love people. take pictures. write things down.

photos and words by Caroline

eating.

Inspired by my love of other health and foodie blogs (such as ohshineon.com and eatliverun.com) I have decided to write a three-part blog series on health and the three things everyone MUST do to stay healthy: Eat, Sleep, and Move.

To begin, my personal favorite: Eating.

Eating right is very difficult, probably because there is SO much information out there. One week you read that eggs are a great way to start your morning with protein and then you read that the cholesterol in eggs clog your arteries as much as smoking does (this can’t be true—but I have heard this.) A grapefruit for breakfast sounds great until you are starving an hour later. To find out what foods are right for you takes research, failed cooking experiments, and plenty of encouragement. These are just some things that I have learned that I hope will be helpful to others.

1. Eat SOME junk food. I used to believe that never buying any junk food for myself would help me not eat it. This was a great theory until I begun repeatedly finding myself in someone else’s home and inhaling their Doritos like my life depended on it (also known as babysitting.) If you indulge your craving in at least semi-healthy ways (I keep lightly buttered popcorn and low-fat frozen yogurt in the house) you will be less likely to be at the Taco Bell at midnight ordering 6 crunch-wraps because all you have at home is quinoa and frozen spinach. Keep a box of whole wheat mac & cheese or a microwavable bean and cheese burrito at home for nights like these. When you moderate yourself instead on deprive yourself, you will find a greater sense of control and greater motivation to stay on track. Trust me, it won’t do you any good to be the girl at the party whose mouth is so full of Cheetos that you can hardly utter the words “but I NEVER eat junk food!!!”

2. STOP putting tons of milk/sugar/creamer in coffee. Seriously, just get over it. There is no need for this. If you don’t like how coffee tastes, stop drinking it. It’s probably healthier not too but all of America is addicted. So measure out what you put in. I measure a tablespoon of half&half every morning for a fairly big mug of coffee. Simply pouring in Coffeemate until you think you should stop is costing you calories and money. This rule also applies for tea. I used to DUMP honey and sugar into tea. Now I add a tiny bit of honey–if anything! Tazo Sweet Cinnamon Spice tea is the most perfect tea on earth and needs nothing added to it. Go buy it. They have it at Target.

3. DON’T skip breakfast. I didn’t learn this until I was in college, thanks to my raised-on-a-farm best friend who counted on me to meet her at her dorm at 7:20 every day before class to go to breakfast. If you aren’t hungry when you wake up, wait an hour and then eat something—preferably with protein. I love cereal but I find most brands aren’t very filling, so I eat GoLean Crunch with almond milk.

4. Keep track of what you eat. I’m not saying you have to count calories. This leads to things like googling how many calories are in two bites of your friends donut and may also lead to insanity. Just try keeping a record. There are plenty of smartphone apps to help you do this. Also, write down how much water you drink! I rarely drink as much as I should, but I drink much more when I am keeping track of it.

5. Make amazing food! Miracle foods are not those over-priced Special K breakfast sandwiches that are only 240 calories. (unless you absolutely must have a breakfast sandwich in the morning and are too lazy to make a much cheaper one for yourself.) I have found that a lot of the amazing foods that help me stay on track aren’t pre-packaged meals or “diet foods” but simply real, healthy options. If you want a low calorie snack, don’t reach for a 100-calorie package of dry, thin brownies–reach for a banana or a cup of greek yogurt, which has low or zero fat and around 15 grams of protein (depending on the brand.) Don’t force yourself to eat salads if you hate lettuce and have to drown it in fatty dressing to make it edible. Make a sandwich of whole wheat bread, spicy brown mustard (5 calories in a tablespoon), thinly sliced cheese (40 calories in a slice of Sargento ultra-thin colby jack), and a couple of slices of sliced turkey. Vegetarians can substitute a hard-boiled egg, and either can add sliced tomato and spinach. Yum! My point is, create your own meals. For dinner: less Lean Cuisines, more recipes. Try some of these.

7. Food Karma. My mama wrote “food is love” in the cookbook she gave me last year. Don’t be the girl who people are afraid to give christmas cookies to because you’ll never eat them. Be the girl who cooks way too much food for your friends and sends everyone home with leftovers. When you cook for people, it is a different kind of currency. What goes around, comes around. A free meal is in your future, and some delicious love and company is in your present. Having a healthy relationship with food is so important, and an important way of developing this is by bringing people together over a meal.

Happy eating!Image

self-taught time management and a line from a book I lost.

This week, I rearranged my room and moved my bed next to the window.  My desk was next to the window before, but I realized that I never sit at my desk. I’m not sure I have ever sat at my desk. I’m not sure why I even own a desk. I sit on my bed to read, to write, to watch Netflix—even to eat, which happens more often than I’d like to admit. That’t the thing about living alone— there is no one to walk upstairs and see you eating Frosted Flakes at 2:00 in the afternoon and ask in surprise/disgust, “Are you eating breakfast?!” Yes, this has happened before. There is also the sad realization that no one will know you rearranged your room or got up at a decent hour to make yourself a brunch of lemon crepes and caramel coffee unless you post it on Instagram.

I’ve had a lot of time on my hands lately, because I had two days off this week. Being a nanny means that sometimes you get two days off because you simply “aren’t needed,” regardless of the fact that you want/need the money for those two days. Because all of my friends work “real” full-time jobs, I found myself doing things like getting my hair cut and changing lightbulbs. And moving furniture. All by myself (!) I also took my car in to get a new battery and an oil change, because my last week had been full of the drama that anyone with an old car battery feels during Michigan January. This drama includes walking out of the grocery store and looking around wondering “Who here would I ask to jump my car for me?” This is followed immediately by a quick prayer at the wheel and (hopefully) the relief of an engine roaring to life.  Except for when it doesn’t start, and you call someone to come and help you, because you don’t want to talk to strangers.

I eventually did take my car in to the shop, and laughed when I asked the mechanic if I could pay with a debit card, and he responded by telling me they take “anything but your first born child.” Later, I remembered the car seat in the back of my car (I’m a nanny to a three-year-old) and realized the man thought I actually had a child to sacrifice, if need be. I decided not to correct him in hopes that maybe he would give me a discount for being a single mother. (I was once dating someone who called a car repair shop for me and somehow got my quote lower by saying he was my fiancé.)

It’s been four days, and my rearranged room still feels amazing. I’m not sure why. It could be the bed by the window, or it could just be the change. It makes me feel like I am in a new environment, and sleeping in a new place has been a life-long love of mine. Hence my love of sleepovers and hotels. Isn’t that what is so wonderful about traveling? I know that seeing famous buildings and museums, and eating new foods is very exciting, but what about the thrill of waking up to a smell you don’t recognize, and having to look out the window to remember what is there? I am not a fan of change in the way some people are. I don’t dye my hair blue or dream of having a life where I am in a new country every month. However, I do need a new running route, a new band to follow, a new coffee flavor, a new set of sheets, a new project, even a new friend every so often. My mother always said she could never live anywhere without four seasons, and I completely agree. Nothing makes my heart lighter than the change that comes with those first few warm days of spring, especially after a Michigan winter of frozen car batteries.  I can’t wait to feel the first warm freeze from my bed by the window.

It’s a new year, and maybe that is why I am thinking about change. I think that new years divide people into two categories: resolvers and reminiscers. I am not a resolver. I made one of those photo-a-day albums for 2012 and spent hours making sure the photos were captioned and in the correct order. My only resolution is to be more thankful for the here and now, which is the resolution of a reminiscer. I often find myself having conversations such as this:

me: Man, I miss our badminton class!

friend: No you don’t, you hated that class.

me: I did hate it…

In order to stop missing days gone by/worrying myself sick about the future (another hobby of mine), I should probably rearrange my life a little bit. Unfortunately, rearranging my time and my days is not as easy as rearranging my bedroom furniture. If only I could say, “This week I am going to go to church on Thursday and Founders on Saturday!” or “Today I am going to have fried chicken for breakfast and oatmeal for dinner” and it had the same effect as a night away in a hotel. (Wait–can’t you have fried chicken for breakfast at Chic-Fil-A?)

I once had a book on writing by Annie Dillard. I left it in a hotel. This was unfortunate, because I had a lot of it underlined, and it also because it belonged to my Dad (sorry, Dad.) Regardless, it’s gone now and I only remember one sentence:

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”

What a zinger, right?

When I reminisce about 2013, I don’t want to think of a life of naps or Netflix or even a life of running. Don’t we want our days to combine to form a life of laughter, a life of learning, a life of nature, a life of love? This is not to say anyone should eliminate pleasures such as television and Facebook and sleeping in on Saturdays. My T.V. shows bring me laughter and my social media connects me with the people I love. I just need to do some rearranging. It might be hard to shove a love of sleeping in out of the way to make room for early morning coffee with a friend, but experience tells me I will feel absolutely feel refreshed afterwards, and not missing my bed or 2:00 pm Frosted Flakes at all.

Image

resolutions

Stop being jealous of the beautiful girls

who have beautiful nails that don’t chip paint

with words and practice silence

the voices that tell me I can know anything about the end

the laziness and sign up for a race

into the arms of those whom I love before they turn to smoke

less—only on Mondays when I am across from the bus station

God in all areas of my life that I may find a place

my clothes and books where they belong and develop some taste

food and smell air and touch everyone

somehow.

newtown

I read that his mother said, “Adam,

it is not good to for you to be alone.”

And I wonder–did he respond with a semi-automatic

argument? Or was there silence, like the song

Paul Simon played at the funeral

of a 27-year-old hero who still slept with a teddy bear?

.

Either way, we weren’t listening.

recent photography

for a blog with “take pictures” in the title I haven’t posted a lot of photography. Here are some of my favorites from the past month or so. This post is also to make up for the fact that I haven’t written anything decent in a while.ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

inverness.

I couldn’t write it then–

(but I can now–why is that?)

–couldn’t see then that your room had only three walls and I couldn’t

hear the creaking

floorboards (hiding something?) and I fell for

the slant of the headlights passing

all night through the basement

window over two sleeping humans who had walked

through a greener country

with vinyl over our heads

(don’t worry, it was kind of beautiful)

although

frost covered us overnight

and someone was always watching.

mom jeans and running shoes.

note: you’ve probably already read this. originally wrote and posted this on 10/18/2012 on noonecanfathom.tumblr.com. i wanted it here too 🙂

Even though I am only a nanny, I often think I understand motherhood when I feel crazy love coupled with complete frustration for three-year-old Wyatt, my charge for 6-8 hours every weekday. I can scoop up the little perfectly-bred Arian beauty and all I want to do lay on the couch all day with him. His little sweatpants are soft and he can sit on my stomach without crushing me and sometimes he even holds my hand and plays with my hair, trying to make a ponytail. This extended snuggling may require watching four consecutive hours of Dora the Exlplorer, but who cares? I have a perfect fun-size cuddle buddy! Then, just as our hands meet in the bowl of shared cheese popcorn, he will tell me that he hates my sweatshirt. He doesn’t like purple, and I should wear orange tomorrow. He also wants chocolate milk NOW even though I just made him waterered-down white grape juice, which I know is his favorite. So I turn off the TV and make him practice learning the days of the week, so that next time he insults me he will actually know that tomorrow is Wednesday. He kicks me with his adorable little crocs on and yells, “You’re mean” and “Mommy said no!” which are the meanest things he knows to say.

I take Wyatt to the library and I wonder who perceives me to be a mother of a three-year old. Wyatt doesn’t let go of me the whole time we are there, but its not like he is accidentally calling me, “Mommy.” On the days when I know Wyatt and I will be going out in public, I actually plan to wear a baggier pair of jeans, instead of my beloved leggings as pants.

I am not too thin to be a mother. Everyone around here is thin, because everyone is a runner. I used to hate the monotonous activity, but now I feel as though if I don’t run, I am not paying my dues to the jogging god of Grand Rapids, and that all of the young women in spandex at D&W will know I skipped a run. If you aren’t at church on a Sunday morning around here, you sure as hell better be jogging. About a year ago, my best friend Rachel ran a marathon. She ran through my church service and my three cup of coffee. She ran for four hours, became a saint of Grand Rapids with an aluminum foil blanket, and spent the next three days limping up and down the stairs. It looked like torture, but she was admired by all, including myself. She loved the photos I took of her, frozen mid-sprint, smiling—-head-to-toe in Nike.

I mostly run as an attempt to teach myself some self disciple, but I also run with Wyatt, around the house playing Power Rangers and around the local park—-the only place where a mother with a child of her own once asked me, “Is he yours?”

“I’m the nanny.” I replied, which in retrospect sounds cinematic, as though every child has a working mother and a nanny, and this was the Upper East side of Manhattan. I could have said, “I am his nanny,” or even, “I am hisbabysitter.” But then again I am no longer the fourteen-year-old who tucks a couple of little kids into bed and then spends the majority of her work time in front of the WB watching shows about teenagers having sex and playing basketball so that she has something to talk about with her friends at school. Any young teenager will tell you that it is always best to get a babysitting job on a night when one of those beautiful and forbidden shows is on. You’ll suddenly understand what all the girls are talking about in front of their lockers in the morning.

Now, given glorious grown-up freedom, I come home from a day of running around and can watch anything I please! So I watch sit in bed alone watching reruns of Sex and the City, and text my mother about it the next morning.

arts & leisure

home is where the time is

in lepoard-print journals and crushed shoeboxes

photographs with orange spots (water damage from the flood)

I smooth the creases and my father says, “I don’t remember that.”

or, “were we on vacation?”

.

home is where the Times is.

pieces of yesterday, scattered sections of weeks ago–

a slice of October still sits in the living room.

seasoned with eraser crumbs (crossword abandoned.)

.

I read the Sunday Styles

in my church clothes (jeans are O.K.)

and later with my mother under the Costco blanket.

.

We forget the wine in the freezer

Accidentally preserving something that improves with age.

are we there yet?

When Wyatt’s mother got home from work the other day and relieved me of my nannying duties, I overheard her offer to make her son some pasta. Although Wyatt was excited to see his mother again after eight hours apart, her question caused his posture to drop, face to crumple, and little voice to whine, “Is it gonna take a long tiiiime?”

“This is his new thing,” I commented.

Earlier that day, I had mentioned to the three-year-old that I could cook a pizza in the oven for us to have for lunch, and he opted instead for a microwavable corn-dog, even though pizza is his absolute favorite—the reason being that he has figured out that cooking something in the oven takes considerably longer than cooking something in the microwave. Even as I was placing the con dog on a plate, he was quick to instruct me, “DON’T put it in the oven!!”

Whenever we get in the car drive anywhere (which is a process in and of itself now that coats and hats and gloves are invovled), I can always expect to hear from the backseat, “Is home far awayyyy?”

The farthest from home I take him is to library for story time–which is a whole twelve (!) minutes away. The only way that he doesn’t complain about it being “far awayyy” and it taking “a long tiiime” to get there is if we listen to his favorite country song…on repeat. Right now it is “Hard to Love” by Lee Brice, which I actually (thankfully) enjoy. All summer it was “Pontoon” by Little Big Town and I think it is safe to say that I will never listen to that song again, despite how catchy I thought it was in June. Even though we drive to the library every Wednesday, his brother Will’s school frequently, and the bakery every morning that he wants a doughnut and I want more coffee, Wyatt asks if said location is “far awayyyy” everytime I strap him into his carseat.

It is as though Wyatt has just now become aware of the concept of waiting. He never complained about waiting for things before, but now he seems to be in the inevitable “are we there yet?” stage. When he had a lunch date planned with his grandfather, he said to me, “I want Grandpa to be here” every ten minutes from when I arrived at 8:00am until his grandfather finally arrived at noon. He looks at me as if I am the one who makes things happen. When he tells me he wants to go outside, we go outside to play. So when he tells me he wants Grandpa to be here, Grandpa should be here, right?

I often find myself acting in the same way. I eat dinner when I want to, go to bed when I want to, and get annoyed when people aren’t available to hang out when I feel like being social (which is most of the time.) I am terribly impatient. I don’t have a nanny to whine to, so I tell God, “I want this to happen.” I should probably be working on some applications for grad school, but I can’t seem to get started because I know it’s going to take a long tiiiime. Also, I would rather be out drinking wine or running or porch-sitting at Rachel’s than be home with my computer.

Speaking of which, where is home anyway? Is it the place where I wake up every morning and keep my favorite books and journals?—or is it where I grew up: a split-level with a yellow lab, a giant TV, home-cooked meals and a loving father’s echoing laugh? Is home far awayyy?

Most people figure out the “home” question eventually. When you marry, move out for good, build a family of your own, find a real job, or life throws you some other game-changer in terms of supporting yourself, you have a new place that is home. There is no more in-between stage where you can say “I just got home from work” and “I’ll be home for Christmas” and mean two entirely different places.

Mastering the art of patience is in itself a long-term process. Maybe it’s a combination of the American dream meets “the grass is always greener”, but so many young people I talk with want to be more and do more, but aren’t sure where to begin—or end, for that matter. We are patient until we get what we think we want, only to find ourselves asking again, “Am I there yet?” An artistic friend of mine who works at a photo studio longs for the life of a construction worker, who works all day with rough hands and tired legs. Another creative friend of mine works all day washing windows, and is currently looking to work at the front desk of a quiet dry-cleaners, so that he can sit and read books through the cold winter months. My friend who works as a project manager wants a job where she is not stuck behind a desk all day, and I envy her because she gets to wear heels and pencil skirts to work and contributes to a totally hip local business.

In terms of career and productivity, I think an overwhelming amount of people feel stuck. That must be why there are so many self-help books about being productive and doing more with your life. Because in the 21st century we aren’t patient. We want to get things done, and move forward, as long as it doesn’t take a long time. We could use some patience, and a whole lot of faith, but we continue to chose the microwave. Give me money, happiness and a feeling of self-worth, but DON’T put it in the oven.

blackouts.

A couple of hours ago I received the text from my Mom I had been waiting for all week: “We have power!”

“Yahooo!!!” I responded, because my family in the suburbs of NYC had been without electricity for 144 hours. (I was also without power earlier this week, but this was only because I blew a fuse while trying to simultaneously use a space heater and boil water for tea in my electric kettle. )

As a kid, a power outage is one of the most exciting things that can happen. Hotels may be more exciting, but only if they have a pool and/or hot tub and your parents let you watch the TV from your bed. While my enthusiasm for hot tubs and TV in bed had not decreased, my longing for the adventure of walking to bed with a candelabra like Belle in Beauty and the Beast no longer remains. Even in my brief hour with no electricity, I was annoyed that I couldn’t plug in my soon-to-be-dead computer. Which seems completely ridiculous considering that my family went without power for six whole days.

I think that everyone, maybe even the kids, will think of power outages differently post Hurricane Sandy world. Halloween was cancelled, and no kid wants to miss out on the one night a year they get candy simply for being four feet tall. A nine-year-old I mentor through Kids Hope USA thought Hurricane Sandy was a literally hurricane of sand, and that conditions weren’t as bad by the time it got to Michigan because there simply wasn’t as much sand here. She was so genuinely concerned about the people that it did effect that I didn’t have the heart to correct her, although I probably should have.

Even if you are still a die-hard blackout fan, you have to admit that the anticipation is the best part. Hearing the thunder, watching the lights flicker, helping Dad put batteries in all the flashlights, and wondering if you will get to stay up later because no one knows what time it is are all more memorable than a simple night or two without power. Unless a tree falls on your house or you spend the day making a huge snow-fort, people stay inside, read, play Monopoly, and cheer when the lights turn back on, which they always do.

In 2003, something amazing happened. The power went out, but it wasn’t because of a storm that threatened people’s lives and properties. It was the unexplained northeast power-outage. I was thirteen, my brother Andrew and his best friend Ryan were eleven, and my sister Abby has just turned eight.  It was a time before thirteen year olds (or eleven year olds, or even eight year olds for that matter) had cell phones. It was a time when I owned a bright purple boom box with an antenna that I played my favorite CDs on, which were The Beatles 1 and the soundtrack to 13 Going On 30. It was August, so my siblings and I sat outside on the front lawn, gathered around my boom box, and listened for updates on the mysterious occurrence. The power had been out in the New York metro-area all day, and no one knew why. Maybe it was the mystery that made it all so exciting. Maybe it is the nostalgia of all of my siblings being together, sitting outside in the hot summer, talking to neighbors as they passed, watching the evening slip in to darkness.

It must have been Maureen, Ryan’s mother, who suggested we go for a walk to the park. I say this because it was also Maureen who suggested we ride our bikes to the end of the pier on September 11th, 2001. From there, we could see smoke rising from the south. At eleven, I was old enough to go but still not old enough to understand.

We walked on the boardwalk and through the park. We weren’t afraid, but it was very quiet and very dark. We could see the stars. I later discovered that srat-gazers in New York City could see the Milky Way for the first time in decades. We looked out to where we could normally see the lights on Long Island, and the water might as well have been the Atlantic. We ran in to an old woman who had a telescope pointing towards the sky. This is the part when my memory gets rusty. Was it an old woman with a creepy grin or a friendly grandmother out with her grandson? Was it a magnificent telescope set up on a tripod, or was it small and accordion-like, such as a ship captains’?  I do know that the woman showed us the stars. We even saw a planet—Venus, maybe—and we were amazed. We thanked her and I knew that I was experiencing something magical, that I had seen another world just by going for an aimless walk in the dark.

Parts of the boardwalk we walked on that night are now drifting into the Long Island Sound, torn up by the high winds. A few days ago, Abby described my hometown as a “disaster zone,” with hour long waits  at the gas station and “so many power lines down. It’s insane.” The adults want a warm shower and to get back to work and kids want their Halloween candy. The teenagers want school for the socialization (and probably some Halloween candy as well), but are enjoying being allowed to have co-ed sleepovers at the houses that have heat.

The strangest part of being in Michigan during this craziness is not that it makes me nostalgic for power outage stories, but that it makes me wish I was in New York City, because I still think of New York as my city. I want to stick with my family and my hometown through this hard time.

Instead, I’m just watching.

Here’s what I’m looking at: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2012/11/01/us/sandy-POD-index.html