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No-Resolutions 2019

Here it is February 15th, and I’m just now getting around to talking about New Year’s resolutions, which should give you a clue as to how I’m feeling about them this year: ambivalent.  Usually, I love New Year’s resolutions.  I love setting them, planning out how to tackle them, and checking in with them all year long.  This year, I just feel meh about setting goals.  It’s been a hectic, roller-coastery few years, and I sort of feel like I need a break.

Once upon a time, a long time ago, I didn’t set resolutions one year.  Well, that’s not exactly true – I did, but I only had one resolution.  The year was 2006, and my resolution was to pass the Bar.  That was it.  That was my only goal for the year.  Well, I guess that and graduate law school and find a job, but I knew the one was going to happen and I trusted the other.  Both worked out.  And so did the Bar thing.  And I remember the week after I took the exam: my friend Jenn and I drove up to our pal Seth’s house on Lake George.  We swam and paddled around in Seth’s kayaks and ate ice cream and barbequed and listened to the Minne-ha-ha fire a fake cannon at the next door neighbors and watched the sunset and I thought: “I have nothing else going on this year.”  It felt good.

When I sat down and started thinking about what I wanted my 2019 to look like, I realized that I didn’t want to make a list of concrete goals or resolutions, like I have the past few years.  It has been so hectic and exhausting, and to be honest, I’m a little bit burnt out and I need to refocus.  So I decided that this year, I am only going to have one goal: do more of the stuff that makes me happy, and less of the stuff that bums me out.

I don’t even know what that looks like, but I do have some ideas.  I would like to be more focused and present, to give my undivided attention to whatever I happen to be doing at the time.  Less worrying about the kids’ school performance or social calendars when I’m at work.  Less connected to the office when I’m at home.  (Hey – I’m a realist.  I know that I can’t totally disengage from work in the evenings, and that sometimes personal stuff pops up during the day and I have to deal with it.)  I’d like to be on my phone less, a lot less.  I’d also like to grant less mental real estate to the energy vampires.  What I’m saying, I guess, is that I want to get back to a simpler frame of mind and a less distracted lifestyle.

Along those lines, I did want a word for the year, and I think I have one.  It hasn’t stormed into my life the way home did in 2016, or whispered to my heart like gather in 2017, and it doesn’t feel necessary like begin in 2018.  But consistent with my one goal of focusing on the important and life-affirming stuff and whittling away at the distractions, the word that I seem to want to follow in 2019 is element.  Which means… what, exactly?  I’m not sure, but I look forward to finding out.

I’d like to strip away the unnecessary stuff and pare life down to its elements – to the important things and the things that mean something – to cut through noise and clutter and emotional adverse possession by people and situations that don’t deserve my attention.  I’d also like to spend as much time in nature as possible – that is to say, in my element, and out in the elements – connecting with what is true and meaningful and cutting out the digital noise and constant clamoring that makes me so anxious.  So I think that’s what that means, but we’ll see.

Did you set goals for 2019, or are you taking a madcap approach to your resolutions this year?

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Lit Bits, Volume III

Random thoughts about books and reading…

I’m playing library roulette.  It occurred to me that I am living dangerously when it comes to library renewals.  I like to wait until the last possible day to renew my books – to give myself more time with them, you understand.  But if someone puts a hold on a book and I can’t renew it, I’m beating myself at my own game.  Lately I’ve started checking a few days in advance of a library deadline to see if there are any holds, any other copies circulating, etc. – but that inevitably leads to more strategizing.  There aren’t any holds but all the copies in circulation are checked out; should I renew early and cut off three days (or what have you) from my time with the book, or should I wait?  I realize this isn’t exactly what most would call living dangerously, but I’m just speaking my truth.

Speaking of the library, we tried out a new babysitter recently – the children’s librarian from our local library branch.  (Why had I never thought of this before?)  She was sweet and lovely and did a great job, although the kids made a point of letting her know that she was not their beloved regular babysitter, Bre.  Anyway – she told me I had the best home library she’d ever seen and that the kids owned books that she used for storytime at the library but had never seen in a kid’s personal collection before.  Winning!

Oh, and Nugget has a favorite library book.  He has checked out a book called Dirt Bikes twice now.  He knows exactly where it is in the stacks and he goes right for it.  Steve said that he used to do the same thing; he remembers a book about military jets that he borrowed from his elementary school library on multiple occasions.  Like father, like son…

Library luck is good, but my Amazon luck is bad lately.  I’m really trying not to buy too many books this year, so it’s especially frustrating that the books I do buy keep showing up damaged.  I had to return A Vicarage Family because the top half of the spine was crushed, and A Nature Poem for Every Day of the Year because the cover was visibly dirty (and I tried to clean it; the spots wouldn’t come off – am I the Lady Macbeth of books?).  What the what?  It’s so weird, how this keeps happening to me.

The Folio Society New Year’s Sale is almost over, guys!  I think there’s just a few days left, and stock is pretty low.  The selection is pretty good this time, so do go take a peek if you’re a Folio Society devotee.  The Folio Society semi-annual sales are exceptions to my general book-buying rule, and I make use of the exception.

Does it have to be Monday?  I mean, does it absolutely have to?  I’m not ready.  Last week was a doozy – I worked until midnight on Monday (in the office, so I got home at about 12:30 a.m.) and what I learned is: when I work until midnight one night, I’m basically good for nothing for the next two days.  I know I did work on Tuesday and Wednesday, I just can’t remember what I did.  I started to get some energy back toward the end of the week, but I have another busy week ahead – although hopefully not with a late night like last week – and I really needed to get ahead on some things this weekend, but I didn’t.  It was a more productive weekend than last weekend, at least, when I didn’t do anything.  At least this weekend I got some organizing done.  I woke up on Saturday and immediately started working on a clean-out of our games and crafts cupboard – much needed.  I threw out a bunch of stuff and put a bunch more in our neighborhood craft supplies round robin bag, then sent the round robin off to its next stop at my friend Julie’s house.  Everyone was pleased with the newly organized cupboard; the kids spent the rest of the morning painting with their newly unearthed supplies.  Saturday afternoon was jam-packed with social engagements.  The kids and I hit up a(nother) birthday party, this one at a local indoor playground, then headed straight to the library.  We usually go on Sundays, but we’ve been trying to make a point of stopping by on the Saturdays when the children’s librarian, Vanessa – who moonlights as one of our favorite babysitters – is scheduled to work.  The kids were excited to see her.  Then from the library we drove into D.C. to attend a fondue party at our friends Stephen and Nancy’s house.  Stephen was one of Steve’s coworkers back in the day, and the gang has kept up through regular fondue nights at his house.  On Sunday, I woke up with a headache and both of the kids were running slight temperatures, so we spent the day chilling inside.  I ordered supplies for the Valentine’s Day party in Peanut’s classroom and packed up some gifts for my Buy Nothing community, but didn’t get anything else done – including the work I kind of really needed to do.  Instead I spent the day cuddling the kiddos, reading, and baking bread.  A good way to spend a Sunday; I hope it sets me up for the week.

   

Reading.  It was a busy reading week.  I spent the weekdays over two books: Wild Things: The Joy of Reading Children’s Literature as an Adult, and The Lost Vintage.  Both were fine, but left me feeling a bit lukewarm.  I enjoyed most of the literary criticism in Wild Things, but there were a few things that bugged me and ended up kind of ruining the book – more on that when I do my monthly reading roundup.  As for The Lost Vintage, I enjoyed the story – and I recommended it to my mom – but the writing style didn’t really resonate with me and I had a hard time buying into the central relationship.  I liked the wine parts, though, and it made me want to go back to France, so – a win overall, I think.  I finished The Lost Vintage on Friday evening and didn’t want to start anything new, because I knew I’d be picking up a pile of holds from the library on Saturday, and some of them would be time-sensitive, so I pulled out two books that I’m going to be reading slowly over the course of the year to tide me over until we made our library run.  First, The Almanac 2019 – I read the February chapter and it was a delight, as expected – and A Nature Poem for Every Day of the Year.  I’m getting started a bit late, so I spent an hour or so getting up-to-date, and a very nice hour it was.  On Saturday evening I thumbed through my holds pile and decided to begin with The World As It Is: A Memoir of the Obama White House.  I’m about 150-ish pages in as of press time, and it’s fascinating.  (I also have Thanks, Obama: My Hopey Changey White House Years in my library stack, and I might read them back-to-back to compare; we’ll see.)

Watching.  I know you’re thinking I’m going to say “nothing” but not this week!  (I know, I know, I’m full of surprises.)  I talked Steve into watching the adaptation of Doctor Thorne on Amazon Prime.  He’s enjoying it, but not as much as he enjoyed Victoria (true story).  I, on the other hand, am giddy.  The cast is perfect and it is just SO! MUCH! FUN!  We watched one episode on Sunday night and I look forward to making Steve watch the rest this coming week, if I get home at a reasonable hour.

Listening.  The same as usual: lots of podcasts.  I did an unprecedented thing and emailed the hosts of The Book Riot Podcast last week, because they were discussing a defamation lawsuit that’s been in the news and were wondering about some of the details of a defamation case.  Since defamation defense is part of my practice and has been, on and off, for about ten years now, I sent them an email with a 30,000 foot overview of the tort.  I felt a little silly writing it, but they sent me back a very gracious email thanking me for the “excellent nonlawyersplaining explanation,” so that was quite fun.

Making.  Not what I should have made: progress on a couple of work projects.  It will be a busy week; Sunday Scaries hit hard last night.  But I did make some good things this weekend, including a clean and organized games and crafts cupboard and a golden loaf of sourdough sandwich bread.  Yum.

Blogging.  I have more Lit Bits for you on Wednesday, and on Friday, some disorganized musings about not making resolutions for 2019.  Check in with me then!

Loving.  I don’t know if this is really “loving” or just “recalibrating” – but I’ve taken a couple of steps to cut down on my consumption of news.  Our statewide woes in Virginia are national news at the moment; the phrase “dumpster fire” doesn’t even begin to describe it.  (What’s the phrase for when the dumpster fire is on fire?)  It’s been painful to watch, because I voted for and supported the politicians involved, and I’m just so disappointed and disheartened in so many ways.  Twitter is continuing to drive me a bit bonkers, and it doesn’t help that staring at my phone gives me debilitating headaches.  So I’ve done two things: first, I’ve moved Twitter off my home screen and onto the third screen of my phone, where I keep absolutely nothing of importance: so if I really want to scroll my Twitter feed, I now have to go out of my way to access it.  And second, I’ve started keeping my phone in my bag during the workday and avoiding most of the news coverage I was reading on the computer.  (I can’t go completely cold turkey – I’m still reading FiveThirtyEight and skimming the CNN Politics page every morning.  But it’s a lot less than what I was reading.)  I feel less informed, which is probably not a good thing in the long run, but I feel a lot more peaceful right now, and it’s nice.  If I’m tempted to check the news I consciously steer myself to a book blog or gardening website instead.  I’ve just started doing this in the last two or so weeks, so I’ll let you know how my news diet holds up.  But for now, I am really enjoying being less plugged in.

One constant in my life after graduating law school, but especially after becoming a mom, is the question: how do you find time to read so much?  In my adult reading life, I’ve found that my sweet spot is around 100 books in a year; nothing I do really changes that.  Some years it’s 98, some years 102, but it seems that my reading spreadsheets and Goodreads lists are attracted to that number as if it’s a magnet.  I land around 100 books every year without much effort, but if I tried to read more, I don’t think I could.  (There are outlier years.  One year I read 70 books – quite low for me.  And in 2018, I tried to read 52 and ended up reading 113.)

Also, at the risk of sounding smug, I don’t think 100-odd books in a year is all that much.  I have friends who read many more than that, and next to them, I feel like a total slouch.  Maybe someday I’ll read more – but I don’t think so.  I’ve always landed around 100, no matter what else was going on in my life.  No kids, one kid, toddler-and-a-baby – no matter what the life stage; it’s as if the number 100-ish is magic for me.

People always ask me how I manage to read so much, and I usually shrug off the question.  I enjoy reading, so I make time for it – pretty simple.  I prioritize it over other things that I enjoy less – like watching television – and some things that I like doing, but just not quite as much as I like reading – such as knitting.  But nothing’s ever quite as simple as we’d like to make it, is it?  So if I were to drill down and really consider how I fit books into my schedule as a working mom with a kindergartner and a preschooler, here’s what I come up with:

  • Personal to me: I’m a fast reader.  I don’t know that reading speed is something that one can really change, so maybe I’m just lucky – but I’ve always been a fast reader.  My being able to fit 100+ books per year around an otherwise crammed schedule has a lot to do with my naturally quick pace of reading.  (If only I was a fast runner in addition to being a fast reader.)
  • I don’t watch TV.  Or much of it, anyway.  I probably average less than two hours of TV a week, and that might be a stretch.  There are some weeks when Steve and I will be binging a show on Netflix (which, for us, means watching one episode a night) but then there will be weeks on end when I won’t watch anything at all.  I think TV is just fine, and a perfectly pleasant way to entertain oneself, and there are some shows – like Parks and RecreationThe Crown, or The Great British Bake-Off – that never get old.  But I’m conscious of the fact that I have limited free time, and I usually choose to spend it reading.
  • I read in front of the kids.  This is actually challenging for me.  My natural inclination, when the kids are awake, is to put down my book and play with them, take pictures of them, or read to them.  And I do a lot of those things.  But I also know that it’s important and beneficial for them to see me reading to myself for pleasure and enjoyment.  I remind myself that I am setting an example for them and laying the groundwork for them to become lifetime readers, too – and that helps with the guilt and FOMO when I pick up a book while they’re awake.  (What I do try not to do while they’re awake is to scroll through my phone.)
  • I read while commuting.  Again, this is a bit personal to me, but I’m blessed with a commute on public transportation and the ability to read without getting motion sick (most of the time, unless I’ve let myself get too hungry).  My commute is about 30 minutes each way, so that’s an hour of reading every weekday, right there – provided I get a seat, which isn’t a given, at least on the homeward leg of my commute.  (I hate holding a book in one hand.)  This will change when the Metro closes my station for a few months this summer, but I’ve got a big backlog of audiobooks to get me through.
  • I always have a book with me.  I’m actually not one for pulling out my book in the grocery line, unless it’s really long.  I’ll usually make use of that time to scroll through Instagram, text with my BFF, or catch up on blog reading.  But I’ve always got the book as a backup – for waiting rooms (I know you’ll all agree with me that the DMV is much nicer when you have reading material), the occasional coffee shop break, or pockets of found time.  It adds up.
  • I know what I like, and I read it.  Finally – I think reading is much like anything else, in that when you have momentum, it’s easier to keep going.  I’ve been an avid reader as long as I can remember and at this point, I’m pretty good about knowing what I’m going to like and what I’m less likely to enjoy, and I pick up the books I think I’ll like.  I’m not actually a big book abandoner, although I will DNF something if I really hate it.  (I think the last time I DNFed a book, it was because of excessive gratuitous F-bombs.)  I’m good enough at choosing books for myself that I’m usually enjoying whatever I happen to have going at the moment, so curling up with a book is a treat to enjoy and not a chore to avoid.

These aren’t really tips, I know.  Most of them are very personal to me and to my particular concoction of fast reading speed, public transit commute and iron stomach.  Without those factors, who knows?

What factors influence your reading pace?  Are you trying to read more, or are you happy with your numbers?

Here we go – the finish line!  For a while there, it looked like this challenge was going to come down to the wire – thanks to so many rainy, gross weekends earlier in the year.  But as it turned out, I had time to spare and even got to plan a really special final hike – read on.

Hike 41: Story of the Forest Trail, Shenandoah National Park (Luray, Virginia), October 13, 2018 – Having driven almost two hours to get to the park, we wanted to squeeze in as much trail time as we could, so after hiking Big Meadows, we hit another trail.  This was a wooded hike that passed over a lovely stream with a perfect Poohsticks bridge.

Hike 42: Fletcher’s Cove, C&O Canal National Historical Park (Washington, DC), October 14, 2018 – I was looking for a hike in the city, because I had an errand to run downtown, and so we decided to check out the network of trails around Fletcher’s Cove, where we usually go to kayak.  The trail we found was all the way down on the bank of the river, and we had water views the entire time – such a treat!

Hike 43: Rock Creek Park (Washington, DC), October 21, 2018 – Two weekends in a row, two hikes in the District – who even are we?  We used to hike the central portion of Rock Creek Park pretty regularly, but it had been a long time since we’d been there.  I’m still in total disbelief that such a wild and peaceful oasis exists in the middle of the nation’s capital.

Hike 44: Rust Nature Preserve (Leesburg, Virginia), October 28, 2018 – How was it that we didn’t know about the nature preserve and sanctuary for Virginia’s native birds of prey before this?  Peanut is obsessed with all predators (she’s a surprisingly bloodthirsty child, who knew?) and especially with raptors – falcons, eagles, kestrels… We loved this meadow hike and we saw a few birds of prey circling the skies above us – too high up to identify, but it was cool to know that they were there.

Hike 45: Huntley Meadows Park (Alexandria, Virginia), November 4, 2018 – The colors finally burst into glory!  Between the vibrant reds, oranges and yellows and the gorgeous birds swooping all around, hike 45 was one for the ages.

Hike 46: Claude Moore Colonial Farm (McLean, Virginia), November 7, 2018 – I’d hoped to get a little further afield on my three days of funemployment between jobs, but it mostly rained.  There was a break in the clouds on my final day, but I’d already committed to chaperoning the class field trip to a local colonial farm (which turned out a really weird day, story for another time).  So you can imagine my delight when a hike on wooded trails around the farm was part of the day’s activities!  It wasn’t exactly restful – herding fourteen kindergartners is stressful, it turns out – but it was a lot of fun.

Hike 47: Billy Goat Trail, Section C (Potomac, Maryland), November 7, 2018 – Same day, after dropping the kids back at school, I drove over the border into Maryland to try to tackle the Billy Goat Trail.  The more famous sections – A and B – were closed due to flooding, but I had a lovely walk with just a leetle bit of scrambling on Section C.  Considering it was a Wednesday afternoon, and most of the world was at work, I felt lucky indeed.

Hike 48: Winkler Botanical Preserve (Alexandria, Virginia), November 10, 2018 – This local gem has been one of my favorite discoveries of the year!  We wandered right down to the pond and meandered along the shoreline, and I picked up some trash.

Hike 49: Widewater State Park (Widewater, Virginia), November 18, 2018 – A hike for the birthday boy!  We love to celebrate on the trail and Steve decided to use his birthday hike credits to check out the newest Virginia state park – as in, Governor Northam had just cut the ribbon a week before.  It was a beautiful, serene spot and we can’t wait to go back.

Hike 50: Great Falls National Park (Great Falls, Virginia), November 23, 2018A Black Friday hike!  We burned off some of the mashed potatoes (so good, though) and showed my parents around Great Falls, a park we love but had randomly never taken them to see – on a very cold morning.

Hike 51: Lake Accotink (Fairfax, Virginia), November 25, 2018 – Did the penultimate hike at a pretty local park!  The kids entertained everyone on the trail with some rousing song and dance routines.

Hike 52: Saratoga National Historical Park (Saratoga Springs, New York), December 24, 2018 – I wanted to save the final hike of the challenge for something extra special, and this trail through a rolling meadow, with mountain views all around – and on Christmas Eve, no less – was just what I wanted.  What a way to finish out a year of hiking!

And there it is – the END of the road!  What an incredible journey it was.  I’ll have more thoughts coming soon about the 52 Hike Challenge, the lessons I learned on the trail, and my favorite memories from a year of hiking.  It was a beautiful way to spend 2018.

Okay – first things first.  Who’s awake?  Anybody?  Bueller?  Actually, I got a decent night’s sleep last night, because I don’t care about football (fight me) and don’t feel any need to stay up until the game ends.  I do enjoy the commercials, but for the past few years – and this one was no exception – I don’t actually get to see many of them because I am parenting up until halftime and then I putter off to bed not long after that.  Anyway!  I was kind of half hoping for a productive weekend, but it didn’t happen.  I needed to put in a few hours of work, didn’t do that.  Needed to get some organizing done around the house, didn’t do that either.  It happens.

This was one of those weekends that was heavily dictated by the kids’ social plans.  On Saturday, Nugget had a birthday party to attend.  It was at a local gymnastics gym and he had a fun time running around, swinging on the rings and flinging his body at the piles of mats.  I enjoyed catching up with the other moms.  It’s a big decision-making time in our school community, because re-enrollment contracts for the next school year are due today, and summer camp registration floodgates open next week.  So while the kids ran around and burned off all the energy they’ve built up over a bitterly cold week, the parents talked fast and furious about who is coming back next year and who’s going across the street to St. Whatsit’s and where are you going for summer camp.  We have our plans sorted (both for this summer and for next year) but there were several families that were still deciding one, or the other, or both.

On Sunday, Peanut had a playdate with her BFF, who moved to the next town over (for the public schools – smart parents) and I went along with her and had a lovely day sipping tea and discussing the British royal family with BFF’s mom – we’re both Windsor fangirls and not even sorry about it.  After four-and-a-half hours, I finally tore Peanut away from her bestie so I could take Nugget to the library before it closed.  We had the children’s room almost to ourselves – I guess everyone else was getting ready for their Superbowl parties.  (This was actually the second library playtime we had this weekend; Nugget requested a visit to the city central library on the way back from his party on Saturday – they have an honest to goodness playroom, and he hardly ever gets to enjoy it because the central library is so out of the way.)  Ended the weekend on the couch, as usual – sort of but not really watching commercials, and not watching the Big Game at all.  It wasn’t a productive weekend, but the sun was out and the kids had a nice time, so there you have it.

  

Reading.  If the weekend wasn’t productive, the week in books sure was.  I finished Swimming with Giants in time to return it to the library on deadline, then spent five glorious days in Barsetshire with Doctor Thorne – my first five-star book of 2019 and probably destined to be one of my highlights of the year.  I loved it.  Anytime I read Trollope, I wonder what took me so long to find him in the first place, and why I always let so much time go by between his books.  Doctor Thorne was especially delightful – from the central romance, so refreshingly constant and sweet, to the wonderful side characters – so fully realized, even the so-called “minor” ones.  (I have two new favorite secondary characters in literature – Lady Scatcherd and Miss Dunstable.  I adored them both.)  Now I’m on to Wild Things: The Joy of Reading Children’s Literature as an Adult, which has been on my to-tackle list for awhile.  Other than being a bit sniffy about Madeleine L’Engle, I think it’s spot-on.

Watching.  Well, a bit of Superbowl commercials, but not much.  My main viewing this week was on YouTube, because I discovered Roman’s Cooking Corner, and it might be the most delightful thing on the internet.  Cheese, please!  Thank you!  (Steve: “Are you watching that little boy cooking AGAIN?!”)  Do yourself a favor and go take a look right away.  Start with lasagna and work your way through to gingerbread man.  Leg, please!  Thank you!  You won’t regret it.

Listening.  All the podcasts this week, as usual.  I have fallen totally in love with The Librarian is In, the podcast from the New York Public Library.  It’s utterly delightful, and the source of my new favorite quote: “You’re a scrappy little stickball player and you read cool books!”

Making.  Black and white bean chili with quinoa and veggies for our Superbowl dinner.  Chili is a given on important football days.  I don’t know much about sportsball but I do know that.

Laughing.  Peanut doesn’t think much of my employability, apparently.  This week, we had this conversation:

P: “I wish you were a classroom parent at school.”
Me: “I am.  I’m a room mom in your class with Mrs. K and Mrs. G.”
P: “But I wish you were one of the parents who work at the school all day.  You could have an office by the bathroom.”
Me: “Oh, yes, I wish that too.  I would love to be in the same place with you all day.  Maybe on Monday, you can ask Mrs. C [the principal] if she needs a General Counsel.  Tell her your mom has education law experience.”
P: “Well… I don’t think so.”

Blogging.  I don’t actually know.  We got a new computer, and the spreadsheet I use to plan my blog posts is on the old one.  So we’ll all be surprised on Wednesday and Friday.

Loving.  Please see “watching,” above.  The highlight of my week was Roman’s Cooking Corner.  It has completely restored my faith in humanity.  Heart sprinkles, please!  Thank youuuuuu!

Asking.  What are you reading this week?

We are entering the winter season, when so many of us find the days long and grim and difficult.  I am actually not minding winter so much this year – I’m not sure why, because it’s been a colder and snowier one than the last few years (although still mild compared to what we weathered in Buffalo).  But for whatever reason, the dark days and cold nights aren’t bothering me too much.  Maybe I’ve finally learned how to find joy in the season.  Or maybe I’ve just been too busy to notice.  Either way.

Linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy to share the things, little and big, that are saving my life lately:

  • Looking back at the golden sunrise pictures I snapped during a glorious hour of running on Miami Beach, then sticking my feet in a surprisingly warm Atlantic Ocean, during a magical stolen hour on an otherwise jam-packed business trip last month.
  • My cordless electric kettle, which my mom gave me for Christmas, after I complained to her about the completely untenable hot water situation at my new job.  I brought it to work and a colleague and I have gleefully brewed loose leaf tea every day since.
  • The independent children’s bookstore near my house.  We have a gauntlet of five (!) kiddo birthday parties to attend between mid-January and mid-February (we’re two down, three to go as of press time) but presents are all taken care of.  I walked to the store and bought everything I needed – they even do free gift-wrapping in store – and the gifts are sitting on my console table, ready to grab as I walk out the door with Peanut, Nugget or both in tow.  I always seem to find myself behind the eight ball when it comes to gift-buying for kids’ parties, and it’s been lovely to have one thing DONE and off the list.
  • The beginning of summer vacation planning!  We have one trip already booked, but there is a lot still to discuss – and gear to acquire – for that one.  And we have to decide where to go with the kids later in the summer.  We are having a delicious time weighing the options.  (Smith Mountain Lake is the current frontrunner, but it’s not a done deal.)
  • Kitten Purrlooza at the library.  You can’t even imagine.
  • Evening snuggle time with my baby boy.  Every night after Nugget’s three to seven stories (he’s a negotiator) he curls up in my lap and I rock him to sleep and then hold him for another 30-45 minutes – that last part is just for me.  The days in which he will fall asleep in my arms are numbered, and I am determined to enjoy EVERY SINGLE ONE that I get.
  • Celestial Seasonings honey vanilla chamomile tea.  I used to drink it all the time and recently rediscovered it.  I forgot how lovely and warming it was.
  • BOOKS, of course.  Always!  January has been a library-heavy month, but my own shelves are calling to me.  Sometimes I get lost in just looking at the books – but more often, I’m lost between their pages.  That never changes.
  • My new Rothy’s!  I finally took the plunge.  I’ve been hemming and hawing because they’re so expensive, but it occurred to me that my freakishly small feet might fit into the girls’ loafers.  They do!  Half-price Rothy’s?  As my BFF Rebecca said, I won the genetic Rothy’s lottery.  (I have the forest green loafers with the gold sunburst embroidery, and I am wearing them around the office every day, and they’re SO comfortable.)
  • My favorite gigantic soup pot, which is bubbling away on the stove every weekend, cooking up a huge batch of homemade soup for the week.  (My favorite thing to eat in any season, but especially in winter.)  Related: my Hydroflask food container, which keeps my soup hot until lunch every weekday.

What’s saving your life these days?