The December List – 2021

It’s a week into the new year and I’ve already left 2021 far behind. December was fine. Parts of it were lovely, even, but I’m still not wanting to rehash. BUT, because I’m a sucker for consistency, here’s the recap…

1) I’m currently ON HOLD with my daughter’s insurance company. This is obviously not part of December, since it’s January 6 today, but it pretty much sums up 2021. After 38 minutes on hold, I was connected to an agent, and I’m on hold again (and have been for 23 minutes) as the agent calls the billing department for the urgent care center we went to that said my daughter’s insurance didn’t exist, which made me have to therefore pay $155 out-of-pocket for her Covid test, which we waited three hours for (this is three hours AFTER her scheduled appointment time).

In December, I finally after three months of multiple (when I say multiple, I mean 40+) calls, got my insurance company to pay $4K for two MRIs that were supposed to be covered.

If I never have to call an insurance company again this year, it will be a good year.

2) After being super disappointed and embarrassed by the “Sex and The City” sequel (I got through one episode, with lots of fast forwarding), I stumbled upon the best show I’ve seen in years, “Fleabag.” It’s so smart and funny and heartbreaking all at the same time.

The main character reminded me of (her expressions? her mannerisms?) my BF who I thought was going to be a BFF, so watching this character that reminded me of her bummed me out and made me super nostalgic, which… I’m not sure if that made me like the show any more or any less, but that aside, if you haven’t seen it, it’s on Amazon and there are only two seasons, but they are perfect.

3) I had my reconstruction surgery at the beginning of the month. It went well and I am so relieved it’s over. I can’t exercise for three more weeks, which makes me panic a little (flashbacks to all the champagne, cookies, charcuterie and sourdough toast I inhaled over the holidays) but at least it’s something to look forward to (and the fact that I am looking forward to it is saying something).

The pain was surprising. In some ways it hurt more than the mastectomy. I took a lot of pain meds, more than I wanted to because I do not do well on them. Per the husband, once when I took my muscle relaxants, I almost fainted. All I remember is feeling dizzy and calling or texting him to come help me while I waited by the kitchen sink. And the next thing I remember is being on the couch and him saying I almost passed out twice.

Recovery overall was easier this time, though. I find myself thinking I am ready to do certain things (like vacuum and laundry) when I’m not supposed to. Three. More. Weeks! And yes, I am very excited about vacuuming. The girls try (well, one of them does. The other one doesn’t even pretend to), but sadly, their efforts are not up to my standards.

4) Confession. I went up a bra size and I’m not mad about it. I give you this TMI public service announcement because it’s your body and you do what you want. Remember that.

Am I worried that at 80 years old, I will look crazy because my boobs look 30 years old but the rest of my body does not? My answer is that I will be happy to make it to 80 years old.

5) I posted this book review already to social media, but here it is again for The List.

It’s the season for cozy fireside reading. Wrote the review below for a book-buying class assignment and wanted to share with you. If you’re looking for a new mystery series, here you go.

Contrary to that popular saying about cover and books, I DO judge books by their covers and I found this one while browsing the shelves of the library. The playful font on the spine caught my eye, the cover ultimately sealing the deal. The story reflects the cover’s mood – an armchair murder mystery with a “fun” storyline that’s not too dark or gruesome. Set in Jack the Ripper’s London, the main detective is a quirky, rude individual and his antics keep the story light, adding bursts of humor between grim details. Of course he has a sidekick, a smart, young woman who is under his guardianship (another mystery) after becoming orphaned. The author does a nice job of describing the reality of London life during that time and uses accurate vernacular, saying pianoforte, for example, instead of piano, so there are definitely historical fiction elements here as well. I thoroughly enjoyed the first book and look forward to reading the rest of the series.

6) I finished “The Midnight Library” in November, but forgot to write about it in last month’s list, since I was so focused on all things Hawaii.

It had an intriguing hook at the beginning, leaving the reader wondering what was to become of the main character. Without giving too much away, the bulk of the book centered on stories of “what ifs.” The story was different and interesting. I enjoyed!

7) Obi is FINALLY beginning to feel like part of the family and I am finally starting to love him as well (reality, people). He looks small here, but he is a big boy, at an estimated 75 pounds.

Also, my insurance call just ended. Per my phone, I was on the call for 1:59:32 minutes. I had to go over another issue regarding the other daughter’s insurance policy, so that discussion ate up a good chunk of time. The agent was refreshingly competent. And she felt my pain. The call ended with her saying something close to – “Please Heavenly Father Lord Jesus be with this family and let these issues be resolved, Amen.” Amen, indeed.

8) Speaking of Obi, the BEST mishap happened this month. I’d let him in the backyard one afternoon and was wondering why he’d been out there so long (he usually asks to come in after 20 minutes tops). I went out to check on him and found the back gate open. Horrors!

I rushed out front in my bathrobe and looked up and down the street and did not see him. Then dialed the local police office. NOTE: I was only a couple days into surgery recovery and not up for running around the neighborhood or jumping in the car to find him.
Me: Blah, blah, blah, dog escaped, blah, blah.
Lady on Phone: What type of dog, did you say?
Me: English Cream Retriever, which is basically a white Golden Retriever.
Lady on Phone: Oh, yeah, he’s at….. (proceeds to give me an address two doors down from us)

I rushed to the address and my neighbor who moved in over the summer was standing outside waiting. She said Obi was in her backyard and could he please stay a little longer because he was tiring out her St Bernard puppy. YES. PLEASE.

Since then, he’s been over there often (they have two dogs, per the pic, but the puppy is the main one that needs tiring out). If the girls aren’t around, the neighbors pick Obi up and drop him off afterwards, since I can’t walk him yet (three more weeks!).

9) We enjoyed a nice, quiet Christmas. My Dad and his wife were supposed to spend the holidays with us, but several factors altered their plans, so it was just the four of us on Christmas morning.

This is the first year that the girls stopped believing in Santa (thank you, Jesus), but we don’t ever say it out loud, because as my girlfriend Kara once told me, “If you don’t believe, you don’t receive” and that’s the thought we subscribe to also. So Santa did come, and filled Obi’s stocking, too.

10) We went to one holiday party, my book group gathering, with significant others in tow. Brittany laid out the most festive table and prepared the most delicious short rib dinner. It was a great time. And I just remembered that I forgot to wish her a Happy Birthday at the end of December – Happy Birthday!

11) I didn’t do much puzzling last month and therefore didn’t do much Podcast listening, but I did get through this one. The title sums it up well. It was….good enough. Moral of the story: “some people are good at conning” and “don’t get conned.”

12) I don’t even have a 12th. I am tired. We’re all so tired. And have been tired for so long. I’m blaming part of my fatigue on surgery. I know it’s been three weeks, and I *feel* fine. But my brain isn’t functioning properly and my usual get-up-and-go (that I do have for at least a couple hours every day) is not there.

Like I said, I’m ready to leave 2021 behind, regardless of all the good memories it contains. And so I wish you all a Happy New Year. May 2022 be all the things.

The November List – 2021

It’s been hard to focus over the last few days for many reasons. Jet lag, current events (Michigan, Covid, Supreme Court, ALL of it), and the holiday scramble, but I’m going to take a minute and focus on the joy that was November.

1) We finally traveled to Hawaii to reunite with family (my Mom’s side of the family and my sister’s family all live there). It’s been 2.5 years since we were there last. That’s the longest the kids (and possibly me?) have gone without seeing them.

The weather couldn’t have been more perfect. Blue skies and warm days with breezes at night. Of course being Hawaii, it rained now and then, but only in short bursts.

2) The 10-year-old had to take a Covid test to avoid Hawaii quarantine laws. Talk about anxiety-provoking! Even though she was not visibly sick, knowing there was a teeny chance she could be asymptomatic and test positive was nerve-wracking to say the least.

Travel itself was pretty smooth, considering we went around the Thanksgiving holiday. Ticket prices, however, were nausea-inducing.

3) There was a lot of catching up to do, not just with people, but with food! Auntie Melinda kept herself crazy busy making lots of our favorite things like butter mochi, halo halo (Filipino dessert with grated coconut, papaya, avocado, tapioca balls and random other starchy ball things), garlic shrimp and miso butterfish.

4) Mom stocked her fridge with fresh coconut, mangos, papayas, pineapple and coconut water ice cubes made from actual coconuts vs. store-bought coconut water. Pretty sure the girls and I ate ate two mangos a day between the three of us.

5) She had also frozen some lychee that a relative had brought with them from the Big Island (Hawaii) a while back. I love the taste of lychee so much. It’s delicious fresh or frozen and surprisingly doesn’t get mushy when thawed out.

I concocted a cocktail with four smashed lychees, juice from half a lime and a splash of tequila poured over coconut ice cubes. Not bad!

Mom, second from left. Auntie, far right.
Manang Jocelyn, far left, then Manang Vilma, sister, me and cousin Jessica

6) We celebrated Thanksgiving at my Manang (older cousin) Jocelyn’s (and Manong Ino’s) home, eating outside on their covered patio (soooo many beautiful plants!). It was the first time everyone had gathered together since the pandemic, so we were all extra happy to be there.

7) As is customary in Hawaii, we did a Thanksgiving potluck, so along with traditional items like turkey, mashed potatoes, green beans and brussels sprouts, there was rice, beef stew, lumpia (Filipino eggrolls), pancit (Filipino noodles), kalbi (Korean bbq beef, my fave), shrimp tempura, roast pork and more.

8) We were able to get our beach fix, spending the majority of our time at Kailua Beach. It can get really windy there (and did), but it’s so pretty and the waves are a great size for the kids – not too big, not too small.

They (husband, kids and sometimes my sister and her family) saw lots of sea turtles (I didn’t go in the water, but I did see one for a few seconds, it was awesome) and some man-of-wars, and made sand sculptures – the Titanic hitting a boulder and a crab, inspired by an actual crab that scurried out of the sand and scared the girls!

9) I met up with one friend (as I was only there for a short time and wanted to spend most of it with family), Nancy, my longest ever friend relationship (since 5 years old).

We went to a plant and pottery show around Ward Centre. The pottery was really inexpensive, but I didn’t buy anything because of the breakage factor. Nancy is a plant connoisseur of sorts and knew right away that a certain display was of rare plants. She pointed out this (above pic) anthurium specifically and sure enough, the price tag on it was $450. It was definitely impressive.

10) She took me to lunch at Sakura Terrace, a Japanese restaurant serving traditional bento boxes. I LOVE a good Japanese bento box and this one was amazing. And doesn’t food always taste better when it looks pretty? I think 100% yes. It was so beautifully presented, even the salad was a work of art.

11) Check out this insane ficus plant. It started out as a houseplant. My mom said she would take it outside to water, but it eventually became too heavy for her to lug back and forth, so she left it outside and it decided it wanted to stay out there and just wedged itself into the ground and kept growing.

12) I was lying in bed the night after we got back to Michigan, thinking of all the dumb things one thinks about when they can’t fall asleep. I thought about (aka worried about) a variety of things including holiday card photos (which I’m usually mailing by now), my reconstruction surgery next week and not being able to walk the dog for weeks afterwards, about all the Christmas tasks that had yet to be done and OH MY GOSH. I hadn’t put together that having surgery also meant that I wouldn’t be able to do all the Christmas things. UGH.

For some reason I did not correlate recovery with Christmas decorating or shopping or wrapping/sending presents. So then of course I worried about that for a long time, too.

The next day (yesterday) I got out all the decorations and did as much as I could. Which made me feel better a little, but the reality is that I won’t get everything done that I planned on, I just won’t. Some people will get late gifts (or lame gifts) because of my bad planning but OH WELL. And at least this year I have a good excuse! hahahahaha.

I’m looking forward to a forced slow-down once again. I didn’t know how much I needed it last time. I’ll be cursing the restricted activity come January (aka holiday food, cocktails and no exercise), but I’m grateful for all the me-time I’ll have. Because what mom gets that ever, especially during the holidays.

I hope your December isn’t too nutty. I hope you’re able to enjoy family, friends, togetherness as much as possible. And man, I hope that 2022 will give us a little bit of peace on Earth – even a crack of a window of it. Wishes for a wonderful month and holiday season.

The October List – 2021

Loving the beauty of Fall once again, but not the weather, which has felt more like winter this week with temps in the 30s and 40s. Make it stop.

1) October is my birthday month and I’ve always loved birthdays up until my 45th. Now I’m so-so about them. I am grateful to be healthy and alive, of course. Of COURSE. But count me out on embracing aging.

For my birthday, I was craving the pistachio gelato from Shewolf and luckily there was a spot open that evening, so I did get my birthday wish.

2) In case anyone is wondering, I am FORTY NINE and I look not very 49 here because my friend Erin took a lovely photo of me and also I’m a great photo editor. Also, shoutout to Erin, who always takes photos of me and if not for her, I might not exist except for selfies.

3) Unlike last year, Halloween was not canceled this year, so the girls dressed up and went trick-or-treating. Thankfully, it didn’t rain (I can’t remember a Halloween in Grosse Pointe when it hasn’t rained or snowed), so I happily (sort of) walked along with their trick-or-treating crew.

As is NOT customary, I let the girls eat a bunch of candy. I’m not sure why. Okay, I do know why and it’s because I didn’t want to deal with any of it and so I ignored it. And I also indulged in a Twix bar myself. Which does not seem like a big deal, but I REALLY try not to eat candy, so it is a big deal. Also please note that candy is not ice cream or French pastries. If people gave out ice cream or croissants on Halloween, I would be a mess.

4) The 7th grader went as Moana, but sadly wouldn’t let me put ANY makeup on her, not even a touch of eyeliner. The 10-year-old went as Dorothy and was adamant that I curled her hair just right and let me put on as much makeup as I wanted to. She rocked those ruby slippers.

5) I worked on the bookshop a bunch this month. We met with a couple potential cafe vendors and secured one. Learned a lot about coffee and coffee machines, too.

6) Made a few site visits. Sometimes Obi comes along, since it’s walking distance from the house (a great perk!).

7) The exterior brickwork is nearly done. This is part of the the rooftop bar area.

8) Our youngest took a 24-hour trip to Canada to visit with her bestie who moved to Florida (but whose grandparents live in Canada). The whole Covid test-taking part of traveling is so nervewracking to me. Getting to the testing site, waiting in line, the actual test (which we did ourselves in the the car) and then the waiting. UGH. The worst.

It was a huge relief to get the negative results, even though neither of us felt sick. I was nervous about driving her over as well. Downloading the Canada app, waiting as they scrutinized our paperwork. Ay carumba. It was all worth it. She had a blast.

We are hoping to get to Hawaii over Thanksgiving, but again the freaking tests! It’s weeks away and I’m already at peak anxiety levels over it. Send prayers and good energy our way!!

9) I went to an epilepsy fundraiser this month at the most beautiful location. A garden house/greenhouse of sorts (I think officially called the Palm House or something like that?) along Lake St. Clair.

To support, athleisure wear from The Corner Studio was available for purchase, which was perfect because I needed some new gear and everything was so cute. I pretty much live in athleisure wear now AND it’s my birthday month AND it was for a good cause. Done and done.

The spread from Thyme & Honey though, right? I mean, come ON. (I grabbed the photo from her Insta, as you can see). Next level charcuterie board.

10) Fast forward…’s now been three days since I started writing The October List and can’t come up with another list item. Not one. I’ve been staring at the screen for so long. I’m burnt out. On what, I don’t know. I’m only working a handful of hours per week (all from home, in my athleisure gear), the kids are normal (no disorders, no special needs, doing well at school), I’m feeling physically well. So what gives?

My girlfriend says it’s the culmination of the universe’s something or other (sorry, I don’t understand it all, yet I’m completely sold), energy, stars, planets, once in X amount of years and so on. Which in layman’s terms means it’s a crazy flipping time for our world right now. So. I’m just going to give myself a break and focus on what I can handle in the moment. Which lately does not equate to much.

I will also say that for the last 12 years, like many, many of you, I have been nonstop, full speed ahead, working, parenting, partnering and dealing with all of life’s curveballs along with it – trauma, panic, grief, etc. I’ve always said that when I go on vacation, after a few days I lean into it and then my body just collapses. Like I’ve never been so tired as I am when I’m on vacation because my body knows it doesn’t have to be ON. And I feel like I’m still building back all the the energy and bandwidth spent on the last decade. And it’s a lot, this building back. I honestly don’t know how I handled it all before. Maybe I handled it all because life was so fast. Go go go, over and over, day after day and I didn’t have time to think about it.

I DON’T KNOW. All I will say is that part of the description of this photo which came from Getty stock, says “brain melting into lines,” which pretty much sums it up.

11) This is how my dog sleeps.

12) Oh, I know what I can tell you. I finished watching “The Serpent” on Neflix. A true crime series about a notorious serial killer of the 1970s (mainly). It was visually intoxicating (strong word, but can’t think of another one) and suspenseful and the characters feel like they’ve been pulled out of a novel vs headlines. Anyway, if you’re into that sort of thing (true crime), I recommend. Image from Rotten Tomatoes.

Speaking of serial killers, I came across an elderly lady and her small dog the other day. I see her in the neighborhood often and told her how impressed I was that she was out there walking her dog a lot. She said to me, “oh, I walk so I don’t turn into a serial killer!” I hear you, lady.

And with that, I bid you a happy November. See you in another month. Or so.

The September List – 2021

September was a great month! Weather was lovely end-of-summerish, girls started school, felt normal physically, shared some big news and took a VACA!! Here are the deets….

1) The big news. Most of you reading this also follow me on social media, so you would have already seen my post where I announced my involvement with Flyleaf, a new bookstore, bar and cafe opening sometime next year. Don’t ask me when next year, or I may a) throw my drink at you b) cry c) fall to the floor. The store is literally under construction and we are relying on the supply gods not to fail us.

It’s been a childhood dream of mine to work in a bookstore or a cafe (a quaint one in London or some off the beaten path European city, of course, but this will do), and the fact that it’s both (plus champagne and tequila!?! YES, PLEASE) is icing on top.

2) Confession. I actually received this note months and months ago (vs when I posted it this month on social media), as I started freelancing for the owner at the beginning of the year. Wasn’t sure what the job was going to turn into, if anything, but it now feels like a sure thing, so I felt confident in sharing. ANYway, crazy excited.

3) I’ve been taking an extensive bookselling/inventory class through a regional organization and let me tell you that I had no idea how complex the industry is. Or archaic. The point of sale systems (not to mention some of the people? Sorry!) make me feel like I’m in 1990 (or 1980, depending).

A recent class was all about cost of goods and I spent forever doing the homework, only to realize I did it wrong, then spent forever doing it again. I mean what in the world!?!? Managing a bookstore doesn’t mean reading books all day and looking up every once in a while to talk to eccentric customers?

4) Our sweet (aka rascally and sometimes good) puppy got neutered this month. It was quite an ordeal. Due to complications, he had to get his surgery site drained a couple times and the cone stayed on for a whole 14 days. When the cone finally came off, the vet said to “keep his activity low” for another two weeks because his day job is a comedian. WAH!!! That was rough.

5) Our sweet (aka sometimes whiny, but mostly sweet) youngest daughter turned 10 this month! Instead of a cake this year, she asked for macarons, which was super easy because Trader Joes has frozen ones that are reeeeeally good. She also asked for spaghetti with bolognese, which I happily made.

6) I could have spent the whole post on the bookstore, just like I could have spent the whole post on my fab weekend trip to Benicia, California. Firstly, I’m sorry to everyone I wasn’t able to see. I miss SO many wonderful friends in the Bay Area and I didn’t even make it into San Francisco except for coffee on the way to the airport.

My girlfriend Erin lives in the cutest house overlooking the bay. It truly felt like a vacation. She has a fig and quince tree (I enjoyed so many figs with breakfast). The quince we didn’t attempt to tackle. Apparently, you have to cook it and all that nonsense.

7) I’d never been to Benicia before, surprisingly (or not so surprisingly, since it’s easy to stay in the San Francisco/Marin bubble when you live there). It is a sleepy town with friendly people and a just big enough downtown with cute shops and restaurants. We did a lot of walking. And sitting on the porch watching the water and the occasional person/dog walking or biking along the path that runs along the front of her house.

8) Okay, and lots of TV-watching, too. Erin introduced me to the show Physical, which I couldn’t resist because a) one of my favorite actresses, Rose Byrne, stars in it b) it’s based in the 80s c) it centers around dance aerobics/jazzercise. Amazing. Parts of it are hard to watch (i.e. eating disorder), but I became hooked after the first few minutes, so of course we had to watch ALL 10 episodes before I left because I don’t have Apple TV at home.

*To clarify, I’ve never had an eating disorder, but I’ve struggled with self esteem and body image but only in my head, which is not even close to the degree of an eating disorder. I just don’t like watching stuff like that – self deprecation to that level, similar to I don’t like watching or reading about any kind of abuse or gore, etc.

I joked that I’d have to come back when Season 2 comes out, except that I wasn’t joking.

9) On the way from the airport to Benicia, Erin was kind enough to take a detour (thank youuuuuu!!) to Fruitvale Avenue in Oakland, so I could check out my high school classmate’s new spot, Noodle Belly. He sadly wasn’t in yet, but we did pick up a couple dishes for lunch and they were DELICIOUS.

Why I didn’t take a pic of the noodles, I don’t know! But here is one stolen from their Facebook! I got the pork belly, which I have been craving. Grosse Pointe isn’t exactly the mecca for Asian food, so this was a big treat for me!

10) I did get to see a handful of dear friends, including my band besties, Susan and Jennifer. I saw Susan again at her place in Emeryville the next day and visited with her goats and chickens as well. We walked down the street to get tacos, which I had also been craving, in addition to Asian food. Grosse Pointe is not exactly the mecca for Mexican cuisine, either.

11) One afternoon we drove across to Port Costa, another Bay Area hidden gem I had never been to! Nothing was open, which we weren’t expecting, but because of Covid, a lot of spots there altered their hours of operation. Still, it was really cute and I had fun checking it out.

12) My first month of not working (yes, I’m working for Flyleaf, but it’s in bits and pieces, and all from home) was pretty fantastic. Although I’m not sure how I got it all done before. The cooking, cleaning, shopping, general kid and puppy mayhem. How do working moms (haha, what a term. All moms are working!) do it at all!? Auto-pilot, I guess.

I’m not back to my pre-surgery health, but I’m getting more and more confident that I’ll get there soon (only to have surgery again in December, but we won’t think about that right now). My heart is still full with the kind of good feelings that only true friendship can give you. The puppy is getting better on walks (BETTER, not good, but I’ll take that win).

Like I said, September was a great month. So happy to be able to say that. As I sit here in October, I’m trying not to dread Fall. Although lovely in many regards, it is a reminder that winter (a long, long, Michigan winter) is once again close behind.

As always, thanks for stopping by and Happy October!

The August List – 2021

SPOILER ALERT – I did not proofread this before publishing. Zero thinking capacity left. I’d apologize, but I’m not sorry.

August was honestly mostly a blur, except for our annual trip to upstate New York, as I was mostly still recovering from surgery during the month. Although I felt great mentally and physically (nothing hurt too much and I was in a good head space), I did get tired a lot and felt like I didn’t have the brain power to do too very much at all.

1) I read a lot this month. One of the books I finished was “The Hour of the Witch” by Chris Bohjalian. It was a riveting read, but a tad stressful, as you can infer from the title and book cover. It makes me so grateful to have been born at the second half of the 20th century, though women still have a ways to go.

2) Another book I read was “Summer Wives” by Beatriz Williams, recommended to me ages ago by my friend Tami. I don’t usually read books centered on romance, but this one had lots going on outside of the central characters – the setting of an exclusive island, a storyline that span generations, a plot weaving in an out of the past and future – that it did not feel like a typical boy-meets-girl type of story. It was a quick read!

3) I’ll share a more detailed review on a future Instagram post, but I loved this book. Great writing, storyline and characters.

4) After a family meeting (the 9-year-old wrote down our pros and cons), we decided not to take Obi on our 10-hour road trip. Given my inability to walk or chase after him, the unknown of how he’d do in the car for that long, and the unknown of how he’d do with the cat and the lake and all of that, we felt it best he stayed behind.

He boarded with a gal who has two other dogs and he did not miss us at all. Here he is with his friend Bentley, a Great Dane.

5) My Dad’s place in New York was wonderful, per usual. We lucked out with beautiful weather almost every day (the week before it had poured). It was the first time in probably five or six years that I didn’t have to work during vacation and being able to actually take a vacation as intended was amazing.

6) I basically read and sat on the dock and ate fresh-baked donuts from Millers, the Menonnite market down the road (about 15 minutes drive, the closest market) and corn on the cob and drank margaritas and red wine. I’d planned to get back on the health train (less sugar, less alcohol) as soon as we returned home, but my Dad and his wife sent us home with a bag of donuts so that clearly didn’t happen because I don’t have that kind of will power.

7) I took a few solo morning walks in the woods for exercise. It’s so peaceful, unless you are listening to a missing persons or serial killer podcast like I usually do. I ended up switching to “American Rehab,” a podcast about a drug treatment center, because I was getting too freaked out. Super dumb. I’m a huge scaredy cat.

8) I did eventually finish this podcast, which isn’t all that scary. I’ve pretty much liked every Podcast I’ve listened to from The Australian. I appreciate their investigative reporting and all of the background they provide to give listeners a complete story. This one is about a missing person unsolved case with multiple suspects and lots that went wrong (missing evidence, leads not followed up on) during the initial investigation.

9) The girls and I met up with one of the neighbors one day for a walk to what the locals call the beaver pond, for obvious reasons (although we only saw evidence of otters/beavers, but no actual sightings). She and her husband have two Burmese Mountain dogs, who came with us on our walk. We found mushrooms and ate wintergreen leaves and collected leaves and feathers.

We also met their cat Obi (!!!!) and parrot, Mango. I’d known forever that her husband was the actor who played Charlie Bucket in the original “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” a movie/story/book I was obsessed with as a kid, so I tried not to geek out and didn’t one time mention the movie or say the word “Charlie” even thought I was DYING to.

10) My Dad showed me this photo that I’ve never seen before of my grandma Lucy and her brother Asa. LOVE this photo, wish I could go back in time and talk to her. The second photo is of my great grandmother, Lucy’s mom. They look alike.

11) Evenings are so lovely at the cabin. If you’re willing to brave the mosquitos and lather on bug spray, sitting on the dock watching the sun go down and the stars and bats come out is perfect. One night we roasted marshmallows and were startled by a strange sound that we finally figured out was an owl. It didn’t sound like the usual “hooting” sound you’d expect.

12) I forced myself to take photos enough to where got genuinely inspired a few times. Usually vacation photos are the best kind for me, because there’s no pressure.

As soon as we got back home, it felt like we were never gone. Doctor appointments and conference calls and back-to-school shopping slapped us in the face. Such is life. And I’m okay with that.

Wishes for a wonderful September. How is it almost fall already!?!? I never want summer to end.

The July List – 2021

July was a typical Michigan summer month, although the weather was a bit kooky again, with more heavy rainfall in a matter of minutes, which led to more flooding for many folks (not us).

1) Big news is that I underwent a mastectomy (single) on July 21, due to my second breast cancer diagnosis. It was high grade DCIS, which is to say that the cancer cells had not spread, but the nucleus of the cells were showing signs of breaking out. I’m doing well, and the prognosis is excellent. Will not be needing chemo and I’m crossing my fingers that I won’t need medication, but I’m betting my oncologist will push for it.

2) Pre surgery, friends Renee and Kara took me to Grey Ghost. It was soooo delicious and it’s always nice to be in Detroit. Afterwards we went across the street to Second Best (same owners) for cocktails and some apple sour shot, which initially tasted lovely, but ultimately too sweet and none of us finished ours. Otherwise, the drinks there and also at Grey Ghost were really good.

3) It was hard to give up alcohol, which I was instructed to do two weeks prior to surgery, but even harder to give up caffeine! I wasn’t asked to give up coffee completely, but to cut down on it, so I switched to decaf for my afternoon coffee. Trader Joes is awesome for many things, but not decaf. You’ve been warned.

Many people already know this very true fact, especially Liz Rono, but any drink – whether it be alcohol, coffee or otherwise – tastes ten times better when served from a fancy glass or cute cup. Which is why I drank my decaf from this adorable ceramic mug I bought on our Cincinnati trip.

Someone please recommend a good decaf coffee that I can buy for my next surgery!

4) I’ve been cleared to walk, but not much else, so walking it is. It’s been nice and I am super happy that all is well with my health, but it bums me out that I can’t walk fast or break into a jog like I sometimes do. I know in due time and all that, but I want to get better right now. It (not being able to walk, then only being able to walk slowish) has made me realize that my daily walks pre-operation 100% have helped with stress and anxiety and my overall mental health. My agitation level post surgery is definitely higher than usual, no surprise there, but I think much to do with lack of exercise.

5) A good friend organized a meal train, which was super crazy helpful, and so many other people showed their support by sending flowers or helping with groceries or coming by for company or sending sweet gifts.

I was shocked, quite frankly, and overwhelmed in a good way at the outpouring of support for me and my family by the people here who I thought I was an outsider to. It was so touching and so needed and helped so much with my recovery.

6) A final note about my treatment and recovery. I have an expander inside of me right now, which is a plastic contraption that has three little port pressure points which hurt like hell at certain times. I can see the grape-sized bumps under my skin.

Slowly (once a week for several weeks) the expander will be filled with saline via a needle into one of the ports, until it reaches the size that the implant (which will be put in on my second reconstructive surgery in December) will be. I’ve had one fill and the first couple hours were fine and then it started to really hurt. OH WELL. Apparently also skin that has been radiated is a crap shoot when it comes to healing so we just have to wait and see.

7) The surgery pretty much occupied my headspace for most of July. I don’t remember much of what happened over the month. We spent the Fourth hanging out at my husband’s uncle’s backyard/pool, as has been tradition since we moved here, but I didn’t take any pictures. So I give you a home in my neighborhood with an American flag instead.

8) Obi the puppy does not give one iota that I had surgery. He has matured somewhat over the last month, but is still very much a puppy and still needs loads of attention and still gets into very much trouble.

9) One of the great gifts I received was two weeks of dog walking from my friend Megan. A life saver. We loved meeting all the folks at Central Bark, and Obi especially loved the puppy playgroups which we tried a few times, so we’ve decided to keep him going a few times a week for at least the next couple of months.

10) We had more fun in the kiddie pool this month and I had fun with my camera, which I haven’t taken out much this summer. I haven’t been motivated. Sometimes you have to force yourself a bit and then the creativity comes. So maybe I’ll take the camera out after writing this and plunk it on the counter to remind me to do that.

11) I need a new Podcast. Please help. The above are from IndieWire. Do you recommend any of these? I do not want self help or motivational Podcasts. LOL. I listened to “The Lighthouse” by the Australian this month. It was pretty good – about a missing person in Australia’s coastal picturesque town of Byron Bay.

12) This book you guys, I don’t know how she continues to churn out great books, but she does. Mystery, murder and full, fleshed out characters based on the Irish countryside. It does make you want to visit Ireland. Although I’ll skip the murder part when I go.

Tonight my nine-year-old’s bestie said goodbye one last time before she and her family leave for Florida. Our gal is handling it well tonight, but it might be a rough weekend. Plans tomorrow are to sleep in late, order Indian food for dinner and watch a movie. Nothing else.

I am sad, I am grateful, I am content, I am restless. I need I want I don’t know what I need or want. This was July and looks to be some of my August as well. I’m riding the wave and I’m okay with that.

I heart summer so hard and I am going to be outside (although no sun for my jacked-up surgery skin) as much as possible and enjoying not having any or many commitments. It feels luxurious in some ways, but I’ve earned this time of nothingness, to heal and figure things out. Enjoy your August as well. See you back soon.