after the break

october is my favorite month - and our busiest month. those two things fight with each other annually, so this year i decided to consciously, intentionally take in as much of those 31 days as i could. no blogging, just being in the days and the moments.

and there were some good moments.

at the beginning of the month, i started an eight-week writing workshop at modernwell in minneapolis, led by new york times bestselling author marya hornbacher. it's been so good to sit in a room of smart, creative women to talk about writing, encourage each other, learn from someone who has been there and has a clear, strong voice to share. the prompts and challenges have re-lit a fire in me, and i've been producing work for the first time in way too long.


elizabeth finally went pink, and loves it so, so much.



and her sweetie-pie bestfriend boyfriend showed up with pink flowers to celebrate.


we decided a week before my parents visited for the first time in two years that it was the perfect time to deconstruct the basement guest room and redo it. bad judgment on our part, as always. someday we will learn.


we took a quick road trip to iowa to cheer on our firstborn at a swim meet.


and then went right back to working on the guest room.


marc and i celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary by doing something i've wanted to do since, literally, the day we got married:

had taken the couple photos we should have gotten on our wedding day, but World's Worst Wedding Photographer failed to do.



oh ... and we also went out for french food at my favorite restaurant, st genevieve. that was good, too.


i ran out of paint - twice - while trying to get the guest room done. a day before my parents arrived, i gave up, moved the furniture back in, and left one whole wall taped up and in need of a second coat.


my parents arrived and we had a great, fast two days with them, going to market bbq, which my mom saw on food tv and requested (and we ate outside at a picnic table on a 45 degree day because it was take-out only), the immersive van gogh experience, took a walk on the trail by our house, played games, and just hung out to enjoy the company.








elizabeth made a kick-ass drawing for class ...


i said, "see ya never again" to my 50th pound ...


and the world looked gorgeous.


i took elizabeth to her first concert - courtship and dayglow at first ave, the iconic minneapolis venue.



later that week, henry came home to surprise marc for his birthday, and of course our first stop was sushi.


on marc's birthday, we took him to ifly to do some indoor skydiving.


then went out for lobster rolls.

that night, eliz went to a dungeons & dragons "dress as your character" halloween party, dressed as a plant magic druid on vacation.



and the next day, halloween, marc and i went to a party of our own. the theme was "swords & sorcery," so naturally, jon snow and melisandre seemed appropriate.


and that was it. october was over. nearly on cue, the leaves fell off the trees on november 1st, and we woke to frost.


i truly don't know where 2021 has gone. as long as 2020 felt, this year has made up for it by going warp speed.

now we will look forward to the upcoming holidays, pulling out twinkle lights and christmas decorations, having henry home for longer visits, and cozying up for the cold months.

truth is, the coming months are my favorite, too. bring on the cozying, i say.



the big year

when the ball dropped on 2021 in january, my first thought was, "this is the year we get rid of trump!" immediately followed by, "my kids turn 21 and 16 this year." yikes. then i did the math and realized that we will also celebrate our 25th anniversary in october.

wha ... ?? how?!

where does time go? and i ask that in the literal sense ... where?? does it go???

we were just here ...


having fun, making out, semi-serious about Forever.

then he graduated. and bought a ring. and i said yes. then i graduated. then we did the thing ...


three months after we got married, we moved to minneapolis in a blizzard. a year and a half later, we bought a little blue fixer upper ...

Photo2 10-1-96 1_12 AM

and things were great. we were chugging right along, living our lives, then BAM.


and ... that was unexpected.

marc was swamped with prepping for y2k at work, i was working in publishing while growing a child, life still felt normal. then the new millenium dawned, henry arrived nearly two weeks early, and we've been at warp speed ever since.

(and yeah ... my swimmer was practically born in a speedo.)


five years went by in a blur, we moved to the 'burbs, had another baby ...


and then WHAM.


this year, baby boy turned old enough to order a beer with me and start his last year of undergrad ...


and baby girl started her junior year of high school ...


and in a few weeks, we will hit the silver anniversary.

just ... stop it, time!

remember when you were a kid, and your parents and your friends' parents had their 25th anniversary? and they seemed SO middle aged??

why don't i feel middle aged? i certainly don't feel like an ADULT. 47 is not as old as it used to be, right?

it can't be. (and ... did our parents also feel like they couldn't possibly be middle aged? we never saw it, because to us, parents were just old. that was just fact.)

as i sit here, i'm listening to nirvana, marc is across the street shooting baskets ... it feels like any minute we're going to meet at the dining commons for dinner. but we aren't; we aren't 21 anymore. instead, we're going to make tacos and probably be in bed by 10. because we're exhausted by friday. and eliz has to be at work at 10 a.m. ... and i think we will probably go to the farmer's market for veggies and maybe some kielbasa from the meat guy.

and that's how time jumbles in my head. i feel simultaneously 21 and 47, and have no clue where the intervening 26 years have gone.

i truly hope it slows down one of these days; in the immortal words of ferris beuller,

“life moves pretty fast. if you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

smart man, ferris. who, by the way, is obviously still 17, not 52. 


in the company of women

there are two years left - officially - of my time as a mom-on-call, and then i will be free to fly into the next phase of my life. my husband often says, "when you go back to work ..." and i'm left to wonder what, exactly, he means.

we still have 14 years until retirement age, so i know i can't and won't and don't want to just be home anymore. i have talents and skills that it would be nice to utilize. i also, though, have a 20+ year gap on my résumé. how do you sell skills you haven't used since the turn of the century? it seems like every writing job i look at also wants social media experience, and i don't snap, tweet, or tik tok. i haven't used editing marks since my stomach was flat. i am rusty and out-of-date and my brain isn't what it used to be. maybe i try to grow the photography business again? but i hated the business side. i love the creating, and the making people happy part, but when it comes to selling ... ? pfft. terrible.

and also, we are finally at a place where we can take off without any worries about what to do with a kid. what if marc resumes his crazy travel schedule, post-covid, for work and i want to join him in seattle ... toronto ... boston? do i ask some  twentysomething for days off?

so i know i don't want a job just to have a job. that sounds privileged and bratty, but i feel how i feel. i've had jobs over the years, and they're fine, but it would be nice to do something a little more meaningful with my remaining good years. i would love to volunteer in various capacities, but that doesn't add to the 401k, so i'm not sure i would have much support for that idea from the peanut gallery. go back to school? maybe. but if i've learned one thing from years of reading about women making their dreams come true, most often what it takes is passion, talent, gumption, and courage ... not a degree.

here's the thing - and it came to me while bingeing three different series:

i want to work in collaboration with smart, creative, supportive women. i don't think i even care what the job is, it would just be really nice to work alongside a community of female energy and inspiration.

the universe and i have had a talk about this; the desire has been communicated.

this epiphany hit me after devouring every episode of "the lost kitchen," "growing floret," and "zoë bakes." all of these showcase a woman with a talent and an itch to do something with it, who finds a way to plant that metaphorical seed (or a literal seed, in the case of erin benzakein) and grow it into something amazing, collecting a tribe of women along the way to make it happen. both erin french and benzakein have built a small army of enthusiastic and brilliant women who are able to find and utilize their strengths to benefit the whole.

i want to be a cog in a wheel like that.

i want to work with creatives, with people who have passion and want to assemble other minds and hands to bring that passion to life. at the very least, i want to work alongside those people if it will push and inspire and light me up, too.

to that end, i closed my eyes and hit "go" on the registration for an eight-week writing course that starts in october at a local women-only cooperative, modernwell, located here in minneapolis. i've long been curious about this place and what it offers, and am finally in a place where i can reclaim my time and life and make it happen. i've also been pondering taking some classes through daily om ... does anyone have any experience with those? there is a hole somewhere in my soul that's been lying dark and ignored, but felt, for as long as i can remember. it's time to shine a light on it and try to fill it. and if it's possible to gather a collective in the process, all the better.

my dream is to write, and marc and i talk about heading into the empty nest years with plans to live one month a year somewhere new; rather than finding a place to move in retirement, we will instead learn a new area and experience life there, four weeks at a time. he can work remotely and, in this dream, i would soak in the energy and inspiration, and write while he is doing his day job. there's an idea, a proposal, in there that i need to roll around and tighten. but i think it will all start with putting myself out there to find that collaborative female energy, to join its fire and embrace. i can't keep turning to my husband with all of my concerns and doubts and ideas; guys are "fixers," they want to give you a plan and pat themselves on the back for saving the day. i don't want or need that; i need a tribe.

we'll see if the universe is listening.

the art of lighting the match

a couple of years ago, i started to hear a new term thrown around: the enneagram. like the myers-briggs designation for personality, but the enneagram shows you more who you are within your self rather than in the world. as i saw it explained somewhere, the myers-briggs is nature, and the enneagram is nurture.

after taking the enneagram test and discovering i'm a type four with a five wing, i did further reading on the topic and it all fits ... a little too neatly sometimes. i began to delve into my type and discovered that we are the most comfortable in and within our own pain and sadness. we embrace our trauma and let it roll through our life. then i saw a chart that lined up enneagrams with their most likely myers-briggs countertype, and yup ... there it was: injf.

it made me wonder: how much of our personality is determined by birth, and how much by circumstance? if the m-b is "nature," then wasn't i predisposed to my enneagram 4w5? what if i had zero trauma in my life ... would i still be a 4w5? would i still exhibit its traits if my childhood had been happy and well-adjusted and full of only good things? (full disclosure: it was not.)

when my daughter was younger, she wanted to take the myers-briggs, but read that it really wasn't accurate until after the age of 13. which makes sense; what you go through is in the dna of who you turn out to be. but who you are is who you are, right? and what about your life experiences ... what they do to you and your personality and how you are in the world can also be dealt with and undone, to some extent, can't it?

is this stuff all just hooey? (my son - an estj and likely type 8 - would say, yes ... hooey, all. any good estj would agree.)

i saw this today, and it got my brain working on all these thoughts ...


and that didn't fully click with me.

i quit. i'm a quitter. and not only will i quit anything, everything, and everyone who makes that space of jeopardy in my soul, i will burn down the mothereffing bridge so i can't ever return. it is self-care, in a way, but i can't say i do it because i value peace. i do it because i value my sense of self-preservation. though, ultimately, i harbor regrets and wonder if i was rash - or cowardly - to make such a move.

which, if you know anything about infjs, is what we like to call "the infj door slam."

the what now?

Why INFJs Slam the Door

INFJs slam the door when they have been deeply wounded. They slam the door when they can no longer tolerate a person’s toxicity. They do it to protect themselves from further hurt.

If the door has been slammed on you, it’s because the INFJ saw no other way of stopping the emotional pain you were causing them. You may not have meant to cause the pain, but nevertheless, it’s there. People of the INFJ personality are generally quite sensitive to the words and actions of others. More so than some other personality types, they need harmony, strong emotional support, and a healthy give-and-take in their relationships to thrive.

They tend to be patient and forgiving of others’ shortcomings, but even INFJs have their breaking point. When an unhealthy relationship becomes draining and damaging, the INFJ must remove it to save their sanity. Usually the door is slammed only as a last resort.


ahh. right. explains why i've ghosted the vast majority of friendships, and more than a few relationships, in my life. "i'll leave you before you leave me. which you will."

and, truly, type 4s are fairly obsessive in their need to "get" why they are the way they are, to delve into their identity to figure out why they hurt, why they're lonely, why why why ...

it's exhausting, and it would be so much nicer to be another number. any number, really.

but i get it now. i'm fully in touch with the sadness in life. i'm fully conversant in catastrophizing. and i will slam that door so fast in order to self-preserve and self-care myself into a lonely little box where there's nothing left to hurt me.

god, that's depressing.

but it also segues into that growing need for community that i mentioned the other day.

more on that tomorrow.

today, i'm going to contemplate whether it's logical or fatalistic to say, "it's just who i am, and that's that" every time i wonder why people seem to disappear from my life. when i start to light that bridge on fire, i can't wonder why no one is making the effort to jump the flames to save me.

it's probably my fault for always having matches in my pocket.

what i've done in the past five months

trying this again - 30 days of blogging my thoughts, creative pursuits, connecting with other thinkers and dreamers and makers and doers.

it was much needed, that push the challenge gave me back in april. while i didn't hit the "every day for 30 days" goal, i DID produce, think, write, make ... and it felt good. and there was such a lovely community of people who inspired me and showed me the connections that are in the world if we make the effort to find them. and then april ended, i let life invade and take over, i stopped thinking about how to use my creative drive, and i stopped nurturing my place in the community. and ties to community are threads of thought on which i've been pulling a lot over the past six months or so.

but, to build a bridge over the hiatus: a recap of the long, hot, dry, deflating, defeating, but ultimately reinvigorating, summer.

may brought the beginning of my flowers springing to life. that usually fills me with joy, and i eagerly pluck weeds and watch the hummingbirds and enjoy the beauty. this year? meh. it was fine.



at the end of may, we drove to indiana for my husband's sister's wedding, and a quick 48 hours with both his family and mine for the first time since pre-covid, which was wonderful. however, i was so filled with disappointment in how much i've ignored my self, my body, my well being, my needs for the past 20 years, that the day before we left, i called a friend who is a nutrition coach, and said, "sign me up." it was time; i had been sitting on the rock at the bottom, and was so fucking over it.

june brought the peonies ... a week that thrills me like no other ... and this year i barely noticed.



it also saw my daughter heading off to her first job, me schlepping her to and from because she still doesn't have her license. it also became the starting gun of my marathon into the selfish necessary land of self-care. my mental, physical, and emotional tanks were literally running on empty.



we also finally finished (mostly) the guest room that's been in progress since freaking december. i'll get that formally wrapped up this month and will share, because it's so super cute.



july was hot. relentlessly. and without rain. also relentlessly. where i had already been parched for energy and enthusiasm, the weather just added to my ennui. it was nearly impossible to want to go outside and join any sort of life outside this box we've been stuck in since march 2020.

however, marc's parents visited, which was lovely; elizabeth's best friend visited from arizona, which was lovely; and we drove to sioux falls for a day to see our boy, which was lovely.




and i lost weight. which hadn't happened in, literally more than a decade. and suddenly the sacrifices i was making and energy i was exerting felt worthwhile, for the first time in a long time.

august came in even hotter, even drier, but i started to force myself back into life, which helped my mental health tremendously.

i had a six-hour brunch with dear friends who have been my quarterly brunch crew since our boys were in elementary school; we hadn't gotten together in two years, and it was way overdue. after leaving the "brunch," i drove straight to a going-away happy hour for another friend, which turned into four hours of drinks and laughter and women supporting women on a patio. the day left me exhausted, but filled up, and reminded me that i do need people in my life. and i do crave community, no matter how much i protest and argue otherwise.

the next week, marc and i had dinner with lovely friends, and made plans to meet up again this month. we both realized that socializing is a balm to a wound we didn't know we had.

at the end of the month, in anticipation of the first day of school, elizabeth and i went on an outing to the tattoo & piercing place to get our respective cartilage pierced. a few days later, she went blonde, in preparation for going pink in six weeks.




we also finally - and by "finally" i mean "this project has been on my to do list for literally years." - gave our main bathroom a lovely glow-up. i'll share that, too, as it reaches completion. (lights should be here in two or three weeks.)




and now it's september first. it's time to get back at it, and i have a game plan, a list of lists, and a new planner, all ready to go.

and that thread on needing community? i'm taking a step toward it. the universe and i have had a conversation. that's something i'll share this month.

here we go, all.

bucket list

i fell off the blogging wagon. it was meant to happen at some point.

not quite sure where the last six days have gone, but it feels like a blur. i haven't been crafty or creative, no big thoughts in my head ... i did ignore life to read a book in one day, and that felt delicious. henry has called a few times just to chat, which is always a joy. i'm back in physical therapy for a 30-year-old shoulder injury from my swimming days; that's fun.

but really, not much to talk about.

however, my brain has been drifting often, lately, to the What Comes Next dreaming. the bucket list, if you will. i may as well put that list here, for accountability and motivation ... and something to write about, when nothing else of interest comes to mind.

in no particular order ... here we go:

1. live abroad


after obsessively bingeing "mediterranean life" and devouring "stanley tucci searching for italy," i have decided that i absolutely HAVE to live abroad at some point, for at least a year. and it needs to be in a place with a slow pace of life, fantastic views and places to explore, simple and fresh foods. and serious bonus points if an ocean view and bougainvillea are involved. i'm leaning hard toward andalucia, spain.


2. see everything


one benefit of living abroad for at least a year, especially if we're somewhere in europe, is the ease of travel around that part of the world. i want to see it all, but REALLY see it. not just the touristy highlights, but the small towns, the little fishing villages, that tucked away spot with the best food, the most gorgeous view that no one knows about except the locals.

we also have a dream plan to live in a place for a month, once a year. try on new parts of the country and world, one month a year at a time, until we feel like we either have it out of our system, or find where we want to land permanently. currently, my short-list includes seattle, nantucket, maine, tulum, cornwall. pretty sure marc's list would include mountains, deserts, and ultra-modern glass and cement boxes in the woods. (the idea for short-term living came about because we obviously can't agree on where we would like to spend our retirement years. i am very much a new england girl, and marc is ... not. so, short term places or we go our separate ways.)


3. write a book

i've started and abandoned so many projects. one needs to be given the life it deserves and brought to completion.


4. learn another language


see numbers one and two. learning spanish makes the most sense, but marc speaks spanish. i feel like i should cover italian, just in case. i started duolingo a month ago and can tell you that a boy ate an apple. i have a ways to go.


5. learn to sail


i just want to. my goal is to end up on water at some point before i'm dead, and i'd love to be able to take a little boat out for a sail.


6. learn to play the guitar


7. learn to bake breads from scratch and make homemade pastas


8. live with intention

slow down. simplify. have and do less. quality over quantity. less multi-tasking, more focus.


9. have a meal at the lost kitchen


since first learning of this place a few years ago, i've become obsessed with entering the lottery to get a seat, then taking a spur-of-the-moment trip to maine for a meal. it will likely have to wait another two years, until elizabeth is out of the house. i'll pass the time with erin french's books.


10. find my purpose

we all want that out of life, though, right?




when my baby girl was born, i had some ideas of what to name her, but it wasn't until i saw her little face that i knew for sure: harper.

she was three years old the first time she told me she didn't like her name. she thought she would prefer to be called rainbow sparkle my little pony. i talked her out of that.

for the next 12 years, she would occasionally tell me she didn't like her name, didn't feel like a harper. and every time she misheard her name when someone was saying "parker" or "piper," she would become embarrassed and more annoyed with her name.

she mentioned numerous times that she wanted to change her name.

and this week, she asked that we finally, formally, please call her elizabeth.

to be fair, she is starting a new school where no one knows her. she has two more years at this school to try it out, and the school is full of kids trying on who they think they are, be it a new name, new hair color, or new gender. the teachers and administration and classmates are supportive, open, accepting, and nonjudgmental. it's really the perfect time to give this new name a go and see if it feels more her.

on the day that she asked me if i would please stop calling her harper, i told her that if, over the next two years, she feels more comfortable in the skin of elizabeth than she has as a harper, upon graduation we can do the paperwork to change her middle name to elizabeth, then she can decide whether to tell people she goes by her middle name or reclaim her original name as she moves into the world.

her names were given thoughtfully, with reason. but to her point, we gave them to her. we had to name her before we walked out of the hospital. if she's going to live her life, she wants the choice of what she answers to. i can respect that. i'm a michele; growing up in the 80s, every fifth girl was named michelle ... right after the jennifers, amys, stacys, and heathers. i get it.

her dad is struggling with it. not that he doesn't like the name elizabeth or feels particularly wedded to harper (heck, he wanted to name her sam or julie, so i don't think he really cares either way WHAT her name is), but he is worried she's being influenced by the environment in her school that encourages self-discovery. well, buddy, welcome to Gen Z ... especially Z-ers at an arts high school. they're gonna experiment, and they're gonna find themselves, and by god they are going to be better off than we were in the Knowing Who They Are game.

what i would have given for radical acceptance and freedom and support. i wasn't even allowed to get my ears double pierced until i turned 18. (guess who's making an appointment to get about five new holes in the next week or so? i'm learning so much as a 47-year-old.)

i look at these kids fighting through the generational layers of rules and suppression, and i have to think they are going to save us all. when you aren't dealing with your own shit on a daily basis, you're much more free to love, accept, and change the world.

go forth, elizabeth. change your name, change your game.



my brain is constantly whirring around at about a thousand miles per hour. today, it's closer to a million.

i wish i was able to just plug in, matrix style, and download everything in one concise, coherent, spell-checked, edited lump. but since i can't, i'm left with the conundrum: how much to share? how deep to go? how much hurt do i purge and how much do i hold back? how much time do i put into this before i decide, ultimately, to delete the whole thing and let it go?

to be honest, as i type, i'm still uncertain about the answer to any of those questions, so i'll just keep typing. maybe i'll hit post, maybe i won't.

this is clearly why i've never gone to therapy. if there was a way to walk into a room, sit on the couch, and start in the middle - no need for preamble or introductions or timelines or feelings, just "here's today's bullshit and why i think it's bullshit and and what its bullshit origin story is" - i would prefer that. my husband and i have talked about this a lot over the years, and every time, it comes down to: what if i spend several hours with someone, unloading things and trying to work through things, only to find either they don't get it or they are an idiot and i can't connect with them? then i've wasted time, money, emotional bandwidth, and got nothing in return. so i just don't bother.

i am really good at the "i'm fine" thing; the "i don't have it as bad as someone else" or "my thing isn't that awful" or "whatever. it's done. my life is good, so no permanent damage."

yet i'm not happy. not really. not deep down, where peace within yourself starts. so damages were done.

and when i try to track my ups and downs, i find that most of my downs come from being disappointed in someone or something, or someone/something letting me down or not living up to the standards or hopes i put into them/it. or willful ignorance; THAT one really sends me over the edge.

i hate being let down by things i've been trained or conditioned to hold up. i hate being let down by people based on assumptions i had about them. i hate being let down by the nebulous idea of "people" or "the world." i hate being let down by myself. and let me tell you - that one happens a lot. low self-esteem and self-sabotage are my two strongest personality traits, mainly because i was never taught what good self-esteem is, or given the tools to build myself up and keep going.

my husband - bless his heart - is my biggest cheerleader, and i'm grateful every day that he chose me and continues to choose me and believe in me. but he has also never once in his life had a moment of self-doubt or soul pain, so his ability to truly empathize is ... not great. when i get down, he tells me to fix it, or let it go because i can't do anything about it anyway. which, hello ... as an enneagram 4, that's the LAST thing you want to tell me.

there are truly times when i wish i could be an island; just me, no hurt, nothing to make my head or heart or gut explode in rage or sadness ... no one to let me down or disappoint me with not being who i thought they were. i dream of leaving, moving away where i know no one and don't speak the language so i don't HAVE to know anyone. the older i get, the less i need or want people or their input or their voice in my head. but ... the privilege of that ... i can't do it. if those truly suffering can't flee, then neither should i.

maybe the point is to use my hurt as a means to protect others. use my damage as a way to fortify others. maybe it's time i took a chance on therapy. maybe i go get those tattoos i've been planning and the piercings i've always wanted, and say, "fuck you, i'm 47 and i'm a whole goddamn person who owes you nothing." maybe i learn to smile and nod when faced with something i know is immovable rather than scrape my hands and knees against it. maybe i learn which fights are worth fighting and which aren't worth my well-being. maybe i keep my monster in the closet so it doesn't destroy the world. or maybe i learn that it was never a monster in the first place, just something that has always felt unworthy of being cute and cuddled, and grew fangs to protect from the hurt and loneliness.

or maybe i'm fine, and today my brain is just too unsettled to see it.


my high/low for the day

i'm so tired today. so tired. friday, harper had school IN a school building for the first time in 13 months. she was so excited ... i was so excited for her ... but that 6 a.m. alarm was no bueno. it's been a long time since i've had to do that. on top of that, her new school is 20 minutes away, without traffic, so i get to add "commute" to my list of activities as re-entry into Normal takes place. before i picked her up, i ran some errands - another 40 minutes in the car, and after lunch, i drove her to get her first vaccine shot at a CVS an hour away. in a rain storm.

it was such a long day.

the quarantine year has made me soft.

there is nothing creative in my brain right now, but luckily i have this handy little "inspiration guide" in my office ...


i opened a page at random, to see what topic i could and write about today, and this prescient little nugget presented itself:



well ... okay.

another weekend in pandemicland, and we are continuing various projects and tasks around the house that we can't stand to look at anymore notice as we spend, literally, every minute of every day inside these walls.

one project that has long been on the list is putting some sort of organization system in each closet. we decided to start with harper's because - just being real here - her closet is usually just a pile on the floor, everything she doesn't want to put away for real, or whatever she's told us she put away but really just tossed onto her closet floor. my hope is that with actual storage in her closet, things will have a place and she will keep it organized.

now, please understand that i DO realize this is likely an exercise in futility. i've always given her ways to organize ... large bins to toss toys in at the end of the day; specific bins for specific things so she can clearly see where things go and doesn't have to figure it out on her own; a dresser in her closet so at the very least she can jam stuff in drawers and call it a day ... and nothing has worked. her design aesthetic is somewhere between "creative chaos" and "hoarder."

but maybe now? a girl can dream, right?

yesterday, marc hung the support pieces, i painted the closet the same cheery peach as her room, and today we got the organizers up and everything put back in. it's lovely. i'm envious. i want to do EVERY closet now.



and today: our room.

i've been trying to figure out the curtain situation in our bedroom for quite awhile. in fact ... we moved in nine and a half years ago ... so i've been trying to figure out curtains for nine and a half years. i'm picky, a perfectionist, and cheap. those things lead to a LOT of delays in decision-making.

i finally i found curtains that i liked, though, and ordered them ... and was given a four- to five-month delivery window. and back in february, i bit the bullet and went to a custom drapery and upholstery place to order the rods, because of course our windows are too wide to just order curtain rods from a normal place, like a normal person. again, about a two month delivery time. but the curtains arrived last month, i picked up the rod on friday, and today was the day! the rod looks beautiful, the curtains look beautiful, and i was so excited about sleeping in room that is fully dark for the first time in so, so long.

all of these things were total highlights for me this weekend.

and yet ...

what's a high without a low, amiright? gotta keep the universe balanced.

when the closet organizers were going up, i asked harp for her opinion on where she wanted things. i got a very dismissive, derisive, "i don't care!" from her super grateful little self. so that was fun.

then we moved on to the curtains, and discovered that the room slopes about half an inch, from east to west, which made it interesting to figure out where to put the brackets. then we discovered there are no studs on the window wall. i mean but we did the math and decided 1/4" wouldn't be noticeable over 164", started to drill into the drywall, and discovered that there IS a header, so the top holes on each bracket are in wood. thank goodness. i was envisioning the entire thing pulling out of the wall over time.

but then marc started to put up the rod, and the screw that holds the rods together broke off as he was screwing it in. so: custom hardware, broken. store, not open until wednesday. and as i was putting the drapery hooks into the panels, i discovered flaws on one of them. so: panel, unusable. needs to be returned, and then i have to await the arrival of a replacement.

i mean ... swear to god. does any home project ever go right on the first try, with the first round of stuff you've purchased? because i don't think it has EVER happened around here. there are always multiple trips, returns, something broken or scratched or missing a part or a hole is in the wrong place or whatever.

we talk a lot about moving, about other places where we would like to live. as we were getting through our day, though, i told marc, "it's taken us nearly 10 years to feel like we finally have this house 'finished,' and every project goes less than smooth. as soon as i get the urge to move and do this all over again, please remind me of this nonsense."

and he fully agreed.

we just couldn't agree if we were going two steps forward, one step back, or one step forward, two steps back.


the gift of a year; or, how i blew a pandemic

it's so easy to say, " if i had the time, i would (fill in the blank)."

the past year has taught so many of us that maybe it isn't really about the time.

did i write a book? no. did i lose 3o pounds? no. did i learn how to bake bread from scratch? no. did i finish all those projects, big and little, that linger around the house? no. did i make zoom plans, to stay connected with people? no. did i do deep cleaning? no. did i finally organize 15 years of digital photos? no. did i finally organize printed photos? also no. did i read all the books i bought and planned to read? no. did i binge-watch every show and movie on my 'must watch' list? no. did i catch up on sleep? no.

did i do anything useful with the past twelve months?

well ... no. but also yes.

i DID write. just not much. i DID start making exercise a habit and am healthier now than i was, just haven't lost any weight in the process. i DID finally master yeast in the bread machine, so i kind of made bread from scratch, if the machine isn't considered cheating. we did some projects, a couple of zoom calls with family, and i cleaned when i had to. i organized photos a little ... enough to feel like i got started on the project. i did read, but i've spent so much time over the past four years reading history and non-fiction political books that i burned myself out and couldn't pick up non-fiction. i DID binge-watch some stuff, but more than that, i stuck to things that i knew would bring me peace, that would mindlessly entertain me, and to which i didn't have to pay much attention. and i feel physically rested, but emotionally i am still exhausted.

the fact that we have stayed sane and healthy and still like each other after the past year feels like all the win i need.

so why do i feel like a wasted a gift?

truth is, many things about being home and unscheduled exhausted me.

harper has been home every day since march 12, 2020, three days before she turned 15. her best friend had recently moved out of state, which sent her reeling, then school went online. dealing with distance learning has been - to put it mildly - a clusterfuck. she needs to be back in school, and i need her to be back in school.

marc has been home every day since early march of last year. his company said early on to expect in-person meetings and travel to be on hold until this july, at the earliest. for the first time in nearly 25 years of marriage, he's been home every day, slept in our bed every night, eaten every meal at home every day, every week, every month, for a year. while it's been lovely, and we still like each other, and we've talked quite a bit this year about our Next Stage plans, the truth is i miss being alone.

which is a very odd to thing to say after being isolated from the world at large for a year.

but when there are people always here, even if they are in their own spaces, i feel stuck. i feel like i have to be outwardly productive on something visible and practical. being quiet and contemplative and creative don't feel useful or valuable. and i have had to be a thorn in harper's side constantly about school.

i'm feeling suffocated.

when the covid year began, there was a sense of excitement, in a way, about what it would be like to live in lockdown for a few weeks. we started seeds indoors, we got out for walks and fresh air, we had this smug, giddy, "look at us quarantine!! woot!" attitude. when summer came around, henry swam in a lake in a wet suit while it was still cold, then bought a bungee so he could swim in his girlfriend's pool until the team could figure out how to safely train. harper set up facetime "play dates" with her best friend, and they drew pictures together while they talked. living creatively in the "new normal" still felt novel, but took on an air of urgency, to figure it out because who knew how long we'd be in this.

and we made it. life was good, in its own new way. and then we survived fall and winter in similar fashion, yet i learned nothing about using my time more wisely. i couldn't. and i had no idea why.

we have all known we are introverts (well, not henry), so the aspect of not being WITH people for the foreseeable future didn't bother us a bit. but it turns out that when you isolate in your own spaces in your own home, and go hours without seeing each other, it changes something in you. marc and harper will both come to my office, sit in the chair in the corner, and just chat. and while early on in covidland i cherished that, now i just feel usurped. it has taken me until my mid-40s to have a space that is all my own, and now that i have it, people want to come visit me. and harper will follow me around the house, showing me funny videos or memes, and while i adore that she wants to include me, and i know my time with her at home is short, and i know she's lonely ... i feel like i am back at the toddler stage, and just want someone else to entertain the kids so i can escape.


why has this gift of a year, of time and space, been so UNproductive, and driven me even deeper into my introversion?

can anyone else relate to that? can i redeem this time?

what happens in the After? when we can come out of our shelters and are in the world again? though ... people ARE out in the world again, HAVE been, and that just flares my anxiety and frustration and anger at the complete selfishness and inability to care even a little about others. people i used to enjoy and respect have lost my favor; i can't unsee who they are or understand their choices, especially when hypocrisy comes into play. so what happens to my relationships after this?

according to myers-briggs, i'm an INFJ. i've known that about myself for more than 20 years. what i didn't know until a few years ago is this thing known as the "INFJ door slam." essentially, it's how we preserve ourselves emotionally or physically. we cut people off, and that's it; you had your chance, but you blew it, and i'm done.

wow. once i read that, i just said, "yeah ... that's about right." i've been doing it for a long, long time.

but now, in the covid universe, i have a new reason to slam the door on people: i can no longer trust them, their values, their worldview. it was hard enough during the trump years, but add in how covid has been handled, and ... my social media friend count has taken a hit.

so after the vaccinations are given and the world opens back up, are there people in it for me? or will i stay isolated? and what happens to my productivity? or my creativity? if i'm not a part of the world, does creativity even have a place?

i've always thought myself more virginia woolf/"room of one's own," but what if i'm actually emily dickinson, never leaving my room and communicating only via the computer?

maybe a year is long enough. maybe it's time to get the gears of life moving again. it would be nice to do something intentional after all of this ... take some classes, be a part of something with purpose and deadlines, which is where i work best. we were given this gift of a year, we learned many things, we discovered many things, but maybe the greatest lesson is that putting off our desires and dreams and plans isn't so much about a lack of time as it is a lack of motivation and focus. if i had to do the year differently, i'd like to think it would be more successful and i'd have more to show for it. but maybe not. maybe this was the year i needed to know that isolation is my crutch, not my friend.