shrug it off as I rode steadily and surely back home.

Which, I suppose, is the best anyone can do in the face of criticism, whether thoughtful or off-the-cuff. Sift out the bad and hold onto the good. It’s clearly something on my mind because last week when my friend Koseli asked me to contribute to her new blog, Bored Moms, the best thing I could come up with was this: that it’s worth dealing with the criticism to be part of the community—and I mean both the physical community we encounter riding around on a bike and the virtual community we encounter when I share my experiences online.

I hope that the net result of sharing, of being seen, of living my life authentically and boldly, is positive. For me and my family, of course, but for those who take the time to notice and engage and comment, too.

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