Runcation Destination: NYC!

Last weekend my friends I ran the Brooklyn Rock n Roll half marathon.  We could have picked a race closer to home, but we’d heard good things about this one and well, if we’re being perfectly honest, we’re more about the party that happens after than the actual running part of the race, so making a weekend of it was too hard to resist.

Runcations are perfect because you get in a really good workout, you feel really proud of yourself and amazed at what your body can do when you insist on it, and then you go out and indulge for the entire rest of the weekend and not feel bad about it. The afterglow of personal glory lasts for at least 24 hours and you can use your caloric deficit to hit the town running (figuratively speaking, of course, because obviously, you do more than enough running at the race). Plus you can button your skinny jeans! Always a good way to start the night.

Anyway, the Rock n Roll series happens all over the country, and though there were many tempting options we chose Brooklyn because we could drive there and because we all love NYC. Usually, when we go it’s all fun and no run so even though we make a habit of hanging out there whenever we can, this trip was something new for us. I’ll tell you about it in pictures:

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We hit the road at around 1:00 after a frantic morning of trying to fit eight hours of work into four. No time for lunch. Good thing Tina brought the Skinny Pop.
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Oh yes we did, obviously.
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Have you ever tried to drive to the Javits Center at rush hour? Let’s just say it’s not a good idea. Plus there’s nowhere to park. We made it to the expo to pick up our race bibs with like 30 minutes spare. My friends weren’t sweating it, but I was having a heart attack.
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Hudson Yards is pretty amazing. We got to take a nice long look at it as we sat in gridlocked traffic.
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Hi there, New Yorker. Thanks for perfecting the art of the 19-page article.
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We finally made our way to the Upper East Side, where we were staying with a friend (a lovely, tolerant friend who doesn’t mind when you invade her space with way too much shit for 2 days). This restaurant on 2nd Ave is a gold standard if you like German food, but don’t worry we didn’t eat there (brats+running=bad)
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We went to The Penrose instead. They have good beer (carbo loading!!) and we had fun watching the after-work pickup scene in action.
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We had quite an adventure getting to the start from Marisa’s apartment because we had the misfortune of picking the one cab driver in Manhattan who had no idea how to get to Brooklyn. How is that even possible? And why didn’t we just get an Uber?  But, no worries- we made it with plenty of time to take this all-important before pic. Thumbs UP!
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We’re here…now let’s run.
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This is the only picture I took during the race, and I think it was an accident.
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13.1 DONE! Let’s share this moment with everyone on our social media feeds! We usually keep our shirts on for our selfies, but clearly, others have different ideas.
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It was only a Mich Ultra, but it was beautiful.
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We look like badasses don’t we? Also, I’m happy to note that I remembered to put on deodorant.
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We hung out with Tina’s crazy friend who flies all over the country to run Rock n Roll Halfs with 30 other crazy people. They flew to NY Friday night, ran Brooklyn, chugged a few beers and then hopped on a plane bound for Denver where they were going to run another half on Sunday morning. As I said, they are crazy.  I would say “goals” but this actually would never be a goal of mine.
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Though that medal is pretty sweet.
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That’s the Hollis Brown Band behind us. They were really good and they have gigs all over so you don’t actually have to run 13.1 to hear them play.
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After the after party we hobbled out of Prospect Park and headed over to wander (slowly) up and down 5th Ave in Park Slope. We found this place for lunch (Gristmill), which had really great food and the people were so nice. Like really, really nice.
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How can you say no to farm fresh gelato that’s as good as nature?
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Actually, I did say no because what I really wanted was some caffeine. Kos Kaffee had just what I was looking for- excellent coffee and super nice people. Again with the nice people. Is that a thing in Brooklyn?
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I really appreciated the fact that the only pumpkin anything in here was an actual pumpkin. I’m so tired of the pumpkin spice craze.
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After we relaxed for a hot minute back at Marisa’s it was time to hit the town again. Amy went to see a friend and Tina and I drank cocktails at a rooftop bar.
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We take our cocktailing very seriously.
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Next up dinner: Is it sad that we care more about the ambiance than the food? We settled on Zia Maria in Chelsea. It was pretty, and the food was good too- so win, win.
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It’s too bad that we don’t have any fun together…
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After dinner, we decided to go study Millenials in their natural habitat so we went to The Biergarten at the Standard.
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When in Rome…or a Biergarten.  When we first arrived we thought we had the stamina to last all night, but alas, this boot was the end. Come to find out, we’re not as young as we used to be.
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Sunday morning we needed to head out early, but luckily we had enough time for coffee.
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Mellow Yellow Coffee and Vibes– honestly could there be a better place for a rainy Sunday morning hang when you’re sore, a tiny bit hung over and not really ready for your 4 hour drive?
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One thing I LOVE about races is the camaraderie and good spirits you share with fellow runners. We met a lot of really great people and were reminded time and time again over the weekend that there is still so much good in the world. We just need to channel that and work together to preserve and protect it.  Does that mean we need another RnR run? I think, yes! Where will we go next? Well, stay tuned…

 

Everything we need to know, we learned in elementary school.

240_F_126465296_ieANptdMpgI8ozuUVbqAWKkWVQREIF1rMy son is in fourth grade. At his school when one kid does something wrong, it has the power to change policies for every child in that school (or in a particular classroom at least). For example- remember the fidget spinner craze? Well, in the beginning, kids were allowed to bring them to school as long as they didn’t play with them during class. And the kids were all happy, heading off to school with fidget spinners nestled comfortably in their pockets. But then one day one kid just couldn’t help himself and he took his out during math which caused a disruption and ruined the lesson. The teacher got annoyed and guess what? No more fidget spinners for any kids in school at all, even the ones that followed the rules.

The same thing happens in the recess line when one kid breaks the no pushing rule, or on the playground when one kid violates the no tripping policy. It means all kids lose playtime, or all kids have to refrain from playing soccer on the blacktop. It seems unfair, but there is a reason behind it.

Kids know this. They know that the rule is good until someone breaks it and then it has to be re-evaluated. The rules are put in place to protect ALL the kids, and when even one kid threatens the safety of other students or damages the learning environment with his or her actions, then the rules are modified so that they can continue to offer the intended protection.

In Las Vegas on Sunday night 59 people were brutally murdered and more than 500 injured by a 64-year-old rich white American citizen with an arsenal of guns he bought legally. He had the right to own and bear these firearms because that’s the current law.

My question is, if we change the law of the land for a fidget spinner violation, why can’t we consider changing the law of the land when we suffer devastating loss of life like we did in Las Vegas (and Orlando, and Virginia Tech, and Sandy Hook, and all the other in-betweens)? Why, as Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, is now NOT the time to talk about gun control? Why? It seems to me like the perfect time. The LAW as it currently stands is not working.

The Second Amendment was drafted in a long-ago era when society was vastly different than it is today. I understand the importance of and agree with preserving citizens personal rights but I do think it’s time (way past time actually) to layer that with reasonable restrictions designed for modern day society that protect people as a whole. There is no good reason why any civilian citizen needs an automatic weapon or assault rifle. No. Good. Reason.

The best way to stop gun violence in America is to drastically reduce access to guns in the first place. How can you argue with that? Less guns=fewer deaths by guns. It’s a simple equation. Read this article if you need a little convincing of that. And, if you still don’t agree, ask me for more. There are many, many studies that show that stricter gun control translates into significantly fewer homicides, a lower suicide rate, less domestic violence and fewer incidences of violence toward police.

My heart aches for the victims and their families and I’m so sad for all of those who lived through the horror of that night. A night that even though they survived will forever change them (believe me, I know).  And the sickening reality is, this is not going to be the last time it happens.

Next time it might be me, or you, or your neighbor. Your child. What do you have planned this weekend? Something fun? In a public place? Will there be guns?

Think about it. And then, take action. It’s a small step and we have a huge mountain (of NRA money) to climb, but at least it’s a start.  #actionforlasvegas

This. Is. Unacceptable. Period.

170922-hurricane-maria-puerto-rico-sg-1520_0b277c1cfcac0b5764da20dbd9856eaa.nbcnews-ux-2880-1000Ok, Ok. OK. It’s no secret that I am not a fan of that man in the Oval Office who is play-acting at being the leader of the free world. But I have tried- really I have- to find positive things about the current White House situation.  The thing is, there isn’t really anything that makes me feel good about it. And every day it gets worse.

I read Stephen King’s IT in high school. I remember sitting up in bed late at night, wide eyes glued to the page, heart pounding, fingers gripping the edge of the book, teeth gnawing at my bottom lip, night after night as the book got creepier and creepier. I tortured myself by continuing to read because I just couldn’t leave it where it was- I needed to know that there was a resolution, and I was hoping that in the end all the bad would disappear. So, I kept on turning page after terrifying page until one night I couldn’t take it anymore and I threw the book clear across the room, where it banged loudly against the wall that separated me from my sister and landed, pages askew, on the floor where it stayed for days and days and days.

I’m telling you this because the way I am feeling about Donald Trump is pretty similar to how I felt when I was reading IT.  And now, I’m at the point where I throw the book.  But now, it’s even worse, because… because…this. is. not. fiction. Holy shit.

If I write about everything I’ll be here for days, and I have dinner plans tonight, so let’s just recap what happened this week, shall we?

  1. He spent the first part of the week tweeting a lot about the NFL and spent some time trying to convince people to boycott football games. Football games! I wonder what Kim Jong-un did on Monday.
  2. Next up, he tweeted a bunch of disparaging remarks about John McCain for not supporting the Graham Cassidy bill. You know- that health care bill that, in a nutshell, basically would just take money away from states that voted for the Affordable Health Care Act and gives it to ones that didn’t.  The one that would provide $243 billion less Medicaid funding than the current plan. The one that would leave millions of people uninsured. The one that more than 300 health care advocacy groups opposed. Yeah, that one. I wonder if he had time to read it. Cuz, you know. Twitter.
  3. The tax reform idea- OMG. I can’t even… but I will. I guess. He had the audacity to announce that this plan would benefit the middle class, and from which he would not benefit at all. Guess what? The tax “framework” raises rates on the lowest tax bracket (the poorest Americans), lowers rates on the top bracket (the richest Americans), and includes all kinds of giveaways to the rich. The day it was released, Trump said, “I don’t benefit.” except that’s a lie because…the Trumps will personally save a BILLION DOLLARS if this plan is enacted according to the New York Times’ analysis. Yes, you did read that right. A BILLION DOLLARS. 
  4. Puerto Rico. Where to start? There were lots and lots of tweets like this:

 Responders are doing a GREAT job in Puerto Rico. Massive food & water delivered. Docks & electric grid dead. Locals trying…..really hard to help but many have lost their homes. Military is now on site and I will be there Tuesday. Wish press would treat fairly!

AND THEN THIS. THIS IS WHERE I THROW THE BOOK.

This is what he tweeted today, followed by a flurry of tweets about how the press is getting it wrong, Dems are evil and the rescue mission is actually the best rescue mission ever.

  The Mayor of San Juan, who was very complimentary only a few days ago, has now been told by the Democrats that you must be nasty to Trump..Such poor leadership ability by the Mayor of San Juan, and others in Puerto Rico, who are not able to get their workers to help. They….want everything to be done for them when it should be a community effort. 10,000 Federal workers now on Island doing a fantastic job.

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This is the Mayor of San Juan

Um, ok, excuse my language but are you fucking kidding me? Please get off social media, please stop stroking your ego and patting yourself on the back, please stop acting like a disgusting pig and start doing something. Something real. These are HUMAN BEINGS. THEY ARE AMERICAN CITIZENS. THEY ARE HUMAN BEINGS.

I get it. There is big water, ocean water surrounding Puerto Rico, so yeah, it’s a complicated and difficult problem to solve. But, normally when you are President of the United States you face difficult problems head-on. You understand that solving these problems are your responsibility and you own them.

In general, you relish finding solutions to problems because you want to make the world a better place. That’s your goal. Making the world a better place. What was it that John F Kennedy said? Something like…

We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win.

That’s all I have to say right now.  I hope the restaurant we’re going to tonight has really strong drinks. I can’t take the reality of today right now, and I need a break. Tomorrow I’ll pick the book back up and stick with it until the merciful end. But tonight I’m throwing it against the wall.

 

Trippin’ down the PCH during a really crazy week filled with things I want to ignore but can’t…

FullSizeRender (30)Yeah, so we were on vacation last week when the awfulness of Charlottesville unfolded. The fact that it happened is sickening and disheartening, but the worst part is that our “President” couldn’t muster enough dignity or human decency to call it what it was or disavow those who were responsible. Ugh. But as I said, we were on vacation when he was not doing what he should have been doing if he were any kind of real leader or moral upstanding citizen. Sooooo… instead of going on and on about how disgusted I am with his response(s) and the state of the White House in general (except bye-bye and good riddance Bannon, you pillar of racism!!) I am going to show you some really pretty pictures of the really amazing road trip we took while all that was happening.  And yes, I do feel a little guilty for experiencing so much beauty during such a dark time, but I also feel like it was a constant reminder that there IS good in this world; that there are really decent and lovely people out there. Also it was really nice to escape to the Pacific Coast and gaze out over the beautiful ruggedness of the cliffs and be hypnotized by the vast sea and just disconnect from everything for a little while– to recharge and renew my resolve to be better and to do more to help ensure the world is a nicer place for everyone.

We drove from San Francisco to Los Angeles in 7 days- here are the highlights and places I recommend you go to if you ever find yourself driving down the PCH and the 101.

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I haven’t been to Lombard St in 20 years. It’s still as twisty as ever and lots of people were either driving down it or walking up it. We just took pictures of it. I like the view from the top.
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This is where the streets of the world meet the avenues of the mind.
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City Lights has books, but also so much more. You really just have to go to see what I mean.
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Chinatown was cool! We were going to have Dim Sum, but then we ended up finding a good sushi place on the other side of Union Square, so we didn’t really experience it like we should have…but it’s ok because the sushi was really good.
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I went for an early morning run down the Embarcadero.  It was beautiful and I met a lot of homeless people (not really, but I did befriend a cute homeless dog).
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They don’t call it Fog City because it’s sunny…
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One day we rented bikes and rode from the Ferry building all the way down the Embarcadero, past Fishermans Wharf and up through the hilly (!!!) Presidio, then over the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito.  My calves and my buns still hurt from the memory.
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While we were waiting for the bike rental guy to show up we checked out the Ferry Terminal Farmers Market.  It was fabulous- fruits and veg, coffee roasters, baked goods, meats, cheeses, live music and YES!! flowers. Flowers make me happy.  Especially when they come in tin cans.
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This isn’t Muir Woods but it looks like it, right? It’s Andy Goldsworthy’s installation in the Presidio. I thought it was amazing. My kids thought it was just a bunch of tall trees and logs.
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This is in front of Lucasfilms headquarters which is also in the Presidio.  It’s the world’s largest, and also the world’s smallest Yoda fountain.  It might be the world’s only Yoda fountain (but I’m not really sure).
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It was still very foggy which might have been a good thing because riding over the bridge was a little scawwwy.
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There were a ton of people in Sausalito, but we muscled our way through the crowds and rode down the road out of town to check out the houseboats and that was pretty neat.
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Habitat goals. Also #supportthearts
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I could totally live here.
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We took a ferry back from Sausalito because really a one-way bike ride over the bridge is plenty. Plus…that view.
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This was my Rice a Roni moment.
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I left my heart in San Francisco (no I didn’t, but that’s a good caption for this pic, isn’t it?)
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One of my favorite stops was in Pescadero, CA. It is a little tiny town in between here and there and there’s not too much to see but they have this brekkie spot that was pretty awesome.
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Pretty awesome, as I said.
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Actually, there was something to see in Pescadero…this sweet ride in front of this cute coffee shop (which is across the street from the not cute, but awesome breakfast spot).
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We tried to drive all the way down to Pfeiffer Beach but the road was still closed. We did manage to see some beautiful sites in Big Sur anyway.
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Ahhh… so pretty.
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Did I mention how pretty it was?
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Super, duper pretty.
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We like to ride into town with the top down…
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We drove the Pebble Beach 17 Mile Drive but no one was really impressed.  My son pointed out that this cypress is actually not that lonely because there are other trees really close by (cropped out for effect).
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We were lucky enough to be in Carmel for the start of the 2017 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. The streets were filled with millions (billions?) of dollars worth of beautiful cars.  I love the Porche 911 most of all.
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I also have a soft spot for VW’s (especially buses). True story: We had an orange VW bus for a few years when I was a kid and when my parents sold it I cried.  I still miss that car. We drove it up from Georgia to New Hampshire and my sister and I both got food poisoning at South of the Border. Also, we bought fireworks but we couldn’t light them in NH because it was illegal. But my dad might have anyway. Ah, memories…
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Indeed.
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Quick stop in Santa Cruz…
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We saw surfers, sea lions, and even a giant whale.  It was kind of great.
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We all LOVED San Luis Obispo. What a fun, laid-back cool ass town! We stayed here and you should too, if you like hip, loft style apartment living.
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We saw the SMEG and immediately felt right at home, except this one is black and ours is orange, so this one is way cooler.
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Every apartment comes equipped with one of these, and there are stacks of records to choose from.  We took turns playing d.j.
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Here’s my daughter, she liked the free Wifi.
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Feeling good in SLO
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I liked this building. I hope Cody Johnson had fun playing there.
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Also, I liked this coffee shop (Kreuzberg).
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Except I got chai instead of coffee.
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Bubblegum alley is really gross.
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Really gross.
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We went to Pismo Beach and caught some waves. This is me surfing (just kidding).

 

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Santa Barabara’s Funk Zone is an artist enclave/wine tasting mecca/antique pickers dream.
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Here’s where we had our 11:00 am wine tasting and the kids had freshly baked scones. Win, win.
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Another winery. Very tropical, no?
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Obviously.
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This place made me wish we’d rented a U-Haul instead of a convertible.
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This store had only been open for two days when we visited.  I like that bag, and also everything else.
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Wine, yes wine everywhere in the Funk Zone. Yay for wine.
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And pizza.
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Onward to LA! We had a pretty sweet spot to relax and chill out at for a bit. And connect to Wifi, of course.
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Our pool didn’t have any chlorine- just natural stuff like copper and other minerals, so swimming in it felt really good, and also doubled as a bath. Time-saver!
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I took a lot of palm tree pictures. I don’t really know why except that this view seems very LA.
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Santa Monica Pier is prettier from afar, but it was fun to be up close too. This is the view from Muscle Beach where none of us did any pull-ups or anything. We just watched other people working out and then went and ate tacos.
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Here’s where we ate the tacos- Blue Plate. If you’re in Santa Monica, you should go here for tacos.
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And go at sunset- the view is insane.
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We spent our last night in Japantown. It was very sweet.
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And, we ate French ice cream in Japantown. I don’t know why except that it was there so we did.

Thinking of you Charlottesville and Barcelona!! #thereisonlyoneside #lovewins

School’s Out for Summah!!

FullSizeRender (17)In just a few short days my kids are going to be done with 7th and 3rd grades, and all I can think is- holy shit, where did the year go? Holy shit- where did the last 13 years go? And also, what the hell are they going to do all summer?  And, also, I’m really, really jealous of them. And, also, I haven’t even bought this year’s supply of sunscreen OR bug spray. And the bugs are supposed to be very, very, very bad this year. And also, I don’t think I have a bathing suit that isn’t stretched and faded to the point of being embarrassing.  And also, I haven’t even cleaned out our beach bag from last summer yet.  I shudder to think what I’ll find. A pound of sand? A half-eaten candy bar? A single water shoe? Some crab carcasses? Waterlogged magazines and books? Yes, probably all of that. And also, seriously, what are they going to do all summer? I mean, they are both signed up for sailing and camps here and there, but the days are long, and the potential for shenanigans is high, at least with my daughter.  My son, I’m not so worried about- I can picture what he’ll be doing in his free time:  read, lego, repeat.  But my daughter… well, I’m sitting here letting my imagination run rampant.

The summer I was 13 my parents sent me to Mexico City to visit my friend, Erin.  Erin was my next door neighbor when we lived in Panama.  We were inseparable in 5th and 6th grade. But, she moved right before 7th grade; her lovely family replaced with one with two bratty kids that weren’t nearly as fun. I made some hard-earned babysitting money off of them but that’s all they were good for. They told me I smelled and that I needed to shave my legs (which was probably 100% accurate but made me hate them all the more).  It was a long year without her. Also, I wasn’t too thrilled about moving to Alabama (after living in paradise for three years it seemed like a crappy hand to be dealt) so the Mexico trip was presented as a way to soften the blow.

I was only there a few weeks, but we did a lot.  The things I remember most are: stealing her parent’s car and joy-riding around the city; meeting up with her older brother’s friends to drink “cokes” that made me feel giddy and nauseous; making homemade aloe face masks that left us rashy; visiting like 200 museums with mummies and pyramid replicas; spending a dusty, hot day at some Aztek ruin that I didn’t appreciate at all; staying up til all hours of the night watching highly inappropriate movies; throwing up in her dad’s car on a windy mountain road heading to Ixtapa; eating tortillas hot out of the oven from roadside shacks; sneaking out and smoking cigarettes on the beach when her dad went to bed; throwing up in her dad’s car on a windy mountain road on the way back from Ixtapa; and wishing her cute older brother would get back from wherever he was already (I had a mad crush and he was the first and only boy I’d ever kissed). He never showed, but that was still the best vacation I’d had in my young life.

So this is why my mind is going to all places crazy right now. I do not want to imagine my daughter driving, drinking, smoking or kissing this summer. Eh gahhh!  But left to her own devices anything could happen, right?  She is the same age I was that year and look how I spent my time! It was probably a good thing that I moved to Alabama after that and spent a miserable year friendless and mopey, listening to Elton John sing Sad Songs Say So Much and pining for my old life.  It definitely tamed the wild side that Erin introduced me to.  But what’s going to tame my girl’s wild side? Wait, does she have a wild side??!! Ugh… I don’t want her to find out. Not yet.

FullSizeRender (16)Our town isn’t nearly as exotic as Mexico, but there are similarities- there’s a beach for example, and boys, and cars.  We even have a museum of sorts. And we do kinda buy into that free-range-kid philosophy to a degree.  I like that both my kids have their independence and that they can take off on their bikes to meet friends at the general store, the beach, the playground, or any of the other local hangouts around town.  I do trust that my daughter will make good choices.  But we’re getting to the point where those good choices are going to be harder and harder to make. How much freedom do we give her? Enough to feel independent, but not enough to get into trouble? But what does that even mean? Here we are, entering into another phase of parenting and I am completely unprepared.  I don’t even have bug spray. And the bugs are supposed to be very, very, very bad this year…

 

Mom, then and now (and all of it beautiful)

FullSizeRender (6).jpg This is my mom (on the right) and her friend Barbara, back in -oh I don’t know- maybe the early 80s or late 70s. Back when to me, Mom was just MOM. She was just the woman who took care of me and my sister, the woman who made dinner, the one who cleaned the house, the one who left behind a cloud of White Shoulders perfume and a smudge of lipstick on my cheek when she and my dad went out on weekend nights. She drove me to the emergency room when I sliced my leg wide open on the neighbors swing set and was the one who helped dry out my favorite stuffed animal after I left it out in the rain one day.  She braided my hair for school and made me drink my milk at dinner. She was the one who let us get a cat, and then took care of it when we didn’t. She was Santa Clause, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy.

I knew she liked to drink Tab and smoke Kents, and that she stockpiled crime and mystery paperbacks. I knew that she missed her mom and that she loved to travel. She sang loudly and off-key in the car to music my sister and I hated, and she liked to make small talk with the checkout lady at the grocery store. She had a short temper but a great laugh that came from deep inside when she thought something was really funny. She hated her teeth and never smiled for pictures. She had an amazing sense of style and for a while she made most of her own clothes. She hated to exercise but once she took disco lessons and she had one signature move that she used over and over. When she went in the pool or ocean she never got her hair wet. She was a master at floating with a cocktail in her hand. She liked parties but hated that my dad always had to be the last to leave. She was the family Jeopardy champion because she was sharp and smart as a whip. She made tuna casserole for dinner way too often. She had a seemingly endless repertoire of idioms that she could wield on a dime as unsolicited advice or a spot-on reprimand. She liked daffodils because they were yellow and she seemed to know the name of every plant she came across. Her boarding school days didn’t do anything to dim her spit or fire but did instill in her a deep appreciation for and insistence on proper etiquette. I knew all of this, I saw all of this, but I didn’t see HER. All of these things were just things about my MOM that I knew.

I think sometime in my early 20s I started to think of my parents as people and I started to realize that I could have a relationship with them that went beyond the daughter- parent one. There were a few really good years there when my mom and I could have nice conversations over a glass of wine and really connect. I think if we had been contemporaries we would have been great friends as kids, teens, young adults. I think if she hadn’t gotten sick we would have been great friends as grown-ups. But she did get sick, and that’s where the trajectory of the story changes.

You see now, these days, Ceci struggles with the ravages of Parkinsons Disease.  And it’s a bitch.

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Over the 15 years that my mom has had this devastating disease it has slowly robbed her of many of the motor and cognitive skills that have always defined her.  She can no longer boogie down and sing at the top of her lungs while driving down the street. She can no longer tell you the name of every President and Vice President (and who ran against them) in the order they were elected. She can’t paint her toenails fire engine red and some days she can’t put her lipstick on straight. Cooking is a chore because getting dishes out of the oven is complicated. She can’t sew because her fingers don’t work that way anymore and sometimes she needs help putting on her shoes. She can’t string beads to make necklaces and she can’t refinish a piece of furniture when she gets bored of its current state.  It’s hard for her to turn the pages of a book. And there are days she can’t get out of bed. She asks the same questions over and over again, and she forgets things we already talked about. We don’t have conversations about complicated things. I can’t ask her advice when my own daughter has me at my wit’s end or when I feel overwhelmed with the everyday chaos of my life.

I feel like she’s lost so much of herself and so, subsequently, we’ve lost so much of her and sometimes that leaves me breathless. But then I think of who she’s shown herself to be, and with that, what we have been given– and that too stops me short. Because despite all of the challenges she’s faced with this disease, despite all of the limitations she now has, she doesn’t complain, she doesn’t give up and she doesn’t give in. I know she has bad days, and I know she gets frustrated and depressed. But she almost always puts on a brave face. She never says no, and she never says “I can’t do this”. She still travels, she still has dinner parties, she still goes out with her girlfriends for lunch or to the movies. She still tries. Every. Single. Day.

She is the epitome of grace in the face of adversity. She is resilient and brave and determined. She is a reminder that life doesn’t always turn out the way you expect it, but if you try, if you really try, you can make it work for you. Sometimes really shitty things happen that you can’t control, but if you have the right attitude and enough determination those things won’t destroy you. They won’t define you and they won’t destroy you.

Mom, I knew you back then, but I didn’t KNOW you. Now I know YOU. Getting to here from there didn’t happen the way any of us wanted, and I’d still change it for you if I could. But, it’s your life, it’s my life, and all of it’s beautiful even when it’s scarred and imperfect. Thank you for teaching me that.

48 (or so) hours on Long Island

IMG_8984Last weekend some friends and I headed down to Long Island wine country for a little mini-break. None of us had ever been there, but we’d heard good things. And even though we normally plan a bit better, this is such a busy time for all of us that we didn’t put too much thought into the trip. We booked a house but pretty much left the rest of the weekend open to hap and circumstance. I don’t know if it was because of or despite that, but we had an amazing weekend. It is an absolutely beautiful spot to spend time in, and the quality of the wine is very, very good.  And, if you’re not that into wine (um, what??) there are other things to do too–eating, shopping, antiquing, boating, swimming, bike riding, or just lounging– you name it, you can do it on the north fork of Long Island!

I’m going to tell you our story through pictures because I have like 400 of them on my phone.  I may have been a bit snap-happy. But really, you’ll see why now:

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It’s a quick ferry ride from New London and if you go in April you won’t have touble finding a seat.
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Kontokosta Winery was on the way from the ferry to our rental so we didn’t see any reason not to stop.
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I love a beautiful barn, and if there’s wine to drink inside- well then, all the better!
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Girls are headed in…
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After you!
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The tasting room had us like…
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Time to shop!
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We met a friend who insisted we pose like this.  It works.
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Cabernet Franc is a good way to start off a wine tour- and this one was fantastic. Nice view too…
Fog rolling off the water gave us this view of the barn. Didn’t want to leave, but:
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Next stop: our rental. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this cottage.
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This place had everything we needed and more- plus was kinda like stepping into a West Elm catalog.
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Entry- kick those shoes off and stay awhile!
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I like it when there’s a nice bathroom. Bathrooms are important.
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My bedroom.
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Waking up here was a pleasure (well except for the massive hangover).
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First order of business, relaxing on the patio!
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Friday night we hit the town in our blazers. Didn’t mean to dress alike, but it is what it is: blazer brigade
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Cocktails at American Beech.  We felt like we were in Miami and Tina got attacked by a big palm frond.
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Might have overdone in Friday night, but couldn’t miss a beat. First stop Saturday was Croteaux, the rosé winery.  This place was seriously a little slice of heaven.
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The wine here was as lovely to drink as it was to look at.
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All day.
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Cheers to sunny days and the best of friends.
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So good. I love rosé when the sun is shining and there’s a Citroen Hvan in the background.
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We wanted to sit here but the stools were too tall.
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More ambiance at Croteaux. Would have been nice to stay all day BUT…
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More wine to try! This is Lenz.
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The tasting barn at Lenz.
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Lenz has a great old vine 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon. Really tasty! Also, their merlot is very good. I don’t usually drink merlot, but this one was pretty inspired.
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Lenz vineyard
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Lieb was next. I loved this place. It had a great low-key vibe: great staff, live music and more really good wine. Merlot again. Maybe I am a merlot drinker after all.
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Listening and tasting at Lieb
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It was too nice a day to stay inside so moved to the patio to soak up the sun and enjoy the view. Nice way to wind down the tour.
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This is Chris, our driver from North Fork Designated Driver. Best decision we made. He was super nice and we didn’t have to worry about being safe on the roads.
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We were probably really annoying.
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Saturday night we had dinner at American Beech (which was top notch) and checked out the local bar scene at Brix&Rye and Lucharitos. No pics of that (probably a good thing).  Happy to report we didn’t spend any time inside here.
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This is American Beech in the daylight. Great spot!
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I loved how the town was cute, with lots to do but not overdone or pretentious.
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Thanks for the memories Greenport! We’ll be back for sure.

Goals

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My house is a work in progress. When we bought it back in July of 2014 it was in a sad state.  It was built by a stone mason in 1957 and had some interesting features that we liked for their uniqueness and, as they say, the bones were good- so we made it ours, even though there were layers of grime, miles of wood paneling, scratched and worn floors, weird tile, funky windows, an overwhelming odor of stale oldness and a few stray cats living on the porch (and leaving interesting piles of you don’t want to know what on the floor).  The kids saw a house of horrors, my husband and I saw potential. This was nothing new; it’s our fourth fixer upper. I’d like to say it’s our last, but I have a penchant for rescuing sad, ugly houses and there are a few around here that I’d love to get my hands on, but that’s a different story for a different day.

Anyway, so we’ve done a lot to the house. We took down walls, we reconfigured the living space, added a new kitchen and a second bath, converted a porch to a family room, built a big deck (outside living space is mandatory in a beach town!) and invested in millions of gallons of white paint. We’ve put a ton of time and energy into making this house a home. And it is great, it does feel like home. I love everything we’ve been able to do with it. But there was one little thing that we just never really got around to and it was driving me bananas.

When we bought the house we knew that renovating the weird and creepy basement would be a project for the future (possibly the far out future given everything else we needed to do). But, as I was looking for the different elements that would turn this fixer into our home, I found the PERFECT light for the stairwell going down to the basement. Everything about it was exactly what I wanted- the size, the style, the material, just everything. I did not know it was possible to care so dang much about a light. But, well, let’s just say it was love. True love!! So, I bought it.

And, it’s been sitting in our garage, still in it’s original box, for 2 1/2 years.  My husband started using it to store his car gear on, like a work table. No, no, no, no.

It does not feel good to leave something hanging for that long (ha- no pun intended). It was a project that I wanted to finish, but just never did. It’s like that one thing on your to-do list that you keep writing down week after week because it somehow just never gets done. The one you never cross off for whatever reason. I hate that.

If you leave something for too long, the desire fades and you end up settling for the way things are, not the way you want things to be. And, I think that’s a shame. I am at a point in my life where I don’t want to leave things as they are if I’m not satisfied with them. I want to be motivated to make positive changes. I do not want to avoid doing something because it’s hard. I no longer care about low hanging fruit. I want to climb the tree and go for the best that you find at the top. And, I guess maybe finally getting this light hung represented a little bit of that for me. A small catalyst.

So!!! We hung the light! It was a feat of balance, acrobatics and upper body strength- I didn’t think about the logistics of hanging a 20 lb light from a 15 ft ceiling over a steep, unforgiving brick stairwell, and you probably never have either. Yeah, it was not easy. But we did it, and we did it without killing each other (figuratively or literally).

It feels so good to cross that off the list. Every time I open the door to the basement I get a little happy flutter in my heart. Why? It does look damn good, especially with all that beautiful white paint (I do love white paint!) and maybe that’s part of it. But also maybe because for me it represents something more. It’s goals.

Citizen Girl

map2Today I spent the day at Our Sisters School in New Bedford. I’ve been volunteering there as a grant writer and researcher for several months now, but rarely have the opportunity to spend an extended amount of time there during the school day. But today I made time. I knew it was special, but I didn’t realize how truly wonderful it was  or how good I would feel about being a part of it until today.

OSS is a tuition free, non secular, independent school whose mission is to educate and inspire economically challenged middle school girls from the Greater New Bedford area. The goal is to help them reach their full potential in a safe, supportive and academically rigorous environment. If left to navigate through the New Bedford public school system, many of the girls might fall victim to the current statistics- New Bedford has a dismal 60% graduation rate and 17% college matriculation rate, while OSS boasts a 100% graduation rate and 99% of their graduates are accepted at a higher education institution. Not only that, but without OSS the girls would probably not have tools and resources needed to help them manage tough living environments and compromising social situations.

What impressed me most was not that the girls LOVE their 11 hour school day, that the quality of the education they’re receiving is on par with the best our state has to offer, that the curriculum is innovative and challenging, that there is a focus on enrichment or that this small school has managed to acquire resources and support a talented staff completely via community and foundation support- though all of those in themselves are impressive and important.  No, what really left an impression on me was the sense of self the students have, the leadership qualities they emulate and the total and complete commitment to being an inclusive community that they all share. Not to mention the fact that all of the students embrace the idea of giving back- they are required to complete 10-15 hours of community service each year, depending on how old they are, but one student explained to me that most of the girls far exceed the required hours simply because they love volunteering in their community and they don’t see it as a chore.

At the end of the day I sat in on their community meeting. It was an interactive, lively hour with both students and faculty contributing stories and sharing ideas. It wrapped up with a shout out session where students were encouraged to give kudos to another student or teacher who had done something exceptional. Student after student stood to give props to someone else- mainly for things a lot of people either take for granted or don’t focus on. Simple things like being easy to work with, keeping cool in a tough situation, being brave enough to share a unique idea or making someone smile when they needed it most. The confidence that peer accolades help instill in an adolescent girl is immeasurable and you can tell that these girls benefit immensely from the positive reinforcement they get from their peers. These girls are building each other up, not tearing each other down. And all of them are completely invested in the core values of the school: Community, Citizenship, Leadership, and Excellence.

I love that the school is based on these values, because they are the essence of sustainability- the foundation we need to build and maintain successful local and global communities.

This school year OSS is providing an opportunity for 68 impoverished girls to empower themselves to become leaders in their school and their community and is giving them tools and experiences that will shape their future and the future of their families and our world. It’s giving them a chance to succeed. It is giving back to our community girls who can rule the world with knowledge, confidence, kindness and compassion.

This post is not an advertisement or request for support. And by no means do I think that OSS is the only school that emulates these values or graduates productive citizens- I know that so many schools now strive to educate the whole student and support their academic and social growth, just as they do at OSS. I see it in the schools my own kids attend. I just came away from my day with such a positive, hopeful, happy feeling that I felt I needed to share the good things that were happening there. And I know that these days lots of us need to feel hopeful for tomorrow. So, if you want to know more about this special little school and the important work happening there, click here: http://www.oursistersschool.org. Or if you want to share a story about a school you know, I’d love to hear it!

Being 13 in 2017

img_7002As a parent of a newly minted teenager I feel as though I’m constantly navigating land mines and making compromises that keep the beast at bay while simultaneously trying to encourage and nurture her to be the best and happiest person she can be. It’s not easy and a lot of the time I feel like I don’t know what the hell I’m doing. And, most of the time I’m worried that means that I’m doing her irreparable harm- that somehow my lack of expertise in this parenting arena is going to mean she’s never going to live up to her full potential. But tonight something amazing happened. Tonight I saw a rare glimpse of the complete and whole person my daughter is going to be.  And it was beautiful.

My daughter has a friend sleeping over tonight and they came home from school and proceeded to spend the rest of the day behind a closed door in her bedroom. This irked me to no end, but I thought I’d leave it be, mainly because I wasn’t in the mood to deal with the eye rolling and huffing that I knew would ensue if I suggested they do something a little less lethargic. Dinner time came and I asked them to come out and eat with us, fully expecting that it would be a rushed affair that they tolerated in order to get on with their night. But it didn’t play out like that.

Both girls started an animated recount of a few different things that had happened at school that morphed into a larger discussion about the current state of our world, how it’s talked about at school and what it means to them. I was so impressed with their impassioned opinions and that they had all sorts of facts and research to back them. I loved that our discussion included deciphering fake news from real, tolerating other people’s points of view, and ideas about how to combat injustice. And I really loved that they know how to use Snopes and that they read Politico! But most of all I loved that both girls were making some serious eye contact and were completely engaged in our conversation.

We generally have good family conversations, and with this current political landscape I’ve seen that my daughter can be passionate about critical causes and issues but it’s rare to have the type of discussion we had when she has friends around. I know that they are all deeply interested in what’s going on, but I don’t often hear them discussing it with each other. For me, that was the best part of the night. Knowing that their private teenage world has expanded beyond following social media stars, debating about what color Converse to get, and making musically videos shows me that there is a silver lining in everything. We might be in really tough times now, but these tough times are turning our teens into informed, motivated leaders of tomorrow.

I look at my daughter and I see the future. I want her to be 13 and not have to worry about what’s going on in the world too much, but at the same time I want her to know how important it is to be a responsible citizen and care about the world around her. Sometimes I’m not sure that message is getting across. But tonight, tonight was sheer validation that it most definitely is. Tonight I was reminded that she is a 13 year old girl, with all the frivolity and self absorption that comes with that, but she’s also a 13 year old girl with strong convictions, a big heart and a desire to do what’s right. And tonight I am breathing a tiny little sigh of relief.