21 April 2016

Welcome to Cecil

I'm from a small town. So small, in fact, that I rarely even bother mentioning it when someone asks me where I'm from. Ditto the next closest town. I usually say Defiance, and even then people give me blank stares.

Some people know, though, that I'm from Cecil. Technically I lived 3.1 miles outside of Cecil. In a different county altogether. But my mailbox had the pleasure of living on the south side of the road, so, Cecil it is.

Population 172.

Earlier this week, a friend shared an article on my Facebook page about, of all places, my hometown. I couldn't think of any reason Cecil would make the news, so I quickly clicked to learn more. Imagine my surprise when I read: 10 Small Towns in Ohio Where You'd Never Want to Live. #1? You guessed it!

Using science and data (population, unemployment rates, housing cost, median income, education and crime), the author declared my town the winner, er, loser?

I wasn't sure how I felt about this at first. I don't have any real connection to Cecil. My only memory of Cecil involves a store that had gigantic jawbreakers. And the post office. I think I went there once. There was also a bar around there I remember going to once or twice (as a minor, oddly enough, with my parents).

That's it. That's all I got for Cecil.

It is small; that's a fact. I can't argue the crime rate, because I don't know anything about it other than what the author wrote. And I didn't know graduating high school was such an accomplishment (something 2 out of 3 people barely do) - yay me. The thing I did take offense to was the author's "boring" label. Just because a town is small doesn't mean it's boring.

I have amazing memories of growing up in the middle of nowhere. Sure, I couldn't walk to my friends' houses or call them all the time (unless it was after 7 p.m., long-distance charges, don'tcha know), but we had fun. Sometimes we'd go into Sherwood (population 813) and Rollerblade. Or Ney (population 348) and drink (when we were 21, of course). Other times, most times, we just hung out. Listened to music. Went swimming in someone's pond. Went fishing or canoeing in a pond or on the river. Had bonfires. Went four-wheeling. Risked our lives on our homemade ziplines and rope swings. Definitely not boring.

The author would probably argue that I liked living in the country, not specifically Cecil, but you have to be from somewhere and my mailbox says I'm from Cecil.

02 February 2016

(Note: Another post from the archive. This originally ran in February 2013 on the Toledo Area Parent website.)

A few weeks ago, my husband and I asked our 4-year-old son, Billy, if he wanted to go to a college hockey game. He said yes and we bought the tickets, excited to share this sport with him for the first time.

When it came time to leave for the game, though, Billy had changed his mind. He didn’t want to leave his new Rescue Bots, prized birthday presents. We were torn. Our son playing happily by himself was a big deal.

But, we had bought the tickets and put our game shirts on; we were going!

My husband and I value experiences over things. We enjoy visiting local pumpkin farms and apple orchards. We go to baseball games and shows at the Huntington Center. We take classes at the YMCA. We’re always trying to find new, exciting places to camp. And we take advantage of our amazing park system.

But Billy? We realized recently that despite our noble approach to parenting, we forgot our audience. He enjoys watching the river fish at the local hunting and fishing store as much or more than the exotic ocean fish at the Shedd Aquarium. He enjoys playing with my craft supplies more than painting his own pottery at a studio. He likes the escalator at the mall as much as the rides at the festivals we pack our summer with.

Even piling sleeping bags and pillows and blankets on the living room floor, popping popcorn in the microwave and watching “Despicable Me” for the 100th time is as cool to him as seeing a drive-in movie.

Those things, those basic things, seem boring to us. But we’re not 4. Everything is new to Billy. Every experience. Every trip to the grocery store. Every day at the park. It’s all an adventure.

We think, “Well, we’ve been to this park or that park 16 times, it’s lost its appeal,” but to Billy, it’s a new day, and the slide is calling his name.

We realized we don’t have to expand his world so quickly – he loves the one he knows, and isn’t done exploring it yet. Squeezing every last drop of joy out of it. The important thing to him isn’t where he is, as long as he’s with us.

Billy didn’t love the hockey game. He was excited to see where his dad and I had gone to college. He liked watching the kids his size ice skating before the game. He loved hearing the pep band and seeing the team’s mascots. But he was bored. The highlight of his weekend was playing with his dad’s hockey stick and a ball in the living room. Our living room. Not an ice arena. Not a fancy aquarium. Not a far-away campground. Our living room. It’s a lot more exciting to a 4-year-old than a “hasn’t-been-4-in-a-long-time-year-old”.

01 February 2016

My Son Thinks I'm a Genius

(Note: A few years ago, I wrote a few posts for a local parenting publication. The following is a post that never ran.)

During my professional career, I once heard a wise man say, “It’s OK not to know the answer to every question you’re asked. You shouldn’t pretend you do. Just say you’ll find the answer – and then do it.”

That’s easier said than done when you’re dealing with a 4-year-old.

My son, Billy, doesn’t ask “why”, but man does he ask questions! I’m lucky if I know the answers to half of them. Unfortunately, telling him I’ll get back to him is never the answer he’s looking for.

A few weeks ago, Billy asked me how bees had babies. Um, um, um. When a mommy bee and a daddy bee love each other … . Kidding. I stalled and asked him what he meant. Luckily, he gave me the clue I needed. He wanted to know if they laid eggs or had “real” babies. Thank goodness I have a smart phone, because mommy is not up-to-date on bee reproduction. (They lay eggs, in case you were wondering. But you already knew that, didn’t you?)

My phone and the Internet have helped me dozens of times since that first occasion. Billy is full of great questions. Amazing questions. Things I’ve never thought about, or take for granted, he wants to know. I’m learning as much as he is! (Did you know, for example, that there are currently active volcanoes in Alaska? Me neither!)

Sometimes I make a game out of finding the answers to Billy’s questions. A lot of times I ask him what he thinks the answer is before I tell him. But I never pretend to know answers I don’t. And I don’t try to act like I’m a genius, even though he thinks I am. I want him to come to me with any question he has – whether it’s about watermelons or girls. They say if we listen to our kids when they talk about the small stuff, they’ll come to us with the big stuff. That’s what I want. Ten years from now when he’s thinking about college, I want my son to come to me. Thirty years from now when he starts dating, I want him to come to me. And I want him to value my answers and advice.

I am not always right. And I won’t always be right. Heck, the Internet isn’t always right. I could answer his questions with an incorrect (or silly) answer and he’d accept it. But I want that connection with him. Now – as we dream up stories about bee babies, cuddle on the couch looking at volcano pictures on my phone and laugh when he says he has to check with his teacher about whether watermelons are living because he doesn’t believe me – and down the road. 

One of these days, Billy will figure out I’m not a genius, but for now, thanks, smart phone. I owe you one!

19 January 2016

Dia & Co. Box #1

Have you seen all those fun, trendy clothing styling services available now where they send you clothes that you can try on in the comfort of your own home? Me, too. Unfortunately, very few carried the plus sizes I need. BUT! A few weeks ago, I stumbled across Dia & Co. and things changed!

Dia & Co. is like most clothing services: you sign up, fill out a survey, pay a $20 styling fee (which is used toward any purchase from that month's box) and sit back and wait for five new items to arrive on your doorstep. Once the box arrives, you try everything on, keeping what you like and sending back what you don't (free shipping both ways, items are returned via an enclosed shipping envelope). At this point, you also rate all the items you received so that your stylist (mine is Stephanie!) can fine-tune future boxes.

I signed up and filled out my first survey a few weeks ago and received my first box over the weekend. I was crazy surprised and pleased at my options! Everything fit (except for one top, but that might've been more cut than size), which is amazing. I can't find five things that fit me in a normal shopping trip (I'm literally three different sizes at Old Navy, for example), but somehow they did it without ever meeting me. I also liked everything they sent me, which, again, crazy!

Of the five items I received, I'm keeping one this time. One shirt was a little too see-through for me and I don't like layering. The one top I mentioned wasn't cut right for me. And the third top wasn't right for me right now. I wanted to love it, a super-comfy over-sized sweater great for leggings, but I felt frumpy in it. It's very likely that the problem was more me than the sweater.

The fourth item was an amazing navy dress that I absolutely loved. Ironically, when I was researching clothing services, I had seen this dress on Instagram and, based on everyone's feedback, got it for myself. So while I didn't keep it, Dia and Co. is still responsible for me owning this amazing dress, which I will post of picture of next time I wear it.

The fifth item, the one I kept, is a great red and black top, which is perfect for work. I hate sharing photos of myself, but I figured you'd want to see the top, so:

This top fits well, is a great length and is perfect for work. Score!

Although I only kept one thing out of five, I'm extremely happy with my first box. I'm excited to see what comes next month (I requested another box, they don't just send them to you) and, if all keeps going well, I'm looking forward to placing a special request come fall (I've always wanted a green peacoat).

Let me know if you have any questions! For the first time in, um, forever I'm excited about clothes! (And, if you decide to try a box, please consider using my code: https://www.dia.co/r/19oq. Thank you!)

13 January 2016

You Mad, Bro?

Yes. Yes, I am.

I've known for awhile now (years, if I'm being honest), that I need to lose weight. And I have a few times. Slowly. Reluctantly. Correctly. But then it comes back. Blarg.

I know how to lose weight. I know what I need to eat and how active I need to be. I know I can do it without complicated plans and costly supplements. I just need to do it. (Right, Nike?)

I'm making some strides on the eating end. I stopped drinking pop December 11 (one month and two days ago!). I'm watching my portions. And although I've never been a big snacker, I know I need to keep a thoughtful eye on what to snack on. All things I can do.

The part I'm not OK with is the exercise.

#$%^&   <----- Those are my feelings about exercise.

I hate it. I hate everything about it. I hate that when I exercise I can't breathe. I hate that when I exercise I hurt. I hate that when I exercise I sweat. I.hate.exercising.

Don't get me wrong. I love to be outdoors. I love walking. Hiking. Riding my bike. Playing softball and volleyball. ... For fun. For leisure. Not for the calorie-burning effects.

Unfortunately, weather in northwest Ohio is unpredictable to say the least. (We had our front door open on Christmas day for Pete's sake.) So that's always been a convenient excuse not to exercise. I know I can't wait for nice weather to hike or ride my bike. I need to get my butt down to the basement and on the elliptical.

So, the other night I did. Stomping and groaning and huffing and puffing the entire time. I flung myself off the couch. I stomped down the basement stairs. I huffed and puffed until my legs burned. I stomped up the basement stairs. And then I flung myself into bed.

If you didn't gather, I was mad the entire time. The next day, after I had time to think objectively about why I was so mad, I got sad ... because I was mad at myself. I was mad that I needed to exercise so badly. I was mad that I don't like exercising while others revel in it. I was mad that I can't breathe when I exercise and that I hurt when I exercise. I was mad, bro.

I'm not sure how to conquer that anger, but I know I can't let it be an excuse like the weather. I imagine that at some point the ridiculousness of stomping up and down the basement stairs will dawn on me and I'll just walk like a normal person. Maybe I'll stop being mad when my pants fit better and I have more energy. Maybe I'll never stop being mad. Maybe that should be my motivation.

Cross your fingers for me if you're so inclined. Send positive vibes my way. I'm to the point where I want to want to exercise, so that's something! I just need to figure out how to exercise.