Lindsey Mead, one of my favorite writers/bloggers/women does this on her blog every other year, and for a number of reasons, I am compelled to do the same right now. It’s a fun exercise and a good way of remembering life at a certain point. Also? It’s April vacation week and my brain cells need a break from drafting more cogent words.
Without further ado, the ABCs of me, right now.
A is for anxiety. It ebbs and flow based on what else is going on in my life. I’m happy to report that things are quite manageable these days (except maybe for claustrophobia in crowded spaces—that seems to be a keeper). Two big reasons for the relative ease are my daughter’s age (it’s largely stress free) and me shifting my focus to write more.
B is for Beckham. As in David Beckham. I hope I do not need to explain any more than that.
C is for Corgi. We are adopting one, and she moves home with us around Memorial Day when she is closer to 16 weeks old. Everyone under this roof is over the moon. Her name? Scroll down to ‘Z’!
D is for dog. See above. We are totally ready for this but also…yikes!
E is for eye surgery. I am having surgery in late August to fix a lazy eye. I’m now restricted to glasses 100% of the time because of the double vision (prisms correct for that), and I finally couldn’t take it anymore so I scheduled the surgery. I’ll still have to wear contacts for nearsightedness, but it will be nice to run/swim again without glasses or seeing two of everything. (Side note: I’m taking audiobook recommendations for the 2 week recovery period when I cannot see well.)
F is for first grade. My girl is a first grader and she simply adores school. The most fascinating thing for me has been the crescendo in her ability to read this year, and her insatiable love for stories and words.
G is for gin and tonic. Hands down, this is my favorite drink ever since I discovered I cannot drink wine or beer anymore (migraines). But I’m becoming a bit of a gin snob, so that’s worrisome, if not expensive. But you know what? I’m 41 and if now is not the right time to drink the good stuff, when is? And if ‘F’ wasn’t already taken, I’d tell you that Fever-Tree is my favorite brand of tonic water.
H is for homebody. That’s what I am, through and through. Between my family, books, and garden, I really don’t need much else. But don’t worry, I do get out. To buy more books. And gin.
I is for introvert. I’ve always known it, but the difference between now and 15-20 years ago, is that I honor it. I don’t commit myself to situations or certain people if I know there is not likely going to be some kind of benefit to me (or my spouse, daughter, etc.) and, more to the point, I don’t feel guilty about it.
J is for joy. I am making a conscious effort to surround myself only with those people, things, and places that really bring me joy. As cliche as it sounds, life is too short to really do otherwise when we can avoid it. This is what’s wonderful about being my age. I have better perspective about this now, more so than ever before. The net result is a heart that hurts less and feels love more.
K is for Kua Gai Noodles. Seriously my favorite Thai dish for the past year. I needed something to replace my prior fave, Pad Thai, because I can’t really have nuts without major migraine fallout. I get them with tofu from the place down the street. So good.
L is for learning. I am in a really big mode of learning everything I can about the art of writing essays and short stories. Even though I am still tinkering with a novel length piece here and there, I presently get more personal satisfaction by cutting my teeth via submissions of essays and short stories (with an abundant supply of rejection!).
M is for migraines. You probably figured out that I suffer from migraines. But the good news is that by eliminating several foods/drinks wholesale, and severely restricting intake of a few others around times of stress or peak hormones, I have gone from 3-4 2-day migraines a month, down to 1 or 2 1-day migraines every 6-8 weeks. It’s like having my life back. I do miss peanut butter in a major way though.
N is for new music. I need some. I am in a major rut.
O is for orange. Probably my favorite color, though I don’t really wear it (I don’t wear most other colors either).
P is for pet peeve. Here is my current one: people who do not say thank you. I’m not talking about the occasional faux pas or lapse—we all do that once in a while for myriad reasons. I’m talking about the consistent lack of not actually saying or writing those precise words. I’m seeing some of this on Twitter lately and I’m seeing it in my personal life. There’s pretty much no quicker way to get me to tune out/move on/not share/not help if you’re on strike 3, 4, etc. *rant over* Thank you.
Q is for quicker. My average mile pace, though still slow, is quicker than it was a couple of years ago. I’m hovering around 11:30-11:45 miles on a 3-4 mile run. Of course I laugh when I think about my fastest mile times in high school (6:12), but I’m running about a full 90 seconds faster per mile than two years ago, so I’m pleased.
R is for reach. This is my word for 2015. So far, I think I’m staying on target.
S is for short stories. I just finished Anthony Doerr’s The Shell Collector. I was rapt for all but one story. He is an incredible writer. When I get to it, I know I will savor every word of his novel—you know, the one that just one the Pulitzer Prize!?!?! I know I am late to that party, but I have been saving it for one of our planned summer trips. I want to be wowed while in the mountains of Vermont.
T is for tea. As in sun tea. I love to make it in a huge mason jar on my deck, and then enjoy endless Arnold Palmers. It’s almost time, people. And if you live close, you’re officially invited for a glass this summer.
U is for umbrellas. OK, definitely odd, but I have this fascination with seeing abandoned, broken umbrellas strewn along sidewalks or streets. I love to imagine a maniacal rage, during some torrential rainstorm, where someone just lost it and threw their umbrella to the wayside, swearing like a sailor. It makes me laugh when I see those umbrellas thinking about it that way. (Watch, you’re going to notice them now too.)
V is for Veep. That show…I just love it. And Venn diagrams. Love those too.
W is for writing. I’m spending most of my time doing this now, particularly when M is in school. I’m growing slightly nervous that I/we do not have a plan for this summer about how I am going to squeeze in these same number of hours once she’s done with school (especially with a new puppy underfoot), but I know it will work out one way or another. It always does.
X is for XX chromosomes. I admit it: I really, really love having a daughter. Especially this age she is right now. It’s wonderful.
Y is for you. I come to this space because you do too. Thank you.
Z is for Zoe. And we cannot wait for her to snuggle with us.
Copyright (c) 2015 Kristen M. Ploetz
The subject of why there have been no women presidents has come up a few times in the past couple of months. It first came up around Presidents’ Day in February, and most recently when Hillary Rodham Clinton announced her candidacy.
Raising a 7.5 year old daughter, it results in me giving explanations using broad generalizations that are easily digested and understood by someone her age, yet fully knowing that the issue is overwhelmingly much more complex and, in a word, disheartening. Rightfully so, she is confused and downright surprised by the current and historical state of affairs. I tend to agree; it makes no sense.
I did the math. Here’s how old she will be for presidential elections in the coming years:
2016 – 9 years old
2020 – 13 years old
2024 – 17 years old
2028 – 21 years old
This means that, at least for presidential elections, there are 13+ years until she can vote.
And when I think about that, I wonder what she and her peers (of both genders) will witness during the intervening years. Will she see more women throw hats into the ring or the same thread of hesitancy? Will she see arrows aimed at gender instead of ability? Will she see women candidates’ outfits discussed more than their politics, especially when compared to their male counterparts? Will she see the bar set unreasonably and unfairly higher for women? Will she see words like “feminist” and “equality” hurled like barbs? Will intelligent, assertive women candidates be pegged as bitches, yet equally smart, ferocious men be called strong leaders?
As we enter this next presidential race, I hope that we—the adults—start changing the dialogue when we discuss candidates and their campaign platforms. Whether we’re talking about women or men, let’s say things like, “I don’t like his/her stance on _______” rather than “I don’t like him/her”. Or maybe we support our opinions with things like, “I think his/her track record with ________ would make him/her a strong/weak president” rather than “He’s/she’s a liar/moron/thief (or worse)”. Let’s have intelligent and spirited debates and dialogue about all of the candidates, but support them with reason and fact (to the extent that we can extrapolate that from the media), not mere gender bias.
Assuming all other things are equal, I want my daughter to witness women being given the same respect and opportunity to win as men. I want her to be encouraged and intrigued by women entering the race, rather than jaded and confused by how they are ultimately treated and discussed and vetted. I want her to ask the pointed questions about why or why not someone might be an ideal leader. I want her to believe that, in the end, people do not vote for or against a candidate solely based on gender.
These children of ours—our boys and girls—they are watching, and they are listening. No matter how you intend to vote, how will you talk about the candidates?
Copyright (c) 2015 Kristen M. Ploetz
In darkness, she moved tentatively from the doorway to the foot of my bed. I could sense she didn’t know if I was awake. Until I realized I was alone in bed, I was uncertain whether it was the middle of the night or moments before the day was to begin.
“What’s up, Buggy?”, my voice still groggy from sleep that ended abruptly just minutes ago.
“Hi, Mama,” she said cheerfully as she slid into the still warm but empty spot next to me. She wrapped her featherweight arm around my waist.
I heard the rise and fall of her breathing, the wild energy of her feet dancing under the cotton sheet as she settled in close. I rolled onto my side to face her. She beamed at me. I kissed her cheeks, devouring their cool, rounded softness. Her hair, still silky from last night’s shower, smelled faintly of citrus. It fanned out in ribbons on the pillow next to me. Even without my glasses on, I could see the grey-black gaps between her new and disproportionately large teeth. I wondered when the remaining four teeth would fill in the spaces, completing the smile she’d flash for the rest of her life. A light knock on the doorjamb said it was time to awaken for the day, so we rolled out and shuffled down the hall together.
The moment was brief, but our connection was deep. How much longer would I be able to consume her—know her—just like this, through all of my senses? Loving a child bestows a profound intimacy and understanding of who they are and what they need. But it is temporary. I am increasingly aware of how much sand remains in the top of the hourglass.
When she was born, the inputs that had helped me understand and revere the world were instantly overwhelmed. My dendrites of daily living dialed to a new frequency. I now needed to share my senses of smell, touch, sight, sound, and taste in order to read her cues and sustain her life, not just mine. As someone who was already highly sensitive, this was no small undertaking. But I quickly parsed out the difference in pitch and volume in her cries of hunger, fatigue, and discomfort. I pressed my lips to her forehead to detect fevers during the longest of nights. I identified stains on my shirt with a quick sniff, removed a spot of raspberry jam with a quick lick on the fly.
Overwhelmed shifted to heightened. Heightened shifted to enlightened.
I still experience the physical world in a totally new way because of her. My eyes and ears are more open. Things that had become bland and dull are once again gourmet. In many ways, I returned to my own childhood, even those stretches of time I cannot remember. And though I still feel everything acutely, I’ve also noticed that the senses of mothering are starting to gradually diminish.
The first sense to go is taste, it seems. I remember the purees, crackers, and juice, all tasted second hand from chubby little fingers or a sticky nose. The sweet, milky taste of open-mouthed kisses that were given freely have long since stopped. Now, I’m occasionally treated to a salty tear on sad days or the trail that a powdered donut leaves behind, but not much more.
Thankfully, I can still relish the scent of her hair when she returns from playing outside on a late autumn day when the neighbors’ fireplaces are in full swing. It is nothing short of magic how a child’s hair can grasp so tightly onto the essence of pending snow and wood smoke, and hold it just long enough for me to inhale indoors. It’s always gone an instant later. Even her skin radiates a subtle fragrance that she’s had since birth, one that I could detect blindly in a room full of people. As she grows, I am sure a few more blossoms will be added to her bouquet, whether it be the hard won sweat of exertion or the sickly sweet fog of drugstore perfume, but she’ll always have those notes of baby underneath. I will inhale deeply to find it, when she lets me.
Seeing her, hearing her, and touching her, I imagine those will remain steady and frequent for a long while. The softness of her cotton leggings and the clammy feet that stick to me while we’re reading on the couch. Her still baby soft skin that confirms her youth when she holds my dry, wrinkling hand. The squeals in the backyard while being chased by her dad after dinner, the off key singing from the other room. Watching her limbs stretch year to year, already displaying whose genes she is going to have. The last few blond strands glinting among the darkening brown while she plays in the mid-April sun. The lake blue eyes that just as easily lift me when she smiles as they do unsettle me when she tests out some new form of defiant independence.
This is how I know soon enough there will be shut bedroom doors, less snuggling close together, and possibly fewer words spoken. So for now, I will let all of her in, every which way I can. I enjoy feeling enlightened.
What sense could you not live without? Do you have one sense that seems more heightened than the others? If you have children in your life, how do the five senses come into play when you are with them?
Copyright (c) 2015 Kristen M. Ploetz
Today marks ten years that we have lived in this house. A decade in one place. That is a milestone for me—the longest stretch I’ve lived any one place.
When I realized this, I was first struck by a feeling of unexpected melancholy, perhaps a longing because I did not live in the same house for my entire childhood, like some do. But then, letting that notion simmer for a bit, I decided it was not precisely what was bothering me.
Instead, it was reluctant acceptance that the balance of my life is now unequivocally weighted heavier on the adult side, not childhood. This milestone—a signpost of staying put and settling in as a grown up—is just the first of many more to come, though I arrived here much faster than I anticipated. I am wholly content with this realization, but it is jarring all the same.
A lot has happened in the time since we were given the keys to the house. We learned the difference between eggshell and semi-gloss paint. We made fools of ourselves calculating how many bags of mulch we needed to spread around the shrubs—it never goes as far as you think it will. We used clipped voices when appliances stopped working or pictures hung crooked and off center. We quickly appreciated the ways a quality Christmas tree stand can stave off divorce. We cursed at armies of ants. We learned how to grow tomatoes and radishes, but never got the hang of watermelons.
We found our spots on the couch.
We shaped our professional lives.
We became parents.
Routines settled in. Crises were averted, mostly.
We discovered our strengths and accepted our weaknesses.
For some, it might grow boring, living in the same spot for so many years. Our tiny house and humble 8,919 square feet of land might not seem to offer much reward. The same view day to day, inside and out, has the potential to numb. The variegation of novelty shifts to monochromatic redundancy.
Yet treasure abounds even in the most routine spaces.
By remaining firmly in place, you witness the waltz of the sun and earth, how the steps change ever so slightly over the course of a year. Facing west at the close of each day, you discover nuance among the twilights. You learn where to spread your blanket under the maple tree and maximize the stretch of cool shade it offers on a long afternoon in July. Year to year, seasons jockey for your attention. You discover the snow never drifts the same way twice—especially this year. You are confounded when the rosemary doesn’t grow back for the first time in many years, and you didn’t do anything different. You hedge your bets: will the lilac bush peak on Mother’s Day or will she be late this time around? You watch for birds, hoping to add a new one to your list.
Over the past ten years, twenty-seven different birds have alighted in our yard or in the maple tree. I know, because I’ve kept a list. I have my favorites, of course, like the cardinal and the titmouse. I know the blue jay is a bully, but the juncos are not easily persuaded. The hummingbird only visited once, and I think it was a fluke. I am determined to lure him back. I’ve learned to identify some birds through their songs and calls. They let me know when a cat is in the yard or a hawk is overhead. The Carolina wren baffled me for the past three years—I heard its trill long before I saw it, somehow convinced it was a veery until I finally matched face with call this past December. It felt like victory.
Still, I have yet to see a blue bird or an oriole in our midst. They are elusive, it seems, but I’m determined to stick around and wait, maybe even another ten years. For me, there is a comfort in standing still and staying put. A lot more will happen in that time, whether it be new birds in the yard or boyfriends waiting on the front step for my daughter. And I know it will all pass just as quickly.
Here is a list of the birds I’ve seen in the past decade of living here:
Copyright (c) 2015 Kristen M. Ploetz
March was a weird month for me when it came to reading. I was all over the place—either in the middle of lots of things or picking things up for a quick skim—meaning that I only finished two books during the month. A nasty cold worked its way through the house too, and I didn’t feel like reading for about ten straight days when my eyes hurt from the sinus pressure. This had the serendipitous effect of making me fall in love with Parks and Recreation and The Office (BBC version) via Netflix.
Here are the two books I did complete, and my quick takes:
Yes Please by Amy Poehler – I definitely liked it very much, particularly the parts about being a mother and growing up in Burlington. I certainly giggled in a few places (though admittedly not as much as with Tina Fey’s book) and I liked her candor with what she was willing to share. That said, I’d love to see her write another book in another 5-10 years. I can’t put my finger on it exactly, but I felt like she was either holding back, or distracted, or sometimes coming from a place of sadness while writing it. I want to see what she has to say in a few more years. (Not surprisingly, this book was the catalyst for my Parks and Recreation binge; I was not into the series during its original run, but will now watch more of these when I need a chuckle.)
Sweetland by Michael Crummey – What a great story. Set in the town of Sweetland (an island off of Newfoundland), it follows the difficult decision that the main character, Moses Sweetland, must make in the wake of the government offering the island’s residents a financial package to pick up and leave their homes and the island for good. Moses is eventually the last holdout, and does not want to leave his home or this special coastal place that has contained almost the entire the universe of his life. I really got a sense of the hardscrabble coastal imagery. The characters are keenly developed and even though they were not always likable, I loved them all. It’s the second book I’ve read in recent months where it focuses on a difficult decision that must be undertaken by an older man (the other book, which I adored and caused the ugly cry, was A Man Called Ove, by Fredrick Backman). I’m not sure whether that means anything profound, but it’s a POV I’m growing to love.
The poetry I poked in and out of included the selected works of Walt Whitman, Sylvia Plath, Theodore Roethke, Sharon Olds, and Adrienne Rich. I needed a “reset” mentally, and poetry seems to work wonders that way.
I also borrowed a few poetry collections. I adored Ten Poems to Change Your Life, by Roger Housden (I’ll be ordering a copy of this to keep—poets included Mary Oliver, Rumi, Pablo Neruda, and Galway Kinnell) and Light-Gathering Poems, edited by Liz Rosenberg (might order this too). From the children’s section, I snagged The Night of the Whippoorwill, selected by Nancy Larrick, illustrated by David Ray (featuring all night-themed poems that are lovely for children and adults).
Near the end of March, I started (and am still reading) several other books that I won’t list here now (mostly writing craft books), but I will say that I am really enjoying many of the stories in Neil Gaiman’s latest, Trigger Warning.
What did you read in March? Tell me below or link to your own blog post if you have one.
Copyright (c) 2015 Kristen M. Ploetz
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