So this is my life now.

11.20.2014

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The three biggest surprises of becoming a parent:

  1. Being a little bit lost for three years was excellent preparation for motherhood. I spent three of the four years after I graduated from college and got married feeling a little lost, sometimes more than a little. My spiritual life was high and low. My relationships were up and down. My professional goals were schizophrenic. My confidence and sense of self took a big hit as a result. But now I look back on all of that and think, “Thank goodness I went through that.” For starters, it makes me able to recognize and appreciate feeling good about who I am and what I’m doing. It also helped me avoid some of the growing pains new moms struggle with. Working from home for three years helped me learn how to deal with isolation. It taught me how to be self-disciplined with my unstructured time. It helped me itch through my biggest hang-ups and questions and professional whimsies and emerge a more content woman with greater focus in every area of my life. And can I tell you something? Content women make good moms. (Hopefully.) Those three years of wandering also made me nice and comfortable with ambiguity. Something tells me that will also be handy in parenting.
  2. Having less time with my husband is good for our relationship. When people ask me how I’m holding up with my husband so busy with school and recruiting and with us having a new baby at home, my honest answer is, “You know, I could see a little less of him.” It’s not that I wouldn’t enjoy seeing more of him. It’s just that having a limited quantity of time together does wonders for the quality of the time we do have. Our conversations are more meaningful. Our interactions are more gentle. We miss each other. It’s sexy. And we also find each other more interesting. We’re more fulfilled as individuals. We have our own stuff going on, stuff that’s separate and distinct. We are separate and distinct, rather than just extensions of each other. It makes us more attractive. And it makes what we do have in common more sacred, including Miss Scout. We’re obsessed, mutually and completely.
  3. Parenting is a set of skills you can develop. It sounds trite, but hear me out. The first time Trent and I went to a marriage counselor, it was a revelation. Until that day, it had never really occurred to me that a good marriage required skills that had to be honed. I had always thought of being married like being asleep. You didn’t need to learn how to do it right. Doing it right was just part of being human and if you were a good human, you’d be a good married human. Not so. Marriage requires superhuman skills—communication skills, forgiveness skills, numchuck skills (but really). It requires work. But the empowering thing is that you can educate yourself about those things, practice them and perfect them (slowly). Parenting is no different. My parenting style is patterned after the greats—Kathleen Kelly, Anne Shirley and Gidget. I read. I read everything. I don’t believe it all or use it all, but I start with trying to take it all in. Of course I have to go with my gut in the end, but first I can empower my gut with information. I can and I do.

Speak to me, Statue.

11.17.2014

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We went to Dallas this weekend.

We went to museums and parks, presidential libraries and botanical gardens. We ate authentic roadside tacos and brisket and burgers. As a weekend trip, it was fantastic. As a fact-finding mission in a place we might potentially move, it was somewhat less so. I can’t speak to the people—although I’m sure they are great—but as for the lack of trees and abundance of cement, my expectations were pretty accurate. Although I’m sure I could be happy there, Dallas is not the city of my dreams. This, I now know for certain. But the real revelation of the weekend was that all this building anxiety I’ve been experiencing isn’t about Dallas at all.

I read an article in the New York Times a few weeks ago about about slowing down in art museums, picking a work or two to focus on and really taking them in rather than scrambling to survey an entire collection. It promoted quality over quantity in the experience of art. While Trent was meeting with a few companies, Scout and I walked around the Nasher Sculpture Center and Dallas Museum of Art. I remembered the article and paid attention to what works I gravitated toward. There were two—a statue of a woman hunched over and this painting.

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One woman looks demoralized, the other overwhelmed.

“What’s wrong with me?” I thought as I sat in front of the painting, wrangling Scout. And as I sat there and stared at the face of this stranger and wondered what had happened to her before she sank down in that chair, clarity slowly settled over me. “It’s not about Dallas,” I thought. “It’s about moving on.”

I am not ready to move on to the next phase of my life.

I’m a planner and we planners like the future. We’ve almost always got one foot in it, for better or for worse. But for once, the present is so nice, so deliriously nice, that I want both feet and hands and hemispheres here in my little apartment in Charlottesville, reading and writing and talking with my happy husband and laying our sweet baby down to sleep. For once, I’m not eager to go anywhere. Different doesn’t sound better. I’d like more of the same, thank you very much, more of these days that are going by too fast.

An MBA is just a blip on the screen and recruiting for jobs takes off with the starting pistol. You blink and you’re in Dallas for the weekend. You blink again and you’re buying a house in the burbs.

I am not ready for a house in the burbs.

Maybe it’s an immaturity in me. That’s entirely possible. Maybe I’ll grow up and be ready when it’s time to go. Maybe I won’t. Maybe I’ll have to go anyway. Or maybe the burbs aren’t an inevitability. Maybe we could create a another kind of life, one that’s grown-up and good in a different way. Maybe my I’ll speculate and formulate until I’m frozen like a statue.

Or maybe I’ll write it all out, talk with my happy husband and lay our sweet baby down to sleep.

Here and There and Everywhere

11.10.2014

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Crafty.

I have such a complicated relationship with the word. Most of the time I do what I can to disassociate myself with this particular adjective, because it’s so often lumped in with a stereotype I don’t relate to. But the truth is I am crafty. Or rather, I have a crafty side. My craftiness manifests itself in my love of interior and graphic design, paper goods, calligraphy, letterpress printing and rubber stamps. As evidence, I own a customized address stamp for every apartment we’ve lived in since we got married, even if we were only there for a matter of months. The first two were gifts, the third we had made in a little shop in Peru and the last I got from Tiny Prints. It’s a mild obsession. But I tell myself it’ll be a nice little display of our goings and comings.

In other news, how cute is Scout?

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This acrylic photo block is for my dad. And with that, my OCD Christmas shopping is complete.

Art, Honesty, Etc. Etc.

11.08.2014

The short answer is that I wanted to be inspired, but sometimes the short answers are wanting. And sometimes, they’re something like lies.

I went out by myself. We got some dinner and put Scout to bed and then Trent crashed with a book. And I went out by myself, because I liked the idea of going to the Virginia Film Festival and I liked the idea of seeing something with some edge to it and once I realized that my screening was an hour later than I’d thought, I liked the idea of browsing in the used bookstore across the street to kill time. That’s the long answer—that I like the ideas of things. I like the idea of having some edge to me. I like idea of romanticized nights of inspiration. I like the idea of looking like I wanted to be inspired.

I wandered through that bookstore tonight, killing time, soaking in the scene, not the scene around me, but the scene of myself, as if I were starring in my own documentary or collecting memories to reference in an NPR interview about my creative process. I scanned through the cheap paperbacks, but decided they were too predictable so I picked up a book of poetry and sank down in the corner of a big leather couch. I read a few poems. I checked Instagram. There were moments of absorption, moments of genuine intrigue by the words on the page, but whatever they were, they were polluted moments.

I checked the time and headed for the counter and handed the book to the clerk. He asked me if I’d come looking for that particular book or just picked it up. The short answer was that I’d never heard of the poet, that he was over my head, but that I liked that his wisdom took work. But then I went on to the long answer. It involved reading one of the reviews on the back, calling it an “apt description” and stumbling through a handful of additional canned phrases, all pompous and annoying. I tripped on the door jam and escaped to the cold and hated myself.

I saw “20,000 Days on Earth,” a documentary about rock musician Nick Cave and his creative process. And despite myself, I was inspired, but it was the kind of inspiration that left me heavy. Cave described himself as a cannibal, waking up every morning thirsty to consume the intimate moments of his life and his relationships. He amplified them and distorted them. He let them cook and change and become his songs, his art.

And as I watched and watched, I knew and knew that I cannibalize my own life and my family’s lives all the time. I amplify. I distort. I cook. I change. And what comes out, I call my art. I watched and I knew and I hurt in knowing. At another point in the film, Cave said that in order to make good music, you have to know your weaknesses. And with that I was looking in a mirror again—I want authenticity too badly. I need it so much it becomes unreal. Instead, I become something I’ve invented. It’s a paradox and all that, and I ached in seeing it clearly.

I wanted a night of inspiration, or the look of one, or something in between, but I ended up with a used book of elusive poetry I’ll probably never read again—that and an intervention.

Loot

11.06.2014

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Merry Christmas, Scout!

Because I’m neurotic, Scout’s Christmas loot is already chosen, purchased, shipped and wrapped—like I said, neurotic. I know she’s just a wee little thing, but I feel like we already have to start making decisions about how we want to do things, what sort of holiday precedents we want to set. I’m of the “less is more” philosophy, so here’s the plan: gift from parents, gift from Santa, stocking stuffer, Christmas Eve book and Christmas Eve PJs. Cut and print. It doesn’t sound very minimalist when I blurt it all out like that, but I’m striving for minimalism, always striving.

Gift from Parents: Our weekend in Florida last month was inspiration for this one. It’s a shade shelter, perfect for the beach, among other things. We’re planning a trip to Outer Banks, NC sometime next year, so this will come in handy then and hopefully on many more lazy days in the great outdoors. Plus Trent is a sucker for anything that resembles camping gear.

Gift from Santa: Tambourine. Trent’s idea. Since slapping things is dainty Scarlett’s favorite pastime, I think it’ll be a hit. (The pun was a happy accident.)

Stocking Stuffer: Balls for babies. Seems straightforward enough, but I managed to spend a good hour reading reviews. (When I said “neurotic,” I meant it.) I’m confident these are the best.

Christmas Eve Book: She won’t be able to read this one for years, but I couldn’t resist. I want her to know these stories and learn from these women. When I was a little girl, I hardly knew they existed.

Christmas Eve PJs: These sweet little long john bottoms will go with a little red henley onesie I got on clearance. Simple, classic and cute—oh, so cute.

In My Old Age

11.05.2014

In my mind, 30 is the age when you have to have your crap together. I’m sure I read that in a girly magazine years ago—inception. Since then the idea has taken root and taken over. It’s become my excuse for everything. The fact that I am not yet 30 years old explains my impulsive hair dying, my unvacuumed car, my lingering social anxiety, my undisciplined sleep schedule and the bewildered look that overwhelms my face whenever I set foot in a kitchen. It’s the reason I still put chocolate syrup in milk before I drink it and the reason I’ve never read “War and Peace” or “Anna Karenina” or used the word “platitudes” in a casual conversation.

My 30-year-old self, the one I picture, is often described as “put together”—it’s the highest and most honorable phrase maturity has to offer. She has a earthy, elegant, understated style. She cooks simple, healthy, delicious meals. She’s well-read and well-traveled and exudes quiet confidence, mysteriousness, kindness and depth. She’s entrepreneurial and maternal and sexy. And to quote a Jennifer Garner rom-com, which a 30-year-old would just never do, she’s “thirty, flirty and thriving.”

Today, I turn 27. Thank heavens I have more time.

In all seriousness, there are a lot of things about myself I want to improve, a lot of bad habits I want to break, a lot of living I want to get in before life goes and passes me by. But this past year, I’ve come pretty far and it needs to be acknowledged. As a 26-year-old woman, I experienced so much change—upheaval, really—body, mind and spirit. And if I could grow and progress as much each year as I did in this last one, I’d be content. Oh, so content. And that’s better than being put-together—my, what a mature thing to say.

Listening to: Jose Gonzalez, “Stay Alive”

Magic

11.04.2014

Leaves“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.” ―W.B. Yeats

Day of the Dress-Up

10.31.2014

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Happy Halloween, Little Red.

May your days be merry scary and bright.

Roommates

10.30.2014

IMG_3847Two of my college roommates live within a few hours of me. They came last week for a whirlwind visit with their daughters. Getting three little girls to sleep in a two-bedroom apartment was dicey. Scout ended up on a quilt in the bathtub. But amidst the madness, we talked. Oh, how we talked—about life and motherhood and feminism and faith. The next day, a friend from middle school came to town and stayed with us for the weekend. And then last night, I got on a monthly roommate video chat and talked to all my other former roommates who live far away.

This easy access to old friends is taking the edge off being in a new place and having only tepid, fledgling relationships here. It’s making me feel content with my limited social energy. It’s making me feel tempted to not branch out. Why branch out? I’ve got all the friends I need, and so on. But I’m trying to tell myself that no, those old friends are a safe place to go back to when branching out gets tiring, but not a crutch, never a crutch.

Do you have good relationships with old friends? How do you stay close? How do you balance old friends and new?

Darden Check-In

10.29.2014

RMHScout and I have been helping cook dinners at the Ronald McDonald House with the Darden Partners Association. And by “cooking” what I really mean is bringing groceries and looking cute, cause neither Scout nor I are much use in a kitchen. She just sits in a high chair and makes eyes at everyone while I inefficiently chop things. But there are worse ways to spend your free time, no?

In other news, we finally have something to do for Halloween this year, something more than dressing up and “Skype trick-or-treating” family and friends. I invented Skype-treating and just now coined that term, and I’m very serious about copyright infringement, so … On second thought, Skype-treating sounds kinda dirty. I digress. This year, we have cooler things to do, some of which are thanks to Darden. And considering that I love Halloween so much I have a five-year plan for costumes, be warned that I will spam you with pictures in the next few days, either here or on Instagram.

Cheers!

Humpback Rock

10.21.2014

HikeFrom now on, every time I’m tempted to do something drastic to my hair, I’ll ask myself, “Is this really about some deep-seeded emotional issue?” and the answer will always be yes. For whatever reason, hair is my go-to scapegoat. But this post isn’t about hair; it’s about hiking. When I reach that awkward moment of self-incriminating enlightenment, I’ll substitute a reckless-abandon dye job with a hike. That’s my plan. Aerobic exercise, beautiful views, fresh air, trees—these are the makings of true emotional clarity. Yes, yes. That’s my plan.

Florida on the Fly

10.20.2014

FloridaWe went to Florida last weekend. It was one of those by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of trips. We didn’t worry much about planning and because Orlando is … well, Orlando, we didn’t worry about finding local restaurants and off-the-beaten-path activities like we usually do. Orlando is kind of “Home of the Commercialized Beaten Path,” so to speak.

We kicked things off at Benihana. Since Trent has been there enough times to have the hibachi chef’s routine memorized, he commentated the whole thing for Scout. He continued to commentate at the BYU football game we went to at University of Central Florida that night. There were very few cougars in the crowd and none within spitting distance of little old us. As we walked in and took our seats in a sea of shifty-eyed UCF fans, I started to panic. I hate sporting event related conflict. Trent thrives on it, which of course made my anxiety worse. I was also a little skeptical about how Scout would handle the noise and the bedtime kickoff. But folks, I stand corrected on on fronts. All the UCF fans around us were the perfect amount of drunk for Trent’s humor to play well. He made friends quickly. Scout’s magnetic cuteness didn’t hurt. And while we’re on the subject—Life lesson for Scarlett Murphey: If a man has to assure you more than 20 times that he isn’t drunk, he’s drunk. She went from goofy smiles to lights out with no fussing in between and spent the fourth quarter sleeping peacefully despite the crazy yelling. I’d say it was a miracle, but really, she’s just her father’s daughter. Can’t tell you whether we won or lost. I was busy Instagramming. And guys, I’m really not kidding.

We spent the rest of the weekend at the beach, or mostly at the beach. We went for a walk at Blue Springs State Park before we caught our flight home, but it was too warm to spot any manatees. As for the beach, it was delightful. Again, Miss Scout shocked us with her cheeriness. The girl’s just plain jolly, folks. She was fascinated by the sand and didn’t mind the waves. She napped in the shade of her daddy’s crotch (we forgot an umbrella) and licked the saltwater off her lips over and over like a cute little cow, a cute little cow in a too tight two-piece, that is.

BeachBabyIt was fun to spend time with Trent, too. Except for one argument on the beach over my apparent inability to empty the camera’s memory card, we got along famously. It was a costly fight—I was too proud to ask him to sunscreen my back during the argument, so I got a little fried—but we resolved it in the end. And before we knew it we were back to snuggling in our luxurious Holiday Inn Express room, watching “Erin Brockovich” and drinking Grapefruit Perrier that, if you used all of the imagination you posessed, tasted faintly like grapefruit.

Scout had a meltdown on the flight home. She was a dream for her first 14 flights of life, but made up for it on this one. When we emerged from the jet bridge when it was all over, my overwhelming thought was, “I want my mommy.” So, there’s payback for all of our bragging, I guess.

I never know how to end posts like this and I’m getting much to tired to be clever. So, “over and out” will have to do.

Over and out and goodnight.

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