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Summer Love/Hate

Ten things I hate about summer:

  1. Sweating.
  2. Never knowing how to dress for the constant fluctuations between instant outdoor heatstroke and freeze-your-freckles-off air conditioning.
  3. Shaving my toes. Or, more accurately, forgetting to shave my toes.
  4. The smell of self-tanner. (I have been using this spray tanner from Neutrogena, excuse me micromist; it has a very mild, very fleeting scent but the scent is there. Also, I cannot tell if it is doing ANYTHING to “build my all-over flawless tan.”)
  5. Persistent debris – sticks, leaf bits, dirt, pebbles – all over my floor.
  6. Relatedly: stuff stuck to my feet.
  7. Sunblock, especially putting it on my child. WHEN will she learn to apply it herself, thoroughly and accurately and regularly? Please say eight, please say eight.
  8. Watermelon, and the abundance thereof.
  9. Wasps. 
  10. How fleeting it is. A friend summarized it yesterday: “We have four weeks of camp, then two weeks of vacation, then a week at home, and then it’s pretty much back to school.” Nothing like packing your entire, much-longed-for summer into three short clauses to make it feel like it’s NEARLY OVER already.

Ten things I love about summer:

  1. Walking in the sunshine, and, whilst walking, stepping into a sudden patch of scent that wraps you in a lovely fragrant cocoon: clover, honeysuckle, lilac.
  2. Freckles.
  3. The near-constant thrum of distant lawnmowers. (Not to be confused with the angry drone of lawnmowers in your own yard, always too early or during a Zoom call.)
  4. Fancy cocktails, fresh fruit, and their delicious intersection.
  5. The thrill of watching pea shoots and tomato plants stretch toward the sun.
  6. Reading outside in the sunshine.
  7. Grilling. I don’t care what it is. Throw it on the grill. 
  8. The opportunity to sleep an extra hour, if desirable/doable.
  9. NO SOCKS NEEDED. 
  10. How fleeting it is. It feels rare and precious, and I spend all summer reveling in its many joys, trying to tilt the bottle of the season to just the right angle so I can savor every last honeyed drop.

What are your favorite/least favorite things about summer?

Summer Uniform

If you recall, last summer I went through a shorts renaissance. That cannot be the word I mean, and yet that is the word I am sticking with. 

Anyway, I found a new pair of shorts this summer – after trying on many, many, MANY pairs. It fits my specific requirements: high rise, roomy leg openings, and free shipping. This year I also added “not too short” to my list of Shorts Musts, and these adhere to that criterion as well.

Madewell Relaxed Mid-Length Denim Shorts (image from nordstrom.com)

They are a leeeeetle too ripped for my taste, but not terribly so. They are very flattening (not to be confused with flattering, which they are not) in the buttular region, which takes a lot of doing when it comes to my particular rear. Fortunately, I have reached the phase of life where a) no one is looking at my rear and b) I don’t really care what anyone thinks about my rear anyway. Also, if, like me, you happen to have a thigh/hip to waist ratio that deviates from what American Fashion considers to be “normal,” they may be a leeeetle bit loose in the waist area. I have been addressing the issue with the other aspect of my Summer Uniform, which is a long, loose tank top.

I have this in white and grey:

Madewell Whisper Shout Cotton V-Neck Tank (image from nordstrom.com)

And this, in black and red:

Caslon Muscle Tank (image from nordstrom.com)

This is what I plan to wear every day this summer, unless it is cool, in which case I will wear the Caslon track-style linen pants I now own in green and grey, or unless something fancy is called for, in which case I will wear my scoop neck tiered flare dress from Ann Taylor. 

Phone Calls Bleh

I just got off of back-to-back phone calls and am feeling drained and relieved and, as always, a little self-scoldy because making a phone call is rarely quite as bad as I think it will be. Honestly, even if a phone call IS as bad as I imagined (issue remains unresolved, I have to talk to someone unpleasant, I feel like I have no idea what I’m talking about), it is usually over fairly quickly. Much more quickly than justifies the days/weeks/months of procrastinating, resisting, and fretting before I make the phone call. 

One of the calls was for a dermatology appointment – I have a mole that’s being constantly irritated by non-negotiable clothing, and I would like to have it removed. Plus, I would like to get a skin check. The scheduler seemed to think I could just go for a skin check, and have the dermatologist look at the mole then; I suppose that makes sense, to have him check it out first before he commits to scraping it from my body or whatever mole-removal procedure he uses. I had been delaying this call because I have only been to a dermatologist once before, and I could NOT for the LIFE of me remember her name. So I blurted that out right at the beginning, and the scheduler was very lovely and said she could look it up, and it turned out that my previous dermatologist was no longer with this health system so I will be going to a new one entirely. 

To continue telling you overly personal and yet somehow deeply boring things about me, I figured that as long as I was on the phone ALREADY, I would try to do something that I have wanted to do since January: find a new gynecologist. I had SUCH a bad experience this past time – more than an hour’s wait, with no updates from the staff, in an increasingly crowded waiting room during a pandemic – that I was ready to leave. But I had made no progress toward finding someone new. This is the sort of thing that works best with a referral, but all of my friends see doctors in a different health system, not covered by health insurance. So! I simply asked the scheduler if she could get me in with a new gynecologist. Since I don’t need an appointment until next January, I figured I had a good chance of finding someone. And lo! the scheduler DID find me a new gynecologist and I got an appointment and PHEW. Cross two items off my list. 

The second phone call was with a company that provides entertainment for children’s parties. Specifically, they bring dinosaurs to your event and play dinosaur-themed versions of Red Light Green Light etc, and bring out fossils and talk about dinosaur facts. The dinosaurs are adult-human sized and seem to be half robot, half puppet. Carla is obsessed with dinosaurs, so I think she would love it… but I am a leeetle bit concerned that it will be too babyish for her. Like… maybe it would be ideal for the 3- to 5-year-old set. The woman I spoke to said that eight is on the upper range of the ages they serve – any older, and the kids get a little scoff-y. That was… only slightly reassuring. I mean, maybe CARLA would love it – I really think she would – but maybe her six-months-older friends would find it babyish and lame. And I think having your friends think your party is babyish and lame would be absolutely crushing at this age. Anyway, I am still mulling it. NOTE: If you would like to watch some brief Instagram videos of this company in action and weigh in on the babyishness factor, please email me and I will send you the link. 

Just as bad as the concern over how babyish it might be is the fact that the party would need to take place in my backyard. Please believe me when I say that having a party in my backyard fills me with utter dread. I am pre-stressed by even the IDEA of it. I want to go somewhere that is in the business of kids’ parties, where all I need to do is show up with a cake and some decorations, and they do everything else. And then at the end I can leave. I promise you that I will be stressed enough just doing that. 

(Last week, I did call just such a place! I had a couple of questions that didn’t have answers on their website – in fact, one question was about an add-on that was mentioned on the website, with no further details than price – so I wanted to speak to a human. I waited on hold for a long time just to leave a message. And then got an email last Friday that listed the exact same details that were on the website, and no more. I responded via email immediately, with no response; and emailed again today, only to get an out-of-office reply.)

Sadly, this is going to be a phone-call heavy week. Not only do I have a school meeting via Zoom that I have been fretting about, but I also need to call U-Haul to ask about getting a trailer hitch installed on my car. THAT is the type of phone call I hate the most, because I have no idea what I’m talking about. They will ask questions and I will have no answers. 

I also need to schedule a dentist appointment; I think I need another crown. No need to speculate on why I am dragging my feet on that one.

You know how I mentioned above that I felt a little reproachful of myself for wasting so much energy agonizing over the phone calls when really they weren’t that bad? Yeah, well, that feeling didn’t linger. 

Contrast

Compare my lovely, carefree Wednesday morning with Carla to this one, during which my voice grew firmer and louder the later we got, and I repeated myself a hundred different times about a hundred different things, and I got in a really great workout of my sighing muscles, and we left the house at the time we were supposed to be AT school and it was only at that very moment of leaving, when Carla had FINALLY tied her shoes, that I noticed she had a hole in one knee of her leggings. (She went to school with the hole.) At one point, Carla said, “Don’t YELL at me, Mommy!” and I wanted to yell, “THIS IS NOT YELLING. WE HAVEN’T GOTTEN TO YELLING YET THROUGH A MASSIVE ACT OF WILL POWER.” Oh well. You can’t win them all. 

The skin of my face has also decided once again to turn on me. You will recall that I made the grave error of experimenting with anti-aging lotions and potions, and, after ONE application of such, my skin hissed at me that I WILL age and if I ever so much as LOOK at a product containing retinol again I will find myself wishing I never even had a face. I returned to the very gentle products I have been using for YEARS without incident, and, eventually, my skin calmed down. But today I awoke with red, raw, itchy cheeks, and the underside of my bottom lip is itchy and so puffy I look as though I’m recovering from a botched lip implant. (Though I can assure you that I will not be experimenting with fillers and Botox, based on the reaction I got from NEUTROGENA PRODUCTS.) I don’t know WHAT the deal is – I have not deviated from my routine, nor have I used any new detergents or pressed my face into any unusual fibers – but man am I glad that I can wear a mask in public to keep my lip from view. 

Mask usage is still robust in my area, but every time I venture into a public space, more and more people are bare-facing it. Devil-may-care that I am, I went to BOTH Target and the grocery store today. Inside! I’d say a good thirty percent of the people in Target were bare faced, including some employees. There were fewer people without masks at the grocery store, but SOME, which was shocking after seeing maybe a scant handful of unmasked customers in the past year. I understand, logically, that it is okay to go without a mask now that I am fully vaccinated. Even if a bunch of unvaccinated people are also going maskless (as we all know they probably are). The science is very clear that I should be FINE. That I am unlikely to contract Covid-19, and that I am unlikely to pass it on to my daughter, who is herself unlikely to contract Covid-19 and, if she does manage to do so, is unlikely to suffer from a severe case. I know all this logically. But it’s very hard to counter an entire year-plus of vigilant mask-wearing, an entire year-plus of purposeful separation from other humans, an entire year-plus of focusing solely on keeping my family safe through the power of masks and distance and isolation with simple logic. 

Things I Love Lately

First of all, I love you, you are all so very much My People, and I am delighted to know that you are all just as Done With Meal Planning/Prep as I am. I find this meal-malaise to be distressing because I generally LIKE food and making food and thinking about food. But I assume this is A Phase and that someday soon I will get all hot and bothered about some sort of soup or new way to assemble ingredients into a taco.

Speaking of which, my husband and I recently had an argument over whether something counted as a taco. He spread a pita with hummus, added some sort of shredded meat, and topped it with vegetables. Then he pinched the sides of the pita together, so that the whole contraption made a semi-circular (or should I say taco-shellular) shape, and then ate it. LOOKED LIKE A TACO TO ME. 

The sun is shining and the temperature is supposedly dropping from a sweltering 90 to a much more endurable 67, and I had a lovely morning with Carla, and school is nearly done for the year, and Carla gets to attend CAMP this summer, so I am feeling cheery. Seems like a good day to share a few of my favorite things, no?

1. Plant protectors. This weekend, I finally planted the seedlings that Carla and I started from, well, seed. We had some fledgling cherry tomatoes, some broccoli sprouts, some little baby jalapenos, and, most exciting, some sugar snap pea shoots. The very next day, one of the sugar snap peas had been snapped in half because a very absent-minded or very optimistic chipmunk or squirrel had been digging in the newly planted pot. Arrrgh! Enough! I cannot fathom another summer of carefully painting my plants with cayenne pepper solution only to have half of them be eaten anyway. So I ordered these mesh plant protectors for my containers and so far I am Very Happy with them. I got the largest size and they are truly enormous. More than adequate for my containers. I could fit both snap pea pots inside one bag. They adjust with a drawstring, so they can really fit a wide variety of containers. My only quibble with them is that they don’t have adjustors/buckles to keep the drawstring tight; I had to secure the drawstrings with a knot, which is fine of course but there are better ways. I see that this brand of similar mesh bags does come with adjustors; if the current bags don’t last past this season, I may get the adjustor-included version next year.

2. New dress and pants. I finally found a dress that I like. It’s not QUITE as casual as I was hoping for; I don’t think I’d love sitting on the sidewalk and drawing with chalk whilst wearing this dress. But it’s summery and I like the fabric and I don’t hate how it looks on me. 

image from anntaylor.com

(I also tried this other dress, because I loved the pattern and I thought it also looked summery and casual. But the waistline is even more empire-ish than it looks in the photo, and to avoid the “maybe she’s pregnant” vibe, I need to be cinched in at my natural waistline. So I had to return it.) 

image from anntaylor.com

I also finally found a pair of summer-weight pants I don’t hate. I never in a million years thought I would buy or wear linen pants, but here we are. In fact, as I was looking up the link for these pants I made a snap decision to buy a second pair, so I will have grey and green. These pants are VERY casual. Like, maybe a step up from sweatpants. My husband and I had a discussion about suitable venues for wearing these pants, and he thinks they are fine for wearing to the grocery store or playdates but NOT for wearing to a barbecue in someone’s backyard. Just FYI, for those of you interested in fashion advice from my husband. I could kind of envision a person – probably a younger and/or hipper person – pairing them with heels and a dressy top, but I am guessing I will pair them with flip flops and a tank top. Anyway, these pants are very comfy and I don’t hate them. These are the barriers an item of clothing must clear to make it into my wardrobe, and, lo, so few can make the leap.

image from nordstrom.com

3. Mango smoothies. I have been making myself a mango smoothie on the regular. They are perfect when it is so very hot. They feel like a treat and they are SO easy. Half a cup of plain Greek yogurt. Half a cup of frozen mango. Quarter cup of orange juice. Quarter cup of milk. Squeeze of honey. Splash of vanilla, if I’m feeling fancy. Blend. Pour. Enjoy. 

4. Tula Cooling Eye Balm: I can’t remember where I got this cooling and brightening stick, but I LOVE it. It goes on very smoothly and leaves you with a refreshingly cool sensation and I do think it lifts and brightens my eyes. Now that we’re venturing out into the world more and more frequently, I find myself wearing makeup (mascara, eyebrow mascara, occasional sweep of blush) more often, and this balm is a regular part of the routine. 

image from amazon.com

5. Morning walks with Carla. This spring, much to the chagrin of parents, Carla’s school instituted a late start on Wednesdays. It took me/us a few weeks to adjust to the new schedule; I, for one, felt very off-kilter, always wondering what day it was and often feeling that jolt of forgot-to-study-for-a-test-dream-fear that comes with thinking “Oh no! We’re late for school!” or “Oh no! We overslept!” when really we were fine and on time and everything was okay. Once we got past that initial turbulence, the late starts have been lovely. Carla still wakes up at roughly the same time, which means we can have a leisurely breakfast and none of the frantic pace of normal school days. Best, though, is that we sometimes have time to go for a walk before school. Sometimes we go to a local nature preserve, but most often we walk around our neighborhood, searching for dogs to pet. Carla is a JOY during these morning walks. She’s happy and eager to find dogs. She’s well-rested and cheerful. She skips along next to me, sometimes holding my hand, and chats at me – it’s so different from after school, when she’s tired from a long day of playing and learning, and replies “I forget” or “stuff” to literally every question I ask her. (Although she has started saying “the usual” when I ask her what she had for lunch. Since previously her answer was “I forget” or “stuff,” I have “the usual” NO IDEA of what she actually ate.) But she is fresh and full of ideas in the mornings.

She and her classmates have been learning about birds, a subject she has approached with great enthusiasm, so she tells me all the names of the birds we pass and whistles at them, trying to get them to chirp back. This morning, she started singing the Twelve Days of Christmas, but she called it the Twelve Days of Summer, and for each day “mommy” gave to her an item we spotted on our walk: grackles, chipmunks, dogs, geese, five butterflies, and ending with a squirrel in an oak tree. I cannot fully express just how full I feel of love and affection and absolute delight.

Because I am not in a hurry, I can slow down and devote my entire attention to Carla. I can really see her, and enjoy her, and glimpse through all the shimmering morning sunshine just how precious our time together is. Of course I wish I could be a better and more patient person always. I wish all mornings could be like this. But I suspect it’s partially their infrequency that makes them so special. I know I will remember these mornings and their glimmering, unrushed intimacy as long as I live. I hope they mean as much to Carla, and that she remembers this time together as tenderly as I do, even after I’m gone. 

What are you loving lately?

Dinners This Week

I have really and truly given up.

We ate three of the meals I planned for last week, and only then because one was fish, which we had to eat right away or toss, and because one of the others was tacos which I could make in my sleep.

I still have the ingredients for white chicken chili and shish kebabs (from a prior week’s plan) and salad, so presumably we could eat those if they wind up sounding palatable/worth the hassle. And, I suppose, if the ingredients survive that long.

What else HAVE we been eating? No idea. I mean, I know we ordered pizza one night. And then tonight we got spicy cauliflower from my favorite Lebanese restaurant. Otherwise… no clue.

We all still have to eat. Obviously, no one will starve. Or even skip a meal, frankly. But I cannot fathom thinking about PLANNING or MAKING a dinner. I just cannot.

Have you, too, given up on making meals? I just feel Done. How long will it last? WHO KNOWS.

Five for Friday

I am in a mood to write, but can’t think of anything particularly worthwhile to write about. So I am taking a page out of Stephany’s book and doing five bullets for this sunny Friday.

1. Our housecleaner came back! I am so delighted. But man alive was I ever awkward about the whole thing. I kept finding myself cleaning in the days leading up to her arrival. I didn’t want her to think that our house had devolved into TOTAL disarray in her absence. I am can be a decent housecleaner when I want to (i.e. when guests are imminent), and I did a pretty good job of keeping the house neat and tidy, for the most part, for the past year and change. But then I’d say to myself, maybe that will make her feel GOOD and NEEDED, to see a layer of dust on the bookshelves and a layer of soap scum on the shower door. And then I would feel ridiculous because perhaps she has no thoughts at all about the state of my house beyond, “Wow, this is really dirty and will require more time” or “Okay, this doesn’t need much attention today.” So I finally talked myself into simply tidying things – moving piles and encouraging Carla to pick up her toys and crafting spreads. It was SO NICE to have her back, but I was super awkward in person – we never hugged in the past, so I wasn’t going to hug her NOW, especially because of a pandemic. And I was really sweaty for some reason (perimenopause, or some sort of pre-housecleaner-return panic attack) so I was uncomfortable and my mask was sticking to my face. And I didn’t want to be TOO gushy about having her back because, after all, this is WORK for her. But I did want to be appropriately gushy because I missed her, both as a housecleaner and as a person. We exchanged a little bit of small talk and then she got right to work and I flapped about the house, not really knowing where to be or what to do. I kept remembering things to tell her – let me know if we are out of some cleaning supply you need; make sure you take as many mask breaks as you need; open the windows if you feel more comfortable – and then I went outside and sat on the porch and failed to concentrate on anything because Someone Was In My House.

2. Carla’s birthday is coming up. We are contemplating an Actual Party this time (outdoors), which makes me pre-exhausted. I don’t want to find a venue or buy decorations or come up with an activity or figure out how to do everything in a way that provides everyone with the least exposure to Covid. I want someone to plan her party FOR ME. Is there someone I can call and pay to do this? Why yes, Suzanne, this is called a Party Planner and they exist and cost way more than what you want to spend on an eight-year-old’s birthday bash, get it together.

3. We, once again, had too many overripe bananas in the house. Not a SINGLE ONE of my many cookbooks had a recipe for chocolate banana snack cake. Only the America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook even had any banana snack cake recipes at all. It’s like Martha Stewart and Maida Heatter have never even HEARD of bananas, although I think their books had entries for how to store overripe bananas. But then what to DO with them, Martha and Maida????? Anyway, I found this Betty Crocker recipe online – chosen primarily because I didn’t have to soften any butter, and secondarily because it didn’t call for buttermilk, and tertiarily because I could mix the entire thing in the baking pan itself – and it turned out very well. EVEN THOUGH I didn’t have the right pan size and therefore had to increase the recipe by 50%, which required a LOT of math. My husband had three pieces last night alone, so I know it was a hit. (If you recall, I do not eat bananas.)

4. My skin has pretty much returned to normal, after its prolonged temper tantrum the other week. I have no idea what to do with the FIVE BOTTLES of skincare product I used literally once or twice. My husband suggested that I try them out, one at a time, to see which one is the culprit… but a) if I were a betting man, I would guess all three of the products with retinol were responsible and b) they were meant to be used together, not separately, and c) I don’t wanna.

5. I have absolutely no plans this weekend. Normally, this would be fine – especially seeing as one of the days would be designated Cleaning Day, and dusting, floor scrubbing, and vacuuming would take up a good portion of the day. But now that I have my beloved housecleaner to take over the heavy lifting, I have an entire day back! Obviously, I could curl up in a chair and read all weekend, which is always delightful. But I’m in an activity kind of mood (subject to change). Let’s see. I still have no desire to go to a restaurant. But it would be nice to Do Something this weekend. Perhaps the zoo? The botanical garden? Maybe we could scope out a few potential birthday party venues? Gah. What are YOU doing this weekend, that I could potentially copy?

Dinners This Week

La la la I have completely given up on making dinner. If I didn’t feel such a strong self-imposed obligation to post these weekly meal plans (note that I did not say “strong self-imposed obligation to feed my family” which should probably carry more weight than blogging, but here we are; they won’t starve), I would try my hardest to pretend dinner does not exist, as a concept.

Oh – I reached a pandemic milestone this weekend: I ran out of chicken. As in, I have NO CHICKEN in my freezer. A year ago, this would have filled me with doom and panic. Now, I am very “eh” about the whole thing. Obviously I will get some chicken when I go to the grocery store this week. But I feel no urgency about it whatsoever. I honestly didn’t think I would get to this point again, of taking for granted my ability to shop for groceries and access the food I want when I want it. But I suppose I prefer this to the constant fretting.

Dinners for the Week of May 18-May 24

  • Tacos

What household obligation are you pretending doesn’t exist these days, Internet?

Thursday Chit Chat

I keep encountering things that seem like they would be perfect for discussing with you. And then I promptly forget them. Perhaps I should keep a list on my phone, alongside my Target List and my Books to Look Into List and my Excellent Words List and my Grocery List. 

The one topic I did remember – the ongoing stress of figuring out how best to interact with our neighbors and their dogs – is one I have posted about before. Lucky for us all, I read the previous post before sitting down to type up my angst. Not only did I discover that things have not improved AT ALL, which is quite discouraging, but I also prevented myself from writing (and saved you from reading) pretty much the exact same post, just three years later. So now I am out of a post topic, which is also discouraging. 

But I am feeling chatty despite not having anything to talk about. 

These are the lovely flowers I informed my husband I required for Mother’s Day. While I am not particularly pleased by having to ask for them, I am pleased by the end result. Very cheery, especially in light of the dreary weather.

My Mother’s Day was fairly lovely this year. Sunday is our normal cleaning day, which we moved to the day before Mother’s Day. But I was the only one who did any cleaning, so my house remains un-vacuumed, which is irritating and sneezy. (To be fair, my husband did fold the laundry.) For the day itself, I asked specifically for what I wanted (flowers, a book, Mexican takeout) and I got those things, plus my husband got me a couple of other goodies. Carla made me a coaster in school, which made me tear up at the thought of her teacher instructing all the children to make coasters for their parents. I lounged around and read all day. The only hiccup was dinner. Somehow I was the one who went to pickup the takeout, which annoyed me in retrospect. And apparently EVERYONE IN THE MIDWEST had decided to take their mothers to this specific Mexican restaurant for Mother’s Day, so it was very busy. None of the staff would look at me or address the long line of people waiting for takeout unless specifically asked (even though bags of takeout kept appearing on a long table near the cash register). And, worst of all, I did not get the margarita I had been looking forward to. They were listed as “sold out” online, so I hoped to order one in person. When I finally got a staff member to speak to me, she said I could order one at the bar. But after sitting at the bar for ten minutes, the bartender informed me I had to order the margaritas at the cash register. And it just wasn’t worth it after that. I waited for forty minutes for my food, and then only when I got home did I realize that they had forgotten the guacamole. OH WELL. It was still a nice, relaxing day. I know Mother’s Day can be fraught for SO MANY REASONS for SO MANY PEOPLE, and if yours was crummy, please know I understand just how crummy it can feel, and I hope that you have better days ahead.

Oh! Here’s something: I got my first haircut since February 2020! It is… barely distinguishable from what it looked like before the haircut. Although it FEELS 10,000 times better. My hair had grown quite long – nearly to my belly button – and I like the length. But it was at the point where, every time I brushed it, I would pull out huge brambles of tangled hair. The bottom edge was all raggedy looking and the whole mop was so lank and heavy. Now, I have some new layers and new movement to the whole thing. I wish I had been brave enough to ask her to whack more of it off. A friend of mine had similarly long hair and chopped it to chin length and it looks great on her. I could never do something that drastic – for one thing, my hair does not do chin length, it does triangle – but I was thinking about shoulder length, which would have gotten rid of a good eight inches. Oh well. It took all my courage to go INTO the hair salon during a pandemic; I didn’t have any left over for significant style changes. 

Being A Good Blogger, I had Carla take a picture of my Before Hair as we were leaving for school. But we were already late and I didn’t think about how posing in front of a tree with leaves a surprisingly similar shade to my hair would make it difficult to see. (The leaves are a very dark reddish color, not green.)

I don’t consider my hair to be this color, but it looks virtually identical in the photo. Perhaps the Madison Reed folks should consider naming one of their hair dyes Crimson King Maple in light of this coincidence.

The other problem with the photo was how startlingly large I am in it. Listen, I am under no illusions about my current size. But it’s one thing to regard yourself in the mirror every day and another thing entirely to see yourself from behind, in a photograph. Well. I am working hard on Accepting Myself, because – as I mentioned in a previous post – I just cannot fathom engaging in another 1,200-calories-per-day diet, and the mere thought of trying keto again exhausts me. I do not want to think about food every second of every day, which is what happens when I diet. 

We seem to finally be getting some sunshine in these parts. I tend to turn to the topic of weather when I need to transition away from topics that make me uncomfortable. I do this in person, too, just in case you thought I reserved this particular quirk for blogging. Weather. The great conversational neutralizer! It has been cool and springy, which I appreciate. I do not like when the weather goes from winter straight into blazing heat. But we’ve had so much rain (and snow on Mother’s Day!) that I am feeling extra delighted by the sun’s appearance. 

Carla and I went to the garden center last week to pick up some plants. I have a couple of planters in the front of the house and a few in the backyard, and it was pleasant to fill them with flowers last summer (instead of with vegetables that are eaten by vermin the second they appear on the stems), so we filled them with flowers again this year. Carla really, REALLY wanted us to buy some variety of flower that said it would attract hummingbirds. I don’t think we get hummingbirds in this part of the country, and the flower was $17 which is too much for me to pay just to SEE if we could attract hummingbirds to our yard from wherever they normally live. But we did pick up some supposedly deer resistant varieties of flowers, the names of which I have promptly forgotten. We planted them, and then, of course, we got snow. And have had two separate frost advisories since, so I’m hoping they will survive. 

If they do, somehow, live through the frost, they will also have to thwart the very brazen rabbits that live in our yard. 

A little presumptuous, to just make oneself at home in a pot already occupied by flowers!

Oh! I thought of another thing I wanted to tell you. I read a very good book recently. I don’t think I’ve felt as strongly about a book as I did about The Friend by Sigrid Nunez. That book was, to me, a real masterpiece. But that may have something to do with the subject matter, which was extremely well-suited to my particular personality and situation and career goals. ANYWAY, buy The Friend, the paperback is under $10 right now, but that is not what I want to recommend today. And, in fact, I don’t know why I am even bringing UP The Friend, because this other book is NOTHING LIKE IT IN ANY WAY. I am going to need a new paragraph here, to distance myself from The Friend.

There we go. The book I would like to urge you to read is A Burning by Megha Majumdar. Three things to know before rejecting it: First of all, it’s a fairly short book – 304 pages, but the book itself is somewhat smaller and narrower than a typical hard-bound book – plus, the chapters are very short, so it goes by quickly. Secondly, this book is described as a thriller, but I think that’s a mistake; it implies things about the way the book will unfold that aren’t actually true. I’d call this literary fiction with some elements of suspense. Third of all, if you read the description on the dust jacket, you get one sense of what the book is about… but it is not really about that. (This reinforces my usual practice of not reading the jacket copy before I read something.) Here is what the book is about, according to amazon: “Jivan is a Muslim girl from the slums, determined to move up in life, who is accused of executing a terrorist attack on a train because of a careless comment on Facebook. PT Sir is an opportunistic gym teacher who hitches his aspirations to a right-wing political party, and finds that his own ascent becomes linked to Jivan’s fall. Lovelyan irresistible outcast whose exuberant voice and dreams of glory fill the novel with warmth and hope and humorhas the alibi that can set Jivan free, but it will cost her everything she holds dear.”

I mean, that sounds (potentially) appealing, right? And, sure, the book addresses all those things. But it is just so much MORE than that. It’s told from three perspectives – you get chapters in Jivan’s voice, in PT Sir’s voice, and in Lovely’s voice. And there’s the underlying story of Jivan’s arrest and trial. But it’s really about the three characters, who live totally different lives from one another in the middle of contemporary India, and whose lives intersect because of the case against Jivan, and who all share the desire to better themselves and rise above their current stations. Ugh. I don’t even want to say too much about the plot, because I don’t want you to think, “Oh, I don’t want to read about a terrorist.” or “I have no interest in another book about ambition.” It is exquisitely written – beautiful, descriptive writing without being flowery AT ALL, and, in fact, being rather spare and simple. The characters are so different from one another and so distinct in behavior, voice, and morals. The depiction of contemporary India was, to me, utterly fascinating; I have never been to India, and know very little about day-to-day life there. And the commentary on morality and social aspiration was cutting and concise and never preachy or overbearing. It’s not even commentary, which implies that Mujamdar was sitting above her characters and pointing out how what they were doing was amoral or justifiable or whatever. She was masterful at allowing these characters and their actions to speak for themselves. I don’t want to push too hard, because of course we are different people and you may not like it all. But I really really recommend it. I found it simultaneously crushing and deeply hopeful. 

Oh, by the way, I have a separate book blog and book Instagram if that sort of thing appeals to you. I feel weird bringing it up but also weird keeping it from you, but I would love to discuss books and writing with you, so there it is.

I am resisting the urge to start discussing the weather again.

My husband and I have a few small projects in mind for the coming weeks/months. One of them is to finally make progress on the gallery wall that I have been putting on my New Year’s aspirations list for YEARS. The other is to install a new mailbox. The snowplow people hit it sometime in mid-winter, and it listed sideways for awhile until the arm holding the mail box sagged away from the main post. The post is half-rotten and the whole thing looked very precarious. The person who came to trim the giant oak in our backyard kindly secured it with a bungee cord. And then during one of the April snowshowers, the snowplow people hit it AGAIN, knocking the entire mail box off the post. I nailed it back into place. But we need a new one. In fact, we HAVE a new one; it’s sitting in our garage, alongside a bag of quick-setting cement, waiting for us to install it. Perhaps we shall tackle the project this weekend!

Carla is done with school the second week of June this year. I keep thinking it’s still so far away, but we have less than a month now! I still feel grateful, every single morning, that she has been able to attend school in-person for the better part of this academic year. 

Well, I am going to go pour another cup of tea and work on editing my manuscript, so come by and chat with me. I want to know what projects are in the works, what you’re reading or watching, how your hair is doing, what you’re eating for dinner or right this very minute, or literally anything else you want to tell me.