Wednesday, June 19, 2013

She's here...and so are we time flies! Just over eight weeks ago, following a last minute ultrasound, my doctor called to tell me, "we want you to have this baby tomorrow." And so on April 23--just 8 days before her due date--the perfectly healthy yet tiny Brielle Ann arrived. And can you blame me for not blogging when the alternative is to snuggle with this little peanut?


We are all in love with her...especially her big brother. More to come, but I at least wanted to let readers know we are all still around and doing great! Thanks for allowing both mommy and auntie a little break to enjoy babies as well as Minnesota's late arrival of spring these past couple of months.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Drawing the line

Earlier this week I spent an evening at the Paint Pub with some colleagues—a celebration for completing a big project together. If you’re not familiar with the paint pub fad, it’s where participants drink wine while we each create our own version of the same painting, led stroke-by-stroke by an instructor. I arrived hoping our chosen painting would be something abstract, or at least relatively simple, like a bench or a tree. Preferably nothing that needed to be recognizable. So imagine my nervous laughter when I looked at the instructor’s canvas to find a painting of the Minneapolis skyline (met with some elements of Van Gogh’s Starry Night).

Now I don’t want to say I’m not an artist. But I’m definitely not in the traditional sense of the word. I enjoy the artistic endeavors of music and writing. But ask me to draw or do anything “crafty” and I will refuse to show you even my stick figure drawings. I envy the scrapbookers and Pinterest people, but I’ve accepted that I will never be one of them.

My saving grace at this painting event was the fact I was surrounded by other Type A individuals who were also scared to death (and fighting over the seats where the fewest people could see what we were painting). As I settled in front of my blank white canvas, wondering when the numbers and lines to follow would show up, I embraced insecurity and decided to just laugh at myself and my lack of ability. This was good for me!

Every time my brush touched the canvas I tensed up. I asked the instructor to repeat each instruction multiple times before I made a move. And then the instructor made a comment that I’ve been reflecting on ever since. She said “When we have children in here, we tell them to draw a line and they just draw a line. But with adults, we tell them to draw a line and they ask 10 questions about the specifications of the line before putting brush to canvas.”

Wow. I actually had no problem believing that was completely true.

Why are we so hesitant to just draw the line? I learned a lot about lines that night. For example, l learned that I can’t paint a straight line to save my life. So I have some crooked and very abstract buildings—oh well. But more importantly, l learned that sometimes we have to stop thinking so hard and take a leap. Draw the line—make that next move—and just have faith that it’ll be ok. Childlike faith. How applicable this is to so many other parts of our lives.

I also learned that a little extra paint can cover up mistakes and it doesn’t have to (and won’t) be perfect. But when you put a bunch of lines (and circles, etc.) together, you end up with something that’s uniquely yours—something you can be proud of.

While I won’t be prominently displaying my creation anywhere (and secretly wanted to swap my painting out for one of my colleagues’), I’m satisfied with my effort, imperfections and all.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

I spy with my camera eye...

Amidst the preparations in my household for baby number two in roughly six weeks (a girl this time, which I think I’ve failed to mention here before), a number of transitions have already begun on the home front. Among them has been moving my two-year-old in to a new bedroom. Not just any bedroom though—it’s his bigger, better, “big boy” room! We talked it up for weeks as our previous guest room transformation gradually occurred. And while I am reluctant to type it for fear of jinxing things, he has done well with it the first month and is quite proud of his new digs! (Hence the cheesy, squinty-eyed grin.)

At the same time, keeping an ear out for what will soon be two kids down the hall at night also led us to purchase a second baby monitor. This time, we decided to buy a video monitor (which we may return given the battery doesn’t last through the night, the camera sometimes doesn’t work and the built in thermometer is way off…but that’s just par for the course for this consumer). Yet while I think I like having this new capability, I’m still debating a bit.

My husband and I never considered a video monitor much until hearing from a few people who had them as well as seeing one at our nephew’s home. Plus, given that we would hear him awake and talking, singing, etc. (but still in bed, thankfully) for sometimes more than an hour after we said goodnight and turned out the light, we were mostly just curious to find out what was going on in there! The result has actually been some comical reality TV right in our own home. And more functionally, it has been nice when we hear him in the middle of the night to just flip the video on to see if he’s still laying down or if we need to go to him.

But I also admit to feeling a little sneaky watching him in there. So, what do you think…am I invading my toddler’s privacy? Is there such thing as “toddler privacy?” (If my son’s barging into the bathroom any time I don’t lock the door is any indication, he has no concept of the word…though I’ve explained it several times.) Certainly it’s not something that we plan to keep up with for years to come, but at least for now, I feel it might bring us a little extra ease and peace of mind as our family life gets a bit more complicated (and exhausting) in the months ahead.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Writing, red ink & the occasional mishap

Happy National Grammar Day! Given the nature of my job and background, I love that this day exists. While I still ask my colleagues about commas (which I tend to overuse) and capitalization on occasion, I’d like to think I have a decent grasp of the English language. A few people even appreciate that about me. That’s probably why I’m often asked to review/edit things written by my friends and family.

While I’m happy to oblige, I always have to think carefully about how much I’m going to throw myself into one of these editing favors. I sometimes wonder… How much feedback do they really want? Should I be brutally honest with them?

When a colleague comes to me with a communication draft I can go gangbusters—sometimes completely rewriting it. I can, because it’s my job. If there was an Extreme Makeover: Copywriting Edition, I think some of my transformations might qualify. I’d like to think I’ve become a pro at constructive criticism and tactful feedback on writing (unless the communication is accompanied by clip art). And just this morning I had to have a heart-to-heart with a colleague after an inexcusable punctuation error in a newspaper ad.

Personally, I’ve developed a pretty thick skin when it comes to editing (and specifically, being edited) because I know it’s just part of the business. I remember early in my first internship after college, my boss edited a press release I’d written. There was more red ink than black ink on the page and I was devastated. Here I was planning to build my whole career on writing and I thought I’d completely failed at this task.

But over time I learned that’s part of the process. We learn from mistakes. Plus, different people have different writing styles and sometimes we have to bend to those (while still standing up for solid strategy and other non-negotiables).

I often think back to that internship experience when I edit things for others. I don’t want my feedback to make them feel like they messed up. Chances are the intended recipient isn’t going to look at the writing with as critical an eye as I have been trained to do. So as with anything, considering the audience is important. This blog, for instance, is my opportunity to be more laid back. Most of you don’t care if I use commas correctly. And there’s no need for you to point out my grammatical errors because I don’t really care. And that’s a big deal coming from this perfectionist.

So thanks for humoring me (and Jen) by reading our random thoughts and giving us each a break from the eagle eye. And in turn, when I see you overuse exclamation points or use 10 words to say something that could’ve been said with five, I’ll probably just keep my mouth shut.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Overcoming perfect Pinterest world

As a social media savvy communications professional, I’m not sure I should admit that I tend to avoid Pinterest like it was a flu-like virus, but it’s true. However, my disdain mainly stems from a very real inferiority complex that curses my non-professional roles.

My “complex” grew to its worst when I had my first child. It was then that I began my love/hate relationship with social media and the internet in general. I loved that I could google every little oddity coming from this little human being I was expected to keep alive and find someone who would assure me it was normal and give advice about how to deal with it. However, I hated that everywhere I looked I was overwhelmed with reasons to doubt myself and feel like the world’s worst parent because I ____ (you know, fed my baby formula or sent him to daycare or fill in the blank).

If Pinterest was my only measure of success, I’m certain I would win a loser parent award. You see, I’m not crafty, and I barley stumble my way around my kitchen. I finally sought out Pinterest when I was in need of some fast, easy, healthy yet kid-friendly dinner ideas (which I’ve since learned is basically an impossible formula). But what others labeled as “easy” seemed impossible for me or took me twice as long to prepare. Welcome, again, to loserville.

I guess the key for me is to not allow Pinterest (or really anything outside of the B-I-B-L-E) to be an unrealistic standard against which I measure myself. The same, then, is true for the judging moms in online discussion forums. And the Facebook posts from people who make their own laundry detergent or seem to have no problems getting their kids to gobble up vegetables. ‘Cuz here’s the deal…I do my best and I love my family. And where I fall short, I now know there is a lot of grace from the people who matter most in my life. So take that, perfect Pinterest world!

Oh, and if you can remotely relate to my feelings above, I guarantee you these funny Pinterest fails will make you feel better!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Cheers to winter

Happy Winter friends! I guess I've been hibernating a bit over the past month—enjoying some time off here and there and letting some of my "nice to dos" (like blogging) lag. Now the days are finally getting longer and I soaked up some healthy vitamin D during a long weekend in sunny Colorado with the bf recently, which made me appreciate winter just a bit more. I even put on a pair of skis for the first time since that unfortunate snowboarding incident, and I'm happy to say I have no new broken bones to report.

While in Colorado, I had plenty of time to rest. It’s no secret that resting isn't always easy for me. I tend to choose "doing," getting things checked off my list and quickly moving to the next thing. As I sat at a coffee shop in Vail, reading the memoir Paris in Love, I came across this excerpt from the book (written by a woman whose family spent a one-year sabbatical in France):

"The French walk slowly. They amble down the street, meet friends and spend two minutes kissing, then plant themselves, chatting as if they were created for this moment. My husband and I walk like New Yorkers: fast, dodging obstacles, glancing at windows, going places. It's taken a few months... but I now keep thinking: Where am I going that's so urgent, when all these French people don't agree?"   

She's right! What am I doing that's so urgent? Such a delightful and freeing observation. I was happy to embrace the French ways for the rest of my trip. I stopped looking at email on my phone, stopped looking at my watch and enjoyed the moments, the mountains and the friends.

Not even our flight home—which was complete with a 3-month-old who started screaming (and I mean, SCREAMING) before the plane even left the gate—could disturb my rejuvenated self after my weekend away. While my heart went out to that baby, his parents and all the nearby passengers (they were at least 15 rows behind), even more annoying was the drunk guy two rows behind us who decided to imitate the screaming baby.  But no, I (mostly) didn’t let him get to me either.

Then I went back to work and, well, there's still room for improvement on the whole resting and de-stressing thing for me, but I’m rejoicing in the small, joy-filled victories.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Presents, staycations, and new beginnings

Happy New Year! I had a fantastic holiday break from work, during which I fully intended to write a blog update or two, but in the end I decided to take a break from this little outlet as well. I had a “staycation” of sorts filled with lots of great family time, getting caught up on movie rentals, and watching season one of Downton Abbey (thanks to some of your recommendations). So basically, doing all the stuff I don’t have time for when in the midst of my normal routine.

We’ve also enjoyed a couple months of celebrating with my now two-year-old. First his birthday in November and then Christmas. What? You want to see pictures of my little man? Ok, I guess…

He’s now at an age where he understands what presents are, which is quite amusing. With birthday and Christmas occurring close together, he was on a roll for a while and somehow began to think that is was normal for visitors to bring him presents. The other day a speaker on a video playing on my computer mentioned “God’s presence” and Connor excitedly responded with, “he’s talking ‘bout presents!” All that to say, while he’s getting the hang of being appreciative for his many gifts, I do think it’s time he has a little break from presents.

So perhaps at just the right time, it’s back to the routine for all of us, and that’s really not so bad. And while I’m not one for NewYear’s resolutions, I do feel a bit of anticipation and newness in the air (unless I’m just misreading the single digit temperatures). It’s a new year; I have a new boss at my job; I have a new baby due in four months—and who knows what other new things this year might bring. What’s new for your 2013? Whatever it is, I hope it’s a year of great blessings for each of you who are kind enough to read this little blog.