We ended the summer/started the school year with a day trip to our favorite city across the border, Fredericton. The highlight was painting ceramics at Clay Cafe; looking forward to seeing the fired results when we head to PEI in a couple weeks!
I’m not usually one to share my dreams; no one needs to know what goes on in the dark, weird corners of my subconscious, and most of my dreams are pretty typical (read: boring) anyway.
But I have to write about a recent one, because for the first time in my 40 years of dreaming I had an actual honest-to-god lucid dream. For those who never watched Inception, a lucid dream happens when you become aware you’re dreaming but you don’t immediately wake up.
To set the stage, I dreamt I was at a meetup. Since I started traveling for work, meetup dreams are pretty common. Usually there’s an element of anxiety — a missed flight, an inability to re-pack everything I’ve magically acquired in a five-day stay (random stuff like old toys, boxes of books–mind clutter), a plane crash, an inability to find the meeting I’m hours late for — but in this dream, my team (not my actual team, because that would make sense, but random people* who I took to be my team) and I were just hanging out.
* As an aside: Do other people have dreams that feature casts of complete strangers? Sometimes with backstories and personalities unrelated to anyone you know in real life? Does anyone else find this weird, that your brain just makes up whole people for the purposes of nighttime entertainment? Just me? Anyway.
We went to lunch at a café, then back to the house where we were working. We’re all sitting around a big table talking about what to do next, and I started thinking to myself how strange it was that we were going home tomorrow but we’d only been here for three days, and that didn’t make sense, because three days is a pretty short meetup. Then I thought, “Wait a minute, my next meetup is in Peru, and this is not Peru…”
At which point I slammed my hands down on the table and said, “This is a dream! I’m dreaming!” and my colleagues looked at me like, “Yep, we know.”
Miraculously, I didn’t wake up at that point. I stayed in the dream, and kept talking about how this wasn’t real, how I could do anything I wanted, and how cool was that? My colleagues were totally unfazed.
Then, as if to prove to myself I was lucid dreaming, I said, “Look, there’s Pedro Pascal!” and voilà! There he was. And I was like, “I could just go make out with him right now! Because this is a dream! Anything goes!” My colleagues agreed. But did I make out with Pedro? Noooooooo. I just ignored him and continued to gush about how not-real this whole situation was.
Then I stood in a line for a while? And got some fruit? And a lecture on how unhealthy my eating habits were?? All while chattering to my colleagues, who looked at me with growing disdain, about how this wasn’t real, how I was having a lucid dream and could do anything I wanted! Wow!
And then I woke up. No steamy Pedro scenario. No flying. No superhuman strength. No summoning my dad from the dead so we could have a real conversation.
Think of all the things you could try in a place where the only limit is your imagination! And I just…stood in a line for a while. And ate some fruit.
Even my subconscious knows I’m lame. 😒
Lots of fresh air, beautiful sunsets, and time spent in one of our favorite tourist destinations made for a much-needed family vacation to the coast. We packed up our new camper and trundled down to the Bar Harbor area to try this “camping” thing as a family. Our camp site was perfection, with beautiful views of the bay and plenty of shade trees. We sat and napped and read and played games and occasionally went out for food or ice cream.
Alas, I don’t think camping is for us. Our camper is perfect for a couple, but a bit too snug for a family of four, especially with two growing kids who like their privacy. We are also far too enamored with indoor plumbing. 😅 I can see the appeal for folks who don’t get out into nature often, but we live in the woods; the population at the campground was probably larger than our hometown. 😂 We ended up leaving a day early due to rain, and no one was particularly disappointed.
Summer camp for the youngest, a moose sighting, family shenanigans, and even a little painting.
Oh hello! It’s been a while. I’ve kinda gently pulled away from social media, in the sense that I don’t get the dopamine hit from documenting my life and putting it in the public domain the way I used to. That said, I think I might look back someday and miss reading about my life as it was during this time, so here’s what’s new.
I’ve hesitated to write in depth for several reasons, first and foremost, the kids. They are their own people now, no longer helpless toddlers, and I don’t like to talk about them out of turn. I usually make a point of asking them if it’s alright if I post a photo or story online, and spilling more personal details about their lives, which are still so entwined with mine, feels like a breach of privacy. I will say I have the best kids a mom could ask for, and they continue to grow too fast for my liking. This fall I’ll be parent to a high schooler and a middle schooler, and I have a feeling the next six years will flyyyyyy.
Then there’s work, which takes up a good portion of my time, and writing about it here isn’t super interesting to me. I do enough writing about work while I’m at work. 😅 But on a personal level I enjoy the work itself, and my team is, as always, a fantastic group of people. It’s the first time since I joined Automattic that there are no other women on my team. I’ve been pretty insulated from the traditional gender-balance-in-tech issue until now, and there are times when I miss having others “like me” in the mix. But after a fun team meeting in Panama City early this spring, it’s mostly a non-issue. The guys I work with are great humans, and our team dynamic is helpful and kind, and that’s the most important thing.
After work and family comes…me? What do I do with my spare time? Well, I’m pretty boring right now. This latest season has been quiet, self reflective, that of a middle-aged white woman. I haven’t painted for a few months, and though I’ve been tempted to pick up a brush, I’m letting it sit for a while longer. I was feeling really uninspired and bored with my usual fare of flowers and abstracts, and I’m learning to be ok with not letting the things I make define my worth. I am allowed to not make. I am allowed to just be, as I am, and that is enough.
Last summer I read Tricia Hersey’s amazing book Rest is Resistance and the concepts have bounced around in my brain for the last several months. As I said, I’ve stepped back from social media to a degree. I try not to feel guilty for resting when I want to. I’m trying to see capitalism’s tenets hidden in my view of the world and seeing what things I want to keep and what I can let go of.
To turn that thought on its head, we’re spending a lot of $$$ on the house this year. Last year was a year of travel, this year is the year of home renovations. We dropped a buttload of cash to have exterminators do a full audit to see where the squirrels and mice were getting in, and to handle the cluster flies and lady beetles that have plagued the house (mostly my office) for years. As a born-and-raised country girl, I like to think my tolerance for critters is pretty high. We’ve had seasons where we’ve trapped upwards of 30 mice and it didn’t faze me. The cluster flies used to be manageable with daily vacuuming, so we bought robot vacuums for the worst areas. But the lady beetles have been awful, to the point where my office became unusable for 3-4 months out of the year. If I didn’t vacuum daily, I’d fill up the canister with smelly bugs. Then the squirrels escalated from basement-and-attic dwelling to shitting on our kitchen table with abandon. So we called in the pros, and now my office is bug free, with fresh insulation in the attic space above it, and there’s steel mesh surrounding the foundation with special foam in all the cracks. Hopefully that takes care of the pesky pest problem for a while.
While we were taking out a loan on my 401k for the pest remediation, we decided to take out extra to redo the flooring upstairs. Most of the linoleum was installed when I was five, and the carpet in our bedroom has been a lost cause since six months after it was installed, when a bad roof leak soaked and trashed a chunk of it. That was ten years ago, and we’ve been living with half subfloor, half carpet ever since. The cats have done an excellent job ensuring every part of what remains has been puked on at least once, and last year Pippen took special consideration with a spot near the closet and dubbed it his personal pee corner (gotta love a good enzyme cleaner, amirite?) So I will be more than happy to replace all the so-called flooring with vinyl plank “hardwood” that can be flooded and puked on til kingdom come without staining or warping.
Travel for work has also picked up. There was the aforementioned trip to Panama City, and now I have additional trips to Lima, Peru and Munich, Germany in the calendar, followed by a personal trip to Cancun for a family wedding next spring. I’m looking forward to exploring new parts of the world, less so the act of actually getting there. Travel always reminds me of how much I love my little house in the woods.
What else? It’s summer in theory, though it’s been mostly cold and rainy so far. We bought a camper this spring and haven’t taken it out once because here in Maine, it hasn’t stopped raining since April. Sorry everyone, our bad. But I have been slowly putting together camping gear so we can spend a bit of time on the coast or PEI. I have a virtual stack of audiobooks ready to go when we can finally pack up and take our little trailer on the road, hopefully sooner rather than later. In the meantime, I’ve been soaking up the local summer festivities with the kids. We spent a lovely long weekend with my brother and SIL, took a day trip to Bangor for Pride, watched the fireworks and did some shopping at our town’s Midnight Madness celebration, picked fresh strawberries at a local farm, and enjoyed a family dinner with Mom’s homemade strawberry shortcake on the fourth. Again, quiet things for quiet times.
But really, I’m spending a lot of time in my own head these days. I’m thinking…
I’m thinking about climate change and my kids’ future, about floods and fires and that I should learn to be ok with not having grandchildren because I don’t want them to grow up in a world that is burning. Or maybe I just finished reading a novel about that (The Light Pirate by Lily Brooks-Dalton, very good!) and it hit too close to home.
I’m thinking about the division of household labor and emotional labor and how things have shifted since Tim went back to work and was promoted to manager and I started working a reduced schedule. We’re still trying to find the balance.
I’m thinking about privilege, and fatness, and whiteness, and wealth.
I’m thinking about the recent interest in AI and putting on my skeptical face and really feeling Sonya Renee Taylor’s take on the whole thing.
I’m thinking I should really move my 🍑 more but it’s either too hot or too rainy or too something else and yes I realize those are all excuses and I don’t care. 🤷🏻♀️
I’m thinking I think too much! So I’ll leave you with this photo of me and my new favorite mug, gifted to me by my husband, the guy who knows me all too well, my own personal Pedro Pascal.
Whew! Disney at Christmas is something else. It’s busy, it’s expensive, it’s beautifully decorated. It’s a lot, and I am here for it.
We intended to fly out on the 23rd, but the northeast was expecting a big storm that day, so we made the call to leave a couple days early. A great choice in hindsight, because our original flight out of Bangor was predictably canceled and by that point we were safe and snug in our resort hotel at Disney World!
Of course, it wouldn’t have been an epic vacation without some drama. In our case, that meant the plague. Gwen started coughing as soon as we got through security at the airport. Ellie had been sick the week before, but both kids tested negative for COVID so we figured it was just the flu. We masked up and crossed our fingers, and thankfully our flights to Orlando went smoothly!
On our first day we did a little shopping and walking around Disney Springs, but Gwen spiked a fever that afternoon, which prompted an Instacart order from Walgreens — thermometer, COVID tests, Tylenol, Advil. COVID test was again negative, so we hunkered down to rest. Thankfully by the time our Disney tickets were active she was fever-free and feeling much better.
Wilderness Lodge was beautifully decked out for the holidays, with a giant tree in the main lobby and lots of cozy corners to relax in. Gwen particularly liked the outdoor pool; even on the colder days (and there were definitely some sub-40’s temperatures) she was ready to go swimming, and would stay in for hours if we let her. The Whispering Canyon restaurant was probably Tim’s favorite, with all-you-can-eat skillets for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Ellie’s favorite thing was “everything”.
We spent Christmas Eve at Magic Kingdom and Christmas Day at EPCOT. I convinced Ellie to ride the new Guardians of the Galaxy coaster with me (OMG the best) and she took it in stride. To quote Ellie: “I hate you, I hate that ride, I hate you, I hate you, I hate it, I HATE IT.” She was ranting so much as we got off the coaster that I couldn’t walk straight because I was laughing too hard. It can’t have been that bad because she said she’d do it again the next time we came to EPCOT. Riding roller coasters she hates is “her thing”, she says.
But that was really the highlight of this trip — so many belly laughs with my family. I love my kids at these ages — they’re so smart and sassy and fun to be around. There was almost no snapping or grumping despite the cold weather and the sniffles, and all of us expressed how thankful we were to be there, to be together. I got a little sappy after a flight of mimosas over Christmas dinner, especially after our waitress complimented us on how sweet our family was, how good our kids are, all that stuff. (To be fair, she also gave us extra cornbread, which is enough to get me misty-eyed even when I’m not tipsy.)
Disney is not for the faint of heart. Under the best of circumstances, our family can take about 4-5 hours at the parks before we need to chill. Staying on Disney property made that so much easier, because when one of us was ready to tap out, we’d take a bus or ferry or the monorail and be back at our hotel in a few minutes. Occasionally Tim would take one or both of the kids back to the hotel and I’d spend extra time walking around, taking things in.
We had one “rest day” in between parks, and I treated myself to a long massage at the Grand Floridian spa. While there, I checked out the life-size gingerbread house display and the Victorian-style tree in the lobby. If I had to pick one favorite thing about this trip, it was being there at Christmas time to see all the decorations and festive displays.
Unfortunately the plague lingered. Tim started having symptoms a few days after Gwen recovered, and I developed a sort throat and sinus congestion. The symptoms were mild enough that we still went to Hollywood Studios and Magic Kingdom for our last two days and I honestly didn’t think much of it.
Of course, when we arrived home, Tim and I tested positive for COVID. 🙁 By that point we felt better-ish, save for some lingering fatigue. The kids have continued to test negative, but I’m pretty sure they are the ones who gave it to us. I suppose three years without catching COVID is pretty good, but I do feel some guilt over brushing off our symptoms during the last part of our trip.
We came home and have been resting and staying home as much as possible to avoid spreading our post-Disney germs; lots of LEGO building and TV watching. I’m going into the New Year feeling tired but deeply grateful.
Ellie: “Gwen, shut up.”
Me: “Ellie! That’s not nice. Set a better example for your sister.”
Ellie: “OK; Gwen, please shut up!”
Oh, hello, blog! I wandered away for a while, didn’t I? I’ve been avoiding my computer since it’s mostly for work stuff, and I can’t type fast enough on my phone, so blogging fell by the wayside when I started my sabbatical in August. Photo dump ahead!
I’m just over halfway through my time off, and my days are mostly spent puttering around the house, painting, building LEGO, playing video games, and hanging out with the kids when they’re not in school. I’m grateful to have this break, but it’s a bit weird not working. I’ve probably overcompensated by taking on more responsibility at home, but I still don’t feel like I’m doing “enough” sometimes, whatever that means. I’m definitely enjoying the increased number of walks and naps (as is the dog).
I’ve also enjoyed all this extra time with the kids. By September I’m usually more than ready to ship them off to school for a few hours’ peace, but this year I was sad to see the summer end. The time off has allowed me to be more fully present with family life and reminded me how cool it is to raise new humans. Last time I was on sabbatical they were just coming out of babyhood, and now they’re entrenched in tweenager-dom. In five years, they’ll be getting ready to fly the coop. They’re coming into their own, and it’s a joy to follow along and cheer them on.
We took a family trip to Prince Edward Island in Canada last weekend, something I’ve looked forward to since Tim and I first visited in 2019. It’s such a beautiful place. Things looked a little rough post-hurricane, and unfortunately most of the national parks and beaches were closed, but everyone was gracious and welcoming. I treated myself to a spa day, we spent some time exploring the city, ate lots of Cow’s ice cream, and visited Green Gables Heritage Place.
Tim and I were smitten, and already planning to do a summer trip when we can visit the beaches. I could see us living there; it feels just like home, the perfect marriage of potato fields and farms with little seaside towns, with the added diversity and culture of Charlottetown just a few miles (or kilometers) away. We floated the idea of immigrating to Canada with the kids, but Gwen is hesitant and Ellie is not at all interested in pulling up roots, and I suppose I can’t blame them.
Now I’m in the process of planning our next adventure: Christmas at Disney! We’d tentatively planned this back in 2020, but the pandemic put a pause on everything. Fast forward a few years and we’re all twice-boosted against Covid, so I feel better about flying longer distances, and at Disney we can spend a lot of time outside. This will also be the first time we’ll stay on premises at an official Disney resort (Wilderness Lodge) and the first time we’ll be away from home for the holidays. It’ll probably feel a little weird to break from tradition, and to experience a Christmas without freezing temps…but it’s a risk I’m willing to take. 😜
It’s finally summer, and I am soaking it up. I may have gone a teensy bit overboard with early summer plans (I blame being cooped up in pandemiclandia for the last two years) so the next few weeks are pretty booked.
We celebrated the end of the school year with a family vacation in Bar Harbor. Our hotel was right on the water and within walking distance to basically everything except Acadia. I didn’t make specific plans, which kept things laid back and gave me time to paint and do puzzles and unwind. I treated myself to a facial and a pedicure at the hotel spa, and the kids enjoyed the heated pool (even if it was only 60 degrees outside, yikes 😱). We saw our first movie in a theater since the start of the pandemic (Bob’s Burgers, funny!) and ate MDI ice cream every night. I think this is going to be a yearly tradition; being on the coast is rejuvenating.
Later this week, the kids and Mom and I are road-tripping to upstate New York to visit with family. (Tim opted to stay home and keep the pets company — he wasn’t thrilled about the idea of the 12-hour drive one way, can’t imagine why! 😜) We’ll spend the 4th in New York, then make our way home with a few days to spare before shipping the kids off to camp for a week.
After that, I’m taking two weeks to do a “trial” –basically a long test — for a role change at work. This role change has been taking up far too much of my brain space for too long; it will be nice to see it through.
Ironically, all of this happens *before* my three-month sabbatical…during which I have nothing scheduled. 😂 I expect there will be lots of painting and lake time, and maybe we’ll try to squeeze in a trip to PEI now that the border is open.
Back in February, my friend and former Automattic colleague, Michelle, approached me about writing a piece on fatphobia from a parent’s perspective for her magazine, Pipe Wrench.
As an aside: I first met Michelle during the 2012 Automattic Grand Meetup in San Diego. She started on the editorial team a few months after I was hired, and I have this vivid memory of seeing her across the conference room and thinking, “I want her to be my friend.” When we spoke, that thought immediately evolved into, “I definitely want her to be my friend, and I want to be like her when I grow up.” Michelle is a genius, a wit, a word wizard, and a fantastic human being.
Fast forward ten years (what even is time) and she’s created this online magazine that explores one core topic for each issue, with a feature story and multiple shorter essays responding to that feature story. This issue’s topic: Fatness.
Well, I’ve lived in a fat body since puberty, so I have some experience in that area. But fat liberation? I didn’t really know that was a thing until Michelle brought it up. My immediate response was to follow all the fat lib activists I could find on social media, particularly folks of color. I’d started following fat fashionistas and influencers a few years ago, trying to fill my Instagram feed with fat bodies as a means of normalizing fatness for myself. I took this a step further and spent the next few weeks reading about fat activism, listening to podcasts, and amping myself up.
When I received the feature essay, I read it in the parking lot on my phone while waiting to pick up the kids from school. I read it again when I got home. And again that night. Any fears I might have had about not knowing how to respond flew out the window.
I can’t think about medical fatphobia without thinking about my pregnancies, especially my first. Then I think about having daughters, daughters who share half of my genetic code, the same genetic code that says, “Here be fat!” And I think about how they will need to navigate the same unforgiving medical systems, the same societal expectations of body shape and size, and…I was off.
“I think about the time I used the f-word in front of your pediatrician and she looked at me, horrified as if I’d said ‘fuck‘ instead of ‘fat.‘”
I fought off impostor syndrome and put all those years of online journalling and that brief foray into fanfic writing to good use and wrote an actual, publishable essay. I tried to write from the heart to keep things authentic and real, and hooboy, have I mentioned vulnerability is not one of my strong suits? Coupled with a tendency to dial up the drama when I write, I did a lot of thinking and overthinking of every sentence. Thankfully Michelle is an amazing editor and it came together beautifully.
I spent most of Pipe Wrench’s launch day reading and re-reading the other essays (and Marquisele’s piece for, like, the fifth time). I had to take regular breaks to just breathe because it was overwhelming, seeing myself in many of these pieces and knowing that all of us deserve so much better.
The response to the issue has been amazing, and the response to my essay has been humbling. I think I have what Brené Brown calls a “vulnerability hangover”. I am not used to being an active participant in social media beyond a small circle of friends, and it was a little scary to see the notifications roll in. Rewarding, but yeah, a little scary. I have zero regrets, but in the process of writing, I did find stuff I need to work on. It turns out I have more to say on the subject. I’ll save it for another blog.
For now, you should really read Pipe Wrench.