Daddy & The Birds

10.05.2014

Greenbrier Trent is 29 today. It’s nuts.

When did this happen? When did we get so old? When Trent’s dad was 29, he had five kids. Life is weird—there’s your deep thought for the day.

My parents treated the birthday boy to a falconry lesson at the Greenbrier Resort to celebrate. It’s been a lifelong dream of his, a nerdy lifelong dream. Trent’s full-throttle nerdiness one of my favorite things about him. On the drive to West Virginia today he asked me, out of the blue and totally serious, “What’s your favorite deciduous tree?” I rest my case.

Trent had a great time in his lesson, hanging out with owls and hawks and such, watching them eat dead baby chicks. Shockingly, falconry isn’t really my thing. While Trent falconed, Scout and I walked around the hotel grounds, snuggled in a glamorous gazebo, had a very cold, very brief swing sesh, and changed her diaper on a fancy leather chaise lounge chair in the “Powder Room” of the tennis club. They gave me no other choice. “Let’s go find Daddy and the birds,” I said after an hour. “Daddy & The Birds—what an excellent band name.” Naming fictional bands is more in my wheelhouse than falconry.

After the lesson we ate lunch at the restaurant of Trent’s choice, which happened to be a little Mexican place with a higher Yelp rating than Subway and Burger King, but lower than Hardee’s and Pizza Hut, so … win? I’ve read a few books lately (“French Kids Eat Everything” and “Real Food for Mother and Baby“) and our pediatrician endorsed the idea, so we’re kinda drinking the Kool-Aid on feeding the babe the same things we eat. At lunch Scout ate guacamole, refried beans, rice, shredded beef, the works. And Trent had the time of his life letting her try things.

He also had the time of his life tonight figuring out how to edit the GoPro footage from his lesson. We bought a GoPro this summer because, well, we’re livin’ such an adrenaline junkie lifestyle. Yep, that’s us. Edgy stuff here.

Happy Birthday, Murph. You’re a nerdy old man. But you’re our nerdy old man. Thank goodness for that.

Hello, Autumn.

10.04.2014

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Autumn, Scout. Scout, autumn. So glad you could meet.

Autumn—season of my birth. And Trent’s. Season of leather goods and chunky sweaters. Season of pumpkin pie and pumpkin bread and artificially-flavored pumpkin everything.

(In the autumns of recent years, the overblown commercialized autumns, has the world begun to taste like a big, fat Yankee Candle smells? Or is that just me?)

Season of “Explosions in the Sky” albums I adore and football games I pay no mind. Season of learning and walking and living in awe. Season that makes everyone believe without noticing that death and decay are beautiful things.

And they are. Oh, they are.

What’s Supposed to Be

10.01.2014

I remember being busy in college with my hand in a million things and my nose in a million more and thinking, “I can’t wait until I have time to actually clean my apartment.” I used to fantasize about having enough free time to do my dishes and vacuum my floors, time to exercise regularly and make myself breakfast and have some semblance of a normal, functional daily life.

Tonight I’m sitting in a bed that hasn’t been made in six months. There’s a table littered with dishes in the next room, still dirty from the last time I made dinner (or anything), which was Sunday. There are piles of things in the hallway—”Put Away Later” piles and “Find a Place For This” piles and “Throw Away” piles. I haven’t even gotten around to throwing stuff away. A few days ago, my house was clean. And now this.

I had free time tonight after I put Scout to bed. I finished off “West Wing” and worked on a few on-going games of “Words With Friends” and thumbed through Maya Angelou. I didn’t spend it cleaning. I didn’t spend my time tinkering away at the life I thought I wanted. I tinkered, but not at that.

Sometimes I feel sad when I think about that life, like I’m disappointing myself by not living the future I wanted now that it’s actually attainable. Here I am in a phase of life where I could conceivably live in a spotless apartment with healthy home-cooked meals on my table and abs of lifeless steel. But I don’t care. Or I don’t care enough, rather, not enough to make it happen. Sometimes I think about that fantasy and grieve for all that was supposed to be.

And then I sit up in my unmade bed and look around at my piles and my people and realize I’m mourning the wrong thing. I should be mourning all those busy years I spent longing for a different life. The present is messy and nice.

Listening to: Shovel & Rope, “Bad Luck”

Weekend Update

9.29.2014

Lots of Darden-related living as of late. Our weekend was chock-full of Darden events, starting with the first athletic competition of the Darden Cup. Trent played, despite his recent ACL surgery and the fact that the only time he has ever played soccer in his life is when he was, and I quote, “a wee little fat kid.” I think he’s suffering from some PTSD there. But it didn’t stop him from showing up as goalie for his section’s B team. Scout and I watched from the sideline. Our presence apparently earned Trent’s section additional fan support points. “Are Instagram support points a thing?” I asked. “Because I’d be all over that.”

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#instamba

Both games ended in shoot-outs, which made for back-to-back cardiac episodes for poor Trent. He let one past him in the first shoot-out, but defended his goal like a champ in the second.

Saturday we took advantage of Smithsonian Museum Day and enjoyed free admission to the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library and the Stonewall Jackson House. It was a gorgeous drive and a good time and I went home feeling like I know nothing about American History. Par for the course. Our rosy-cheeked baby loved being held through two tours. She also loved shrieking louder (happy shrieks, mind you) every time we shushed her.

Stonewall We stopped at Foothill Momma’s BBQ on the way home. (Order the onion rings!) We didn’t want to wait for a table, so we braved the bar with a baby. Scout did great, and by that I mean she snagged fistfuls of chopped pork whenever we we stopped paying attention to her.

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Sunday night we were back at Darden, this time for the famed International Food Festival. It was my favorite Darden event yet. We got stuffed on cuisine made by students from around the world. The Turkish baklava was particularly fantastic, as was the white BBQ sauce from the “Nation of Alabama.” There were lots of international music and dance performances and lots of people to fawn over Scout, which she takes to kindly.

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Also over the weekend we finally finished the saga of hooking up our washer and dryer and we came to a compromise about Dallas. I’ll move there happily if it comes to that, just as long as we get a dog when we do. There’s a box-a-shar puppy on the table, and I gotta say, the future looks bright.

Happy Monday!

A Summer Night

9.29.2014

We laid her down in a cardboard box in our tent and let her drift off to sleep, breathing in the fresh air of Western Montana—slow then slower—and there was something so right about the whole picture, like she belonged there, like babies were meant to spend summer nights in grassy mountain meadows. We watched the sun go down and the bugs come out and I left Trent talking with his cousins by the fire and went back to the tent. I unzipped it, inch by inch, trying to be silent and then stepped on the air mattress that squeaked against the tarp. But she didn’t stir. I watched her sleep, her arms spread-eagle over her head. “My daughter is comfortable filling the space around her,” I thought. And I felt in awe and wished to be more like her. She is already curious and brave, filling up rooms with personality. Rooms and tents. I closed my eyes and fell asleep.

I woke sometime later. Trent was asleep next to me, the the mattress gradually deflating, forming a cozy sinkhole around my body. The air was cold on my face. I reached over and felt Scout’s little hands, still sprawling above her head. They were cold too. I picked her up and tucked her inside my sleeping bag. She rubbed her eyes and nestled her head in the crook of my arm. I felt the smooth skin of her forehead against my chin, her steady breath against my neck. I stared through the roof of the tent and into the stars and felt infinite and safe. I stayed like that for hours, present and still in a quiet night that was hers and mine alone. I nursed her when she woke, both of us snuggling in the warmth, side by side. It felt sacred. A new kind of vulnerability was born into my life with that girl, but with her in my sleeping bag, I believed what I know to be a sweet and bitter lie—that I can protect her from anything.

I sang to her as the sun came up, in a whispery voice, muted by the walls of our little cocoon—”I came here with a load. And it feels so much lighter now I met you.” And that felt sacred too. My little love, flesh of my flesh, blood of my blood, my load is light and new.

Listening to: Coldplay, “Green Eyes”

Deep in the Heart of Texas

9.24.2014

Sometimes I go on late night writing binges because I’m struck with inspiration. Sometimes I go on late night writing binges because I’m laden with anxiety. Tonight, I’m on an anxiety binge.

It all started with Trent interrupting a particularly amazing episode of “The Good Wife” to ask me to rank a group of cities according to where I’d most like to live. My top five?

New York

San Fransisco

Seattle

Chicago

Austin

Bam! That was easy. Oh, you want international cities too?

Geneva

Madrid

Vancouver

Buenos Aires

London

Done-zo. Again, easy-peasy.

Dallas, as it turns out, didn’t make the cut. And Dallas, as it turns out, is Trent’s little residential and professional dream city. And although we’ve barely unfinished packing and have still yet to hook up our washer and dryer, we’re talking about our dream cities and next moves because an MBA is really just a quick little stepping stone. An MBA is just a blip—yes, a blip—and it starts with planning your end goal.

So here we are talking about cities and here I am hating on Trent’s little dream. Friends, I don’t want to hate on Dallas. I don’t want to be a dream crusher. I loathe dream crushers. My knee-jerk aversion to Dallas is based prejudices I’m not proud of. I picture a shallow concrete jungle, perfect and cold and filled with gun-slinging, big-haired shopaholics. Say it isn’t so! When I personify Dallas, I see an insensitive, arrogant, loud-mouthed, larger-than-life sweet bro.

I’m an insensitive, arrogant, loud-mouthed, larger-than-life sweet bro,” Trent said.

“I know! And it’s insufferable!” I screeched.

Of course we were both kidding. (Or were we?)

My point is this: I’m an uppity prejudiced jerk and probably deserve to move to a place I’ll hate. But the thing is, I want to be proven wrong. So I’m crowdsourcing here. Tell me about Dallas, people. Have you been there? What’s it like? Are there trees? Are there seasons? Is there history? Culture? Food? Diversity? Are there fun little quirky weirdos? I love my quirky weirdos. Don’t talk to me about the incredible cost of living. Inspire me. Is there a charm about this city that even a jerk like me could fall in love with?

As if I needed another reason to love Emma Watson …

9.22.2014

There is so much I love about this speech.

I love the way she describes her journey to feminism. It’s so very much like mine. Becoming a feminist happened slowly for Emma as she grew up and experienced life. “I decided that I was a feminist and this seemed uncomplicated to me,” she says. It wasn’t until later that she realized how much controversy surrounds the word.

I love that she laments that feminism has a history of man-hating. It’s counterproductive. And it’s one of the reasons so many people reject the label. “If you still hate the word,” she says, “it is not the word that is important. It’s the idea and the ambition behind it.” What matters is whether or not you embrace the idea of human equality.

I love that she points out the many ways gender inequality hurts men. “I’ve seen my father’s role as a parent valued less by society despite my needing his presence as a child as much as my mother’s,” she says. “I’ve seen young men suffering from mental illness, unable to ask for help for fear it would make them less of men, or less of a man. … I’ve seen men made fragile and insecure by a distorted sense of male success. Men don’t have the benefits of equality either. We don’t often talk about men being imprisoned by gender stereotypes, but I can see that they are.”

I love that she understands that because we are all connected, the solutions are all connected as well. “When (men) are free, things will change for women as a natural consequence,” she says. “If men don’t have to be aggressive in order to be accepted, women won’t feel compelled to be submissive. If men don’t have to control, women won’t have to be controlled. Both men and women should feel free to be sensitive. Both men and women should feel free to be strong.”

And I love how humble she is as she speaks. The vulnerability in her voice allows you to feel how much this means to her. It means that much to me too.

Listening to: Shovel and Rope, “Lay Low”

Plus Two

9.19.2014

ApplePickingWe went apple picking tonight with the Darden Partner’s Association Family Committee (i.e. everyone who is crazy enough to do this whole MBA thing with kids). We went to Carter Mountain Orchard and picked about ten apples in about two minutes, and spent the rest of the evening chatting. The view was incredible. The general store sat on top of a big hill overlooking Charlottesville. All in all, it was a nice little night after a long little week.

I submitted an application to be a Partner Blogger for Darden, documenting my experience having a significant other in the program. My application essay was, in all honesty, a mini diatribe about how being an introverted “Plus One” in a fire hose of social events is mentally, emotionally and physically exhausting. And then you add a baby. This little “Plus Two” is happy to hibernate. Essentially I wrote about how I have a bad attitude about getting to know people and write off everything as schmoozing. I also wrote about how so far, I’ve been proven wrong about these events at every turn. I’ve walked away from every mixer and meeting thinking, “Wow, that was great.” The people are gracious and interesting and I have every confidence that eventually my social metabolism will shift and I’ll stop feeling sapped when I look at the events calendar. I’ll become a nice person and go home from these things proven right about people’s wonderfulness instead.

I guess they liked my bluntness (or nobody else applied), because I’m Darden’s newest Partner Blogger. Follow our adventures at www.scarlettcalledscout/categories/darden.

Cheers!

Fall Reading List

9.15.2014

Anybody care to read along?

ReadingList

 

Lovin’ It

9.15.2014

I remember my friend Scott once telling me about his sister-in-law’s first Sunday attending church in a ward of married students. The speakers, like most of the congregation, were wide-eyed newlyweds. They introduced themselves in the following manner:

We just got married. We’re LOVIN’ it!

And we started a new semester. We’re LOVIN’ it!

And we just moved into a new apartment. We’re LOVIN’ it!

And so on and so forth. Trent and I have spent years mocking this, until a few weeks ago when we found ourselves making similar introductions in all sincerity. Life is getting into a groove in Charlottesville and guys, we’re lovin’ it. We really, truly, annoyingly are.

Our apartment, even sans dishwasher, is lovely. It’s got warm wood floors and lots of charm and our furniture filled in nicely. It’s in a good location, close to grounds (UVA lingo for “campus”) and a Trader Joe’s so I can splurge on $3.99 bunches of fresh flowers at maximum convenience. We still have a washer and dryer sitting in the middle of the kitchen waiting for us to figure out how to hook them up. We hung curtains that are either slightly too long or too short in every room on every window. And the view from my bedroom is a perfectly framed dumpster, but hey—at least we don’t have to walk far to take out the trash. I’m a woman whose emotional state is highly affected by the state of her living quarters and I’m sitting pretty at the moment, all things considered.

Trent is also loving school. Like, he’s on cloud nine. (I just Googled the phrase “cloud nine” to make sure I was using it correctly. Fruitless search. Where does that come from? Anybody?) I think he appreciates how good a fit this MBA program is because he has things to compare it to, things that were a bad fit. I know I do. The difference in his level of enthusiasm and overall happiness is striking here at Darden. I do not mourn medical school one bit. Trent and business are like peas and carrots.

And I’m lovin’ the days that are passing like woah. My baby is nearing six months. How did that happen? For the love of every cliche in the book, where does the time go? I fall asleep surprised and I wake up surprised—this time is so simple. It’s hard sometimes, but it’s strangely simple. So few things in the world are. I find myself clinging to this phase already. Don’t go, sweet simple days. Who knew I’d feel so content in this? Scout and I go to the library, explore walking trails, cuss the DMV. We make meal plans and grocery shop and then watch our fresh produce and good intentions go bad until Trent pulls something processed and sodium-rich out of the freezer and saves us all from starvation. We lay on the floor and play with toys. We splash in the bath. I read books. Scout slaps books. I freestyle lyrics to children’s songs I didn’t realize I’d forgotten. Scout laughs. Oh, she laughs. And on my honor, there’s nothing I wouldn’t do to hear that sound every day.

I’ve pared down my journalistic gigs these past few months so I can devote some serious time to creative writing, because I feel like I’ve been a sufficiently tortured soul for a sufficient number of years. And because I feel like I have something to say. Because why not me? And why not now? And why not love the life you’ve chosen?

Listening to: Buck Owens, “Act Naturally”

Thin Things, Thick Things and Other Things

9.05.2014

I’ve been lost in the thick of thin things.

At the beginning of the summer, I was worried about up and leaving in the middle of a big change. I was worried that my thoughts would be stuck in my East Coast storage unit while my body was out west with family. Things like that happen when I’m in transition. But I surprised myself—living in the present came pretty easily to me this summer. I quickly forgot about what was unfinished in Georgia and what was ahead in Virginia and I just lived where I was—in relatives basements. Out of suitcases. With nothing on the calendar but lunch dates with old friends. With nothing on the to-do list but staring at my baby. And watching other people stare at her. There were so many people to stare. It was a lovely summer.

But since I’ve been back, I’ve been so bogged down. It’s my own fault really. I want too much. I want to become a decent cook and delve into floral design. I want to speak French and play the guitar. I want to be on committees and in clubs and out on the town every weekend. I want to start a travel blog and know CSS and how to shoot instinctively in manual. I want to take post-bac classes. I want them to be more than a means to an end. I want to groom myself daily. I want to want to groom myself daily. I want to be organized, to have a house that’s organized, to be a minimalist without throwing things away. I want to exercise. I want to like it. I want to read religiously and write prolifically and I want to be the best dang mother this side of the Mississippi.

But I can’t be all that. I can’t do all that. I can’t even say all that in one breath. I’ve been paralyzed for several weeks in the face of my ambitions. It’s too much, friends. I don’t know where to start. So I’ll start by picking two things. I only get two things. Everything else will just have to float away. I’ll seek after the rest, all that’s lovely and praiseworthy, in a different time and season.

1. I will stare at my baby.

2. I will write like the wind.

Listening to: Taylor Swift, “Shake It Off” (The day this music video came out, I got the following text from my brother: “Sam, if you were ever to release a music video, I’d imagine it’d be something like that.” Oh, how right he is. #tswiftbandwagon)

Family Pics

8.10.2014

Untitled-1I’m kind of a photography snob, but I’m not too snobby to refuse a free family portrait session. We’re all about free stuff over here on our back-to-school budget. We didn’t really get a good one of all three of us, but these two of Scout and her Dad are pretty stinkin’ wonderful, don’t you think?

 

Also, I love her. I do. I do.

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