Category Archives: Good-at-Life

Would the Real Oso Please Stand Up?

Everyone says, have a back-up lovey. What’s a “lovey,” you ask? It’s the new-fangled parenting lingo for a stuffed animal or other item that is particularly special to your kiddo. It could be Baby Fox, a dirty pink blanket, or in Little L’s case, a polar bear named Oso. 

On Little L’s first day at her two-morning-a-week preschool, I thought it would be a good idea if Oso went with her. Oso would stay in her backpack unless she needed it, which would prevent the problem of possible loss or contamination.

When we picked Little L up on the playground, her teacher handed me the backpack and Little L handed me Oso. Apparently Oso had gone swinging – so much for staying out of germs’ way. I put Oso in Little L’s bunny backpack and we headed home.

Well, almost. First we stopped inside the classroom for a minute. Then we said goodbye to Axel, who headed out to class and set on our way walking home. It’s a half-hour walk, but the weather was nice, if not humid, and construction near the school made walking a better option for people who were trying to get their 10,000 steps in anyway.

Half an hour later, we arrived home. I took the sweaty gray diaper bag off my back and began unloading.

Little L’s bunny backpack was nowhere to be seen.

Which meant that Oso was nowhere to be seen.

Little L was entranced trying to reconnect a removable bar on the front of the stroller, so I snuck away and called Axel to see if he had the backpack. When he didn’t answer, I texted and emailed him. But I knew that he was already in class and I was unlikely to hear back for at least a few hours.

Could it be that I put the bunny backpack in the bottom of the stroller and it FELL OUT? Could Oso be somewhere along the river leading home from school? 

Or maybe Oso was still at school? I sent a quick email to the teacher and then, seeing that Little L was still trying to figure out where this bar went – under the wheels? – I snuck into her room and removed a big plastic crate from the shelf in her closet. I unwrapped a piece of yellow felt, and there it was – Fake Oso.

Except Fake Oso did not bear much of a resemblance to Real Oso. Maybe they could be cousins, but that was about it. Its plush white fur was nothing like the cream-colored compact look of Oso.

Maybe she wouldn’t notice?

I set Fake Oso out in Little L’s room and returned to the kitchen to get lunch ready. I almost shouted out with relief when I checked my phone and saw that the school DID in fact have Little L’s backpack. I must have set it down when we went back into the classroom.

Whew is an understatement.

But there wasn’t time to get over there to get Oso before nap time. Little L would have to nap with the impostor.

A few minutes later, once she had given up on fitting the bar through the wheels of the stroller, I heard her scamper into her room. The sound of her little feet on the wood floor can be heard through the whole condo – she almost always runs or speedwalks or prances.

“It’s an oso,” she said, rushing over with Fake Oso.


“Where is Little L’s Oso?” she asked. 

For a second it flashed through my mind to lie. Joanie’s sister got away with saying she had taken her daughter’s doll to the dogwash for a deep cleaning when a shinier version appeared in its stead. 

I sat down on the kitchen floor. “Come here,” I said to Little L, sitting her body on my crossed legs. “This is SO silly,” I began, still formulating what I was going to say. “Oso stowed away at school!”

“Oso so away?”

“Yeah, that means it hid at school! Oso didn’t come home! So I’ll go get Oso after nap time, but for your nap, you can sleep with this Other Oso.”

To my relief, Little L laughed. “Oso say at sool! Oso so away at sool!”

Now, this didn’t mean I didn’t hear the question, “Where is Little L’s Oso?” at least ten times before nap time. But when the time came, Fake Oso assumed the usual Oso position over her head, a sort of replacement-helmet-and-sleep-mask-all-in-one and I guess it did its job because she was asleep within minutes. 

I flashed back to the time that Oso had erroneously ended up in the potty and needed a quick rinse-off right before leaving for a road trip. My trusty friend Megan had used body heat to put the final drying touches on Oso just as naptime approached. A nap without an Oso is… (I hope I never have to finish that sentence).

By the time Joanie arrived for the mid-nap coffee date we had planned, I hadn’t been able to get ahold of Axel to see if he could go on an Oso Rescue Mission after his class. The problem was he would get out at 3:15 and the school was open until 3:30.

“Do you want to just go and I can just stay here and read?” Joanie offered. I so wanted to catch up with her, but I was on edge not knowing how or when I would get Oso back.

After half an hour of chatting with Joanie, I made the trip to “sool” to get Oso. In Little L’s classroom, hers was not the only backpack hanging in the cubby. I wondered if someone else had left their Cute Koala or Bunny Baby. I sure hoped they would be rescued before bedtime.

Back at home, Joanie filled me in on her lovey situation for her older son — there is a drawer full of Baby Foxes that get rotated for equal wear and tear. In fact, he knows there are multiples. If one has been sitting in the car and is too cold, he requests a warm Baby Fox. 

However, Baby Foxes do not go to sool. 

“Yeah,” I said, heeding Joanie’s wise counsel. “I think Oso is going to have to stay home from now on.”

When Little L woke up, I went into her room with Oso. 

“Little L’s Oso!” she exclaimed.

I handed Oso over, wondering what was going to happen now that she knew we had two osos on the premises. Would she carry two of them around? Would I need to get two more as back-ups?

“You should start dirtying Fake Oso,” my friend Ana suggested. Probably not a bad idea.

Later that day, I removed Fake Oso from where it had been tossed aside, grateful for the comfort it had provided at nap time, and also grateful that having two Osos had not become a thing. Little L never mentioned it again.

As it turns out, there may be two osos, but there’s only one Oso.

Be Good-at-Parent-Friends

“Should I have gotten their number?” my friend Thom asked me as we walked away from a morning story hour. “The kids seemed to play really well together.”

“Let’s go back!” I encouraged. 

“Nah. That’s okay. Maybe I’ll see them again.” 

“Are you sure?” I asked. “Did I tell you what happened to me? I didn’t know if I should get this mom’s phone number at the park and I asked Axel and I thought he said no and then we left and he was like, ‘why didn’t you get her number?’ And I was like, ‘you told me not to!’”

“But then, because she had told me that she’s a teacher, I looked her up and emailed her!”

I remember telling Axel that evening that I’d emailed her.

“I hope you didn’t seem too eager! Did she write back?” Axel counseled me.

She did! Within the day! I took that as a good sign.

But then school got out for the summer and after inviting her to one library story hour that she declined because her younger child had to nap, I never reached out again. 

But I had learned my lesson — ask for the number if you want it.

So when Little L and I were at the pool a few weeks later and Little L spent most of the time playing with a mellow two-year-old girl whose mom said she liked my swim jacket (you don’t hear THAT everyday!), I realized that I shouldn’t let this opportunity slip away.

When she said, “Maybe we’ll see you around here again,” I summoned the 22 year-old in side of me who had once written her number on a napkin and given it to a musician working at a coffee shop. I knew Axel would be proud of me for not letting this opportunity slip away.

“I could give you my number!” I said to the mom.

“Oh, that would be great!” she said. 

“It just seemed like the girls played really nicely together!” I said. I didn’t want her thinking I did this everyday.

The next week, we were at Thom’s house watching the World Cup final. 

“You know who i almost invited?” he asked. “That family that we met at the story hour!” 

“What, really?” I asked, excitedly.

“Oh, did I not tell you? Samantha looked her up on her FaceBook Mom’s Group and contacted her and we had a playdate that weekend!”

I told him about my recent exchange and we laughed about trying to make parent friends. Both being home for the summer with our kids, we know the importance of having other kids for the little ones to play with/next to/borrow toys from – and other adults for us to talk to. It’s like, you could do your daily job (feed, entertain, feed, clean up, feed, then break time if you’re lucky) alone, or you could do it in the company of a friend. Or stranger. Just an adult is nice.

“I think the key is that you have to set something up within the week,” Thom told me. This is the opposite of the old fashioned dating lore of making sure you wait long enough so you don’t look desperate. Maybe the point is that parents are desperate, and that’s what you need to appeal to.

I thought of my potential teacher-park friend who I’d tracked down through email. Nothing had come of it. I thought of the new mom I’d met at the pool. It was time to try texting her if I was going to. 

As Thom asid, “Otherwise, it’ll just be awkward.” 

We were about to head out of town, though, so I never texted. She didn’t either. Two months later, I doubt she’d even know who I was if I reached out. So while the friendship never took, at least I got some practice putting myself out there.

My very first experience in meeting parent friends went extremely well. I met my friend Veronica crossing the street last Labor Day morning, and Little L and Baby D now hold hands on a regular basis, for example, at the swim lessons we all took together this summer. We were a good friend match: we live nearby, we have similar schedules, similarly aged and tempermented children. I can text her, “Want to go to the park this morning?” and she responds, “What time? We’re at the store. Be right there!” 

Sadly for Little L and me, Veronica, her partner, and Baby D moved back to California at the beginning of September. “They’ll come back to visit,” I tell Little L. But we won’t run into them at the grocery store or Farmer’s Market, we won’t be able to invite them over during the predicted Polar Vortex, and we won’t squeeze in late afternoon park dates when it would be easier to stay home but better for everyone involved to get out of the house for a half an hour. 

While I’d love to believe that there was something about me in particular that drew Veronica to me, it turns out that she is just really skilled at making friends and building community. With her move out West, she leaves behind double digits of mom friends who will miss her. One time Veronica even made a dad friend at the park who was in town visiting from New York. The three of us and our kids grabbed coffee nearby even though we’d never see Dad or son again. Why not? Veronica is always up for meeting people and passing those sometimes very long days together.

Being an expert at parent friends, Veronica knows the importance of what Thom said about not waiting too long to use that contact info. “I like that you’re so reliable,” she tells me. Veronica and I got into a pattern – on my days off, we hung out in the morning with the kids. We rarely cancelled, though of course with kids sometimes someone was sick. “I appreciate that even when it’s hard to get out of the house, you make the effort to do it,” she told me. I appreciate that about her too.

With Veronica’s move leaving a large hole in Little L’s and my social world, I may have gone a little overboard in meeting potential Mom Friends as the summer came to an end. I started labeling them in my phone as “First Name, Mom Friend.” By the time swimming season came to a close, I’d collected about 10 names and numbers.

They won’t all become friends. If one or two of them do, I’ll be lucky. 

We’ll miss you, Veronica and Baby D. You were my original “Mom Friend,” and I’m glad to have you. May we continue to text complaints, questions, and the length of the kids’ naps even long after you’ve moved.

To all of you parents out there trying to meet each other, be brave and offer your number. And if you make plans with someone but are having a hard time getting your kiddo’s socks on and wrangling them into their stroller, try to power through.

You, and your new friend, will be glad you did.

Be Good-at-Organizers

Axel grabbed onto my backpack as I fumbled with my purse organizer. There was someone waiting behind us, and I had to pull the organizer out of the backpack, then open the organizer, then open my wallet, and take out and insert my ATM card. As soon as I was done with the card, I’d need to repeat the process in reverse.

Upon exiting the ATM, Axel asked me, ‘What is going on with this thing?” shaking the mid-size black zipped bag as I shoved the card back into my wallet, completing Step 1 of getting everything put away. 

“I asked for it for my birthday!” I explained. “It was on Oprah’s Favorite Things list.” 

He didn’t look convinced.

“I change bags a lot. Sometimes I use my purse and sometimes I use Little L’s diaper bag. Or I take my backpack to work. And it’s hard to remember to grab everything. So it’s nice to have my wallet and sunglasses and chapstick all in one place.”

The issue, though, on this particular day, wasn’t the organizer itself. Or my organization. The biggest issue was that the organizer was so large that I had to zip it up and place it sideways in my backpack. This meant that in order to access it, I had to pull it OUT of the bag. 

“It looks like you’re carrying around a men’s shaving kit,” Axel said. And actually, it did.

But Oprah’s organizer was sure to help me avoid arriving at work without the key to my classroom or at a happy hour having to ask a friend to pay for me.

I had opened the package on my birthday morning in the presence of Megan, who was visiting from Portland, and Little L. Even though I knew what was in the package, I couldn’t wait to pull it out and let them witness me getting organized! 

It’s hard to say who was more enthralled by the in-organizer light feature, Little L or Megan. I don’t blame either of them. It is pretty cool.

I put all of my items in it immediately and began using it in time to go out for birthday brunch.

The next morning when I was finalizing my bags for our family-friend trip up North, I simply grabbed the organizer from the front hall closet and put it in Little L’s diaper bag! I was organized and ready to go, just like the pages of O Magazine had promised I would be!

But when we pulled into Subway for a quick lunch that I was planning to treat for, I discovered that my organizer was missing one essential item: my wallet.

“Umm, I guess lunch isn’t on me,” I explained as we piled out of the car. Even more problematic than my lack of generosity was that I was about to embark on a trip without my wallet.

But never fear. My brother, who we’ll call David, and his partner, who we’ll call Ami, were going to be joining us later in the week and would be going to my place to get my car to drive up in. 

“Can you grab my wallet when you’re there? I must have left it in my gold backpack after brunch,” I texted them.

Dare I say I felt a little… disorganized?

On Wednesday night, David called just as about we were all heading out to dinner. “We can’t find your wallet,” he said, somewhat frantically. “It’s not in the gold backpack. Ami also checked your pink purse and your red backpack.”

“What about the little boxes in the entryway? Or else last time I couldn’t find it, it had fallen down in the shoes in the shoe rack.”

“We’ll look,” he said. “I’ll text you if we find it.”

“I’ll also call Red Stag,” I said. By this time we were walking into the restaurant – everyone had entered except me. 

Red Stag, where I had brunched just a few days prior, did not have the wallet. Uh-oh.

I walked into the restaurant, ready to try to enjoy my evening. I was worried though.

“Did you have it at brunch on your birthday?” Megan asked.

“I did.”

“You know,” I said. “I wonder if it could be in the organizer. It wasn’t in the main compartment, but…”

I hadn’t brought the organizer with to dinner, even though Megan and I wanted to treat. I’d told her I’d chip in if I ever found my wallet. 

It was looking like maybe I was about to get  a(nother) free meal.

We got back to the cabin we were staying at, and I removed my own shoes and Little L’s. Megan ran upstairs and returned to the living room holding the purse organizer.

“Do you want to look?” she asked. 

“You check,” I told her. 

I’m not saying this happened, but wouldn’t it have been cool if she had used the in-organizer light to illuminate the bag as she scoured it? 

It didn’t take more than two seconds. She pulled open a zipper inside the main compartment and — surprise! — there was my wallet!!

A lot of dancing, shouting, and cajoling ensued. And later an apology to Ami and David for their wasted time and efforts. “We ransacked your apartment,” Ami said. And for that, I was grateful — and very much hoped they had cleaned up afterwards.

The purse organizer continues to bug Axel. As I head back to work this week, I’ve started thinking about how I can put my work keys and headphones in there too. But how will I get my headphones out of the organizer that’s housed in the backpack while I’m walking to work? 

My friend Nellie shows her purse organization system in response to my bit about the organizer. I have gotten a lot of mileage out of talking about the organizer.

Although I may not be used to all its nooks and crannies and I may have chosen a too-large size and I know I will have to stop on my way to work to pull the headphones out, I stand by my organizer. Best of all is the light. On more that one occasion as we sat at a restaurant trying to keep Little L entertained in her highchair, I’ve pulled the organizer from her diaper bag, grabbed emptied it, and handed it to her. She zips and unzips it and turns the light on and off. Much like Megan’s initial reaction to the organizer.

I know you’re wondering — what do I do with my bottle of pills, my wallet, my headphones, my chapstick, and my sunglasses when I empty the organizer?

I just toss them in whatever bag I have on hand, and somehow, I always manage to find them later.


List of what I forgot on a trip to my Aunt Nan’s cabin in Northern Wisconsin:

  1. Computer charger. Apparently my forgetfulness was also an affront to Axel, who planned to use my computer for more than I did (writing this blog post and streaming a couple Lynx games)
  2. Fitbit charger. Some of you may know I am trying to get 10,000 steps a day – if not 15,000! – in an effort to earn free stuff through my work. In trying to stay true to my stepping (easier in the city than on vacation), I decided to make walking a mile to the lake with Little L part of my daily routine. Imagine me with a miniature travel stroller using a tote bag as a makeshift backpack.
  3. Forgetting to put my Fitbit back on upon leaving the beach. Carrying it in my bag for a good 1,000 wasted steps! 

But on the third morning at the beach, I set the Ziplock with my Fitbit on my beach chair and I remembered to put it back on before carrying Little L into the “Barn House” for lunch.

Midlunch I tapped on it, feeling somewhat giddy at the large number of steps I expected to see, and – nothing.

“It died!” I announced, searching for the Ziplock and verifying that no water had snuck in. 

“Oh, the battery died?” my dad asked. 

“Must be the battery,” Axel seconded.

But both Axel and I had charged our Fitbits the night before we left — so that we wouldn’t need to bring the charger with us — and his was still going strong. 

“Maybe you check it more than I do,” he suggested. “That might drain the battery.”

If you know how obsessed I am with data, that does seem just the tiniest bit plausible.

There was hope for procuring a charger. My stepmom, who has a Fitbit, was coming in from Madison that day (not on foot, though that would have been a lot of steps). It seemed likely that she would have her charger.

But alas, I hesitated, and by the time she got my text requesting that she bring it along, she had left, without her charger. She, like Axel and I, had charged it the night before her departure, in order to avoid carrying her charger along. 

When I lamented to my cousin Junie and her girlfriend Basel about all the things I couldn’t do without my chargers, Basel suggested that I use a good old-fashioned pen and paper to do my writing. “Sometimes it’s really nice to be tech-free at the cabin,” she said. Then she found me an empty notebook because I had forgotten my journal at home. 

“Have another piece of cobbler,” said Junie, opening up a pan of last night’s dessert. She had made it from scratch – blueberries and baseball-sized biscuits, instead of the standard granola crumble on top. 

“I shouldn’t,” I said. I had eaten two pieces the night before.

“You’re on vacation!” Junie said, which technically was true for the next hour and forty-five minutes that I hoped Little L would be napping. 

“It’s not like you need to worry about getting your steps anyway,” Axel pointed out. Just the night before, when the Fitbit was still in service, Axel and I had been walking back in forth through the living room to rack up steps. This is similar to our at-home routine of walking the halls of the condo to increase our numbers. 

“Cobbler-eating can be your new workout,” he said. If only I had some way to track it.

The lack of Fitbit provided me with a comforting lackadaisical attitude toward my physical activity. Without the fear of fewer steps, I would stop walking to the lake and instead make the much simpler and more rational decision to drive. We’d get there sooner and I could go for a swim instead. Who cares that my feet wouldn’t be striking the ground as I paddled through the waves?

I was distressed, though, because of the Million Step Challenge that I was participating in for work over the summer. How would I ever earn my extra points if I got zero steps for five days in a row? 

“There may be one last-ditch effort,” Axel said on the day he was set to ride back to the Cities with Junie. Little L and I would be staying for another three days – unplugged, it would seem.

“Aunt Nan is driving in to the Cities tomorrow morning to pick up her friend who’s flying in,” Axel explained, “and then coming back up.” 

“Wait, what?” That was a two and a half-hour drive each way!

“Do you think our place is on the way back from the airport?” Axel wondered. 

It was, actually. I envisioned Aunt Nan existing 35W, Axel waiting at a stoplight and throwing the charger in her open window, and her accelerating straight back onto the on-ramp. 

But it turned out that Aunt Nan would be picking something up from Basel’s house in the morning. 

Could this actually work?

“Junie, are you going over to Basel’s tonight after you’re both back home from the cabin?” 

She was.

“Axel, can Junie just drop you off at home?” He had been hoping that she’d drive him right to his work happy hour. But if she took him home, then Junie could wait in the car while he ran inside and procured my charger – wait, BOTH of my chargers! She’d then bring them to Basel, who would hand them off to Aunt Nan the next morning. 

I didn’t know if they would do it. “You don’t have to,” I said, both because it seemed like a hassle, and because – well, Basel had a point. I was starting to enjoy my untracked, uncharged freedom.

After they departed, I sat looking at the blueberry cobbler Junie had made. Basel had set an empty bowl and spoon in front of me before she’d gone.

I served up a double helping and began writing in my new notebook. I was on vacation after all.

That evening, with some Introvert Time before me, I went back to the notebook at the counter, this time with some cantaloupe and fizzy water to keep me company.

And then I got a text from Axel who had arrived home. “Fitbit charger and computer charger will be arriving tomorrow! I’m walking to my happy hour to get some steps!”

I should have been overjoyed. But, to Basel’s point, a part of me was growing accustomed to my low-tech existence. Especially the part of me that wanted to spend nap time eating blueberry cobbler rather than jogging down the road. Right at that moment, my stepmom was walking laps around the Barn House while I was sitting on a stool eating fruit.

“Any news on the Great Charger Exchange?” Aunt Nan asked me that evening when she returned home from dinner. I filled her in – tomorrow she would receive the package and bring it North.

So here I sit, writing this blog post on 23% battery, waiting for the last leg of the Great Charger Exchange to come to fruition. My dad wanted me to walk a lemon over to the Barn House during Little L’s naptime, but I had insisted he come pick it up. “I don’t have my Fitbit yet,” I’d explained. “So I really don’t need the steps.”

“Sounds like the incentive program hasn’t exactly translated to intrinsic motivation,” he said. “You don’t want to walk just for the exercise?”

He has a point. Maybe I should take a walk, just because.

But then again, I am on vacation.

2018 Year In Review

Back in the day when my email address was still at, Axel and I used to sometimes host a small gathering on New Year’s Eve with a survey reflecting on the past year and looking forward into the New Year. Introverts loved this “party” and went home at 8:15 when they were done with their reflections and hopped into bed. Extraverts talked quietly to each other about the questions and then left to go to a real party after.

It’s been many years since I’ve hosted a gathering on New Year’s Eve though unbelievably I did manage to attend one last year! There were no surveys though and by the time I realized this, it was too late to curate one.

I had brunch with my childhood friend Alice, in town from New York, just a few days ago. As we were parting ways, she said, “If you make a survey, send it to me!”

So here you go Alice and here you go everyone! I highly recommend printing this out or copying it down onto real paper, but I suppose you could just look at it on your phone and think about the answers. If you thought your New Year’s Eve in front of the TV with a box of Wheat Thins was going to be boring, it has now turned into the Reflective Event of the Year!

Happy Surveying to You and Yours. I, for one, hope to get back into surveys in 2019. May there be many more where this came from.

2018 Year in Review

What three verbs summarize your year?

What things (if any) made you laugh this year?

 What things (if any) made you cry?

 Who was there for you this year? Who were you there for?

 Did you make any 2018 New Year’s Resolutions?

 If so, are you able to recall or look up what they were?

 If you have any idea of what they were, how did you do meeting those aspirations?

 If you have no idea what they were, or didn’t make any, why?

 Did you receive any odd holiday cards this year? If you didn’t understand them, did you contact the sender for clarity?

Draw a picture of the Typical You of 2018:



2019 Year in Preview

What ways of being do you want to continue into 2019? 

What do you want to add/change in the new year? 

What superhuman powers will you need to live the way you want to live this year?

What people, things, or situations are going to limit your dreams for the new year?

 Can you imagine any way to limit the limitations?

Draw an encounter between the Typical You of 2018 (see your previous drawing) on their worst day and the Typical You of 2019 on their best day.




Now save a copy of this somewhere so that you remember what you’re hoping for this year.

Happy 2019!!!


Be Good-at-the-Half-Sock

Have you ever tried going to bed with cold toes? Who can fall asleep that way?

But have you ever awoken in the middle of the night, just a little overheated? Oh, if you could only get those socks off… but it’s just so much work.

Or is it?

Not when you’re wearing what I call the “half-sock.”

The half-sock is really a whole sock. But rather than pulling it up to ankle or calf length, you do not secure the sock over your heel. It is this action, or inaction, that turns it into a half-sock.

Half on, half off. The half-sock.

Yes, the half-sock dangles from your toes when you walk around, but it’s not meant to be worn around town or the condo. The half-sock is a sleeping accessory, like a nightcap or sleepmask.

Wearing the half-sock, you fall asleep with warm toes. It’s really toes that get cold; not heels. So who cares if the heels are exposed?

If you wake up in the night feeling warm, you can easily slide the half-sock off using just your feet! No need to bend your knee and pull your foot towards you or awkwardly shimmy your body into a position where you can reach your toes.

Are there any downfalls to the half-sock?

Just one.

If you don’t remember to track down your half-socks (halves-sock?) in the morning, you can get a whole lot of half-socks accumulating in what Megan and Cameron call the “bamper” at the foot of the bed.

Tonight when you’re getting ready for bed, give your feet a treat and try a half-sock or two.

You’ll discover for yourself: two half-socks do make a right.

Be Good-at-Thanks

I don’t often go the corny route (I like to tell myself), but given the day, there are a few things I want say I’m grateful for. 

These past few months have been both wonderful and trying. Turns out all those parents who said having a baby was hard weren’t exaggerating! Especially given Little L’s early arrival, we have relied upon the kindness of our loved ones more than ever to keep all three of us fed and in good spirits. 

I’m Grateful For (in no particular order): 

  • Food, food, food – thank you for the casseroles, vegan scones, burritos, pasta salads, takeout, gift cards, etc. We would be hungry had you not fed us.
  • Hand-me-arounds – thank you for all of the clothes and contraptions that have come our way. We’ll return them or pass them along when we’re done (does anyone want an Arm’s Reach Cosleeper? If so, let me know!).
  • Texts, calls, emails, and visits – You texted and checked in. You walked over. You drove from California. You took the train. You stayed away because it wasn’t a good time and sent your love instead. It’s so nice to feel connected during what can be an isolating time (it’s been almost 24 hours since I’ve exited my apartment…). Thank you.
  • Babysitters – ‘nuff said.
  • Cleaning – I’ve asked family and friends to clean my bathroom, vacuum, change my sheets and prepare their own meals when they visited. You didn’t even let me see if you rolled your eyes when I inundated you with The Rules.
  • Errands – picking up Little L’s rocker from Des Moines, picking up conditioner at Trader Joe’s and orders from Target. Thank you.
  • Axel – thanks for still laughing with and at me even when I’m crying for no apparent reason (unless you consider being vomited on by an infant a good reason. Is it?)
  • Little L – thanks for not demanding more than one bath a week. It’s all we can muster. And for being so fun and cute. Uh-ggggg! (You know what that means even if I don’t).
  • Kindness of doctors, nurses, and staff at the hospital and clinics. One nurse gave me a two-week supply of bandaids to take with me because I told her I wouldn’t have time to go to the store.
  • Instacart – speaking of not having time to go to the store.
  • Video games – Just kidding. Not thankful for these. Except maybe Mario Kart and PokemonGo.
  • Advice – Thanks for answering my texts and emails about feedings, naps, and going back to work. Etc, etc, etc.
  • Freezer storage space – Thank you!
  • Many more good deeds and kindness not listed here – so much love.
  • Whoever you are that signed up for my blog last week – woohoo! It’s always nice to get a new reader. Thanks to all my readers!
  • Everyone who says, “I was going to buy Little L something but I didn’t because I know you don’t like so much stuff.” 

California fam, miss you like heck this weekend. Hope those brussel sprouts are good.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Be Good-at-Being-a-Poet? (Without knowing it)

Last spring I checked a voicemail left by a caller from an unknown number.

To my surprise, it was not someone from my college asking for a donation.

“I’m calling regarding your submission to the Talking Stick journal,” a woman’s voice said. “Give me a call back.”

If you are a writer, maybe you’ve submitted your work to journals and forgotten about it. I am always amused when I receive an email in December regretting to inform me that “we did not select your submission for inclusion in our April issue.”

I called the woman back. In her voicemail, she had called me “Carissa Jean,” which I appreciated, since it is my pen name.

“Hi, this is Carissa Jean,” I said.

“Oh yes! You sent in the poem ‘The Way We Move,’ and that won first place!” I’m not sure if she had an exclamation point in her voice, but that’s how I heard it!!!

I consider myself a mostly-prose writer. You don’t notice a lot of these posts written in poetic format.

I have taken two poem-like writing classes at the Loft – prose poetry and short-shorts – along with many creative nonfiction and memoir classes.

From those two classes, I came away with a handful of little prose poems that I like a lot. Sometimes I enter them as submissions in poetry contests.

My creative nonfiction has never won a prize. But for some reason, my less-favored poetry seems to have better luck.

A few years ago, my poem “Minneapolis at Large” was published in the Chinook Book – a book of coupons. This has given me great joy; I was published in a coupon book! What a deal.

I got a free coupon book, worth thousands of dollars in great discounts (if you spend millions of dollars to get all those offers).

And now this! A real live journal. Not a placemat or a napkin; not that I wouldn’t be honored to be published on food paraphernalia.

The catch – the book release party (!!!) was happening in mid-September.

And Little L was due in August.

The party was three hours away.

Oh, how I longed to read my poem at a book release party. I definitely planned to attend.

“I hope for your sake that you have a one-month old who allows you to go a party three hours away,” Nellie, a wise friend with two small children, offered kindly – and knowingly.

As the date approached, I so wanted to go. But taking Little L seemed like too much work.

Going without her would still be work, but seemed doable.

We had plenty of options for babysitters – who doesn’t want to watch Little L? I consulted my “Offers to Babysit” spreadsheet (that’s right – don’t offer if you don’t mean it; I am definitely keeping track).

I yearned to be that cool mama who continued with her hobbies and showed her young daughter that women can and should pursue their own interests, even when they are mothers.

I wanted to be… independent.

But I just didn’t feel good about going that far away from her yet.

Turns out I wasn’t, at this stage in my life, independent at all.

After much back and forth, I didn’t go. Instead, I organized a special day for myself here in Minneapolis, so that this important day in my writing “career” wouldn’t go unnoticed. My brother and his girlfriend wanted to visit with Little L, so they watched her while Axel obliged my request to go through some papers he’d been promising to downsize.

Meanwhile, I did whatever I felt like.

I went to the farmer’s market on my own and ate an almond croissant and drank a cold press coffee on the steps while writing in my journal. I got my wedding ring cleaned (a cheap way to pamper myself – free jewelry cleanings!). I bought myself two sweaters. Got a pedicure. Went to my favorite café and hung out.

I felt almost – well, independent.

Then I came home and to read my poem to the enthralled audience of my brother, his girlfriend, Axel, and Little L.

“Aren’t you going to read my bio?” I asked Axel before I began. He obliged.

my bio
I don’t object to being called a winner.

“You win a…  baby!” my brother said when I finished the poem.

I lifted Little L out of her crib and held her up high in victory.

It wasn’t a party, but it was a good day.  A different day.

A day I’ll remember.

I had to give myself permission not to go. To be okay to take time to adjust to the realities of new-momness.

I bet you’re wondering about my poem? I signed a contract giving Jackpine Press the rights to it for the next year, so I can’t yet publish it on GWGL.

page from book
You know how people always downplay their excitement? Well I’m not going to. This brings me so much joy!!!

If you’re interested, you can find it here – but you know that I would be the first to warn you against acquiring too much stuff.

A modest check came in this envelope. They published my poem and then paid me for it!? Hard to believe.

What is the point of all this?

After much typing and deleting, I’ll leave it at this:

Just because you think you’re a prose writer, it doesn’t mean you’re not a poet.

Maybe you’re both.







Be Good-at-Fun

This post could have also been titled “Be Good-at-Sports” or “Be a Good Sport.”

On October 4, the Minnesota Lynx won their fourth championship in seven years.

Thanks to Axel’s insistence, we were there to see it.

When the Lynx pulled off a win in Game 4, Axel asked if we should get tickets for the Wednesday night home game that would determine this year’s champion.

I had been at Game 5 last year with our friends Jon and Dana; Axel had been out of town. This was a rematch against the LA Sparks, and Axel was here this time.

He wanted to see them win.

I was on the fence. I love my Lynx, but my main concern was sleep.

In order to maximize my time sleeping, I head to bed around 8PM every night. I had been staying up for the Lynx games – one even started at 8PM! – but from the comfort of my own home, I was in my PJs with my teeth brushed, ready to hop in bed the second the last buzzer rang.

Going to the game would be at least an hour game-to-bed-clock differential.

“So what are the factors we should consider?” I asked Axel the next morning on a walk. We rattled off the obvious ones – the price of the tickets, jeopardizing sleep, leaving Little L to watch her Lynx without us.

“And fun,” Axel added.


We love Little L, and yet fun isn’t always the word that comes to mind when you’re washing bottles, emptying the diaper pail, and frantically scrambling to finish your half-eaten bowl of mushy cereal at 11AM.

Had we been having enough fun?

“Plus we haven’t been on a date since she came home.”

On the evening of Game 5, my brother and his girlfriend generously came over to take care of Little L, promising to watch part of the game with her.

You know, without exposing her to any screens of course.

We went out to a quick dinner, just the two of us. Getting off the bus a few blocks from William’s Arena, we walked the last of it.

Red leaves were beginning to appear on the trees. College students scurried home from class in colorful scarves. Fall was in the air, and we had made it out the door to witness it!

The stadium was hopping. We found our seats. I could see the TV commentators on the floor not that far from us (because Axel had convinced me that if we were going, we might as well spring for good seats).

I was getting texts from our parents – everyone seemed to be keeping a close eye on the game. Jon and Dana, who had opted to watch from home this year, sent us a photo of us on TV!

At halftime, we snapped a selfie with my cousin and uncle, who happened to be just a few sections over.

This was fun!

And then the Lynx won, making it even more fun.

Prowl gets a lot of use out of that sign.

Not only are they talented athletes, they are hard-working, resilient, kind and generous, and they stand up for what they believe in. They constantly seek to improve. They speak well of each other and their coach, Cheryl Reeve, who although she didn’t throw her suit jacket on the floor like last year’s Game 5, is one of my favorite Lynx.

Little L had fun with her uncle and auntie, and we had fun at the game.

It only took me  a week to recover from the lost sleep, I mean fun.

Just kidding. Kind of. Good thing championships only happen once a year.

It’s back to the 8PM bedtime for me – for now.

Thanks, Axel, for the fun date.

Go Lynx!

Train Yourself

Megan and Cameron will soon be headed out to Minnesota on the train. Megan’s parents June & Earl will be joining them.

“Let me know if you have any advice for the train!” June recently texted.

June and Megan took the train cross country about 15 years ago; I guess they want a refresher. Having done four overnight train rides in the past few years, I’m no expert, but I’m not not an expert.

Just saying.

Here are some tips. These are mostly based on coach travel, which all but one of my trips has been. If you are able to splurge for a sleeping car, it’s a fun experience – and you will pay for it. Literally.

Book your tickets separately

I realize I should have told them this before they booked, so my bad. If you book your ticket with a buddy, upon boarding, you are sent to the seats reserved for twosomes. This means you only get two seats for two people. While preferable to riding next to a stranger, I almost always see those riding alone luxuriating in a twosome of seats for themselves, which makes sleeping much easier. Training is not like flying – open seats abound. So book separately, and each of you can grab your own two seats right across the aisle from your travel companion’s dual train seat suite. Sorry I didn’t think to tell you sooner, friends.

Upper level coach

If your mobility allows you to take the steps, I recommend the upper level versus lower level coach. I made this mistake the first time I took the train out West. Lower level coach is just one small car, so if alone, you end up sitting with a stranger. From this experience I learned that people from Montana are friendly and like to sing, so it was entertaining nonetheless.

Take the train there, not back

In most cases, I would recommend taking the train just one leg of the journey, particularly if anyone in your party isn’t a train-lover. If you are debating between outward or homeward bound, I vote for the former. It’s an adventure to depart on a train and make your way to your destination! If you’re lucky – as I have been – you will be greeted at the train station or waved to from the side of the tracks by your loved ones as you approach your destination (though you may not spot them for some reason even if they are right next to the train). On the way home, you are often aching for your (hopefully) clean sheets; even if you have two train seats to sleep in, you might not be digging train transit at this point.

Recline your seat and put your legs up all the way

The leg rest in your coach seat goes up to make a nice large flat surface, as does that of the seat next to you. Look at what others are doing if you don’t have it quite right. Now enjoy.

Bring a small pillow, many blankets, and an eye mask

In my experience, the train is freezing. Be prepared, though you can always buy a cute little travel kit of inflatable pillow with a lightweight blanket and sleepmask downstairs in the lounge car.

Bring your own food and drink

Pack as much as you can. You might want to go to the dining car for a couple of meals, but you can definitely bring along snacks, sandwiches, and lots of water. I usually splurge on coffee in the lounge car.

Book it to the observation car

As soon as the conductor comes around and checks your ticket, make your way to the observation car. It is so fun watching the scenery and these seats are first come, first serve. Your assigned seat is for sleeping; the observation car is for the rest of the day and night. This time came from my father-in-law who is an actual train-riding expert.

Bring a small bag for valuables

Take them with you when you go to the lounge car. Your regular bag can stay resting above your seat with your clothes in it. I also sleep with my purse in the seat with me. Better safe than sorry.

Pack with your toothbrush accessible

You don’t want to be rummaging through your suitcase when your mouth gets stale. If you think you might need something, put it in a compartment on the outside of your bag, and commit it to memory.

June, I hope this helps. Sorry for not answering by text.

As you can see, I had a lot to say.