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Archive for the ‘New Year’ Category

Now that I have revisited my assorted aspirations for 2019, I am ready to draw up a list – a Very Loose List, mind you – of aspirations for this year. It WAS sort of fun to revisit last year’s list and see what I’d prioritized and what I hadn’t. And I don’t feel particularly bad about any of the things I failed to do. In fact, I feel kind of pleased that I accomplished ANY of them.

I plan to take the same kind of approach to this year’s aspirations. On this day and time, they are important and worthy of attention. But I am not going to put a huge amount of pressure on accomplishing anything outside of keeping myself and my child alive. Even my husband is ON HIS OWN, for keeping-alive purposes.

Here we go!

Personal

  • Read 30 books. Last year, I read 23 books. Reading just… falls by the wayside. And that’s ridiculous because I LOVE to read, and reading helps inspire and inform my own writing. So I want to really prioritize reading this year.
  • Buy new sport bras. Like last year, I am borrowing this undergarment goal from Stephany. Thanks, Stephany! I have probably around a dozen sports bras. But they are all terrible. Half of them are from high school and college, which, you may recall, took place TWO DECADES AGO OMG. So these sports bras have put in their time and deserve to retire. The reason I keep them around is because they are so comfy when the sports bras I have purchased in the past few years are so horribly UNcomfy. They are too tight or pinch my armpits and at least one of them has created a skin tag on my back which I DO NOT LIKE. One of them has a decorative trim that has come loose and another has a piece of padding that continually folds over on itself and both of these things make me feel unkempt – not that I am at my most kempt while exercising, I understand this – and in general I just hate all of them. What has prevented me from just getting rid of these awful torture slings, you ask? Cheapness, I answer. Sports bras are EXPENSIVE. But I am committing to, if not replacing ALL of them, at least buying two or three new ones that I actually like. I wear a sports bra probably five days a week, so this is a reasonable thing on which to spend money, SELF, ARE YOU LISTENING TO THIS LOGICAL ARGUMENT?
  • Exercise five days a week. My husband and I got each other a recumbent bike for Christmas, so now we have that and a treadmill AND I still have a package of barre classes I purchased when they went on sale at the end of last year. Plus I have an abundance of exercise videos and the whole entire internet at my disposal. There is no reason for me to not exercise daily. It lulls the hamsters in my brain and elevates my mood and gives me more energy.
  • Limit my phone usage to one hour per day. Hahahahahahahaha. This is probably the most wild and ambitious goal of all, but I am going to try it. I have set the timers on my phone which is the first step. The second step is to stop hitting “ignore time limit” every time I reach it.
  • Find a good balance of social/solitary time. It seems like I have this bad habit of swinging wildly between over-scheduling myself with social events and then reacting to all the over-stimulation by hiding away and doing absolutely nothing and then reacting to feeling isolated by over-scheduling myself with social events. Repeat. I am an introvert. I know this. I should limit my social activities to once – maybetwice – a week, which should help still the pendulum.
  • Take better care of my skin. I have found a combination of facial oil and moisturizing lotion that I like. I have acquired some moisturizing spray. And now I just need to make sure I wash my face EVERY NIGHT.
  • Practice the piano. I am stealing this one from Nicole, and, admittedly, it is a wild and ambitious goal that I am unlikely to accomplish. Who will even know, anyway, as I do not plan to track my playing on a spreadsheet or even mark it down on a sheet of paper I could leave handily on the piano. So why aspire to do something I have so little faith in doing, you ask? Well, we have a beautiful hand-me-down baby grand piano and I have thirteen years of piano lessons under my belt andI have a bunch of sheet music of songs I’d like to learn/re-learn. Plus, playing the piano is something that would definitely enhance my life, so I am going to give it the old half-hearted try. I will attempt to play the piano twice a week this year. No specific time requirement – just sit down at the piano and noodle around for a while.

 

Family

  • Find a new regular babysitter. I don’t really know how to go about doing this, but our current list of sitters has kind of fizzled out. By that I mean the three young women who regularly sit for Carla are more likely to a) be busy or b) not respond at all when I ask if they are available… and I feel like three in a row of those things really means I should stop bother them.
  • Go on more date nights. My husband and I really enjoy each other’s company. We need to spend more time alone. And I would like to try to see some movies together, like, in an actual theater. Sounds very adventuresome.
  • Undertake more weekend adventures. This is a carryover from last year. It was fun to go on little weekend trips, which I hope we can do again. And for the remaining weekends… Well, maybe we can try to dedicate one weekend day to loafing at home – which we all prefer to do – and the other day to adventuring. I know my husband is on board with this, so maybe together we can make it happen.
  • Plan a trip to visit my niece. We just need to make this happen.
  • Read/skim one parenting book a quarter. That seems like a VERY achievable goal, right? I have a ton of parenting books on my to-read list, but I have SUCH a hard time getting through them. So I need to make it a clearer goal, to read them and then share what I’ve learned with my husband. And then, I suppose, implement the useful ideas.
  • Emphasize/encourage more adventurous eating. Carla eats enough of a variety of foods that I feel like she’s getting adequate nutrition. For instance, when I make her dinner, I can be sure there is something from each category – protein, carb, dairy, vegetable, and fruit – on her plate that she will actually eat. But when it comes down to it, the list of foods she eats is very, very short. Which means that her meals look very similar, from day to day and week to week. (Right now, the only vegetables she will eat are sugar snap peas, tomatoes, and frozen green beans. That’s IT.) Lately, I have been applying a Pick Your Battles philosophy to this aspect of parenting — there are other battles more worthy of picking — but I really do want to help encourage her to eat beyond that list. I’m not sure how to do it, but I think one of the aforementioned parenting books could help.

 

Work/Finance

  • Revise my manuscript. Now that I have all (most) of the words, I need to go through and put everything in a readable order and fill out the places where I just wrote in filler words and basically transform it from a rough draft into something I can send to beta readers.
  • Invest every single month. I am in charge of funding several investments we have. It’s a very simple process, done completely online. And yet I get freaked out by the wild movements of the market and the prospect of losing all our money and sometimes just… don’t invest.
  • Put money into a personal 401(k). Since I am earning money, even if it’s a tiny bit, I can put it into a retirement account. My dad helped me set up an individual 401(k) and I need to put what I earned last year into it before April.

 

House Projects

  • GALLERY WALL. My husband is on board. He has given me full control over the gallery wall, and just needs me to present him with my vision so that we can make it happen. THIS WILL HAPPEN. 
  • Fix the freaking toilet. I have purchased and installed FIVE flappers in our toilet. Perhaps it is a much more finicky and complicated repair than it seems based on viewing YouTube videos of the process, and I am merely missing some crucial element. Perhaps there is something else wrong with the toilet that I am unable to diagnose. In any case, I have reached the outer limit of my flapper-installation/toilet-repair knowledge AND PATIENCE – if you have never had to adjust and readjust and readjust and readjust AGAIN the length of a flapper chain while crouched uncomfortably over your toilet tank you have lived a good life indeed – and need to call in a professional. For my sanity.
  • Sharpen our knives. A local knife sharpener sets up camp at the grocery store at various times throughout the year. I want to load up all our knives (how???) and have him sharpen them, because they are woefully dull and therefore dangerous.
  • Purge old items. We have a bunch of stuff to get rid of. For one thing, I think it’s time to relieve our basement of Carla’s play kitchen. I can’t remember the last time she’s used it, and she’s had it since 2014, so it’s fulfilled its duties to our household. Plus, there are many other things that we just do not need in our basement – two giant duffels that my husband has owned since I’ve known him and has never once used in all those 19 years; the battered remains of our old footstool, which my husband cannot bear to throw out despite it being so gross we had to replace it, the pots and pans we replaced but are still holding onto for some reason, TWO coffee makers that we definitely do not need, tons of shoes I do not wear or Carla has outgrown, I could go on.  I need to decide if I am going to host another garage sale next summer (host? Is that the verb I am looking for? Do I mean “throw”? But that makes it sound like a party which it most certainly is NOT.) or if I am going to find somewhere to donate all the assorted items I need to get rid of. That requires calling places, which is unappealing. But a garage sale is a TON of work, which is also unappealing. MOST unappealing is playing hostess to a growing junk heap in my basement, though.
  • Have a realtor come evaluate our house. My husband and I are really, seriously thinking about moving out of this house. But we will not do so for about three years. If there is work we absolutely need to do to make our house more buyer-friendly, I want to do it now, so we can enjoy it before we move out.
  • Touch up the outside of the house. We have a stain on the siding above our front porch. The paint is starting to peel from the trim around the garage door. Our front door has seen better days. The front porch could use some fresh paint. I need to look into what it would take to make this happen.

 

(WHAT is WITH the spacing in this post??? Maybe I need to make Master WordPress Formatting Issues one of my goals.)

Well. That seems like a good, sturdy list. I fully expect some of these to fall by the wayside, and for other priorities to pop up. But from this vantage point, these seem like worthwhile and achievable goals.

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Making and tracking resolutions is not really my jam. But last year, for the first time I can remember, I made a big list of Very Loose Aspirations for the year. I wasn’t particularly worried about any of them (except the writing of my novel), and I made the list more for fun than anything else.

I thought it would be fun to revisit that list of aspirations and see which goals I prioritized and which ones I didn’t. (It was kind of fun.) Here are the results:

Habits 

Aspiration: Be in bed by 10:30 every night. 

Result: Incomplete. Actually, I have no idea! I would guess that I head up to bed at about 10:30 to 11:00 pm each night, on average. But there’s really no way to track this without TRACKING it, and I am unwilling to do that. I feel pretty happy about

 

Aspiration: Ignore my phone.

Result: Incomplete. If anything, I have grown MORE addicted to my phone. I installed an app that tracked my phone usage and eventually turned it off because it was so horrifying.

 

Aspiration: Do a practice German lesson every day. 

Result: Incomplete. I realized that I just don’t like learning languages and gave up on this one.

 

Aspiration: Exercise three days a week on average. 

Result: Complete! Although I don’t know for sure because I didn’t track it, I feel like I was pretty successful at this one. There were a few lulls throughout the year, but nothing that lasted more than a few weeks.

 

Aspiration: Eat better. 

Result: Incomplete. I really devolved into a whole lot of Eating My Feelings in September and wasn’t ever really able to get back on top of eating healthful foods in healthful amounts. I currently weigh more than I ever have, which doesn’t feel great. But I’m working on it.

 

Work

Aspiration: Finish the first draft of my manuscript. 

Result: Complete! It’s strange to me that I don’t feel more elated about achieving this goal. I’ve been working toward it for nearly FOUR YEARS. I think it’s because there is still so much work left to do.

 

Aspiration: Figure out what to do with the short story I’ve been working on for a few years. 

Result: Incomplete. Did not think about this once.

 

Aspiration: Set up an interview with a subject expert for my next novel. 

Result: Incomplete. I found that thinking about this project was distracting from my primary project, so I put it on hold.

 

House Projects

Aspiration: Finally get someone to come fix the ice maker. 

Result: Complete! Our ice machine is fully functional.

 

Aspiration: Find out what it takes to stretch the carpet in the upstairs hall. 

Result: Complete! I hired someone to come stretch the carpet, and he did, and it is SO MUCH better.

 

Aspiration: Look into the cost of new windows. 

Result: Complete! I now know far more than I ever wanted to know about windows. I had a BUNCH of window salespeople come over, assess our window situation, and offer estimates. It became very overwhelming – how do you decide between very slight differences in window quality and appearance??? how do you choose to spend $10,000-$20,000 on something that probably won’t increase your home value??? – so we did not replace any of our windows. But we COULD because now I know the options.

 

Aspiration: Revamp the living room in six parts.

  • Put up a gallery wall. 
  • Result: Incomplete. Started collecting artwork, but never got them on the walls.

 

  • Replace the ottoman.
  • Result: Complete! We got a new ottoman with inside-storage from Target. I love it.

 

  • Replace the side table. 
  • Result: Incomplete. I finally found the exact side table I want, but it is MUCH more than I want to spend. And my husband and I decided not to buy any new furniture until we move into a new house (several years down the road).

 

  • Convert our wood-burning fireplace into a gas fireplace. 
  • Result: Incomplete. We did not even look into what this would take. In fact, I don’t think we even mentioned it again until Christmastime, when my husband idly told my father we were thinking about it.

 

  • Paint the baseboards.
  • Result: Nope. I did look at them several times and THINK about painting them. But thinking is not quite the same as doing, when it comes to baseboard paint.

 

  • As long as we’re dreamingI’d also love to paint the fireplace, get some curtains for the sliding glass door, and stain our buffet. And get a new couch.
  • Result: Nope to all.

 

Aspiration: Get additional craft storage for the kitchen. 

Result: Complete! We bought a set of these IKEA TRONES cabinets and installed them in the hallway between our pantry and laundry room. Yes, they are technically shoe cabinets, but, as I envisioned, they are perfect for storing construction paper and in-progress artwork.

 

Aspiration: Figure out what to do about our grill. 

Result:  Complete! My wonderful father fixed our grill while we were in Europe.

 

Family

Aspiration: Eat dinner together twice a week. 

Result: Complete??? Tentatively??? As with all the goals that actually require tracking to see if I accomplished them, I have no real idea. I THINK we ate together as a family more often – we were especially successful during the summer, when Carla could go to bed a bit later than she does during the school year. And we are definitely better about trying to make it happen when we can. We also started having family movie nights most Fridays, which I think counts. Even though we end up eating together in the basement in front of the TV, rather than at the table, it is a really nice tradition and I hope we keep it up.

 

Aspiration: Do more weekend adventures. 

Result: No idea. We did take family trips to Toronto and Kentucky. And I remember that, shortly after we got back from Europe, my husband and I took Carla downtown to see if we could have a European-style day-of-walking-and-enjoying-the-city-sites. We also took Carla to see a ballet performance of The Nutcracker. And, I mean, we attended SO MANY birthday parties. So maybe we were more successful at this than I think. Okay, I am going to count it as complete.

 

Aspiration: Go on a date night with my husband more often (every six weeks?). 

Result: Incomplete. I do NOT think this happened. In fact, I cannot remember the last date night I had with my husband… so that’s not a good sign.

 

Personal

Aspiration: Be more patient and less yell-y.

Result: Complete. While this is something that I will always continue to monitor/work on, I DO think I made big strides this year in being more patient and less yell-y. Especially with Carla. I have a hot temper that flares up quickly (and extinguishes quickly, as well), so this is something I definitely need to stay on top of.

 

Aspiration: Host friends for dinner. 

Result: Complete! We had friends over several times this past year – which includes the big dinner party we hosted. I was going to say that my enthusiasm for hosting fizzled out toward the end of the year, but we did  have people over for Halloween and then we hosted Thanksgiving and Christmas for our families, so I think I can give myself a pass.

 

Aspiration: Buy new underwear. 

Result: Complete! I bought myself between 8-10 new pairs of underwear, and also got rid of some of the underwear that was hole-y or otherwise cluttering up my underwear drawer.

 

Aspiration: Read 40 books. 

Result: Incomplete.  I read 23 books in 2019.

 

Well, if I did the math correctly, I have a 50% success rate. That sounds pretty dismal, except when you consider that a BUNCH of those incompletes came from my wildly ambitious living room plans.

I have to say, I accomplished more of these things than I thought I would. Still lots of room for improvement, but a pretty successful year.

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It is hard to believe that the year – nay, the decade – is ending tonight. The date has been set since time began, but – like Christmas – it feels like it’s just sort of caught me by surprise. Such is the mystery and irritation of the passage of time.

Along with the closing of the year comes my annual recap. I don’t know why this is something I continue to do, year after year. I don’t particularly enjoy it. I enjoy reading other people’s versions of this post, though, (if you do any sort of year-end post, please link to it in the comments!) so maybe that’s part of why I force myself to endure these same questions, every December. Reciprocity, right? Also, I am nothing if not an enthusiastic resolute cog in the unceasing wheel of tradition.

I am especially dreading the recap this year because it feels like I have so little positivity to contribute. And that’s not really true – I feel fairly optimistic about the future, looking into 2020. (I mean, as optimistic as a person can be, with all the doom and gloom we carry around on a daily basis.) Plus, when I look back on the year, there is MUCH to celebrate.

But… the fourth quarter of this year has been really hard. Two specific things have made outsize contributions to how difficult it has been, I think. First was the loss of my dear friend in September. Second is an unbloggable, ongoing thing of the sort that is lifelong but not life-threatening, common enough to feel like it should be no big deal but new enough to me that it feels like a very big deal indeed. I have been struggling and worrying and grieving a lot these past few months. It’s really hard not to allow that to color the whole year.

Anyway, I will try to inject some happiness and light into this survey, where I can – while still being true to both the year and to my current emotional state. Because this blog is as close as I have to a diary, and it might be useful for Future Me to look back on the truth, rather than a chipper, sanitized version of 2019.

This is all to say, I don’t know if you ever read these, but if you do, this year’s might not be particularly fun. Feel free to skip it.

(This yearly recap originated with Linda of All & SundryIf you’re so inclined, you can read past versions of my responses: 2018201720162015201420132012201120102009.)

  • What did you do in 2019 that you’d never done before?

My husband and I left our baby (read: self-sufficient nearly-six-year-old) for eleven whole days to traipse off to Europe, that was something we’d never done. (We left her with my capable and loving parents, by the way, not, like, on her own.)

I attended the funeral of a dear friend, which was awful and something I’d never like to repeat.

I made a leopard spotted cake.

I (silently) celebrated the ten-year anniversary of this blog. Outside of marriage, I don’t think I can say I’ve ever put so much of myself into something for so long.

I made a big, fancy Pinterest-style cheeseboard.

  • Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

Let’s revisit some of my goals from last year’s survey:

As for 2019, I have decided to make some very specific goals, which I hope means they are easier to accomplish.

  1. I want to learn German. Maybe notfluent German, which seems like quite a stretch. Especially for someone who took four years of high school French and another year in college and never actually learned more than basic vocabulary. But I want to learn enough that I don’t feel like a complete floundering oaf when I visit Munich and Vienna later this year.
  2. I want to finally, after seven plus years in this house, hang up the gallery wall that I’ve been planning to do. All of the photos and artwork exist, in frames, in my basement. The lovely blank wall is just sitting there, ready for decoration. I just need to DO IT.
  3. Last year, I lost 10+% of my body weight. And then gained it all back. I would like to do the former again without the latter.
  4. I want to cut back on the amount of time I spend on my phone. My Reach Goal is to put my phone in my bedroom when I arrive home with Carla after school and not touch it until I set my alarm before bed. But I’d be happy to just keep it out of my hands until she goes to bed.
  5. I want to invite friends over for dinner. I ENJOY this. But I always think about it and then never invite anyone over and they magically never invite themselves, so I am going to remedy that.

That seems like a good place to start. The bigger goals are in play, too – let’s not forget about patience and quality time and THE NOVEL. But throwing in a few specifics shouldn’t hurt.

Well, I have had very limited success with all of these. The big one, first: I believe – very tentatively – that I have completed the first draft of my manuscript. It’s just a DRAFT, so there is still much, MUCH, MUCH work to be done. But I feel like it’s all there, ready to be shaped into Draft Two.

I think I have made some big strides toward being more patient. I certainly am less YELLY than I have been. (Not to be confused with being less ALL-CAPSY which is more of a personality trait and probably not going anywhere.) But of course I can continue to improve.

I did NOT learn German. I learned a few words and phrases and that was it. It turns out that not only do I have no facility with languages, I also just plain do not like learning them.

I have not yet hung up a gallery wall. The closest I came was to gather a selection of paintings and arrange them against the wall on which I want to hang them. However, my plan is to FORCE this to happen this weekend, once all the Christmas has been expelled from our house.

I did not lose 10% of my body weight. I did not lose anything, except the same six pounds over and over and over and over.

I did NOT cut back on my phone time. It is disgraceful. I am really and truly addicted and I need an intervention.

I did invite friends over for dinner. We had the epic dinner party and there were two or three other occasions when we had people over and it was stressful and fun. (And don’t you love how BREEZY I have become, that I didn’t even make full-blown posts out of those other dinners? And I know for a FACT that there was a fourth occasion during which we had people over that I didn’t even mention – but if I am remembering correctly, we just had tacos so it was totally a non-issue.)

Will I make more goals for the coming year? Sure. I am not ready yet. Part of me wants to Make Serious Goals and Track Them… part of me worries that that is a recipe for failure since I am not and have never been a Serious Goal Making and Tracking Person, and that I should probably just… have some gentle aspirations, as I did last year.

  • Where did you travel this year? (This is my own recasting of a question I could never answer which was How many countries did you visit this year? Of course, this is the year that I visited THREE countries. But that is unlikely to repeat, so I will keep the revamped question as it is.)

This year, I visited Austria; Germany; Ontario, Canada; Florida; Kentucky; New York; and my home state out west. Is that really it? I feel like I am missing something, but I don’t know why or what.

  • What would you like to have in 2020 that you lacked in 2019?

A clear, measurable plan for the unbloggable stuff. A strong second draft of the manuscript. More time alone with my husband. More fun adventures with Carla.

  • What dates from 2019 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

As I said last year, the specific dates don’t necessarily stick… but I do remember specific THINGS. This year: My wonderful anniversary trip with my husband. The day my friend died. And the two days I spent in New York for her wake and funeral service.

  • What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Finally finishing a first draft of my manuscript? Honestly, it feels less momentous than I thought it would, because it happened sort of without me noticing? (I don’t write in a linear way, so it wasn’t like I wrote the final chapter and said, “There, finished!”) Plus, there’s still so much work to be done.

  • What was your biggest failure?

What I have said the past two years applies here:

Not getting enough words on the page each day! I can trot out a 7,000-word blog post of a morning, but I seem to spend hours and hours coming up with a measly 200 for my manuscript! What gives? 

  • Did you suffer illness or injury?

Nothing serious.

  • What was the best thing you bought?

Technically, my husband bought it, but I love the eternity band he got me for our anniversary.

  • Whose behavior merited celebration?
  • Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
  • Where did most of your money go?

 

  • What did you get really, really, really excited about?

Our big anniversary trip to Europe!

  • What song(s) will always remind you of 2019?

The soundtracks to all three Descendants movies, which have been playing around here nonstop.

The soundtrack to Frozen 2.

The entire Jonas Brothers oeuvre, as The Brothers and as solo artists, particularly the Happiness Begins album.

I Could Use a Love Song” and “Sugar” by Maren Morris

Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X featuring Billy Ray Cyrus

Bad Guy” by Billie Eilish (which I hated, briefly loved, and then hated again)

Everything by Post Malone, whose songs played constantly on the radio this year.

  • Compared to this time last year, are you:
  1. a) happier or sadder? 
  2. b) thinner or fatter? 
  3. c) richer or poorer? 
  • What do you wish you’d done more of?

My answer is identical to last year: Writing (evergreen item)!!! Keeping up with out-of-state friends. Doing fun things with Carla outside the house. Going on dates with my husband.

  • What do you wish you’d done less of?

Feeling sad. Eating my feelings. Worrying. Driving to various appointments and activities. Trying to fix my leaky toilet.

  • How did you spend Christmas?

My parents came to town this year. My husband did not have to work. We had a wonderful warm, partly sunny Christmas together and it was lovely. We ate a LOT of cheese and drank a LOT of wine and had a really nice time together.

  • Did you fall in love in 2019?

 

  • What was your favorite (new) TV program?

TV is so great! I really love it. My husband and I discovered Schitt’s Creek after a billion years of people recommending it to us, and it’s so, so excellent. We re-watched the entire American series of The Office, which was so much fun. We fell in love with The Masked Singer, which is a pretty great (and fairly family-friendly) show to watch when you can’t agree on a movie for Movie Night. And my husband and I also LOVED Songland, which I hope will restart again soon. We watched the first season of Fleabag, although I think I enjoyed it more than my husband does. The second season of Mindhunter was pretty great. I really like the new Cobie Smulders private investigator drama, Stumptown. Is that it? That might be it.

  • Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

 

  • What was the best book you read?

I really did a terrible job of reading this year. You can go ahead and blame my phone addiction on the low number of books I finished in 2019 – because it was just so much simpler to reach for my phone and read Ask a Manager posts than engage my mind in real literature. But I did read 23 books this year, which means that I can at least answer this question.

My favorite novel of the year was easily The Friend by Sigrid Nunez. SO GOOD. Another favorite was Inland by Téa Obreht,  which was one of the most well-researched and beautifully plotted books I have ever read. As far as top of my favorite genre – mysteries – goes, I loved The Lost Man by Jane Harper and The Next to Die by Sophie Hannah and Big Sky by Kate Atkinson. I was delighted and honored to beta read my friend Kristina’s first novel, Weight of Memory, as well.

 

  • What did you want and get?

Freelance assignments from great clients. A fantastic trip to Europe with my husband, and a really fun weekend jaunt to Toronto with my husband and kid. An eternity ring. The Megan Follows boxset of Anne of Green Gables which is EVEN BETTER than I remember it. A bottle of Tiffany Sheer. An answer to a perplexing issue that’s been cropping up for years (sorry – I know this is vague); it’s not the answer I WANTED, but I wanted An Answer more than anything, so now I have it.

 

  • What did you want and not get?

A flapper that will fix the leak in my toilet. Seriously, I have gone through three of them and I need to find another option. My dad thinks I should go to the hardware store, buy one of each, and just try them, one after another, until one works. As dreadful — in so very many ways — that sounds, I think that may be my best course of action. Either that or buy a new toilet, I guess?

On a more serious note, I wanted to see my friend again. She went into the hospital in July and we talked about my coming to visit her at some point. Obviously, when we were planning the visit, we both assumed she would be healthy (or on the way to being healthy) when I did. But I didn’t get to see her and then she died and my heart is broken.

 

  • What was your favorite film of this year?

Frozen 2 was pretty great. So was Chasing Happiness, which was a documentary about the Jonas Brothers and really made me fall in love with all three of them. I honestly have no idea if I saw any other movies.

  • What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

 

  • What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

If I had been able to see my friend before she died, I think I would feel… better, in some ways. Of course, maybe not. I would still be so very sad that she is gone.

  • How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2019?

I’d call my 2019 Lewk “Trying to Appear Carefree and Nonchalant About Being Unshowered Whilst Simultaneously Envying the Moms Who Actually Put On Makeup and Curled Their Hair and Did So Despite Appearing to Have Double Or Triple the Number of Children I Do.”

Does it really require such an effort to just… put on some cute booties and a non-sweatshirt top and maybe brush my hair? A burning question for the new decade.

  • What kept you sane?

My husband. Exercise. My terrible, ubiquitous, addictive phone. Recipe blogs. Freelance work. Alone time. Good TV. Writing here.

  • Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

Dan Levy from Schitt’s Creek. Also Paul Rudd.

  • What political issue stirred you the most?

 

  • Who did you miss?

My friend who died. We were roommates for three years in college. We stayed in regular touch via phone and email and occasional visits for probably ten years after that. But then work and family and distance put bigger gaps between our conversations. We’d have marathon-length phone calls that we would schedule in advance, and we’d try to catch up on every last detail of each other’s life before we got exhausted from talking. I got to see her in 2018 at our college reunion, which was really great. She got to meet Carla, which is a memory I will cherish. Late in 2018, she began having some severe health problems, and they continued to increase in severity throughout 2019. Our conversations were more anxious than I remembered – she was worried about changes with her work, her health, and what lay in front of her. I think we talked more frequently than we had in years, which is a blessing – although, still, months would go by with just texts between us. (She was a busy, vibrant woman who was always traveling somewhere or going out to a new restaurant or attending a concert or giving a presentation or meeting someone for a date – she lived a jam-packed, interesting life but man was it hard to fit a phone call in among all her events and activities!) We knew each other for twenty years and I had planned on being friends with her for many, many more. I’m really sorry she’s gone.

  • Who was the best new person you met?

The new mom friend I met last year didn’t pan out as a longterm friend. But I met another mom earlier this spring, and we’ve gotten together a few times which has been really nice.

  • Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2019.

I don’t know. That things could always be worse? Ugh. That’s a terrible life lesson, true as it may be. That sometimes things seem pretty grim and you just have to keep going? I am still processing the past few months and I don’t think I’ve fully wrapped my head around what’s been going on… or how to apply what I’ve learned (what I’m learning?) to the future. So that grit-your-teeth kind of thing is all I have right now.

  • Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

“This grief has a gravity, it pulls me down / But a tiny voice whispers in my mind / You are lost, hope is gone / But you must go on / And do the next right thing.” – The Next Right Thing

 

Well. That wasn’t the most uplifting note to end on, although I do find that lyric to be a very good Coping Thought.

One of the very best things of the year — one that defies the questions on this list — has been Carla. She is officially six-and-a-half and so… creative and interesting and funny and curious and loving and energetic and fun. I just love her so much. I feel like it’s really an unfair thing, to be a student of your child’s — but the truth is, she is teaching me so much about how to be a better parent, how to be a better person. I owe her my strides in patience and my attempts to be more outgoing. She is such a wonderful human being and she becomes more herself every day. Right now, at this very moment, she is on the kitchen floor, wearing the tiger onesie we got her as a Halloween costume. She has her new artist’s studio spread out around her on the floor and she is making a (second? additional?) tiger costume out of paper and colored pencils and copious amounts of Scotch tape.  The Descendants 3 soundtrack is playing on our Echo. Just a few minutes ago, she showed me these tiger paws she created, complete with claws and paper armbands so she can wear them on her own hands. She is endlessly inventive and imaginative and I am so lucky to be her mom.

Tiger craft

A new decade lies before us, Internet. Fresh and unwrinkled, with no mistakes in it yet. I hope it brings all of us health and happiness and grace. Happy 2020, thank you for reading.

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I am not a big goal setter. It’s just… not my personality. I promise you that I am hard enough on myself and my failures without seeing them clearly in black and white. (To-do lists are hard enough, you know?) Maybe that’s a cop-out, but I think I manage to accomplish a fair number or things without setting specific goals, so I think it’s one of those more-than-one-way-to-skin-a-cat (WHY is that a phrase? WHO is doing so much cat skinning? YUCK.) more-than-one-way-to-marinate-your-chicken kind of things.

Nonetheless, I love reading about other people’s goals. And so I am going to post a Very Loose List of assorted goals that I will be thinking about and trying to achieve this year. Some of them I already mentioned, if briefly, in my end-of-year wrap-up. Perhaps we should call them aspirations instead of goals. Yes, let’s do that; it sounds less demanding. Less judgmental if I don’t achieve them. (Why list out what you want to do, you may be wondering, if you are so laissez faire about actually doing them? A good question indeed.)

Maybe it will be fun to revisit this list next January, to see how much I’ve accomplished! Maybe it will be amusing to see how drastically my priorities have changed over the year! Maybe it will send me spiraling into a cavern of self-castigation! Maybe I will forget all about this list and only come across it by accident many years in the future, if ever!

To the list!

Habits

–      Be in bed by 10:30 every night. This is really tough because most nights, my husband doesn’t get home until around six thirty or seven. And then it’s time to put Carla to bed, which takes another hour. And then I need to make or finish dinner and we need to eat it. This puts us at finishing dinner around eight at the earliest, and makes a ten thirty bedtime seem kind of early. But I feel so much better about life when I get real, actual sleep each night, so I want to try.

–      Ignore my phone – unless I have a real, actual phone call – between Carla getting home from school and me going to bed. This means giving up my Toy Blast habit, but that’s not something I feel particularly good about as it is, so it won’t be a big loss.

–      Do a practice German lesson every day. I have already skipped a lesson or two this week (yesterday – whoops) so I need to really buckle down if this is going to become a daily habit.

–      Exercise three days a week on average. Some weeks – like last week – I just don’t have the bandwidth for exercise. Other weeks, I manage to walk on the treadmill or do an exercise video almost every day. So I think aiming for an average is the best way to succeed.

–       Eat better. I mentioned before that I lost a bunch of weight last year and then gained it all back. So now I am planning to lose it all again. Perhaps it will return in November and I should think of it as an annual fall houseguest, but if I could rid my person of it for good, that would obviously be preferable.

Work

–      Finish the first draft of my manuscript. I mean, this is Job One. Top Priority. The Most Important Goal of All Goals.

–      Figure out what to do with the short story I’ve been working on for a few years. I finally finished the thing last summer, but now I need to get it into fighting shape and think about submitting it to some publications.

–      Set up an interview with a subject expert for my next novel. The next novel is percolating away and I have a contact who knows a real-life expert with whom I would LOVE to talk. I need to get past my fear of talking to people and just set up an interview with her.

House Projects

–      Finally get someone to come fix the ice maker. It’s been broken for over a year. My husband has tried to fix it. Both of our fathers have tried to fix it. I even called the place that sold our fridge to us and got the name of someone they recommended – but I googled the place and it got terrible reviews, so I chickened out. I need to call back and get a few other options and just make the call already.

–      Find out what it takes to stretch the carpet in the upstairs hall. The carpet bags a little in the middle and I think we could get it re-stretched? I am not sure about this. But I do know I’m not ready to replace the upstairs carpet just yet.

–      Look into the cost of new windows. We got an energy audit and the result was that our windows are ALL leaking. We can get some money to put toward them if we install news ones within the year but man. This is a daunting (and expensive!) task if there ever was one!

–      Revamp the living room. I originally was thinking about this in terms of separate smaller goals, but when I look at them all together, it turns out the whole room needs work. Specifically, I want to:

o   Put up a gallery wall. We have tons of artwork that would look great on the big blank wall in our living room. We just need to plan it out and DO it.

o   Replace the ottoman. We have a beautiful leather ottoman that was a hand-me-down from my in-laws, and my child and other children who visit our home have slowly destroyed it over time, peeling the leather upholstery off the top so that it looks like maybe it first belonged to a raccoon. I want a new one, and I have my eye on some options that have storage inside.

o   Replace the side table. The side table is also a hand-me-down from my in-laws. (See also: almost every piece of furniture in our house.) But I hate it. It’s too wide for the space, the color/style is all wrong. And it has no storage. I want to replace it with something slimmer, in a darker color and more modern style, that has drawers or shelves.

o   Convert our wood-burning fireplace into a gas fireplace. We already have a gas starter, so I don’t think would be toodifficult, but I need to look into it.

o   Paint the baseboards. I mean. I’ve been hating our DARK GREEN baseboards since 2012, so it would be nice to finally paint them white. Maybe this is the year!

o   As long as we’re dreaming, I’d also love to paint the fireplace, get some curtains for the sliding glass door (which we have to replace; see above re: leaky windows), and stain our buffet. And get a new couch. Not that we can afford to get a new one that’s as nice as our hideous, uncomfortable, very expensive but FREE TO US hand-me-down couch.

–      Get additional craft storage for the kitchen. We have a dedicated craft cabinet for Carla. It gets a LOT of use. But we could use more space. I have my eye on these IKEA TRONES cabinetsand I want to install them in the hallway between our pantry and laundry room. Yes, they are technically shoe cabinets, but I think they would be perfect for storing construction paper and in-progress artwork.

–      Figure out what to do about our grill. I tried SO HARD to fix it last summer and I failed. So I am torn between wanting to just figure it out… and throwing up my hands and get a new grill. We earmarked the earnings from our garage sale this past fall for a new grill, so we could totally get a new one. I am just feeling stubborn. But I also NEED my grill in the summer. Maybe “need” is too strong a word. I DEEPLY APPRECIATE my grill.

Family

–      Eat dinner together twice a week. Eating together as a family is not something we do daily. It just doesn’t work for our family. But when we domanage to eat together, I enjoy it. And it gives me an opportunity to model to Carla the eating habits and manners that I want her to learn. If we can eat dinner together on Friday and Saturday, or Saturday and Sunday, that would be an improvement.

–      Do more weekend adventures. When Carla was three, we were really good at this. We took her skiing and ice skating and did something new and fun pretty much every weekend. We hadto – she was a bundle of energy and needed to be going going going all day. Now that she’s mellowed out a bit, we don’t feel the same urgency to get moving. Plus, my husband and I are introverts and homebodies so our default inclination is to stay at home. But I think we need to push ourselves more to get out and take advantage of all our city has to offer.

–      Go on a date night with my husband more often (every six weeks?). We are not good at date nights, but I really do find that they help me feel more connected to my husband. So I want to make them more of a priority.

Personal

–      Be more patient and less yell-y. Evergreen goal.

–      Host friends for dinner. I like the idea of having people over. I like the socializing and the community building and I even enjoy the cooking. But thinking about all of it is super daunting. So I want to get past that.

–      Buy new underwear. I am stealing this goal from Stephanie because I have been lamenting the state of my underwear drawer for a long time. So many pairs of undies have holes in them, or just aren’t comfortable or flattering. Some I know I purchased when I was pregnant with Carla, and many more are even older than that. So it’s time. I get irritated by how expensive underwear is, though, so it’s going to be a challenge to force myself to buy some – especially if I’m going to avoid the prone-to-holes Target options.

–      Read 40 books. I read 30 books this year and I want to see if I can do more in 2019. If I can truly give up my phone habit (and not replace it with TV), I think this will be easy to meet.

I know one of the reasons people don’t accomplish goals is that they are too ambitious… and maybe this list is a little ambitious. But they are aspirations, after all, not set-in-stone do-or-die musts. Anyway, let’s see how this goes!

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Our Christmas decorations have mostly been put away. The guest room and bathroom have been cleaned and all the laundry has been laundered. My husband and I have thoroughly organized our wrapping paper mess, I have cleaned out the shelving unit in the basement, and I have purchased new bins for Carla’s craft cabinet. Our home, if not the year ahead, is ready to be filled with great things. What better way to cap an excellent end to the year than with this annual bloggy tradition? (Autocorrect wanted to change “bloggy” to “bloody” which makes me giggle.)

And guess what, internet? This is the TENTH RECAP I’ve written in the history of this little blog! That seems like… something, right?

So settle in for… well, for more of the same, if you’ve been around for any of the previous recaps. However, just for a little change of pace, I have finally done away with all the questions that have irritated me for the past DECADE, so you have that to look forward to. (Don’t worry, I kept the original survey mostly intact, just with the offending questions struckthrough [strikedthrough? strikethroughed?] because I am nothing if not tethered to tradition.)

(Why don’t I just come up with some questions I WANT to answer? Would that be so hard, Self? NO, no it would not!) (And yet, will I come up with new questions? Probably not.) (Sheesh, I am so powerless to Tradition. This is the way I’ve always done it, therefore this is the way it should be done for all eternity!) (Also, am a teensy bit lazy.) (Do YOU have questions you want me to answer?)

(This yearly recap originated with Linda of All & SundryIf you’re so inclined, you can read past versions of my responses: 201720162015201420132012201120102009.)

And do post a link to your end-of-year round-up when you get a chance, will you?

  • What did you do in 2018 that you’d never done before?

Well, the only thing I can think of for this response is that we did our estate planning. Which isn’t a particularly exciting accomplishment, but I suppose it’s worthwhile. Oh! I also went to Alaska, which is quite possibly a Once In A Lifetime sort of a trip.

  • Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

Last year, I said:

I did NOT finish the novel. I did NOT find a way to speed up the process. In fact, I became mired deeply in the realization that this part of it is Slow Going. But [finishing the novel] is a good goal to put back on the list.

Also, I want to work on my patience, especially when it comes to my husband and my daughter. I want to work on exercising more regularly, because it greatly improves my mental health. I want to work on eating better. I want to read more.

I did NOT finish the novel in 2018. But I made some good progress, and I am plugging ahead. Maybe 2019 is The Year.

I think I made some good steps towards more patience, although I still have a long way to go. I definitely succeeded at exercising more regularly and eating better (well, for MOST of the year; there were a few months in there where I simply ate whatever I wanted in mass quantities). And I read the most books I have ever managed in a single year (31). That’s nothing compared to other people, but it’s a big one for me.

As for 2019, I have decided to make some very specific goals, which I hope means they are easier to accomplish.

  1. I want to learn German. Maybe not fluent German, which seems like quite a stretch. Especially for someone who took four years of high school French and another year in college and never actually learned more than basic vocabulary. But I want to learn enough that I don’t feel like a complete floundering oaf when I visit Munich and Vienna later this year.
  2. I want to finally, after seven plus years in this house, hang up the gallery wall that I’ve been planning to do. All of the photos and artwork exist, in frames, in my basement. The lovely blank wall is just sitting there, ready for decoration. I just need to DO IT.
  3. Last year, I lost 10+% of my body weight. And then gained it all back. I would like to do the former again without the latter.
  4. I want to cut back on the amount of time I spend on my phone. My Reach Goal is to put my phone in my bedroom when I arrive home with Carla after school and not touch it until I set my alarm before bed. But I’d be happy to just keep it out of my hands until she goes to bed.
  5. I want to invite friends over for dinner. I ENJOY this. But I always think about it and then never invite anyone over and they magically never invite themselves, so I am going to remedy that.

That seems like a good place to start. The bigger goals are in play, too – let’s not forget about patience and quality time and THE NOVEL. But throwing in a few specifics shouldn’t hurt.

  • Where did you travel this year? (This is my own interpretation of a question I could never answer which was How many countries did you visit this year?)

This year, I visited six states besides my own: Alaska, California, Florida, New Jersey, New York, and my home state out west.

  • What would you like to have in 2019 that you lacked in 2018?

I am a broken record about this, but A FULLY DRAFTED NOVEL.

  • What dates from 2018 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

I think I’m going to delete this one from future years’ surveys because I can rarely remember any specific dates. I mean, there was my tenth wedding anniversary, which is pretty special.  And my fifteenth college reunion was pretty cool. My kid turning five. My brother getting married. There were really great occurrences this year, but the specific dates aren’t really lodged in my brain, is what I’m saying.

  • What was your biggest achievement of the year?

I don’t think I have particularly BIG achievements. I was proud of the freelance work I completed. I made a photo/memory album for my mom’s seventieth birthday, which I felt great about (and which seemed well-received by my mom). I read more than 30 books (this is a LOT for me). Nothing earth shattering, though.

  • What was your biggest failure?

What I have said the past two years applies here:

Not getting enough words on the page each day! I can trot out a 7,000-word blog post of a morning, but I seem to spend hours and hours coming up with a measly 200 for my manuscript! What gives? If I can do it elsewhere, why can’t I blather and drivel my way through a first draft?

Also, I made some really great progress toward physical goals – more exercise, better/healthier eating habits – and then I erased my efforts by returning to lackluster exercising and lustful overeating, which I’d really worked to defeat. Well. Onward.

  • Did you suffer illness or injury?

Thankfully, nope.

  • What was the best thing you bought?

I have no idea. The Barbie Dreamhouse we got Carla for Christmas? That seems to be a big hit.

  • Whose behavior merited celebration?

Last year, I said:

Every year I think it’s the same, so maybe this question should go on the reject list.

So I am officially erasing this question.

  • Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
  • Where did most of your money go?
  • What did you get really, really, really excited about?

I think the most exciting things that happened this year were the big surprise birthday weekend my dad and aunts put on for my mom’s birthday and my college reunion. I got super excited about both of them, and both turned out to be even more fun than I’d anticipated.

  • What song(s) will always remind you of 2018?

“SoulMate” by Justin Timberlake

“God’s Plan” by Drake

“Feels Like Summer” by Childish Gambino

“Barbie Life in the Dreamhouse Theme Song” by someone who knows the true meaning of “earworm”

  • Compared to this time last year, are you:
  1. a) happier or sadder? 
  2. b) thinner or fatter? 
  3. c) richer or poorer? 
  • What do you wish you’d done more of?

Writing (evergreen item)!!! Keeping up with out-of-state friends. Doing fun things with Carla outside the house. Going on dates with my husband.

  • What do you wish you’d done less of?

Same as last year: Yelling. Looking at my phone. Looking at headlines and freaking out. Stressing about things I have no control over.

  • How did you spend Christmas?

Carla and my husband and I had a quiet Christmas just the three of us. We opened presents, Carla played with her new Barbies and Dreamhouse happily as my husband and I cooked dinner together. There was a tiny bit of leftover snow outside. Our tree was lovely. It was quiet and very very nice.

  • Did you fall in love in 2018?
  • What was your favorite (new) TV program?

Oh, how I love television!!! I re-watched the entire series of The Closer, which I absolutely adore. But this question is about NEW television. The Good Place is probably the top of the list, but I also really, really enjoyed How to Get Away with Murder, which I know came out many years ago but is brand new to me. I also watched Silicon Valley for the first time, which is a fun show. And I really enjoyed The Sinner as well. There are probably a lot more I should be remembering but I can’t think of any.

  • Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
  • What was the best book you read?

Best book of the year was The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne. It was lyrical and funny and heart-rending and I loved it so much.

A very close runner up would have to be The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher by Hilary Mantel, which was a perfect collection of short stories. The language was so beautifully crafted and the stories were so surprising and tightly drawn.

Then The North Water by Ian McGuire, which was on a subject I did not know I cared for (maritime disasters!) and the plot was lively, the language was vivid, and the whole thing was full of fascinating historical detail.

I also really enjoyed History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund, Conviction by Kelly Loy Gilbert,and The Line That Held Us by David Joy – each of which had a LOT to recommend it, from great plot to beautiful writing to thought provoking subject matter and complicated characters.

  • What did you want and get?

Freelance assignments from great clients. Really fun vacations. Wonderful new experiences – I mean, Alaska on its own was absolutely amazing. Lots of really fantastic quality time with my husband and Carla.

  • What did you want and not get?

Second verse, same as the first:

A finished first draft of my manuscript because I am SLOW. 

Also, the ability to overcome my desire to eat anything I want in mass quantities and instead find some way to consistently eat reasonable amounts of (mainly) healthful food.

  • What was your favorite film of this year?

Um. Did I see any movies? I remember really wanting to see The Big Sick and Crazy Rich Asiansbut I didn’t actually see either. My husband and I did take Carla to see The Grinch, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

  • What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
  • What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

Same as every year (don’t I ever PROGRESS as a person?!?!):

Being able to just LET GO and not freak out about EVERYTHING. 

And, of course, A FINISHED DRAFT OF THE NOVEL FOR THE LOVE.

  • How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2018?

I think I spent most of the year in skinny jeans and boots. That counts as a fashion “concept,” right?

  • What kept you sane?

My husband. Exercise. Books. Recipe blogs. Writing partners. Alone time. Good TV.

  • Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

Kristin Bell in The Good Place is my everything.

  • What political issue stirred you the most?
  • Who did you miss?

Same as last year:

I have had a lot of serious loneliness for some of my good friends who don’t live in my state. My best friend from forever, who lives two time zones away. My dear friend from medical school (not that she or I actually went to medical school; our husbands did) who has two beautiful daughters and a wonderful husband and who is, herself, fantastic. I wish they lived nearer. Some college friends I miss.

  • Who was the best new person you met?

I met a new mom this fall who is super smart and fun and engaging. I hope we hang out more in 2019. Also, my husband and I met another couple recently who seem super cool.

  • Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2018.

I took on a lot more freelance work in 2018 than I have since I started writing the novel, which had two results: 1. I had less time for my personal writing, which is Bad. 2. I had a greater sense of accomplishment and contribution to my household, which is Good. So… I guess my life lesson is that sometimes your desires and your needs are in direct conflict with one another, and you have to find a workable balance.

  • Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

Everyone’s excited / You’re always invited / To the Dreamhouse / Oh the Dreamhouse!

Happy New Year, Internet! I hope your 2019 is amazing!

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Welcome to the yearly recap! Which I am doing purely because Tradition and not because I want to!

Okay, and also for completeness. And also out of a sense of reciprocity, because I want to read YOUR recap. Link me to it in the comments, pretty please? I need some early 2018 reading.

(This yearly recap originated with Linda of All & Sundry. If you’re so inclined, you can read past versions of my responses: 20162015201420132012201120102009.) (Holy moly, I’ve been doing this nonsense a long time.)

  • What did you do in 2017 that you’d never done before?

This is one of the questions I am beginning to find tiresome about this recap. (You may recall that last year I began throwing out questions that irritated me. This hasn’t made the reject list… yet.) Perhaps if my life were full of Once In A Lifetime Events, it would be less so. Well. I shall keep it if ONLY because next year I will have something to add. (Don’t get too excited.)

Anyway. The thing I did this year that I’d never done before was attending a weeklong writers’ conference. It was amazing, packed full of valuable information, exhausting, and 100% worthwhile.

  • Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

Last year, I said:

This year, I am going to finish the novel. That’s my primary goal. It’s taking so much longer than I anticipated just to eke out a first draft. I need to find some way to speed up the process. Because the first draft is only the beginning.

Well shit.

I did NOT finish the novel. I did NOT find a way to speed up the process. In fact, I became mired deeply in the realization that this part of it is Slow Going. But it’s a good one to put back on the list.

Also, I want to work on my patience, especially when it comes to my husband and my daughter. I want to work on exercising more regularly, because it greatly improves my mental health. I want to work on eating better. I want to read more.

Oh look, I left on some of the questions that I refused to answer last year! Just so we can give them a smug glance and move on!

  • Did anyone close to you give birth?
  • Did anyone close to you die?
  • What countries did you visit?

Same as last every year: Not really a big year for travel.

This year, I visited five states besides my own: California, Florida, New York, Virginia, and my home state out west.

I can’t really imagine the answers changing in a big way anytime soon. I mean, I have some trips coming up… but nothing out of the country until 2019.

  • What would you like to have in 2018 that you lacked in 2017?

What I said last year:

Better ability to prioritize my time. A fully drafted novel. Making my time with Carla richer, somehow, rather than making a bunch of slipshod and ultimately frustrating attempts at “activities.”

Yes, let’s go with the first two once again for 2018. I think I succeeded, a lot, with the third. Carla and I spent a lot more time together in 2017 than we ever have before, and much of it was really  GREAT. We do a lot of activities – games and art projects and baking projects and walks and bike rides – together, we go to museums and playgrounds, we snuggle together, we read together. If only I could get the PATIENCE thing down, I think it would be about perfect.

Also. Deep breath. Listen, I have tried really hard over the past few years to be okay with my body. It is what it is. For the most part, I have been okay with it. But with the ever compounding effects of aging coupled with some recent weight gain, I now find myself in a not-so-great place with regards to my physical appearance. So I would like to find a way to balance the work I need to do to achieve (a semblance of) what I WANT against the sometimes-impossible-to-achieve desire to just be Zen about the state of my physical being and accept it for what it is.

  • What dates from 2017 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

This is kind of cheating, because it just happened, but December 29 because that’s when I learned that Sue Grafton passed away. She is an author whose work I have read for decades. And I admire her writing deeply, and love her primary character and her body of work. So I was really saddened when I found out she’d died.

  • What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Applying and being accepted to the writers’ conference.

  • What was your biggest failure?

Once again, what I said last year applies:

Not getting enough words on the page each day! I can trot out a 7,000-word blog post of a morning, but I seem to spend hours and hours coming up with a measly 200 for my manuscript! What gives? If I can do it elsewhere, why can’t I blather and drivel my way through a first draft?

Other failures abound!

As I mentioned before, attending the writing conference was hugely valuable… but I let it intimidate me. And that was a huge failure. Instead of digging in and doing the work, I shrank away from it and didn’t write for… many weeks. Once I got back into it, I think my writing has been stronger and more purposeful. But I am ashamed of myself for being so naïve about the process and then letting the revelation that This Isn’t Easy throw me for such a loop.

As if THAT wasn’t enough of a failure… I even blogged less than I did in 2016. So I don’t really know what’s going on. I am kicking the writing into HIGH GEAR in 2018, that’s for damn sure.

  • Did you suffer illness or injury?

In early September, I caught a cold. And it stuck around through all of September and then morphed into an atypical pneumonia in October. I finally kicked it in early November, but man. Being tired and unable to exercise for nearly two months was ROUGH. So, nothing serious (thank goodness) but it was annoying enough to be really memorable.

  • What was the best thing you bought?

I have no idea. My husband and I got each other a new mattress for Christmas, but the jury is still out on whether it’s better than our old mattress. I got a new coat that I like, and a new hat and scarf that I think are adorable.

  • Whose behavior merited celebration?

Every year I think it’s the same, so maybe this question should go on the reject list:

This goes 100% to my husband. He is a rockstar. I can’t even express all the ways he’s shown up this year without drowning my keyboard in tears, so let’s move on. 

  • Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

As I said last year:

I mean do you really have to ask, non-sentient Survey created years ago with no knowledge of our current times? I think I’m going to cross this one out because it makes me sad and bewildered and fearful and shaky.

  • Where did most of your money go?
  • What did you get really, really, really excited about?

The past couple of years, my answer has been about Carla and the holidays. And it just keeps getting better and better! She gets SO excited about everything! But she is also getting old enough to really think about the holidays and look forward to them. She was interested in Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, and we went to Temple together. She was excited about Hanukkah and even lit the menorah all by herself (with close parental supervision, of course). She was excited about Christmas and had a blast picking out presents for her family and wrapping them herself, making Christmas cookies and chocolates, decorating the tree, and everything before, after, and in between. So much fun!

I also got really excited about the writing conference. It was a huge step outside my comfort zone, and I’m really glad I did it.

  • What song(s) will always remind you of 2017?

Carla has become OBSESSED with Taylor Swift. We listen to 1989 all the time in the car and she can sing most of the songs word for word. Her favorite is “Wildest Dreams.” I also think of “Despacito” when I think of this year, because it was on the radio a lot and because Carla really enjoyed it. There are others that I am not remembering because I am tired.

  • Compared to this time last year, are you:
  1. a) happier or sadder?
  2. b) thinner or fatter?
  3. c) richer or poorer?

This is a question I don’t care to answer anymore, I think. Are these really the benchmarks by which I want to measure the year? No, no I don’t think so. IRRITATED SCOWLING.

  • What do you wish you’d done more of?

Writing. (Always.) Reading. Prioritizing my time better. Exercising.

  • What do you wish you’d done less of?

Yelling. Looking at my phone. Looking at headlines and freaking out. Stressing about things I have no control over.

  • How did you spend Christmas?

Here at home, with my husband and Carla, and my parents. It was lovely and fun. We had snow. We had delicious food – my dad made a roast, my mom made a pie. We made chocolates – including three batches of caramel (two of which became caramel sauce rather than candies – very happy mistakes indeed). We played lots of games. We drank lots of wine. We watched lots of movies (Elf still makes me cry. Which makes me feel stupid. But man, there’s just something so TOUCHING about all those people singing Christmas carols together and believing in Santa!) It was relaxing and warm and delightful.

  • Did you fall in love in 2017?

Ugh. REJECT. Every year this one makes me gag a little. Let’s just say for the foreseeable future it will always be my husband, my daughter, or both of them.

  • What was your favorite (new) TV program?

Oh, how I love television!!! Mindhunter was good. So was Ozark. I enjoyed The Fall, even though it wasn’t my husband’s favorite. Big Little Lies was amazing and I wish I could watch it again for the first time. Dark was pretty excellent. Major Crimes is in its last season, and I am sad about that, because I have loved the cast and the format since the early days of The Closer. I also loved the latest seasons of The Americans, Fargo, Game of Thrones, The Great British Baking CompetitionShark TankBlack-ishFresh Off the BoatThe Middle, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Master of None and Catastrophe. God, I love TV.

  • Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

I can’t even. This question has got to go.

  • What was the best book you read?

Last November I fell into a Sue Grafton wormhole and started reading my way through her Kinsey Millhone series (again). In February – Q Is for Quarry, to be exact – I grew weary of the project. But after reading her newest (and final) book Y Is for Yesterday this past October, I had a renewed desire to finish. So I have V and W left to go. And now I own the entire series.

Okay, that entire paragraph had nothing to do with the question. The best book, I think, is a three-way tie between Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere, Joe Ide’s IQ, and Justin Cronin’s The Passage. All were excellent, and I still think about them. They were high points in an otherwise dreary year, reading-wise. I don’t know what my problem is. It’s not lack of good reading material, that’s for sure. I just have been in a Reading Funk. Oh well. It happens, I guess.

  • What did you want and get?

For Christmas: Some survivalist tools. A new painting by my mother. A white Christmas. A new mattress. A cozy sweater that I kept seeing on every gift guide ever. Books: a new one I’ve been eyeing and another I haven’t. Cozy socks.

In general: Acceptance to the writing conference. Lots of really great quality time with my husband and Carla. More confidence as a (part-time) stay-at-home-mom.

  • What did you want and not get?

Second verse, same as the first:

A finished first draft of my manuscript because I am SLOW.

  • What was your favorite film of this year?

I don’t watch many movies, so I am squinting really hard trying to remember ANY besides Moana. Which was, hands down, the best movie I’ve seen all year. So. Good. Carla and I both cried in the theater when watching it for the first time, and again when we watched it at home many weeks later.

  • What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
  • What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

Same as every year (don’t I ever PROGRESS as a person?!?!):

Being able to just LET GO and not freak out about EVERYTHING.

  • How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2017?

Um, trying to stay on trend enough to not feel like a Total Loser around the other moms at dropoff without giving in to Being Trendy or spending a million bucks? Does that count as a personal fashion concept?

  • What kept you sane?

My husband. Exercise. Mom friends. Being able to write every day most days.

  • Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

I have big writer crushes on Louise Erdrich, Celeste Ng, and the late Sue Grafton.

  • What political issue stirred you the most?
  • Who did you miss?

I have had a lot of serious loneliness for some of my good friends who don’t live in my state. My best friend from forever, who lives two time zones away. My dear friend from medical school (not that she or I actually went to medical school; our husbands did) who has two beautiful daughters and a wonderful husband and who is, herself, fantastic. I wish they lived nearer. Some college friends I miss.

  • Who was the best new person you met?

I have made a few new friends through Carla! Some are still in the very early stages, others are moving right along. I haven’t found a Best Friend yet, but that’s okay.

  • Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2017.

Same as last year because I find myself amusing:

Write it down, don’t write it right, for the love of all that is holey.

  • Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

(I don’t know if the following makes sense as a lyric or as the answer to this question, but it’s in my head, so I’m going with it.)

Will you remember me / standing in a nice dress / staring at the sunset babe.

Red lips and rosy cheeks / Say you’ll see me again / even if it’s just in your

Wildest dreams.

Happy New Year, Internet! I hope 2018 goes a hell of a lot better than 2017!

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I am dreading this recap this year, for some reason. Yet I am still doing it because TRADITION. I think I may start liberally tossing questions out the window. So BE PREPARED FOR THAT.

(This yearly recap originated with Linda of All & Sundry. If you’re so inclined, you can read past versions of my responses: 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009.)

Oh! And if YOU do this yearly recap, always or for the first time this year, send me a link in the comments won’t you? I love reading these.

  • What did you do in 2016 that you’d never done before?

I quit my job to write a novel. (Which I have not yet completed, BLARGH.) (Prediction: I sense that the topic of the previous parenthetical may reappear below.)

  • Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

Last year, I said:

This year, I want to prioritize my husband, quality time with my kid, balance in my life… and I also want to really work on personal fulfillment. That sounds… vague and a little frou-frou and a lot privileged, but I think it will honestly help with the first three priorities. At least, I hope so. And I’m going to try.

I do think I have made solid steps on all fronts, and I attribute all progress to leaving my job at the end of March. I feel very fortunate that I have this little pocket of time during which I can be part-time novelist/part-time stay-at-home-mom. The reduction in stress has helped me be more present with my husband and daughter, and helped me really focus on contributing to my family in new ways. It has not been easy, for me, to give up on being a financial contributor. That has altered the identity I always felt I had, and it has been a challenge to adapt. But I do think I’m contributing in new and different ways, or at least contributing more in areas where I wasn’t before.

This year, I am going to finish the novel. That’s my primary goal. It’s taking so much longer than I anticipated just to eke out a first draft. I need to find some way to speed up the process. Because the first draft is only the beginning.

  • Did anyone close to you give birth?
  • Did anyone close to you die?
  • What countries did you visit?

Same as last year: Not really a big year for travel. I visited three states besides my own: Illinois, Florida, and my home state. All with Carla.

I can’t really imagine the answers changing in a big way anytime soon.

  • What would you like to have in 2017 that you lacked in 2016?

Better ability to prioritize my time. A fully drafted novel. Making my time with Carla richer, somehow, rather than making a bunch of slipshod and ultimately frustrating attempts at “activities.”

  • What dates from 2016 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

March 31, which was my last day of working in the office.

  • What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Taking a leap of faith and quitting my office job. (OMG, broken record much?)

  • What was your biggest failure?

Not getting enough words on the page each day! I can trot out a 7,000-word blog post of a morning, but I seem to spend hours and hours coming up with a measly 200 for my manuscript! What gives? If I can do it elsewhere, why can’t I blather and drivel my way through a first draft?

  • Did you suffer illness or injury?

I am currently enjoying a bout of asthmatic bronchitis, which is super fun. Other than that, nothing too crazy.

  • What was the best thing you bought?

Scrivener!!! It is a tool for writers and I loooooooove it.

  • Whose behavior merited celebration?

This goes 100% to my husband. He is a rockstar. I can’t even express all the ways he’s shown up this year without drowning my keyboard in tears, so let’s move on.

  • Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

I mean do you really have to ask, non-sentient Survey created years ago with no knowledge of our current times? I think I’m going to cross this one out because it makes me sad and bewildered and fearful and shaky.

  • Where did most of your money go?

This question sucks. I really want to say something fun like “a new ski lodge in Aspen!” or “a twelve-week trek around Europe!” I guess I could say my potential earnings went toward financing my lifelong dream but that makes me feel dizzy and sick to my stomach so MOVING ON.

  • What did you get really, really, really excited about?

Last year I said: The holidays this year. Carla is so excited about EVERYTHING, and it is so fun to see that.

As with last year, I didn’t even KNOW what excited was! She has been super over the moon about everything. And she gets stuff now. Like, she understood the little countdown-to-Christmas calendar I put in her room, and the last couple of days she switched the numbers all by herself before I even got to her room. She has been really gung-ho about Hanukkah, and has helped her dad light the menorah and say the prayers. She loved decorating the tree and every night for a week she would pick up a present that she knew was for her and squeeze it and hop up and down and say, “It’s so HARD to WAIT until Christmas to open my present!” I mean, a tree full of presents and she didn’t realize most of them were for her, and yet she got So Worked Up about this one tiny thing. She loved all the holiday books I pull out each year, and expressed interest in Santa and Baby Jesus and the Maccabees alike. She loved the stockings, and asked questions about how Santa could do such and such. She loved painting ornaments for her grandparents. She loved collecting the Amazon boxes from the front stoop and putting them in the guest room to await her grandmother’s arrival. She loved singing Christmas carols. Everything this year was just SO. MUCH. FUN. I hope we have at least a couple more years of this pure, unadulterated joy in the season. It’s a mood lifter for sure, and helps make all those I-want-them-to-be-fun-and-meaningful-but-are-really-kind-of-tedious projects seem worthwhile and enjoyable.

  • What song(s) will always remind you of 2016?

I have to say the Frozen soundtrack. Carla hadn’t seen a movie in her entire life until Christmas 2015, and once we started we couldn’t stop. As toddlers are wont to do, she fell in love with Frozen and we have watched it eleventy billion times. PLUS we bought the Frozen soundtrack (we call it “Carly Songs”) on CD (yes, I still use CDs in my car) and we have listened to THAT at least seventy gazillion times. Also: Justin Beiber’s “Sorry” and “Let Me Love You” by DJ Snake featuring The Beibs. “Waves” by Miguel (the Kacey Musgraves version). “One Dance” by Drake. Carla does a mean dance move to Drake, and sings along very sweetly to “Let Me Love You” and “Waves.” Also also, on the classical front, I have grown very attached to Chopin’s Nocturne Op. 9 No. 2. I have some fantasy that I will learn to play it. (HA.)

  • Compared to this time last year, are you:
  1. a) happier or sadder? Happier but more fearful about the future, I think?
  2. b) thinner or fatter? Fatter. Which kind of sucks because I lost 12 pounds after I left my job. I have since gained it back. But I kind of hate this question because I just do. I am scowling at it.
  3. c) richer or poorer? I am skipping this question because math.

This is a question I don’t care to answer anymore, I think. Are these really the benchmarks by which I want to measure the year? No, no I don’t think so. MORE SCOWLING.

  • What do you wish you’d done more of?

Writing. (Always.) Submitting my work for publication. Figuring out a better time management system.

  • What do you wish you’d done less of?

Worrying. Yelling. Procrastinating. Writing poor-quality apocalyptic poetry. Wasting time on my phone. Feeling too hot or too cold; that’s really annoying when the house maintains a stable temperature.

  • How did you spend Christmas?

Here at home, with my husband and Carla, and my husband’s parents. It was lovely and fun. Also lovely and fun was adding my sister and niece the day after Christmas, but that amped up the freneticism by several degrees. How does adding ONE additional child to the mix make things exponentially more crazy?

  • Did you fall in love in 2016?

Ugh. Every year this one makes me gag a little, but I definitely fell more in love with my husband. He has been supportive of me and my dreams in a way that shatters me. I hope I make him feel even half as loved and understood and… seen as he makes me feel.

And, as we allow the tears to dry a bit, I fall newly in love with Carla with each new stage in her life. Three has been challenging, but it has also been utterly delightful as she becomes more independent and imaginative and curious and affectionate and funny and fun and inquisitive. I just adore her.

  • What was your favorite (new) TV program?

What a year for TV! Standouts from the year include the OJ Simpson mini-series, The Night Of, Westward, and the Gilmore Girls revival (even though I hated GG as much as I loved it – many flaws, no?). I also loved the latest seasons of The Americans, The Great British Baking Competition, Shark Tank, Black-ish, Fresh Off the Boat, The Middle, and Brooklyn Nine-Nine. What can I say? I like feel-good shows to balance out the gritty stuff slash real life. Oh! And two series my husband and I watched and loved that were new to us this year were Master of None and Catastrophe. God, I love TV.

  • Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

I can’t even. This question has got to go.

  • What was the best book you read?

I READ SO MANY BOOKS THIS YEAR! Contenders for best book include A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara, The Round House by Louise Erdrich, All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng, and A Doubter’s Almanac by Ethan Canin. There have been others, but those are the standouts. For me, all had great stories with interesting, well-rounded characters, and truly beautiful language that enriched the story without getting in the way. Then sometime in November I fell into a Sue Grafton wormhole and have been reading my way through her Kinsey Millhone series (again) because it’s fun.

  • What did you want and get?

A chance to write a book. More time with my daughter. More time to exercise. More time in general, I guess. Less stress. And also this gorgeous green coat from Boden that unfortunately didn’t fit so BOO to that. My hips are not British enough, it seems. Oh! And I got the sheet music for Chopin’s Nocturne Op. 9 No. 2, and have been painstakingly picking out the right hand notes. That’s really all I’ve managed.

  • What did you want and not get?

A finished first draft of my manuscript because I am SLOW.

  • What was your favorite film of this year?

Let’s see. My husband and I took a break from watching TV to watch all of the Daniel Craig James Bond movies. That was fun, but I wasn’t as… enamored of the most recent (last?) film as I was of the earlier ones. (To be fair, Daniel Craig seemed less enamored of it as well.) Did I watch anything else? Of the (many) kids’ movies I’ve seen this year, Brave is my favorite, followed by Wall-E and then probably a tie between Tangled and Frozen. I did not care for Zootopia, and Robin Hood – a childhood favorite – sadly did not live up to my memory version. (Robin Hood himself is still by far the foxiest cartoon I’ve ever encountered, though. No pun intended.)

EDITED TO ADD: My husband and I watched Sicario just last night, right under the 2016 wire, and it was really well done. Dark and disturbing but a heart-thumping, thought provoking film.

  • What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I turned 35 this year, and I can’t really remember what I did. Which is a pattern at least a few years running, so I am getting rid of this question.

  • What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

Same as every year (don’t I ever PROGRESS as a person?!?!):

Being able to just LET GO and not freak out about EVERYTHING.

  • How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2016?

Same as last year: I have full-on embraced the leggings-as-pants “style” that I used to disdain. COMFORT IS KEY. In your face, Past Me!

Also, this year I started doing Fabletics (I joined Fabletics? I am not sure of the proper verbiage here. It’s just a subscription service in the vein of Stitch Fix. Sort of. Third cousins.), and so have added some very cute workout ensembles to my wardrobe, which means that sometimes I switch up my leggings with legging-like yoga pants. You can spot the difference because I wear tennis shoes with the yoga pants version.

  • What kept you sane?

My husband. Exercise. Being able to write every day most days.

  • Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

I adore Rob Delaney and Sharon Horgan of Catastrophe. The characters they play are adorable and funny and in-your-face in a way I find charming. Sterling K. Brown. Constance Wu (her and her character as Jessica Huang on Fresh Off the Boat) because she seems fearless and take-no-prisoners and also is hilarious and beautiful and talented. Kelly Bishop as Emily Gilmore. Okay, so maybe these are primarily TV CHARACTERS and not necessarily the actors themselves but whatever.

  • What political issue stirred you the most?

Nope. NOPE. Not even going to. CUT.

  • Who did you miss?

Same as last year, although – shocker – blogging more frequently myself has helped a teeny bit: I guess I most missed the bloggers I used to interact with regularly, back when I blogged frequently and they blogged frequently. I suppose I should figure out a way to do Twitter (which makes me uncomfortable for some reason).

  • Who was the best new person you met?

As last year, I don’t know that I met many new people this year. AM A HERMIT. Oh wait, that’s not true. I have made a couple of (tentative strides toward making) mom friends through Carla’s new school.

  • Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2016.

Write it down, don’t write it right, for the love of all that is holey.

  • Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

(I don’t know if the following makes sense as a lyric or as the answer to this question, but it’s in my head, so I’m going with it.)

Don’t you give up, nah nah nah / Never give up, nah nah nah / Let me love you.

Happy New Year, Internet! I hope 2017 goes a hell of a lot better than we fear!

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