List #251: The Family Vacation

Suitcases are scattered all over our bedroom and laundry is piled high on the beds. Though the boyfriend and I have gone on quite a few trips together in the last year, we are about to head out on our first family adventure in a few days. There will be a beach house, pool, waves, extended family, a budding toddler, a cuddly newborn, an enclosed porch, egrets and ibises, tea in the morning and drinks in the afternoon. 

It's a vacation that I'm greatly looking forward to and one that I feel I've earned with the hectic summer schedule I've been living with since June. Ditto for the boyfriend who is running just as ragged as me. 

Though my family may or may not have gone on a family vacation every summer, it certainly feels that way in my memories. Vacations were weeks that felt endless, filled with surprise and excitement, and really that's all I want for our family vacations too. 

  • I remember a joint-family vacation to a beach town that has long since been forgotten. Wearing swimsuits all day, sharing bedrooms, and loving that my best friend was right by my side. We swam, flew kites, ate boardwalk fries, and were oblivious to any problems that might have been sitting right in front of us.
  • Then were was the family car trip to the 1996 Olympics. The longest vacation my family has ever taken together. We saw Mongolian wrestlers on the train, took a ferry to New Jersey, left the park just as the bomb went off, and were entirely too young to watch Braveheart. It was the best trip we ever took together.
  • In high school there was tagalong-as-a-friend vacation to North Carolina. Those days were filled with all the things that high school kid in the 90s did. Plus long walks on the beach, floral sundresses, and the sound of frogs echoing all around the hot tub as we soaked our too tan bodies at night.
  • Long weeks at the Jersey Shore trying to balance family with being too cool for a family vacation. And spending all of my hard-earned money in the second hand book store.
I can't wait to get on that plane and land where the waves are. Summer should pause long enough for all of us to escape. See you when we return.


List #250: The One with the Fake Gambling

In just 12 days I'll be heading off to the beach. With the boyfriend, the not-so-little baby, and a few extended family members. For bird watching, beach sitting, pool swimming, and hopefully a few drinks together on a rather large porch.

Before we pack up the bags and push a little one through the airport in the umbrella stroller. There is a lot to get through.

Between now and then, our family will see:

  • 14 library programs spread out over just 9 days.
  • Two business trips to neighboring states.
  • More walking practice.
  • A house-warming party.
  • Bathing-suit shopping.
  • An afternoon spent with my parents.
  • Directions to cat/house sitters.
  • A night out with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
And oh god, that's all I can remember without looking at my Google calendar. And because of all of this, I have been finding it increasingly hard to restore the balance in my life amid the summer madness. Our house is rather messy, my desk is a disaster, laundry is never finished, and the two adults in this house are nearly always tired.

So it's no wonder that I've been coming home and numbing my brain with endless rounds of fake slots on my cell phone. The colors, the sounds, the repetition, are one of the only things that calm my brain each night. And even though I'm sort of wondering just who in the world plays cell phone slots, I do not wish to stop.  With all of my obsessions, it will go away, I'm sure. 

But between now (when another work day just means a whole lot of me running around, singing, and dancing, and reading) and then (when the days will seem long and the nearest sounds are birds and waves) I'll numb my brain with the only vice that's interesting at the moment. And be thankful that I haven't gotten sucked into another season of Teen Mom Two. Just yet.

So dear readers, how do you manage to restore your sanity after a particularly (extended) stressful period of work? 


List #249: Things I am Over This Summer

Just a few things that I wish would disappear, sooner rather than later:

  • Humid days and rainy nights.
  • People who get annoyed about children being inside the library.
  • Spotty wi-fi.
  • Cats who get crazy every night.
  • Getting up before 7 am.
  • Cleaning.
  • Feet that hurt after very long days.
  • Summer moving by too quickly.
  • Expensive flights.
  • Falling asleep before 10 pm.
  • This song.

  • The lack of vacation days offered to Americans.
  • Coming home feeling sticky every night.
Here's to a weekend of relaxation. And avoiding all things annoying. 


List #248: Hot Nights And City Living

As the first week of summer begins, I find myself thinking about a beach vacation that seems so far off into the distance. And trying to muster up the energy to stay up past 10 pm and read. I have 7 library programs in 4 days and it may be getting the best of me. 

But it's my first summer living within city limits since my childhood. And I'm loving discovering the quiet of our tiny porch, just blocks from a busy street. I love long family walks and short solo walks. And grilling dinner for three.

Here is what I'm enjoying most:
  • Living in a house with central air conditioning.
  • Reading books and drinking beers while sitting on the porch together after work.
  • Grilling in the morning for breakfast.
  • Zoo trips late on Sunday mornings.
  • Freeze pops readily available.
  • The new Salted Caramel Core ice cream. Thank you, Ben & Jerry.
  • Ice Cream surprises on Saturday afternoons.
  • Long walks with panoramic views of Pittsburgh. 
  • Splashing in fountains. 
  • Rooftop bars.
  • Ice teas.
  • Ice drinks in the morning.
  • Ice water in a Tervis mug.
  • Going to bed early and not feeling bad about it at all.
  • Drinks with friends on Saturday nights.
Honestly, this week is going to exhaust me. Libraries are hectic in the summer time and it's my job to coordinate most of the (joyous) madness. But summer is fantastic. Especially when you have air conditioning. And views that look like this.

Once again, my city is prettier than your city. 


List #247: On Father's Day

It's probably been a rule in society from the very dawn of ages that dads are often overlooked. Moms are the star of the show. They are ones whose light we see beaming from far away, even if the glow they are casting isn't all that bright. Moms are the ones who get flowers, and candy, and jewelery and all of our unsolicited kisses on even the darkest days.

Dads are a different story. They get neckties and tools for holidays. They grill their own steak on Sunday afternoons. For goodness sake, every afternoon I hear a commercial on Pandora telling me that all my dad really wants for Father's Day is a nice new pair of Dockers. They don't get nearly as many unsolicited kisses and they rarely even ask for extra ones too. Whatever love you have for them is always enough. Because a Dad's light is steady and reliable. Even if his light isthe brighest one in the room, it's not going to burn out any time soon.

But boy, oh boy, do I wish I could teach the whole world a lesson and shout about Dads from the rooftop. After spending the last year with a single* dad and his hilarious little boy, I just want people to give dads more credit. The Dad in the famliy doesn't automatically need to be the back-up parent.

So please, this Father's Day (and all days really) let's do this for dear old dad:
  • Don't talk about a father of a child staying home to "watch" the babies. Dads care for children and raise children. Watching children is what the babysitter does. So save all the watching for them.
  • Let Dad tell silly Dad jokes. I swear all dads, upon leaving the hospital, get a manual on how to be the corniest man around. It makes them happy and honestly, you know it makes you laugh.
  • Buy Dad something different. Think outside of the box and give him something that is full of personality. Khaki pants have no personality.
  • Remember that Dad love their children just as much as Mom. Love has no definition. Love is love. And it is limitless.
  • Respect Dad's role. Don't tell him that he wouldn't understand. Don't tell him that Mom is always right. Support is a good thing.
  • Understand that each family is unique. What works in your home might not work in the home next door. And that's more than okay; it's wonderful.
  • Sympthasize with the new Dad. There is always so much talk about how to treat a new Mom, but it's rare that you hear about how to treat a new Dad.
  • Remember your friends. Relationships shift as people become parents. But being a mom doesn't mean you always have to take another mom's side. And being a Dad doesn't mean you have to think that Dad is always right. Remember who you were friends with before everyone decided to create new humans and try to make informed decisions and opinions.
  • Truly think what it might be like in someone else's shoes. Is your dad friend going through a rough patch? Is he going through it all alone? Be someone to count on. Don't assume he's the bad guy because he's a guy. 
  • Dads miss their kids too. When you focus on Moms missing their children and ignore how Dad might feel, you're selling Dad short. Dad wants to be with his children too. Accept a Dad's feeling as valid ones. 
I'm sure we are all thinking that none of this to our own Dads. And maybe don't. But observing how the world has interacted with one of my most favorite men this past year has led me to understand that we all do this to some Dad.

But maybe, just maybe, we can start being a little kinder to the guy who is only going to get a necktie and Dockers for Father's Day. He sure does a lot.

*Single meaning has a live-in girlfriend/partner/carer of all things little and big, who sometimes cries herself to sleep because she worries too much about babies and life and reading and so much more. If you want to know a little more of our story, I wrote about it here on Emily Levenson's Blog. 


List #246: Yes All Women. Or Not All of The Times I Felt Uncomfortable.

It's a rare day that I'm swept up in stories that come along with hashtag campaigns. As much as I love Twitter, I don't necessarily love the trends that get started there. That is, until #YesAllWomen.

I don't recommend watching the USC Santa Barbara killer's videos. But I do encourage browsing through the tales being told on Twitter. And I do recommend you read things like this New Yorker article or this piece from Slate.

Personally, this campaign really got me thinking about my own life journey and experiences with misogyny. I made a few of my own mistakes in my 32 years. And of course, I have my own regrets. But these are just a few of the times that I remember being scared, frightened, or pressured simply because I was a woman.

  • In 9th grade I started the school year as a naive 13 year-old. And ever day, for the entire first semester, a biology partner threatened to crawl into my bedroom window and rape me.
  • I cross a very busy road between a coffee shop and my library, nearly every day. And at least once a week (often more), men honk their horn and hoot out the window to get my attention.
  • The time I was in college and was coaxed into coming back to that guy's room.
  • Though I never really knew for sure, I'm nearly certain that roofies were put into my (and probably other's drinks) at a sorority and fraternity mixer. It's the only time in my life where I blacked out to the point where I don't remember parts of the night. Thank goodness for friends who always made sure we all got home safe.
  • All of the times I've had to tell strangers that I had a boyfriend (even when I didn't) because they won't take hints that I'm not interested.
  • Those times where I got asked out at the front desk of the library, while I was on duty, in front of not only staff members, but the general public.
  • One morning, not more than a month ago, walking down a very busy street in Pittsburgh. Wearing a dress, like I do every single day. And have a man tell me to "Shake that Booty" from the loudspeaker, attached to his truck.
  • The fact that so many people find this blog by adding "slut" to my profession. 
Though there are more of these stories from own my life, I'm thankful that my stories don't end in violence or sexual assault. I am one of the lucky ones.

I am smart enough to know that a hash tag won't change the world. These issues run deeper than anything 140 characters can convey or fix. But I do think that social media can start a conversation. Or many conversations. To let women know they aren't alone, to let parents open up about talking to their children, to let men understand where women are coming from just a little more, to help understand what it may mean to walk in someone else's shoes. I don't think anything will change over night. But maybe we're all growing up to be adults who can help future generations choose their words and actions just a little more wiser than we choose our own.


List #245: Things That Happen When You Have an Ear Infection

Last weekend I developed a sore throat. And after a trip to the doctor I developed a cough. And then I woke up yesterday morning with an earache. Like a little kid.

But since earaches aren't contagious, and everything else I have is just allergies, I did not contract an earache from a little toddler. But I did get tinnitus (and funny enough, it happens to be tinnitus awareness week). And the tinnitus is making me dizzy. And being dizzy is making me nauseated. 

So yeah, it's been that kind of week around here. 

Here's what happens when you're 32 and get, according to the Physician's Assistant, "one really bad ear infection" in the middle of May:
  • You run into the library before it opens to send yourself files and grab a laptop so you can work from the couch.
  • A morning nap happens and it feels like 3 hours, but it's only 30 minutes.
  • A trip to the medical clinic is in order. 
  • So much dizziness occurs that more naps happen.
  • And then, the nausea begins.
  • Stress about summer reading and the amount of work to be done starts to build.
  • The ringing in the ears gets worse and worse.
  • The boyfriend gets me medicine and fountain Coke and cheese curls. 
  • Lots of Parenthood is watched. 
  • Windows are open for fresh air.
  • It's learned that earaches are not contagious.
Here's hoping that tomorrow goes swiftly and the antibiotic kicks in. Because I have a three day weekend with two boys to enjoy.