It's not about that. It's not even about you.

Y'all. I'm going to get the hang of this video thing, I promise. I will. Really. [insert eye roll here]. A combination of gaffes and slow internet speeds have me posting my latest YouTube video two days after it made it onto the channel, and that was still uploaded later than intended because of the late hour in which it ended up being recorded due to me fumbling with the camera equipment (and disconnecting the mic in the process). 

Anyhow, last week Nikki Haley was inaugurated into her second term as governor of South Carolina. If you've read a blog post or two of mine over the years, you'd probably guess (correctly) that I lean a bit to the left of the American political spectrum. If you've read more than a post or two of mine of the years, you know that I think our current obsession with identity politics is asinine and childish. The United States is like an abnormal cell that can't stop dividing itself over and over again. The country has divided itself into factions according to economic, social, racial and regional lines. Now it's found another way to draw lines amongst groups within groups within groups. One can increasingly hear disdainful tones when Democrat and Republican voters refer to each other. At this rate we'll be a country made up of alienated, isolated individuals who don't leave their homes within the next 30 years. 

I don't agree with many of Gov. Haley's policies, and even some procedures, but her family was the first to fully welcome mine when we moved to South Carolina in 1989. When the Randhawa's women's clothing store was in Bamberg, I would hide beneath racks of clothes and lose myself in Anne of Green Gables while my mother shopped, talked, and took refuge from the strangeness of the place to which we'd moved. Mr. and Mrs. Randhawa would set a special candy treat aside for me during the holidays. It was a simple mixture of caramel and chocolate, and Mr. Randhawa would always tell me that the confection company created by drizzling hot caramel over hard-packed snow so it would harden, then dipping it in the chocolate. Our families were close for many years until distance and life separated the two. As my parents found social outlets around the community, Nikki and her sister, Simi, would sometimes babysit me when my parents went out. These memories are important to me because they were a warming ray of light during a time that was, frankly, very lonely for my parents and me. So when some dear friends invited me to tag along to the inaugural ball last week I had to stop and think about it for a minute. I have friends of all political persuasions, but I wouldn't normally go to the inaugural festivities of a GOP official, but this was different (of course, it was to celebrate incoming legislators, as well, but I don't know anyone who ran for office and won this year). I don't keep in touch with the governor or her family other than greetings in passing. Also, there had been that snafu with my friend and mentor, Marjory Wentworth, who is South Carolina's poet laureate. I don't know why Marjory wasn't included in the inauguration when participation is typically one of the duties of the job. It was a move that didn't sit well with me, whether or not it was intentional. 

But then I thought: 

Your dear friends have offered you an expensive and coveted ticket.

You like hanging out with them.

There will be food.

There will be a band.

There will be dancing.

You can pay someone else to go through the exhausting process of wrestling the kids to bed.

It would be really nice to give Mrs. Randhawa a big hug.

There will be political characters in attendance who represent pretty much any and everything.

You've never been to an inaugural ball before. 

It could be a lot of fun.

Oh, and this isn't about you. It's about celebrating the state where you've chosen to live--the good, the bad, and the confusing.

I went to the ball. I had a wonderful time. I hugged Mrs. Randhawa AND Gov. Haley.  I ate too much. I danced too much. Everyone was glad to see everyone. No one was talking about politics. Not even this guy: 

Yep. That's me and Gov. Chris Christie. My husband almost passed out when he saw the photo. Ha!

Yep. That's me and Gov. Chris Christie. My husband almost passed out when he saw the photo. Ha!

Before I went out, however, I read Marjory's poem into my camera, which is in the video below. Sorry about the sound quality, but enjoy!


My husband and I have these friends who certainly don't make life look easy. Anyone who knows what it is to have a fulfilling career and raise children understands that there is a lot of ragged running around involved. This couple is one whom we've watched in awe for years, though. Both have high-profile careers that are the result of focused ambition, the proper use of high IQs, and a careful balance between paying it forward and extending empathy into the community. They have children who are bright and appear well-adjusted, who idolize their mom and dad (no, they aren't teenagers yet!). Their daughters are involved in numerous after-school activities that suit their individual personalities, and Mom and Dad show a keen interest in those of their daughters.

This couple works quite a bit. One is required to travel a bit for his work. She has a huge staff to look over in addition to the major public responsibilities of her job. 

How are they pulling this off?

Of course there's no fairy tale, here. Being a parent is grueling by itself, let alone with the other responsibilities that come with work and life. I'm sure this couple has moments of arguing, miscommunication and misunderstanding just like all couples do. 

The other day Mr. M and I were pouring over calendars, trying our damndest to figure out how we could pull off two important work trips that had been scheduled at the same time. His would take him across the world and mine would have me across the country. We pursed our lips and stared at our computer screens, willing an answer to magically appear.

How do they do it? I wailed, thinking of our friends. How do they both manage to have such successful careers and raise their kids?

Easy, my husband said. They both come from huge families who all live in town. They have a constant support system. 

Not to discount our own support system, but that statement knocked me into an unattractively pouty loop. We have a wonderful group of friends and family who make our lives sweet and provide fun stories for our boys. What we do not have is a pool of relatives who can take over our household chaos when our jobs call us away. In the past, I've always been the one to take more ginger career steps so that I could be available for the boys while Aaron travels. I've passed on some great opportunities because of this. Now he and I both feel that it's time for me to stop holding back and to run, fly, or clumsily flop forward into the path that's been coming together in front of me for so long. But we have a mortgage, private school, student loans, college savings, and pesky things like food to pay for. He's not going to stop working so that I can have my turn... nor should he--he loves his job in the most adorably nerdy way (you have know idea how nerdy his love is for his work.... wow)

We don't have any healthy, spry grandmas who can keep up with our smelly (SO smelly), curious ("I wanted to see how a fish breathes, so I got one out of the pond!"), zippy (why walk anywhere when you can sprint?), talkative (ALWAYS talking), physical (WHY does a 3-year-old think it's proper to challenge a 7-year-old to a fight?) boys. We don't have childless aunts and uncles within a stones throw of our house to host a 5-day slumber party. That's just not part of our reality.

After a few minutes of sinking into a pouty repose I started to straighten up. I realized I was doing a disservice to our family and those people with whom we have no blood relation but who are as close to us as family can be. Sure, they all have their own situations and reasons for why we can't ask them to pretend to keep order in our three-ring circus for a few days, but they do bring a richness to our lives that I wish every family could experience--and that I know every family does not. We trust each other with our deepest fears about our futures and pasts. My boys have multiple people whom they can trust with their own fears and triumphs. My elderly parents can tell my children first-hand stories about historic events that other kids can only read about in books or from a teacher. While many kids received their first kid-sized chairs from Pottery Barn Kidsor Target, Jr.'s first wooden kid-sized chair was given to him by an artist who made it especially for my sensitive sweetheart. When Beastie B starts asking to go to the "kontwee", 8 out of 10 times he gets to go pick fruit and torture the air with stick swords until he's a lump of exhaustion. We have some damn lucky children, and we are two damn lucky parents to have attracted such loving chaos into our lives.

I'm not sure how we're going to come up with the tools to push harder in our careers while simultaneously keeping the boys feeling secure and supported. I'm not sure how anyone does it. But there's a way, I'm sure. We just have to keep our eyes open and keep our hearts open even wider.

Happy New Year!

Wait. What? 

If you're a parent, you know what I'm talking about. A new school year often feels like more of a new beginning or clean slate than January 1 ever does. Your kids are either back in school or are about to be and there's probably a feeling of relief washing over you as you anticipate the return of the routine. This feeling is stronger than ever for me because my childcare situation crumbled around mid-summer. When you adore your children and your work, such a situation can be a bit overwhelming, so yes, I did a great big ol' happy dance when Jr. started second grade this week, and I'll do another one when Baby B, whom we're now calling Beast, starts nursery school this Monday. We have a sweet college student who'll be coming over a few afternoons per week to help with homework and jump shots, so hello, work!  I've got my Filofax set up and tabbed to death, my inspiration boards and materials set up to my aesthetic whims and a stack of reading that I can't see over. Whoot-whoot!

My sweet little beast.

My sweet little beast.

My newly arranged office wall. Looks like I should've used a leveler!

My newly arranged office wall. Looks like I should've used a leveler!

I've been beating around the bush about "something big" for a while now. Those of you who see me in person on a fairly regular basis have heard enough about it to want to delete my contact information from their phones, but I feel like I'm all in now, so they'll have to bear with me as I fill the rest of you in.

I'm attempting to write a book. 

I've never written a book, but I know how to write, so I don't feel like I'm going totally out on a limb. I can't say that the idea wasn't floating around in the haze in the farthest recesses of my mind when I started focusing some of my writing on the modern South, but I certainly didn't think I'd be taking a crack at it in 2014. Or 2016, for that matter. Yet, through a series of events and circumstances that presented themselves in what almost seemed to be a methodical order, I ended up spending a weekend in June completing a proposal that has passed through a few hands, garnered some advice, and now I'm hacking away at a new approach. 

Why am I blabbing about it on the blog? Well, there are a few reasons:

  1. The reason for the book started here, so it seems to make sense that I would start hanging out at more often to hash out ideas, brain dumps and get my cerebral willies out.
  2. Writing a book is hard, y'all! (cue the tiny violins) It's hard, and it's very possible that no agent or publisher will ever want it. It's even harder when you live in the loudest house on the block, with a Jr., a Beast, a crazy dog, an old dog, and a Mr. M carrying on about their business around you. But I am not unique. I'm taking on a huge project for love and for work while trying to raise a family. There are many people out there doing the same thing in their own way, and sometimes we each feel alone in that kind of chaos. Sometimes we need a reminder that we're not alone in it. Our modern culture tends to place a divide between raising the stakes in a career and raising a family well. It doesn't have to be that way. We don't have to be this hard on ourselves. These days we live in a culture that provides very little valuable insight or commentary, let alone tools, for women to feel much less than stressed out by the process of setting high hopes for their careers AND their families. The stress is there no matter what the income level, and gets worse for each level less than the top. We should talk about how hard it is to do both. How hard it is to live *life* and make it fulfilling. All women struggle with this on some level, losing varying hours of sleep per month over whether their efforts are good enough, setting the right example, putting enough into society...
  3. Accountability, I guess? 
  4. I need all the excuses I can get to practice my craft. Some of my posts may be boring to those of you who haven't experienced the extreme rivalry between my 50-pound, 2-year-old Wheaten terrier and my 19-pound, 17-year-old Schipperke, but they make me laugh and put words in my head to laugh at later.

So... yeah. The New South series has birthed a book idea that has now mutated (after some feedback from *people who know* about these things) into a the gathering of my own personal stories about living on this side of the Mason-Dixon line. I never realized how many stories I had about it until I started writing about other people's stories and visions--all of which I'll continue to pursue, of course. I started to dig in deeply this week, and am looking forward to doing so even more on Monday, when our Beast has his first day of school.

Wish me luck, and please say a prayer for our new babysitter's nerves! Ha!