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.

 

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Miscellany

100 things that made my year in 2018

1. Early walks to and from yoga class. The mystery nest of twigs that someone built around a sycamore tree. The grouchy little brindle dog in the neighbor’s yard. The sun glowing on the buildings across Broadway.

2. A hungry rush of consuming Oscar-nominated movies: The Shape of Water; I, Tonya; Call Me By Your Name; Phantom Thread; Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. 

3. Green tea with almond milk and honey.

4. BOGO pho on Wednesday nights at iPho Tower.

5. Painting murals for an MLK Day of Service at Northeast High School. 

6. Lurking around the edges of the experience of motherhood. Lydia Kiesling’s essay on yelling at her children. Laura Turner’s beautiful birth story. Angela Garbes on claiming space (and science!) as a mom of color.

7. Watching Planet Earth on my new 4K TV.

8. A front-row spot at a morning yoga class three times a week. Finding community on the mat. Smelling sage and palo santo on my clothes hours later.

9. Launching a membership program at NCR in the hopes that we can sustain our mission of delivering independent Catholic journalism.

10. Discovering the group Choir! Choir! Choir! and their lovely project of teaching an audience popular songs in harmony.

11. Quinoa bowls.

12. Walking through Roanoke Park and playing on the adult-sized jungle gym.

13. A February visit from my youngest sister. Eating a lot of barbecued meat. Donning Gonzaga gear to create an impromptu Kansas City fan club. Making cookies and drinking Disaronno. Underground beers at O’Malley’s in Weston. Dancing at The Ship. Screaming at each other in an escape room: “That’s not what you do with binoculars!”

14. Watching the Winter Olympics and becoming an instant expert on snowboarding and every other obscure alpine sport. Stealing the phrase “nimble little sucker” from a commentator for perpetual inside joke use.

15. The first breaths of cool, thick air when landing back at PDX.

16. Eating dinner at Thames Street Oyster House in Baltimore. Walking the snowy streets in shoes with leather soles. Escaping into a bookstore for warmth and finding some hidden gems. Watching the Olympics in a Mediterranean restaurant. 

17. Welcoming my sister and her friend as our first weekend guests in the new place. A lineup of LC’s barbecue takeout on the kitchen island. Getting dressed up for a Sam Smith show. Riding Bird scooters in the rain. Having a tour guide and the beer taps to ourselves on a Boulevard Brewery tour. 

18. A recipe for stir fry sauce from Michelle Tam.

19. Brandi Carlile’s By The Way, I Forgive You.

20. Jackson’s Honest apple cider vinegar potato chips.

21. Mike Leach and friends’ gentle spiritual reflections on care and grace in NCR’s Soul Seeing column. 

22. Watching Won’t You Be My Neighbor in the theater on the Fourth of July.

23. My boyfriend’s dad making smoked ribs when my parents visited in September.

24. A crunchy hike at Wyandotte County Lake in late January. Taking photos from the dock of the icy lake. 

25. Grappling with how to be a better podcast host. Terry Gross on the art of the Q&A.

26. Using the Marinara extension to stay focused with the pomodoro technique.

27. This staggering, brilliantly reported longread about America’s richest farmer. You may not have heard of his name, but you’ve eaten his pomegranates or lemons or pistachios.

28. Catching the biannual misprint sale at Hammerpress.

29. Melissa Clark’s hot honey shrimp.

30. St. Vincent yanking on my heartstrings in her Tiny Desk Concert. Grace VanderWaal’s lovely, scratchy, aching voice. YoYo Ma returning again and again to Bach’s Six Suites for Unaccompanied Cello

31. Boulevard Brewing’s tequila lime gose.

32. Original glazed donuts from Lamar’s.

33. Changing my phone display to grayscale, thanks to a little nudge from Vox.

34. Winning “Best Podcast” from the Catholic Press Association.

35. Buying two new bras.

36. Supporting a new local cafe and bookstore… and a second outpost of my favorite KC ice cream shop in the same neighborhood.

37. “Through the Eyes of Picasso” at the Nelson-Atkins Museum.

38. Reflecting on the Catholic Church in a messy, heartbreaking, awful year. 

39. Sea Fare Pacific soup pouches.

40. Anne Helen Petersen on gentrification, experience-driven millennial tourism, and what that very specifically looks like in the trend of bachelorette parties taking over Nashville.

41. Making a Spotify playlist based on Kurt Harden’s “Essential Mixes.”

42. Soft Sounds from Another Planet by Japanese Breakfast.

43. My sister Erika and Jonathan’s wedding. My parents’ yard filled with 450 happy guests. Doing my own updo and liking it, for once. Erika’s shoulder shimmying during their first dance. Eating quesadillas in the kitchen late in the night.  

44. Going to a podcast listening party featuring an episode of Ear Hustle and then listening to a panel of local speakers on the societal and emotional effects of longterm incarceration.

45. “Neighbors” by Lucius. “The Upswing” by Bell X1. “thank u, next” by Ariana Grande.

46. Observing candle hour.

47. The Obama presidential portraits

48. Snapping up boxes of Traditional Medicinals Healthy Cycle whenever I can get them. When cramps strike, it’s better than Advil.

49. Watching Making Movies perform at the mayor’s State of the City address.

50. Hanging out in an infrared sauna on a cool spring day.

51. Appreciating the seasons.

52. Women standing in their own power. Ellen Pompeo and Aminatou Sow being unafraid to demand their professional worth. Lauren Groff’s By the Book column, shot through with searing poise and brilliant recommendations. Women!

53. Volunteering for KC Scholars and helping lots of striving youth and adults continue their higher education.

54. Lunch with my writing group at The Sundry.

55. Hosting friends for paella and tinto de verano. Feeling my heart swell at finally having a place suited to entertaining.

56. Florida by Lauren Groff. And Now We Have Everything by Meaghan O’Connell. An American Marriage by Tayari Jones. Mary H.K. Choi’s Emergency Contact. Autumn by Ali Smith.

57. Receiving a creative compliment from my new dentist.

58. Buying garden plants at the City Market and helping Ryan’s dad till his garden beds so we could reap the benefits of fresh peppers, tomatoes, herbs and squash.

59. A weekend in Spokane celebrating my youngest sister’s graduation from college. Showing Ryan the waterfalls and trails and parks of Spokane. Live piano music at a long, loopy dinner. Soaking up the Gonzaga love. Breaking bread with three good friends and their partners. Burgerville milkshakes on the drive back to my parents’ place.

60. Flint Town on Netflix.

61. Finding a kindred spirit who shares my unpopular opinion about Kansas Citians.

62. Sister Jean.

63. Creating a game of “Sex Jeopardy” for my sister’s bachelorette party. Creating the best Bloody Mary bar. Hiking Black Butte even though it felt impossible. Shutting down a karaoke bar in Sisters, Oregon.

64. Seeing The National live at Starlight Theatre in early October, their music pulsing out across the soggy crowd as rain pelted us continually and Matt Berninger waded out into the audience to share the moment.

65. Long walks at Champoeg State Park while visiting my parents.

66. Maggie Rodgers’ singles “Light On” and “Fallingwater.” Her technically and emotionally very good performance on SNL.

67. Taking a dance class from my brother-in-law. My entire family doing the Wobble on a wedding dance floor… and at a suburban TopGolf. 

68. Red wine and Cheetos at my grandparents’ house.

69. Witnesses like Dr. Christine Blasey Ford in a year that for women felt like a long uphill hike through quicksand. 

70. Hating on the big four (Apple, Facebook, Google, Amazon) despite using their products every week. Thinking more critically about my consumption of technology.

71. Comedian Ali Wong’s specials Baby Cobra and Hard Knock Wife.

72. Choire Sicha’s clever editing of the New York Times style section. Take, for example, this primer on self-care. His goofy, real advice in the Work Friend column.

73. Shrimp tacos for dinner.

74. Dancing all night at a silent disco during a weekend in Des Moines. 

75. Trying to keep up with good e-newsletters. The Ann Friedman Weekly. Matthew Ogle’s Pome. Anne Helen Petersen’s The Collected AHP. Katie Hawkins-Gaar’s My Sweet, Dumb Brain. Tributaries by John Graeber and John Hawbaker.

76. The music video for Janelle Monae’s “PYNK.”

77. Wesley Morris, very good as always, on the “anxious confusion of activism and criticism” that “robs us of what is messy and tense and chaotic” about art.

78. Moving into a condo just a few blocks away, but also a flying leap into cohabitation. A wall of west-facing windows. Bright, natural cabinets and hardwood floors. A gas range and a gas fireplace. A soaking tub. Waking up next to my love. Paring down two households into one. Sharing candles and furniture and kitchen counters.   

79. Feeling happy and bright on a day trip to Rocheport. Riding bikes under the beautiful fall canopy on the Katy Trail. A delicious lunch at Abigail’s. Hanging out with sweet, sleepy Clydesdales at Warm Springs Ranch. A glass of wine on top of the bluff.  

80. Watching Wild Wild Country and squirming with glee at the strange, strange phenomenon that briefly swept through my home state. 

81. A week in Florida with the fam. Reuniting Ryan with Gomek, a renowned (and now taxidermied) alligator at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm. Sticking our toes in the Atlantic Ocean. Iced tea on long afternoons in theme parks. My brother-in-law’s joy at taking the entire family to Waffle House for breakfast. Backyard pools. Celebrating Erika and Jonathan at a reception in Jacksonville. 

82. Seeing Spoon and Grizzly Bear at the Middle of the Map Festival on a hot, heavy June day.

83. Kyle Chayka on the depressing homogeneity of coffee shops, AirBnBs and Instagram accounts everywhere: AirSpace. (Bring on that book!) 

84. Frank Ocean’s cover of “Moon River.”

85. A very thoughtful, thorough goodbye to Rookie magazine and to the challenging media landscape, from Tavi Gevinson.

86. Rebecca Traister’s Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger.

87. Receiving a total of 34 bath bombs for my birthday and Christmas from family members who know me the best.

88. David Foster on Celine Dion. Her wacky, earnest ballad for Deadpool 2. Her killer summer of high fashion.

89. A long weekend with my college girlfriends. Learning too much about labor and delivery. Making dinner together. Swinging in the living room and on the porch with my honorary nieces. Breakfast at Rockwood Bakery. Craft cocktails. Trying to remember the names of buildings on campus.

90. Having a community of neighbors who know us by name. Greetings in the elevator. A housewarming gift. Closing down the holiday party with the 60-something retirees. Petting neighbor dogs.

91. Sarah Taber’s smart, informed Twitter threads on agriculture, animal husbandry, biology and technology. Especially this one about draft horses

92. A summer “progressive tapas” crawl through the Crossroads.

93. Voting.  

94. Discovering a technique that finally brought life back to my dry ends: heated deep conditioning.

95. Walking through the Water Gardens in Fort Worth. 

96. The duet version of “Party of One” with Brandi Carlile and Sam Smith.

97. Frequenting our neighborhood vintage market on First Friday weekends. Finally finding an original, bright piece of art to hang over our bed.

98. Birthday cocktails at Miracle, a pop-up Christmas bar.

99. Samin Nosrat’s Salt Fat Acid Heat on Netflix.

100. Saying yes to spending the rest of my life with Ryan.

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Miscellany

Be thankful

This is what I saw at Mass this morning:

A little boy wearing a shark tooth necklace.

A retirement-age woman leaning over to her husband to whisper her opinions on the homily.

A woman who reminded me of a friend I met through another Jesuit parish, her face radiant as she lifted a host to each person approaching her, offering them the Body of Christ.

A man who I see almost every Sunday, stepping gingerly and leaning on a pair of crutches, his T-shirt tucked into a pair of athletic shorts cinched high around his waist.

The cantor greeting the congregation before Mass, asking us to “sing with full voices.”

A young man behind us kneeling down after receiving Communion, head bent low over his hands. He was breathing so heavily he may have been crying.

A string of people like a thread of rosary beads, clasping one another’s hands during the Our Father. One man stood with his arms crossed in front of his torso so that he could hold hands with his wife and reach out to the person behind him.

Voices rising into the air, singing, “I will come to you in the silence / I will lift you from all your fear.” A feeling of nostalgia, home, yearning pulling at my chest during the chorus of the song.

A toddler coming back from receiving a blessing during Communion, clutching a big, overstuffed teddy bear to his chest.

A little girl with braided pigtails skipping out into the aisle to shake hands with a stranger during the sign of peace.

My fingers laced into my boyfriend’s fingers.

The priest speaking from his heart, asking us to pray for the victims and the perpetrators of clergy sex abuse, for all Catholics who feel heart-heavy and weary and bruised and yet still find ourselves in the pews each week.

A teenage girl who looked like she would rather have been anywhere else, her eyes sleepy, her long legs bare.

A brother and sister carrying up the gifts, the sister stage-whispering “STOP” to her brother as they reached the steps, then elbowing him hard to tell him where to hand off the collection basket.

A Eucharistic minister wearing cargo shorts on the altar.

Black faces. Brown faces. White faces. Old faces. Young faces. Tired faces. Emotional faces. Apathetic faces. Lovesick faces.

A family gathering up their purses and backpacks and coloring books so they could leave discreetly after receiving Communion, skipping the obligatory announcements.

A mother with her three children in their preferred pew at the back of the church, her sons in suits. She wore a black fascinator on her head and pointed-toe pumps.

Light streaming in through the blue stained glass, the thin, modern windows reflected in the glass face of my wristwatch.

The altar flanked with tall potted palms bedded in decorative moss.

Another song, one that we always sing before receiving Communion: “Take, oh, take me as I am. Summon out what I shall be. Set your seal upon my heart and rest in me.”

A community that I don’t see elsewhere in my city, although I live and work and shop among the people that join me in the pews. A belief that flickers and wavers. A belief that brings us back to the pews most Sundays, to talk to a being we can’t see, except when it appears in the people around us, a kingdom of God, sleepy and earnest, striving and slouching toward hope.

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Miscellany

100 things that made my year in 2017

1. Staring at the moon on walks from the car to the apartment.

2. Seeing Anne Lamott at Unity Temple and hearing her talk so hopefully and genuinely about writing and love and political resistance. And then complimenting me on my outfit. 

3. Crispy Thai pork with cucumber salad.

4. Thinking about tree blindness. Being able to name the sycamore trees that line my street thanks to a MLK Day nature walk with a friend.

5. A Harper’s Bazaar article on emotional labor that I couldn’t stop thinking about and sharing with my girlfriends.

6. Welcoming George Goss to National Catholic Reporter for a few months as he helped us launch a podcast and we helped him explore Kansas City though sight and sound.

7. Understanding the appeal of Anthony Bourdain by diving headlong into Parts Unknownand rejoicing when Netflix didn’t pull it after all. A New Yorker profile on Anthony Bourdain’s movable feast.

8. Frequenting the Stumptown Coffee Roasters cafe when flying in and out of PDX.

9. Hamlet at Shakespeare in the Park.

10. Getting through heartbreak with music. Belting out Charles Bradley’s “Victim of Love” at the top of my lungs while driving down the highway. Finding hope in “The Skies Will Break” by Corinne Bailey Rae. Eventually, bopping along to “Sure Don’t Miss You” by The Dip.

11. A happy hour with coworkers that turned into a night out at a dueling piano bar.

12. Winning a Sodastream at a charity auction. Lemon or lime soda water on the house almost every night. 

13. A weekend in Big Sky, Montana with my dearest girlfriends. Elaborate Whole30-friendly meals and lots of dark chocolate. Playing shuffleboard, having a glass of wine, and going to bed by 10:30. Talking about dating and kids and debt. A yoga class overlooking the mountains. Bear hugs and tears and baby spit-up.

14. Buying myself a Kiersten Crowley ring.

15. Getting ready in the morning while listening to The Daily.

16. Saying goodbye to Brian Doyle while continuing to share his beautiful words. Rereading “Joyas Voladorasand sending it to friends

17. Austin Kleon’s reminders for sanity, here, here, and here.

18. Participating in a group email conversation courtesy of a dear friend who was spending several weeks in Zambia. Remembering when email was correspondence, not just a compulsory scan of a list of marketing appeals. 

19. Staring up at the sky and feeling our country’s collective wonder and awe during the solar eclipse. Putting eclipse glasses on the office’s cardboard cutout of Pope Francis. Eating Milky Ways and Sun Chips and queueing up the David Bowie tunes.

20. Seeing Arcade Fire live, at long last, and finding the term for one of my favorite genres of music: art pop. (Roisin Murphy, Beck, St. Vincent, Kishi Bashi, The Blow)

21. Local articles that start conversations about race and culture in Kansas City.

22. Getting upside down and balancing on my arms and lying in savasana at Karma Tribe Yoga. Doing Yoga with Adriene when I can’t make it to the studio.

23. A day trip to Lawrence, Kansas. Lunch at Merchants. Exploring Wonder Fair, an utterly charming gallery and paper goods shop. Reading in the park. 

24. Breakfast potatoes.

25. My dad’s endearing new hobby of capturing sunsets and sunrises.

26. Cover Stories, an album of Brandi Carlile covers.

27. Hot tea before bed, sometimes with honey. Collecting new flavors of Pukka tea like they’re precious treasures.

28. Delancey by Molly Wizenberg. She’s forever my favorite food writer.

29. Seeing The Shins live and feeling all the angst and yearning of my high school days in their lyrics.

30. The very sweet and strange Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories on Netflix.

31. Riding my bike alongside my boyfriend while he trained for a half marathon. Even if he is so fast that he had to come back looking for me once.

32. My funny sister and observant mom.

33. Being completely floored and motivated by Bryan Stevenson’s career in Just Mercy.

34. Dancing to a Lady Gaga/Madonna cover band at the Kansas City Pride Fest.

35. Long Sunday afternoon phone calls with a long-distance friend dissecting the week’s articles and political twists.

36. Gentle reminders that we’re all in this together.

37. Befriending a three-year-old. Crawling around on the floor. Playing UNO.

38. Enjoying pastries from McLain’s Bakery when my coworkers were feeling generous.

39. Documentaries. Life Itself. Icarus. Life, Animated. I Am Not Your Negro

40. A sweet, beautiful spring wedding with immense pans of paella and crispy churros and open arms from a family I was meeting for the first time.

41. Watching Obama say goodbye to Joe Biden with a surprise Presidential Medal of Freedom.

42. Discovering that Randy Newman wrote “Feels Like Home.” His charming Tiny Desk Concert.

43. Shopping at my friendly neighborhood wine store.

44. Seeing U2 and Beck at Arrowhead Stadium.

45. A literary reader for Lent, from Nick Ripatrazone.

46. Big Little Lies on HBO. Insecure. The Handmaid’s Tale. A late-in-the-year discovery wrapped in perfectly British packaging: Lovesick

47. Joining a writing group and sitting down at the library most Wednesdays to workshop pieces in progress and talk about nerdy things like grammar and who’s who in the literary world. Moving on after the library closes to Sully’s Pub for a drink in a Mason jar and book list comparisons.

48. The Thrill of It All by Sam Smith. That lovely, lovely falsetto. Taffy Brodesser-Akner on his tear-stained confessions.

49. Nicholas Bate’s Autumn 7. (And the rest of his stripped-down-but-rich-in-ideas blog.)

50. Becoming a podcast host. Producing episodes like Muslim for Christians and the Communion of Saints (and Souls).

51. Laura Turner’s column on anxiety at Catapult.

52. Watching This Is Us and, yeah, tearing up sometimes.

53. Nicole Cliffe’s delightful and hilarious habit of asking her Twitter followers thoughtful questions.

54. A week in Maui with my sisters and mom. Cooking dinner and eating on the lanai. Riding ATVs through the red dirt and green foliage. Jumping off of Black Rock. Zipping through the rainforest. Reading so many books. Playing cards. Watching movies. Sleeping hard on the pullout couch.

55. Leading horses for riders Johnny and Sheila at Heartland Therapeutic Riding on Monday nights. Sheila’s answer when I asked her how her Thanksgiving went: “It was great! I had a Bud Light for you.” Thick winter coats of fur. Picking hooves and stalls. Jogging alongside a horse through deep sand and over poles.

56. Mari Andrew’s brilliant illustrations. Pete Souza’s masterful parallel political posts. Liana Finck’s weird and lovely drawings.

57. Hanging out with my sister’s massive English Mastiff puppy.

58. Spending an hour in the float tanks at Floating KC. And in a dreamy zero-gravity massage chair for 15 minutes before my float.

59. Feeling so much summer love for Julia Fierro’s The Gypsy Moth Summer.

60. Soup and salad for dinner on Sundays and Tuesdays in the fall. Bon Appetit’s simple technique for dressing a salad. This parmesan brodo, which comes together quickly and has unforgettable flavor.

61. Popsicles on the porch at NCR.

62. A monthly meeting with three writers at a kitchen table, where we talk about a chapter of a writing textbook but mostly lament about the difficulty of the writing life that we can’t stop choosing.

63. Maria Bamford’s special Old Baby.

64. Watching the Zags cruise all the way to the NCAA championship game during March Madness. Holding down my bar stool at KC Bier Co. Convincing all my coworkers to come watch the game with me—and to wear my Gonzaga apparel. 

65. Ariel Levy’s The Rules Do Not Apply.

66. Standing tall on my favorite new soapbox: that Silicon Valley isn’t here to help anyone but themselves. Scott Galloway’s TED talk. Lauren Duca speaking truth to power.

67. Catching the Alvin Ailey Dance Company at Johnson County Community College.

68. Early relationship nerves and self-consciousness blossoming into easy, comfortable intimacy. 

69. Discovering more local restaurants that I’m striving to put into (somewhat) regular rotation. Brown & Loe. The Corner. The Rockhill Grille.

70. Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s “You May Want to Marry My Husband.” 

71. Ta-Nehisi Coates on the first white president. Some of My Best Friends are Black by Tanner Colby. Yaa Gyasi’s stunning Homegoing.

72. Exploring the Wizarding World of Harry Potter with my very enthusiastic coworker Michele, who happens to be a Catholic sister in her 70s. Drinking frozen butterbeer on the cobblestone steps. Whizzing over Hogwarts on a (virtual) broomstick. Hearing Michele tell a child, “The wand does choose you, you know.”

73. Learning that it’s really not so hard to make chicken wings at home. Baked crispy peppercorn wings. Buffalo sauce.

74. The unabashed joy and tenderness of Greg Boyle’s Barking to the Choir: The Power of Radical Kinship.

75. Laughing way too hard at stupid, silly tweets, especially when they’re about the social media platform itself. Melting down with the rest of the world when Twitter introduced a 280 character limit and then promptly getting over it. But still mostly tweeting under 140 characters.

76. Getting back to the ukulele and realizing I’m actually not horrible at stringing together chords.

77. Making out.

78. A summer morning swim in my parents’ backyard pool.

79. Loving Celine Dion, who loves us all back.

80. Walking to the beautifully designed Monarch Coffee and sipping an americano while reading the Sunday paper or working on an essay.

81. Taking my sister to dinner at Pok Pok.

82. Cecile McLorin Salvant’s Dreams and Daggers

83. The New York Times Magazine’s Letter of Recommendation series. Propagating pothos plants for many lucky recipients. Giving Kneipp herbal bath oils as a post-race gift.

84. Homemade chia pudding.

85. Giving in to an incessant marketing campaign but still truly enjoying the 21st-century wonder of Thinx.

86. A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki. The Pacific Northwest. Japan. Loneliness. Journals. Nature. I’m on board.

87. Love letters from a young Barack Obama.

88. Succumbing to peer pressure and watching The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, and Bachelor in Paradise with coworkers. 

89. Seeing Katy Guillen and the Girls play at Knuckleheads Saloon. 

90. Baby Driver, before knowing about Kevin Spacey. 

91. Finding oases of healthier, tastier food on a business trip to Orlando, like Sofrito Latin Cafe and Tabbouleh.

92. A much-needed February visit from three of my very best friends. Eating brunch on a patio in the winter. Letting my friends backcomb my very curly hair before a night out. Drinking half-caf lattes as though we can handle them. Putting on sheet face masks and almost peeing our pants with laughter. Four of us sleeping and hanging out in my tiny apartment.

93. Happy hours, tours, and trivia night at Boulevard Brewing’s Beer Hall.

94. Watching Emily McDowell burst onto the internet A-list with her much-needed line of empathy cards. Giving and receiving her gifts and cards. Reading There Is No Good Card For This. 

95. Splurging on Josh Rosebrook skincare

96. A flannel duvet cover and a new set of sheets.

97. Silent but keen public observation.

98. Tank and the Bangas bringing so much joy into my year.

99. Taking the occasional break from breaking news in a politically stressful year. “All that’s breaking at this point is you.

100. Beginning to understand, finally, what Toni Morrison means when she writes about rising in love.

Categories
Miscellany

Player piano

My mother’s mother is feisty and stoic, a sixth-generation Oregonian who has always called the land on which she lives home. Her hair is straight, a light brown that’s well faded into soft gray. She has small blue eyes and large, wonderful hands that nurse the ill and the injured and play the piano with quickness and grace.

Some of my earliest memories are centered around the piano at Grandma Carol’s house. She would play for my sisters and I as we huddled around her on the piano bench, belting out Christmas carols or Disney songs. Her Wurlitzer is a player piano, and when Grandma would move on to clean or cook, we would take over. Small doors over the keys slid open, and a lever above our knees revealed a set of pedals, which we would lay on top of a folded towel.

Grandma keeps her piano rolls above the band-aids and the rubbing alcohol in the hallway cupboard. I can smell the inside of that cupboard now, reassuring in its odor of latex and medicine. We would drag a chair over to the shelf to choose a song, maybe Tiny Bubbles or The Sound of Music medley. Grandma would help install the roll, sliding it out of its red box and tightening the roll of paper as we listened to the squeaking noises it made. “Listen!” she would say. “Can you hear the birds?”

Then she clicked the roll into place and hooked the tab over the smooth roller beneath it, and the music began. My sister Erika especially loved to play, gripping the underside of the keyboard frame and pumping the pedals up and down as fast as her legs would allow. We watched the roll, small holes cut into the paper telling the piano which notes to play, the phantom keys jumping up and down as the music rose. Printed words on the right-hand side helped us sing along. When Erika’s legs ached and the roll had been played through, someone flipped the metal lever back, and she slowly pedaled to rewind the roll so that Grandma could return the birds and the music to the narrow red box.

My grandma instilled in us a love of music, which she inherited from her father Norman. I don’t remember him, but I have a photo of me as a toddler sitting next to him on a piano bench, watching his talented hands run up and down the keys. We have recordings of his organ music, and his electric organ sits in my grandma’s basement. Music runs through the family tree: Grandma’s sister Maxine is a talented pianist, playing for her church and weddings and funerals and teaching children to play, too. My mom loves to trot out her jaunty rendition of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” every Christmas, and my sister Erika teaches herself pop songs and owns her own piano, which is just about to come out of temporary storage at Grandma Carol’s house. Sometimes I catch myself singing a note of alarm, maybe when I’ve narrowly saved something from falling off the kitchen counter. As soon as I hear the sound escape my lips, I know it’s in the key of Grandma Carol.