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Married to Amazement

Dream Work by Mary OliverMary Oliver died yesterday. I’m not sure that I have anything particularly grand to say about her that hasn’t already been said.

I’m not sure if he did this, but I asked Chad to pack Dream Work in our hospital bag. Sometimes when I’m particularly miserable he reads me poetry and I thought it might be something that’d help during labor. I’m not sure if he actually packed the book or not, because the whole thing went kind of off the rails in ways we couldn’t have predicted, and during the worst parts I didn’t want him to leave, even just long enough to cross the room to grab a book.

The last few weeks have been wild, and I have been nothing if not married to amazement. May it ever be so.

I’ve often thought of the line I quoted in this post since I wrote it. Sometimes, all that is left to do is to say, like the sea, “Excuse me, I have work to do.”

 

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100 Things That Made My 2018

@_lisli's best nine on InstagramI’m not sure I was really present for this year, and I am still stunned by it. Last year, I was in too much of a difficult spot to stick to my usual year-in-review format, so I copied Austin Kleon’s 100 things that made my year strategy. I’m not sure I’m ready to really write about this year (it has been a time), either, so I’m gonna stick with the listicle again. I like reading back on what I wrote then, and remembering the flashes of joy and small habits that helped me survive.

So here’s this year’s. 100 things that made my 2018:

  1. Brunch at Cafe Lift and a cat cafe visit for my birthday.
  2. A photoshoot and conversation with Alex Gergar.
  3. A day in Harrisburg, working at Little Amps and Midtown Scholar. The milkshakes at the Farm Show.
  4. The Vagina Monologues on Valentine’s Day, like we used to in college. Only this time it was in a tiny room in a huge bar. I missed this tradition.
  5. Dipping my toes back into interviewing for full time jobs rather than contracting.
  6. Asheville. Walking miles and miles that day. Taking a conference call outside of a Sheetz off the highway between Carrboro and Asheville because there was an outlet there and my phone and computer were dying.
  7. Many LocoPops in Carrboro.
  8. Many, many more injections.
  9. Taking my first Catapult writing class.
  10. Registering for my first in-person creative writing class since college. Finding out that had I not registered, they wouldn’t have met the quota to run it. Having it not be as terrifying as I’d feared. Surprising myself by being able to churn out things I didn’t totally despise when given an assignment and a deadline.
  11. Julien Baker. Seeing her by myself at the Chameleon.
  12. Cheese hour. Shortlived, though it was. Perhaps we’ll be able to revive it this year.
  13. Finding a nonalcoholic drink when I needed one on the menu at Shot and Bottle. They’ve since sadly taken it off the menu.
  14. Very long, intense naps, every day for months.
  15. A very friendful weekend in Brooklyn.
  16. The house cheeseburger at Cabalar.
  17. Getting the balcony fixed. Living on the balcony all summer. Working on the balcony, even when it was too hot. Enjoying the cats enjoying the balcony. Writing on the balcony. I miss it now that it’s cold.
  18. A wedding parade through Center City Philadelphia, complete with Mummers, a police escort, and out of control boob sweat.
  19. My beloved tradition of Terrain brunch on the fourth of July, because no one else goes there that day.
  20. Exhaustion in the Frankfurt airport. Pretzels. Nearly missing our flight to Florence.
  21. A solitary DIY writing retreat in a small medieval city on a hill.
  22. The AirBnB in Arezzo, in a building built in the 1200s. The cool stone. The violin lessons next door.
  23. Pici cacio e pepe.
  24. Embracing solo meals out in a foreign city.
  25. Eavesdropping on the Spanish tourists.
  26. Cappuccino decaffeinato.
  27. Motherhood, by Sheila Heti.
  28. Uttering the “p word” only twice. Once when a tourist in PHL asked me why I was refusing the x-ray machine at the airport (it probably would have been perfectly fine, I know), and again when I was trying to figure out if I could eat carbonara in Rome. It’s hard to be anxiously cagey and intentionally vague when talking to people in their second language.
  29. Teaching with Girl Develop It, both in Philadelphia and in a women’s prison in Delaware. Seeing people realize they can do something they maybe thought they couldn’t is one of my favorite things.
  30. A doctor who stuck with me and said one of the best things someone’s ever said to me.
  31. Amtrak between Lancaster and Philadelphia and my podcast habit. Amtrak wifi.
  32. Lancaster County Park. Having half a botellon.
  33. Hours reading by myself in Italy.
  34. Jamie Attenberg’s #1000wordsofsummer project.
  35. Antique Fiats and Vespas.
  36. At least daily gelato.
  37. Walking for miles before it got hot outside, napping during the hottest part of the day, then figuring out where to go for supper.
  38. Holding my breath. Learning how to exhale, even just a little bit at a time. Not all at once. Not for good. But just a little sometimes.
  39. Important conversations at BarCamp.
  40. Pizza for breakfast in Florence.
  41. Homemade milkshakes. With malt.
  42. Ice cream sandwiches.
  43. Burger night work night at Molly’s. A stressful schedule. An overcommitted partner.
  44. Gestation that feels like it’s taken forever and only just started, all at once.
  45. Boundaries. Enforcing them.
  46. Giving myself space to want to have a home on the internet to come back to. Not forcing it. Procrastinating long enough to figure out if I actually want it. (I think I do. I actually think I do. I miss it. More on this later, maybe.)
  47. Not skipping Rome.
  48. Giant arancini balls.
  49. Burrata made fresh that day.
  50. The apartment in Rome. Luca, our sweet host, who wrote us the most amazing guide we could have asked for. The windows. The curtains. The teal walls. The bookshelves.
  51. Write/Speak/Code. Ashi Krishnan’s talk. Walking into a space where I immediately felt comfortable and kind of in awe of all of the people around me.
  52. Verbalizing to near-total strangers that I want to write a memoir in essays, and why.
  53. Trying to claw my way out from under the weight of the last few years. Making progress.
  54. Building a wall on our second floor to create a more sensible floor plan.
  55. Painting upstairs.
  56. Weighing how many cute things to buy or acquire against my superstition and paranoia and intense anxiety.
  57. Maternity jeans. Then bigger maternity jeans.
  58. Learning that the advice on all online retailers’ size charts that you should order your pre-pregnancy size is horseshit.
  59. Learning that for me, for months, the only part of me that looks like it’s having a baby is my ass. (I’m totally ok with this, it just makes the whole jeans thing difficult.)
  60. Being grateful again and again for a partner who is not squeamish and can stab me with needles like a champ, but takes no pleasure in it.
  61. A rearranged bedroom that somehow feels even more Scandinavian to me than before.
  62. The cats. Always the cats.
  63. Decaf.
  64. The decaf frozen latte at Mean Cup. I’ve ordered it when it’s below freezing outside. I can’t let go of it for some reason. It’s become a weird anchor that I look forward to, especially after going to the gym.
  65. Letting go of freelance/contracting life for now, and embracing being in-house somewhere again. It feels good to get paid regularly, work with a consistent group of people, have clear expectations, and well-outlined projects again.
  66. Finding out that Chad has a paid paternity leave.
  67. Maintaining a regular gym schedule, even after not freelancing full time anymore.
  68. An (temporary?) end to the medical-related financial strain of the last couple years.
  69. An end to the unpredictable trips to Philadelphia.
  70. Brunch at Goldie’s for a bunch of weekends in a row after it opened.
  71. Another Yoder reunion in Belleville at the creek with my maternal grandfather’s family and the hundreds of relatives I have because of his parents. Hymns in four parts with almost the whole range of Amish-Mennonite types represented. Moon pies. Endless soft serve.
  72. A beautiful roofdeck in Old City with friends.
  73. Maternal Fetal Medicine and a very encouraging perinatologist.
  74. Chad reading Mary Oliver to me.
  75. Books Are Magic.
  76. Going to MilkBar and The Strand at every opportunity while staying near Union Square. The first onesie we bought at The Strand.
  77. Spending time with friends at their lake house in the Poconos. Spotting a snake. Floating in the lake for hours, stupidly letting my growing belly get sunburned in a weird pattern. Discovering the joy of grilled cheese with hotdogs in it. Trust me on that one. #campfood
  78. Seeing The National for the fourth? Fifth? time at The Mann. Wondering if it’d be the last show I’d get to see for awhile.
  79. Seeing Of Montreal at The Chameleon in Lancaster. Wondering if it’d be the last show I’d get to see for awhile.
  80. The Call Your Girlfriend live show in Philly. Wondering if it’d be the last show I’d get to see for awhile.
  81. Brunch with new friends on their beautiful deck.
  82. Learning to try to be ok with people showing their support and accepting their congratulations and happiness for us. Accepting their gifts and food and favors. It still makes me wildly uncomfortable, but it is so kind and the smallest acts still just blow me away.
  83. Internalizing that I owe no one on the internet anything. Figuring out boundaries around what to post. Settling on no kid pics online, at least for now. Maybe this will change, but I’m not counting on it.
  84. Chad singing “This Must Be the Place” over and over to see if she (who we referred to as “they”) would recognize it when they emerged. (So far, it doesn’t seem like it’s working.)
  85. Peeking at the ultrasound when the techs told me not to look at the screen. Thinking multiple times a week about emailing Penn to find out the sex, even though Chad adamantly did not want to. I somehow didn’t cave.
  86. Eating too much Chik-fil-a, mostly for the milkshakes.
  87. Making time to read more, perhaps due to knowing that it’ll be harder to lounge around and read books now.
  88. A maternity photo shoot in Lancaster City at the last minute.
  89. This essay by Lydia Kiesling. Being grateful for no nausea. The rest of the essay is pretty accurate, though.
  90. Getting parenting advice from Austin Kleon. Sometimes Twitter is the worst, sometimes Twitter is the best.
  91. The support of a whole bunch of women online who were formerly strangers to me, whom I’ve still never met in person but are there in the middle of the night.
  92. An unexpected, medically necessary induction. An epidural. Advice to not wait too long for an epidural if pitocin is involved. Seriously, get the epidural. Going from zero to active labor is no joke.
  93. The amazing staff at the hospital.
  94. My family bringing Christmas to us, including the china we eat on every year on the farm, and then packing it all up and taking it with them. Prime rib (see #98).
  95. A robot vacuum cleaner.
  96. A doctor who listened.
  97. Blood transfusions.
  98. Anemia.
  99. Taking a series of unbearably short naps at night instead of actually sleeping.
  100. Ending the year with getting my kid’s birth certificate in the mail, making official something that I never thought would happen.
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100 Things that Made My 2017

Thumbnails of my top nine instagram posts in 2017I take the end-of-the-year recap post seriously, but to be honest, I could not stomach putting one together in my usual format. 2017 has felt like a year of private horrors to me, and I’m not interested in reflecting on how little I feel like I accomplished because my energy and effort were needed elsewhere.

But then I stumbled upon Austin Kleon’s 100 Things That Made My Year post, and thought, “Huh. I wonder if I could possibly come up with that many things.” Spoiler: You’re reading this post, so you probably already know that the answer is, shockingly, yes. So here we go.

  1. Diving into Rebecca Solnit’s work.
  2. Waking up 30 in Reykjavik.
  3. Waffles, Swiss mochas, and the secret pizza place.
  4. Roadside snuggles from some very furry Icelandic horses.
  5. Teaching women to code for Girl Develop It, both for the Philly chapter and for a pilot program in a prison.
  6. Shake Shack’s Chick’n Shack sandwich.
  7. #PabloHoneyCat and #HarperLeeCat.
  8. Chad and I reading my cousin’s poetry to each other one evening after I found her book at our local Barnes and Noble.
  9. The brick wall we had exposed in our house in January.
  10. Going to the gym more consistently than I have since high school.
  11. Introducing my brother- and sister-in-law to delicious Lancaster food at Luca.
  12. Working from the backyard.
  13. My new desk chair.
  14. Fun email newsletters — Girls’ Night In, The Ann Friedman Weekly, Tech Ladies.
  15. Coworking dates with Chrystina.
  16. Getting my first hutch (and first piece of Lancaster Craigslist furniture).
  17. Figuring out what plants work in this house. Goodbye succulents, hello pothos and philodendron.
  18. Surviving a challenging code test for an interview.
  19. The new Cold Specks album.
  20. Finding a blog that reminds me why I liked blogs.
  21. Friendly local baristas who cast sunshine into my day.
  22. Insecure.
  23. Gold Fame Citrus.
  24. The $5 zinnia bouquet lady at Central Market.
  25. Horse Fries. Cheeseburgers. The Wind Down, my new signature drink.
  26. Bull’s Head Tavern.
  27. The afternoon light in my office and the weird middle room on our second floor.
  28. An unexpected and subsidized trip to Spain.
  29. Drinking cafe con leche at a tech conference.
  30. Zalyndria Crosby’s keynote at ElaConf.
  31. Inspiring friends.
  32. Creeping through strangers’ houses during the Urban Living Tour in Lancaster city.
  33. Chad’s amazing-ridiculous quinoa burger at Brunchelona.
  34. Jars of bone broth.
  35. Croquetas, papas bravas, tortilla de patata, and… empanadas. We ate lots of empanadas in Barcelona. No, they are not Spanish, but there was a great empanada place in El Born. We stopped there probably once a day.
  36. Going back to that shoe store three times to make sure Chad had the right size. And the shoes we got there. And our interactions with the shop keepers.
  37. The Keystoner Amtrak Line.
  38. Hearing angelic female vocals and harp music in an alley in Barcelona and being pulled into a private house show.
  39. Our history lesson from the bartender in an empty cafe bar on the origin of the name for a ham and cheese sandwich in Barcelona.
  40. The feeling I had walking around Les Corts when we first got to Spain.
  41. Having my Spanish (mostly) come back to me.
  42. Smartfood white cheddar popcorn.
  43. The idea of a backyard cat salon. Now we gotta host some!
  44. Driving down the coast from San Francisco to Santa Cruz.
  45. Credit card points.
  46. Self-serve, self-pay roadside pie at a berry farm.
  47. Tall dried out reedy things along the road in California.
  48. The best random chai on Valencia Street.
  49. Cult-lady sack dresses with pockets.
  50. A brass coffee scoop.
  51. Seeing amazing people marry each other in a redwood grove.
  52. A relaxing chocolate.
  53. An illicit birthday cat.
  54. An opinionated but very cuddly AirBnB cat.
  55. Seeing Mallory Ortberg interview Tom Gault in SF on a whim because our AirBnB was around the corner.
  56. Drinking coffee on the deck in Soquel with lovely people, lovely hummingbirds, and a lovely view.
  57. The rollercoaster in Santa Cruz.
  58. Volunteering as a speaker mentor for ElaConf.
  59. Eating a large boardwalk potato.
  60. BarCamp 10.
  61. All of the ice cream in SF, with special shout out to The Ice Cream Bar.
  62. Drinking canned wine and lounging in the sunshine in Dolores Park.
  63. The realization that sometimes I am the strongest person I know.
  64. Becoming a hat lady.
  65. Wedding dress shopping with my sister and my mom.
  66. Hiking Twin Peaks. The view.
  67. Modeling for fun photo shoots.
  68. Resurrecting my GoodReads account.
  69. Reading for hours in the backyard.
  70. Being asked to contribute to The Human in the Machine.
  71. Rediscovering baths.
  72. The sunset at Natural Bridges State Park.
  73. Dinner at Porta in Asbury Park.
  74. The sweet corn risotto and stuffed squash blossoms at Luca.
  75. Trying to make pottery during my sister’s bachelorette party.
  76. Naps.
  77. The late afternoon light at my parents’ farm.
  78. The drive out of Reykjavik while the sun rose over the icy mountains and glazed the sky.
  79. Lancaster city being cute: The goat outside Central Market, the random alpaca in the alley before Christmas.
  80. Cozy weekend snows.
  81. Chad learning to play Sufjan Steven’s “Christmas Unicorn.”
  82. Chad waking me up by performing a Run the Jewels song: Wake up. Drink water. Smoke blunt. Clean, oil my Kalashnikov.
  83. Solitude.
  84. Grilled pizza.
  85. The realization that the love you need looks different than the love you wanted or pictured.
  86. The Bite Agave Lip Mask.
  87. My winter coat.
  88. Quiches from Oregon Dairy.
  89. Fine-tuning the number of fucks I give.
  90. Sequins.
  91. My calendar system.
  92. The summer pianos in Lancaster city.
  93. All you can eat empanadas at Flora’s.
  94. Honing in on a church.
  95. Mallory Ortberg’s Joan and Anna series.
  96. Fancy citronella candles.
  97. Experiencing the eclipse vicariously through Chad.
  98. Chicken fingers when I need them and the introduction to our neighborhood dive bar.
  99. Ellen Ullman’s Life in Code.
  100. Revisiting Needles and Pens in SF and being so thrilled that it’s still there ten years after our first visit.

 

If you’ve made it this far, thanks. This might be the last thing I post here before moving all these archives somewhere else that feels less…. on display. I’m not wild about having work stuff in the same space I want to be able to write in, and honestly, I think it deters me from posting sometimes. I’ve been thinking about moving stuff around for awhile, and it might be time. We’ll see what happens.

Happy 2018, y’all. I’m wishing you warmth, grit, and some magic for the new year.

 

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7/14/17 || It’s a good week

Cat with book in grass

This was definitely a highlight of my week.

It’s the weekend! To celebrate that, and my tentative (semi-regular?) return to this space, here’s good things from this week.

  • I’ve written before about the desire to be untethered, but also rooted deeply in a place. This appeals to the former, and brings attention to nomad women, rather than the usual tech bros in Bali or Chiang Mai.
  • I’ve been reading Sarah von Bargen’s blog since forever (or 2010ish?), and she’s always got good tips that actually feel accessible. These are the habits she’s cultivated that support her business and creativity.
  • A quick search revealed that I already linked to Joan Didion’s piece, “On Self-Respect.” But it was back in 2012, and I think we could all use a reminder of how brilliant she is. Has anyone read South and West yet? I’m hoping to get my paws on it soon.
  • A local photographer in Lancaster took the photo that is the prompt for this microfiction contest! Entries are due by July 21st.
  • I’ve mentioned Susannah Conway’s Unravelling the Year Ahead before. Chad and I go through it together around every New Year. She just released a companion, a mid-year check in workbook. I’ll be going through it soon, hopefully this week.
  • Bonus: I spent almost all of last weekend sprawled on a blanket in our yard, reading with the cats. It was glorious.

How’s your week been?

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Backyard Cat Salon

Cat laying next to magazine

This is one of the cats we would hang out with.

We had people over the other night. We grilled hamburgers from my parents’ farm, and melted cheese on them. Cooper sharp. It’s the best. Chad grilled some squash and made a salad. I made dessert, which we didn’t end up eating. So now my house is full of dessert, which I don’t mind at all.

Chad had been wanting to do this the whole time we’ve lived here, over a year. I’m resistant. I’m anxious about hosting for a number of reasons. Maybe I’ll share more about that sometime. Chad would often want to text a bunch of people and see who was available. I told him I needed more warning. Plan something ahead, and add it to my calendar so that I had time to mentally (and culinarily) prepare.

It was fun! The cheeseburgers were delicious. Our guests brought some tasty wine and beer. The squash was somewhat undercooked, but whatever. I hadn’t really thought about where we’d eat, but it was a nice night so we stayed outside. We have no patio furniture yet, after over a year. Patio furniture is expensive but optional and house upgrades are expensive but not optional, and also I don’t know what I want yet. So we huddled around a makeshift coffee table in various folding and kitchen table chairs. It worked out. It was fine. Nice, even. And resulted in a potential new friendship.

Today, Chad is in New York. It’s been a really beautiful day. Kind of hot, but it’s cooling off now. I’ve been enjoying the solitude. I kind of want to go to First Friday in this cute little city, but I kind of want to sit quietly in my backyard and drink wine with my cats. I said so on Twitter, and asked if anyone else would want to also sit quietly in my backyard and drink wine with my cats. But it turns out most people in Lancaster are not on Twitter and thus will not see my open invite.

I think it’d be delightful to have an unplanned Twitter cat salon, as Lauren put it. But it might not be able to be unplanned, or organized via Twitter.

So. Does anyone (please no rando internet creeps, though) want to sit quietly in my backyard and drink wine or La Croix with me and my cats at a mutually agreed upon time in the future? Conversation optional. Feel free to bring a book. Maybe there will be dessert.