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11 March 2013

Things You Probably Don't Know About Me

1. I have had a lifelong dilemma with being either feminine or athletic. As a young teenager I called it "Cute or Sporty" and was absolutely convinced I had to choose only one part of my identity.
"But Mom, I can't like wearing skirts and play soccer!"
"But Dad, I can't beat a boy down a ski run and then still expect him to want to hold my hand!"
We laugh now, but these were serious questions to my 13-year-old mind. I still feel myself going back and forth sometimes. Good thing I married a guy who loves both sides of me. (We take turns beating each other to the bottom of the mountain. And when I win, it makes him want to hold my hand even more.)

2. My favorite TV show in high school was Murder, She Wrote starring Angela Lansbury. I still get giddy when I watch the opening theme. Something about the montage of Angela on her typewriter and Angela fighting crime satisfies my inner being.

3. I rarely listen to music when I'm alone. This is a very new development (probably since Addie was born), because I used to pride myself on knowing all the words to every song on the radio. Now, I've found that I can think much more clearly in silence, so I save my music time for when I can focus on the music.
So many lyrics to catch, so many harmonies to sing along with.

4. My everyday wardrobe is extremely predictable. If I were a character on Arthur or The Magic School Bus (you know, where the characters only ever wear one outfit so you don't get Francine confused with Prunella...), I wouldn't have to change my wardrobe much. On most days I wear some version of a nice t-shirt (Gap Favorite T), a pair of jeans, and my hair in a ponytail. I generally dress within the same color palette (blues, greens, purples, and sometimes turquoise...which is blue-green) and rarely stray to patterns (usually plaid or stripes). That being said, I do look forward to dressing up a little more when I go to church every Sunday.

5. I have a mild to moderate panic attack every time I need to make a phone call. If I'm calling anyone besides my mom or my husband, I usually have to have a mental pump-up session with myself before dialing the number. (This is so sad!) Chad has taken to making me call people just to see me do it.

05 March 2013

Living in the Abstract

"When two people each become windows for the other," oil on canvas, Pier Wright (my first cousin once removed).

I've been thinking a lot lately about the question,
"So what do you do all day? You know, being at home all the time."

Friends, new acquaintances, even strangers
ask me this surprisingly often.
And I always stammer out some lame answer:

"Um...well...I play with Addie. I read a lot. Yeah, I'm trying to get back into reading for pleasure.
I have this weird thing where I never finish books."
Et cetera.

I figured it was time for me to figure out a solid answer,
one that reflects how much I actually do every day.

First off, you have to understand that I now define doing much differently.
Instead of checking off and turning in, things you can tangibly see and make note of,
my doing has become more abstract.
My life abstracts. Abstractulates. I am abstracting.
I have come to love this, to thrive on this. But it took a while.
About a year, really.
This time last year I graduated from college, birthed my first child, and sat down in my armchair at home, thrilled to finally be settling in to the life I had always dreamed of.

And then I got bored.

Call it postpartum or baby blues or depression--I just felt bored.
I hardly thought at all. I hardly moved.
There were productive days where I'd push the stroller to the library, check out a stack of books, and then sit outside flipping through the pages.
But mostly I just sat. Fed the baby. Held her while she slept and I sat.

One day it finally dawned on me: My mind was not progressing. My mind had lost its purpose.
No professor was there to hand me a syllabus with a reading list and essay deadlines.
No boss was there to make sure I was clocking in on time and staying on task.

When I graduated, I had been so excited for the prospect of these things.
The problem was, I hadn't replaced them with anything.
I wasn't being held accountable--by a professor, a boss, or myself--for anything really at all.
When I finally realized this, I made some changes.

I bought myself a planner with plenty of space to write and check-list and meal-plan. I started a book (and finished it!) and then another and another. I made a weekly schedule for myself (Monday is grocery shopping, Tuesday is laundry, etc.).

So here's that question again: "What does a stay-at-home mom do all day?"

My answer: Progress.

I learn. I read. I write.
I get to know my daughter by actually playing with her on the ground. And then I sit back and watch what she does when she's by herself.
I cook and bake and clean. I'm learning how to run a household efficiently, the way I want to.
I research. I look up definitions. I read articles.
I simplify my life.
I serve. I reach out to others. I talk on the phone.
I make appointments. I drop by unexpectedly.
I remember birthdays. I write letters.

All in all, I spend a lot of time with myself, an activity that does wonders for my self-understanding.
Some days it is very hard and very lonely. But the bored : content ratio is shifting.
I'm slowly figuring out how to live purposefully, simply, happily.
How to be productive in a way that, though abstract, somehow matters more to me than concrete productivity.

I live in the beautiful world of the abstract.
Yep, that's what I do all day.

01 November 2012

A Night Just For Me

Photo from a chow life

On a night earlier this week, I found myself alone in my house.
I mean, Addie was here, but she had just barely gone to sleep after a good half hour of frantic sobs (it's been a pattern with her lately, no matter how many times I go in to comfort her).
Chad had late class and meetings so he wouldn't be home until well after dinnertime. 

What to do?

I could do the dishes; there were more cups and spoons in the sink than in the cupboards. Many more.
Nah. Leave them.
I could read my book or catch up on reading blogs.
No, no. I need something exciting! Practice being spontaneous!

So I created a night just for me.
I didn't necessarily do or eat or think about my absolute favorite things in the world.
But on that particular night, they were just what I needed.
Just what I wanted!
And doing what I want hasn't exactly been the center of my attention lately.

My night included these things:
  • extra-large sweatpants and my tremendously comfortable bed
  • You've Got Mail, the movie that speaks to my soul
  • Papa John's pizza delivered to my door (You mean I can actually order pizza for myself?)
  • a grapefruit, halved and sectioned, then eaten with a spoon
  • cinnamon-cider candle flickering next to me
If you were to take a night for yourself tonight, 
what would it include?

24 October 2012

Shepherd's Pie

I told my friend Kaylie today that I go on and off with cooking: I love it for a week, would rather avoid it for a week, and then go back to loving it for a week. This recipe for shepherd's pie is perfect for both kinds of weeks. If you're in the mood to cook, make the mashed potatoes from scratch and use fresh, chopped vegetables. If you're loathing the kitchen, use instant mashed potatoes and frozen vegetables.

Either way, this recipe has a pleasantly short ingredient list, comes together in a flash, and provides a meaty, substantial meal that will keep you full.

Shepherd's Pie
adapted from Real Simple magazine, January 2010

5 medium red potatoes, quartered
1 T butter
1/4 cup milk
spoonful of sour cream
OR equivalent amount of instant mashed potatoes (about 4 cups prepared)

1 pound lean ground beef or turkey
1 T Worcestershire sauce
1/3 cup ketchup
16-ounce bag frozen mixed veggies (ours had corn, lima beans, peas, and carrots)
OR 2 cups fresh, chopped veggies of your choice

Preheat oven to 400*F.

Boil potatoes for about 15 minutes or until fork-tender or prepare instant mashed potatoes.

Meanwhile, brown ground beef. Add Worcestershire sauce and ketchup (use more for more of a saucy meat mixture, less for a mixture that is only lightly flavored), and season with S&P. Stir in mixed veggies. Pour into a 9x13 baking dish.

Drain potatoes; return to pot. Add butter, milk, and sour cream, and mash until desired consistency (add more milk for a creamier mash). Spoon mashed potatoes onto ground-beef mixture and spread until covered.

Bake for 20 minutes or until tops of potatoes are nicely browned.

22 October 2012

Blogging: A Love-Hate Relationship

Claire, you have this completely annoying habit of obsessing over your blog for a few weeks (even posting multiple times a day sometimes) and then throwing yourself into an I-hate-blogging, blogging-stinks, who-do-I-think-I-am-anyway-Naomi-Davis? mood that lasts until you remember some things.
I'm going to list those things for you now.
You will do well to remember them.

1. You are Claire Ford and no one else. You cook and dress and write with your own unique style. That is all you can ask of yourself. That is all anyone expects of you anyway.

2. Your best ideas come when you forget about following the trends.

3. Your best ideas come when you have an open notebook and an uncapped pen on your person. Record everything you feel the need to record. This is how you sort your thoughts. This is how you clear your mind.

4. True, you prefer handwritten letters to emails and feel much more accomplished after three hours of reading a printed book than after three hours of scrolling through a blog. But you also have to live in the twenty-first century. Embrace the technology. Use it for good.

5. You're going to write anyway. Your mind doesn't survive otherwise. Why not share those writings? get feedback? fuel a conversation?

6. Claire, you have marvelous friends. Reach out to them. You need them and they need you. It's collaboration, remember?

7. Let's face it: You're much better at expressing yourself in writing than in spoken words. Use this blog as a platform to practice sharing yourself with others. Find the interesting things about yourself and write about them. What makes you you? Be interested in yourself and others will be interested in you.
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