Friday Linkage

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Hello, friends!

We have a fun weekend ahead. Mark’s birthday, a visit from his parents, another game . . . what do you have planned?

Here are some fun pieces to browse.

If you read nothing else this weekend, read this (via Enjoying the Small Things via Camp Patton)

Some advice from a ballerina. (via Kinfolk)

An inside look at the dangers of farming. (via Modern Farmer)

Anyone else feel like a lot of blogs are “shutting their doors” these days? Young House Love and Annapolis and Company are taking undefined breaks. But scroll through their archives for some great DIYs (YHL) and photography tips (AandCo.).

What are your fingerprint words? (via Slate)

I’ve been embarking on a challenge to use first-person pronouns less in emails. It’s hard! (via NPR)

See you next week!

 

 

Never Forget: A letter to my son.

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Dear Miles,

You’re only 10 weeks old and you are just figuring out that you have hands and toes, so most of what makes up our world is still meaningless to you. But someday you’ll grow up and you’ll sit in history class and hear about September 11th, about the day evil men boarded American planes and crashed them into big buildings in New York City, killing innocent women and men and children and babies.

You’ll hear people who are older, your parents and grandparents and their friends, talk about where they were on that awful morning and you’ll probably wonder why so many make such a big deal out of something that happened a long time ago.

And so there’s a few things I want you to know about September 11, 2001, that day that for you will seem so far away.

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1. Bad guys are out there. That day was so shocking for so many of us, I think, because in theory everyone knows that there are bad guys out there. But on that sunny morning, it was terrifying to realize how vulnerable all of us were to the bad guys. As Americans watched their television sets in their homes and schools and workplaces and saw those big beautiful buildings fall, crumbling on top of the people inside, we all felt helpless and scared, maybe more helpless than we ever had before.

2. America is exceptional because of her communities. This country was built upon the idea that we are free only as long as our neighbors are free. When we watched the videos over and over again of those planes hitting the Twin Towers, we realized that the terrorists weren’t simply attacking some tall buildings, or New York City, or even American finance. Those planes were aimed at every American mommy, daddy, and child. They were aimed at every employer, every employee, every teacher, every doctor, every businessman, every taxi driver, every farmer. Those planes were aimed at all of us.

On that sunny late summer day, thousands of Americans suddenly spoke to and listened to, and cried with neighbors and co-workers and strangers in a way that most of them never had before and in a way that is probably unmatched in history. We realized anew that America is great because Americans don’t live as isolated individuals. Americans stand together and act; Americans care about their neighbors. If my neighbor is hurting, I hurt. If another city is attacked, it’s no different than if our town was attacked.

3. Americans are courageous. The brave men and women who sacrificed during the Revolutionary War to make America an independent nation were courageous. The pioneers who trekked across unknown miles to better their lives were courageous. The entrepreneurs and inventors who risked their careers and fortunes to create more opportunity for others were courageous. The soldiers who sleep far away from their families are courageous. And every American, who gets up to go to work and school, who sacrifices to save money to make tomorrow better for their babies, who gets on a plane to attend a job interview, who faces the risk of economic uncertainty and continues to believe and act as if things will get better, is courageous.

4. Americans take responsibility for themselves and their neighbors. On that terrible morning, everyday Americans didn’t wait for Superman to come rescue them. They acted. Fireman and policemen and executives like Rick Rescorla went above and beyond to rescue people from the buildings that were doomed to fall. Americans don’t wait to be rescued or expect someone else to do the dirty work. They work to protect themselves, their families, and the people around them.

5. Americans believe that the good guys will win. The terrorist attacks of 9/11 showed us all, in stark horrible relief, that the bad guys were out there. And for a little while, it felt like they were winning. But Americans know better. Americans have seen terrible regimes shrivel and dictatorships fall. Americans saw the end of the Cold War and the Berlin Wall collapse.  Americans stormed the beach at Normandy because Americans know that evil can’t be allowed to win. America is exceptional because Americans believe in good endings and in heroes.

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I look at you and I marvel at how much you have to learn and how exciting the world before you is. While you’re learning about your country and your world, Miles, I want you to remember these things and learn about them and tell your friends and your children about them because those events and that day serve as a memorial.

We all need memorials to remind us who we are and what we are and why we are. We need memorials to show us where we came from and light the way to where we are going.

And so, Miles, that is why we remember those gleaming towers that are missing from the New York City skyline. Never forget September 11, 2001.

Friday Linkage

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It’s Friday. Fridays have a different pace for our family than other days of the week. Part of this is probably due to Mark’s schedule.  Although we still both have a long lists of tasks on Fridays, Mark doesn’t have his usual morning classes; this change seems to seep into the rest of our schedule. Our mornings are calmer and longer somehow; work seems less frantic because tomorrow is, well, Saturday. Tasks are less hurried, less urgent.

We have a game this weekend, too. I’m excited. I went to a very small school and this whole  big-school-big-team business is a new experience for me.

What are your weekend plans, friends?

Here are some fun links to browse as you wrap up your week.

Friday Night Meatballs via Serious Eats (via Cup of Jo).

Tips for garden photography via Telegraph.

Funny and practical (and relevant!) tips for surviving life with toddlers via Camp Patton.

Tips for creating the perfect reading nook via ClementineDaily.

Would you home swap? via WSJ.

Moving to a new (smaller) city and having a baby has changed the dynamics of our Mark and I connect with people. I’m looking forward to these ideas for making friends in a new city via The Art of Manliness.

See you on Monday!

Lately.

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Breaks are good things.

Just under two months ago, we were (im)patiently awaiting the arrival of Baby up in beautiful Northern Michigan and alleviating the irritation that is 39-weeks-pregnant with long beach days and as much Michigan summer recreation as we could squeeze into the 16 hours of daylight.

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And then my water broke at midnight after we spent July 3 running ourselves ragged with summer fun and Mark, my mom, my sister, and I set off for the hospital (45 minutes away!) at 2:30 a.m. on July 4, regretting that we hadn’t spent the afternoon napping.

And then at 4:30 p.m. on July 4, Miles Freedom McCord arrived and none of us cared that we were all basically ditzy from lack of sleep because oh my gosh, perfection in infant form.

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If I were a responsible blogger, I would spend the next hour detailing the full birth story – and maybe one of these days I will – but I have about 12.5 minutes until the little guy wakes up and decides that he wants to be fed again.

While this space has quietly rested, Miles made his way through his first few weeks of life. We enjoyed a few wonderful weeks in Michigan with my family, said goodbye to Michigan and moved squeezed into a tiny apartment in College Station, Texas. Mark is now deeply engulfed in his program and I am trying to learn how to juggle loving on and caring for our sweet little guy and working part-time from home.

If I were cool and trendy, I would talk about how Mark and I are “learning to balance” and “juggling”, but really our life right now is just insanity mildly disguised. We eat a lot of food that I can pull out of the freezer and cook in 15 minutes and most days feel like an exercise in survival. Someday I might bake a batch of cookies again.

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But I’m grateful for the crazy right now, because I’m grateful for this perfect little baby that has ushered in so much joy. He is worth every bit of lost sleep, every second, every whatever-went-out-the-door-when-he-came-in.

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But I do sincerely miss writing in this space and, if writing here has taught me anything, it’s that being creative is necessary to maintaining sanity. Even in the midst of stress and craziness. So I’m listening to my own advice and – now that the fog of having a newborn and the swirl of unpacking has settled a bit – I’m reminding myself to make more time to be creative.

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I have so many of the beginning scraps of posts that I hope to turn into coherent thoughts this month. Today, though, I feel that it’s only fair to first share an enormous slough of cute baby photos that essentially explain my silence. Also, because it’ll help you procrastinate before you dig in to the huge pile of tasks that piled up over Labor Day Weekend. You’re welcome.

 

Regarding Our Summer Up North – A Short List

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1. Just over two weeks ago, a moving truck came to take away our belongings. We fought D.C. traffic for one last time and headed away from the East Coast. The last two weeks have been the epitome of unabated vacation bliss as we’ve basked in the flawless early Michigan summer.

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2. Drinking morning cups of coffee on the back deck of my parents’ home is a luxury that never grows old.

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3. I woke up from a nap one day last week to find that Mark had driven an hour away to purchase five ducklings. They’re precious and soft and captivating and my mother calls the “Hippy Ducklings” because we have absolutely no idea what we’re going to do with them in six weeks. And who knew that ducks grew so fast?

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4. There are few more peaceful ways to pass a cloudy afternoon than fishing on the Boardman River boardwalk in downtown Traverse City.

5. We celebrated our first anniversary with an afternoon spent exploring the beach and pier in Manistee followed by a lovely dinner at Bluefish. In some ways, I can’t believe how quickly this year has flown by. In other ways (all good ones), it feels like Mark and I have been married forever. I can’t wait to see what Year 2 holds for us.

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6. Our little guy is due in just over two weeks. We are beyond excited to meet him.

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Grownup summer vacation is a true luxury and we are soaking up every minute of this unscheduled, unhurried time. What are your vacation plans for this summer?

 

Around Here Lately and Saying Goodbye

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Hello! The demands of family reunion and wedding schedules and a new job for me and planning for Baby McCord have overwhelmed my mind and calendar for the last couple weeks. Those very good things, coupled with a glorious trip to California to see friends and family, have utterly consumed my brain waves recently.

It was good to have one less thing to think about in the midst of our full-of-good-things-April-and-May, but I was surprised by how much I missed blogging. And all of you.

So I’m back, writing in this little space, even amidst life’s rush (because, really, won’t it always be rushed and busy and too full for extra good things?), mostly because I simply cannot step away.

Along with this totally cliche “I’m back!” post comes an announcement of a different sort too. It’s always so strange and awkward to say goodbye to a place, especially a place that has become as familiar as this city has become to Mark and me.

But this weekend, we took our last walk by the Capitol, spent our last Sunday afternoon strolling along the Mall, sat in our church for the last time and said a formal goodbye to the city we know. Movers are coming this week and if all goes well, Friday afternoon will find our Prius somewhere between Washington, D.C. and Michigan.

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We are excited for the new adventures ahead. Excited to meet our little guy and become parents, excited to spend the summer in Michigan, and excited to become Aggies late in the summer as Mark begins new adventures at Texas A&M.

But it’s bittersweet too, to leave a city where we have so many memories. Mark and I both showed up in D.C. as single young professionals, ready to tackle this thing called adult life. We met here, dated here, and planned a wedding in between long work days at our first “real” jobs.

No matter where we go after this, D.C. will always be the city where we started this great adventure of married life. No matter what size apartment or house we live in after this, Northeast D.C. will be the place where we lived for a year in our cozy house on a questionable street with three roommates, five bikes, a shared kitchen and a mysteriously bottomless pile of dishes.

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It’s bittersweet to leave the friendships I have here behind, too. It’s not really goodbye forever, because the kind of friendships that hurt to leave aren’t really friendships that end. The emails and texts and visits will go on, but there’s something sad about this changing rhythm of friendship, about saying goodbye to casual random visits and regular hangouts on back decks and knowing who will come when you invite everyone over for chili at the last minute.

My friendships with these wonderful women have truly been some of the most precious and important relationships of my life. They’ve seen me at my best and at my very worst and their prayers and love and laughter have carved a permanent place into my heart.

But we weren’t made to stand still. Mark and I and all of these dear friends have adventures ahead, adventures that are sometimes hard to begin but adventures that are good gifts all the same. And if I leave our friends here with one thing, it would be this quote from Donald Miller, these words that always ring true:

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“And so my prayer is that your story will have involved some leaving and some coming home, some summer and some winter, some roses blooming out like children in a play. My hope is your story will be about changing, about getting something beautiful born inside of you about learning to love a woman or a man, about learning to love a child, about moving yourself around water, around mountains, around friends, about learning to love others more than we love ourselves, about learning oneness as a way of understanding God. We get one story, you and I, and one story alone. God has established the elements, the setting and the climax and the resolution. It would be a crime not to venture out, wouldn’t it?

It might be time for you to go. It might be time to change, to shine out. I want to repeat one word for you: Leave.

Roll the word around on your tongue for a bit. It is a beautiful word, isn’t it? So strong and forceful, the way you have always wanted to be. And you will not be alone. You have never been alone. Don’t worry.”

Weekend Inspiration

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“It’s time to start living the life you’ve imagined.” – Henry James

Happy weekend, my friends.

Weekend Linkage

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Hello, dear ones! We’re back from a trip to Germany and Albania that was wonderful and memorable and challenging and unpredictably crazy all at once. (Aren’t most trips that way? That’s why we travel, it seems to me.) I have so many pictures and stories that I am excited to share with you, so be on the lookout next week.

Right now, we’ve managed to unpack, do our mountains of laundry, answer our emails and take care of all of that important random ridiculous stuff that manages to pile up during vacation. We even survived the first-evening-back jet-lag by watching back-to-back episodes of Friday Night Lights. (Staying awake until 10:00 pm has never felt so much like a college-final all-nighter).

I fully expected to be greeted by a warm D.C. spring and was fully disappointed. But supposedly spring is coming this weekend. We’ll see. (Does anyone believe that warm weather is actually coming anymore?)

But despite the cold and despite the wonderful time that we had during our luxuriously long trip, I am so glad to be back, so grateful for my warm house and our routines, excited to see my students’ faces and so happy to be back with friends and with you all.

Enjoy these links while we slide into a weekend that I hope holds rest and joy and community and so many other good things for you.

Here are some particularly dark quotes on the terror that is the writing life from famous authors.

And, by contrast, a list of ten of the best lines ever penned.

This piece on the young blogging industry was inspiring, exciting, and challenging all at once. What do you think? Is blogging an “industry”?

Laura Bush is one of my heroes. I thought this slide show from her Instagram feed was so much fun.

I’m loving the Vera Bradley summer 2014 collection. Also, how did I not know that VB has a line of flip-flops??

What are your favorite books for babies? I have so many that it feel traitorous to even attempt a list, but a few of my favorites are Goodnight Moon, Love You Forever, and The Grouchy Ladybug.

Speaking of babies, here’s one mother’s fascinating take (and conclusion) on her daughter’s digital footprint. Although I can’t say I agree with everything said here (or done . . . a digital trust fund? What?), the questions raised are good ones. If you have children, what are your policies for and thoughts on your children and their digital persona?

Finally, here’s an interesting take on why toothpicks make the best cake-testers. Sometimes I use a metal knife. That’s really not kosher, apparently.

Happy Friday, friends!

 

 

Spring, Creativity, and Success

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Some friends and I were talking about the coming of spring a few weeks ago, before spring had actually hinted that it might someday grace us with is presence.

“One day, you just walk out of work and know that it’s different,” one friend commented. And it’s true. A few weeks ago, during one of DC’s deceptive warm spells, I stepped outside and knew that winter had lost. It got cold again; we even got more snow. But this cold was different. It was spring cold, an early spring blizzard, a last gasping of a dying season.

And now we have longer daylight hours and the hope of a 70-degree day and I think I’ve said goodbye to my sweaters and my down jacket and my pink boots and my other sweaters. I hear birds in the morning, birds that must have been curled up under overhanging eaves somewhere during the frigid early morning hours of January and February.

It really does happen all at once, and yet, sort of only in retrospect. All of those little pieces add up when one is looking the other way and then suddenly, a new picture, new warmth, a new season emerges.

Isn’t this how our lives and jobs and dreams change, too? In the wee hours, when we aren’t looking, perspectives and tracks and goals and plans are re-shaped and then one day, we’re surprised to find that everything is different. But we really shouldn’t be surprised we know, because of course it is; if we would only look, we can see all of those little winding paths that brought us here.

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My work is reflective of all of those seasonal changes too. A million little threads of my actual skills and experience and random gigs and assignments and a hodgepodge of work that was terrifying in its unpredictability suddenly all bound together and now make up a much more tangible, realistic, coherent picture. Suddenly I have work and the trust of others and confidence in my own abilities that was only a distant cloudy illusion before. Suddenly, there’s warmth and (some) security and excitement where there was only terror and trembling steps and a lot of unknown before.

And I know that this can’t last, that we aren’t meant to thrive in safe corners, and that more uncertainty surely waits around the next bend. But the reality of small successes, the fulfilled promise of spring, all of those little courageous moments that led to a happy ending of sorts, remind me that insecurity and terror and those uncertain times are ok because underneath that frozen soil, bulbs are preparing to bloom.

So here are some helpful ideas for thriving through those cold times of uncertainty. Keep dreaming. Spring is coming and one day, when you least expect it, you’ll walk out of work and it will have arrived.

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1. Keep building threads. Everyone has a dream or two. Even in hard times, busy times, tired times, keep pushing. Maybe it’s not possible to work on your dream 5 hours a day. But 10 minutes might be a possibility. Maybe you can’t be a full-time writer/artist/musician. But you might be able to do a sporadic project or two. So get up earlier or go to bed later or stay off of Facebook during break and use those ten minutes to write or network or brainstorm or create. All of those tiny fragments are far more important than they might seem.

2. Hold specifics loosely. Dreams are helpful. Rigid maps are sometimes not. Goals and lists and specific plans are useful in the small moments but sometimes need to be released if the big picture is to happen. Don’t be afraid to let go of your pet steps in favor of the bigger dream.

3. Expect the unexpected. Very few successes happen on schedule. Most great stories, career or relationship related, begin with some version of “When I was least expecting it.” Be ready for a door to open that you assumed would stay closed; keep an eye out for those open windows of opportunity that you might be overlooking.

4. Remember how the cold times felt. They’ll come again. Discouragement and anxiety and frustration and fear are a part of the cycle of being human. When they re-appear after times of success and excitement and joy, don’t be surprised. And don’t turn back. Accept the season as a part of reality and continue to press through to spring.

5. Stay inspired. Keep reading those authors, listening to those podcasts, writing those poems, going on those runs that make you feel inspired and excited and more alive. All of that pent-up energy and inspiration may not have anywhere to land right this second, but one day, you’ll suddenly need that stock of wisdom and inspiration and encouragement.

How do you stay motivated during the winter-season of creativity?

 

Weekend Linkage

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Happy weekend! We made it – through what may have been the shortest week ever with the snow cancellations and delays.

But if this short week still left you feeling like you need a hefty glass of wine, be sure to take note of how you’re holding your glass.

These 5 reading rules will help you shed book guilt forever and enjoy your reading time more.

Need some productivity inspiration? This extensive productivity guide offers a complete package (which they promise can be read in 20 minutes) of expert advice.

Sometimes, worry can be a good thing.

A friend sent me this article by an economist who shares her perspective on pregnancy studies and the rules that come with them.

Apparently I’m not the only one who needs help making enough time to write.

Planning a spring or summer wedding? Love these free printable cupcake toppers.

Which is your favorite white wedding cake in this gallery? I love the one with the daisies.

Enjoy your weekend, my lovely readers!