By Gabrielle. Photos by Sara Jensen.
I was speaking with a friend who had recently spoken with her friend whose everyday activities seem so – for lack of a better word – difficult! It isn’t that she’s building rocket ships or cooking dinner for a queen or even saving the world; it’s more that her daily to do list takes her places that are literally and figuratively completely foreign to most of us. And yet, she manages to accomplish everything she needs to accomplish. (More on her later!)
It got me thinking that we are all on this same path of doing what needs to be done, and that our daily to do lists are probably equal parts similar and so very different. My intrigue led to this new column, Call It A Day, where we follow friends through an average 24 hours and hopefully learn a little something along the way. You know, the whole walk-a-mile-in-their-shoes thing! I’m hoping it will become a real day-changer, philosophy shifter, and all around happy-maker.
I’m starting the series with the super talented Sara Jensen. Sara and her husband Thor live on a little island in the Pacific Northwest, and are parents to Henry and Rose, who are both seven and just two months apart. And I have to mention that as huge as her talent is, it’s got nothing on her heart. I like her so much, and her last line made me crumple. I hope her day makes yours even better.
Q: Good morning! How does your family wake up?
A: Typically Thor and I wake up about an hour before the kids. Food is an important part of our day, not only because we love to eat well, but because our son’s life depends on it. He has Type 1 Diabetes, and every single carb counts in our house. We have to measure everything we make to make sure that we are giving our son the proper amount of insulin to handle his food. Too little insulin creates high blood sugar that in the short term can make him really grumpy and sad, and too much insulin can cause his sugar to drop rapidly and cause him to pass out, fall into a coma or, best case scenario, make him act like a crazy drunk fratboy. Your brain operates at about 50% capacity when you are low. Long term high blood sugar can also lead to death, coma, DKA, loss of limbs, organ failure, and blindness.
Q: From your Instagram peeks into your meals, you are a fantastic cook! Can you share a typical breakfast?
A: We rotate meals a lot. We find that if you serve kids the same thing all of the time they don’t like change. Our kids LOVE change. A lot of people comment that it is too late to change the way that their kids eat. We met our daughter Rose when she was just three. Her diet largely consisted of fast food or no food, and she thought that weird Kool-Aid juice that comes in barrels was actual juice. The first full day we had her at our house we made her a kale salad and she asked what it was, observed Henry eating it, and just went with it.
We feel so passionate about good food. We feel lucky to be educated enough about it and always want to learn more. We try and teach others, too. Our kids have thick skin and sometimes other kids with four Twinkies and a piece of meat with two dry slices of white bread make fun of their salad, but they shrug and keep eating. Henry even told another kid that was making fun of him that he would “probably not live his full life span if he didn’t eat vegetables.”
For breakfast we like to make oatmeal, whole oats, fresh berries, hemp hearts, sliced almonds or walnuts, and a splash of unsweetened almond milk. Sometimes we do cocoa nibs and a teensy bit of banana and unsweetened coconut chips.
Other days we have eggs with baby kale, and an “ice cream drink” which is just a banana, almond butter, macro green powder, hemp protein powder, and frozen raspberries.
Another new favorite sounds super weird but it’s a toast that my friend Sam Talbot, an amazing chef who also has Type 1 Diabetes, makes. It’s whole grain toast topped with peanut or almond butter, and then we put sliced bananas in a bowl with fresh mint leaves and mix with fresh lemon juice, and put that on top of the almond butter. It is so seriously good. We serve that with eggs, too.
Sam and Henry Facetime each week and come up with healthy recipes.
Q: What’s next? How do Rose and Henry get to school?
A: My office is in town, close to school. Thor works from home. It’s a good thing that we don’t work in the same place – people can spend too much time together. I try not to contact him during the day unless it’s urgent. I have to be able to get to the school really quickly in case Henry needs help.
I drive them to school and walk them to their lines and usually wait for them to walk in. Normally, I need to update the teacher and Henry’s PDA (someone who can give Henry insulin at school and check his blood sugar) about anything abnormal going on. Maybe he was up a lot the night before because we had to treat him for low or high blood sugar, maybe his insulin is being stubborn and he is running a little high. Diabetes is a manageable disease, but you have to really manage it. Sometimes, though, no matter what you do, you can’t. It’s very frustrating.
What I love about our school is that everyone knows everyone. In smaller towns every person matters. You never know if someone is related to a friend of yours, your best friend might be your server at the local pub, and another good friend might be your dentist. There is a good amount of respect since we are all so connected to each other. A lot of people know what both Rose and Henry deal with or have dealt with, and are really sensitive to their feelings. Today I am letting my kids walk ALL ALONE like four blocks from school, but I know they will be safe and are dying to do this big kid thing. I’m probably going to hide in the bushes and follow them. I guess I’m the creep.
Q: Tell us how you spend an average day at work.
A: Every day tends to start pretty early. I struggle with not feeling this frantic urge to check all my messages the moment I wake up. Since I have a lot of east coast clients, they are already rolling when I am just starting my day. If I haven’t had to wake up every two hours to check Henry’s blood sugar (sometimes we have stable nights and they are glorious), I go to Pilates mat at 6:00 am.
I work as a creative director with a number of clients. I make sure that their creative vision comes out in they way they need it to. Often they are so busy with multiple projects, TV shows, or opening restaurants, and they need to be able to trust someone to manage all of it and organize inspiration. I prefer to work with clients who have a design background or understand it; I am no longer able to work with people who don’t respect design. I have a background in graphic design, surface design, production of textiles, and even design of retail spaces, so I have a number of things I can offer people that I work with.
I have to be working on really different projects in order to feel happy. This is a good thing in general but sometimes I can feel overwhelmed. I’m working really hard on trusting my gut this year and saying no to things more readily and giving quotes that are very fair to me. I think that when I was younger I tended to undersell myself, and frankly I think this is something that a lot of women suffer from, but I’m working hard on it. I really really think that your gut knows best. Every time I have tried to force myself to work on something I don’t want to or force myself to be friends with someone I have a funny feeling about, it always goes wrong.
A few projects that are close to my heart are working with a new non profit group called Beyond Type 1, some new exciting home lines with Genevieve Gorder, who is a design genius and all around awesome person, and an apron line with Sam Talbot called Sam + Beatrice. Recently I designed a site for Lisa Congdon, who is so great it almost makes me cry when I think about how much I love that lady.
Q: Lunch plans? Do you talk to anyone that really makes your day better?
A: For lunch I take an old school boxing class. The first day I went, the directions were literally “behind the auto body shop, take a left at the broken toilet, and listen for 90s hip hop.” You aren’t allowed to swear in class, and that was a big struggle for me. I put a lot of money in the swear jar.
I’ve gotten so much better in boxing class. It’s pretty brutal. Today my arms hurt, and yesterday my legs hurt from booty barre, which is a little fancier looking but just as terrifying/amazing. After that class, I usually meet Rose for lunch at her school. Henry has his lunch with this T1 group he started on Wednesdays, so my husband and I switch off having a special lunch with Rose. There is so much focus on food and insulin all the time at meals, and we want to makes sure that Rose doesn’t feel ignored.
Q: How do you errand?
A: We have no stop lights here – just one four way stop sign – so getting around is very quick. Lines are usually pretty good but be prepared to have conversations with at least five people while out running errands. It’s a small town. We have one grocery store here, and there is also a smaller one but it’s mostly for tourists.
I cook dinner 90% of the time. I tend to throw something in a marinade in the morning or the night before, and think about salads that go with it. On the fourth of every month (the day that I am writing this) it’s “Hot Dog Night” as declared by Rose. I’ve always found hot dogs kind of trashy, but Rose LOVES them. So don’t think that we always eat like hippies.
Tonight we made Applegate hot dogs with melted swiss and crunchy onions, and the other was a vietnamese style hot dog. Both super good. The seventh is “Hand Roll Night” which was Henry’s idea. We like to make sushi hand rolls with daikon rice instead of sushi rice. Sam and Henry came up with that idea. So great!
Q: Do you carve out any personal time during your day?
A: At first I was like I HAVE NO PERSONAL TIME and realized that exercise is my personal time. I had a brutal and surprising double spinal surgery a couple of years ago and gained a lot of weight. I felt pretty depressed, squishy, and ashamed. My back was so bad my husband had to help me off the couch all the time. It was awful.
It’s pretty easy to slip into a depression following a surgery, but I tried really hard to break out of it, first by going to a boot camp then transitioning to more Pilates based stuff and boxing. I’ve never been this strong in my life. I love it. If I don’t exercise, I am pretty crabby.
Q: When do you meet back up with the rest of your family?
A: Thor and I switch picking them up from school. Sometimes we are so busy that we arrange playdates for them after school. They also take ballet together, Henry takes Taekwondo and they are getting back into music. Rose LOVES sports, so she’s all up in the basketball, and they both are on soccer. I even coach the team after someone said “You are great at yelling at kids! You should be a soccer coach.”
Rose wants to be on the football team next year. Thor or I pick them up at school and they do homework and have free time while we wrap up work. We try to spend as much time with them as possible – you can’t get it back. Sometimes after they go to bed (most times), we have to work until we go to bed, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
Q: Describe your evening rituals for us. What makes the end of your day special?
A: We eat dinner together, and we try to only talk about positive things. We ask them the best part of their day, and the kids like to review my food. Also, I made a memory game for them out of their memories, using Moo to make a 50 pack of those square cards. They love it. We play Monopoly, too. Rosie and I always end up in the poor house or jail, and Henry is like a crazy land baron. Thor swoops in and beats all of us. Rose and I are working on our strategy.
Many days after dinner we have to change one of Henry’s two medical devices. That takes a little while. And we like to read to them. I usually read to Rose, Thor reads to Henry. Sometimes they want to read alone.
Q: Please finish the sentence: The last thing I usually think about before falling asleep for the night is…
A: …please let Henry live through the night. It’s a real fear and I feel emotional even typing it.
I warned you about that darn last line, didn’t I? Sara, thank you. I love the way you live, and I can’t thank you enough for sharing your day with us. I read this line three times: “We try to spend as much time with them as possible – you can’t get it back.”
Friends, what do you think? Did you enjoy this peek into someone else’s day? I really, really did. If nothing else, it inspires me to be more thoughtful in how I’m spending my own hours! As you may remember, I’m trying to figure out how to use Design Mom to give a voice to more women, and I hope this is another good way to do that.
P.S. – Are you interested in sharing your day with us? Let me know! It’s a lot of fun…I promise!