Sunday, August 23, 2015

Weekend Favorites: August 23

So this is it: the last day of summer. It has been a summer of family, swimming, bravery, and not taking for granted this time that I get to spend with my son while he is still small. He starts kindergarten in the morning, and I'm thrilled that he has a sweet, loving teacher who will watch over him. If all teachers could be like the author of this post, we would all be better off.

Also, Diane Davis Lang wrote a post that brings up an excellent opportunity to talk to your kids about how to treat others at school - and everywhere, in fact.

Here we go, 2015.

* * *  
Let's start with this funny from before we dive into deeper waters:

I know you don't want to hear "cherish every moment", but these posts will help you remember to stop and pay attention for a few minutes.

Mermaid Hair and Being a Grown-Up by Kim Bongiorno

Growing Pains by Allison Slater Tate  

I'm Afraid I Wished it All Away at Mom Babble by Kelly Suellentrop

Discovering Gratitude by Amanda Magee. Follow her on Instagram for a daily dose of beautiful images and words together.

I love the foresight of this beautiful 18-year-old young woman in this post to her future daughter

Brene Brown is a wonderful sorceress of emotions, and how to recognize and harness them. This post is so thought-provoking.

I could not live without my friends. This essay at Scary Mommy by Victoria Fedden sums up the beauty of friendships perfectly.

If you're looking for a fun way to get your kids to help out around the house, this is brilliant.

And one more funny illustration from Nicole Leigh Shaw at NickMom.

* * *
If you know me, you know I love cars. Be on the lookout for my debut post at She Buys Cars with my review of the Tesla P85 very soon!

When I was getting ready to attend the Voice of the Year event at BlogHer this July, I went out to find a new dress. After visiting a few of my usual favorites (LOFT, Ann Taylor, White House Black Market) I wandered into Chico's, which was relatively unfamiliar to me. I had twenty minutes to pick out a few dresses, try them on, and go get my son from summer camp. The saleswoman was kind and helpful, and handed me a few dresses to try as I was wriggling into the ones I had picked out, and when I tried the long white dress she had chosen, it felt perfect.

On the awards night in New York City, I walked onto the stage with confidence, feeling great about my choice. My friends took a few photos of me with the placard listing my award-winning essay, and I shared them via Twitter and Instagram. A couple of weeks later, the director of PR for Chico's contacted me, and send me a lovely gift for wearing and publicizing their clothing at this event. I'm happy and thrilled to be an ambassador for good service and great clothing from Chico's!

A huge thank you to Heidi Gollub of the local site Free Fun in Austin, who partnered with Radisson Austin to secure a fabulous room for a girls' staycation weekend along with Nicole of LiveMom and my Listen To Your Mother co-producer Leigh Ann Torres. If you're thinking about visiting Austin, this is the perfect location to catch the trail, the sunset, the bats, and within walking distance of several different areas to hang out and eat (and by the way, the hotel's peach crumble pie is delicious). Our favorite was Frank, a hot dog and sausage place that had surprisingly fantastic salads and a giant pretzel that is bigger than your head.

Happy Sunday!


Friday, August 14, 2015

Friday favorites: August 14, 2015

We have one week left of summer 2015. One week. I am holding on with both hands, my arms wrapped around the last bit of summer as though I could keep it here by sheer will and love alone.

But I cannot.

My son will step into his kindergarten class and meet his teacher for the first time a week from today. I think he's ready. I'm not sure I am, but I am pretending well. I'm lining up my other first-time-kindergarten friends so we can cry on each others' shoulders that morning.

We have talked quite a lot about kindergarten in our house, and I have found that what is he is holding close to him is the job I gave him.

"You are going to be one of the oldest kids in the class, and sometimes bigger, too," I told him. His 6th birthday is just a couple of weeks after school starts. "It's your job to help the younger kids and make them feel welcome. You are older, so it's up to you be a leader."

He is taking his job very seriously. I can see the light in his eyes and he puffs up his chest just a little.

You are already leader, sweetheart. Be a good one.  And most importantly, a kind one.

* * *
In case you missed it, I was featured at a few sites:

On the Today Show parenting team site, my revised letter to my son's lovey (originally written before he started preschool two years ago) had a sweet second wind. Tissues may be required.

In New York, I had the fantastic opportunity to attend the premiere of the Marvel movie Ant-Man, hosted by the star, Paul Rudd. I reviewed the movie (spoiler: I loved it!) at BonBon Break.

Here in Austin, LiveMom asked me to try Painting with a Twist, and I discovered that it's a perfect place for a relaxing girls' night out.

I'm proud to be a member of the Texas Conference for Woman Street Team, and I was quoted in this article about what I think the US Women's Soccer Team's win will mean to women's sports.

* * *
I am drawn to heavy, deep writing that elicits tears or butterflies, and I have plenty of those to share with you. But first, a funny post including summer-related haiku poems from Vikki Reich, one of my favorite people and fellow Listen To Your Mother producer.

I had heard of the amazing Luvvie and finally had the chance to meet her in NYC at BlogHer. She is a force of nature - wonderfully smart and poised and making a difference in the world. Check her out.

If you are learning, like me, about cultural differences and why the #blacklivesmatter hashtag is important, read this. It's a beautiful explanation from the owner of a bookstore who has an open heart.

This post at the Washington Post's On Parenting blog spoke to me: letting our kids take risks keeps them out of trouble later, the author says.

I had no idea that Denis Leary was married to a woman with such writing talent. Her description of their marriage and keeping love alive is worth reading every word.

Sarah Honey is one of the sweetest women on the internet, no joke. This post is vintage Sarah, and it's so true. "10 Ways to Show Love to Our Children"

Don't miss this story from Texas Monthly about a teenage boy, an accident, and his mother's deep love for him. 

My friend Katrina's hands shook when she clicked "publish" on this story. It's raw, heartbreaking, and powerful. I want to bear witness and share with you the beautiful and wrenching words she is sharing.

Have you ever needed a friend so badly, and one in particular emerged when you bared your soul? This is a great example. Share your hurts and let someone help.

I love Brenna's words about discipline and kids and where she draws the line.

One of my professional mentors in the aviation world is new to blogging, and his cerebral writing sticks with me. This one makes me want to stop and be quiet and think.

Lastly, I received in the mail Rachel Macy Stafford's new book, Hands Free Life. I am diving in, savoring every chapter; it will be available next month. In the meantime, I'm going to create two jars based on Rachel's description for two very special men in my life: my husband and son. 

* * *

Love, Kristin

Monday, August 10, 2015

Parenting Battles Not Worth Fighting

Some weeks ago, my friend Melissa Sher asked me for a few quotes on parenting, specifically about the battles I choose not to fight, and here's what I had to say about feelings:
"When you ask parents what they -- ultimately -- want for their children, many will say that they just want their kids to be happy. But, the truth is, how our children feel is not something we can (or should) control, according to the bloggers we asked:

Kristin, who writes about family and relationships at her blog Two Cannoli, said her son has been reserved and cautious in new situations since he was a baby. 'I realized that he adapted well when he had the chance to assess the situation without being pushed,' Kristin said. 'Now that he is almost 6, I allow him time to get used to a new situation and try to prepare him as much as possible, and I let him be scared when he is scared; I tell him I am often scared too, and that seems to comfort him and give him the confidence to branch out,' she added."
Read more from other writers in the article here.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

#BlogHer15 - the journey home

In May of 2013, my son was nearly four, and I told my story of how difficult it had been for me to go back to work when he was born as a member of the Listen To Your Mother cast. I had wanted to quit my job since he was born, but it wasn't time yet - we needed my income still, and I had just begun building my blog presence to feed my creative side in my free time.

In August of that year, I resigned. My husband had been working hard for a few years to build his company, and it was time for a change. Standing on the edge between relative safety and nothingness, I jumped from the cliff, not knowing what was ahead. After more than two decades on a professional career path, I was stepping off the track, and I wasn't exactly sure who I was going to be.

One thing I knew, courtesy of the BlogHer conference I attended that July, was that a spark of possibility was waiting to come to light.

Making the most of my time in Chicago, I arrived early and packed in as much of the experience as I could. Lizz Porter, whom I had never met but knew through online interactions, was in the lobby when I walked into the hotel, and her bear hug said "welcome" in the best way possible. The sessions were interesting, the people fascinating, and the networking opportunities as wide and as far as the eye could see.

The real magic, for me, occurred during the Voice of the Year presentation. I knew of Ann Imig through my Listen To Your Mother experience, and she seemed larger than life up on stage. Casey Carey-Brown's essay about her experiences as a gay woman astonished me with its honesty. Tears rolled down my face as I listened to Adrienne Jones. And Kelly Wickham blew me away with her emotional and vivid story.

I want to be one of them, I thought to myself. I want to be up there on that stage.

That January, I set my goals for the year, and it seemed a major stretch goal to be a Voice of the Year myself. When I got the news in March that I had been chosen to read my piece "More Than Words" in front of the BlogHer crowd, I picked my son up and swung him around with a smile that split my face in half.

There are people who look at me now and say, "I want to be like her." Opportunities opened up. My career started to soar. And stepping into that abyss felt like stepping right over a rain puddle instead.

The annual BlogHer conference is the experiential learning in workshops like Rita Arens' "Build a Better Headline" session and the HerStories team's session on personal essay writing. It's seeing someone you recognize from her picture and saying, "Hey! It's you!" and sharing the excitement of an in-person meeting. It's having pizza at midnight with some of your closest friends, the ones you met online and cemented your love for each other with a real hug. It's Elisa and Jory - two of the founders of BlogHer recognizing you and saying, "Welcome back!" It's the emphasis on #blacklivesmatter and amplifying black voices and listening and learning.

The friendships are the key - forging these relationships one at a time builds a network so tight and so sturdy that you could fall down and be lifted right back up. This net gives you the chance to try new things and speak up on topics you never dreamed you would speak about in public in any forum. This circle of friends give you the strength to help others through your words.

BlogHer brought me this: my net, my circle, my home.

Highlights of the conference:

  • The Listen To Your Mother Open Mic night
  • Seeing the Marvel Ant-Man movie premiere, hosted by Paul Rudd
  • Boys II Men live at Pier 84
  • These women, and so many more: my net. 
Me, Arnebya, and Angela
With Ellen McGirt - she inspires me always

Angela, Me, Devon, and Jamie

In Times Square with Kir, Angela, Angela, and Leigh Ann

Love, Kristin

Monday, July 13, 2015

The mythical ideal family

My son is looking at the pictures of a book about superheroes in the back seat, and I am driving the long stretch of highway 12 across the southwest edge of Michigan. The road feels as automatic as a well-trod path through the woods, as I have been driving it since I was 16; my teenage summers were spent on the beaches of Lake Michigan, about an hour from my hometown.

I press seek on the radio station, and hear a Sunday morning talk show with two men talking about family. It is clear, very quickly, that they are talking about marriage equality.

We need to make the family unit more attractive, one says. We need families in order to procreate. It’s in the interest of the survival of our species.

That’s right, says the other. It’s important that we continue to show the country what the ideal family looks like. A traditional marriage. 

And, the first one continues. Siblings. My siblings shaped my life, and a child needs siblings. 

I change the station, but their words stick with me.

What is an ideal family? I wonder.  These talk show hosts presented the ideal family as one with a mother and a father and a sibling. Looking back at my son, I am glad he hasn’t heard this snippet of conversation. I wonder if he has learned the word ideal yet.

I think about the friend I am going to meet at the beach, with her husband and eight children. Mother, father, siblings – check. And yet, some might say that she has too many children. Some have questioned her decision to homeschool her children. Some have told her that she should stop having children. These children of hers are some of the most loving, helpful, intelligent children I know.  But for many, her family is not the ideal – they might think hers is too large, too homeschooled, too Catholic.

Then I think of another friend who has been engaged but never married, but she wanted with all of her heart to be a mother. So she adopted a baby girl. I have never seen her face light up with such happiness as it does with her little girl. She is radiating joy. My friend is white, and her baby is black. She, perhaps, would not be considered the ideal family either – a single mother raising a child in an interracial family.

Another friend is gay. She and her partner of many, many years are raising twins in a loving, comfortable, educated household with two mothers. Mothers – check. Siblings – check. Too many people want to tell them that they are not the ideal family because they are not straight. These kind, loving, and generous women are told that they are offensive, disgusting, even disgraceful.

One of my best friends from college is married without children. She and her spouse decided to adopt two dogs they love with all of their hearts, and they are happy, fulfilled, and enjoying their life to the fullest. According to some, they shouldn’t have bothered getting married, because they’re not procreating.

And there is also me. I went through a divorce after years in an unhealthy relationship. Remarrying at 34, my second husband and I had the child we always wanted when I was 38, and then decided that one pregnancy was enough for me after complications both during pregnancy and after his birth.  Mother, father – check. Siblings – none. Divorce – black mark. I guess we’re not the ideal family, either.

It is talk-show hosts like the two men I heard who are also spreading a message that anything different than what they consider ideal is not good enough. It is subtly insidious; too many people listen and think, maybe they’re right. Then they start to think: maybe I should also work toward the invalidation of families that are not “traditional”.

Even the definition of the traditional family is outdated: in the 50s, the men worked, the women stayed home, and TV shows portrayed families as a homogeneous version of “Leave it to Beaver”. Today, some men stay home with the kids, some women work, and some families are blended in various ways. I feel certain that no blueprint exists for an ideal person or of an ideal family. There is no “ideal family.”

Family can be inherited or chosen. Family means fellowship. A group of people with common ideas. Friendship. Family does not have just one definition.

Merriam-Webster says the definition of ideal is “exactly right for a particular purpose, situation, or person.” With that in mind, ideal can mean many things. For me, ideal is my little family of three.  But most of all, ideal is fluid. Ideal is in the moment. Ideal is what you make it.

Ideally, a family has love.

Ideally, a family has respect.

Ideally, a family has happiness. 

A family is not about the way it looks or a specific A-B-C formula. There is not only one religion in our country. There is not only one color. And there is not only one kind of family.

Monday, June 1, 2015

The Songs That Made Me

In May, Rolling Stone featured a cover story called “The Songs That Made Me”, in which artists shared six to eight songs that influenced their lives. I have always been a huge music fan, and I love teaching my son about some of the music of my youth, and exposing him to new music so we can both keep up. Music, for me, is more evocative than smell; it is my 6th sense.

Thank you, Nancy Kho of Midlife Mixtape for inviting me to weigh in with my choices too.

These are the Songs That Made ME.

1)  Heart of Glass by Blondie

My friend Michelle and I used to put this 45 on her record player and dance around her frilly room with the door closed - it's one of the earliest memories I have of playdates with my friends independent of my parents. To this day, Michelle and I are still friends, but we don’t dance when we get together anymore. We may have to change that.

2)  Paradise by the Dashboard Light by Meat Loaf

The house that built me (nod to Miranda Lambert) is in northern Indiana, in a mid-size house in a mid-size town. There is a screened-in porch in that house, still, and every summer, I go back for a visit. It as if nothing has changed except for the furniture and the updated turf carpeting. However, one major change has been made: there is no longer an 8-track player emitting the sounds of Michael Lee Aday (better known as Meat Loaf) singing about getting hot and heavy in his car. As a kid, I had no idea what I was singing about, but I knew every word of it.

3)  Take it Easy by The Eagles

I remember when my dad brought home a big blue panel van and converted it, with shag carpet and a bench seat in the back that converted to a flat bed; my sister and I had many road trips in that van, comfortably playing with our Barbies sans seatbelts. This song reminds me of watching my dad work on that van, sitting at his workbench in the garage.

4)  Let’s go Crazy by Prince

My 7th-grade year was a transforming one; I opted to be bused across town for a special program, away from most of the people I knew, I ditched my glasses for contact lenses, and chopped my hair from waist-length to a short, feathered helmet. I was a cheerleader that year and started hanging out with a whole new group of kids. We jumped on the trampoline in Carrie’s back yard on the river and went crazy with the Purple One.

Link to original MTV video

5)  Can You Stand the Rain by New Edition

My first love made me a mixtape, of course, and this was my favorite song. Right after we graduated from high school, we went to a baseball game and he gave me a sapphire ring. I knew I was moving five hours away to go to college, and we had some deep discussions about what was going to be realistic when I left. I wanted to be free, and he let me go gracefully. I'm friends with his beautiful wife today, and they are a beautiful family with two boys... it's the life he always wanted, and he is happy, and it makes me happy.

6)  Firewoman by The Cult

When I moved into Siddall Hall at the University of Cincinnati, I knew exactly no one and the sounds of Squeeze and Bon Jovi filled the hallways. I had recently joined Columbia’s CD club and ordered myself a whole batch of new CDs, and The Cult’s Firewoman album was one of my favorites. When I hear the opening riffs, I am taken back to that first year of independence, when I could live with the door to my dorm room open and peek my head into the hall to find a new friend.

7)  Black by Pearl Jam

In Mt. Lookout, just outside of Cincinnati, there was a tiny bar called Muz’s. I don’t know what possessed me to apply for a job as a bartender, but I did, and I loved it for a summer. The place was as narrow as a bowling alley, with a wall-mounted jukebox next to the cash register; as soon as I walked in to start my shift, I punched the buttons to start this song. I was fearless then, closing down the bar by myself at 3 AM and carrying the money to a drop box, then heading home to my apartment on the edge of the most dangerous part of town. My poor worried mother, in those years.

8)  With or Without You by U2

U2 made me fall in love with them with “New Year’s Day” and cemented my adoration at “With or Without You”.  It reminds me of sunset at Warren Dunes State Park and all of the girlfriends in my life through high school. I can still feel the breeze at the lake and the sand growing cooler as the sun went down.  Later, when I went through my divorce in 2004, this song was a favorite of the first guy I dated that summer. He and I would drive around and play this song and sing together; we entered into our dating relationship with no strings attached, and he was the balm I needed to get through the first, worst part of being single again. We stopped seeing each other easily, with no malice or drama, and this song reminds me of him and the gift he gave to me: getting my groove back.

9)  Believe by Cher

In 1999, I moved to Atlanta by myself, reeling from a punch to the jaw and an unsure future in a volatile relationship. I was working for a Belgian company and did quite a bit of traveling overseas, which satisfied my wanderlust and helped me escape, temporarily, from my life. Europe had a version of MTV that wasn’t quite the same, but it was close enough for me in the late hours when I was alone in my hotel room. “Believe” reached the Top 40 in early 1999, and I listened to the lyrics and cried, knowing I was in the wrong relationship, but not knowing how to get out. I knew that I was the one who wasn’t strong enough, at the time, but when I finally made it through, I was ready to make this my anthem.

10)  Time to Say Goodbye by Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman

My first niece was born in 1999, and on her first Christmas, we danced in my Grandmother's living room to this song, gliding along to the haunting refrain. At the time, it was just a song we loved, my grandmother, my mother, my sister, and I. It was the last Christmas we would spend with my beloved grandmother, who passed away at age 83 in her sleep in January of 2000. It seemed that this song followed me everywhere; the memories were bittersweet. I still miss her more than ever when I hear the gorgeous chorus.

11)  You’ll Think of Me by Keith Urban

When I met my now-husband, Will, I was a mess. I was in the process of a divorce that, while it didn’t break me, bent me in half. But this Texan saw something in me, and he stuck by me, introducing me to some of his favorite country songs along the way. When I first heard this breakup song, I cried in Will’s arms for the relationship I was still grieving, and he let me feel it all without judgement, waiting patiently for me to come around and see what was ahead.

"Take your records, take your freedom, take your memories, I don't need them..."

12)  Dream Big by Ryan Shupe and the Rubberband

Finally, I was ready for my happily ever after. Will and I were married in October of 2006, and this was our wedding song.

“And when you dream, dream big,
As big as the ocean, blue.
'Cause when you dream it might come true.
But when you dream, dream big.”

And thanks to Nancy, there are several other bloggers who weighed in on their songs, too. Check them out:
The Songs That Made:


Friday, May 29, 2015

Friday favorites: May 29

Schoooooooool's out for the summer. I'm looking forward to vacationing in Indiana with my family, soon, and spending quality time with my sister and my parents and hometown friends. I'm not sure how much I'll be publishing or posting over the summer, but I'll be around sporadically. It seems like a good time to chill out and take the pressure off for the season.

In case you missed it, I was featured at BonBon Break this week with a very personal post about rape, sexual harassment, and the cost of silence. I have heard from former colleagues and close friends with their "me too" stories, which break my heart but also buoy us. We are in this together.

Also, Susan Maccarelli of Beyond Your Blog syndicated my post on goal-setting. Which reminds me that I have some to work on, since we're halfway through the year already.

Posts I loved included this post on chores at The Washington Post. In fact, if you have tips about chores for a five year old, I'd love to know more.

Yes, they are real brothers. My friend Jill Robbins has so many excellent essays on adoption, so check her out here at BonBon Break or at Ripped Jeans and Bifocals.

Mom Playdates: we NEED them. YES. Thank you, Kim Bongiorno of Let Me Start By Saying.

Lisa Rosenberg of Smacksy has a quiet, beautiful way of writing that sometimes takes my breath away when I least expect it. Case in point, here. 

Elaine Alguire, a fellow Listen To Your Mother producer in Southeast Texas, wrote a post about personal space and kids, and I thought it was real and lovely.

Did you grow up in the 80s and do you have a teenager now? I loved this essay from Kari, which was both good advice and a walk down memory lane.

My friend Jennifer Williams always offered the best advice, and I said to her, "You are as good - or better than - Dear Abby." Look at her now: she has an advice column! And she's spot on about making friends as an adult.

They won't all like you. I am applauding through Kim's post about being true to yourself.

Nighttime is my favorite time to connect with my son, too, so I appreciate Stephanie's words about listening to her son and learning.

And last, but not least, these calming and beautiful words from Amanda Magee:
"If you are feeling helplessly quiet or inexplicably weighted with something that you can’t define, maybe stop trying. Be patient with the words, understanding with your heart, and, perhaps most importantly, less demanding of the minutes and how they end up passing. They’re yours to have, even if you don’t spend them “productively,” I think some minutes are just meant for being."


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