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402 days. 402 (plus or minus… mostly minus) posts.

Tag: family

Tips on Feeling Like a Human While Traveling, and That’s About It

There’s a lot to say lately. And way, way more to listen to.

And in the middle of all the listening and the saying and the thinking and the doing, other parts of life keep moving. Maybe one of your sisters has a baby and you spend at least 20 minutes every day scrolling through pictures of her because she is the cutest baby in the world. Undeniably. The strongest, too. And maybe your job feels extra important now, because it’s teaching you confidence and clarity every minute of every day – and these are things you’ll need if you want to fix problems and change worlds.

And maybe part of that job involves a heckuva lot of travel. And thus – this post. A list of tips and tricks for staying healthy and sane while traveling. Particularly on those one-to-three day adventures, when you never fully settle in. Because whether you’re poised for a holiday immersion or a few last-minute work trips before the year ends, it never hurts to feel more like yourself.

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THE TIPS

  1. Know your habits.

Sleeping poorly is common “on the road.” But it can be mitigated with a little attention-paying. So, before you go to bed (and – you know – before you’ve actually left home), notice how you wind down. Do you wear cozy socks? Do you floss? (Please say yes.) Do you turn on a fan or humidifier? Do you read a couple pages of a Mary Higgins Clark murder mystery? Do you talk “roses and thorns” with your spouse or kids?

Make an actual list of your routines, so you’re aware of what’s become second nature. And then:

  1. Pick a couple of key habits or rituals, and pack accordingly.

Every night after I brush my teeth, I put a dab of Vaseline on my lips. (Is that weird? I’m not up to speed on the benefits of petroleum jelly.) When traveling, I used to sub whatever lip balm or Chapstick I could dig out of my backpack, but it’s just not the same. So now I pack a teeny tiny travel-size Vaseline in with my toothbrush. It’s not much, but it makes a huge difference.

When I’m at home, I also sleep with a fan running on low every night. I live in the city, and it helps dull the chatter of the after-bar crowd and the early-morning dog walkers. Hotels (and other people’s houses) are filled with a strange lack of noise. So I downloaded a free app that consists of eight hours of nothing but fan. On the road, I click it on every night and sleep like a baby.

  1. Create a travel-only ritual.

Sometimes, stress-free traveling requires more than just pretending you’re at home.

What’s a realistic but luxurious self-care ritual you usually skip at home and could easily do on the road? Maybe it’s a foot massage with that eucalyptus lotion someone gave you for your birthday. Or it’s using the expensive lavender wrinkle cream you definitely don’t need, but have 15 samples of anyway.  Especially if it’s a sample size, extra lotions or essential oils are easy to travel with.

My personal travel ritual consists of dabbing a drop of pure peppermint oil in the center of my palms, rubbing my palms together, and then gently massaging the peppermint on the base of my neck and upper shoulders every morning. Before I rinse the oil off my palms, I also vigorously rub them together and take a nice, deep inhale of the peppermint aroma. It’s refreshing and rejuvenating, especially when my body clock thinks it’s 4:30am, regardless of the actual time zone.

  1. Lay off the booze and sugar. And while you’re at it, find the veggies.

I know! Blasphemy! I’m not saying you have to skip cocktails and dessert entirely. But if you get knocked off your game by a couple of plane rides, weird-smelling Ubers, and/or a hotel shower that just. won’t. drain., do yourself a favor and try not to tax your system even further.

And whether you’re in cheesy carb heaven via your hotel menu or your family’s holiday gathering, there are probably some yummy raw fruits and veggies hiding somewhere nearby. (Pro tip: If you suspect there won’t be any particularly healthy items on the holiday buffet table, offer to bring one. Everybody loves a roasted beet salad, amirte?)

  1. Get some exercise.

No travel tip blog is complete without this one. But if it’s an overwhelming thought, just start simple. A 15-minute walk around the block takes literally 15 minutes. And you’ll get some fresh air at the same time, so that’s a bonus.

For more ambitious exercising without over-packing, check to see if your hotel chain offers cheap rentals on workout gear. Westin, for example, has a gear partnership with New Balance. For $5, you can rent shoes and clothing for your workout – which means you can pack that extra eucalyptus lotion and skip the yoga pants and sneakers.

  1. Take a minute to yourself.

FOMO is a temptress. It can be hard to resist joining every after-meeting dinner with your coworkers or every game of Scrabble with your brothers. But sometimes the best thing you can do for other people is reconnect with yourself and come back fresh.

Excuse yourself for 10 minutes to take a solo trip down Instagram lane – or, better yet, do some deep breathing with an app like Headspace.

And if after all this you’re still wiped out at the end of a good trip, don’t beat yourself up about it. There’s no shame in going to bed at 8pm in your own timezone.

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Day 1100: Kind of a big deal

My fiancé and I are getting married sometime in the next two weeks, depending on how you look at it (we picked a destination wedding, so the legal part is happening separately).

We’re. Getting. Married.

Marriage is a big deal, right? And for all its common-ness, it’s a provocative subject. As an institution, marriage had little to do with love until relatively recently. And it had little to do with two equals creating a partnership until even MORE recently (not-so-fun fact: most states didn’t consider marital rape a crime until the late 1970s).

The median age for getting married is going up, and the number of marriages most of us will have in our lifetime is going up.

Marriage is evolving, as things do.

Joe and I are both pretty pragmatic people. We know the marriage statistics, advantages and pitfalls. We know exactly what tax benefits our union will result in, and we’ve made some strategic choices. We elected for pre-marital counseling by way of the Prepare/Enrich assessment, which gave us data (Pie charts! Graphs! Percentages! Yay!) to analyze.

Our engagement has been filled with preparatory exercises designed to help us understand what we’re getting into, and why. And by all accounts, we’re doing everything right, if not romantically (nothing says romance like empirical data).

But I’m getting the sense that we aren’t preparing for marriage, exactly. What this actually feels like is preparation for continuous preparation. Or continuous change. Or maybe just continuously taking another person into consideration.

Because we’re both in our thirties, we have established independent-everythings—routines, schedules, habits, friends, etc. Every day, we make micro-decisions about how much our physical and emotional worlds should overlap, and where we can each bend and flex to accommodate. And sometimes we hit surprisingly hard edges. (I just think beds look better when they’re made!)

Ultimately, we’re both asking ourselves why we want to do this. For me, the answer is pretty simple. I love him, and I see how our personalities naturally support and balance each other. We accept each other. We challenge each other. We’re kind to each other. We have fun together and we respect each other’s independence. We both like learning. He makes really good quiche.

And when I think about my future, I want him to be there—even though I don’t know exactly who I will be or who he will be.

So in these days before we sign our papers and stand with our families and agree to keep picking each other, I’m feeling some mixture of totally chill and excited-bananas. The bed is messy. The quiche is in the oven. And despite our best preparations, neither of us has any idea what we’re getting into. Which is half the fun, right?

messybed.jpgThat bed.

Day 880: Swings, Songs and Advice for New Moms

Almost three years ago, one of my favorite friends and mentors had a baby boy. His name is Colin, and he has always been one cool cat, even at seven months old when I first blogged about him.

Because it’s been a few years (no idea how that happened), I asked Colleen if I could interview her again – this time, about about motherhood, wifehood, babyhood, toddlerhood, and what she would say to a new mother who receives the same diagnosis for their baby that was given to Colin.

Colin

Colin is a measured performer and a quick study. He can figure out what makes you laugh and then milk the situation before you even know what’s going on. I asked Colleen what Colin’s personality is developing into, and what she sees in Colin of herself and her husband, Chris.

“Reading and entertaining rank high for Colin. Book was his first word. I think he would spend the entire afternoon being read to, if he could. And while you are reading to him, he will inevitably make a funny face, snort or try to get you to smile – that’s the entertainer in him.

He’s a huge fan of Louis Armstrong. And he loves to swing, be surprised,” [Interjection from me: it’s true – he loves to be surprised. Whereas I’d probably cry and pee my pants a little, he just laughs.], “sing along to any number of songs, and play ball. He throws better than I do.

Colin Swinging Down Syndrome

Case in point.

He has Chris’ sense of perfection. Before he was walking, he would practice pulling himself up in hiding before he did it in person. We would watch him on the baby monitor. He has the persistence to keep trying something over and over until he is happy with it.”

As a nearly three-year-old, Colin walks, runs and takes exuberant leaps off one of the chairs in the living room (which has since been turned around to face the wall as a preventative measure). He’s also one of about 400,000 people in the U.S. living with Down Syndrome.

Advice

The original diagnosis was an admittedly scary and difficult one for Chris and Colleen. They received it moments after Colin was born, and they weren’t sure how to react. True to form, they made it through the initial tumbling and came out smiling on the other end.

“I knew Chris would be a good dad, but there is a whole other level of falling in love with your partner when you see them as a loving parent. I couldn’t really understand what that looked like until I saw it firsthand.”

Knowing what she and Chris know now, I asked Colleen what she would say to new parents of a baby with Down Syndrome. 

“Recently I read something that really rings true, so I’m going to steal the thought. If you were to go to a new parent and tell them all the things that would go wrong in their child’s life – like, when they are six months old they’ll get really sick and you will be up with them for nights on end trying to figure out what’s wrong. Or at seven, they’ll fracture their arm jumping off the bed. Or their best friend won’t be their friend anymore when they’re 11, and it will really hurt their feelings – If you told a new parent all the bad things that would happen in the future, instead of helping them be overjoyed with their new child, they would be scared to death. How can a mom protect her kid from that? But that’s not how it happens for most new mothers, thank God.

We were told (or read on the Internet) all the things that could/might happen to Colin throughout every stage of his life. But the truth is, some might happen and some might not. So I would tell a new parent to throw all the opinions, presumptions and thoughts aside and know that someday very soon, you will not see your child as any different.”

Colin Selfie Down Syndrome

Colin’s first selfie. JK, mom took it.

She also offered some incredibly sage advice to all the new mothers of all the babies, regardless of their situations:

  1. “Go easy on yourself. In the beginning you can become delusional due to lack of sleep. Everyone will say ‘sleep when the baby sleeps.’ If you can do that, great. If not, then do what you can do to relax. I couldn’t sleep when he slept, and I beat myself up for it over and over.
  2. Find a small group of people you trust, who will listen and talk with you. Thankfully, I had a handful of people who would answer the phone or text me back at 3 am. Remember that someday these people are going to need you to return the favor.
  3. If you don’t have a doctor (or occupational therapist or physical therapist) you trust, then get out of your current relationship and find a new one as soon as possible. And don’t be embarrassed to do it.
  4. Take time to allow yourself to welcome this little one into your home. This baby needs the same things from you any other child would need.
  5. Surround yourself with the people who look at your child the way you want the world to look at your child.
  6. Remember that people mean well. Really. I’m sure I said some stupid things to new parents when I didn’t really know what being a new parent meant. (They either forgave me or were so tired they weren’t even listening.) People will have opinions about your child and what you are doing/should be doing/shouldn’t be doing, and so on. That’s ok. They want to support you any way they know how, and they probably have no clue what is going on in your life. So listen, say thank you, and then call someone in the group from #2 to talk about it.
  7. For the proud new mamas of a child with Down Syndrome, you may want to run and hide right now, and it doesn’t feel fair. But once you come to terms with reality, just know that the child in front of you will blow your mind someday soon. Their capacity to reach their goals is the same as any other child when given opportunities and support.
  8. Remember that your child will be their own person even if they share the same diagnosis as someone else. People will make generalizations, like, ‘Oh, those Downs kids are so stubborn/sweet/easy/loving, etc.’ Is that true of Colin? Sure, sometimes. It reminds me of when people used to assume I played basketball because I’m tall. My son and your kid will be different from each other. Will they share similar characteristics? Sure. Do I share similar characteristics with some WNBA players? Sure.”

Right? Sit with that advice from my wise friend and pass it along to the people in your life who need it. And if you want to learn more and support people with Down Syndrome, check out these great organizations:

Ruby’s Rainbow
Changing the Face of Beauty
Think College

Day 164: Stuff and Things and Letting Go

Things strangely collect our emotions.

I posted a couple weeks ago about how giving away my loveseat on Craigslist was a tearful disaster (more because of the recipients than the item—but still). And today, my parents are moving. They packed up their Chicago house and are headed to the northwest.

We’ve never been a terribly nostalgic family when it comes to structures and stuff. Growing up, we moved more often than most of our friends, and settled ourselves in different parts of the country for the sake of adventure. We collected people and shed things every time we left a house, and always (almost) enjoyed the newness and excitement of reorganizing somewhere new.

But this move feels a little different. My parents are doing it without my sisters and me. We don’t have our own bedrooms in the new place (much to my mom’s chagrin), and there will be no school orientations, no track meets and no yearbook functions. It’s an adult move and they’re paring down.

Even our old art projects, skating ribbons and American Girl dolls aren’t going along for the ride. The remaining evidence of my sisters’ and my youth is heading into a storage unit outside of Chicago, where we can come and pilfer as we have time and space.

So for the last couple of months, my parents have been selling, donating and free-Craigslisting (sans tears) many of their belongings. I’ve seen the “come and get it” Facebook posts and waited on the phone as a 9-1-1 fallback while strangers picked up their couches and end tables. I was well aware that their things were going to new homes.

And I was fine with it until my mom posted a picture of my dad’s charcoal Weber grill (the one he received for college graduation and has been using ever since), and called it up for grabs.

Instinctually, I grabbed. Out of sheer terror. I mean, what would my parents be without the Weber? I grew up understanding its timelessness, its durability and its knack for producing the perfect, patiently grilled steak. I knew I had to hang on to it for them, lest their personalities disappear completely with this move.

The Weber

There she is.

Two text messages with my mom proved logically otherwise. They don’t need it anymore. And I’m a vegetarian living in a one-bedroom apartment with no outdoor space. Though I remember the grill being a fine roommate when it had a deck to itself, in my current arrangement it would coat my wispy curtains with soot and be the centerpiece of my living room. And it doesn’t do so well with veggies. She gave it to a grateful neighbor instead.

The bottom line is that stuff gets you sometimes. And then you have to let it go.

Because really, stuff is nothing without people.

Day 84: Febsgiving

To continue yesterday’s post about happy things Midwesterners can think about during the next million years (six weeks) of winter, I’d like to recommend Febsgiving.

Febsgiving is exactly what it sounds like: Thanksgiving in February. By the time February rolls around, most of the good winter holidays are over (excluding President’s Day, of course). So, getting a group of good friends and/or family together for a delicious meal, lots of wine and an arsenal of funny YouTube videos is the perfect way to cure the winter blues.

Here are some reasons why Febsgiving is wonderful:

  • No one expects you to be anywhere for most of February, so there are no turkey tradition scheduling conflicts. Just pick a day and invite the funniest and nicest people you know.
  • You can screw it up and no one cares. Forgot the cranberries? No problem. Never defrosted the turkey? Womp womp. Maybe your new Febsgiving tradition is peanuts and SpaghettiOs. It’s still a special day.
  • You can start looking forward to it as soon as the ball drops on January 1.
  • Once you have more than one Febsgiving, it’s officially an annual event, so you can look back on Febsgivings past and reminisce. Remember when Uncle Andy took his shirt off and danced to every song by Death Cab for Cutie? That was an awesome Febsgiving.
  • It’ll give you the same warm fuzzies you get from all the other lovely winter holidays.
  • Pie.

punpkin pie