Mother’s Day alternative bouquet

Today was gray and green, with a mini adventure to two spots just outside of Des Moines that I’ve been wanting to visit for awhile.

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Harvey’s Greenhouse in Adel is the backdrop for many a hipster photo shoot, and it seemed like a good spot to pick up some plant babies and escape the dreariness.

We came home with a succulent, spider plant, coleus and a cactus that looks like a bunch of Muppet thumbs. Quite the alternative bouquet for Mother’s Day.

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Not far from there is the Brenton Arboretum, which we decided to explore on a whim. Mental note: Pack a picnic or at least some snacks, because the smoothie at 1 p.m. was not enough to tide Eileen over for three hours of exploring. Real life frolic in the crab apple trees with my little crab apple:

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Thankfully, the rain held off for the afternoon. The kids were delighted by the nature playscape. Emmett especially enjoyed climbing the enormous fallen tree stump. And I was psyched to see they have a labyrinth. I’m hoping we can return later this summer to see how different everything looks as the season progresses. Love the idea of hosting an event in the Pavilion, too.

The Brenton Arboretum is another one of the spots that Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden members get into for free, as a reciprocal benefit! You can still use HUMMINGBIRD at checkoff to get $10 off.

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One is silver and the other gold

Make new friends, but keep the old / One is silver and the other gold. — Girl Scout Song

Growing up, the Bennett house down the street was like a second home. Terri was a year ahead of me in school, Danny a year behind my brother Kevin. And since ours were the first houses built in a new subdivision development, we found each other quickly. When we got older, the boys would dismantle and rebuild computers together, and Terri and I founded an earring company and would spend afternoons building a Caboodle full of inventory. Our hours together was mostly unstructured, figure-out-a-way-to-entertain-yourselves time.

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I love how that early neighborhood friendship is still a part of my life, and now I’m seeing those goofy giddy bonds forming with my kids. We’re fortunate to have a good crew of families within a few blocks who swap kids around for dinners and impromptu playtime. It feels so good to fling open the doors in the spring weather and see who’s walking down the street. Eileen’s girl gang is shaping up.

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I’ve noticed this year that I’ve been much more intentional about checking in with my friends and making time to be together. And it’s making me so happy. Sometimes I go through periods of feeling isolated, or disconnected, but it’s often when I forget that friendship is a two-way street and I’ve put obstacles in my lane.

A magical getaway full of laughter in Florida with my high school girlfriends happened over spring break, and now I’ve finally booked a weekend with my college besties at this sweet KC-area spa.

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It’s blowing my mind to think that I’ve been in Des Moines four times longer now than I was in high school and college (!!!!) and there are women here who have known me ever since. I’ve kept up with my “Book It” book club, many of whom I met through the East Village stationery + more shop Ephemera in our early 20s. I write those club nights on my calendar in permanent marker.

I’m pretty terrible at remembering and celebrating birthdays, so I’m trying to just let people know that I’m thinking of them in an un-calendared way. Sometimes it’s a quick check-in text with a long-distance friend, an I-have-8-minutes-to-chat-while-I-walk-the-dog call, a Marco Polo message or even a quick, handwritten note.

Making friends as an adult can be hard, but I started reaching out to a few women who have been in my “orbit” of kids/work but who I didn’t really feel like I knew one-on-one, and have had breakfast with them after drop-off and before work. It’s been such an energizing way to start the day.

All of these little touch points — some inspired by my kids new friendships — are making me more fully appreciate the beautiful field of friends that I have sown and whose tending is such a joy.

How do you stay friends? 

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Terrarium time & other things I’m into

I left my house just twice this past weekend (once to work out and once to buy Girl Scout cookies/pick up library books because #balance) and am gearing up for a full spring ahead.

Last week, at the height of when-will-winter-end despair, I briefly escaped the Iowa tundra with two trips to the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden. The first trip was to remind the kiddos what humidity feels like, and then mid-week I took a class (there was even wine involved!) on how to make terrariums and brought home this cutie:

It now also has one of Emmett’s special rocks and a bright orange plastic frog in it because the kids insisted on some extras after I got her home. I’ve crossed my fingers I can keep this little ecosystem happy.

We got a household membership to the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden through a hummingbird promotion, and if you’re considering it you can get $10 off using the code HUMMINGBIRD (through 12/31). I love having memberships to some of our favorite Des Moines attractions because, in addition to discounts on classes, the shop and restaurant:

a) it’s easy to say yes to a bunch of quick visits vs feeling like you have to commit a whole day to a trip there. We pack a little snack and board game and spend an hour hanging out on the mezzanine.

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b) They come with reciprocal benefits to like attractions in many other cities and the Des Moines memberships are so much more affordable! We can use the Botanical Garden membership at the Morton Arboretum outside Chicago which is amazing. And our local Arboretums in Iowa, etc.

My next visit will probably be with a book because I picked up a nice little stack this weekend. Ok, I’ll admit I already devoured “Where the Crawdads Sing” over the past two days. It wasn’t as lyrical as the last book I read and the folksy southern dialect was a little irritating at times, but it’s a page-turner.

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I’m also ridiculously excited to catch a mini spring break in the sunshine with my high school besties. A “we should do a girls trip this year” text chain escalated quickly a couple of weeks ago while I was in the midst of a facilitation training and I was suddenly scrambling for a flight to Florida.

We don’t leave for two weeks but my bag is already literally packed. Let me know if you have any Delray Beach recommendations!

Until my flight, I’m going to just curl up with a book and my terrarium to remember what a gloriously green world looks like!

Oh, and p.s. totally not related to anything else, except wanted to say that Russian Doll on Netflix is the first show I’ve binge-watched in forever. The first few episodes, especially, felt much more film-like than show-like to me. And now I’m super interested in reading the Emily of New Moon books by the L.M. Montgomery of Anne of Green Gables Fame, because it keeps getting referenced in an otherwise very M.A. themed series.

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Make it OK

Last night, I had the privileged of attending the unveiling of Mind Matters, a temporary exhibit at the Science Center of Iowa intended to raise awareness around and reduce the stigma of mental illness.

SCI gets to host the exhibit, which originated in Minnesota, before it’s booked out for five years to other museums. And, Capital Crossroads committees have programmed a series of events tied to the run. (On day one in my new job, I got to jump into the planning for the “Understanding Cultural and Racial Trauma” session!) We’re also incredibly grateful to donors who are backing a free day on March 10 so anyone in the community can access the exhibit and accompanying resource fair.

I knew I wanted to share a photo from the event to help spread the word that it was happening, and my typical promo-type post was going to say something thanking all of our community leaders for creating momentum around this conversation. But then I decided to get real and share about my family’s struggles with mental health, and how that has impacted me, personally:

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Opening that old wound was scary. But it made me really reckon with the fact that I was afraid that if I shared my truth, my friends and family and colleagues would look at me sideways. That there’d be some stigma, or assumptions raised. I realized that by holding back I wasn’t doing my part to really encourage and normalize conversation on this topic. It’s one thing to simply post #endthestigma and another to get vulnerable.

I honestly had never really considered myself as someone who was impacted by mental illness. For whatever reason, that wasn’t the lens I viewed depression with when I was growing up. Mental illness was schizophrenia, bipolar disorder. But my dad’s inability to get out of bed was not mental wellness. And my teenage mind brainstorming a way to land myself in the hospital for a couple of days — not to do irreparable harm, but to buy myself a little time to not have to deal with things — was not mental wellness.

I have always let myself feel deeply the full range of emotions, and I’ve been able to ask for help. I’ve still never seen a therapist, although last year when I was struggling with a real crash in confidence and felt that spider crawling back from that old familiar place, a few friends offered a referral. They helped me see that I wasn’t OK. This time, when I made a plan, it was to prioritize my overall health.

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I’m happy to say that, this year, the sun has really been shining for me. I’ve given myself more grace, and weirdly turned into one of those early morning workout people. Sweating before sunrise has given me more energy — and I’ve been really intentional in where I reinvest that energy. Joe’s been awesome about encouraging me to continue to do the things I love, which means I’m going to run DAM to DSM (thus the inspired workout routine!) and I’ve registered for an Iowa Summer Writing Festival weekend workshop at the University of Iowa because I just might have the beginnings of a novel rumbling around and I want to nurture that.

I know I’m never going to get the time back with my dad. I can’t take back how my anger and resentment about his disease made the struggle of those last years even harder for us both. He died three days after my high school graduation. I just want to make sure that I am not going to perpetuate a cycle. That I give my kids tools to manage stress, and to create an open channel of communication when they’re grappling with feelings they don’t know how to address. I want to make it OK, and I know there’s a lot I can learn to be a better advocate. I hope you’ll join me.

 

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What I’m into: January 2019

2019 has me feeling like I’ve got my groove back, or some cheesy notion like that. I have a lot more energy for the things I love and am realigning my priorities. Here are some things I’ve been loving this month:

Reading: The Library Book, by Susan Orlean 

I am such a Susan Orlean fan-girl. No joke, I once e-mailed asking to be her personal assistant because I pretty much wanted to BE Susan Orlean as a college magazine journalism major. Which means I’m probably on some no-contact list for her upcoming visit to Des Moines as part of this year’s Des Moines Public Library AViD series/DSM Book Festival. Screaming into a pillow excited about this. Her latest book is about the Los Angeles library fire, but also about the fascinating people who made the library what it is today and kind of an homage to libraries in general. Ironically, I am reading it on my Kindle app. #fail

Sweating: Burn Bootcamp and Cyclebar and YWA #Dedicate

I wouldn’t say I’m into working out. But I’m into how I feel AFTER a workout is over. In an attempt to set a goal and keep myself accountable, I signed up to run the DAM to DSM 20K on June 1. (Use the code HUMMINGBIRD for $5 off your entry before Feb. 1) Then, I had the opportunity to try out Burn Boot Camp with the Des Moines Moms Blog, and have been going to 5:30 a.m. boot camps M-W for the past two weeks. It’s completely outside my comfort zone and I try to pair up with the middle aged ladies because they’re more my speed (some of them even kick my butt). It’s circuit workouts, with lots of weights and things I’d never try on my own. It’s a franchise, and it’s fun to know my friend Christa is doing the same workouts in Saint Louis! She’s hilarious:

I also got to try out Cyclebar Jordan Creek and did my first ever spin class last week!

It was super intense and I don’t think I adjusted the bike very well, so I want to go back and try it again. It was a fun Friday night alternate “bar” activity, although at the 30-ish minute mark when the instructor had us also pull out a weight and do arm exercises while pedaling I wondered what fresh hell I’d gotten myself into.

Lastly, I still have so much love for the free Yoga with Adriene 30-day journey, and am doing those short sessions as a kind of wind-down to my day. The majority have been super gentle and affirming and lovely.

Eating: JOJO’s Chocolate Bark 

I came home from our second annual Des Moines Moms Blog favorite things party with a bag of JOJO’s from Kara Swanson (who is legit obsessed!) and I totally get why she loves it. Anyone else need a daily smidgen of chocolate?

Unpacking: At my new job at the Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines. I’m just a couple of weeks in, but really happy that I followed my heart and went for a position that is way better aligned for me. It’s so invigorating to be working closely with local nonprofit leaders, making connections, planning trainings, etc. I’ve been a big fan of their work for awhile and feel lucky to have landed in an opportunity to work on the team. I put up this plaque I inherited from my grandpa’s house to remind me to keep my priorities in focus:

Other things I published lately: 

A DSM story on the fabulous Julia Franklin’s latest work 

A Des Moines Moms Blog post about hosting a clothing swap 

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Failures and findings

My 2018 held wonderful heights and views but also tearful lows. I felt a tension between what I was trying to do and who I was trying to be. It seemed I’d lost my spark somewhere, the confidence to be my authentic self.

Some days I felt a failure, and others I felt just fine. But the nagging sense that I had taken a position that wasn’t a good fit persisted until – at what felt the perfect moment – an opportunity so well aligned to my skills and priorities opened up.

I worried: Was I running away from frustrations or recognizing the signs I needed to take a different path? But I decided I didn’t really have to prove or defend myself – I just had to be honest about the environment I needed to thrive.

When I talk to college students about career choices and lay out my own winding journey, I see all of the things I’ve learned at each turn. An underlying theme is the desire to be a pollinator between people and ideas, especially the kind that strengthen our community and build capacity for nonprofit organizations and professionals to do their best work.

As I prepare to once again step into a new role, I’ve been reflecting quite a bit. How can I bring my best self to serve others? How can I dig in and put everything into practice?

I was walking and listening to Krista Tippett in conversation with the poet David Whyte and his description of rest so beautifully captured my desire

“Rest is the conversation between what we love to do and how we love to be.”

Whyte goes on to describe this mysterious balance that gives us capacity for a generosity of spirit.

Rested, we are ready for the world but not held hostage by it, rested we care again for the right things and the right people in the right way.

I think it’s a beautiful reflection going into a new year.

Cheers to you – thanks for encouraging me by stopping by this space.

family photo by Ivory House Photography

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Sunshine days

We returned to Iowa this week from a wonderful family trip to Los Angeles to celebrate my cousin’s wedding and I’m now huddled under a quilt feeling like that sunshine was surely a dream. We didn’t see any evidence of the fires that had been ravaging the area, but I can much better understand how scary it would be to see flames in an area like that.

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One of the highlights of the trip was our airbnb, which we shared with my mom, aunt, brother and sister-in-law. It was a Pacific Palisades hobbit mansion, nestled in the hills.

img_8792The four quirky suites, kitchen and living space all had ocean views! (Maybe the one time I’ve been grateful for kids waking up before dawn.)

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We arrived on Thanksgiving in late afternoon and pulled together a quick feast, stocked the bar and had the perfect launching pad for daily trips to the beach.

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The kids were into the La Brea Tar Pits (if you’re on a budget, the museum is pretty small and so you can enjoy the grounds without a fee).

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They were also actually pretty good at The Getty Villa, which is an incredible antiquities museum designed as a near replica of the Villa dei Papiri, a Roman residence  that had been buried by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D. (It’s free aside from a $15 parking fee, but you need to reserve tickets in advance.)

A bunch of the cousins met up to hike the Temescal Ridge Trail the morning of the wedding. The views were worth the trek. I am an adult person who still gets so nerdy excited about hanging out with her cousins.

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The wedding was in the stunning St. Monica’s Catholic Church in Santa Monica with a UCLA reception, where Eileen fell in love with the keyboard player in the Beach Boys cover band. It was pretty adorable. Rob and Amy were such great hosts – we had the best burritos at the welcome reception and then breakfast burritos at an oceanside park at the farewell. Bookending a wedding weekend with burritos is the way to go.

We thought about driving out to Disney as a surprise on our last full day, but decided to stick closer to home and got wristbands for unlimited rides at Pacific Park instead for a fraction of the price and no lines.

img_8815I wish we had arrived maybe 30 minutes earlier, because the little kid rides end at 5 p.m., but Emmett was super brave and rode his first roller coaster (first car!) and we walked right onto the Ferris wheel at sunset.

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I’m definitely going to treasure the memories of this trip for a long time!

Also, I was able to read the new Barbara Kingsolver book, Unsheltered, and recommend it.

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