What I Learned This Summer
"Reunited, and it feels so gooooood!"
I took a summer break, it was glorious, now I'm back, and I MISSED YOU SO MUCH. This place has my whole heart; thanks for being a community I'm psyched to come back to.
The perfect way to return is to join my girl Emily P. Freeman in her seasonal What I Learned series. Let's talk about what we learned this summer! Lists! Trivia! Positive emotional formation!
1. Voting for famous women is waaaay harder than voting for famous men.
Last year, we spent every Friday ogling Hollywood hotties and voted through a bracket to find our favorite one. This summer, we did a simplified version with our favorite ladies, and it was virtually impossible. You all said it, too. I felt like I was being mean! No, ladies, I love you all! Please don't take this personally, Reese Witherspoon! What I loved about this realization though is that I felt a kinship with women as a gender. Maybe that's a weird thing to feel when I'm actively choosing which woman I "love the most" (I don't ignore the double standard, you guys), but it was a surprisingly beautiful problem to have. I didn't want to vote anybody out! Yay women!
Ironically, there was no winner. There was an actual, literal tie. High fives all around.
2. Emma Thompson is married to Willoughby.
In my celebrity deep dives, I find crazy pieces of trivia... like who someone is married to! I know... I'm such an intense researcher. But I had NO IDEA Emma Thompson was married to Greg Wise, aka Willoughby in my all-time favorite film, Sense and Sensibility. It blew my mind and then made me awkwardly giddy for at least three hours. Don't tell my kids that I'm more psyched about this marriage than their MarioKart score.
3. Erika (aka Julia) is a beast and my hero.
Yes, I loved Parenthood. No, I don't watch This Is Us. I decided I didn't have space in my life to continue All the Crying. But I do miss the Bravermans, so when our family was watching Celebrity American Ninja Warrior and Julia showed up??? Stop it. Then? THEN? Just watch this run. It'll make you mad at me that she wasn't in our Wonder Women bracket. And also I just watched it again and didn't tear up. Nope. Didn't tear up at all.
4. Getting dinner on the table is my favorite thing and also my hardest thing.
What do you do when you love something that also feels impossible? This summer, even in the breathing room we created, I still struggled to meet all the goals I had around my table. I wanted more variety (nope), more eating outside (bugs are the worst), and less complaining from my kids. Let's just say I've gotten really good at cleaning food off of the floor in record time (we still have ants).
But I'm going to keep doing it. I'm going to keep making dinner. Not just because I don't want my family to die of starvation but because even with all its craziness, it still feeds a deep part of my soul. I want to recognize more ways to bring out that deep part in the midst of the crazy. Hopefully I'll have learned more about that in What I Learned This Fall. (wink emoji...)
5. Kortni Jeane is the swimsuit capital of my world.
Sure, swimsuits are the worst. We don't have to start a petition to convince people of that. But my sons have finally learned how to actually swim and therefore wanted to go to the pool a lot this summer. I figured I couldn't wear jeans and a t-shirt in the water without drawing unwanted attention, so I manned up (womaned up?) and bought a suit.
PRAISE THE MAKER FOR KORTNI JEANE. They're mix-and-match suits with the cutest cuts and fabrics. I have never worn a two-piece, so I was scared when I saw that most of their suits technically have two pieces. But, y'all. They have high-waisted bottoms that basically go up to your boobs. And then you get a flouncy top or whatever suits you (get it? SUITS YOU???), and you're all set for a fantastic summer. When my suit came in the mail, I trudged to my room to try it on, expecting disappointment like usual, squealed at how cute it was, and then literally ran to show my husband. I had never felt more comfortable and even pretty in a swimsuit before. Not even as a 7th grader in my black TYR. (wink emoji...)
If you hate swimsuits, you'll love Kortni Jeane. And then you'll love swimsuits. It's basic summer math. P.S. They're not paying me to say this. I just love them.
6. Target sells the best tater tots and Cheezits.
They're called "potato puffs" and "cheese squares," and they're better than their name-brand fancy siblings.
7. Kids are more resilient than we think.
I went away a few times this summer for various shenanigans, and every time I left, I thought my kids would have such a hard time. Everyone would be tear-stainted and covered in cheese square crumbs upon my return. This, my friends, never happened. Everyone survived. In fact, everyone did... fine. Good even.
I often say no to things because I don't think my kids can handle change, that they can't deal with my being away. Yeeeeeah, that's not a thing, but I usually forget that until I've already said no. Here's to more yeses.
8. I'm obsessed with DJ Steve Porter.
He creates music videos from the sports world, and I love every second. One of these actually made me cry. That's not weird.
Okay, FINE, THEY BOTH MADE ME CRY SHUT UP.
9. Command + Control + Space Bar brings up the emoji keyboard on your laptop.
Because I no longer know how to communicate without them. (wink emoji...)
10. If you Google a celebrity's name and "bacon number," you get their degrees from Kevin Bacon.
Yeah, I expected that number to be way bigger, too.
11. It's possible to have a (mostly) clean and orderly home without being a perfectionist.
I don't want to clean my house; I want to keep my home. Still, I live in a low-level tension... if my home is actually clean, am I focusing on the wrong thing? Aren't people with clean houses actually obsessive perfectionists who are afraid to be vulnerable with other humans?
Umm, no. No, they are not.
Yes, I want to invite people into my home even if it's not perfect. No, I don't want to manage my life in order to hide the places where I'm falling apart. But I also love it when my home is tidy and shiny. Can those two things coexist? Can I love and pursue a clean home without being held hostage by it? I think I can. But I'm still learning what that means.
12. The Craft House is a magical wonderland.
Y'all. Grab yourself a group of girlfriends, fly to Kansas, and stay in the The Craft House. I had the opportunity to spend a weekend there with a group of Internet + real life friends, and it was magical. We ate, we laughed, and we stared at the warm, thoughtfully decorating, and straight up FUN house that Meg has created. I'm telling you... pick a weekend and go.
13. Monthly meal planning kind of works?
I feel nervous even saying this out loud, but I think it's true. I did my first month of meal planning this summer, and I followed it almost exactly. Which was scary and completely unexpected. How does a person plan dinner four weeks in advance?
I struggle with variety; I make the same 20 things most nights. A weekly meal plan usually fits the bill, but I often don't have the time to discover new recipes in my cookbooks or online. Enter monthly meal planning! I spent 45 minutes (that's it???) thumbing through a cookbook I rarely open, chose a couple of interesting recipes, filled in the rest with my 20 regulars, and it worked. I'm still shocked. Should I plan another month? And then can I just rotate the months and do them again and again? Have I gone crazy??? WHAT IS HAPPENING???
14. I can convince my kids to get rid of all their toys without anyone crying.
You ever get to that point where you want to burn your house down and start over? It's usually provoked by one too many Lego-related injuries. We came to a breaking point in our house this summer where the stuff had taken over, at least it had to me. My family didn't seem to notice that EVERYTHING WAS THE WORST, but whatever. I'm smarter than they are. (wink emoji...)
My kids had tons of toys, some awkward in size and scope that they rarely played with but wouldn't part with. Weirdos. But then I had a brainwave. They've been asking for a Nintendo Switch (it's a video game system... I don't pretend to know about these things), but I'm not about to spend $300 on a contraption that takes them away from the clutter that's making me crazy.
"Hey, boys, the only way we can afford to buy a Switch is if we sell a lot of your toys. What if we have a yard sale and see if we can make enough to afford one?" Y'all. They were throwing toys in the yard sale pile quicker than I pick up a new pack of pens at Target. It was wild and crazy and amazing.
Our yard sale was last weekend. Not only did we make enough to afford a Switch, the house is a completely different place. Even my husband and kids notice. Everyone is more settled, the house feels lighter, and I can see the floor to sweep it. When you keep the things you absolutely love and get rid of the rest, magic happens.
15. We have a lot to learn.
I don't properly know how to have political discourse, to talk about issues of discrimination, injustice, and hate. My privilege has prevented me from developing a vocabulary. I've never seen that more acutely than I did this summer.
Horrible things are happening. People are making evil choices. White supremacy is real and horrible. Full stop.
I don't know how to talk about it. I don't know how to engage in the hurt of others without feeling grossly inadequate and unqualified to do so. And yet, there again is my white privilege creating a bubble for me. I've never needed the vocabulary to assert my place in this country; others do. They have for generations. What do I do with that?
I have so much to learn, and I'm grateful for the loudest lesson of my summer... we all have a lot to learn. About each other, about our country's actual history, about the injustice that happens in the parts of town we don't visit, about kindness and love in the face of hate. There is much to learn, but I believe in our ability - as a country, as a city, as a community - to come together as a unified people, to actively seek justice for our neighbor, to truly love others - ALL others - as we do ourselves. I believe we can do this, but we have a lot to learn before we do.
Here's to more learning, more empathy, and more love for those who don't share your skin, your privilege, or your god.