Categories
Miscellany

Getting going to feel good

It’s late October now, and the high still hasn’t dropped below 70 degrees. We haven’t seen any significant rain for months. This week, the sky looks and smells like an ashtray, and we’ve been stuck indoors, feeling uneasy about the world. (Somewhere along the way, October 2022 has been branded “Augtober,” which is obnoxious but also feels about right.)

It can be tempting for me to think that I just need to hit upon the right piece of inspiration or muscle my way into the right mindset to feel motivated to do, well, anything when I feel unsettled. Instead, I’ve been reminding myself of a concept I came across in the spring of 2021: I don’t need to feel good to get going; I need to get going to give myself a chance to feel good.

This most obviously applies to exercise, which is how Lindsay Crouse, a runner and writer at The New York Times, wrote about it after struggling with pandemic burnout. But I’ve found it also can help me reconnect with creativity in the kitchen, at my desk, and in my relationships, too.

As performance coach Brad Stulberg puts it: “Show up — even when you don’t want to — and act in service of your core values. That’s the only way you’ll become them.”

Austin Kleon says it more succinctly: “Forget the noun, do the verb.”

Categories
Miscellany

A move, in micro-blogs

We moved across the Willamette River this week. It’s too hot to be outside and too chaotic in the new place to feel calm about staying inside, but we’re moving through it, one box (and tweet) at a time.

it’s me, a cold-blooded december baby, moving during a heat wave for the third july in six years and hating myself for it

— Brittany Wilmes (@bwilmes) July 25, 2022

i’d be thrilled if i never buy another piece of gray furniture again

— Brittany Wilmes (@bwilmes) July 25, 2022

Little kindnesses in a tough world: An honorary auntie bringing dinner and unpacking boxes at the new place. A new neighbor texting with an offer to treat us to donuts. An old neighbor sharing his trash can and wiping away a tear saying goodbye to our baby daughter.

— Brittany Wilmes (@bwilmes) July 27, 2022

Mom and Dad bringing a trailer to haul furniture — and then Mom coming back to help set up the bedroom and sit with a sleeping baby so we could work. Our 12yo babysitter organizing kitchen cupboards during naps. Our new landlord reading to the baby while we cleaned.

— Brittany Wilmes (@bwilmes) July 27, 2022

there are a lot of good things about housing density but the best might be: no leafblower activity! 😅😅😅

— Brittany Wilmes (@bwilmes) July 27, 2022

Categories
Miscellany Reading

Ordering the chaos, 10 things at a time

I keep a daily logbook (going on nine years now) that captures the “what” of my days, and I often write morning pages in a separate notebook, but for some reason in late 2021, I decided I needed a third daily writing practice, and I started writing lists. I’ve always loved lists: making them, crossing off completed items, using them as a framework for the things I consume and observe and produce.

Here are seven lists from the past month or so that give a glimpse of the quotidian.

Categories
Miscellany

100 things that made my year in 2021

1. Hanging three birdfeeders and becoming a full-blown bird watcher. Picking up field guides at the local library branch. Smiling at Anna’s hummingbirds at the feeder, squirrels trying to get to the suet block and dark-eyed juncos hopping around the front yard.

2. Sam Anderson’s writing in The New York Times Magazine, whether he’s introducing me to Kevin Durant’s career or the last two northern white rhinos on the planet.

3. Cheering on everyone’s efforts to have and share simple (or complex) hobbies.

4. Attempting to capture backyard birds and the full moon through the camera scope on my new binoculars.

5. Enduring another year of the coronavirus pandemic, looking back on the one we’d already lived through, and turning to art and small kindnesses to keep going.

6. The launch of a trained behavioral health crisis response team bringing a bit of hope to our struggling city.

7. Strong women telling their own stories. Helen MacDonald’s H is for Hawk. Know My Name by Chanel Miller. Michelle Zauner’s Crying in H Mart.

8. Attempting cross-country skiing with only a handful of spills on a sunny, warm winter day on Mt. Hood. Drinking Barq’s and eating Burgerville takeout in the car on the way home.

9. Taking a virtual drawing workshop with the delightful, wildly creative Linda Barry.

10. Telling our families on Mother’s Day that we were expecting our first child.

11. Clinging to the gentle release of a short afternoon walk around the neighborhood.

12. Spending a lot of time unlearning work culture and thinking about my misguided millennial ambition. Caring less than ever about productivity and more about the small rhythms of my days.

13. Going downtown with Erika to see the cherry blossoms on the waterfront, and to see other people enjoying them, too. Eating green tea Kit-Kats under our masks.

14. Receiving my first COVID vaccine from my sister Aubrey in April.

15. Hunkering down in a cozy rental apartment in Bandon for Ryan’s 36th birthday. Looking out at the fog and taking long beach walks. Tidepooling among the rocks. Eating charcuterie and Dungeness crab with our hands. Watching School of Rock on DVD. Reading while listening to the ocean.

16. Falling for the allure of the Harry and Meghan interview with Oprah — and then watching The Crown in one glorious, cinematic blur.

17. Fleet Foxes’ SHORE, first on Spotify and then selections in this Tiny Desk (Home) Concert and this gorgeous recording.

18. Trying to prevent the internet and its various algorithms from learning of my pregnancy by googling things in incognito mode.

19. Reviving three jade plants that had root rot and replanting them in one big pot, where they are finally thriving again.

20. Turning to Emily Oster for data-informed answers on topics as wide-ranging as risk assessment with a newborn, foods to avoid during pregnancy and travel during COVID-19.

21. Attempting screen-free Saturdays whenever possible, as inspired by Katie Hawkins-Gaar.

22. Joining Rachel Syme’s Penpalooza exchange and writing to a pen pal who lives in England.

23. Baking chocolate chip cookies and Earl Grey tea cake.

24. Eating Taco Time when inclement weather struck (February’s record ice storm; the heat dome in June) and dubbing it “natural disaster takeout.”

25. Laughing out loud while reading Patricia Lockwood’s Priestdaddy and No One Is Talking About This.

26. Babysitting my nephew and niece on a handful of summer and fall mornings. Reading books together. Getting outside. Being silly.

27. Taking books and magazines to the Little Free Libraries in my neighborhood. Finding a copy of Great Circle in a Little Free Library while walking on Fairmount Boulevard. Driving to the Capitol Hill library branch to pick up my holds.

28. Finally seeing a dermatologist to get my moles checked.

29. Piling into my parents’ motorhome for a spring day trip to Mt. St. Helens and tailgating in an empty, icy parking lot. Attempting to hike in the snow. Looking out and seeing nothing but fog.

30. Taking a leap of faith and leaving my job at the end of June to explore self-employment.

31. Pork rinds.

32. Finding a near-perfect reading experience in Sue Miller’s Monogamy.

33. Flowering trees.

34. Watching TV almost every night. Only Murders in the Building. Maid. Reservation Dogs. Mare of Easttown. The White Lotus. Hacks. Sex Education.

35. Hanging out in my parents’ pool on hot summer days. And the community pool in my in-laws’ neighborhood when we visited Kansas City in the middle of a humid July.

36. Finding endless motivation and positive reinforcement on The Writers’ Co-op, a business podcast for freelance writers.

37. Staying informed about the pandemic and slightly more grounded in a time of misinformation and hysteria, thanks to Ed Yong and Zeynep Tufekci.

38. Griping about my neighbors’ use of gas-powered leaf blowers.

39. Laughing so hard at the pitch-perfect Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar.

40. Ignoring all food-focused media during the first trimester of my pregnancy, as well as most cooking. Avoiding mundane foods that suddenly grossed me out, including oatmeal, fried eggs and mushrooms.

41. Getting out of the house on Friday afternoons and starting the weekend with a local hike.

42. Feeling screensick for much of the year and yet still doomscrolling.

43. Ultrasound appointments.

44. Applauding Simone Biles and Naomi Osaka for changing how America thinks about athletic strength, well-being and health.

45. Getting out of the house and realizing how uncool we are at the Portland Flea Market. Buying ceramics and popsicles. Sweating through a PNW summer day.

46. Long conversations with friends at Maplewood Coffee and Tea.

47. Ryan teaching our nephew how to build his confidence while riding a bike. Kai pedaling toward us and announcing, “Comin’ in hot!” Biking the perimeter of Black Butte Ranch with my cousins. Finally getting a new Trek bike and building it during a Zoom session with Luke’s help. Riding behind Ryan on a long run around downtown Portland.

48. Summer smoothies.

49. Buying donuts while running errands.

50. Celebrating Aubrey’s 30th birthday with a long weekend in a weird vacation house in Depoe Bay. Getting silly with an elaborate treasure hunt and late-night dance parties. Watching bald eagles and ocean waves from the living room windows.

51. Liana Finck’s cartoons about motherhood. Edith Zimmerman’s slice-of-life comics depicting her new baby. Evie Ebert providing a bit about pregnancy that I would use over and over during my second trimester. Lydia Kiesling on pandemic parenting. Erin Gloria Ryan’s hilarious newsletter.

52. Hosting friends and family for dinner again. Pizza on the back patio. Big pots of soup. Giving tours of the house even though we’ve lived in it for over a year. Playing catch with our nephews in the front yard.

53. A garage baby shower, complete with forest-themed cookies and golden balloons and lots of happy mini-reunions. Getting the best advice from my teen and tween cousins.

54. Scoring Mary Carroll mugs during a rare local sale.

55. Finding pleasure and meaning in TV specials that spanned genres. Derek Delgaudio’s In and Of Itself. Bo Burnham’s Inside. Mike Birbiglia in The New One dropping the articles from his speech in a bit about how people refer to unborn children. Amy Schumer in Expecting Amy, which led us to rewatch her special Growing.

56. Sitting in the shade eating fries and drinking cocktails at Ça Va. Oysters on the patio at Flying Fish Company. Pizza under the space heaters at San Juan Island Brewing Co.

57. Drinking cider and eating soup at Topaz Farm on Halloween weekend. Crowding around the bonfire and watching an employee light another fire with a giant blowtorch. Listening to screams coming from the haunted corn maze.

58. Taking my nephew to the zoo on a chilly fall morning. Saying hello to the cheetahs and orangutans and penguins and otters and African wild dogs from the other side of the glass. Watching Preston watch the elephants play in the dust.

59. Making stuffing biscuits in late November. Eating them all in a week.

60. Hiking more than ever, even into the third trimester of my pregnancy. Exploring the Tillamook State Forest and Silver Falls State Park and revisiting some favorite trails on the coast. Staying stable with the help of trekking poles. Wearing tall socks and plenty of sunscreen.

61. Thinking more critically (and maybe slightly less judgmentally) about mothers who feel compelled to influence thanks to Kathryn Jezer-Morton’s excellent new Substack.

62. Joining an advisory council for Gonzaga Magazine.

63. Falling prey to the Twitter algorithm while thinking about rewilding my attention.

64. Drinking Italian sodas in the car on a day trip to Hood River for pears and apples. Meeting Carlos the steer and picking a bouquet of dahlias at Mt. View Orchards.

65. Watching Stanley Tucci’s Searching for Italy and then eating more pasta than ever. A festive late summer meal with an old friend at Montelupo Italian Market.

66. Celebrating my pal Shannon as he published his first book.

67. Reuniting with my best girlfriends for a long weekend in Seattle. Good pastries. A long walk around Green Lake. Talking about kids and childbirth. Laughing in the hot tub.

68. Sleeping in.

69. Listening to 101.9 KINK in the car.

70. Olivia Rodrigo’s SOUR. Attempting to learn “driver’s license” on the ukulele. Feeling joy wash over me while watching her Tiny Desk Concert performed in a DMV.

71. Watching the Japanese maple in the front yard lose its leaves in a fiery burst of late fall color. Pretending that it was in a competition with the neighbor’s tree as they changed shades. Looking out the living room window at the sword ferns that sprout from the neighbor’s sugar maple.

72. Frozen pizzas.

73. Subscribing to a clothing rental service that made my last months of pregnancy feel a little less frumpy.

74. Walking through Multnomah Village with Ryan to get the hell out of the house on the weekend. Eating bagels and drinking coffee on the sidewalk. Doing some early holiday shopping and admiring other people’s handiwork.

75. Making daily blind contour drawings during the month of October, as inspired by Wendy MacNaughton.

76. Summer visits to the International Rose Test Garden.

77. Watching Jagged and becoming an immediate, late-blooming Alanis Morrissette fan. Blaring Jagged Little Pill on a long drive. Listening to Ryan reliving college memories and singing in a passionate falsetto.

78. English breakfast tea.

79. Ada Limón on learning different ways to be quiet. Putting some of those to practice in my own life.

80. Spending a long weekend connecting with friends and exploring the San Juan Islands on our second anniversary. Riding the ferry and looking for sea life. Sailing alongside a pod of orcas on a windy, rainy afternoon. Eating meals on chilly patios and splitting a pint of local ice cream on the couch. Watching half of Pretty Woman on cable TV. Finding it nearly impossible to get out of a foam-topped bed while seven months pregnant.

81. Playing Sushi-Go with my sisters.

82. So many good documentaries. The Mole Agent. Rebel Hearts. Dick Johnson is Dead. The Donut King. LFG.

83. Remembering Eric Carle and Beverly Cleary and Eve Babitz and bell hooks and Gary Paulsen and Joan Didion — and the worlds they built and ideas they explored.

84. Making the living room a little bit cozier with an electric fireplace.

85. Attending a Creative Mornings session with Portland cartoon journalist Sarah Mirk and making a zine that inspired me for weeks.

86. Peperoncini chicken.

87. Experiencing the “discomforts” of pregnancy. Achy feet. Compressed nerves along my ribs that made my torso tingle. Acid reflux. Swollen fingers. Always, always feeling like I had to go to the bathroom.

88. Ordering takeout on Wednesday nights when we had birthing preparation classes via Zoom. “Rehearsing” contractions by plunging my hands into a bowl of ice water while Ryan counted aloud. Watching birthing videos that were stranger and more ritualistic than I had imagined possible.

89. Watching Tua, the neighbor cat, explore his new catio. The time that Ryan attempted to rescue him from the busy road while he was on a run. Hoping to see glimpses of Tua in the living room window. The arrival of a new kitten, Kona.

90. Using terms like “plant-forward” and “lentil-centric” while working on a big copywriting contract for one of my first clients. Getting excited about diving deep into a new topic. Hearing my stomach growl on long afternoons spent writing about food.

91. Celebrating Mom’s birthday at Topgolf and swinging a golf club at 38 weeks pregnant.

92. Finding inspiration and an answer to my search for anti-racist action in Hope Credit Union. Planning to open a money market account with them in 2022.

93. Asking Ryan to tie my shoes when we left the house for a walk.

94. Lots of takeout and delivery. Rediscovering Little Big Burger. Bamboo Sushi. Hat Yai’s fried chicken for two. Soup dumplings.

95. Buying myself half of a pumpkin pie the weekend after Thanksgiving.

96. Jason Isbell on country music, nostalgia and white victimhood.

97. Being so tired that I misspelled my own name on our Christmas cards.

98. A very good pair of slippers.

99. Body pillows.

100. Giving birth to our daughter Maeve Lillian on the evening of my 35th birthday.

You can read all of my lists for past years here.

Categories
Miscellany

100 things that made my year in 2020

1. Refining our homemade pizza dough approach. Making it a near-weekly staple by the middle of the year.

2. Writing a pair of pieces for EarthBeat about millennial Catholics (including me) who are grappling with childbearing and climate change. Upping the cool factor by working with a talented, passionate illustrator on this project.

3. Dragging Ryan to a matinee showing of Little Women. Convincing myself that I’m a Jo while knowing that I’m probably just a Beth.

4. Falling hard for CHEER on Netflix and then going to an aerial yoga class in an attempt to recapture some of the slight acrobatic abilities of my youth.

5. A decadent, slow, lovely Restaurant Week meal out at Extra Virgin (made all the sweeter in my memory by the fact of the months that followed).

6. Gerard Mas’ medieval-girl-with-a-modern-twist sculptures.

7. Listening to podcasts in the bath.

8. Bringing home Utz chips and kettle corn seasoned with Old Bay after traveling to Baltimore for a conference. Taking a long evening walk through the city. Sharing a very French meal with colleagues at (now-closed) Chez Hugo and daydreaming about future travel.

9. Marveling at Ryan’s joy and the rest of the city’s on Super Bowl Sunday when the Chiefs brought home the championship. Getting sprayed with prosecco in the street in Westport. Crowding onto the sidewalks with thousands of other Kansas Citians in chilly February for the homecoming parade.

10. Becoming a runner. Getting outside three days a week since February to move for 2-6 miles, sometimes surprising myself, sometimes working through tough feelings, sometimes counting every step until I get home again. Running a solo 5K down a two-lane road in suburban Kansas City, and then another one on a curvy SW Portland boulevard on a very foggy Thanksgiving morning.

11. So much television. Pen15. I May Destroy You. Schitt’s Creek. Sex Education. The OA. Taste the Nation with Padma Lakshmi. Our Planet. Ramy. The Baby-Sitters Club.

12. Scheming to buy Ryan a copy of I Am Easy to Find on vinyl for Valentine’s Day — and receiving the exact same gift from him.

13. Roxane Gay on the big step and simple pleasures of moving in with her fiancé.

14. Eating Vietnamese and Italian food with colleagues in Anaheim. Working poolside on a beautiful evening. Taking long walks to the convention center in the mild winter weather. Listening to travel stories told by my 75-year-old colleague, a Catholic sister who has been to more than 30 countries.

15. Celebrating my cousin’s wedding on Leap Day. Ryan tearing it up on the dance floor and doing a front handspring during a Rihanna song. Flying for the last time in 2020 just as we began to hear about coronavirus cases in the U.S.

16. Martha Stewart’s easy basic pancakes.

17. Seasons 1 and 2 of The Dream podcast. Do the Thing with Melissa Urban. Esther Perel’s How’s Work. Rabbit Hole. OPB’s Timber Wars.

18. Exploring the Rock Island Trail by bike — and quickly learning it was uphill, all the way, and my tires were leaky. Digging deep for motivation to keep going.

19. Creating a quarantine zine.

20. Fiona Apple’s Fetch the Bolt Cutters. Lianne La Havas. Mordechai by Khruangbin. Taylor Swift’s folklore and evermore on endless repeat.

21. Riding, for too brief a time, a wave of cresting hope as I rooted in the primaries for Elizabeth Warren and her intelligence, kindness and extreme competence. Warren and Kate McKinnon flipping the script.

22. Pantry meals. Dried beans. Yes, homemade bread, a bit behind the curve. Baked risotto.

23. Making ugly collages and silly doodles in my journal. Participating in one of Wendy MacNaughton’s Draw Together sessions and hanging our artwork on the bookshelf.

24. Learning to cut Ryan’s hair at home. Receiving a hair clipper kit from Ryan’s parents as a going-away gift. Persuading him to trim my hair during a 10-month break from the salon.

25. Feeling soaring highs and gloomy, disengaged lows through a promotion that didn’t pan out.

26. Zoom chats with my college girlfriends, with my writing group, with my cousins, with my therapist, with a volunteer committee. Zoom fatigue at work. Learning to “hide self view.”

27. Gaming the hell out of the Go365 program through our Humana health insurance in the quest for a free bicycle.

28. Movies. Palm Springs. Hunt for the Wilderpeople. Portrait of A Lady on Fire.

29. Praising the heavens for takeout containers of premixed Negroni at Il Lazzarone.

30. Adjusting slowly to the work-from-home life. Propping my laptop up on thick books. Learning to get up from my desk often. Sharing lunch with Ryan instead of my colleagues. Being OK with not wearing makeup to every Zoom meeting. Starting my work day at 7:00 am. Finding freedom in restriction.

31. Watching livestreamed Mass for a few weeks during Lent. Celebrating Easter, and then ignoring the digital option entirely for months.

32. Writing a song on the ukulele with Ryan in the early still-creative stretches of sheltering at home. Playing that song on Zoom with a couple dozen extended family members singing along.

33. Learning coping mechanisms from the smartest people around: kids.

34. Buying a Nespresso machine and letting it bring us some small joy every weekend.

35. Reflecting on how in lockdown, it all changes and it all stays the same.

36. Supporting my yoga teacher on Patreon instead of in the studio. Buying a strap and a second cork block for my home practice.

37. Uncanny Valley by Anna Wiener. Heft and Long Bright River by Liz Moore. Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson. Robinne Lee’s The Idea of You.

38. Feeling very fortunate as we made generous donations to local nonprofits with a chunk of our stimulus checks.

39. Accepting gifts of homemade masks from an upstairs neighbor and in the mail from my mom.

40. Participating in a gratitude photo exchange with my sisters during the first weeks of lockdown.

41. Keeping a StrikeThru journal to organize and clarify my work and home life.

42. Taking a Sunday drive to Clinton, Missouri, and getting startled by an Eastern Yellow-Bellied Racer snake while on a walk at the nature preserve.

43. Ordering takeout to celebrate birthdays and the end of another mundane week and in a tiny, futile attempt to “save the restaurants.”

44. Going on a virtual trip to Nashville to visit my sister instead of flying out for Memorial Day weekend like we’d planned. Shopping online at Nashville stores, listening to live music on Zoom and taking photos in front of “local” murals.

45. Crying about work stress and moving stress and the pandemic and Ryan’s unemployment and a gloomy Saturday and life not happening on my terms. So. Many. Tears.

46. Participating in Brian Benson’s Daily Write class on Zoom in April and May. Having a piece published in the resulting anthology, Proof That I Exist.

47. Saying goodbye for now to my dear friends and colleagues in Kansas City in a 2020-appropriate meetup.

48. Mailing a birthday card for Breonna Taylor to the Kentucky attorney general. Reading and talking and learning about systemic racism in this country during the summer’s wave of social unrest. Feeling helpless and hopeless and desperate for change.

49. Surviving several weeks of a bedbug infestation in our home. Commuting to and from my in-laws’ so we could get some sleep. Buying a new mattress.

50. Saying goodbye to Ryan’s Corolla and becoming a one-car family.

51. Dan Sinker’s son’s research project leading to an endless string of Bird Weeks.

52. Moving cross-country in the middle of a pandemic (after stressing about that move for endless months). Eating Taco Bell on the tailgate of our Budget moving truck. Almost running out of gas outside of Laramie, Wyoming. Wiping down every possible surface of our hotel rooms in Grand Platte, Nebraska, and Meridian, Idaho.

53. Watching movies simultaneously with friends and live-texting our reactions. Choosing yet another weekend film thanks to the inspiration (and Twitter threads) of Vulture’s Friday Night Movie Club.

54. Supporting Ryan through a rocky, prolonged spring of uncertainty at work and eventually, a few months of unemployment.  

55. Facetiming and Zooming and participating in car parades to celebrate holidays with extended family and grandparents. Masking up for distanced outdoor greetings. Waiting as long as possible to go to the grocery store.

56. A charming, simple look at the socially distanced life through the lens of a mom of teenagers.

57. The NYT Cooking app. Cheesy, spicy black bean bake. Dutch babies. Japanese-style tuna noodle salad. Somen noodles with mushroom broth. Korean barbecue-style meatballs. Mississippi roast.

58. Too much screen time.

59. Foraging blackberries from the end of the street.

60. Oliver Burkeman on the only life question we really need to ask ourselves: “Will this choice enlarge me or diminish me?”

61. Voting.

62. Escaping into a different reality through documentaries. Honeyland. Crip Camp. The Dawn Wall. Free Solo. This Mountain Life. My Octopus Teacher.

63. Saying hello again to a more bruised, angry, striving version of one of my favorite cities.

64. Eating (almost) every flavor of Kettle Chips in a summer obsession. Crowning Korean Barbeque as one of my favorites.

65. Settling into our rental house in southwest Portland. Hanging artwork on the plaster walls, after a few small emotional outbursts. Trying to revive our sunburnt houseplants. Purchasing real furniture.

66. The Oregon Zoo’s Twitter feed reminding us of our fuzzy neighbors while it’s closed to visitors. Uni! Juno!

67. Exploring our local parks and trails. Feeling more than a little awestruck when first stumbling across the old-growth forest in Marshall Park. Running in Tryon Creek State Park. Getting very familiar with the Springwater Corridor.

68. Nicknaming the neighborhood cats (Simon, Lindor, Mitt and Taffy), who mostly ignore us.

69. Hunkering down at my grandparents’ beach house for an incredibly restorative, restful, beautiful, slow anniversary stay on the Oregon coast. Building fires in the circular fireplace. Reading entire books. Hiking on muddy trails. Identifying jellyfish and crabs and anemones on the shore and in tidepools.

70. Passing the knowledge test to become licensed in Oregon again and celebrating that (and my legal name change) with a beer and several tears. (Still waiting on that Oregon license plate, though!)

71. Drawing so much hope and inspiration from the launch of The 19th* and its first year of coverage.

72. Playing and singing and generally just goofing around with my toddler nephew Preston.

73. Afternoon walks around the neighborhood with Ryan.

74. Learning to use our new Traeger grill. Happily reuniting with the abundance of Oregon produce in the summer. Filling our freezer with salmon fillets.

75. Missing book readings until I decided to find them on Zoom. Listening to Molly Wizenberg talk about her latest, The Fixed Stars. Delighting in BFFs Ann Friedman and Aminatou Sow chatting on my screen. Looking forward to reading Yaa Gyasi’s sophomore novel, Transcendent Kingdom.

76. Trying to take a mental vacation when we couldn’t really go anywhere.

77. Remembering what’s really important with Ada Limon’s poem The Conditional.

78. Scratching my travel itch just slightly by exploring the aisles at Barbur World Foods.

79. Hunkering down during a long, scary 10-day stretch as Portland had its first true wildfire season. Staying indoors and refreshing air quality index readings hourly. Worrying about family friends and their homes. Having dance parties in an attempt at exercise and ease. Trying not to overthink headaches and scratchy throats.

80. Finding a perfect bit of peace in a rainy fall visit to the Portland Japanese Garden.

81. Looking at the full moon through my binoculars.

82. Trying to ground ourselves in the seasons. Eating a lot of squash and making homemade pumpkin spice lattes and watching silly Halloween-adjacent movies like Addams Family Values and The Blob.

83. Getting outside to work off some nervous energy the weekend before Election Day and taking a 20-mile bike ride on the beautiful Banks-Vernonia State Trail.

84. A.O. Scott on Wallace Stegner and the conflicted soul of the west.

85. A new job for Ryan at On running.

86. Worrying as family members and friends and colleagues contracted COVID-19. Trying to balance my sanity with my safety. Using hand sanitizer that smells like a college basement. Staying home.

87. Reading the archives of Orangette while Ryan watches Chiefs games.

88. Having a two-week dalliance with cold showers and loving the jolt of morning energy.

89. Finally getting our hands on a kettlebell and a set of resistance bands. Setting up a little workout area in the basement.

90. Lurking on TikTok and learning that even Catholic sisters are using the app to connect with Generation Z.

91. Sharing some of my favorite books in the #perfect31 challenge.

92. The radical quilts of Rosie Lee Thompkins.

93. Toasting to better things to come with Haus aperitifs.

97. Enjoying a gentler waking experience with a sunrise alarm clock.

98. Hand-painted signs at the coast that reminded us to go slow. “Slow down. Seal crossing.” “Slow is the new fast.” “Yo, dude. Slow down.”

94. New sweatpants. Crewneck sweatshirts.

95. Getting slightly lost on a 10-mile hike on the Oregon coast but finding worthwhile views and good company.

96. Watching grackles fight in the front yard and Steller’s jays hopping around the spruce tree.

99. Telehealth appointments.

100. Two of my sisters receiving their first doses of the coronavirus vaccine. A few extra minutes of light at the end of each day.

Read my lists for past years here.

Categories
Miscellany

It all changes, it all stays the same

I made two lists this morning: one of the things I’ve been doing more of since self-isolating and one of the things I’ve been doing less.

It was harder to fill the second list, which makes me feel hopeful. Even though my days feel emptied out — no more social events on the calendar, upcoming trips canceled, going to movies and restaurants now a distant memory — I have been filling them with other, smaller activities. I’ve been more gracious with myself and made more time to create in ways that can normally seem silly or frivolous.

These lists helped me recalibrate instead of letting my mind run away with fear and distress. They’re a reminder of what I’ve said yes to and what I have let go of when life doesn’t feel quite normal. As Amy Krouse Rosenthal said, “Pay attention to what you pay attention to.”

Things I’m doing more of while in coronavirus isolation:

  1. Baking
  2. Sleeping
  3. Practicing Yoga with Adriene
  4. Reading the entire Sunday edition of The New York Times on Sunday
  5. Reading magazines (Bon Appetit, The Sun, The New York Times Magazine)
  6. Talking to my grandparents
  7. Facetiming friends and their toddlers
  8. Crying
  9. Journaling
  10. Exercising outside (biking, running, walking)
  11. Staying up too late
  12. Ignoring my screen time limits on the Twitter app
  13. Playing the ukulele
  14. Drinking one beer to mark Wednesday evening
  15. Blogging

Things I’m doing less of while in coronavirus isolation:

  1. Driving
  2. Listening to podcasts
  3. Remembering which day of the week it is
  4. Spending money
  5. Wearing makeup
  6. Scrolling through Instagram (I gave it up for Lent — couldn’t have timed it better!)
  7. Planning ahead
  8. Wearing pants that zip and button up
  9. Taking photos
  10. Washing my hair
  11. Staying off of my phone
  12. Wearing sunscreen
  13. Using travel mugs and tupperware (no meals to pack!)
  14. Taking breaks during the work day
  15. Watching (aka being awake for) the sunrise

Categories
Miscellany

100 things that made my year in 2019

1. Leaving Facebook. Taking several months away from Instagram.

2. Tex-Mex tacos and beers chilled in the snowdrift on the balcony.

3. Holding my father-in-law’s hand after his surgery.

4. A fresh Jade Yoga mat.

5. Watching Coneheads on the library rooftop with free popcorn and beer. Going to the public pool with Sally. Buying Sesame Street stamps. Celebrating the public option

6. Emily Raboteau’s vital perspective on climate change.

7. A February trip to Los Angeles. Palm trees and sunshine. Boba tea and ice cream in Little Tokyo. Looking out at the city from Griffith Observatory. A hotel room with two bunk beds. Walking through the floral and produce districts. Watching the Oscars at a bar like it was a sporting event. Chasing the trip with Eve Babitz’s Slow Days, Fast Company.

8. Ignoring the algorithm and forgoing curation when the mood strikes.

9. Marriage prep meetings with a 77-year-old priest who told us, “I’ve learned that people seem to feel comfortable telling me they have doubts about the Catholic Church. So do I!”

10. The Audrey Hepburn episode of Mo Rocca’s Mobituaries podcast. Death, Sex and Money. Mary H.K. Choi’s podcast Hey, Cool Life.

11. Looney Tunes instead of CNN on the televisions at MCI.

12. Having friends over for dinner. Not caring too much about the menu or the playlist. Asking more questions.

13. The caramel brownie at Messenger Coffee. Meshuggah bagels. Chocolate chip cookies from The Russell

14. Evelyn Ebert’s newsletter, Everything Happened. The short modern poems of POME. Emily Gould Can’t Complain

15. Seeing the Kansas City Symphony perform the score to Casablanca thanks to some generous neighbors.

16. Kashmir Hill’s very good series on blocking the Big Five tech giants from her life.

17. Buying steaks and cooking at home on Valentine’s Day.

18. Ibuprofen.

19. Packing an “adult Lunchable” for work: cheese, crackers, veggies, olives, chocolate. 

20. Bonding with Ryan’s family during a scary time. Teaching my nephew how to fly paper airplanes while spending hours in a hospital waiting room. Taking my mother-in-law back to our place to nap. Getting lost in a maze of hallways after meeting the pizza delivery guy. Annoying Travis with fake makeout sessions to break the boredom.

21. Spending a night in Las Vegas with friends to see Celine Dion before her residency ended. Teresa bursting into tears the moment Celine sang her first note. Wandering around by myself in Vegas. Writing outside and appreciating the sunshine. Buffets. A long afternoon chat on a patio near a manmade waterfall.

22. Propagating our houseplants to make even more of them.

23. Wedding planning feeling like an unending task. Punching a box when it got too frustrating. Walking off the feelings. Attempting to surprise Ryan with dance lessons before I realized the process is as arduous as buying a used car. Finding inspiration in surprising places. Remembering we’re in it for each other.

24. Celebrating Mardi Gras with a “food addiction” party at work. Eating Cheetos, macaroons, gummy bears and chips and queso. 

25. Saying an unexpected goodbye to my dependable 2010 Jetta and bringing home our first joint car.

26. Anne Helen Petersen defining burnout for my generation. The Collected AHP. Talking about her tweets with Ryan on weeknights.

27. Hating spring like I do every year and going outside to put my bare feet in the grass. Participating in a spring yoga mala and realizing I may never do that again.

28. Having a picnic on an airplane while stuck at SeaTac in the spring. Enjoying clams and crab salads at my parents’ dinner table. Watching A Star is Born in the family room.

29. Walks around Liberty Memorial. Admiring the wide-open sky. Looking out at downtown from the museum observation deck.

30. Monday nights at Heartland Therapeutic Riding. Breaking up mud dreadlocks in horses’ manes and tails with pliers. Listening to Samantha’s mantra as she told her horse, “Easy, Murphy! Go slowly! Steady. Be careful.”

31. Learning from desert monks how to resist the cult of productivity.

32. Derry Girls. Fleabag. Schitts Creek. Season 2 of Big Little Lies. Shrill. The pilot episode of Gidget.

33. A weekend at a gorgeous, architectural house in St. Louis with Ryan and Jessica. Playing Pac-Man and Clue at the Gramophone. Calzones at Sauce on the Side. Riding Lime scooters everywhere. Sliding and crawling and scooting through City Museum all while being a tiny bit scared.

34. The New York Times reporting on Steph Curry’s popcorn obsession.

35. Chilled Lambrusco in a bottle with a cork fastener that has to be removed with pliers. Bringing sparkling wine on road trips and giving bottles as birthday gifts.

36. Getting sucked into Slack and resonating with the idea that punctuation and syntax are the “social lubricant” of the workplace.

37. Maggie Rogers, jubilant and luminous in a white suit on stage. Brandi Carlile belting out “A Case of You” under a summer sky in Bonner Springs. Taking Ryan to see Celine at Sprint Center, me unable to wipe the grin of off my face.

38. Appreciating the lush nature abundant on those not-yet-hot spring days in Kansas City.

39. Good movies at home on the couch. Booksmart. The Peanut Butter Falcon. Young Adult.

40. Enduring a marriage preparation retreat at a nearby parish and having some important conversations amongst all the enforced public kissing and long, preachy lectures.

41. Educating my youngest sister on music history.

42. Having my ego bruised and my brain lit up by this searing piece on the collision of gentrification and millennial craft food culture.

43. The National’s I Am Easy to Find. Mike Mills’ short film as an added bonus to the album.

44. Driving around sinkhole construction on my work commute for weeks.

45. Flipping to the “What You Get” feature of The New York Times Sunday Business section and choosing one of the three houses I’d buy in a dream world, then passing to Ryan and comparing choices.

46. A restaurant week dinner at Corvino Supper Club. A birthday dinner at Novel. A cheeseburger and draft root beer at the Au Cheval counter in Chicago.

47. Walking off the Sunday Scaries. Enjoying the sunset sky and catching the streetcar at Union Station to head downtown for a scoop of ice cream.

48. Lots of (mostly failed) attempts to refine homemade pizza. Giving up on cauliflower crust or some other complicated option and rolling out Trader Joe’s pizza dough. Piling it high with veggies and polishing off an entire pizza between the two of us.

49. Watching Making Perfect on Bon Appetit’s YouTube channel with Ryan. Waiting to crack the Thanksgiving issue until we finished the series. Making the mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving and again for Christmas. 

50. Other people’s weddings. Rapping “Jump Around” during karaoke hour at Erin and Adam’s reception. Laughing and dancing to 90s songs at Lynsey and Ryan’s wedding. Bunking at my parents’ place with my college roommate and her husband and daughter. Joining Ali and Teuvo for a group yoga class before they wed.

51. Welcoming my nephew Preston Edward to the world.

52. Taking it back to fourth grade with an egg drop contest at the office on a silly spring day. 

53. Getting away for Memorial Day weekend in Hermann, Missouri. Giving the local wine not one, not two, but six tries… and deciding it wasn’t for us. Eating giant pretzels and too much cheese. Reading and writing on the back patio at the coffee shop. Watching a robin sit on her nest of four eggs just outside our bedroom window at the bed and breakfast. Petting the host’s dog and listening to live music in the yard.

54. Listening to estrogen. (And supplementing with progesterone.)

55. Poems that bring meaning to our madness. W.S. Merwin’s For the Anniversary of My Death. Mary Ruefle’s The Good Fortune of Material Existence. Wendell Berry’s A Poem of Thanks. 

56. Seeing Ryan’s old stomping grounds at Missouri Southern State University. Spending the night with the Millers. Playing with the girls and having a pool party where all the adults got sunburned. Naps on the couch before dinner. 

57. Spending far, far too many hours in big box stores creating wedding registries. Attempting to lift Ryan up so that he could scan a garlic press with the laser gun. Getting slap-happy looking at all the things we didn’t need and spending too much time overthinking the things we did need. 

58. Saying goodbye to Mary Oliver. Remembering what she taught us about paying attention to nature.

59. Hanging out at Black Butte Ranch with Dad’s family. Finally getting to show Ryan the trails and trees. Swimming with nephews and cousins. A beer pong game devolved into deep conversation in the garage. Rolling deep in our bicycle gang. Morning ice cream. Petting horses in the pasture. 

60. Hot dogs and chicken bakes at the Costco food court.

61. Taking Ryan to the St. Paul Rodeo and cheering when a dirt clod landed in his plastic cup of beer — good luck!

62. Identifying plants on walks and hikes with the Seek app.

63. Alison Roman’s bacon, egg and cheese breakfast casserole for dinner.

64. Kansas City art in the summer. The “30 Americans” exhibit at the Nelson-Atkins. “Ralph Steadman: An Introspective” at the central branch of the Kansas City Public Library. Being mesmerized by the “Reflecting Motion” installation while it lasted.

65. A dreamy stay at the Channel House in Depoe Bay, Oregon. Soaking and reading in the outdoor bathtub. Watching the sunset through binoculars. Sighting gray whales in the bay. Shopping local. Walking on the beach at Neskowin. Lunch at Side Door Cafe. Feeling like I live a charmed life for 24 straight hours.

66. Bringing home zucchini, tomatoes and Mexican sunflowers from yoga class.

67. Salad ramen.

68. Going on a trail ride on a cool fall day. Seeing Ryan on horseback. Watching a woman film the entire experience from the saddle.

69. Joni Mitchell in Rolling Thunder Review singing “Coyote.”

70. Challenging hikes that I sometimes hated in the moment but appreciated at the top. Getting stung by a wasp while hiking uphill on the Oregon coast. Marveling in the snow and waterfalls at Silver Falls State Park. Climbing up through the muck of wet clay in Annot, France. 

71. Public figures being human. Stephen Colbert at his best talking with Anderson Cooper about grief. Jason Kander taking care of himself first. Nancy Pelosi clapping back under duress.

72. Reading Ross Gay’s The Book of Delights aloud before bed. 

73. The Washington Post’s ridiculous TikTok account.

74. A friendly summer evening putt-putt golfing and being heckled by the older couple golfing behind us at the Nelson-Atkins’ “Art Course.” 

75. Lo-fi music in my headphones. Ventura, Anderson .Paak. Con Todo El Mundo, Khruangbin.

76. Wedding Summit 2019 at the Lake of the Ozarks. Finally introducing my mom to the wonder of lightning bugs. Taking the sofa bed and giving our parents the bedrooms in our rental apartment. Walking on the kitschy boardwalk. Touring Stark Caverns and appreciating the cool climate and the incredible stalactites.

77. C.J. Hauser’s essay on her failed marriage. Jill Lepore on finding solace on a late friend’s laptop. Reporter Rod Nordland reflecting on time, weather and how we make sense of anything.

78. Tea gifts: Harney & Sons wedding tea. A Jasmine Pearl Tea Company sampler. Tiny tins of Vadham chai.

79. Celebrating huge success on the horizon for a good friend and fellow writer. 

80. Buying eggs from family-owned Campo Lindo Farms and reading the little notes printed in Comic Sans tucked inside the carton.

81. Finding professional motivation in The Cohort, Poynter’s excellent newsletter for women in media.

82. Laughing so hard I cried while playing games with my sisters and almost all of my best friends. Swimming in Lake Coeur d’Alene. Feeling all lit up and loved by the women in my life.

83. Pool wine.

84. Realizing I share a birthday with Kansas City’s (and one of the country’s) best museums. 

85. Our wedding day. Serving communion to our friends and family in an unheated church that I love. Riding in my grandpa’s Model A from the church to the reception venue. Dancing with our friends so hard that we had to wind down the reception early. My sister singing part of her toast speech. Ryan doing a Dirty Dancing lift with Adam. Eating two Ruby Jewel ice cream sandwiches. Swaying to a National song that nobody but us knew before we waved goodbye.

86. Appreciating the little victories that come with living an extremely online life. 

87. Sr. Helen Prejean at Rockhurst University and her reminder to stay open to grace.

88. Writing morning pages.

89. Watching Ryan race in the Plaza 10K.

90. A streak of diner food dinners. Chili cheese fries. French dip sandwiches.

91. Going to the movies solo. The Favourite. Parasite. The Farewell

92. Honeymooning in France. Eating all the bread and cheese and olives we could get our hands on. Appreciating delicious, cheap wine. Splurging on a proper hotel. Walking everywhere. Sitting and people-watching at sidewalk cafes. Dipping our toes in the Mediterranean. Enjoying a six-course dinner courtesy of our country hosts. 

93. Powering through several big projects at work. Launching EarthBeat. Redesigning the Global Sisters Report website. Introducing GSR in the Classroom.

94. Appreciating artistic intelligence and enjoying watching the progress of Andy Goldsworthy’s “Walking Wall.” Watching Leaning Into the Wind. Researching Goldworthy’s installations everywhere from here to Digne, France.

95. Finding traces of our wedding in the Musée Matisse in Nice.

96. Michelle Obama’s Becoming. Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb. Trick Mirror by Jia Tolentino. How To Do Nothing by Jenny Odell. Barry Lopez’s Horizon. Once More We Saw Stars by Jayson Greene.

97. Revisiting old writing and sharing it before it feels polished.

98. Making my mom’s lasagna recipe.

99. Welcoming a moisturizing hair mask into my weekly routine.

100. Dreaming about our move to Portland.

Categories
Miscellany

Stop spending money at businesses you don’t respect

I’m a millennial, so I have a fair amount of anxiety about the financial reality I will be living into in adulthood. (“The systems are failing us!” I often yelp at my fiancé or friends or anyone engaged in current-events conversation with me.)

One of the things that helps me is remembering that art can save us. Matthew Arnold says it best, as engraved on The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art: “Art still has truth, take refuge there.”

Another helpful tactic is remembering that we have a public option. You probably think about health insurance when you hear the phrase, but it’s a cornerstone of our public policy. State parks, city pools, libraries, highways and public schools are all examples of the public option.

I’ve been thinking about this lately in light of what’s not working for everyone. Today (and tomorrow!) is a made-up holiday for the biggest American retailer. Its warehouse employees wear adult diapers so we can get our guaranteed two-day delivery. The behemoth didn’t pay a dollar in federal income tax last year. Workers are striking to protest low wages. We love the convenience of shiny new industry disruptions (Lyft, Postmates, Instagram), but we’d be wise to remember who they (mostly) serve: Big Profit.

The public option gives me hope because institutions like libraries and parks and the Postal Service keep me connected to other people and my community without causing harm. I mailed some hand-written notes and bought two sheets of Sesame Street stamps today instead of shopping online. It feels good to acknowledge how our tax dollars contribute to our civic wellbeing.

As Austin Kleon writes, “I think of the public library as one of the last spaces in this country where you can go and feel like a real citizen. You’re not being sold anything. You’re welcome to be who you are, or work on becoming what you want to be. The library is there for you.”

I’m also drawn lately to Jenn Armbrust’s envisioning of the feminine economy. In fact, it’s what inspired me to launch this very blog a few years ago — the title of this post and several others come from her Proposals for the Feminine Economy. Her rainbow wheel of feminine principles highlights traits that I feel when I’m exploring a library branch or sitting in a park with friends: ease, connecting with nature, intimacy.

Like Jenn says, if we want to keep joyful, communal things accessible to everyone, we need to support them with our time and money and voice. Pay the fees (unless your library is like mine and recently removed late fines, which makes them an even better institution). Show up. Share the places you respect with people you love.

Categories
Miscellany

Coping mechanism

 

 

Our lives, and especially our Saturdays, are occupied by wedding planning and will be through October. Instead of asking me how I’m doing or what’s new in Kansas City, people ask me about wedding planning. We have been consumed by the wedding industrial complex.

We are so fortunate to be planning a very large party to celebrate our relationship and our decision to spend the rest of our lives together, and we are also overwhelmed. The wedding industry isn’t really about marriage. It’s about money. It’s also about image, any event in 2019 serving the higher purpose of creating content to share on social media.

We spent several hours this morning side by side on our laptops, looking at images of wedding bouquets and reserving hotel room blocks. Mid-afternoon, we decided we’d had enough. Ryan picked up an empty cardboard box that was waiting to be taken out with the recycling and held it out it front of his chest.

“Kick it,” he said.

I did, letting out a loud yell as my foot hit the cardboard. It felt amazing.

I held it so he could have a turn, the box starting to collapse in upon itself as he gave it a few swift punches.

We put on our shoes and went to Costco. After a morning spent wrapped in the high-pressure expectation of planning a modern wedding, it felt satisfying to quietly enjoy a hot dog and a couple of chicken bakes in a giant American warehouse.

Categories
Miscellany

Utilize the public library

 

A curator used to be someone who worked in a museum, but now we all curate our lives. We select and order every aspect of the endless stream of media we consume: our Instagram feed, our news consumption, the brands and styles we shop.

Lately I’ve been feeling the urge to reject curating my experience when I can. I don’t always listen to myself — I spent 45 minutes last week sitting in a Chicago hotel lobby scrolling through Yelp when I could have just wandered into a neighborhood and trusted that whatever I found would be delicious.

Studies show us that “maximizers,” people who feel the need to choose the very best possible option, aren’t any happier for their exhaustive research. (I tried to remember this when I was itching to read Consumer Reports as we began to build our wedding registry last weekend. “It’s your wish list, not your shopping list,” the salesperson told us.)

I went to the library today to pick up one book on hold, and I wandered the stacks and found a handful of other books that I didn’t know I wanted to read this month. It can be good to let fate intervene.

Reading next: Jenny Odell’s How to Do Nothing.