Things I Think I’m Supposed to Like Because Other People Seem to Really Like Them but I Actually Don’t Like at All

1. Running for recreation. “You should go for a run!” No. No, thank you.

2. Game of Thrones. It’s about some sort of a dragon, right? Or, that young magician? Wait! It’s Middle-earth and magical rings? Do I have that correct? Yes, I think that’s correct.

3. Glass shower enclosures. So, I guess this is a thing we’re all installing now? Our bathroom has one and it has looked absolutely awful since about the third shower I ever took in it. Bob and I just stand and stare at it frequently, wondering aloud how one keeps a crystal clear glass shower door clean. Because, if you think I’m going to squeegee that thing dry after every shower, you don’t know my life, man. Also, I really don’t need to be so… visible when showering. Best to hide all that behind a curtain, as our founding fathers intended.

4. Large gatherings of people in public places when it is hot outside. Concerts, festivals, fairs, amusement parks, farmer’s markets – all terrible when it’s too hot. No good. Would not recommend. Add my kids in to the mix and this is a DEFCON 2-level misery.

5. Pickling all of the foods. Why are we pickling everything all of a sudden? Did I miss a magazine article somewhere? Does everyone really like so much of their food pickled? What do you do with all of your pickled food? Do you put it on salads? Or burgers? It probably looks pretty in your cabinets though. Kind of all Little House on the Prairie up in there. I get that.

6. Playing board games with my kids. They’re really not very good at board games.

7. Snapchat. “WHAT DOES IT EVEN DOOOOO,” I holler at no one in particular while shaking my cane at the squirrel in the bird feeder and reaching in my shirt sleeve for a Kleenex.

8. Instant Pots. I don’t know about your circle but everyone in my circle seems to be using these things and I’m worried that, best case scenario, I’ll seriously scald myself or, worst case scenario, I’ll blow my whole damn house up.

9. Camping. I want to like camping. I really do. But, I accidentally walked through a spider web in our garage two days ago and basically looked like this for a solid ten minutes before I just went and showered.

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10. Unnecessary decks. Look, a deck solves an elevation issue, such as when a steep slope precludes level, accessible outdoor space. But, people seem to just put decks on everything now, all willy-nilly, irregardless of necessity or incline. Why does everyone want decks? We have a deck on our house when really, the backyard elevation is such that a patio is much more appropriate. As a result, our deck has all of these weeds growing under it and all out the sides but because the space is so small beneath the deck, we can’t get in there to do anything about it. It’s stupid. I obviously have a lot of strong feelings about decks. I just… why install a deck when a patio will do?

11. The beach. I enjoy looking at the ocean. From a balcony. Whilst sitting in a chair. Entirely uncovered in sand. The ocean is really beautiful but for purely recreational purposes with young kids, I am firmly Team Pool.

Summer Bookshelf

When I was about Henry’s age, I hung out at the Waldenbooks in University Park Mall a lot. My parents would take me shopping with them and on the way out of JCPenney, they would just kind of deposit me in front of the Anne of Green Gables section of the bookstore while they shopped. This would also happen at our local Kroger. My mom would select groceries while I stood and read near the end of this one aisle that had a revolving rack with mostly Christian young adult novels by Janette Oke. It was a win-win for both of us. I still have my collections by Janette Oke and Lucy Maud Montgomery and Laura Ingalls Wilder and Beverly Cleary. They sit on Millie’s bookshelf now.

I was an eager reader, fostered in part by an unbelievable library in the tiny Ohio town we lived in when I was very young. I can remember attending summer reading programs in the basement there and asking the librarian for help finding titles amongst the castle-like interior. Books were amazing and magical and an escape and I remember devouring them.

I kept on reading for fun as an adult, my commitment ebbing and flowing with college and then work and travel demands. When Bob and I were first married, I was still reading diligently. Then, Henry was born in late 2005 and approximately two days after he arrived, I stopped reading. I think the last book I even attempted was a few chapters of What to Expect the First Year before giving up and placing a higher premium on sleep.

It’s been like this for more than a decade now. I’m still reading things, lots of things – school forms, work emails, report cards, bedtime stories, a magazine here or there, all of the internet – I’m just not reading books. I occasionally think about reading a book but more often than not, I just end up reading the internet instead. I still buy books all the time, but more often than not, they end up stacked on my nightstand, a convenient place to stash my phone when I’m done reading the internet.

Now, you’ve probably done a great job of parenting kids or dogs or working full-time jobs while still being a committed reader. The book club you belong to probably actually reads the books. I think that’s fantastic. I really do. And, if I’m being honest here, I’ve been secretly ashamed for years that my most interesting reading came from those Buzzfeed top 20 lists. I was just never able to make a bigger commitment. My brain space was reserved for the thousands of other details I had to keep track of and that’s how I came to re-read – more than once! –  the first twenty pages of A Little Life, just trying to remember which character was the artist and which character still lived with his parents and which one was successful. I never got very far.

But, I’ve missed books. When my dad was visiting in May, he helped Bob and I install a series of bookcases in our living room. All of the books that had been scattered and stacked and stored for years finally had an easily accessible home. I hadn’t realized how much I had missed being engrossed in a really good book until I saw them all lined up like that. Many of them I had purchased and had started but had never finished.

So, this summer, when I dragged the kids to our local library to sign them up for the reading program (and also ruin their lives because I won’t let them play games on the library computer or rent DVDs from the library’s collection), I signed myself up for the reading program, too. I don’t know if I’ll finish the entire program before the August due date but I have made a goal to read three books this summer. I think that’s pretty achievable. So far, I have one down (The Girl on the Train) and two sitting on my nightstand in the queue (The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is SO GOOD. Would you like to talk about it?).

I think I can do this, guys. I really do. As long as I can stay awake long enough to get past the first twenty pages.

No Pressure Though

One of the greatest gifts I’ve given myself over the past couple of years has been the permission to underachieve when it comes to special events and holidays. I feel absolutely zero pressure to set the perfect table, craft a perfect menu, prepare a perfect meal or even change out of my perfect stretchy pants before dinner begins.

I can certainly appreciate all of the finer points of a fancy feast, well-groomed children and exquisite table centerpieces but have realized that that ideal will never be my ideal. I can maybe hit one of those three things at a time but have resigned myself that my children will be grown and gone before I ever have an Easter table that looks like this:

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Instead, today, when our family celebrated Easter, we enjoyed this:

I know those two pictures are so similar you might be struggling to figure out which one was my home so let me break it down for you.

That ham right there is from the grocery store. Not even a fancy grocery store. Just your totally average grocery store. I bought it yesterday, which is when I remembered I should come up with something to serve for Easter. The totally average ham coupled with the roasted asparagus is pretty much the cornerstone of any Easter dinner so I really think I hit a menu home run right there. We would have had roasted red potatoes as a side but I forgot to buy them so I pulled those cooked pasta shells from the bowels of the refrigerator thinking I could make a pasta salad as a side but then realized I didn’t have red wine vinegar for the dressing and promptly gave up. There’s celery there for my son since he won’t eat the asparagus and, at 41 years of age, I still like to cater to every individual diet preference of each of my precious children. There’s TWO packages of dinner rolls because my kids still like any food that is brown in color and as my friend, Jenn, once wisely explained, kids will eat anything in miniature form. Bob cut up some strawberries because, sure, why not. Makes enough sense to me. We round things out with a block of cheddar cheese because cheese is delicious.

The table is set in the kitchen and not the dining room because there is so much stuff piled on the dining room table that removing it all to eat there seemed like an insurmountable feat. So, Bob arranged the table in the kitchen but, please notice, he used the fancy water glasses. These glasses are impossible for my children to operate and water will be spilled by all three of them before this meal has even begun but whatever, they’re from Pottery Barn and are a skosh fancier than our other set of water glasses which advertise beer from Bob’s hometown. Our paper napkins really play second fiddle here to the stunning display of condiments serving as the table centerpiece. I didn’t even bother to put them in cute condiment dishes with little condiment spoons because that would increase my condiment dish-washing responsibility by 100 percent. It was too hot for candles so I tried to set the ambiance with some inspirational music but just ended up playing The Cure instead.

The food is getting cold here because Bob is chatting with a neighbor in the front yard while the kids play frisbee nearby. The kids are still in some variation of their church clothes which, for the boys, means the donning of a shirt with the dreaded COLLAR OF DOOM AND SUFFOCATION. So fancy! All three of them could probably benefit from a shower or bath or both and I’m not even positive Millie wore underwear today (I REALLY need to do laundry).

But, it’s all fine because the windows are open to the most wondrous weather and warm mountain breezes and we’re all together and Bob and I got to have an uninterrupted twenty minute conversation on the front deck before I took a rare afternoon nap after which I raided Millie’s Easter candy stash for all of the Kit Kats and I felt not a lick of guilt nor stress about putting together this mediocre meal with this totally average ham that I served to my could-be-cleaner children that we ate around a centerpiece of mustard and ketchup bottles.

I like myself so much better when I don’t care about perfection.