Archive for the ‘Musings’ Category

Okay, here we go.  It’s taken me half the month, but I think I’m ready to set some goals for 2020.  This will be a year of changes – some I’m choosing (or hoping) to make for myself, and others for which I’m simply along for the ride – and my first resolution is to embrace the upheaval.  We’re going to move houses; the kids will change schools.  I’m looking at both of these changes as opportunities – opportunities to start fresh and to shed a lot of extra stuff we’ve been carrying around – in terms of personal property and emotional baggage.  It’s time.

Other resolutions, in no particular order:

  • Get back on the running trails, and rediscover my love for my old sport.
  • Buy nothing new for three months.  This doesn’t include food, toiletries, other consumables, gifts or things for the kiddos – but as for myself, I’d like to be a more conscious member of the circular economy.
  • Go up in a hot air balloon.
  • Hydrate, eat the rainbow, move, and generally stop putting everyone else’s well-being before my own.
  • Continue to build my bread-baking skills, and experiment with new bread recipes.
  • Do another twelve months’ hiking project on the blog.
  • Finally finish that purge of all the junk we have been moving from house to house for the last decade.  I’m over it.
  • Related: give away, donate, or discard 2,020 items, and pick up 2,020 pieces of trash in my neighborhood.
  • Read what I want to read, and not feel pressured to keep up with buzzy new releases.
  • Finish a big family memory-keeping project I’ve been planning for years, in time for Christmas 2020.
  • Travel, have adventures, push boundaries, and get outside my comfort zone regularly.  (How’s that for specific?)

There – ten normal goals, plus one vague adventure resolution for good luck.  All over the map, but the common thread I can see running through this list is: seeking balance; paring down and simplifying life and prioritizing things like time spent in nature and with loved ones; and making the most of my time.  While this list is somewhat wishy-washy, I have an idea of what I’d like life to look like at the end of 2020, and it’s quite a bit different from what life looks like here at the starting gate.  I have some more thinking and a lot of work to get to that place, but it’s taking shape in my head – so that, in and of itself, is progress.

Have you made resolutions for 2020?

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Thoughts About Resolutions

Last year (how is it that 2019 is last year? where did it go?) I decided not to make any New Year’s resolutions.  This was unusual for me, because ordinarily I love making New Year’s resolutions.  I enjoy the clean slate, the expanse of days ahead of me, and the motivation to set and achieve goals.  But I was tired, a little raggedy, and just not into it last year.  So – I didn’t.

And the result?  Without setting any goals, to be honest, I didn’t achieve much of anything.  Now, that’s partly due to a crazy year at work.  I hit the ground running in January and it didn’t really let up all year long.  That made it hard to do anything for me, hard to think about my long-term goals or set any kind of big plans in motion, and hard even to get through the day-to-day.  When work is just nonstop, there’s nothing else for it.  I still read a lot – thanks, public transit commute! – and managed to get away for two vacations, including one without the kids.  So 2019 wasn’t a wash, not by a long shot.  But some things do need to be different in 2020.

For a professed change-hater, I’m staring down the barrel of a few big changes in 2020.  We’re planning to move again – just a local move, nothing too crazy – and with the move will come a change in the kids’ school situations.  I think both of these changes are going to be positive, but there’s no denying life is going to look different at the end of 2020.  And I’ve got a few private goals, too.

I haven’t got my 2020 resolutions sorted quite yet, but I do know I will have some.  And I don’t have a word of the year just yet, but my thoughts are coalescing around something like a theme.  More soon.

Are you a maker of resolutions?

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A Look Back at 2019

Before I really turn my attention to 2020 and all the adventures to come – of which I am hoping there will be many – I have to take a moment to look back on everything that 2019 brought.  There was a lot of stress last year, but also a lot of joy and fun.  Life has felt very hard recently, which makes the moments of togetherness and peace all the sweeter.

January.  I started the year off – almost, anyway – with sand between my toes, watching the sunrise in Miami.  (Okay, that was January 4.)  I had a business trip to Florida that kept me busy with work, but I managed to slip away for the beach run I’d promised myself.  That was the best weather of the month!  Back at home, we managed to get out for one (very chilly) hike at Great Falls with Zan and Paul – somehow, despite hiking together all the time in Buffalo, that was the first time we’d made it out for a D.C.-area hike.  (And the last.  Must correct that.)  And we had a big blizzard mid-month, so the kids got the fun of rocketing down the icy slides at the playground and landing in a big fluffy pile of snow.

February.  After New Year’s excitement wore down, we settled into a quiet rhythm in February.  I got back into bread-baking and made several excellent loaves of sourdough sandwich bread, and discovered that focaccia is pretty simple!  My book club was delighted with that.  We were still busy, though.  The kids’ social schedule was pretty hectic in February, between birthday parties and Valentine’s Day festivities at school (as a class mom in kindergarten, I had responsibilities there, too).

March.  What used to be my least-favorite month is now one of my top months of the year, because it’s all about celebrating our sweet little guy.  His birthday wish was to “go to Mount Vernon dressed as Alexander Hamilton” – what a kid, right?  So that’s what we did.  Actually, the whole month seemed like a parade of cosplay, because we dressed the kids up again in their Colonial costumes and took them to Alexandria history days at the Lee-Fendall House Museum, where they were the hit of the party.

April.  Flowerrrrrrrrrrrs, flowers flowers flowers flowers flowers!  Spring in the D.C. area is glorious and I always miss out on the fun because of allergies, ugh.  I switched from Claritin to Allegra this year and felt a little better (still not great, but better) and managed to enjoy some of our favorite spring traditions – like hiking the bluebell loop trail at Bull Run Regional Park, visiting Mount Vernon to see the trees in bloom, and picking daffodils at Burnside Farms.  We got our container garden tidied up and planted, too, and looked forward to another summer of battling the squirrels over the cherry tomatoes.

May.  Summer starts early in Virginia, and we welcomed it in with a long weekend getaway to Virginia Beach – one of our happiest places.  We got in a solid few days of time with Rebecca and Eric, which is always cherished and never enough.  They moved to Florida in the fall, so this was likely our last trip to VB; it just won’t be the same without them.  The rest of May was busy, as usual.  In between the usual school-work-birthday circuit, we worked in our garden and hit the river for the first kayaking of the season – yes!

June.  Summer fun in full swing!  We celebrated Steve with a homemade strawberry pancake breakfast on Father’s Day, and gifted him with baseball tickets for the following weekend.  Our Nats lost to the Braves – booooooo – but we ate veggie dogs and the kids had an alarming amount of cotton candy, so it was a success.  At the end of the month, my parents arrived to watch the kids and Steve and I escaped for…

July.  The first parents-only getaway in years!  Steve and I spent a little more than a week in the Pacific Northwest – kayaking the San Juan Islands (and spotting ORCAS!) and then exploring Seattle.  It was wonderful and refreshing to be away together; we used to love to travel as a couple, and while we still enjoy traveling, it’s undeniably a lot easier without the kids.  We had a fabulous time, and not a day goes by that I don’t wish myself back to the San Juans.  The rest of July was the usual busy whirl.  The kids were settled into camp life, and we spent the weekends bouncing between the garden, the neighborhood pool, and the river.

August.  We loaded up our vacations into the summer this year, and I didn’t hate it!  In August we skipped town again for our family vacation, which we have done over Peanut’s birthday week for the past few years.  It was just our immediate family this year, and we realized that it was actually the first time we’d ever gone away for a week as a foursome without any other friends or relatives.  We went to Duck, NC, but the kids thought we were in Antigua.  What they don’t know won’t kill them, right?

September.  Staring down the barrel of what was going to be a very busy month in October, I tried to make the most of my September with plenty of family time.  I did lose one weekend to my firm’s all-attorney retreat in Indianapolis, but the rest of the month was dedicated – whenever I wasn’t working – to back-to-school and family fun.  We drove out to Burnside Farms again and Peanut led us through a sunflower maze, then Nugget and I went down an inflatable slide a bunch of times – what a rush.

October.  My favorite month of the year was a total downer in 2019; I worked almost non-stop.  There were several weekends on which my only break was when I took the kids to their weekly swimming lessons at the local rec center.  (Peanut is turning into a fish, but Nugget kind of hates swim class.)  I had a weeklong trip to Dallas for a very high-stress, high-stakes project, and the rest of the month was ridiculously full and busy.  It wasn’t all bad – Halloween was fun, as always, and my parents actually made it down to us to see the festivities this time!  And we got out to the Shenandoah Valley for a birthday hike for yours truly, which was a wonderful and relaxing day.  AND I had the fun of staying up WAY too late on quite a few nights, watching my Nats home-run their way to their World Series victory – YES!

November.  I started the month watching the Commissioner’s Trophy make its way down Constitution Avenue, and finished it hiking in the Albany Pine Bush with Steve and the little dude, so November was good.  And we celebrated Steve’s birthday!  Very glad he’s in the world.

December.  Last month was another hectic one, between work and some school drama that we are still trying to work through.  Sparkle spirit felt like it was in shorter supply than usual.  But we did our best to conjure up the Christmas magic – updated our traditional holiday decoration walk for kiddo attention spans; had brunch with friends; hosted a playdate; baked cookies; and piled up gifts under the tree to close out the month.  Merry, merry!

And now – onward and upward.  I have a lot of plans for 2020, and if they all come to fruition (fingers crossed) this will be a banner year.  I’m ready for quite a few changes and I am quietly working toward several of them already.  Looking back, the theme of 2019 was – busy, hectic, stressed, but trying.  Here’s hoping all that hard work and striving pays off this year.

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Small Gratitudes

Happy (American) Thanksgiving, friends – it’s tomorrow!  I’m spending the day wrapping up a bit of work in hopes of an actual breather and a real four-day weekend, and later this afternoon I’ll probably be elbow deep in potato peelings.  While I make final preparations for a weekend that I hope will include some of my favorite things – like mashed potatoes, hikes through crunchy fallen leaves, and time with my grandmother – I’m thinking, as always, of the big and small things for which I am grateful.  The big things are obvious – sweet, healthy kiddos; a marriage that is going on fifteen years now; a roof over my head, healthy food to eat, and the means to send my kids to a good school; and a job where I do work that I’m good at and where my colleagues respect me.  But there are little things, too.  Things like:

  • Shelves of good books to read, especially my beloved classics.
  • Related: an excellent public library system.
  • Farmers’ market flowers on grey afternoons.
  • The Slightly Foxed Quarterly, with its cream-colored covers and literary joys.
  • Tea!  All the tea!
  • The fun of fitting jigsaw pieces together with my puzzle-loving little guy.
  • Lovely next-door neighbors.
  • Bruschetta from Pizzeria Paradiso.  So delicious.
  • The Great British Bake-Off, for when I want to turn off my brain and watch people being kind to each other and baking up delicious treats.
  • Lights in the trees in Old Town.
  • Bolognese sauce made with Impossible burger ground, impossibly delicious.
  • Brick sidewalks and cobblestone streets.
  • Yellow and red leaves outside my kitchen window.
  • Shenandoah National Park, practically in my backyard.
  • Afternoons spent flipping through old photo albums, reliving good times.
  • The Mount Vernon Trail, which is the best running and biking location.
  • Newly discovered playgrounds – and old favorites, too.
  • Texts from my BFF, who has been sending me videos of dolphins playing in the gulf waters right off her dock.
  • Jane Austen.
  • The free LaCroix we have at work.  That’s right.
  • Hockey season gearing up just as baseball wound spectacularly down.
  • Having my dad’s old film camera back in working order.
  • My favorite warm orange sweater from Target, which is a weekday workhorse.
  • Vacation plans starting to fall into place for 2020.
  • Blue skies and crisp breezes.
  • Roasted vegetables, especially when they get a little caramelized around the edges.
  • My new wallet, a birthday gift from my BFF.  It’s vegan, pretty, and easy to organize.
  • Mists rolling in over the Potomac River, and anticipating paddling season (already).

And there are so many more that I can think of – small things that make life nicer every day.  The fact that I can make such a long list – and have to cut myself off, lest I go on for hours – is in and of itself a big thing.

What little things are you grateful for this season?

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November Is For Self-Care

After an incredibly hectic and busy October, I’m looking ahead to a (slightly) quieter month ahead.  I do still have a lot on my plate at work, but it’s mostly writing, which is much more my jam – quieter, more deliberative.  And I am hoping that means that I can get a little bit of balance back.  After the month I just wrapped up, my life is in a bit of a shambles.  The house is trashed, the fridge looks insane, there are to-be-wrapped gifts scattered all over the dining room and a mile-long list of errands that I need to run.  I need to re-calibrate, take care of the life stuff that needs taking care, and get a little more time back for me.  To that end, my November agenda includes:

  • Hitting the gym at least twice a week, and running at least twice a week.  I’ve missed movement.
  • Cooking up a big batch of veggie stew, and not including any pasta.  I always forget how soggy and gross noodles get when I toss them in my homemade soups.
  • Getting a (sorely needed) haircut, and making an appointment with my dentist.
  • Prioritizing time with the kiddos.  I don’t like missing bedtime!
  • Related: family dinners.
  • Hopping back on the decluttering bus.  It’s been a couple of weeks since I posted anything to Buy Nothing.
  • Putting in a morning of organizing my calendar and files at work and at home.  It’s just easier to keep track of everything when those things are up-to-date.
  • Hiking at least twice.  I need regular nature time or I don’t feel like me.
  • Lighting candles.  I love their flickering glow.
  • Spending Thanksgiving with family and friends.
  • Baking bread again.  Having my hands in dough is good for my soul.
  • Getting a massage, because I think I deserve it.

Yes, October was a long and stressful month.  I’m glad it’s behind me, and when I get a little distance and the fog clears from my brain, I know I will be proud of the work I did.  I’m just really ready to feel somewhat balanced again.

How do you self-care?

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Tomorrow is the last day of October – Happy Halloween! – and with it will end the busiest, most hectic and most stressful month of my time at my current job, and possibly of my career.  Can’t talk about it, but it’s been a rough road – lots of long nights and high stakes debates.  Coming out on the other side, I’m still busy, and still stressed, but at least the worst is behind me (for now).  In the meantime, here’s what’s been saving my life in this busy season.

  • My Nationals!  I’ve been cheering for the Nats, mostly casually, since they returned to D.C. when I was in law school.  And it’s been a longstanding goal of mine to recruit Nugget to Nats fandom – a tall order, as I’m fighting against generations of New York Yankees devotion on both sides of the family, but I think I’m succeeding.  As the Nats have advanced through the postseason, I’ve been tuning in for every game I can – sometimes staying up later than I should, but loving every second.  (That Game 2 in Houston, what a ride!)  There have been some weeks in October when the Nats gave me the only joy I had all week.  (Cough-business-travel-cough.) Although I have to say – this past week hasn’t been all joy as a Nats fan. But still, they’re giving me something to look forward to, and something to think about besides work. That’s huge.
  • Coffeecoffeecoffee, as Lorelai Gilmore would say.  I really prefer tea, as you all know, but when you’re getting up at 4:00 a.m. to work, putting in full days of work and parenting with no break until 10:00 p.m. or later, and then tossing and turning all night – coffee is necessary.  I’ve joked that I’m going to set up an IV drip in my office and just take the coffee in directly.
  • Related: tea from my favorite mug, because sometimes the littlest things make the biggest difference.
  • Recognition from my colleagues.  I don’t need thanks or accolades to do my job, but when your boss says things like, “Thanks for all your hard work; you’re doing a big job and we appreciate you.  Get some rest,” it’s a boost for sure.
  • Mountain pictures from a saner morning of hiking with my three favorite people, on my birthday.  I’m reliving that day as often as I can.
  • Minions gifs, which so often say what I mean better than I ever could in words.  Ask my co-workers.
  • The cozy grey sweater I recently unearthed from the bottom of my sweater drawer.  I’ve had it for years and it’s so soft.  Like wearing a hug.
  • Baby pics in my email from my mom’s best friend, who recently became a first-time grandmother.  I miss the snuggly potato stage… although I don’t really miss the sleep deprivation.
  • Hugs from my people, always.  After weeks on end of feeling like I’m at war, a big bear hug from Steve or a lap cuddle from one of my little wiggles is exactly what’s needed to snap me out of a funk.

What’s saving your life these days?  


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Another Trip Around The Sun

My birthday is next week.  It’s not a milestone or anything, but I never do particularly well with the idea of another year.  I’m extremely aware of the passage of time – to a point that it’s weird, Steve would tell you.  Since I turned 22, I haven’t seen the point of getting older – no new privileges to look forward to, just big questions like, have I accomplished everything I thought I would by this age?  Ugh.

This year, I’m adjusting my attitude.  For months now, it’s felt like there were reminders everywhere of the fact that none of us are guaranteed another day, let alone another year.  I’ve watched a dear friend grieve the death of her husband – he was in his early forties – in a workplace accident.  Another friend is back in chemo, and a neighbor died in childbirth.  I saw other friends reel from shock at Rachel Held Evans’ passing at only 37; I didn’t follow Rachel’s work, but I know she spoke to many hearts, and… 37.

So this year, I’m approaching my birthday with a grateful heart instead of with dread.  Rather than thinking, ugh, another year older, I’m thinking, yay! I get another year!

Another year to read books, chase two crazy kids around the playground, travel, mess around with my cameras, do yoga, bake with my favorite sous-chef, garden, soak up sunshine, make memories, sip wine, spend time with my favorite people, hike and paddle, watch elementary school concerts, pet the neighbor dogs, ride bikes, splash in the ocean, bug my family members by talking incessantly about killer whales, and give Steve and the kiddos ALL the hugs.  And so much more.  Another year isn’t something to moan about, it’s something to celebrate.

Here’s to another year.

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