The April List – 2020

I’m writing this as we anticipate another freeze tomorrow. My phone’s weather app is telling me it will get down to 28 degrees on Friday night. I think about the momma robin who worked so hard to craft her nest among the clematis vines and hope she will be okay. Not to mention all my perennials that have already started blooming.


1)  Now that the weather is above 45 (at least until tomorrow), I’ve started to take daily or near-daily walks again. Magnola trees are always gorgeous with their fluffy petals, although ironically we always seem to get wind storms in spring, which blow those delicate petals right off.

2)  My garden is popping up, which is always super exciting. Pics above show the difference of one month. Many of these plants came from my neighbor, Shirley, who I think of often. It would be impossible not to, really, with evidence of her presence just over the fence in her still-beautiful garden, as well as in my own yard. Some of her plants have creeped into our garden and I like the connection of her space bridged with ours.

3)  I’ve walked the same streets over and over again for six years now. I’ve been trying to find newness, which is around if one looks hard enough.

4)  I always love looking at all the homes. I’ve been trying to look at them with a fresh perspective to keep my creativity in check. It doesn’t always work, but sometimes it does.

5)  We were gifted this beautiful loaf of bread from a co-worker’s daughter (who also babysat twice before this whole pandemic went down). Everyone seems to be making their own bread lately and why not. I have yet to, but aspire to at some point. I do have flour and yeast, which are getting harder and harder to find.

6)  Not to say that we haven’t been baking. In an Instagram post, I said that I think I’ve eaten more dessert during lockdown that I had all of last year, and I believe it’s true. Cupcakes, muffins, banana bread, pistachio cake, cookies, scones. It’s a big problem. And yet. I continue baking and eating. Because if you have been stuck in your house with the same people since mid March, you deserve many, many treats, this I know to be the honest truth.

7)  We did allow ourselves takeout once this month. HURRAY! It was such an exciting day, I cannot even tell you how happy I was to not have to think about what to make that night. But moving on.

I made ceviche for the first time ever. My friend posted a photo and recipe on Facebook, and I had all of the ingredients, so I gave it a go. It took longer than the recipe said, but it could also be because I didn’t cut the pieces small enough and maybe they weren’t fully soaked by the citrus. It tasted great and I will definitely make it again, next time with less oregano and more hot peppers.

8) The little one turned our guest bedroom into a fort. Which lasted over a week before my OCD brain could not handle it any longer and I took it down (with her blessing). She slept in there one night, too, which was pretty cute.

9) People are getting really casual during this kooky time. Me included, but I’ve always been pretty casual, especially when at home. This local news article made me laugh, which has been hard to do nowadays. Not the make me laugh part, which is always a challenge, but finding humor in a news article.

10) Finished the Bear Brook podcast (while puzzling, of course). It was very well done. Good reporting, likeable narrator, good “characters,” interesting story. If you like true crime, I recommend.

11) I couldn’t focus very well this month, so reading was minimal. I did finish ‘Untamed” by Glennon Doyle and unlike a couple of my friends who didn’t like it at all, I enjoyed it. I felt it was much too long, that she could have said what she wanted to say in half the space, but I felt many of her passages made sense to me and felt empowering, or at least made me take a look at my own life.

12) I am sooooo glad I purchased the spring flower share from Detroit Abloom. It’s the first year they’ve offered it. Usually shares start in June, but they opened up a small amount of shares for spring. How needed are flowers right now? MUCH needed. And they are beautiful. Plus, the pick up location is my porch, and I love seeing them all when they get delivered.

May is already here. There is still so much unknown floating around. But there is also so much hope. It’s spring, after all.

We had a glimpse of warm weather last weekend, so I am looking forward to more of those days. I’ve talked to family and friends I haven’t chatted with (outside of texting or emails) in years, I’ve FaceTimed with people I usually just talk to on the phone. I absolutely LOVE taking my time in the morning to get ready for work. That’s probably been the best benefit of the lockdown. Being able to have coffee in the morning and my own 20 minutes of peace and reflection before calling for the kids to come down for breakfast.

That’s a wrap on the strangest April to date. Sending you love and wishes. Happy May!

The March List – 2020

Oh my gosh, I can’t with the list this month. I mean I had to think about what month we were even in. Where am I and who am I?

But here goes. The March list.

1) Michigan schools shut down officially on March 13, and the Stay at Home order came on March 24, though we were already self-quarantined by then.
2) We’ve been washing fruit with soap. Once I washed an onion with soap. Not a good idea. Too soggy.

3) I made my last Trader Joe’s run the third week of March. We’re now doing delivery only. I’m very sad not to be able to have my affordable Trader Joe’s favorites (coconut smoothies, cheese crackers, organic butter), but grateful that local grocery stores continue to deliver. For now. Everything is wiped down and sanitized.

4) I’m so thankful for our collection of board games. We’ve played multiple games of Scrabble, Monopoly, Sorry, Clue and Dominoes (not really a board game, but it counts). The little one is getting slightly better at losing.

5) And I’m so thankful for my recent jigsaw puzzle order. To decompress, I work on puzzles while listening to podcasts. And if it’s after 5pm, I add a cocktail to the mix.

6) Podcasts I started and completed this month. “S-town” was fantastic. “Cold” and “Up and Vanished” were pretty good, but not fantastic.

7) We haven’t been doing takeout, so I have been cooking, cooking, cooking. Comfort food (noodles, pasta, bread, desserts) is what’s been happening in our house. Now is when I’m supposed to say how grateful I am for being able to cook every day for my family. Namaste.

8)  It’s spring! Birds are making nests in their usual spots (our juniper tree near our front porch and smaller evergreen in our backyard) and buds are showing up. A sign of newness and hope that is so greatly needed.

9)  My husband took down the chain link fence that has hurt my eyes since the day we moved in. Beyond thrilled. Beyond.

10)  I’ve watched some terrible (aka awesome) TV and some great (aka intelligent) TV.  The ABC Murders was a surprising favorite. I love a good British murder mystery, but this one was unexpectedly dark. John Malkovich is so good per usual and the lighting, camera direction, whatever it is called, was artistic and beautiful.

11)  Chores must go on. This one helped me deep clean the bathroom.

12)  A fire in the backyard is a springtime must. We are stressed, anxious, tired, weirded out, uncertain. But there have been small pockets of time where we’ve lived in the present and life was good. Here’s to more of those pockets, for us and for you.

Happy April. Be safe and well.

No School / A Photo Essay

Thursday night as I was reading in bed, my husband says to me, “Michigan schools are closing until April.” Even though I work at a school, it didn’t really register. We were about to go on Spring Break and my mind was already there.

Friday morning, I woke up to text messages and voicemails that we would not have school that day, and we would not be returning until April 6. At the earliest. Right. Husband’s mumbling about a news article now makes sense.

I posted more messages to social media and the school website (as part of my job), made a quick coffee and headed to school early, anticipating I’d need to help craft an all-school email. When I got there, the sun was still rising. My office faces East and connects to what was once I believe a dining area. Golden sunlight shone on the peach walls. The world was waking up, ready for a brand new day.

It’s one thing to walk through empty school halls on a holiday or a weekend. I’ve done it tons of times before. My mom was a school teacher and I often went with her after hours and hung out while she got work done. And of course for this job, when I’m on a deadline or during the summer. I can tell you that it’s a completely different thing to come to school when school is not in session vs. coming to school when kids are supposed to be there, but they’re not.

I’m not panicking quite yet, but I know we as a country and as a world, have a long way to go with this crazy virus. I’m not really sure how I feel about it, I’m riding the waves right now. But here are the photos I took that morning in the few minutes that I wandered the halls alone.

Be well, my friends!

 

The February List – 2020

Completely forgot about the List until last night as I was taking a moment to do nothing and relax. And then I wasn’t relaxed. So here goes.

1) Over Presidents’ Day weekend, we went with another family to Crystal Mountain, a 4-hour drive north from Grosse Pointe. It was the second time the girls have been skiing and they picked it up again pretty quickly, even though it’s been two years since that first time.

2) I skipped skiing (I really don’t ski. I tried a couple times when we visited my Dad in Europe when I was in middle school and I ended up breaking my leg on the Swiss Alps. There are worse ways and places to break one’s leg, I know) and tried snow shoeing for the first time instead.

The weather and conditions were perfect and I really enjoyed just being out there by myself with nature. I hate being cold, so I don’t take many walks during winter, but snow shoeing takes a lot more effort than walking and the sun was out, so I didn’t feel cold at all.

3) I took some photos for a new local business, The Corner Studio, a new exercise/wellness space on Mack Avenue. They offer a variety of classes for a wide range of levels and ages (there are kids and teen classes also). I did portraits of their instructors and took some shots of their grand opening event.

4) Rarely am I in photos, since I’m usually behind the camera, which is not that big of a deal, except I would like my kids to have more visual memories of me. Plus it’s nice to have photos of oneself, I think. So I snapped this one of me doing me.

5) I finished our latest book group pick, “Something in the Water” by Catherine Steadman. It was a fast-paced thriller that I quite enjoyed. It’s not going to win any literary prizes, but I can see it being a great movie.

6) I started this book by Brad Meltzer. I wanted another book that was engaging, but not too deep. My college girlfriend loves this author and I’d never read anything by him, so I thought I would give it a try. When I chose it, I didn’t realize there was a co-author, so I’m not sure if what I’m reading is a true Brad Meltzer-style book, but I like it so far.

7) I finished the podcast “Catch and Release” by award-winning journalist Ronan Farrow about his investigation of Harry Weinstein. The podcast was completed before Weinstein’s recent conviction.

8) It’s not summer yet, but I still love a good spicy watermelon margarita. Can’t wait til I can sip these outside in my backyard vs. inside by the fire.

9) Started a new 1000-piece puzzle because I’m basically an old person.

Books, podcasts, margaritas and puzzles. If this were my whole life, I’d be all set.

10) Our oldest turned 11 at the end of the month. She requested coconut cupcakes per usual, which I am more than happy to make because they are my favorite as well. She is definitely a tween. Sometimes sweet, sometimes sassy, with no heads up as to which one she’s gonna be at any given time.

11) My mother-in-law’s cat is staying with us for a month. We have a love-hate relationship. Mostly she says give me water, no not that water, different water and pet me now and I wanted to sit where you are sitting can you move and I just ate and have cat food on my mouth can I rub it on your shirt. In the end, I almost always give in, though.

12) Another photoshoot I did this month was for a group of moms whose kids are friends and they are all pregnant again with their second kid. They wanted snowy winter pics and we weren’t sure it was going to happen, but a couple days before the shoot, we got a beautiful dusting of snow. Looking at these photos makes me happy.

I’m counting on no more snow in our near future, but it’s still a possibility, knowing Michigan. I’m ready for warmer days. Writing this as the coronavirus is a growing issue and wondering what the March list will look like and hoping for the best scenario. Be well and have a great month!

The January List – 2020

 

As I finally sit down (I’m actually standing, though) to write this on February 6, and it is finally starting to feel like winter in Michigan. Am I happy? Sure, I love the look of fresh fallen snow, and I love looking out the windows at night when there is a soft glow outside because of all the white. But I still love summer the best. Although I’m happiest to see spring.

1) How have I been doing on my resolutions? Not bad, actually. I’ve stuck to the workout schedule for the most part, skipping a day or two when my body didn’t feel great (something is happening with my knees, but I’m pretending like it’s not).

I did not buy a new lamp for the living room because it fell under the don’t-buy-anything-I-don’t-need resolution, but I did slip to purchase chili seasoning for the rims of my margaritas. Although the actual need for this can almost be justified.

I’m getting a tEEny bit better at drinking more water. And those are the ones I can remember right now, which means after I write this, I need to go revisit that list.

2) My daughter and I have been dying for the pistachio cake at Ochre Bakery. I was there at the beginning of the month to hang with my friend Julia, and was supposed to go back last week to meet her new puppy, but we had to reschedule.

Anyway, we decided to make our own pistachio cake instead of waiting until the next time I could make it down there. The recipe I found called for vegetable oil, so I substituted butter for that and it turned out pretty well. The girls chose glaze over frosting and I skimped on that. Next time I won’t and next time I’m also going to try coconut oil in place of the butter.

3) I made a lot of trips to the library this month and finished a few books. One was my book group book, “Such a Fun Age” by Kiley Reid. It was one of those light reads about a heavy topic, which I always tend to like, because I think you have to be somewhat clever to do that. The ending was wrapped up too nicely, but otherwise I recommend it.

I also read “The Last Mrs. Parrish” by Liv Constantine, which is a pen name for two sisters and had I known that before I started, I would have realized the book would be a bit cheesy. It was a fun read, and the plot was decent, but it was much too silly and the writing wasn’t good enough to be recommendable. However… if you’re sitting on a yacht with nothing else to do for a couple hours…sure, go ahead.

Another was “The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle” by Stuart Turton at the recommendation of my friend Ray, who always gives great book recs. I was intrigued by throughout. Great if you like murder mysteries, but this one you can’t zone out on. You have to pay attention.

4) I’ve been super into puzzles lately and after doing all our puzzles for the second and third time, I broke down and bought a bunch of new ones. Okay, fail on the new year’s resolution, but again… I’m gonna justify this purchase as a need. I put in my headphones, listen to my podcast and zone out.

5) I stumbled across this podcast upon doing a search for “investigative journalism.” I hadn’t ever heard of this story and I was so curious about it. I’m fascinated with India as it is, so when I read the synopsis, I was hooked.

“For 40 years, journalists chronicled the eccentric royal family of Oudh, deposed aristocrats who lived in a ruined palace in the Indian capital. It was a tragic, astonishing story. But was it true?”

Right? It was great. I loved it. I could have completely wept at the end, had I been in the mood, but I have not been in the mood for weeping in a long time. Which is not to say I haven’t been incredibly sad in a long time.

6) I watched a documentary on Amazon called “Generation Wealth,” by Lauren Greenfield. Again, fascinating, and I was delighted when I started watching, to learn that the director is also a photographer (which was kind of what the documentary was about also) and her work is SO good, and if anyone wants to buy me the book with the same name or “Girl Culture,” feel free. I’m so drawn to her photos and love her style and perspective, and each shot tells not just a story, but a clear story. I’ve always liked that kind of work. Photos about culture and society, no matter which culture or society.

7) I also watched the new Ted Bundy documentary and I found it very well done in that it was more about the victims than about his crimes. It consists of many interviews, mainly his long-term girlfriend, who was a victim of sorts in her own right.

It also talked a lot about women’s rights and what was going on during that time (’70s) for women. And how women were told not to fight back in certain situations (and surprise, the one 18-year-old who did fight back got away) and how women weren’t taken seriously (not that we are now, but it was worse back then, seemingly), and how women were just starting to be allowed into the police force and crime departments and all of that.

8)  I made spaghetti squash for maybe the third time in my life? I came upon a recipe that said to cut it width wise vs. the more popular lengthwise, like so (above), and that doing it this way makes the “noodles” longer. It’s a pretty decent alternative to actual noodles. Much better than zucchini noodles, which get squishy and taste like well, zucchini.

I ate it with leftover Indian food on top, ate it once with scrambled eggs and another time with lots of butter and salt and Guyere.

9) As I am trying to come up with list ideas, I realize I didn’t do a whole lot this month. I watched more TV than usual, because I’m exercising more, which means a lot of stationary bike riding and show watching. In my downtime, which isn’t much (kid activities, work), I’m puzzling or sitting by the fire.

I feel like I need to ramp up the creativity a bit, whether it be taking more photos or writing or picking up drawing again (in middle school/high school I would sit in my room for hours just drawing), but I’ve been enjoying the nothingness. My mind and soul has needed it.

10) I mean I have literally been staring at the computer screen for over two minutes, wondering what in the heck to talk about in order to get to number 12. Scrolling through the photos on my phone to see if there is anything…

Aaaaand, here we go. I’m the best mom. Now you know.

11) I don’t think I ever shared any photos from the shoot I did at The Detroit Club with this lovely high school senior. When she was 13, she was our babysitter and she was an awesome one. And where did the time go? Everyone 40 and older wants to know.

12) One beautiful thing about Grosse Pointe winters are the sunrises. IF you get up early enough to see them. I would like to say this is the view from the office window, but my actual view is blocked by a fluffy pine tree. Still, what a view.

And just like that, it’s February. Although it’s already been February for several days now. Enjoy the month, and I’ll see you back in March with another list.

The December List – 2019 – A Look Ahead

December was kind of a crappy month for me. There were some cool things that happened, like my 10-year-old suddenly went from singing pretty badly to singing quite beautifully (and by singing I mean singing to herself while doing a craft or puzzle or some other thing where her mind wanders, which is mostly all the time).

And discovering my Enneagram, which literally made me cry when I read the results (finally, I’m understood). The nutshell of my Enneagram, above.

Otherwise, I’m kind of done with December. So in lieu of the usual 12-list recap, I bring you “My New Year’s Resolutions (That I’m Willing to Share).” In no particular order.

1) Drink more water.

So simple, but so hard for me for some reason. It’s the cheapest, easiest way to look and feel better. I don’t drink during meals (unless said liquid is alcohol, strangely), and sometimes I’ll go more than half a day without drinking water. Not sure how I’m going to remind myself to do it – I’ve left mugs and bottles of it on my desk, I’ve made notes – I’ll just have to do it.

2) Make pot stickers.

I love pot stickers by any name. Dumplings, gyoza, mondu. I’m obsessed. Have been since I was a little kid. I guarantee you I have eaten more dumplings in my lifetime than you have. They are relatively easy to make and other than the wrappers, the ingredients are easy to find in Grosse Pointe. And they are easy to freeze. And ten times better when they’re homemade. But I have yet to make them. No more excuses, it’s time.

3) Figure out the photography thing.

I’ve been loving photography. But it stresses me the heck out. I get anxiety days before a shoot and then the day before I wish I’d never said yes and then the day of, I’m sure I’m going to screw it up somehow or my camera will break or none of the photos will be in focus.

And then for all the work I do (driving time, shooting time, editing time), I don’t make a whole lot. But, I do make some nice pocket change and was able to buy a new lens this year with monies earned……Sooooo. I just need to figure it out. Suck it up and keep doing it or stop.

4) Get rid of excess (and extras).

I don’t have a lot of excess. I’m somewhat of a minimalist when it comes to decor and even clothing, compared to most women I knew. But there are areas where I need to purge. Like vases. Why do I need so many vases? I’ll tell you why. Because WHAT IF I buy (or even better, someone gives me, or even better, I grow and pick) a bunch of flowers that will only look right in that one particular vase.

I also can’t get rid of food. Like the one can of jackfruit that I thought I’d use that’s been sitting in my cupboard for ALMOST TWO YEARS (I’ve tried to pretend it’s not there by hiding it in the back as you can see and also do you love coconut milk like I love coconut milk?). Even though I should probably get rid of it, I can’t. Because not only is food waste a really bad thing, I also paid for that can of with my hard earned money, which I don’t have a lot of these days.

Could this apply to relationships/situations as well as objects/things? Heck yes.

5) Eat less meat, eat more fish.

I know how to cook and I  cook a lot. And I know fish can be one of the easier things to prepare. But I hate the fishy smell that hovers over your kitchen when you’re done and also cooking fish intimidates me. Why? I don’t know.

Yes, I realize I could also eat more vegetables instead of eating more fish, but I know I can’t accomplish that, so it is not a realistic goal at this juncture.

6) Stop getting sucked into social media stories about unexpected animal friendships and animal rescues.

I’d say less social media or a complete social media hiatus (which I’ve done for Lent and loved), but I now manage two social media accounts, so that would never work.

My problem is that once I’m logged in to post something for work, I scroll and see a post about a puppy who made friends with a chipmunk or hedgehog or possum and of course I have to click on it!!!! And at the end of the story there’s another story I have to click on about a black Labrador who rides the bus by himself every day to go to the park or a penguin in Japan that walks to the fish market and then I’ve wasted 15 minutes of my life that I can’t get back.

7) Don’t buy anything I don’t need.

Do I need to spend $10 on a movie night with girlfriends? Yes. Because me time is important, as is time with friends, as is blocking life out for two hours. What about $20 on a super cute shirt from Zara because it covers my arms in just the right places and makes me feel good about myself? Sadly, no. An expensive cut of organic, pasture-raised beef? Yes (I have my reasons). The West Elm planter I’ve been dying to get for the front porch that is now on sale? Nope. A new houseplant because I killed the other one? Questionable.

Which leads me to my next resolution…

8) Shop Amazon less.

Such bad business practices. And Bezos is a jerk. But it’s such a lifesaver at times. And sooooo easy. Kid needs a white t-shirt for the school play by Friday? Amazon. Recipe calls for specific curry spice that I have to drive 30 minutes to get “locally”? Amazon. And did someone say, “free two-day shipping”?

I’m not going to pledge a year of no Amazon. That would be insanity. But I do pledge to buy elsewhere whenever possible. Especially books. Even though they are always so much cheaper on Amazon.

9) Be nicer to my kids.

I’m not a mean mom. I’m just not always nice. And the irony is that I’m not always nice when I’m telling my kids that they should be nice. I’m 47, work a several jobs (marketing for the school, freelance writing, payroll for my husband’s company and photography) and I’m tired.

Sometimes I don’t want to parent or I want to parent quickly, which is usually not nice option. Sometimes being nice means letting them make that super annoying clicking noise with their tongues while I’m trying to type a work email instead of saying in exasperation, “Can you PLEASE stop making that noise!” Sometimes being nice means instead of telling her for the hundredth (probably two hundredth) time to stop shoving her clothes in the drawer, show her how to fold her shirts and hang out with her while she practices doing it. Parenting nicely takes time. And energy. Brain power and bandwidth. And I don’t always have it in me. But I’m going to try.

10) Dab on haters.

My 8-year-old has been saying/doing this (you have to do the motion) lately and it makes me laugh. But it’s also good advice. It’s basically like saying, “let it go,” but in much less zen and ethereal way (of which I am neither). I CARE. About EVERYTHING. I overthink and I ask why. I can’t let it go. But dabbing on haters? It feels more final and resolute. Like a battle cry or an outcast spell. Which I can totally get behind.

11) Exercise more.

BO-ring. On the list every @#*$&$ year.

Notice I didn’t say less carbs or no ice cream or no potato chips. Aside from being healthier and having more energy and feeling better, blah, blah, blah, my main motivation factor for exercising is so I can eat the carbs and the ice cream and the potato chips. And drink the spicy margaritas.

The goal is to move (cardio) every day. Even if it’s 10 minutes. Followed by targeted exercises of A, B, C or D (one per day in order). Abs, Booty, Choice of workout (or Chill, meaning no extra exercises, not sure yet which I’m going to go with) or Dumbells.

Google 10-minute Butt Lift by Cassey Ho for if you are looking for pure torture. Although this is coming from someone who doesn’t exercise a whole lot, so maybe for you it will be a piece of cake. I got to the point two years ago where I could do the whole thing without cheating and last night I cheated on every exercise but two. Ay carumba. But my mantra (as Cassey says in the video) is just to do better than I did yesterday. I can do that.

12) Pray more.

I believe in the power of prayer, yet I don’t always pray. In fact, I pray very little, which is to say I pray very little compared to the amount of praying I used to do. By prayer I mean connecting to God and my surroundings (nature, the universe, unseen energy) thoughtfully and purposely and prayerfully. And letting the answers guide me.

My friend Ingrid gifted me this book years ago and I still keep it on my nightstand and reference it often.

It hasn’t snowed all month, but when we woke up this morning there was a half inch of snow on the ground. Appropriate for the New Year. A clean slate. And just a bit ago my girlfriend posted this inspiring message that seems to have been written just for me.

I don’t believe that everything happens for a reason and I don’t believe that everything always works out. But I do believe in divine guidance/intervention and I believe in hope. I look forward to the New Year, in spite of the political climate and worldly goings on, in spite of personal challenges, in spite of the odds being seemingly stacked against us at times. Bring on 2020. I’m ready.