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
Art

The gift of weird art

Courtney Martin’s drawing of the setting of her first job, the indie movie theater in Colorado Springs. (via Substack)

So much of the internet today is a mere shadow of the open-source, playful place it once was, but I’ve been heartened lately by fellow moms sharing their “weird art” without disclaimers or apologies.

Courtney Martin, (whose Substack newsletter is an excellent source of reflective essays on intentional living, community organizing, and parenthood) just came back from a two-month sabbatical where she embraced “divergent thinking”:

One of the real gifts of my sabbatical was getting off social media, moving my body a lot (swimming and hiking mostly), moving slowly through museums alone, and making a lot of weird art. I find such tremendous pleasure in being able to let my mind wander—cell phone and children somewhere else. I love my children. And I even love my cell phone; it keeps me connected to so many wonderful people and ideas. But my wholeness is dependent on hearing myself think, even and especially when that thinking is non-linear, surprising, and delighted.

I recognized that same delighted silliness in the zines shared by all-around creative person Helen Jane Hearn. She posted 30 zines she created during a 100-day project — all of which are worth checking out, but for those of us approaching (or already of) a certain age, her colonscopy zine is exceptional. I love how she wrote in the caption of her first zine, “Duh HJ, you can totally do [a project] in private and only share the things you want.”

As comedian Maria Bamford says, “It takes tenacity and courage to use a glue gun, and it’s about the easiest thing in the world to criticize stuff. If you sing out your Batman poetry into a largely hostile Barnes and Noble crowd … or if you think of doing a nude clown opera, you write it, you cast it, and you actually fucking do it, that doesn’t show you’re insane as much as it shows the symptoms of being hard-working and a huge success.”

For more on the embrace of a regular creative practice, Wendy MacNaughton’s DrawTogether is revolutionizing art education and community (and is kid- and adult-friendly)!

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
Family

Simply more pleasant

Bernd and Hilla Becher in 1979 via The New York Times

I loved a recent issue of Mason Currey’s Subtle Manuevers newsletter introducing the artist couple Bernd and Hilla Becher. The German photographers spent decades making photos of industrial architecture across America and other countries. When asked what is different about their photography because they make it together, Hilla replied:

“Traveling together is simply more pleasant. … When you are traveling together you can exchange ideas and it feels less bleak when you are in some god-forsaken place—like when we spent weeks traveling through the American Midwest. The nights in shabby hotels are more comfortable when you are with somebody.”

It made me reflect on how much more enjoyable it has been to endure the early months of parenthood because I have Ryan by my side. My version of Hilla’s explanation might go something like this: “When you are raising a child together you can exchange ideas and it feels less bleak when you are in some god-forsaken developmental phase—like when we spent weeks comforting a teething baby.”

As Bernd says, everything is easier to handle as we help each other.

Categories
Miscellany

100 things that made my year in 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

31. Pork rinds.

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

33. Flowering trees.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

43. Ultrasound appointments.

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

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

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

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

48. Summer smoothies.

49. Buying donuts while running errands.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

62. Joining an advisory council for Gonzaga Magazine.

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

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

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

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

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

68. Sleeping in.

69. Listening to 101.9 KINK in the car.

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

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

72. Frozen pizzas.

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

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

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

76. Summer visits to the International Rose Test Garden.

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

78. English breakfast tea.

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

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

81. Playing Sushi-Go with my sisters.

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

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

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

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

86. Peperoncini chicken.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

98. A very good pair of slippers.

99. Body pillows.

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

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

Categories
Miscellany

100 things that made my year in 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

7. Listening to podcasts in the bath.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

16. Martha Stewart’s easy basic pancakes.

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

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

19. Creating a quarantine zine.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

58. Too much screen time.

59. Foraging blackberries from the end of the street.

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

61. Voting.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

73. Afternoon walks around the neighborhood with Ryan.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

81. Looking at the full moon through my binoculars.

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

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

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

85. A new job for Ryan at On running.

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

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

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

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

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

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

92. The radical quilts of Rosie Lee Thompkins.

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

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

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

94. New sweatpants. Crewneck sweatshirts.

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

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

99. Telehealth appointments.

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

Read my lists for past years here.

Categories
Art

Letter of Recommendation: Send me SFMOMA

I’m 33 today. In honor of my birthday, and all of the lousy first drafts hanging out on my computer’s hard drive, I’m sharing today a piece I wrote a couple of years ago.

For the past 18 months, I’ve lived in a mid-sized, pleasant Midwestern city. It has a robust art scene and gorgeous, maze-like art museums that are, shockingly, free. I’ve spent many solo afternoons wandering through rooms drenched red or blue or cream, gazing upon canvases and feeling pleasure and discomfort and wonder.

Visual art has never been something vital in my life; it’s more like a language that I studied half-heartedly in high school but pretend to maintain so I can get through a conversation. It’s rare that I feel justified in understanding what the artist is trying to say, what I ought to be thinking and seeing as I look at the layers of paint or graphite. But an art gallery is a place where I can feel less alone in a new city, or at least more at home in my solitude. No one in a museum is expecting anything of me. I can simply stand and look at something that reflects my mood or broadens my mind with decades or centuries of perspective.

Lately, I’m not even leaving my apartment to find some beauty in the world. The Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco recently launched Send Me SFMOMA, a texting service that allows it to share its thousands of archived pieces with the smartphones of the world.

I text a message to 572-51 and it responds within seconds with a photo of original artwork and a caption with the title, artist, and year it was created. I type “Send me quiet” and receive Clarence H. White’s “Evening Interior,” ca. 1899. In the sepia photograph, a woman sits on a chair, facing toward the windows and away from the camera. Spindly plants line the windowsill. The windows are draped in filmy curtains. The woman’s hair is pulled up and she wears a long dress, creating a sweeping, graceful curve from her left shoulder to the end of the dress’s train bunched on the right-hand side of the chair.

I save the photo as my phone’s wallpaper and open my messaging app again. “Send me calm.” Vija Celmins, “Untitled (Ocean)’, 1977. Choppy small waves stretch out across the entire grayscale photograph. I exhale. I save the image to my photo library.

At time when I feel burdened or caught up in my emotions, I find myself texting SFMOMA, a friend who gives and gives and who is always ready to help to soothe my fears. If I request something that the service can’t find, I receive a friendly response: “We could not find any matches. Maybe try ‘Send me San Francisco’ or ‘Send me [wave emoji]’ or ‘Send me something purple’.”

A quick review of my texts to SFMOMA could tell anyone what I’ve been seeing and feeling in the past several months. On a trip home to visit my parents on their farm in western Oregon, I wanted the message stream to reflect the lushness around me: “Send me sky. Send me flowers. Send me [fire emoji]. Send me landscape.” 

Coming home from a late weeknight date: “Send me romance. Send me excitement. Send me red.” The images come flooding in, sometimes awakening me to the singularity of my thoughts. “Send me desire,” I type, thinking of a man’s jawline, the musk of his neck, and SFMOMA responds with Wayne Thiebaud’s ‘Display Cakes’, 1963. The clean painting features three round, perfect cakes on tall cake stands, throwing shadows onto the muted white background. Now I want dessert, too.

This service doesn’t cost me anything, except time, and yet it feels like a higher-minded pursuit than scrolling through over-filtered landscape photos on Instagram. This is art that has been forged in a fire of time and public opinion and market preference, art that has endured, art that now drops into my hand at my bidding and feels approachable. It speaks to me.

I wake up on a Sunday morning from a bad dream. In the dream, I was having an episode of dissociation, bringing back a flood of emotions that I’ve had put to bed by day for some time now. My dream world was dark and narrow and in it, I was panicking and unable to soothe myself. Getting out of bed, I feel a heaviness in my chest. I struggle to shake off the fear that the anxiety I felt in my dream is coming for me again in my waking hours. I reach for my phone. “Send me comfort.” In comes an untitled piece by Martin Kippenberger, 1990. It’s a simple line drawing, done on a sheet of paper from a hotel notepad. The Imperial Hotel in Tokyo. Frank Lloyd Wright, I think, right? Wright wanted to bring the outside in with his architecture. I urge myself to think about the earth, trees and plants, the ground beneath my feet. I look back at the image on my phone. I’ve visited Tokyo with my sister and I felt at ease and alive there. I link these small comforts, putting some distance between myself and my feelings. It’s OK. I’m not alone, I think, looking at the drawing of a woman holding a distressed man on a couch.

I type again. “Send me grounding.” SFMOMA can’t find a match. “Send me reassurance.” Nothing there, either.

“Send me ease.” I’m looking at Sid Grossman’s ‘Untitled [Portrait of painter]’, 1940s. In the photograph, a painter sits on a stool, holding a paintbrush to a canvas. His profile is thrown into silhouette by the window he sits next to, sunlight flooding into the room. I feel the corners of my mouth lift, almost imperceptibly. My jaw relaxes. The subject of the photo is a little blurry, but the lines are clear. His head and his painting hand are tilted toward the canvas with focus and intent. Like this artist, when I sit down to my canvas, the cursor blinking on a blank page, I know I am where I am supposed to be.

Categories
Art

Art imitating art

We honeymooned in Nice, France this fall and were enchanted from the beginning by its colorful buildings and soothing sea views and the food and wine. Nice was ideal to visit after the long wedding planning process, once the details had stopped stuffing themselves into our evenings and weekends and dreams.

A few days in, we took the bus to visit the Matisse Museum. Europe can be so charming with its rich history — once we found the museum, we realized we were within walking distance of both Roman ruins and a monastery that housed the Shroud of Turin in the 14th century.

The museum was small but showed the depth of Matisse’s work, including his cut-outs and some early drawings. I snapped two pictures in the same gallery, delighted by their similarity to the wedding we’d just celebrated.

Here’s Matisse’s The Windshield (1917). 

And here we are, as seen by Alixann Loosle through the window of my grandpa’s Model A car, which my uncle drove us in from the church where we were married to the reception venue.

In the same gallery as The Windshield, I snapped this Matisse sketch of anemones.

Anemones were the focal flower in my bouquet, captured again by Alixann Loosle, a Portland-based photographer who has an artist’s eye.