Year over year

October 23, 2014

10724182_802709706460187_1488208128_nOctober 25, 2013 autumn-rainbow


My dog, my boy and a leaf-crunching walk. Sixteen months in is my favorite point yet. This apple-munching toddler. He knows the names of so many things, is always climbing, gaining independence and strength. Ideas all his own. And jokes! He’s started feeding his toys, making little sucking and squeaking noises and running his little car along the edge of everything. Vrrroooom! Off we go. Time flashing by, yellow confetti ahead and behind. Thank you, October.  

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Filed under At home, Baby

Here’s to the goers

A few weeks ago, I was drinking a tallboy on the rooftop deck of the Des Moines Social Club, in the sunshine, with friends. I was dressed smart (Joe Crimmings was shooting free headshots for us!) and feeling pretty damn great because tallboy+friends+sunshine in a city I love is hard to beat.

It was a YNPN Des Moines event, and that evening I spent a few minutes talking with a writer from the National Journal (who is a pretty recent Drake grad) for what turned into this article: Do the Most Hipster Thing Possible – Move to Des Moines.


I think/write/talk a lot about how it was important for me, in choosing Des Moines, to try to create experiences. To be among the people working to make things happen. I thought that was how to grow as a leader. And it is, but it’s not the only way.

I’m inspired by amazing peers planning and executing events for the Des Moines Art Center and AIGA Iowa and DMMC and  YPC and Market Day and so on, because there is so. much. going. on. here. It’s incredible. A crazy amount of behind-the-scenes work goes into any and all of these groups and activities.

Every single thing I’m involved in planning, from a smallish meeting to helping with big events like TEDxDesMoines or activities with YNPN Des Moines or for my job, is preceded with a pit in my stomach. Event planning is not something that comes naturally to me. Not as naturally as writing, at least. Let’s just say I’m not a spreadsheet-y person. It’s like stage fright meets addiction. When the event is happening/over, I get an adrenaline rush and it’s a relief and I accidentally start planning the next thing*. These opportunities are how I meet and work with different people and get a tiny taste of entrepreneurship. But it’s not the only way to engage.

I also want us to recognize the goers. Maybe you’re not quoted or profiled or on the board of anything, but you show up. There are people in our community who are amazing at attending and attending and attending. (I see you on Instagram at 15 evens in the time it takes me to cook dinner and get in my sweatpants and I bow to your endurance.) Those people build up our community as much or more than those of us who work in our niches.

I am not a great goer. Especially not since becoming a parent. All the sudden, I get it. How challenging it can be to support all of these worthwhile, interesting events in the mix of work and family and chores and going for a run so I can wear things other than sweatpants.

So I just want to say thanks to anyone and everyone who has ever come to anything I’ve put on. Here’s to all of the goers.

Save the date: Jan. 8, 2015 YNPN Des Moines will host our first Non-Conference at the Des Moines Social Club. It will explore topics in nonprofit management through the lens of art. So excited! 

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Filed under I love Des Moines

Low-key weekends

I had a lot going on during the week last week, so it felt great to enjoy a lazy weekend. We splashed around in some dried corn with the kids in our babysitting co-op and went for a family walk in the woods, but that’s about it. Today was a yoga pants and a second pot of coffee kind of a Sunday, indeed.


Here’s some lazy girl homebody entertainment: Saturday night, Joe watched football on mute while I folded clothes and we listened to “Serial,” the new podcast by some of the producers of  “This American Life.”

Serial is a podcast that unfolds one nonfiction story, week by week, over the course of a season. The first season follows a did-he-really-do-it story of a teenage murder in Baltimore in 1999. It’a pretty compelling.  Check it out.

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Filed under What I'm into

Reading Room: The Blue Jay’s Dance

I started the book yesterday, parked in the grocery store lot, waiting for Emmett to wake from his nap. I read it last night and then in stolen moments this morning, finished at lunchtime, wiped the tears from my face and immediately hopped on my bike, pedaling to go press it into the hands of my dear friend who is expecting her second baby in late December.


Cara sent me The Blue Jay’s Dance months ago as part of a care package from California. The cover is a lot bit 1992, and it didn’t scream READ ME, NOW — so it sat on a side table until what was apparently just the right time.

This was a gorgeous, richly worded essay for me to appreciate at a moment my baby is growing into a toddler, when I can see that birth year from a close distance. Louise Erdrich is my mother’s age, but with this book she is my sister. She and I share “mother-writers,” a heritage of the Brontes and Virginia Woolf and Joan Dideon, the same primal need for long, rambling walks in the woods and to feel deeply, inviting in a profound sadness and longing alongside the joy.

(For those of you who share my canon, The Blue Jay’s Dance felt like Great with Child, that fantastic book of letters to a young mother that my friends all passed around when we were pregnant, mixed with the natural/spiritual existentialism of Annie Dillard, mixed with the frankness and humor of Anne Lamott.)

Erdrich lives the writing life, introspective, and reflects herself back so honestly to us that I see myself in her words. The book is divided into seasons, and within each season snippets of life on the acreage, with her family, the flowers, pets and wildlife, and alone with her thoughts, and even a few recipes — meals that punctuated that birth year for her. Erdrich’s lyrical prose:

“I see myself frozen in a clutch of mothers, a flock, a panic of mothers…In talking to other women over the years, I begin to absorb them somehow, as if we’re all preamble…Mothering is a subtle art whose rhythm we collect and learn, as much from one another as from instinct. Women without children are also the best of mothers, often, with the patience, the interest, and saving grace that the constant relationship with children cannot always sustain. A child is fortunate who feels witnessed as a person, outside relationships with parents, by another adult.”

I urge other expectant and new moms to fill their shelves not just with baby and toddler-rearing instructional manuals but with works like these to nurture the soul.


Filed under Baby, Books

Midwest family adventure: Columbia, MO

A few weeks ago I had this daydream: A fall weekend in Columbia, MO – the crunchy college town that still possesses a piece of my heart.


image via painted post

We’d load up the bikes and hit the trail right away to do the 30-mile round trip to the blufftop winery overlooking the Missouri River. Then we’d get up the next morning and explore the Mizzou campus before heading to the Roots N Blues N BBQ music festival. Then we’d drive another two hours to meet one of my very best friend’s babies and hang until dinner time. Back in DSM late Sunday night. Crazy? Maybe. I started to think of it as a kind of parenting triathlon – a test of endurance.

Thankfully, the forecast for the weekend was gorgeous. But as anyone who’s spent more than 20 minutes with a toddler knows, their emotions are harder to predict than the weather in the Midwest. One minute, E can be happily flipping through a book and then you offer him a banana and the kid flips out.

Ultimately, the weekend turned out to be a lot of fun (despite a few scattered meltdowns), and I’m glad we pushed ourselves to make a little mini adventure happen. Here’s how it went down.


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Filed under music, Travel

Sewathon and then some

This past weekend, Meredith Corporation hosted the American Patchwork & Quilting 1 Million Pillowcase Challenge 24-hour sewathon as part of an effort to make a million pillowcases for charity.


Whenever my mom comes to town, we end up doing some epic crafting, so it was perfect timing to put some of that creative energy towards a good cause. We stopped into the sewathon in the evening and contributed four pillowcases each to the goal. It was a really cool setup (volunteers didn’t need to bring a single thing!) and we learned a brilliant, super-easy roll-it-up pillowcase technique. Watch a how-to video on the APQ site.


It was my first time using a serger and I fell in love. These instructions show you how to make the roll-it-up pillowcase using a regular sewing machine. Even if you couldn’t make it to the sewathon, you can participate in the challenge and whip up some pillowcases for charity. I’m thinking of making some as gifts for the kids in my life, too.

Speaking of kid crafts, after our pillowcases were complete, we worked on a few other projects. I made a fun felt pizza and cherry pie for my niece Norah’s second birthday. I got the idea when I saw that the lights for our closet came in what looked like mini pizza boxes.


I made a felt crust by blanket stitching some plate-sizes pieces of beige felt together for stability, and then just freestyled cutting sauce/toppings and berry filling/lattice topper. I decorated the box to look more like a pizza/pie box than something from the hardware store, and it was good to go. I love when a project that’s been in the back of my mind finally becomes a reality.

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Filed under Getting crafty, I love Des Moines

Liking lately

I’m in denial about this whole summer-being-over thing, although once I unpack my sweaters, I’m sure I’ll change my tune.

Here are a few things I’ve been into:

To eat: A few friends hosted “Meatfest” last weekend, a backyard barbecue with insanely good smoked meats and a smorgasbord of sides. Great weather, better people. I asked Joe to make this roasted potato salad with shaved fennel and salsa verde, a killer potluck-pleasing dish he’s mastered. It’s for real.


To read: I felt compelled to go to the library the other night, and made it to the Forest Avenue branch just before it closed for the evening. I’d never been there before, and the selection isn’t huge (they seem to cater to the ESL population that lives in the area), but this Sticks banner between two big tree sculptures made me smile.


I picked up “The String Diaries” and raced through it this week. I can’t rave about the prose itself, but it’s a fast-paced thriller that reminded me of Gone Girl in ways. It has elements of the magical, but it uses one of my favorite techniques of bouncing around time periods and intertwining plots.

To make: Truth – I basically showed Joe this project and he made it for me. I have a huge empty wall in my office that’s been aching for artwork these past six months, and when I saw this, I felt like it would be a cool installation piece. Just a big frame, chicken wire, staples, spray paint, spacers and paper strips.

{photo via Sugar & Cloth}

{photo via Sugar & Cloth}

The project is by Sugar & Cloth, but I first saw it linked from Going Home to Roost. I have yet to get the paper and cut strips for it, but I might treat it like a gratitude journal, curling up messages of thanks as a daily meditation. I’ll probably post something to Instagram once it’s up in my office.

 To conquer: Emmett and I ran out first 5K together last week. DMU did a Friday evening run from campus, down around the sculpture park and back. We definitely didn’t PR or anything, but it was my goal to at least jog the whole thing, and I followed through. The kid didn’t even break a sweat.


Nicole and Everett also ran, and Mollie and her daughter, Kaydin. I’m really starting to feel like part of the DMU community. It’s crazy to believe next week marks six months in my role there.

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Filed under Books, Cooking, What I'm into