We have to talk about the hard things

March 1st, 2014


Does it matter if we talk about global affairs? Or sexual violence? Or human rights?

It’s easier to say, “That doesn’t affect me. That is far away. Those people are different from me.”

It’s easier not to talk about these things at all. Not to click a headline. Not to watch a news story that is violent or heartbreaking or controversial.

It’s easier to say, “I am one tiny voice, and it won’t matter what I think or say.”

I am one tiny voice. We have to speak together, even if quietly and gently. But sometimes loudly and forcefully.

We make decisions that speak loudly, too. Where we spend our money. What we click on. What news we watch and read and listen to. What art and pop culture we absorb. How we spend our time speaks volumes.

It matters if I say:

What do we do?

  • Click and read news stories about substance, rather than about reality shows or celebrity gossip.
  • Sign an online petition.
  • Tweet!
  • Send a form email (or an original one, if you’re feeling verbose) to your state representative, senator, the White House, your city councilor, or whoever may be able to speak in an official way. They work for us, after all!
  • Share news stories on Facebook.
  • Spend your time and money thoughtfully.

Related confessions:

  1. As a  journalism school graduate, it’s tough for me to put opinions out into the world. Shouldn’t I stay unbiased and neutral about everything? I haven’t worked in the news business for seven years, but I still have this nagging feeling that I should hide my opinions. But this is about journalism, because so few people read these meaty international stories that news organizations don’t want to pay for reporters to work on them.
  2. I read a lot of things: news, blogs, books, magazines. And I enjoy a lot of pop culture, lately science fiction shows, spy dramas, old cooking shows, and folksy modern rock. I’m not proposing that everyone put down their favorite form of entertainment, but I do think we should be conscious and vocal about the world around us.
  3. I’m not interested in political debate about Republican versus Democrat versus Libertarian versus Tea Party versus Green versus whatever. I want us to talk about issues that affect real people like me (and you). I want to talk about the mother in North Korea who is wondering if her kids will get enough to eat tonight. Or the young women in Russia who wanted to make punk rock music and instead were whipped in public by a government-endorsed militia.
  4. Is this futile? Hopelessly optimistic? Bleeding-heart naïveté? Or is it a plea for more public dialogue about terrible events that shatter the lives of real people in the world?

Here is my tiny voice. I am saying something I believe. Will you join me?

PS: Motherhood compels me to raise my voice. I want this tiny nerd to grow up in a world that is thoughtful, compassionate, well-informed and getting better every day.

 

They’re Coming launch party

February 15th, 2014

A few months ago, I wrote about the Hubbs’ zombie card game. And now They’re Coming is here.

We launched the game with a small party at one of our “safe houses,” the Star Lounge Coffee Bar. We had a small art raffle, a cake by Drizzle Bakery and a group of loyal survivors at our sides.

The Hubbs is relieved that the game has come to life. He used a company called The Game Crafter to print and ship the games to our Kickstarter backers, though a few Chicagoans will get hand-delivered copies from us this week. (And a few Ohioans will receive deliveries in a few weeks.)

I’ve also stashed a deck or two for myself. Since the littlest nerd has arrived, I’ve been thinking about all the amazing bits of creativity we’ll share with him once he’s a little older: this card game that the Hubbs created, a beautiful handmade quilt from Nana (my mom), several books and paintings from Pappy (my dad), and magazines that I edited. (Maybe in a few years I can add books that I write to the mix, too.)  When I think about the things I leave behind in this world, the first and most awesome will always be my boy. But there will also be little bits of creativity that leave our mark, too.  I hope we teach the littlest nerd that there’s a pure joy in creating something from scratch, or seeing someone you love do so, just for the fun of it.

You can find the game on Facebook, Twitter or the Interwebz. If you missed the Kickstarter, send us a message on Facebook and we’ll pass along order information.

 

What you do on maternity leave

January 5th, 2014

People without kids may find themselves asking the question, “What do you DO on maternity leave?” Maybe you think new parents get to LIVE IT UP and PARTY ALL DAY, because new babies do a lot of sleeping?

If you think that, you are correct. By “live it up,” I mean, “watch Netflix in 30-minute increments, between changing diapers and breastfeeding and checking whether your tiny creature is breathing.” And by “party all day,” I mean, “sleep in 2-3 hour bursts, in between baby-cries.”

But for my own records, here’s a tiny look into what I did on my maternity leave.

 

I spent the holidays in Ohio with my family, so I could experience moments of bliss not limited to watching the Hubbs read a pop-up book with my niece and encouraging my parents to snuggle their new grandson. I took approximately 5,624 photos of my niece and her new cousin (“BABY!”) in order to get one or two where they are not moving, pooping or crying. Also: I coordinated matching outfits for my family.

My lovely friends visited in gentle, much-appreciated waves, beginning in the hospital and continuing through New Year’s week. Some came from New York and New Jersey, and others met me for snacks at cafes. My sister left her own sweet baby for a weekend to come cook and grocery shop for us, and my mom visited and granted us a very romantic morning date at Target.

I made peanut butter chocolate chip cookies, because I was curious about baked cookies that didn’t have flour. The Hubbs gave them a rating of “No, we can’t share these with other people. We need to keep them all here.”

Mostly, though, I spent my time exclaiming, “OH MY GOODNESS, you are so cute!” or “What a good, sweet boy!” or “A-gooooo!” A few minutes were devoted to discovering elbow dimples, and several minutes over thunder thighs. Many hours were lost to translating cries. You learn over a few weeks that “Change my diaper” sounds different from “I’m about to spit up all over you” and from “FEED ME.”

This week I go back to my 9-to-5, and daddy daycare begins. We proceed into a brave new world of parenting. Onward!

 

Motherhood

December 3rd, 2013

miles for blog

1.

A month ago, I became a mom. Four weeks and two days filled with baby grunts and wails, middle-of-the-night diaper changes, laundry loads of pee-soaked onesies, meals half-eaten and interrupted by squeaky cries, and countless snuggle sessions.  The time has passed in a blur. And we’re just getting started.

Sometimes, the tiny nerd is taking a nap in his room, and I get lost in the midst of a book or a movie. Then I’ll hear a cry from the other side of the door, and it hits me: That is my little person in that room, and I have to take care of him!

I’d like to blame hormones for another common scene, but I don’t think they’re entirely at fault. When the tiny nerd is sleeping on my chest, I  look down at his squishy cheeks and his quivering mouth, and my eyes tear up. The Hubbs and I made this! We get to raise this little beast forever! We get to go on this crazy adventure together! It is overwhelming.

2.

Yesterday was my grandmother Velma’s 80th birthday. She is Mom to seven children, Mammaw to 18 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. The roots of her family tree are deep, and the branches stretch wide. The photo below is her with a handful of those grandkids (me included).

velma and grandkids

When the Hubbs saw it, he said, “Just think, in 30 years, you could be surrounded by a bunch of grandkids like that!”

Celebrating her birthday is bittersweet. My grandmother lives in a nursing home in southern Ohio, where she is a skeleton of a woman, more infantile than senile. She doesn’t speak, and she eats pureed food that is spoon-fed by nurses or visitors.

I hate that my son will never hear her talk about trips to Alaska, cross-country RV journeys to visit family, or stories about her life growing up in southern Ohio. He’ll never arrive at her house to be smothered in hugs and kisses, then stuffed full of homemade noodles or pots full of garden-fresh corn or dried apples. I hate that my husband only knows her as a forgetful, then frail, then silent figure.

But there’s joy in knowing that because of my grandmother, my son will grow up surrounded with family that loves and adores him. He’ll meet cousins, aunts, uncles and all the variations of family that we can throw at him, and they’ll smother him with snuggles and kisses and kind words.

The family has rich memories of time with their mother and grandmother, and those memories will infuse our time with each other.

3.

You have nine months of pregnancy to prepare for being a parent. In my case, I also had a few years of infertility treatments. The idea that I might not get to raise a child, to see my husband become a father, to watch in wonder as an infant became a toddler became a person… That was the hardest part of infertility. I wanted to experience that joy firsthand.

Despite those months of pregnancy, the baby seems to arrive suddenly. You knew there was a tiny human incubating inside your belly, but now there’s a baby in your arms. You are forever the mother to a creature that needs you in a primal way. He needs your warmth, your sustenance and your protection. He needs your voice to comfort him and teach him language. He needs your hands to wrap him in dry diapers and soft clothes.

My days have become an endless stream of mundane, repetitive moments that add up to something profound and deeply personal.

4.

I’m fussing over the baby’s socks. His feet will get cold if they fall off.

“You’re being such a mom,” the Hubbs says.

Exactly.

Freezer stocking day*

October 21st, 2013

Pumpkin pancakes

At the urging of Pinterest (ALL OF IT) and a new-mom friend, I went a little crazy stocking my freezer with foods for our early “new parent” weeks.

One Saturday, I woke up and made pumpkin pancakes. We ate some and froze the rest.

But then I kept going! Chicken and cheese enchiladas. Black bean and corn burritos. Chicken pot pie. Apple pie with a crumb top. Pumpkin crumb cake. (Crumb top was the same for both cake and pie, in case you were wondering.) We ended up with extra lentils from the crockpot a few days ago and a bowl of those ended up in the freezer, too. We are going to be sleep-deprived and in shock (probably), but we’ll also be well fed.

Have I told you about the easiest lentils in the world? I’ve mentioned a lentil-sweet potato stew before, but this is different. And easier.

The Easiest Lentils in the World

  • 1 cup dried lentils
  • 1/2 cup dried pinto or kidney beans
  • 1 jar of Trader Joe’s Curry Simmer Sauce
  • 1 can of chicken stock (or veggie broth, or water + a pinch of salt)
  • 2-4 cups water, depending on how soupy you like your lentils
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • Salt and pepper to taste, but probably not much (add after cooking)

I throw all of the ingredients into the crockpot, cook on high for 2 hours and then bring to low for a few more hours (or until I’m ready to eat). I sometimes just set it for low and let it cook overnight, then have it ready to pack in the morning for my lunch.

The end! But you can top with a dollop of sour cream and serve with a side of crackers, French bread, pita or naan. Whatever you  have! We have some variation of this at least once a month, sometimes throwing in vegetables we need to use up (sweet potatoes, carrots and peppers are all good options but you could get crazier).
Lentils

*Inexplicably, to the tune of Weasel Stomping Day.

Preparing for the tiniest nerd

September 30th, 2013

Rockets and robots // baby boy's room

Until you know you’re having a baby, you don’t have any of the material things you need. It’s not as though, at some other point in your life, you need a crib, a changing table, diapers and receiving blankets. It’s not like having a friendly house guest, who can sleep in the same kind of bed that you do or use the towels and toiletries you already own. You don’t have the baby stuff, the lotions, potions, bottles, pacifiers, tiny outfits or toys.

OK, maybe a few toys. You might have those.

IMG_9784

So you create a room from scratch. And once you know you’re having a boy, you can select the right design elements for a tiny nerd. It wasn’t really going to matter what gender the baby was, nor what color his hair or eyes, nor how tall; he’s going to be a nerd. That trait is 100% in his genes.

Space Invaders wall decals over crib (from Ikea)

You fill the room with robots, rockets, bright colors and some Space Invader-like decals. You hang the handmade Star-Trek-themed mobile that a friend created. Nana makes a custom valance with rocket ship fabric. (She’s already got one grandchild and therefore her grandma-name selected.)

Star Trek mobile

And then you wait for the tiniest nerd to make his appearance. It won’t be long now.

Dreams and zombies and The Bloggess

September 6th, 2013

For more than a year now, the Hubbs has been piecing together the makings of a zombie card game. It’s called “They’re Coming” and the idea, in a nutshell, is that you face off against one other player, pit zombies versus survivors, and attempt to reach your safehouse first and with the most non-Zombies.

The Hubbs commissioned art from a  bunch of cool artists, including Tommy Arnold, Joe Badon, Matt Collander and Christopher Martinez. He play-tested the game in weekly sessions with a friend. He created something from scratch and waited for the right moment to send it into the world.

A few weeks ago, he launched the game publicly, via a Kickstarter campaign. His goal was $4,000. We had a good initial launch, creeping towards $1,000 within a few days, and slowly rising toward $2,000. As his de facto PR woman, I tried to brainstorm some ways we could get the word out. We could tweet, network among friends and get on the Zombies Facebook page. But what we really needed was an Internet superhero to help us.

And she did. Our heroine looks something like this, if she were a brain-crazed zombie:

Less than eight hours after The Bloggess mentioned the game, we had reached our goal. Exceeded it, even.

In an email a few minutes ago, I was trying to find the best way to say, “We are so excited.” The Hubbs said it best, though. We are fucking ecstatic.

The Internet, y’all. It makes dreams come true. (With a million thanks to The Bloggess and her readers.)

They’re Coming is on Kickstarter, Facebook, Twitter and the Internetz.

Top image in this post by Brian Brinlee; Bloggess-inspired zombie by Tommy Arnold.

Jimmy

July 12th, 2013

Jimmy and Joanie

In May, my grandfather Jimmy passed away. I knew him as Papah Jimmy, a handyman, auctioneer, tractor-driving farm owner, smoker, clock collector, beer-drinker and loving, stoic family man.

These are facts about my grandfather, which may help you picture him: He drove a pick-up truck. He lost most of the fingers on one hand in a paper mill accident long before I was born, a fact I often forgot before introducing him to people, which inevitably led to questions later. He was a Freemason, like his father before him. He repeatedly hosted summer pig roasts for his lodge, events that included rented bathrooms, tons of picnic food and dozens of cars parked all over the former cow field. He drank cheap beer, usually Miller High Life, and he salted it liberally. He salted everything. He listened to country singer Tom T. Hall, specifically songs like this and this. Read the rest of this entry »

About Mothers Day

May 12th, 2013

Harper and Nana, May 4, 2012
My mom and my niece, May 2012

Happy Mothers Day! It’s a lovely holiday, isn’t it? We celebrate the people who gave us life, who cleaned and fed and nurtured us, who supported and loved us. We send flowers and go to brunch and give hugs.

My mom is wise, patient and one of the kindest people I know. She reinvents herself every few years, fearlessly getting a new degree or switching careers, hiking into the mountains of Honduras to provide nursing care in small villages, and planting gardens in South Africa. She does it all with little fanfare, and when she describes her experiences, she spends much of her time extolling the kindness and humility of other people on her journeys.

I’m also lucky enough to have been surrounded by loving, supportive grandmothers and aunts, the type of people who want to feed you all the time,  attend your childhood recitals, and also let you run wild outside but make sure you’re coated in sunblock or bug spray. In the last year, I’ve watched my sister become a mom, and the ease with which she stepped into the role has amazed me. She’s shaping a funny, stubborn and brilliant child (like mother, like daughter).

Stephanie and Harper, @Krohn
My sister and my niece, March 2013

But for many other people, the day is a painful reminder of loss. For the children whose parent has passed, the day haunts them with the memories of someone who is not around to celebrate. And for infertile women, like me, the day is a reminder of what you don’t have. In years past, Mothers Day meant I felt the grief of infertility a little deeper, where I reflected on how badly I wanted to be a mom but knew that biology wasn’t cooperating.

This year is different, though. Because I have a tiny life developing in my belly. It is a relief and a joy. But the trick of infertility is that even after you go through medical treatments and succeed in conceiving, you don’t quite believe it will happen for you. Every passing week, as my stomach grows a bit and my pants get a little tighter, I think, This is real. Yet I can’t quite see that endpoint where I’ve got a baby in my arms. Reality and medical science tell me there’s no denying that resolution. Next year I might finally feel like I can revel in the flowers-cards-chocolates-Hallmark-ness of the day. Today I am optimistic and calm and trying to settle into my new reality.

To the mothers in my life, I say: Thank you!  I celebrate you!

And to those that are struggling with grief and heartache today, I say: Today is one day of many. You are strong, and you will find a way through this.

Happy Mothers Day, no matter where you are in your life.

Me + Joanie
My grandmother Joanie and I, en route to Ireland, September 2011

Three days in the Big Easy

April 14th, 2013

beignets from Cafe Du Monde

We took a quick middle-of-the-week trip to New Orleans with the Hubb’s parents last week, and I can report that I’ve heard jazz blaring from tiny clubs, eaten gumbo in the French Quarter and indulged in Cafe Du Monde’s world-famous beignets and cafe au lait. On those counts, I’d call it a success.
Steamboat Natchez paddlewheel

We also cruised down the Mississippi River on the Steamboat Natchez, which was a lovely piece of aquatic machinery, complete with steam-engine room, paddlewheel and lots of wind.

DSCN2398

My in-laws commented that there was a statue on every corner in the Big Easy. Statues in fountains, courtyards, parks. Statues of musicians, explorers, politicians, judges, French and Spanish local-legends… My favorites were the anonymous musicians, like the ones above strolling into Louis Armstrong Park.

We’re already plotting a return trip in a few years, when we can eat more Creole food, drink some of the local cocktails, explore the weird little nooks in the French Quarter and hear lots of lively music.