How to become a superhero (or Amy Poehler) in seven days.

gettingaircomic

When you are bitten by a radioactive spider, you have to be brave and make the decision to put on your superhero shirt. You have to wear it proud, and you have to believe in doing the impossible. You have to fight the bad guys inside your head. And when the villains foil your plans to save the world, you fight back harder. You wash your shirt in the cold wash cycle of your washing machine, you dry it on low, and you put it back on. You wear your superhero shirt again and again and again. You do it because you believe in doing the impossible, you do it to show your family the power of persistence and courage, and you do it because it is good. And don’t we all want to fill our lives with goodness?

Seven days ago I was bitten.

It happened when I was sitting at a round table in the middle of a conference room with about 300 other attendees of the 2014 Minnesota Blogger Conference, which was held in St. Paul. I had just finished chatting with a couple of wonderful bloggers I had previously met in August, and I was fueled up on coffee. The conference started with a speech by Pete Goddard of RedCurrent. When the RedCurrent app launches, individuals will be able to sync their calendars and get the scoop on numerous local events. However, what is especially intriguing about RedCurrent is their mission to share the stories of people who are connected in some way to the many events that take place around us. And that’s when I felt the first bite.

We all have a story. We all have a story of how we got here, to this very moment. And in seven days, or seven months, or seven years, our stories will be told differently. Every decision we make and every experience we have propels our stories across the page. Our stories are important to us, and like any novel, poem or comic book, our stories have the ability to inspire, educate, comfort, entertain and bring people together. Many of us read to understand humanity. So why not share how we are human?

After thinking about the power of stories, I got my notebook and pen ready to take notes on Christoph Trappe’s breakout session on how to get on a blogging schedule. I was ready to hear all about tips on how bloggers can follow a consistent schedule and continue to produce content week after week. But as Trappe’s session started, I realized I was going to hear something much more valuable from him. A schedule is helpful, but a commitment to write every day is what really matters. Write. Let it sit. Think about it. Write some more. Edit. And publish. Trappe recommends publishing at least once a week and having several weeks of posts that are written and ready to be published. Honestly, I am not ready to commit to this goal as a blogger, but the message is clear: you must make time for writing, and you must write often. Having a blog isn’t simply about pushing out content, either. Trappe blogs to tell stories because stories are authentic, and authentic stories connect people.

Are you noticing a theme here?

This was just the beginning of my day. I attended another breakout session, ate lunch and then listened to our keynote speaker, Dan R. Morris. I was blown away by his story he shared with us, and what I learned was that I have the power to write my own story. I may be a small dog in this big world, but I can strive to be the “biggest small dog” I can be. I have the power to pursue my dreams, and even though the road may be long and full of obstacles, I have the power to push past the obstacles. But pursuing my dreams isn’t only for my own pleasure. As Morris noted, “You’ve got to fall in love with your audience first.” My audience is my husband, my children, my family, my friends, and you. This blog is not for me alone. Yes, writing feeds my soul, but I hope to feed your soul, too. And I hope to share a powerful story with my children someday.

supergirlonswing

After listening to Morris, I began feeling like I could take on the world, one blog post at a time. I attended two more breakout sessions, including one session featuring Rachel Martin from Finding Joy. She talked about how bloggers can use Facebook as a successful tool for not only reaching new readers, but for also building stronger connections with your audience. Martin is a woman who knows how to connect with her readers. Her Dear Mom Letters have brought me to tears, and I often read her You Are Enough posts to find encouragement on those tough parenting days. It was truly a joy to listen to her speak and to hear about why it is important for her to blog.

The conference was amazing. And even though I couldn’t attend all of the sessions that were offered, I left feeling ready to breathe new life into my blog. I left feeling like a superhero; like I could really pursue my dream of being a writer.

Seven days ago I was bitten.

Fate or coincidence, I was scheduled to start an online writing class two days after the conference. The class focuses on blog writing specifically, and I spent the first week exploring the purpose of my blog. Writing for this blog forces me to face a lot of my fears. I fear that people won’t like me, I fear that my writing sucks, I fear that no one will read what I write, I fear that I will fail. When facing all of these fears, it is easy to become discouraged. It is easy to turn on Netflix instead of sitting down to write. It is easy to think that this blog doesn’t matter. It is easy to think that writing this serves no purpose. So how do I even begin to write about the purpose of my blog? What is the purpose of all of this?

After reflecting on what I learned from the speakers, other bloggers and myself after attending the Minnesota Blogger Conference last weekend, I have decided to believe that there is a purpose for doing this thing called blogging. There is a purpose because I believe that my purpose, my calling, is to write. And I believe in breathing life into our everyday moments. I believe that our experiences can and should be turned into poetry. I believe that writing and reading and sharing our experiences will serve as a reminder that we are all human. And when we see this, we can take on the world together.

Seven days ago I was bitten.

Before I felt the pierce, I felt small. I play a big role in this house with my family, but outside of these walls, I felt small. What could I possibly have to offer outside of my home? Where would I even start if I could make a difference? Would anyone even care?

These are bad thoughts. They are haunting. They are cruel. We have these thoughts, even though we know they are bad. These thoughts are villains bent on destroying what is good.

Despite my high from attending MN Blog Con and starting my first writing class since college, these bad thoughts continued to pop up. I decided to buy myself a gift for encouragement. I purchased “Yes Please” by Amy Poehler, and this gift to myself made the bite real. In the preface, Amy writes about how hard it was for her to write her book. It was hard for many reasons, but the biggest reason was because of self-doubt. To push past her fears, she quieted the negative thoughts and the self-doubt, and she focused on doing. She quieted the bad thoughts and she listened to her heart. She said yes to the challenge. She quieted the demon voices by sticking up for herself. Negative thoughts and bad voices are haunting and cruel. So why don’t I stick up for myself? Why don’t I be brave and try and try again like I encourage my kids to do?

FeelingLikeWonderWoman

Seven days later, I feel like a superhero. I believe in my purpose. I may have big dreams, but these dreams deserve a chance. The good deserves to be louder than the bad. Like every superhero, and Amy Poehler, I will say yes to the challenges. I will say yes for myself. I will say yes for my kids, because they are our future superheroes. And I will say yes to wearing my superhero shirt.

I am human. I want to be a part of something bigger. I have the power to make this happen. And so do you. What will you say yes to? What superhero shirt are you wearing today?

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Our home: A tale about going all in.

moving boxes

A crazy thing happened last month. My husband looked at a house while I was at a baby shower, and he loved it so much that I agreed to buy it. We didn’t put in an offer until I had a chance to walk through the house too, but the decision was made. I went all in.

For over a year I have been making excuses for why we couldn’t or shouldn’t move. For over a year my husband has been showing me houses online and expressing his desire to move. For over a year we have been weighing the benefits of staying right where we are at and moving closer to my husband’s work. Although the benefits of moving were tempting, I wasn’t ready to leave our home. Change is difficult for me. Once I am comfortable, I like to stay put. Our home has provided so much comfort for me, but ever since my husband changed jobs last summer, I have watched him become weary and frustrated by his long commute. He went all in when I had quit my job. So I’m going all in, too. We’re in this together. There’s no turning back now; we’re moving!

I am excited to embark on this new journey with my husband and kiddos. My husband’s commute will be cut in half. We will still be within minutes of downtown St. Paul. We will be closer to church, so I will get to sleep in a little later on Sundays. We will be within walking distance of an elementary school, which is awesome since my son will be starting kindergarten next fall. Our yard is humongous, so I’m planning on planting everything next year. We will still live close to our families. The neighborhood we are moving to is beautiful. And the house we are moving into fits our personalities. It will require some work, but we have done it all before. We are ready for this move, and we are going all in.

But this move is bittersweet, too. Moving day is getting closer, and I’m starting to get a little emotional. In just a few weeks this house will no longer be our home. We have changed and grown so much since my husband and I bought this house together seven years ago. We were just four months fresh out of college and engaged. We spent nearly seven months pulling out carpet, destroying a bathroom, painting, tiling, refinishing hardwood floors, and remodeling a bathroom before moving into this home together the day after our wedding. We brought both of our babies from the hospital to this home. We have raised them in this home, and our family has been nourished in this home. We’ve made this home our own. And in just a few weeks, this home will no longer belong to us.

How do we pack up the last seven years of our lives and never look back? How does one say goodbye to a place where so many special memories have been created? This is the only home we have known as a married couple and as a mother and father. This home is where we began. How do we leave this home behind when it has been such an important part of our marriage and family? We’ve put so much energy, sweat and time into making this house our own. How do we leave all of our hard work behind? My heart has belonged here for so long. I have belonged here for so long. How do I leave this home? How do we unsettle everything that has settled here over the past seven years? How do I find the comfort I have now in this home in our next home, which is completely foreign to me? This is my home now. But in a few weeks this home will be empty, and a different house will be full of boxes to unpack. Nothing will be in its place, and everything will need to be placed somewhere else. This home will be empty, and another house will be disheveled. And that will be our new home?

Yes. We are moving and that will be our new home. I will look forward. We will look forward together. We will make new memories and hold old memories of our first home in our hearts and souls. We will always have our memories to hold onto, and our home will move with us in our hearts. Our home is where our family is. We will always be at home with each other. And wherever we go, we will be home. Our memories of our first home will move with us always. We will not need to look back because we will not be leaving anything behind.

Why I no longer want it all.


tomatoes

Three weeks after my first child was born in 2009, I returned to work from my “maternity leave” and quickly realized that finding a balance between work and home life would be more challenging than I had expected. I was fortunate enough to have the option of bringing my son to work with me for the first two months of his life, but each day it became more difficult to meet his needs while also doing my job well. I finally put him in daycare when he was about 9 or 10 weeks old, and it was one of the most heartbreaking days of my life. I missed him. I made a few trips to the restroom to cry. And I couldn’t wait for the workday to be over so I could take care of him again until the next morning.

tomatillos

It took a few months for me to get used to bringing my son to daycare and only seeing him for a few hours each day, but the desire to take care of my child full-time never went away. This part of motherhood surprised me; it was painful. I didn’t want to give up on pursuing my career, but I also didn’t want to miss out on the opportunity to spend more time raising my child each day during the first few years of his life. Every day I tried to convince myself that I was doing my part by providing financial support for my family. But every day I became more heartbroken. There were so many other ways in which I wanted to provide for my family, and I could never seem to manage to do half of what I had wanted to do for them.

quinoa

I tried to make myself happier by taking a new job that promised a higher paycheck, more flexibility in my schedule, and new opportunities, but the novelty of my new job wore off after a few months. A higher paycheck simply meant that child care was more affordable and that we had some extra money to work on house projects. More flexibility in my schedule meant that when my son was sick, I could stay home with my son and avoid taking a day off by starting my work day when my husband got home from work. Although new opportunities were available, I began to realize that I didn’t want these opportunities anymore because pursuing these opportunities would require spending even less time with my family.

peppers

When my daughter was born, I savored my seven weeks of maternity leave, and I tried to prepare myself for returning to work with a positive and ambitious attitude. The first day back was hell. I cried a lot. I cried in the restroom. I cried while I pumped. I cried in my cubicle. I even cried in the cafeteria. I missed my son and daughter. I missed taking care of them. I missed being there for them. I tried to fight it. I tried to make it work. I tried to grasp at that illusive work-life balance. But I couldn’t do it; I couldn’t touch it. I felt like a failure. Two months before my daughter turned two, I quit my job. I left my job for many reasons, and I felt like a failure for doing so. I worked hard in college to make my future better and to become an independent woman. I worked hard at every job I ever had so I could create more opportunities for myself and become successful in the workforce. I worked my ass off, and after all of my hard work, I went and quit my job.

swisschard

I have had a little over a year to process my thoughts about this decision and to absorb everything that has happened since making this decision. Although this has been one of the best decisions I have made in my life, I do have concerns about how this decision will affect my future. I am not able to put as much money aside for retirement now as I was able to when I was working full-time. Other women my age are getting promotions and raises while I am providing my services and talents for free with little to no recognition from my delightful children. I feel lonely, and it comes with the territory, but the loneliness still hurts some days. And I worry that others will forget that I am more than a stay-at-home mom. These concerns do get me down from time to time, but then I remind myself that I only have these concerns because I am still chasing down the idea that I can somehow have it all. And each day, I learn to understand and accept the truth more and more: I cannot have it all.

birdbath

I have finally come to accept that there is no such thing as maintaining balance in one’s life after becoming a parent. As a mother, I will never have it all because it is no longer all about me. And that’s okay. In fact, this realization is a relief. It frees me from any doubts I have had about choosing to be a stay-at-home mom. It frees me from the disappointment I feel when I compare myself to other wonderful mothers who have been able to continue pursuing their careers despite the challenges that come with working full-time while also raising a family. It frees me from the hurt I feel when I am simply labeled as a stay-at-home mom, or when someone makes a remark about how easy my life must be.

hops

Most importantly, it is a relief to understand that I can’t have it all, because after all, I was never meant to have it all. I was put on this earth to give my all to others, and that is what I am doing for my family now. It’s not always easy putting my family and others first, but I am finding more fulfillment in my life today than what I had over a year ago. I am discovering that my purpose in this world is greater than what I had imagined when I graduated from college seven years ago. I am discovering that all of our purposes are far greater than what we all have imagined for ourselves.

lavenderandtomatoes

I know that there are many wonderful parents who have fulfilling jobs outside of parenthood, but we all have different callings, and none of us truly have it all. We all make sacrifices to support and raise our families. And that’s good because we are not supposed to have it all. We are meant to give. And we all give in different ways. And that’s where true balance comes into the big picture. We are here to support each other. We are here to create a better world. Our everyday tasks may seem small and trivial, but what you choose to do each day and how you choose to live does have an impact on others. You might not see it right away, but what you do does matter. Whether you are a parent who works outside of the home, or a parent who stays home, what you do does matter. You can’t have it all, but you can certainly give your all to others.

A sneak peek of the 2014 Minnesota State Fair: Lobster, LuLu’s, and lots more folks!

MNStateFairGuide

Mondays are usually my grocery shopping day with the kiddos. Although I get to be home with my children, it’s not a day that I typically look forward to. It’s another day that I hope I can get through like the rest of America. However, this past Monday was amazing and I couldn’t wait for it to arrive. Why? Because I was invited by the lovely Alice of Dining with Alice to attend a sneak peek of what will be at this year’s Minnesota State Fair. On top of that, I got to meet a group of awesome, local bloggers at the event, and together, we indulged in some yummy deep-fried goodness. I was in heaven. I mean, it was pretty much a dream come true.

But enough of me gushing about my feelings. Let’s get to talking about food, baby. Let’s talk about you and me eating deep-fried, calorie-filled goodies. Let’s talk about all the good things, because there really isn’t anything bad to talk about when we are dealing with our State Fair food here. Let’s talk about food.

NewFairFood

I had the pleasure of tasting seven new foods that will be at the Great Minnesota Get-Together this year. While all of the foods were delish, these foods were my favorite:

Caribbean-Style Lobster Roll. This is not deep-fried or served on a stick, but this chilled lobster salad is a delightful summery snack packed with Caribbean flavors. Oh, it is also served on a buttered and grilled roll. Butter. Lobster. Chipotle mayo. You had me at butter. Want one? You can find the lobster roll at Café Caribe located on Carnes Ave. near Chambers St.

Iron Range Pierogies. I didn’t even know what a pierogi was until Monday, and my goodness, it is amazing. I should also mention that these stuffed dumplings are deep-fried and served with a horsey sauce. This hearty treat will be served at The Blue Barn, a new food vendor located at West End Market.

VisitWestEnd

Jello Salad Ice Cream. This new ice cream flavor was created by Izzy’s Ice Cream, so it is no surprise that this is excellent. You just can’t go wrong with some ice cream on a hot day at the fair, especially when you’re talking about mixing lime juice, cranberry sauce, marshmallows and sweet cream together. I’m salivating as I write. You can find this refreshing dessert at the Hamline Church Dining Hall located near the Visitors Plaza on Dan Patch Ave. Did you know that the Hamline Church Dining Hall is the oldest food concession at the fairgrounds? It’s been around since 1897. True story.

PB&J French Toast. After eating a million PB&J sandwiches in my life, I was skeptical about trying this food. However, you can’t go wrong with starting your day out at the fair with this French toast for breakfast. This food is also served with your choice of ham, bacon or sausage. Yeah, my kids will be getting this for breakfast when we go to the fair. You can find this new food item at the Robbinsdale OES Dining Hall, which is next to FAN Central on Underwood St.

I lied. I can’t group these foods into my favorites and non-favorites because they are all so good. So here are the last three items that I tasted on Monday:

Pizza Tots. Think tater tot with sausage, pepperoni, mozzarella and Green Mill seasonings stuffed inside. Need I say more? Think stuffed tater tot topped with Parmesan cheese. Are you a dipper? Good, because these tots are also served with pizza sauce on the side. These pizza tots are created by Green Mill and can be found at Baldwin Park just west of the Family Fair Stage.

Deep-Fried Lobster On-A-Stick. Yes, you read that correctly. Deep-fried lobster on-a-stick. Dipping sauce is included in case deep-fried lobster on-a-stick isn’t quite good enough for you. You can find this food at the brand-spanking new LuLu’s Public House located at West End Market.

Rustic Stuffed Scone. Did someone say scone? This baked butter scone is stuffed with yummy goodness including Ham, Swiss, mozzarella and Parmesan. I could have eaten several of these scones, but I had to share with the other bloggers. The rustic stuffed scone is the creation of French Meadow Bakery. You can find them on Carnes Ave. between Nelson and Underwood.

MNFairGuideOpen2014

Since I am going with my family, I want to make sure that my kids have plenty of opportunities to play and see new things that will hold their interest. The 2014 Official State Fair Guide has highlighted some cool events including the Extreme Canines Stunt Dog Show. This is a daily show that is free with fair admission. You can catch a show at 11 a.m., 2 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. in The North Woods, which is located near the Eco Experience Progress Center. In addition to checking out some new events, you can find my family at Kemps Little Farm Hands, Kidway and the Family Fair Stage in Baldwin Park.

LuLu'sPublicHouse

The kids are not the only ones who get to have fun at the fair. I plan on hitting up the Land of 10,000 Beers exhibit as usual. I also hope to relax with a cold beer and some deep-fried lobster on-a-stick at LuLu’s Public House. Lulu’s Public House is located at the new West End Market, and it features the fair’s first roof-top patio. The patio overlooks Mighty Midway and the new Schilling Amphitheater, making it a prime spot to hang out with friends.

HistoryHeritageCenter

In addition to checking out LuLu’s at West End Market, I’ll also be visiting the new History and Heritage Center. The State Fair is a big deal, folks, so check out some artifacts, photographs and facts about the fair’s 150+ years of history in Minnesota.

BlueBarn

When you get hungry again, be sure to order something from The Blue Barn, which is also located in West End Market. This building is a beauty, and the pierogies inside are calling your name.

TheCommonTable

Hey, drinking beer isn’t the only activity I participate in at the fair. I also enjoy walking through all of the buildings and looking at the amazing creations that folks have entered in contests. I am especially looking forward to seeing the new The Common Table exhibit. I got to take a peek and see what has been built in the exhibit so far, and I am intrigued by the makers’ goal. Seventeen partner organizations will share their stories about creating and working toward a sustainable and community-based food system, and they hope to inspire visitors to make changes that support this goal. I hope to be inspired and learn more about how I can make better choices about where I buy my food, how I grow my food, and how I can reduce food waste.

StateFair

This little review of mine is just the tip of the iceberg. You can read more about the Minnesota State Fair and the blogger sneak peek event from these lovely ladies:

Dining with Alice

Eating the Minneapple

MinneMama Adventures

A Farm Girl’s Dabbles

Simplicity in the Suburbs

These Little Waves

Toys in the Dryer

Family Fun Twin Cities

Bump Club Twin Cities

Muddy Flowers

Baby Savers

The Minnesota State Fair starts in six days! Will I see you there?

An introduction to the Minnesota State Fair: Beer, breastfeeding, and Blake Shelton.

TheFairStory

When you close your eyes and think of the Minnesota State Fair, what do you taste? What do you smell? What do you feel? What do you hear? What do you see?

When I close my eyes and think of the State Fair, I taste cheese curds, Sweet Martha’s Cookies, deep-fried pickles, lemonade, chocolate malt and beer. I smell fried food, barn animals, apples and beer. I feel hot, sweaty, nostalgic and beer spilling on my hand. I hear kids laughing on rides, people chatting, bands playing, Mary Lucia’s voice, fireworks, and beer-sipping. I see waves of people walking down the streets, fuzzy bunnies, Machinery Hill, babies passed out in their strollers, children screaming for cotton candy, couples in love, art, honey, giant pumpkins, purple UST bags (shout-out to my alma-mater!), carnies, the lights from Midway, the Giant Slide, the Skyride, food everywhere and beer, lots of beer. I like to drink beer at the fair.

When you close your eyes and think of the State Fair, what memory comes to mind first?

When I close my eyes I remember barely being able to breathe while I flew through the air with a grade school friend on what is now known as the Skyscraper ride. I remember laughing hysterically on the Zipper because I was so nervous that the door to my cage would suddenly open. I remember looking for cute boys with my friends when we were teenyboppers. I remember how sinful cheese curds taste, especially with a cold beer. I remember trying the hoppy beer flight in the Agriculture/Horticulture building with my sister before 10:00 a.m. and feeling buzzed for the next two hours while we took our grandma to some of her favorite spots. I remember trying to find a “private” spot to breastfeed my daughter, and after doing so, discovering that there was a fancy tent for nursing moms just two blocks away. I remember watching my son bust a move with the Choo Choo Bob Show cast at one of their live performances last year. I remember (sort of) drinking too much beer at the Blake Shelton concert (which was my first country concert ever) and telling the woman next to me that Blake converted me to a country music lover. I know I had too much beer that night because I still don’t care to listen to country music to this day. I remember how excited my kiddos were when they saw the barn animals and went on the Giant Slide. I remember the time when my husband and I went to the fair on a rainy day and we found trash bags to use as ponchos. I love the fair. I love St. Paul. I heart Minnesota.

StateFairCollage

I remember it all, and I am looking forward to making some new memories this year. The only thing to figure out now is where to start? What exhibits do I want to see? What do I want my son and daughter to experience? What should I eat? Which bands do I want to hear? How many times should I go? There is so much to consider!

Fortunately, I had a sweet opportunity to attend a sneak peek of the 2014 Minnesota State Fair with an awesome group of local bloggers yesterday. We tasted seven new foods that will be at the fair this year, and we also had a chance to chat with some of the vendors. We received packets of information on the many events, competitions, exhibits and foods that will be at the Great Minnesota Get-Together. We toured the new West End Market and the History & Heritage Center. And we also got a glimpse of the new exhibit The Common Table, which will be an interactive exhibit focusing on inspiring its visitors to make intentional food choices. I think I will finally be able to get a good night’s sleep after attending this awesome event now that I have a much better plan in mind for the crazy adventure I want to take my kiddos on this year.

Don’t worry, I want to take you on a crazy adventure too, just not this late at night, and not all at once. I have so much that I want to share with you about what is new at the State Fair this year. Come visit me later this week!