Back to School

By: Lara Clark

I spent a lot of time this summer at my desk, at work, in front of a computer. Our summer trip was in early June and my feet will not hit the sand any time soon. I enjoyed ALL of your trapper keepervacation pictures streaming through my Facebook feed, really I did. But I had to find my joy in other things as we ease back in to the school year.

I have found a few things that are putting pep in my step and maybe they will yours too.

1. The show Unreal. I may be late to this party, but there is a chance if your television watching time falls after the kids go down and before your eyelids go down then you may be late to this party too. UnReal is a fictional show about the making of a reality show. It feels like a behind the scenes look at the making of The Bachelor. And since I believe reality is stranger than fiction, I gotta think this show might be giving us an inside look into what makes those hot tub, smoochie girls cry buckets of tears when they do not get a rose. There is one season of this on Hulu and the second season is currently on Lifetime. If you have a Roku there is a free Lifetime app so you can catch up on any episodes you miss or fall asleep during.

2. Okay, so this one might be a stretch. These are things that are making my back to school days a bit brighter. This one is a little more literal. Last summer we renovated our kitchen and chose a porcelain white sink. Now, like everything white in my life, it does not have the same sparkle and shine it once had. A wise friend suggested I buy some Soft Scrub….in all my maidless days I have never used this thing called Soft Scrub. Well, let me know tell you- our sink is as white as the teeth of the model in a whitening strip commercial. I would say pearly white. Though this may not be a photograph of my feet propped up and a glass of wine on a porch overlooking the ocean, I might still put it on Instagram. #nofilter #lilywhite #cleansinkhappyheart

3. Saving money is not the easiest thing for me to do. Mostly because it seems like you have to have extra money to save and I am not in the business of extra money but a few months ago I signed up for Digit. Basically, you give Digit your banking information. (It is legit I did my research.) They study your account and develop an algorithm (don’t ask me?) and determine how much of your money they can shift into a savings account without you even really noticing. Sometimes it is 54 cents and sometimes it is 38 dollars all the while you don’t really miss it and the best part is when you want to withdraw your money for a little vacation you text them withdraw and ta-da it is in your account. My plan is to keep using Digit so I can afford more vacations next year and spend more time posting pics than drooling over yours.

So that’s it for me, looks like most of my back-to-school favorites are just my favorites, because let’s be honest, back-to-school hasn’t looked the same since there was a new outfit, a shiny Trapper Keeper and someone else paid the bills!

Walk on the Wild Side

By: Lara Winburn

Lately I have been thinking a lot about being rebellious – marching to the beat of a different drum, defying the powers that be. Maybe it is because I started watching the series Sons of Anarchy or maybe it is because I got my hair cut…you know, really pushing the limits. But here is the thing that I keep coming back to: I may sound old and I may be dating myself, but I am not sure how we will rebel in the years to come.

I love tattoos. I have almost gotten one on many occasions, and I am not saying that I never will get one. But I gotta tell you, getting a tattoo today does not really seem to be walking on the wild side. Years ago, my grandfather remarked on the fact that tattoos were only seen on military men. Well, just do a little people watching nowadays and you will see a tattoo on the CEO, the stay-at-home mom, the hipster, and the preacher’s daughter. Again, I love tattoos but I do not think a rebel that makes. Also, I really let loose in high school and had more than one piercing …in my ears. There was a time in college when I really wanted an eyebrow stud, but seriously now you can piece your nose like a bull and no one takes a second glance at you in the freezer section at Publix. You can even pierce the unmentionables, although I am not sure if that makes you a rebel or just crazy.

large_minivanThe older you get the harder it is to rebel. Pain, legal fees and just good adult sense can stop you in your tracks. My wild and crazy night now might mean I stay up until midnight without turning into a pumpkin or go ahead and splurge on that bag of chips at the grocery store – watch out! My biggest push back on the institution of mommyhood right now is NO mini-van. (Please do not tell me how great they are and how much easier they made your life – I am too busy rebelling to hear such rational thought.)

So what will a small act for rebellion be in the future? Who knows? The mom in me hopes it is ankle-length skirts and being super nice. When I was a kid I pinned a button on everything I wore that said “Why be normal?” I loved the button and the sentiment and still do. I love how unique we all are cruising around with our tattoos, piercings, and buttons on our book bags (even if a lot of you are cruising in mini-vans.) I hope embracing everyone’s drumbeat is always all the rage.

The Fillers

By: Lara Clark

Wednesday was my birthday. Cue the balloon. It was not a significant age, nor of much significance to report. I mean, all birthdays should really fall on the weekend because hump Growing olderday does not exactly scream par-tay. But with the passing of another 365 days, I did spent the day thinking about what my 29th year held and what my NEW 29th** year would have in store. The truth is, the older I get, the less convinced I am that I am ever going to have it all figured out. I still don’t understand much about insurance premiums, IRA’s (Roth or not), or coupon clipping…those things that I thought grown-ups understood.

With a little age under my belt (and under my eyes) I do understand a little more about unconditional love, heartbreaking loss, pure joy and fleeting time. This birthday, I wondered if maybe those grown-up things are what I should worry about and continue to muddle through the other stuff.

I recently watched the movie Boyhood and – this is not a spoiler, so I will tell you – the mother in the film says something to the effect of, “Life is just a series of milestones.” I don’t know why, but this quote just made me sad. Milestones are really pretty few and far between. I mean, obviously they are important… they are “milestones.” But what about the fillers, the in-between, the birthdays that fall on Wednesdays? I think I might need to hold a little tighter to those. I should free up the space in my mind that currently holds all those insecurities about whether I am where this grown-up should be in life. I am exactly where I need to be today or at least until I learn more and change a little here and there. I am “in between” milestones. Nice texts from my husband or tickle wars with kids on my couch are okay fillers too. Cue the balloons for those.

** I know Chaunte is right and I should tell my age proudly, but for now I will just admit proudly that I am aging.

Nine Days In

By: Lara Winburn

New Year’s resolutions make me tired. My inbox is filled with gym fads and diet meal planning ideas. My Facebook feed shows people organizing their linen closets and “junk drawers.” (I mean, doesn’t that make it a “neat drawer?”) It is all so exhausting before my New Year's Resolutionschampagne-filled head has even cleared. Don’t get me wrong, I love the optimism of a new year, clean slate and all, but honestly by the end of it all I feel like my resolution should be to nap more.

I have numerous self-improvement projects in process as we speak but all of this talk of “a new year, a new you” can be a little daunting for a pleasant mess like myself. I struggle all year to be a more organized, fun, sweet wife, mom, friend and daughter. In January, I find out that people are cleaning things I did not know were dirty and eating “clean” foods I have never heard of. I want to be neater, thinner, fitter, more at peace, really I do. But sometimes that first day of the year is just a reminder of how far I have to go.

So as I sign up for Weight Watchers AGAIN, I will not make that a New Year’s resolution but just another step in the process to be a better me. I will add to my calendar more volunteer time at my church and in my community but not as a resolution, just a part of my life. Seems to me resolutions often need a little more fun and probably would be easier to keep too, huh? Maybe my resolution this year will be to read more books or go on more dates with that cute husband of mine. One year my resolution was to go to the beach more. I kept that one and never once regretted it. We are 9 days in to 2015 and that means it is not too late to edit your resolution. As you are spending more time at the gym (I hope to see you there) or alphabetizing your canned goods (I would have to have a brain transplant), be sure to add some fun to your resolution list and just try to adopt that self-improvement stuff to your February, June and September life. I will resolve to add more play time, more kindness to myself and others, and maybe more naps.

Happy Birthday to My Favorite Cow

By: Lara Clark

I recently read an article about cows and how they are one animal that scientists believe have a best friend. In the article it said, “When heifers have their preferred partner with them, their stress levels in terms of their heart rates are reduced compared with if they were with a random individual.”

SONY DSCThis got me thinking about these “preferred partners” or best friends and how true these affects might be.

Today is my best friend’s birthday. If you have spent any time with me, you know about my best friend. We met our first day of college. I can tell you what she was wearing…fun fact about me: I can tell you what most people are wearing on significant days. We lived together for almost 8 years after college and before marriage. I joke that we should have just bought a duplex together – sort of joke, sort of a good idea.

This post does not need to be the history of our friendship-mostly because it is only funny to us and can be a little freaky (Example: our husbands work at the same place, our children are weeks apart, and there was a time that we spoke in an accent particular to each other – kinda like a best friend dialect…drove our boyfriends (now husbands) crazy.

But this is what I will post – there are parts of our friendship makes us better wives, better mothers, and better friends. I am thankful for this special cow.

When we no longer lived together it was unnatural for us not to talk every day about mundane things, so we instituted a 9 a.m. phone call every morning on the way to work. Now it is after kid drop-off and before work – a small moment of adult conversation. During this time we talk about really important stuff like marriage, potty training and new shoes. We share frustrations, fears, and laughs all in about 10 minutes. The calls are important for a variety of reasons and we joke that we have saved hundreds on therapy, but I think there is one simple ingredient that make these calls matter so much. For those 10 minutes, I know I am talking to my girl power teammate. These mornings are strictly for GIRL TALK-chatting about being a mom, a wife, friend or just plain being female. We have similar roles as wife, working mom, we have the same body parts, hormones, and our long special history. Talking every morning balances me out. I bet these calls have been lowering my stress level for years.

The second thing about a best friend is this: A best friend may tell you when you are wrong or that maybe you need “a little perspective,” but before that conversation ends you know that they stand up for you, if need be. Good friends are invaluable because they can be a cheerleader. but may not always be up for the messy business of truth telling. That’s what a best friend is for. Truth telling and back=up. Who doesn’t need that every once in a while?

I have been blessed with this friend for many years (more than I will tell). We have cried over boyfriends, laughed at our weddings, and held hours-old babies together. Happy Birthday, Cow! This friendship, the phone calls and the occasional dose of reality keep me relatively sane. Everyone should hug their cow today!