The November List – 2020

November was an uneventful month in that we mostly stayed home.

ONE) Because quarantine. November is the month I (supposedly) got Covid-19. I mean, what in the world. I was out for a jog when I got the call that my PCR test came back positive. The only reason I tested in the first place was because one of the kids was in quarantine due to exposure to a positive case and we thought what the heck.

I was completely asymptomatic the entire time except for crazy anxiety and paranoia. Everyone else in my family tested negative. So there. I really hope that I had it, actually, but I’m too lazy to take an antibody test and no one knows how long immunity lasts anyway.

TWO) Two is I am writing my numbered list out because WordPress wants to turn my list into a weird bulleted-type list whenever I type a 1. or a 1) and I want the format that I want and this is the only way I can think of to do it.

THREE) I cooked.

FOUR) I puzzled.

FIVE) I puzzled while Podcasting. This month I listened to Season 2 of BBC’s Intrigue, which was titled “The Ratline.” It was part storytelling, part investigative journalism. About the disappearance of a senior Nazi, about his son who continues to deny the truth, about Nazi hunters and the Vatican. It was, in a word, intriguing. Ha.

SIX) After trying to get my fantasy novel-loving daughter to read “The Hobbit,” I decided to read it myself. It’s the sort of book I would have read as a kid, but never did. What I remember about the story is the cartoon movie adaptation where Gollum appears in the creepiest, most terrifying way. But I loooooved the more recent movie version.

I like to pretend that I like reading classics, but I only sometimes do and usually don’t. But this one is quite good. I’m enjoying it. Lots of dwarves.

SEVEN) The last of my dahlias were cut (by me) and brought inside for us to admire. They lasted a long time this year. Well, they didn’t really last long so much as their season started late. Beautiful either way.

John, photographed by me

EIGHT) My friend, client and mentor John Ahee left us this month. It was not a terrible shock (he’d had health issues for a long time), but it was still enough of a jolt to throw me and I feel the emptiness. I helped write his obituary for the local paper after a call one evening from his wife. I was… relieved. I’m sure she had no idea that the call would bring such comfort to me. I’m honored that I was able to help him one last time. You can read about his life here.

NINE) Auntie’s recovery from brain surgery (her tumor was the size of an orange!!!) has been challenging. She is doing very well, according to medial professionals, but caring for her is exhausting, not because she is difficult, but because there is still confusion and memory loss. And some physical inabilities and then some scares (like almost fainting again the other day). She will likely need to undergo another surgery in the new year.

My mom (who celebrated her birthday this month!) is taking on the burden of primary caretaker and it is a lot. But she’s really good at it. Her knowledge and skills as a teacher are being put to such good use. It’s stressful for me, being so far away, but a lot more so for my family who is there. Prayers for all.

TEN) I made pie. Two of them. For Thanksgiving. Apple pie and sweet potato. I cheated this year and used Trader Joe’s crust for the sweet potato pie. It was…fine. It was delicious. But the fact that I knew that the crust wasn’t homemade made it not as good as homemade! Gah!

ELEVEN) Leaves are gone. We raked the last of them this past weekend. It took three hours. Mostly my husband did it, but the girls and I tried, we really did. I think I lasted about an hour and a half.

And yes there is an extra kid in the picture. My daughter had a playdate and we put them both to work!

TWELVE) I NEVER and I mean never, as in I turn my nose at people who do, decorate for Christmas before Thanksgiving. Foot in mouth. I blame Covid. I bought a cotton candy pink tree and put it up before Thanksgiving and I LOVE it.

I’m keeping it kind of light this year for Christmas. Foregoing some decorations and traditions because I’m just so dang tired. I don’t usually guilt trip myself, but I do feel a little bad about this one.

We had our first snowfall on the last days of the month. Wash it white as snow….I’m ready for a new year. But I’m looking forward to December, too. A time for peace and reflection and gratefulness and joy. Give me all the positive feelings as I say goodbye to this ridiculous year.

I hope this month finds you safe and healthy. And happy, for the most part (is anyone crazy happy right now? If you are, good for you.). Happy December, all!

The October List – 2020

1) Fall is a welcome change of scenery, yet I have never been a fan of the cold weather that accompanies this new season. I’ve taken less walks, due to time issues and also weather, but when I do go out, I’m rewarded with rusty colors and fewer landscaping sounds (lawnmowers, etc), which flooded my walks over the summer.

2) I don’t love Halloween – mostly because I don’t like scary things or strangers and I especially don’t like strangers dressed up as scary things. I’m no-so-secretly happy that the holiday was toned down this year and that the kids celebrated with intimate friend gatherings vs. trick-or-treating. I do enjoy seeing the Halloween decorations around the neighborhood, though.

3) I turned 48 this month. Which….yes, is still relatively young, especially if one is older looking back on 48, but I’ve never been 48 and I’m not loving it, to be honest. I’ve always looked and felt significantly younger than my peers, I think, and now all of a sudden I don’t and it feels unfair (I’m sure this is very eye-rolling to many readers, but this is my blog so I’m writing about me and speaking my truth).

I still, however, look forward to my birthday every year. It means I get some alone time and respite from day-to-day kid responsibilities, and a date night with my husband, which has only happened a handful of times since Covid.

4) I was gifted AirPods for my birthday – yipee! Life changing for gardening (how many times have I ripped headphones out of my ears while gardening!?), walks and on weekly 7:15am Zoom meetings (camera off) while I’m waking up kids and getting ready for work.

5) In the spirit of making more time to do necessary things, I scheduled a visit to Detroit Abloom to spend time with Tom and Nancy and the flowers. Dahlias were still crazy blooming, even this late in the season, and the backdrop of fall colors on the trees was stunning. Make time for beautiful people and beautiful things. Just do.

6) My own dahlias are hanging on as well. These are called Purple Rain, which I believe is Nancy’s own name for the flower, as it is perhaps a mutation of some sort. Anyway, the bulb that I have gives me pure white centers and purple tips on the back petals. The more common versions that I’ve seen at Detroit Abloom feature purple tips on each petal. I’m a bit partial to mine.

7) I always make soup in the fall, and butternut squash is one of my favorites. The girls will eat the caramelized squash cubes, so I set aside a bunch of those and also throw them in the soup as a topping. The last time I made it, I didn’t have celery and it actually tasted better, so I might omit that step next time.

8) The podcast I’m listening to now is Accused, which has up to seven seasons, I think. It’s true crime and done in true investigative journalism style, meaning storytelling isn’t salacious or gratuitous on details.

I have a love-hate relationship with unsolved crime and I was really hoping Season One (which I just finished) would have a more definite ending, but it was a great listen. The only thing that made me almost stop listening is the narrator’s pronunciation of “because” as “BUHcuz” and she says it a LOT.

9) Speaking of true crime, there has been a resurfaced buzz in Grosse Pointe of an unsolved crime from 2010 of the mysterious death of a woman who vanished after a church service (her body was found days later – was it accidental drowning, a suicide or murder?). The case is featured on Netflix’s Unsolved Mysteries and a detailed re-investigation has also been featured in several editions of this month’s local paper, Grosse Pointe News.

10) I can’t say enough good things about “Where the Crawdads Sing” by Delia Owens. It has been a hot book since it came out in 2018 and I finally got my hands on a library copy. I was skeptical, as sometimes the popular books don’t live up to the hype, but this one was everything I love. Quirky and flawed characters, an outcast, a beautiful setting, a mystery and a satisfying ending.

I looked up the author and of course she is older, not that a young author could have written this, but…I don’t think it would have felt as deep. And she’s also a wildlife scientist, which one says “of course she is” after learning that fact.

11) This was a roller coaster month for my family, as my Auntie Melinda (on the right) discovered she had a large brain tumor after a fall and concussion from a blackout. Things escalated quickly – she had surgery about a week later – and now she is back home, but in a somewhat altered state. We are hoping that her memory comes back and her confusion goes away, but at the very least, she is alive and functioning. So much work ahead.

12) That said, I haven’t been sleeping well. Actually, I HAVE been sleeping well, I’ve just been waking up super early, not being able to get back to sleep, which from experience means that my mind and being are unsettled. I’ve also found that the best remedy for this is to just get up and start my day. Which is what I did this morning at 4:45 am, which enabled me to write (and hopefully finish) this blog entry before waking up the girls for school.

There’s a lot to be unsettled about right now. Auntie, of course. And the rise in Covid again, like a bad recurring dream. The ongoing balance between work and parenting and everything else. The election, which is giving me such anxiety for so many reasons.

I’m hoping November smooths things out and slows things down and I think it will. I hope that if you’ve been feeling a sense of unease that the end of 2020 brings peace and calm to you, too! Be well, friends.

The September List – 2020

This month, I’m skipping niceties and jumping right into the list…

1) After months of taking care our tomato plants, we finally have something to show for it. Throughout summer we’ve had one or two semi-ripened tomatoes, which tasted…fine. But these were truly ripe. And delicious.

Some pics of the crazy plants, that are full grown and have loads of green tomatoes on them. We almost had a frost last night. Crossing my fingers for a couple more weeks of decent temperatures.

2) My WordPress blog format has defaulted to Block editing, which, if you know WordPress you sympathize and if you don’t, it just means that I now have less control in terms of photo sizing and positioning.

I have zero interest right now in figuring out this new systems, so it is what it is.

3) Our youngest turned nine this month. We celebrated with homemade coconut cake and two of her friends (daughters of two families we have been cohorts with throughout summer). She is creative and silly and fun and cuddly and has big feelings that keep us on our toes.

4) The school where I work opened in-person (with safety measures, knock on wood), which means I am back in the office as of early September. When I went in, this reminder of all that had transpired since the last time I was there was waiting for me.

5) After six years of living in our house, we finally repainted our door! Top = old, bottom = new. What do you think? New door knocker coming soon!

6) This month’s read (for me, not our book group book) was “The Tattooist of Auschwitz” by Heather Morris. Online it is touted as a love story, but I didn’t read it as such. Sure, it involves a ribbon of a story of two people, real people, but it was more a story of raw heartbreak, tenacity, wit, kindness and a little bit of luck. Yes, it’s WWII, yes, it’s hard, but not unbearably so. The author gives the hard parts without overdoing the emotion or dwelling on them.

7) I voted for a presidential election by mail for the first time. Fingers crossed!

8) I haven’t seen any of my flower farm friends all summer. Part Covid, part me having to work over the summer (blessing and a curse). I made it out to see one of them this month on a beautiful fall morning – my friend Julia at Willa Rose Floral. It reminded me that I just need to make time for things, period.

9) We (husband, me) finally began watching Killing Eve, which I’ve been dying to watch since it came out. I kept waiting to catch free episodes of the first two seasons, and just sucked it up and paid the $20 (I know, not a big deal, but still) per season to watch via Amazon Prime. It has everything I love. Espionage, murder, surprise, humor, great characters, foreign countries, strong and complicated women and actor diversity (white, asian, black, etc.)

Has anyone read the books the show is based on? Are they good? I can’t imagine a show being better than a book, but the show is so good, I wonder.

10) September was a getting-back-to-a-real-schedule month, so a lot of the month was spent figuring all that out. Waking up early and going to bed earlier, having to actually get ready for work, homework, virtual piano lessons (ugh. is that even doing anything?), not being able to go on my daily walks (aaaaaaah! I miss that!).

11) My dahlias are hanging on, but again, with this latest cold weather streak, I’m not sure all the buds will end up blooming.

I did get this fantastic bloom, which is still amazing after a week of being cut, which was done several days after it opened on the plant. The petals are the whitest white and super fluffy.

12) I’ve done a lot of reflecting this month. Not soul searching, just thinking. About life and what I want out of it and what and how much I’ve been putting out into the universe.

Even though 2020 has been a hot mess, crazytown, sh*t show of a year, it hasn’t been all bad. It’s given me perspective. And more time with my immediate family. More time to walk and connect with faraway friends on the phone. More reasons to be grateful.

I’m not done reflecting or decision-making. Stay tuned. And have a wonderful October!!

The August List – 2020

August was a beautiful summer month, as it always is in the Midwest and East Coast (because if you read The July List, you know that yes! we made it to upstate New York).

1) Who doesn’t like donuts? No one. A new donut shop opened in Detroit’s Jefferson Chalmers neighborhood, just minutes from Grosse Pointe, back in March.

We tried Yellow Light Donuts for the first time this summer and all the flavors are delicious (and they have coconut!!) and the drive-through service is super convenient, especially during Covid (and yes I know it is all caps, but I don’t like calling that much attention to it. Over it.). Biscuit sandwiches are yummy, too. Only drawback – get there on the early side or they may sell out.

2) I never did tell you that we got rid of our hot tub earlier this summer. I loved that hot tub, but it was time. We bought two used chaise lounge chairs from a local mom swap group to put in its place and we’ve used them more than we used the hot tub, so it was a good decision. And the patio looks much nicer, too.

3) We have cucumbers – woo-hoo! I never know what’s going to grow in our backyard. Sometimes things work, but mostly they don’t, because don’t get a whole lot of sun back there. We have a small patch of space where the sun lingers, and that’s where we planted the cucumbers. We also planted tomatoes and we do have some of those, but the fruit has been on the vine for week and weeks and they are all still green.

4) It is dahlia season and the few plants that I have bring me so much joy. The first is my favorite Cafe au Lait and the second and third is uhhh… I think Carribean Fantasy. Can you believe that the second and third photos are the same flower!?! Dahlias seem to change every day, which is one of the reasons why they are so amazing.

5) I read two good books this month. The first, “Still Life” by Louise Penny, was a recommendation from a college friend. His recommendation was actually for her latest book in the Gamache detective series, based in Quebec (Mom – you might actually like this one, it is a murder mystery, yes, but it is “light” like the PBS Mystery shows you used to watch) and when I looked it up, I saw that the book was part of a prolific series. I just put the second one on hold at the library.

The next title is “The Hypnotist’s Love Story” by Liane Moriarty. I love her writing because it is easy and entertaining like beach read, yet is so much deeper. Featuring a hopelessly romantic hypnotist, a ho-hum boyfriend and an obsessed stalker, this book is a page-turner.

6) I have three Podcast recommendations. The first, Undercover, has seven seasons so far. I’ve listened to three and am halfway through season four. The first season gives an inside look on the cult Nxivm (pronounced Nexium). Intriguing. Season two discusses an unsolved case of an airplane bomb that exploded in 1965. Season three is about a series of murders that rocked Toronto’s gay community in the 1970s, with a bonus episode on The Justice Project here in Detroit, and season four is about a nearly-homeless “cat lady” who mysteriously disappeared.

The second podcast, Nice White Parents, is a series about “building a better school system, and what gets in the way.”

The third is Intrigue, Season One (only because that’s the only season I’ve listened to so far) “Murder in the Lucky Holiday Hotel,” about “death, sex and elite politics in China.”

7) I completed two puzzles this month. I would have done more if not for our 1.5-week road trip. But they each had one missing piece which is soooooooo unsatisfying! The first was a brand new puzzle and I swear I didn’t lose the piece, it was not in the box and I didn’t vacuum it up! URGH.

The second one I brought back from my Dad’s. It also had a missing piece, which was surprising, because usually he labels the box with “missing piece!” if that’s the case. If you wondered where I got my puzzle penchant from, when we arrived at my Dad’s, he had three large boxes filled with 30+ puzzles, all of which they were going to donate after I looked through and decided which ones I wanted to keep.

I pretended like I didn’t want them all and ended up with eight. Or nine. I have to say that this particular one (second pic) was very challenging, as up to this point, I have been used to puzzle pieces that are relatively similar in that they are straight-ish and feature one of five different kinds of pieces or so. This one had the most random shapes and sizes of pieces and it was hard to get into my auto-pilot puzzle zone.

8) Speaking of puzzles, the window in this second photo reminds me of a puzzle.

A I stated last month, we quarantined for two weeks before our road trip to upstate New York, ensuring we were safe to be around my Dad and his wife, Lyn. It’s a truly magical place. A simple cottage on a simple lake, but a beautiful refuge just the same. I didn’t relax nearly enough as I’d hoped or planned, finally allowing myself to ignore texts and emails on the last three days, but it was still a great time of winding down and letting go.

9) I captured some of my favorite cabin details.

10) The girls swam and played vintage board games (at least for a few minutes before they started making up their own questions and rules) and learned how to shoot a bb gun, and we ate well and fished (although we didn’t eat the fish we caught – the were all too small) and drank wine and tequila (me) and bourbon (him).

11) For the soon-to-be (school in Michigan starts after Labor Day) 6th grader’s summer social studies project, we visited Sackett’s Harbor (Google says Sacket’s, but it also says Sackett’s was a previous spelling and that’s the way I know it), which was part of the War of 1812.

We also visited the military cemetery there and saw that most of the headstones were adorned with a coin or coins. None of us (including my cousin-in-law, Jim, retired US Army Major General, who accompanied us on our battleground tour that day) knew exactly what that meant or stood for and I have yet to look it up. He did tell us that all headstones face East, which we didn’t know.

12) Remember my amazing hair from June? I posted a selfie and everything. Well, the summer sun turned my highlights orange and I bought some semi-permanent color from RiteAid and dyed it black (actually a dark, dark super dark brown, my natural color) and two months later it’s still black, even though the box promised it would only last 28 days. OH WELL. So I guess I have black hair now. 2020 keeps on giving.

I wish I had some revelation to share with you that came to me while I was living in the woods. I worry that my kids have turned into dummies over the summer with so much screen time and very little social time and I worry that one of us or someone we love will get Covid in a really bad way and I worry that I worked way too much this summer and wasn’t there for anyone, including myself.

I’m not in the depths of dispair, as Anne of Green Gables liked to say, but I’m tired – as in literally, physically and mentally tired – of being in a state of limbo always and not only that, a state of uncertain limbo.

But we have at least one more month of beautiful weather to enjoy. We are healthy, the kids seem… normal for the most part at least for now, my friends continue to be there for me, my extended family is safe and really what more can one ask for.

Be well, my friends. Wishing you a wonderful September!

The July List (Sort Of) – 2020

So, I didn’t actually forget about the July list. I’ve just been remembering at the most inopportune times. Like now (above is where we’ve spent the last week on vacation. My dad’s place in upstate NY and yes we quarantined first). But no time like the present.

Since I’m over 2020 already and I cannot right now with the usual list, I give you 12 things I am looking forward to after the pandemic, whenever that may be. In no particular order.

1) Dining at a restaurant
Okay, granted, since March, I have enjoyed the outdoor restaurant experience twice. It was not fully relaxing, but it did bring some sense of normalcy. I’m guessing there will not be a lot of restaurant eating for us for the remainder of the year. Definitely not when winter hits and eating outdoors is no longer an option.

2) Sending my kids to someone else’s house to play.
Please God.

3) No more political conversations about masks.
I don’t have them. I just hear them and read them.

4) Sports
For my kids. Not college or professional. I don’t watch those.

5) Large (more than 10 people) social gatherings
Just kidding!

6) Indoor social gatherings
That one is actually true. I love hanging out with a nice group of gals (and guys) by the fire with a cocktail. That I miss.

7) Window shopping
I’m not a big shopping, but I do like popping in to stores every now and then. I miss that.

8) Licking the grocery store produce bags
For the love of the land. I cannot open those things. So now I spray hand sanitizer on them and that works pretty well.

9) Touching all of the things
Such as grocery store produce, door handles, Amazon boxes, etc.

10) Not wearing a mask.

11) Sneezing

12) Singing
I miss karaoke, singing in chapel and I will miss Christmas carols.

Over and out!! Enjoy the last full month of summer!!!

The June List – 2020

June was hot and sunny and just as summer should be. Aside from the pandemic still hovering over us and dictating what we can and can’t do.

1) The Yacht Club pool opened for reservations and we decided to check it out. It was actually pretty great. Guaranteed seats, no one sitting too close to you, no pressure to make small talk or socialize. I loved it.

2) You can see my June read in the first pic. It’s another Brad Meltzer book. Not my normal genre, but I’ve now read three of his books in the last few months. I think it’s because I don’t have to think too hard. It’s plot-driven, although it’s not just plot – the characters are decent. It’s like watching an action/suspense movie. I can completely tune out and wind down to it.

Speaking of book, I don’t have a photo (why!?! It was such a beautiful night in a beautiful setting – my girlfriend’s backyard and her new outdoor fireplace), but my book group met for the first time in a long time. I think since February. It was so nice.

3) Happened on the last day of May, but I didn’t post about it….my high school class held a virtual 30TH (!!!!) reunion. Because most people were in Hawaii, we started at 10pm Michigan time (although one of us beamed in from Africa at 5am, so he wins), so I was super sleepy and logged off by midnight, though the gathering was still going strong.

What I can say about my high school friends is probably what most people say about their college friends. It was like picking up a favorite book.

4) I’ve been keeping up my walks (yippee!), although it’s been harder to do so as the weather gets warmer. I could get up an hour earlier to beat the heat, but then I’d have to get up an hour earlier.

I look forward to seeing these peonies every year. They are in an alley of sorts and I’m not sure if anyone tends to them, but they were planted with care for sure and are absolutely beautiful. I love watching them evolve.

5) My podcast pick of the month is hands down Caliphate. It follows journalist “Rukmini Callimachi, who covers terrorism for The New York Times, on her quest to understand ISIS.” At first, I found her voice annoying, but as it quickly became clear how much of an all-around badass she is, I stopped being annoyed and listened in awe instead.

In researching the summary of the podcast just now, I see that she won a Peabody award for it and I’m not surprised.

6) I did another small photo shoot for The Corner Studio. The girls were so sweet and cute and photographing all the outfits made me want to buy all the clothes (I did end up buying some python print leggings and a sweatshirt).

7) I never did share photos I took of the newly renovated Red Crown, a family restaurant in Grosse Pointe Park. I photographed their grand opening (they’d been closed for renovations), but just a couple days later, the state shut down. They are open again, but at half capacity and of course with Covid rules in place.

Covid or no Covid, the space is cool and inviting and the food I sampled from their new menu was yummy, too. I hear they’ve blocked off their parking lot to allow for more outdoor, socially-distanced seating. If you are in the area, stop by!

8) I am still devouring puzzles. This was one of two I did this month. It was the first one that’s somewhat frustrated me. I enjoy a good challenge, but solid colors (or slight variations on one color) is not the kind of challenge I am up for. It completely drove me crazy and I was relived to be done vs. satisfied.

9) On the opposite side of the dining table, my 11-year-old daughter worked on her own puzzle, and this is how she does it. OMG. My husband says she might purposely NOT lay the pieces out because I am so adamant about laying the pieces out, but I’m not so sure. It might just be her. For the longest time she didn’t do the borders first either, but at least she’s taken my advice (whether holeheartedly or reluctantly) on that one.

10) I went to the salon! It was amazing! I had an appointment scheduled in March, just days before they shut down for Covid. I hadn’t cut or colored my hair since October, so it was much needed. My hair has not looked as good since that day because I can never recreate what it is they do to it. Still. Worlds better than it was. Although now with all the sun I’ve had, the caramel is starting to look more tangerine, but I pretend not to notice.

11) After two years of saying that I should get the outdoor bench cushion reupholstered, I got it done. I didn’t take a before photo and I don’t feel like digging around for one, but trust me, this version is a nice improvement. The old cushion was striped with mostly oranges and yellows. It was fine, just outdated. Also, I love ferns so much.

12) I don’t love poetry. As a kid and young adult, I sometimes wrote poems as a creative and mental outlet, but even then I didn’t especially enjoy reading other people’s poems. In spite of that, I picked up a library copy of “The Poems of Octavio Paz” at the suggestion of a friend after a brief Facebook discussion on classic literature.

I wish I could read Spanish – the copy I borrowed showed the Spanish version, followed by the translated version, which I really liked having, even though I can’t understand Spanish), because part of the beauty of poetry is reading the actual words and the placement and flow of the words. But, the translator did quite a good job at relaying the feel of the poems.

Did this awaken a love of poetry I didn’t know I had? No. I still don’t like poetry. However, it broadened my knowledge of a prolific and talented creator, one that I wouldn’t have otherwise known about. His poems are thoughtful (meaning it’s apparent how carefully he thought through them – what to say and how to say it) and full and there is a sensuality to even the ones that are not sensual. I found his poems to be….well, poetic. Which many poems in my opinion are not.

As an adult, I don’t always enjoy reading or learning outside of what I find interesting. But it’s a practice that always serves me well when I do it. I hope to continue opening my mind to new and different things outside of my comfort zone. Maybe you’ll give it a try, too. It definitely takes effort, but once you get your feet wet, who knows what you’ll discover about the world or yourself. Here’s to a new month, and hoping it brings some positivity and inspiration to¬† all.