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HELLO, IT’S ME.

Before you say anything at all: yes, I know, that joke is going to feel so old and tired in about one more week. And yet! I cannot resist. Even the non-dads among us can, shamelessly and tirelessly, make dad jokes.

Anyway: I’m here now.

I’m in this place where I’m not writing as often, here, on my beloved blog.

Instead, my creative energies are dispersed in other places, but it’s not a 1-for-1 substitution – not really. Rather, like my friend Omar asked this week, the collective question seems to be: are we still doing this? Blogging?

I’m scared of self-branding, always have been, so I admit that it’s been freeing to walk away. Like, take that, BLOG! I am rebelling! Next thing you know, I might skip Tweeting for a week. Or delete Instagram from my phone. Who knows! I’m living on the fucking edge.

But I confess, Reader: I miss this.

Not “blogging,” per se. Writing. Writing for moi.

Is there a difference? Maybe. At some point, blogs became precursors to businesses, and you know what? That was great. Blogs helped a lot of us find jobs, and I am no exception. So thank you, blogging, and even a sheepish thanks to you, branding, you wiley mistress.

Sometimes, when I’m in the mood for long form, I dip back into the well of my favorite online writers: Sarah Hepola, Ruth Pennebaker, Omar, Mary Miller. Weirdly, I know all of these people, so reading them gives me inspiration, not to mention a little voyeuristic thrill. It’s like, you thought those things, friend? You shooed everyone away, closed the door, and thought up those beautiful things?

Writing is such an intensely private act, that reading someone else’s work always feels conspiratorial. Most of the time, anyway. I remember hearing a Real Housewife of New York shriek about a fashion book she wrote “all on my Blackberry!” and it must have pained me enough to sear its own memory. Not that I or any of you should be taking writing advice from the Real Housewives, I’m just saying that it made the whole writing enterprise feel so cheap in the moment that it generated feelings, real feelings that I should probably let go of now. (Though I’d watch my back if I were you, Kelly Bensimon!)

Dance is utterly different, because it has to happen in front of others, unless you are Billy Idol, or perhaps Robyn. Let’s just make it easy and say the rule is, if you have a bleach blonde bouffant, you don’t have to dance in front of other people if you don’t want to. As for the rest of us: we get an audience, whether we like it or not.

That vulnerability – will they mess up? Will their bodies fail them? Will freak injury occur here in front of me? – gives the whole experience a specific frisson that you don’t quite get from writing, and that’s why I’m attracted to it. Dance, I mean.

We’re still in the lazy afterglow of the holidays right now, so while all of my dance stuff is gradually coming back online, it won’t truly feel full-force until about a week and a half from now. Next week, here, I start teaching a splits class, and the week after that, silks is a lot more game-on. Modern, ballet, and jazz (!!) are all in the mix as well, and sometimes I wonder, should I write about those things? Here? I’m inclined to say ‘no,’ that would be boring, because what’s the old saw? ‘Writing about music is like dancing about architecture?’

Maybe I could switch those around and successfully write about dance, while someone else – everyone else, now that I think about it – could dance to music. Did I just blow your mind?

Anyway. Mostly, I wanted to steal this hour (or has it been two?) and check in here, feel what it’s like to write again. Writing, or as Billy would say, writin’, with myself.

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HELLO TO ALL THAT

I think it’s safe to say that Aries are independent types. Do you feel me on this, my fellow Rams?

My own independence has always been a badge of pride, if not protection. I’m almost 33, and I think about myself at 23, walking back to my car at night by myself. It was a thing I did all the time, bold and naive.

“Oh I see. You tough,” a guy remarked to me once as I made my way alone down Red River, all big strides and icy demeanor. “You be careful,” he called after me.

Nothing bad happened, not that night, and not ever. Maybe I was tough? But more likely, just lucky.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it means to be part of a unit: part of a couple, part of a family. I’m married to a fellow independent, and was raised by parents who took their respective individualities very seriously. “If one of us wants to take a trip, and the other doesn’t want to, then that’s OK!” my Dad cheerfully used to say. “No use forcing someone into something they don’t wanna do.”

But I’ve been noticing that it’s not like that everywhere, in all couples, or all families.

Some people do default to the other’s plans. And not out of weakness, either – they take turns doing it. And I wonder sometimes if this is generational. Millenials (of which I count myself a borderline member) are so used to building their own mini media empires online, via Facebook / Twitter / etc., that merging with another isn’t quite instinctive. Their own, singular identity has been the product of so much work and effort, that it hinders one’s ability to merge.

Which is why becoming a mother has been so interesting.

Me & Nico

Sunday before last.

Not that I’ve tried very hard, but so far, I’ve found relatively few new mom narratives that don’t echo one of these two themes: either A) having a baby gave my life meaning! or B) it challenged me in ways I never thought possible! And the thing is, cliches are cliches because they’re true, just like these two are. Having a baby does give your life immense meaning. Having a baby does challenge you, dramatically.

I don’t want to dismiss these, particularly because lots of new parents have it really hard. Single moms, single dads, single-income families, and that income is just barely enough. It’s hard to have emotional nuance when you’re struggling.

So these mom narratives are out there because they’re real and they’re inflected with circumstance, but if I can navel gaze for a moment, here is my own mom narrative: I’m still learning what it’s like to merge.

Nico is 10 months old now, which means she’s been out of my body longer than she was in. Her personality quirks are consistent enough to call them traits, and they include: liking people, the outside, and other babies; not liking being sprayed with a sprinkler, being put down on the ground, and dogs. That last one I think she got from me. I still see wolves inside of the big ones.

She’s a baby, but she’s one of my favorite people to hang out with, and I mean that genuinely. Not only because she is caps lock SUPER FREAKING CUTE, but because the contours of her emerging soul make sense to me. It’s not like she never cries. She does. And she’s constantly shoving leaves in her mouth and peeing while naked because, well, she a baby. But – and I say this knowing full well my capacity to project – she also has a kind heart. She amuses herself. She loves being tickled, and hates it when you suddenly walk away, and I get that.

So there is all this abundant delight. Nico is not a hard baby, not someone I’ve got to escape from with emergency date nights. And yet, I am still learning what it’s like to be a a part of a whole! With her, and with my family.

Where does it come from? I’m not sure. It could be American, could be only child, could even be zodiac (but who really knows with the zodiac). I’ve got this weird rebellious streak that asserts itself in funny ways, like a dry erase board I keep on my bedroom bookshelf with Monday through Sunday’s workout plans: “Monday: silks, stretch. Tuesday: stretch, abs, butt.” That kind of thing. Nico doesn’t mind it now, because I can put her on down on the ground for most of this stuff, but what about when she’s walking? Talking? Not so easy to plop down while I do my thing? I have a feeling I will chafe. I’ve had it since pre-pregnancy, before I had anyone else to plan around, my quiet defiance against parenthood’s strictures.

There are other headstrong acts, too, things I do to prove I’m still fundamentally a free agent. But the thing that Nico knows, and I am still figuring out, is that it’s often less lonely to just yield to the people that love you.

But, how hard that is! For somebody addicted to calling the shots of her own life. For someone who wants both spontaneity, and control.

A few years ago, when I was interviewing more musicians than anyone else, I remember speaking with a now-famous pop star whose songs were just starting to trickle in. We were getting ready to turn on the camera, and I told her: “I’m going to ask you about your tour, what you think about Austin, all that, but I can ask other things too. Is there anything else you want?”

She looked at me and, having only heard the last part of my question, responded:

“A someone. A baby! I’m super traditional, you know. I never really wanted to be famous. I want all the old-fashioned stuff.”

And that never left me, “the old-fashioned stuff.” Here was this person who was as free as you could possibly be, if free = lots of money to do what you want, a staff to help execute it, and a public to cheer you on. But there were a precious few tangibles that were tougher for her to attain, the kinds of hard-won things earned only by ceding some of your freedom, and leaving enough cracks in your schedule and identity for them to grow through.

There was a time when the life I wanted resembled something like Sex & The City, with coffee dates and fierce independence and ladies doing it for themselves. Sometimes, I look around and feel like I’ve achieved exactly that. But there was always a thread of sorrow in that show, wasn’t there? The longing for companionship and perhaps even family, coupled with the fear of finally getting it?

It’s really scary to merge. At least, for me it is. But I’m leaning in that direction all the time, and getting to know the freedoms available there.

Me, Ross, Nico

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I PUT A SPELL ON YOU

It’s so magical, right.

Bull Creek is this glorious little swimming hole and hiking trail near our house, and every time I go, there’s usually 10 other people, tops. There’s also a stretch along the trail that gets super Middle Earthy.

I stopped by last Friday, to snap some pictures for a place I’m writing for now. An arty little travel guide called The HUNT Guides. There were teenagers perched on a rock, making out; this dog, bounding through the river for his ball; and me, walking along the trail until the sun started going down. I wanted to wrap my arms around the whole thing.

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POISONED!

Contrary to what DC Comics tells you, poison ivy is NOT this sexy.

IMAGE // Via Wikia

Well, I won’t beat around the bush (hardy har har).

I have poison ivy, y’all.

Or rather, poison ivy has me. It’s on my arms, hands, chest, neck, parts of my face, and soul.

The weirdest part? I have no idea how I got it! But I blame Claudia. Hands, chest, face? That’s prime nuzzling area.

It started out as a little tiny itch on my chest Saturday morning, and then my skin slowly freaked the f-k out. When I woke up Sunday morning, it was in between my fingers and my whole chest was bright red. During yoga later that day, the words “poison oak” came to me while meditating, and I, along with Dr. Google, concluded that that’s what it must be: A poisonous, evil demon plant.

Have you ever experienced poison ivy before? Oh my God, I don’t want you to. If you see poison ivy/oak/sumac about, run as fast as you can in the opposite direction. I repeat: CLEAR THE PREMISES. Your epidermis is no match for these harmless-looking leaves, unless your epidermis is made out of stainless steel.

All that being said, I’ve been learning a lot about poison ivy these past few days, so I thought I’d share my new knowledge. Maybe it can help you out down the road!

EMERGENCY PROCEDURES FOR REACTIONS TO POISON IVY/OAK/SUMAC, A.K.A., THE PLANTS FROM SATAN: 

1. Wash. If you know you brushed up against it, wash the area immediately to break up the poisonous oils from the leaves (urushiol). It was too late for me to use Tecnu, but apparently this is a very effective poison ivy soap. It is not holistic, probably because it was originally intended to remove radioactive fallout dust from skin. (Whoa.)

2. Wash your clothes / blankets / anything that might have touched the horribleness.  For example, I washed my pillow cases, bedspread, clothes I was wearing when I discovered the rash, a scarf I had on that day — you get the idea.

3. Get a steroid shot. I wish I could tell you that this was my last resort. That I juiced and soaked in oatmeal and made my own tincture and that today, my skin has been restored to a healthy, non-diseased glow. Because that’s what I wanted to do. Really. I attempted some homespun remedies (see below) and they helped, a little, but when I finally called our Chinese medicine doctor that Ross visits sometimes, she said: “honestly, I don’t have anything. The best thing you can do is get a steroid shot.” And then she gave me the name of a clinic and I went.

4. No doctor? Visit Medspring. Speaking of clinics, this one was a godsend! My visit plus my prescription cost $125. I do have insurance, but it’s private (i.e. useless), so this was basically out-of-pocket. But! It’s less than what I was expecting to pay, and the staff was oh so lovely. I was in and out in less than 15 minutes. I walked in, the receptionist had me sign papers, she walked me back to a treatment room, a nurse IMMEDIATELY took my vitals, then a doctor IMMEDIATELY came in and evaluated me, then I was IMMEDIATELY given a shot and sent me on my merry way with a prescription. I cannot say enough good things about it.

5. Hot water will temporarily cure your itch. I read somewhere on the Internet that hot water opens the pores and allows more of the poison to seep in, then I read a commenter say that was stupid, and then the two got in an Internet fight. Anyway, all I know is that running hot water over your rash will buy you a few hours of precious itch relief.  This really weird thing happens where the hot water makes your skin itch like mad, and it feels simultaneously good and awful (it made me cry last night), then you remove your body from the hot water and the itch is magically gone! (Temporarily.)

6. Ice works too. But the effects don’t last nearly as long as scalding hot water.

7. Tea tree oil and lavender oil are a small wonder. I mixed a 50/50 solution and dabbed my redness with it, and that created a cooling affect that calmed down my itchin’. But don’t get too overzealous with the tea tree oil — it’s very strong, and can burn your skin if you’re not careful. Dilute that shit!  You might play it safe and add more lavender than tea tree oil to your mix, since lavender is a lot calmer.

8. Baking soda + vinegar = closest thing to an at-home remedy. Ok, so I didn’t try this, but it seems as though the whole entire Internet swears by the baking soda/vinegar thing for poison ivy. Here‘s a thread of believers.

9. Don’t scratch! There is conflicting information out there on whether scratching spreads the rash or not. All I know is, it started out on my chest, then my hands (presumably because I was scratching), then my face (because I washed my face with my hands), then my arms because I was telling my friend, “thank goodness it’s not on my arms!” while rubbing said arms with my hands and boom, poison ivy arms. Best play it safe and don’t scratch. Try giving yourself a near third-degree burn instead. (See Tip #5.)

10. Lube up with raw cacao butter. I just got a tub of this stuff and am hoping there’s a sexy, smooth-skinned vixen underneath my current reptile-like pallor. Use it as your rash is drying out.

11. Drink lots and lots of wine. This method has only been tested and confirmed by one individual: me! In all seriousness, it’s probably wise to ask your doctor before you drown your sorrows in a bottomless glass of pinot noir and then pop those steroids, but so far it’s working out for this girl.

Wish me luck, Reader. I have a SXSW panel on Sunday and look like a (slightly cuter) version of Freddie Krueger.

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CLAUDIA VERSUS HEIDI.

/// Photos, Austin Eavesdropper. TOP: My cat, Claudia. BOTTOM: My parents’ cat, Heidi. 

Last Friday, Ross and I drove down to San Antonio for my dad’s birthday.  And while we were there, Reader, we got to spend some quality time with that gigantic ewok you see above, a.k.a. Heidi.

Heidi is so fluffy that you can literally lose track of your hand inside her fur.  Also, she essentially resembles our cat, Claudia … if Claudia stuck her paw inside an electric socket, then got a professional blowout.

My family has a weakness for little tortoise shells, and Heidi is basically the cat of my mother’s dreams: She always wanted a fluffy cat with a smushed-in face (who doesn’t?), and about five years ago, Heidi came into their lives.  She is super talkative and playful, but she does NOT like to be picked up.  This poses a problem for my husband, who insists on holding cats in the arm-cradle position like a baby.  Claudia’s learned to put up with it, but Heidi is still getting used to Ross’s affections.

Here she is, hiding from him.

Having a moment.

Sigh.  Isn’t she ridiculously beautiful, slash evil-looking?  From certain angles, when she’s narrowing her little eyes, she reminds me of M.A.D. Cat in Inspector Gadget.

Our baby Claudia may not be as luxuriously fluffy as Heidi, but she is pretty adorable in her own way.  Don’t you agree?

Reading our favorite book!

This is actually a hilarious story.  Claudia is having a straight-up Clint Eastwood stand-off with a plush kitten toy here in this picture, because she thinks it is real.

Last Christmas, Ross and I got stuffed animals for our two baby nephews, and when we took out the stuffed kitty, Claudia started hissing at it.  We thought that was funny, so while Claudia busted out her deep, low, “DON’T F-K WITH THE BABYSITTER” growl, we made it dance in front of her face – resulting in Claudia attacking this poor toy.  (PS, we are terrible people.)

We then set it on the ground and kicked it around a bit to demonstrate its lifeless nature, but Claudia was convinced it was simply playing Chicken.  She skulked around it for the next few minutes with hair raised and ears back, until we gift-wrapped it out of sight.  Nobody puts Baby in a corner, and nobody, but nobody, invades Claudia’s territory.

We are doing some administrative Austin Eavesdropper work in the background today Reader, so thank you for putting up with this silly post!  Who do YOU think wins the cuteness contest: Claudia, or Heidi?

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