All I Want For Christmas Is For The Holiday Debating To Stop

It’s the 21st century, and I would wager a bet that there is one thing historians will one day point to as defining these earliest decades of the age: the Internet debates. 

You know them. 

They are the debates in which everyone has an opinion that is confused for fact, and it needs to be heard. Loudly.

They are often arguments about the right way to parent. Or, generally speaking, how people do things in different ways, all the while believing theirs to be the only right way.

Everyone involved is undoubtedly offended at some point.

This year’s Christmas season is not lacking in them, the Internet debates. At the strike of midnight on Halloween night, the holiday-related debates started seeping out the woodwork of every crack and crevice the Internet has to offer.

The people who decorate for Christmas before Thanksgiving kicked it all off in the debate against those that wait until their turkey has digested.

Shortly after, people started spitting hatred at each other over Thanksgiving turkey or Thanksgiving ham.

It continued with the people that do the Elf on the Shelf versus the people that think it’s creepy and/or over the top and/or teaching your kids to adhere to an authoritarian government’s surveillance. 

(A bit much on the last point there, wouldn’t you say?)

Then it was the people that maintain Santa Claus is real (at all costs) fighting – sometimes virulently – against those that couldn’t lie to their children for any reason. Ever.

This was around the time it became insufferable, as it does every year.

And this year has, so far, been a real doozy. It’s been a lot of discussion about consent and ‘Baby It’s Cold Outside,’ which I have written about on this blog. It’s been the age old correctness of “Happy Holidays” versus “Merry Christmas.” It’s even gone down the dark hole of whether or not Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer has secret and insidious messaging to it.

The most recent debate I saw float up out of nowhere in the comments section on Facebook was White versus Colored. As in the color of lights people put on their trees. I could not believe some of the things people were saying, either. Straight lined, cold blooded hatred and bitterness towards people of the side opposing.

Is it just me, or have things gotten a little weird? Culturally speaking, I mean.

Political correctness and everyone’s opinion suddenly being considered fact has effectively taken over not only the Internet, but daily life. I’m not talking about people giving you actual facts… I’m talking about opinions, and that escalating to being offended. At my local grocery store, the cashiers keep a list of holiday greetings they are and are not allowed to say to people for fear of offending someone while checking out their cheese curds and quinoa.

The folly in it all is it’s destroying everything people have, and for what? To prove a point? To be right? To be less offended? 

So you have chosen not to do Elf on the Shelf for your kids. Great! It isn’t necessary to go on a crusade to therefore stop others from doing it, even going as far as to tell your kids to tell their friends that their elves are creepy and perverted.

Or you are an atheist and offended by the mere idea of The Nativity. Cool. I have beliefs too. That doesn’t mean I insist that every thing inconsistent with my own beliefs be taken down around my hometown, as a group of atheists in my community recently suggested of local nativity displays. 

With all of these debates, there are two camps: those that do, those that don’t. There is no in between, and it all seems to be rooted in a whole lot of judgment. What the proponents of each side fails to realize, though, is that what they do actually bears no weight on anyone else.

All I want for Christmas is for the debates to stop. 

I don’t mean for people to all suddenly believe in the same things. And I don’t mean for people to start ignoring facts, let’s be clear there. I just mean – maybe – for the holiday season we could give each other the gift of keeping our divisive, judgmental opinions to ourselves.

Maybe we could have a little more understanding that other people live life differently. And that it’s okay. Your neighbor can eat whatever they want for the holidays, and in turn you have the freedom to have your Elf on the Shelf engage in all the shenanigans you want, unencumbered. You prominently display your nativity scene on your front yard, the guy down the street doesn’t celebrate any holidays at all and you keep your mouth shut about it.

After all, it’s just a holiday. Let people have it for whatever they want it to be (or not). 

Then again, maybe this – like everything else – is just a debate waiting to happen.

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You Guys Need To Chill With The Elf On The Shelf Hate

I’m going to drop a real bomb on you guys, here. It’s a doozy. Brace yourselves.

I do the Elf on the Shelf for my kids.

Yeah, that’s right. I have the Elf on the Shelf. Not just the Elf on the Shelf, but one for each of my kids plus an Elf for my older dog and the reindeer for my puppy.

That’s five – count ’em, FIVE – stuffed dolls that I take out every holiday season, and move around nightly, creating hijinks and antics. I even buy the accessories now. All for the enjoyment of my children.

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I started about five or six years ago and my kids loved it. I mean LOVED. I never tied it to behavior, like some parents do. A couple times if my kids were fighting I’d have the elves do their thing, but ALSO leave a note: “Santa says quit fighting!” Nothing beyond that, though. If I forget a night, whatever. It becomes a joke that Mom blew it, because they’ve also always known it was me moving those silly things around.  

I always used to say that I would never do stuff like that (I may have even said it here on my blog). You know that arrogant person that has zero kids who knew everything they would and would not do as a parent? That was me, and the Elf on the Shelf was that thing I definitely wasn’t going to do. Even for a period of time after I had my children.

At some point, though – somewhere in the process – I realized something so unimaginable and profound, it may come as even more of a shock to you guys than the simple fact of me doing the Elf on the Shelf:

My children’s’ childhoods are about their enjoyment, not my own personal judgments and opinions. Yours too. 

You guys can imagine, then, that I feel pretty fucking accosted on a daily basis now, when I log onto the Internet to see a stream of hate for the Elf on the Shelf in every feed I come across. Articles. Blogs. Opinion sites. People’s random Facebook status updates…loaded with hatred and loathing for this simple family tradition. 

See that’s the thing I’ve noticed about the people that don’t do the Elf on the Shelf… they’re just like vegans. The old joke about vegans goes like this: do you know how you can tell someone is a vegan? Don’t worry…they’ll tell you. All the haters of the Elf on the Shelf seem to be capable of doing during the holiday season is telling people that and why they hate the thing. 

The Elf on the Shelf is what you make of it. It can be a tool to control your kids’ behavior for the month or so before Christmas. It can be a fun little family tradition you do every night during the holiday season.

It can also be something you don’t bring into your home.

That’s your prerogative. 

Those of you that don’t, though, need to take a serious chill on all the hate. Honestly. Chill the fuck out.

I get that you guys – adults – think it’s creepy. I get that the thing has this sort of voyeuristic look to it’s face. I have a bitchy look to my face, you don’t see people straight up calling me a bitch every time they log onto the Internet. (At least that I’m aware of.)

Some people use it as a weird little guy sitting on a shelf, spying on you – or whatever. Those are the people that call the Elf on the Shelf (to be clear, a doll made of felt and stuffing) a “pervert.” That’s us – adults – applying our shitty experiences to otherwise innocent things. Dolls, for fuck’s sake. Why stop at the Elf on the Shelf? Why not consider every doll or toy or fake-slightly-weird-looking toy “creepy” and ban them from your house? 

I understand that it’s just another lie we tell our kids. Between Santa, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy… adding another make-believe fantasy to lighten up the heaviness of the modern childhood – well that’s just too fucking far. Right, Monica – mother of one who most definitely will not play in to letting her child have an ounce of fucking levity, from Day One?

Chill the fuck out, Monica.

Some people use it as a behavioral tool, as in the elf doesn’t move if you’ve been bad. To those people, just waiting around every corner is some lady, clutching her pearls, ready to comment about how people shouldn’t need a doll to keep their kids in line. Alright, Pearl Clutcher, fair enough. But you know what is better than judging the struggles a parent has with their kids? Keeping your fucking judgments to yourself.

(In the words of our Holy Mother of Orange County, Vicki Gunvalson: “judge me when you are perfect.”)

And don’t even get the ineffable writers at the likes of Scary Mommy or Bustle started on the mere hassle of doing the whole Elf thing every night. I mean, for goodness sakes, you’ve fed and clothed your children, now you purchased a little doll to move around every night, voluntarily I’ll add, and you have to do this for – what, like a month? And the only payment for this unbelievably agonizing task is your children’s happiness?!

I get it.

I get that the thing has a creepy face, like every other doll your kids have.

I get that fantasy is another word for “imagination,” and there is no place for that shit in a child’s head these days.

And – more than anything – I understand that the plight of the modern parent is that you’ve had all these kids, and yet consider the majority of their kid-ness to be a giant inconvenience to your own life.

I get it. We all do.

But really, guys. Chill. The. Fuck. Out.

And, shut up.

It’s Friggin’ Fall Ya’ll

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It’s friggin’ fall ya’ll.

Ghords and pumpkins and apple bobbing showing up in my Facebook newsfeed.

A trip to the pumpkin patch is on my calendar, and there would definitely be cobbler baking in my oven if it weren’t still a million goddamned degrees outside.

Pillsbury has like seven new cake flavors out, including candy apple and pumpkin spice. Which both sound less appealing than licking the roof of my dog’s mouth, but still – it’s friggin’ fall! I’m pumped!

My grocery store has an entire section of fall themed napkins and paper plates now. Like I walk in and – BAM! – there’s pumpkins and leaves to choose from for my family to wipe their disgusting, sloppy hands with.

All the memes are popping up on Instagram making fun of people for drinking their basic white girl pumpkin spice lattes, too. And on the note of basic white girls, I was able to get my husband his annual nutmeg and chai infused coffee creamer, only available – you guessed right – in friggin’ fall.

It’s way too hot out still to wear fall clothes, but I can now look longingly at my scarves and boots and Uggs, my sweaters, my cardigans, my hoodies, my cozy socks and comfy, warm pajamas. I can look at them and know that the five days a year it’s cold enough to wear those things here in Southern California are coming soon. Because it’s friggin’ fall.

Last week – as I mentioned in my post last night – we wrapped up a week of glamping with a couple nights in a hotel and fall shopping. Clothes. New shoes. School stuff. I spent no less than four hours on Thursday deciding whether I wanted to get a brown hurricane lantern with fall themed leaves inside it; or a beige hurricane lantern with nothing but a fall colored candle inside.

Even though it’s hot as balls outside still, I feel suddenly compelled to cook up some chowders. Clam chowder. Corn chowder. Chicken chowder. Potato chowder. I have so many chowders planned, it’ll be coming out of our eyeballs.

I planned out my kids’ Halloween costumes. Every year they dress together as a theme, and it goes a little something like this: I plan the costumes, start working on the costumes, forget about the costumes for two months, panic three days before Halloween and run around town like a crazy woman to put something together, they put said costumes on and take a few photos, then change into something simpler to hang out with friends. I friggin’ love it – it’s fall!

There’s like twenty five bags-worth of leaves piling up in my backyard too. Which doesn’t make much sense, because we live in Southern California and also what the hell do we have gardeners for if they aren’t going to take care of the leaves. But still. Leaves! Yeah! Fall!

I don’t know what it is that makes me more happy about fall. The fact that eventually (maybe in mid-November) it’ll cool down just a little bit. Or this year in particular having been a terrible summer, and fall signifies the end of that. Whatever the case may be, I’m psyched. Ghords and pumpkins and apples and apple bobbing and apple picking and stuff with nutmeg and the other seasonings that go into PSL I’m unaware of; Halloween and then Thanksgiving. It’s friggin’ fall, ya’ll. It’s friggin’ fall.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Went Camping And Survived

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Okay, so let’s start this off by saying that to call what I did “camping” is a bit of a stretch.

Four nights were in a hooked up RV with running water, air conditioning, and electricity; in an RV park with free Wifi by the beach.

Two nights were in a hotel.

Regardless of those little details, it was camping and I did it and also I survived.

I have a very complicated history with camping.

On one hand, the bulk of my childhood is made up of one camping story after another stitched together. So you’d think camping brought about fond memories.

I camped a lot when I was very little in Girl Scouts. We hiked and made s’mores and eggs in paper bags over campfires and we sang songs and did crafts, and all that other happy horse shit the Girl Scouts do that I currently am at a loss to remember. I think there was some ghost story telling and TAPS playing in there somewhere.

My grandparents owned a lot up at The Pines (near the California-Nevada border), so we went there often when I was little as well. In fact, there’s a huge pine tree on the mountain today that I planted when I was only 6.

As I grew older, though, I became way more high maintenance; the result of which was that camping was no longer something I generally enjoyed. I grew to love my conveniences and my hair dryer and my makeup. And, more so, to dislike things like hiking and allergies, being bored sitting and fishing and getting nothing, and really not liking to be almost eaten by a bear.

…which, for the record, happened once. We were camping when I was 15 at Kings Canyon and after my entire family hiked to a waterfall, someone started screaming because a brown bear was walking up the pathway, straight for us. It ended up turning back (or something); nonetheless, I slept in the car and stayed close to our campsite for the rest of the trip.

Everyone this year was doing big vacations and trips, though; and – by comparison – my kids had an all time shitty summer. It started with a funeral for my husband’s grandmother; and shortly after that my oldest daughter sprained her ankle, effectively canceling all of her summer tennis plans. My younger daughter still played some, but then around mid-summer we found out she has Osgood-Schlatters, further hindering our tennis stuff…and to make matters worse, we have no AC and it has been HOT AS BALLS since mid-June.

All in all it just kind of sucked.

So as summer started coming to a close, I was determined to figure something out to salvage the season. But I was also on a tight budget, it being last minute and all; so when my mother in law offered us up their RV whenever we want it, I knew that was the best option.

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In all honesty, with the amount of a high maintenance, pain in the ass princess I am now – today, 21 years after that day the bear almost mauled us all to death up at Kings Canyon – I considered our four nights in an RV and two nights in a hotel really roughing it.

  1. Have you people ever showered in an RV? First off, it made me feel like Andre the Giant. My head hit the ceiling; and the shower head was effectively a glorified hose. And to make matters worse, calling RV hot water “hot water” is a bit of a stretch.
  2. It was just me and the three kids. That, alone, was absolute craziness. I had to make fires, put together the charcoal grills, use matches – all while keeping the baby from falling out of the RV window, and the girls busy and happy enough to feel like the summer had been salvaged.
  3. The third morning we were there, it rained. This soaked all of our stuff outside, including our firewood. It wouldn’t have been that big of a deal (the sun came out shortly after the rain storm); except that the firewood wouldn’t light in the evening. I came up with the GENIUS idea to pour lighter fluid all over the small amount of flames I had been successful in getting going. I’ll let you guys know when my eyebrows grow back.
  4. The final morning we were there – and this was a big one – the RV toilet clogged. As it turned out, we were using the wrong type of toilet paper. Nevertheless, we couldn’t figure out how to get it unclogged, until finally we found this magic wand my in laws had stored in one of the outside compartments. It sprayed the paper out of the toilet, but after we got it back outside, my daughter started unscrewing it from the hose before the water was fully off; and, in short, there was a large mess.

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Okay, obviously two nights in a hotel was not even remotely like camping. But it was      still roughing it. We were on the first floor with some noisy walkers above us; and there was a local corn hole tournament going on, so the hotel was packed with rowdy corn hole enthusiasts.

We’ve been home, now, for two days and I feel like my entire perspective on life has changed. I can handle a long and rough vacation with the kids, alone. That’s a really big deal. Also, I can figure out how to do things like build fires and unclog RV toilets if I’m given enough time and resources.

I’m definitely more of an all-inclusive resort kind of gal, though. What about you?

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Repeat After Me: It’s OK If People Want To Do Christmas Early

Ugh.

I am so sick and tired of people and their popular shit to be upset about on the Internet.

Like really.

As many of you know, Halloween was just a couple of days ago. I, personally, had a great Halloween. As in, I didn’t do shit. My kids dressed up in their annual themed costumes the week prior for a Halloween party at the tennis club (see below), and didn’t even decide to go trick or treating until pretty much the day prior.

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But my older kids are old enough to just go out with friends on their own, and the baby was way too young…I mean he probably would have had fun looking at all the kids out and about (he loves kids), but the last thing I wanted to do was run the risk of hearing some local asshole tell me “he’s too young for candy, it’s obviously for you.”

So I stayed home with the baby. We had not one trick or treater.

Sure enough though, the very next day I logged on to the good ol’ Facebook and every asshole was bitching and complaining about people jumping straight over Thanksgiving to Christmas.

I present to you just a few examples of the oh-so-clever memes I saw that morning:

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First thing, I get it. I. Get. It. A lot of people feel overwhelmed with Christmas, what with all the merry and joy and shit going around. I also understand completely that here in America, we love our Thanksgiving.

But there are a few things to consider.

1. America is not the only goddamned country on this stupid planet; really now when will you people get that?

The Thanksgiving celebrated at the end of November is an American holiday.

American.

Which means that if people over in France or Great Britain or Uganda or China or Iceland or – I don’t know – any country or province other than fucking America wants to start getting all jazzed and shit about the holiday season, why must we begrudge them?

The thing about the Internet is that it’s not an American-only thing, which means the constant griping and bitching about people skipping American Thanksgiving and heading on to Christmas on the Internet is seen by everyone, universally. Why should they have to listen to that shit? Why, I ask?

2. Did it ever occur to you people that the holidays are stressful, in part, because of how quickly they go by?

Especially when you are a parent, it is so hard to cram everything in.

There are the holiday events, the school plays (we homeschool, so thankfully don’t have those), the holiday shopping…oh wait, more holiday shopping, the outdoor lights, the indoor decorations, the Christmas parties with friends, Christmas parties for work, Christmas parties with family, nightly Elf on the Shelf nonsense, the cookie baking, the candy making…not to mention every day life and the onset of cold and flu season.

Life is fucking busy enough as is. Then you add the pressure and stress of getting all that other crap done for the holidays, it seems only reasonable that it would – or potentially could – be more enjoyable and much less stressful if we were given more than a few fucking weeks to get it all done.

3. Your reasons aren’t everyone else’s reasons. Narcissists.

There are people celebrating Christmas in the middle of June because they’ve been given one week to live and wanted nothing more than one more Christmas with their family.

That’s an extreme one, but can any of you get out of your own piddly lives for -like- one minute and consider that other people have different lives, and therefore different reasons for doing things?

Including getting geared up for Christmas early.

For us, our house has been a little glum lately. My husband’s grandfather – the kids’ great grandfather – died about a month ago, his funeral was just last weekend. It’s gloomy in our house. Beyond that, the busy season is in full gear at Nick’s job, meaning he’s gone or asleep for almost 18-20 hour periods, every day and night of the week.

We need some fucking cheering up around here, which was why I decided to let the kids pull out the Christmas stuff the day after Halloween, and why I cranked up the Christmas jams playlist on Spotify today while we worked on crafts for the baby’s birthday party.

And plus, my kid fucking enjoy Christmas. It’s OK for me to extend that a few weeks before Thanksgiving. Like really, their extra merriment is not a detriment to society. I promise.

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I guess I’m just getting sick and goddamned tired of everyone in this world thinking they can tell other people how to live their lives.

Or, if someone does something another person or two doesn’t approve of, that everyone and their mother has a right to question the legitimacy of that person’s decisions. Then it goes viral on the Internet and suddenly it’s like a culturally taboo thing to do whatever it was a couple people from the get go didn’t like.

And above all, I’m tired of this idea that we can all just make fun of and shame people into doing exactly what we want them to do.

So someone decides to decorate their own home before Thanksgiving. How in the actual fuck does this affect you? Really. How?

Does it force you to decorate your own home?

Does it cancel all of your Thanksgiving plans?

I cannot see any single scenario in which another person’s choices on Christmas shopping or decoration or Christmas movie-watching or Christmas music-listening or Christmas anything for that matter affects your, or anyone else’s, life. I just don’t see it.

Worry about your own shit. For real guys.

Repeat after me: it’s OK if people want to do Christmas early.

Christmas-Memes

 

 

 

The Next Stage

10616161_791205745733_6681853197444697170_nI was at Barnes and Noble yesterday. I know what you’re all thinking – but wait, we thought you hated going anywhere during the holidays! Well, I do. But I had to go to Barnes and Noble to get what was apparently the last, mangled copy of the map of the world in all of Southern California. To finish a Christmas present I had been stalling since I finished all the rest of the shopping back in October.

So I was at Barnes and Noble and it was a mob scene. A mob scene at 1 in the afternoon on a Tuesday, which sort of makes me question whether or not anyone in my community works to be able to afford to spend so much money at the local Barnes and Noble. I mean, shouldn’t all of those people have been at work?

Nonetheless, I got my map and several other things I absolutely did not go to Barnes and Noble for, and headed to the check out line for the most miserable 45 minutes of my life. Towards the end, as I was close enough to the cash register to make eye contact with the employees as three of them aimlessly wandered around behind the register station, pretending to do something else, while one, lone cashier checked out the seven billion customers – when I was that close, I heard someone behind me approach people further back in the line. “Oh my God, we haven’t seen you guys in YEARS!” she shrieked as though they were – quite literally – separated still by miles, and then they started the old game of catch up that in a nutshell involved platitudes and niceties.

As if this experience could not have gotten any worse, these were the final moments of my time in line yesterday at my local, overcrowded Barnes and Noble.

Then it happened. Right as I was starting to walk up to the cashier, I heard one of the catcher-uppers say “and Joanie will be coming home from college for Christmas break tomorrow!” And in that little statement, made by a complete stranger and completely irrelevant to my life, I was hit with the striking realization that I probably should have made several years ago. Somewhere around the time I left graduate school five years ago, maybe earlier than that.

I will never go home from college for Christmas break again.

As I drove home – another 45 minute task, because every person with a car in Southern California apparently drives around and clogs up traffic on Tuesday afternoons as well – I realized just how many stages of my life are over. I’ve never really come to terms with this, or thought about it so seriously. Accepted it into my heart and soul that there are chapters of my life so fully completed that they have been burned up, never to be read again. At least by me.

Not only will I never go home from college for Christmas break again; I will never experience the butterflies of a first date. I will never have that “new mom” feel again, just as the thrills of skipping class to hang out at the local McDonalds with the other high school seniors are gone forever.

Admittedly, I have noticed signs of the ushering in of this next era of life. But have I never noticed before when one door closed and a new one opened? I don’t believe so. At least I don’t remember noticing the passing of time in the same way that I did yesterday.

The signs have been there, though.

A few weeks ago, I realized that I rarely wear make up anymore, unless of course we’re going somewhere. And even then I find a way to justify wearing none. Or just some mascara.

My outfits used to be coordinated perfectly – I’m not even sure why. I’ve never cared much for what people think of me, and yet my underpants always matched my belt. In this new stage of life, though, it’s all yoga pants, mom jeans, and stretchies. Tucked into slippers that could pass for moccasins. Paired with a tank top that has a bra in it.

I noticed this about a month ago when I was at the mall and realized that I can’t remember the last time I wore a Victoria’s Secret bra.

Someone at a family party a while back was talking about going to a bar and out to play pool, and actually planning to get home around 3 in the morning. I remember thinking – in earnest – to myself that nothing good ever happens after midnight, which is something my grandmother used to say.

I felt so disgusted at the idea of doing anything other than watching Netflix and reading a book, that I immediately looked for an excuse for us to go home and do just that.

More importantly, while I definitely have memories involving college and high school and growing up and going out, I still can’t remember what my life was like before becoming a mom. I actually have no idea what I was doing with my time.  And I don’t mean to sound diminishing to those that aren’t mothers, or to sound so cliche. But really in this new stage of my life, being a mom is not only my job but who I have become.

I’m a wife and mom. That’s about it.

I feel so ordinary, and there was a time in my life when to be ordinary would have been like spiritual death. But that time is over and I am fine with my new chapter in life. In fact, I have never been happier.

When I was younger, I wanted to make something of myself. Be something – be someone. But I think I had a very skewed idea of what it was to be someone. Rather than be known or famous or a published author or an accomplished painter, or someone everyone knows and writes about in history books and is remembered for generations to come… being someone really just meant being myself.

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In this new stage I am myself, and very few people know me. I’ve accomplished very little and have many talents. Not one of them results in a paycheck and that’s totally cool. I don’t wear make up often, and prefer comfortable moccasin-style slippers over high heels, even when high heels are the status quo.

And when it is my turn to run into people at the local Barnes and Noble that I haven’t seen in ages, my most exciting update on what I’m doing with myself and my life will be simply that I’m a wife and a mom. Some may find that meaningless or boring, but that’s what I’m doing, and it’s the most Me I’ve been in years.