Categories
Miscellany

100 things that made my year in 2023

1. Embracing toddler chaos during 8:00 Mass. Taking trips to the book box. Letting Maeve pick out her donut on hospitality days.

2. Family hikes with the kid carrier backpack.

3. Gyoza and greens with chile butter.

4. Burning candles and incense after cleaning the house on Saturdays.

5. Thinking about building my own repertoire of repair.

6. Maeve’s loving devotion to the neighborhood cats, Bowie, Freddie and Ruby.

7. Walking to the neighborhood library branch and visiting the local goats and chickens.

8. Seeing Lauren Groff with Judith at the Schnitz. Learning that she writes her drafts longhand on legal pads and then throws away her previous draft when starting the next one.  

9. A February beach trip. Walking barefoot in the cold sand and getting cozy by the fire. Green winter hikes and old family board games.

10. Joining Jenni Gritters’ ADAPT business coaching group for women with constraints, and then becoming a member of her SUSTAIN group. Building community with other women who run freelance businesses. Tackling business registration paperwork and finally opening business bank accounts.  

11. Cleaning one shelf/cupboard/drawer per day during Lent.

12. Hanging out at playgrounds and encouraging Maeve to brave the slides.

13. All the Beauty and the Bloodshed. The photography of Nan Goldin and Peggy Nolan. Learning from artists how to see what is.

14. Buying a humidifier and so many boxes of Kleenex. Losing sleep to sicknesses. Bulking up our medicine cabinet.

15. A quick trip to Key West for a wedding. Tequila sunrises and actual sunsets. Catching up with friends around the pool.

16. Weaning Maeve after 14 months of breastfeeding. Wearing cabbage leaves in my bra for a week. Experiencing a bleak bout of post-weaning depression and then slowly returning to myself — and appreciating my body for all it does for both of us.

17. Early Girl tomatoes from our potted plant on the front porch.

18. Impromptu urgent care visits to ZoomCare and Brave Care.

19. How Maeve stacks stickers on top of each other when she’s making artwork.

20. Drawing cats for Maeve in my morning notebook.

21. Chugging along through John Updike’s Rabbit series as part of The Pulitzer Project.

22. Going to Peninsula Park when the roses were in bloom. Watching Maeve run through the splash pad and crawl through playground tunnels.

23. The afternoon when Ryan and I were taking out the recycling and the trash and Maeve locked herself in the house. Panicking for 45 minutes until the locksmith showed up. Trying to soothe an upset toddler through a closed window.

24. Reading Sandra Boynton books over and over at bedtime.

25. Opening the front door and standing on the stoop to listen to a hard downpour.

26. Maeve starting part-time daycare in March and moving to a full-time schedule in November.

27. Estimated quarterly income tax payments.

28. Going back to the movies. Taking our nephew to see The Super Mario Bros. Movie and Wonka. Seeing Love Again with Teresa. Wearing pink to see Barbie with Mom and my sisters.

29. Leaving out Maeve’s discarded or leftover snacks for the squirrels and crows.

30. Accidentally bringing the norovirus with us to Kansas City. Taking Ryan to the ER for Zofran and IV fluids. Eating bland chicken and rice instead of barbecue on our spring family visit.

31. Maeve’s enthusiasm for our very limited yardwork tasks. Pulling weeds, picking up cherries, sweeping leaves, overwatering the flowers and tomatoes.

32. Cottage cheese with apples, cinnamon and walnuts for breakfast.

33. Walking to the Sellwood farmers market for summer fruit and focaccia.

34. Playing tourist at the new MCI single-terminal airport. Admiring the art and buying local goodies.

35. Enduring so, so many episodes of Ms. Rachel on YouTube.

36. Kicking off a Wilmes family camp-out with a hibachi dinner in Grandma’s front yard. Going for a chaotic group bike ride. Making giant bubbles on the blacktop. Maeve playing in the bounce house and lounging in the ball pit.

37. A perfect day date in Kansas City: lunch at Baba’s Pantry, Messenger Coffee, shopping at Hammerpress, BLK + BRWN. and Mills Record Co., drinks at Ca Va, dinner at Fox and Pearl.

38. Long text conversations with fellow moms. Sending voice memos instead of calling voicemail inboxes. The monthly Letterloop with my dearest friends.

39. Taking neighborhood walks on toddler time.

40. A little splash of Soda Press Co. syrup in my soda water.

41. Hiking with Ryan amongst wildflowers on Mother’s Day.

42. How Maeve calls pasta with marinara sauce “pizza noodles.”

43. Eating PB&Js on the hiking trail.

44. Crying in therapy.

45. Open play gym mornings at Sellwood Community House.

46. A pizza and ice cream date at Lovely’s Fifty-Fifty.

47. Calling the pediatric triage nurse.

48. Talking to other parents at drop-off and pick-up. Texting with daycare providers. Checking the school app a little too often.

49. You or Someone You Love by Hannah Matthews.

50. Mourning the general demise of X (fka Twitter). Appreciating the perspective that Cory Doctorow provides.

51. Thinking about opting out of optimization culture.

52. Learning that Maeve was biting other kids at daycare and not being able to do much about it. The way her pediatrician laughed it off and said, “oh, my son did that and now he’s an honor student.”

53. Friends visiting Portland. A zoo date with the Grays and the Whitakers. Casey and her boys dropping in for a visit. Pizza on the patio at Dimo’s with Kris and Jack, and then with the Orjalas.

54. Watching the Danny McBride back catalog after cracking up at the silly antics of The Righteous Gemstones. Becoming an Edi Patterson fangirl. Vice Principals. Eastbound and Down.

55. Trader Joe’s canned Lentil Vegetable Soup.

56. Soaking at Knot Springs and eating lunch at Nicholas on a day date with Ryan.

57. Using the neighborhood theater as a concession stand. Eating popcorn and Sour Patch Kids while watching movies at home.

58. Going for walks to observe a nutria near the local creek and naming them Norm.

59. Maeve calling for us from her crib in the mornings: “Mamadada!”

60. “Multitudes” by Feist. Her Song Exploder episode about making the track “In Lightning.”

61. Ezra Klein’s formula for a good day.

62. Visiting my sister in the hospital after my niece was born and bringing her a bag of Trader Joe’s Popcorn with Herbs & Spices.

63. Taking Maeve grocery shopping, where she picked out shelled edamame — and then actually ate it back at home.

64. Finally getting covid.

65. Getting strep.

66. Getting the flu.

67. Listening to “Animal Freeze Dance” and “Finger Family” and “Hop Little Bunnies” on endless repeat. Learning from Chelsea Kim Long that I can hide kid music from my algorithm.

68. Appreciating the gift (and joy) of making weird art.

69. Baked farro with summer vegetables.

70. Nightly TV time from 7:30-9:30 pm. Season 2 of The Bear. Beef. Jury Duty. Rap Sh!t. Watching the final seasons of The Crown, Sex Education, Reservation Dogs and The Other Two. Abbott Elementary. The Last of Us. Yellowjackets. Couples Therapy. 100 Foot Wave.

71. Amoxicillin and Augmentin for Maeve.

72. Maeve singing nursery rhymes in her sweet, high voice.

73. Showing up every two weeks for Zoom writing group. Reuniting with the guys in December at a suburban restaurant and having no shame as we did a big group hug. Reading genres that I wouldn’t read without the group’s recommendations.

74. Patio dinners at Flying Fish Co. Maeve’s delight in the little plastic shark she chose from their treasure box. Sharing French fries.

75. Maeve learning new words and saying them over and over until we understood. Her pronunciation of spiders (“sibers”) and puzzles (“zupples”).

76. Buying a new bed frame.

77. Vanilla soft-serve cones for Maeve at Dairy Queen and the county fair. Sharing spoonfuls of my scoops from the local ice cream shop. Giving her ice cream one day for dessert and her telling me it was “too cold.”

78. A week at the coast with my in-laws. Going to the Tillamook Creamery and the Oregon Coast Aquarium and the Nestucca Bay wildlife refuge. Shopping in Depoe Bay and tidepooling in Pacific City. Building sandcastles and making fires. Splashing around in the surf.

79. Buying art supplies and little gifts at Collage.

80. Tom Lake by Ann Patchett.

81. Teaching Maeve how to lay down so that I could trace her outline in sidewalk chalk. Drawing shapes and animal outlines so that she could color them in.

82. Tension headaches. Laying on the acupressure mat. Insurance-covered deep tissue massages.

83. Pomegranate spritzes.

84. Olivia Rodrigo’s sophomore album GUTS. Watching her first in-house Tiny Desk Concert and feeling that pure teenage pleasure at being alive and discovering self-expression.

85. Maeve dressed as a black cat for Halloween. Meeting the neighbors while trick-or-treating. Maeve’s love for holiday decorations, which started with “spooky ghosts” and pumpkins in October.

86. Playing records while making dinner.

87. Going to Chicago to celebrate our fourth anniversary in October. Walking 5 or 6 miles every day. Eating out at Frontera Grill. Shopping and drinking so many lattes. Buying books and clothes. Discovering Remedios Varo at the Art Institute of Chicago. Watching The Daytrippers on the Amtrak ride back to Kansas City.

88. Maeve dipping everything (fruit, noodles, potatoes, chicken, eggs) in ketchup.

89. Happy hour dates before daycare pick-up.

90. Coming late to Laufey and Samara Joy. Loving an old soul in a young voice.

91. Buying occasional coffee drinks from Portland Ca Phe on the way home from drop-off.

92. Swimming and bike riding at Sunriver in August. Staying inside during poor air quality days and playing Mario Kart on the Nintendo Switch. A short hike at Lava Lands. Exploring the nature center. Lunch at Timberline Lodge on the drive home.

93. Writing about the books that I didn’t read in 2023.

94. Seeing deer, snakes, woodpeckers and barred owls on our walks in Oaks Bottom.

95. Bringing home cans of Olipop as a grocery-store treat for Ryan.

96. Regulating my nervous system.

97. Listening to the audiobook of Sure, I’ll Join Your Cult by Maria Bamford, which is read by her and brought me wholehearted joy.

98. Hanging Maeve’s drawings on the fridge. The way that our  9-year-old nephew referred to her scribbles as “abstract art.” My retired friend painting portraits from photos.

99. Attempting to join the congregation of “The Church Of Minding One’s Own Business.”  

100. Exuberant open-armed hugs from Maeve.

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

Categories
Miscellany

The question of a good day

I loved this recent interview with the prolific, relentlessly curious Ezra Klein (in GQ of all places.) I’ve identified with so much of his perspective as a parent of young children, like how parenthood has transformed his idea of adhering to a daily routine:

It’s been a shift, because what I have now are responsibilities—not just responsibilities, relationships—and the more I understand them, the more I realize they can’t effectively be optimized. They are chaotic systems, so to speak—certainly children are. The question is how I’m able to show up in them, and how I’m able to show up in them knowing that I can’t control the day that comes before it. I’ve been forced out of the illusion of control. I’m much more interested in the question of, what can I do to make it likeliest that I can meet the situations I’m in with a better rather than worse version of myself—and a more present rather than a more distracted form of my attention? 

I love this, and I think about it nearly constantly as I juggle creative and professional work and parenthood and rest. Klein’s philosophy reminds me of Oliver Burkeman’s thesis in Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals; essentially, that finitude is all we have, and accepting that fact liberates us from trying to accomplish it all in lieu of turning to the next right thing.

Or in Klein’s words, “I’m just much more interested in the question of a good day than a tightly managed day.”

I could have written Klein’s formula for a good day in my own notebook (and I did, copied from the GQ article).

Categories
Miscellany

Opting out of optimization culture

The deeper I wade into my own desires and needs as a mother, business owner, spouse, and human on this planet in 2023, the less interested I find myself in optimizing my decisions. That’s not to say that I’m immune to user reviews when buying practically anything. It’s easy to tumble down a rabbit hole of planning spreadsheets when you set out to buy anything or travel anywhere these days. Some of us even turn our tendency to be a “maximizer” into a core personality trait.

Ryan and I recently bought a new bed frame (yes, one that was probably first marketed to us on Instagram), and before I clicked the purchase button, we had spent weeks sending each other lists of links and scouring websites and sharing Wirecutter listicles until we finally persuaded ourselves that we had enough information to trust our decision.

Despite what I think is my desire for beautiful lamps, a more “charming” home, and the perfect linen shirt, when I dig down beneath what I’m served by being a daily user of the internet, I know what I want. I want the freedom — the liberation — that comes with embracing things as they are, linoleum floors and all. My calling on this earth is not to beautify my home and squeeze maximum efficiency out of my work days and raise my child perfectly. It’s to be present to my life.

My one-year-old demonstrates a very good lesson in not optimizing the kitty sticker book. Her philosophy is generally “exuberance, not perfection.”

As Molly Wizenberg writes about her “Frankenkitchen,” which she has cooked in since the early days of her career as a food writer, “It is a very nice kitchen, which is to say that we can cook everything we want in it.”

In a few years, when our new bed frame has scratches or squeaks slightly or doesn’t quite seem level, I hope that I can remember what it has supported: not a fully-optimized experience to add to ratings spreadsheets and my social media feed, but a life underpinned by love and deep rest and comfort.

Categories
Miscellany

Finding a new frame of reference

Daffodils, March 2020

The calendar is creeping back toward March 13, a date that now feels definitive and fateful in my memories and, it seems, on a cellular level, too. I see loaves of sourdough bread popping back up in my Instagram feed, parents posting photos of their children playing in the early spring sun while admitting that four years on, they still feel seized by an existential sense of dread when the days begin to lengthen. In March 2020, we instantly realized that we weren’t sure anymore what was safe or promised to us, if we’d ever had the privilege of believing so. (I would argue that across the sociopolitical spectrum, we still don’t know, or if we feel we do, we aren’t willing to hear anyone else’s perspective on it.)

As Jon Mooallem explains it in his recent piece on spending time with a Covid oral history project: “Anomie sets in when a society’s values, routines and customs are losing their validity but new norms have not yet solidified.”

Put another way, that “normlessness” left us all hungry in early 2020 for a frame of reference, a clear list of guidelines, a way to bring meaning to our suffering and fear and uncertainty.

And yet here we are in spring 2023, and despite the ways in which we consider the pandemic “over” to varying degrees, we’re still mired in limbo. Mooallem’s explanation of this felt, to me, like gears clicking into place: “We tend to gloss history into a sequence of precursors that carried society to the present — and to think of that present as a permanent condition that we’ll inhabit from now on. We have started glossing the pandemic in this way already. But because we don’t totally understand where that experience has delivered us, we don’t know the right gloss to give it.”

But if we’re fortunate, or just trying to survive with our dignity and our sense of joy intact, we homed in on something clarifying from that muddled time — “repertoires of repair,” or practices meant to bring about some sense of normalcy.

My own repertoire of repair includes activities that make life more peaceful even in good times: playing with my child, reading, getting familiar with the plants and animals around me.

I’ll end with this quote that is giving me great comfort as I consider how to make space for (and sense of) art as a part of my repertoire, from another interactive NYT piece published a year into the pandemic:

“I think if I could go back in time and give myself a message, it would be to reiterate that my value as an artist doesn’t come from how much I create. I think that mind-set is yoked to capitalism. Being an artist is about how and why you touch people’s lives, even if it’s one person. Even if that’s yourself, in the process of art-making.”

Amanda Gorman
Categories
Miscellany

100 things that made my year in 2022

1. Endless amounts of baby spit up. Spot cleaning her clothes, our clothes, the couch, and every pillow we own. Running laundry and then more laundry.

2. Taking delight in simple joys like small-batch jam and cordials.

3. Courtney Martin’s essay about contracting covid and reflecting on what the pandemic has done to the stories we tell ourselves about others.

4. Night sweats.

5. Watching local news at 7 am when taking the early morning shift with the baby. Claiming favorite meteorologists and trying to shake off the jingles from local commercials.

6. Taking anti-racist action by moving half of our savings from a big corporate bank to Hope Credit Union as transformational investors.

7. Oliver Burkeman’s Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals.

8. Going to pelvic floor physical therapy sessions and learning more about the structure and function of one of the body’s most essential muscle groups. Sarah Stoller on reconnecting with her postpartum body through weight lifting. Working out with Ashley Nowe.

9. Feeling very confused about how to show up in public.

10. PCR tests and booster shots. Lots of first-year vaccines. Still masking and staying home as much of the world moved on from the pandemic.

11. Unlearning the many stealthy, relentless ways that diet culture has embedded itself in my beliefs and habits. Listening to Maintenance Phase, reading Virginia Sole-Smith, and embracing food as nourishment, comfort and fuel.

12. Making lists to attempt to order the chaos of life as a new mother.

13. Rethinking my image of work.

14. Finding solidarity and solace in Erin Gloria Ryan’s newsletter Just Enjoy It While You Can.

15. Good TV at all hours of the day and night. The Sex Lives of College Girls. The Letdown. The Bear. Better Things. Rap Sh!t. Ramy. The White Lotus. Reservation Dogs. Hacks. Never Have I Ever.

16. Reading while breastfeeding and fuming about this country’s systemic failures to provide care infrastructure.

17. Doubling down on my caffeine consumption.

18. Jessi Klein’s pitch-perfect essay on motherhood as the hero’s journey.

19. Getting a second wind after putting the baby to sleep. Watching a ton of TV. Talking it out. Making plans. Making out. Writing newsletters.

20. Quiet walks on the Oregon coast. Dipping Maeve’s pacifier in the ocean to give her a first taste of sea water. Introducing her to sea anemones. Letting her eat sand.

21. Learning to bake a cake and eat it, too.

22. Gobbling down a bunch of books about art, identity, and motherhood. The Gardener and the Carpenter. The School for Good Mothers. Essential Labor. Nightbitch. Learning in Public. Wildcat. Sally Mann’s memoir Hold Still.

23. Thinking about non-linear career growth and evolution, thanks to Jenni Gritters. Joining The Writers’ Co-op Patreon community to dig deeper into strategy for my own business. Embracing the idea of the career river.

24. Spending a long weekend with my college girlfriends, sharing our hobbies and secrets and fears and messy selves with each other, as we’ve done now for 13 years, leaving one another feeling better than when we came together.

25. Writing a monthly newsletter and realizing along the way that we were creating a sort of digital baby book to mark our daughter’s growth and emerging personality. Receiving sweet replies from friends and family near and far.

26. Spiraling out in my journal.

27. Embracing the bioregion in my backyard.

28. Eric Carle books.

29. Hikes with Maeve in the front pack. Parents greeting her at the arboretum and in Marshall Park. Stroller walks in the neighborhood. Holding her hands as she toddles down the block and drops to her knees to eat leaves and moss.

30. Identifying and indulging in vacation foods, as inspired by Kathryn Jezer-Morton. For us, it’s cherry Cokes and microwave popcorn.

31. Empanadas and people-watching at the Portland Mercado in late spring. The baby hanging out in the car seat, taking it all in.

32. Playing chase and peek-a-boo with Maeve. Teaching her how to clap, wave and gesture that she’s “so big!”

33. Taking more iPhone videos. Rachel Cusk on taking photos of our children.

34. Breastfeeding in the backseat, on park benches, in exam rooms at doctor’s offices, in bed, on the couch, on a blanket, on a log.

35. Hiking at Oxbow Regional Park and seeing deer, salmonberries, and fairy slipper orchards. Changing Maeve on a bench before realizing there was a changing table around the corner. Eating lunch on the picnic tables at Sugarpine.

36. Growing my freelance business from two to seven clients. Juggling work, business strategy, and the endless daily responsibilities of caring for an infant.

37. Postpartum hair loss. Wearing my hair in a bun more than ever before to try to get ahead of my baby’s grabby little fingers. Finding loose hairs all over the house.

38. Doing what I love in front of my daughter, even when it feels like she’s too young to take it all in. Baking for fun. Journaling in the mornings. Dancing to music. Playing the ukulele poorly. Reading for breadth and depth. Talking it out. Getting outside.

39. Feeling Very Adult when writing notes for the babysitter.

40. Sleep training. Putting on noise-canceling headphones when my nerves were frayed by the process. In the end, finding deep comfort and some wonder in the knowledge that our daughter is learning to care for herself.

41. Making a snowperson on the back deck after a mid-April snowstorm.

42. Playing with a Pentel brush pen.

43. Maeve’s rosy cheeks after a bath.

44. Falling asleep to the sound of a hard rain.

45. Making a regular habit of 8:00 Sunday mass, since we’re up already. Getting donuts after church on the first weekend of the month. Fr. Mike telling us that our daughter has “vacuum-cleaner eyes — they suck you right in.”

46. Maeve’s baptism in May by our dear friend Lucas. Celebrating with Missouri and Oregon family. Tacos and margaritas. Kid-friendly rosaries and toys that recite prayers.

47. Accidentally buying Ryan a birthday card that was meant to be from (or about) a pet dog.

48. Velcro swaddles. Sleep sacks. White noise machines. Watching the video monitor. Taking shifts in the early weeks to get more consecutive sleep. Suffering through the four-month sleep regression. The time when Maeve was a couple of days old and Ryan swaddled her in a confusing blanket with snaps that we later realized was a car seat cover. Maeve napping in my grandma’s coat closet and my parents’ walk-in closet.

49. Breastfeeding in the middle of the night with a red lightbulb in the floor lamp.

50. Eating so much food. Bedtime snacks. Big meals. Getting up in the middle of the night for a string cheese or a protein bar when I was too hungry to sleep.

51. Moving during July, again. Sweating and fretting and putting my daughter in a moving box to entertain her. Learning that our dishwasher has a top utensil drawer.

52. Making terrible line drawings in an attempt to capture ordinary moments in our house.

53. Reflecting on the gifts that my Grandpa Walt gave me and everyone who knew him.

54. Baths with Maeve.

55. Getting away for a weekend and enjoying some time on the Washington side of the Columbia Gorge. Hiking in the rain. Taking Maeve to the lodge dining room in her car seat. Family naps on the big hotel bed. Having the pool all to ourselves. Splurging on room service breakfast.

56. Movies that made me think. Roadrunner. Good Luck to You, Leo Grande. Everything Everywhere All At Once.

57. Being stuck under a sleeping baby and trying to savor the moment. Maeve turning to me or Ryan for comfort and sucking her thumb while laying her head on our closest body part. Her using our bodies as climbing towers.

58. Cooking with Julia Turshen for our third anniversary.

59. Near-daily texts from my retired writer and painter friend.

60. Practicing embodiment and thinking about repair as a form of self-care. Injuring my knee and my ankle and going back to PT. Relearning how to re-regulate.

61. Using the Libby app and reading ebooks from the library on my Kobo.

62. Planting annuals in three big planters on the deck. Stepping outside to visit the flowers.

63. Eating Jimmy John’s sandwiches in a parking lot on more than one road trip.

64. Thinking about the ancestors and mentors in my chosen family after reading Jonny Sun’s essay on his high school drama teacher.

65. Buttermilk biscuits and the tall, fluffy buttermilk pancakes from Smitten Kitchen.

66. Thinking about home décor as a “joyful jumble” of art and objects that reflect our lives, not Instagram ideals.

67. Celebrating Lucas’ ordination in Spokane. Invigorating conversations with smart friends and acquaintances. Pizza on picnic blankets in the park. Driving to Coeur d’Alene on the back roads. Indian takeout and kid chaos. Lucas’ mentor telling us that her students wrote a spoof of General Hospital in Lucas’ honor and they called it General Infirmary.

68. Poetry. Ada Limón’s “How to Triumph Like A Girl.” “Islands” by Muriel Rukeyser. Maggie Smith’s “Rain, New Year’s Eve.”

69. A summer babysitter.

70. Taking our daughter on her first flight to visit her family in Missouri. Remembering that the Midwest normal is different than life in the Pacific Northwest.

71. Angela Garbes’ description of her “pleasure-forward” approach to life and mothering.

72. Teaching Maeve to say “ahhh!” so that I could give her vitamin D3 drops. Her giggling when I floated a plastic bag in the air. The surprise of one of her first words being “CATTT.”

73. Finishing the expert-level ropes course at Tree to Tree Adventure Park to celebrate a local friend.

74. Ordering takeout on the first night back home from vacations.

75. Finally getting a custom nightguard to save my teeth and my jaw muscles from grinding while sleeping.

76. Laughing harder than Ryan while watching Jackass 4.5.

77. Celebrating three years of marriage while stuck in a Vancouver, B.C., hotel room with a feverish baby who couldn’t sleep.

78. Trying to live with limitations. Having no working kitchen range for a month. Being without reliable internet access for two weeks. Working with a child underfoot.

79. My first gray hairs.

80. Collecting as many guides as I can find to making art as a parent. Taking heart in the fact that babies aren’t babies for very long.

81. Making a Rubbermaid shoe storage container into a makeshift backyard pool.

82. Taking marriage inspiration from artists Bernd and Hilla Becher and volcanologists Katia and Maurice Krafft.

83. Giving and getting free items via the Freeya app.

84. Summer bike rides with Maeve in the trailer. Taking Ryan on his first Bridge Pedal. Sharing the bike so that he can commute to work.

85. Sinking into the comfort of a surprising time capsule in the early episodes of Home Cooking.

86. Taking ourselves out for treats after Maeve’s pediatrician appointments.

87. TheraTears eye drops.

88. Eating out as a family of three.

89. Escitalopram.

90. Getting going to feel good.

91. Cheering on Ryan in two cross country races this fall.

92. Going back to Dove antiperspirant after years of natural deodorants.

93. Watching the World Cup with my Ghanaian brother-in-law.

94. Taking an evening walk down Peacock Lane to see the Christmas lights and displays.

95. Maui with the whole Wilmes family. Cousin love in the mornings. Walks on the boardwalk. Fresh pineapple. Island humidity. Fish and grazing sea turtles and bright coral reefs. Playing in the surf at Baby Beach.

96. Not having a hot take.

97. Using my journal for cheerful retrospection.

98. Spotify notifying me that my top song of 2022 was José Gonzáles’ “Stay Alive.”

99. Embracing Dead Week.

100. Hearing the people I love laugh.

Categories
Miscellany

Repair as an act of self-care

photo by Riho Kitagawa on Unsplash

If I had to pick a word of the year for 2022, knowing what I do now about the past 12 months, it would be “embodiment.”

I have not lost myself in parenthood as I feared I might, and yet everything — even the way my brain functions — has changed. Through it all, one of the best practices I have done (and can do) for my physical and mental wellness is to trust the wisdom of my body.

This can look like:

As Bessel van der Kolk writes in The Body Keeps the Score, “Once you start approaching your body with curiosity rather than with fear, everything shifts.”

My 36-year-old body, one that has been shaped and reshaped by life and childbearing and stress and personal growth, can better receive the benefits of movement and nourishment than it could at age 15 or 27.

Lately, I’ve been wondering what it would mean to apply this framework to my home and belongings. I often think about making decisions based on my values through a lens of environmentalism or anti-capitalism or social responsibility, for example, attempting to repair an appliance instead of immediately buying a new one. But what if, say, mending a hole in a sock could benefit my nervous system as well as the planet?

I’m reminded of the Japanese practice of kintsugi, in which cracks in a piece of pottery are repaired by being filled with powdered gold. The mending emphasizes the flaws rather than camouflaging them, adding beauty to the brokenness.

Artist Molly Martin says this about repair (in her case, mending clothing) as an act of care and a reflection on the self:

We carry the knocks of life on our bodies, like an old, much-loved and patched-up pair of trousers. Our wrinkles are a sign of time, of weather and of life. Old age is inescapable, but if we are honest about it, there can be grace and beauty in it. Surely, we can see that this must be so, and when we try to deny it by avoiding old things that are worn, rather than learning to love them, we somehow deny our own reality.

This is the sense of care and intentionality I am trying to live out as life continues to pick up speed and blurs the memories of simplicity imposed by lockdowns and social distancing.

(I keep chanting to myself a new spin on the 90s-era PSA: “Mend, heal, repair.”)

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.