My Six-and-Three-Quarters Year-Old

I don’t remember the last time I blogged about a milestone, but I have a doozy to share this time. First lost tooth. Sonja jumped off the bus one afternoon and ran at me, screaming, “Mommy! Mommy! I have exciting news!” She told me that she had a wiggly tooth, which is something I’d heard many times before, except this time it was true. Not only did she have a legit wiggly tooth, she had the permanent tooth already halfway grown-in, hiding behind the wiggly tooth. A dual set of teeth. It was really freaky, and she wouldn’t let me take a picture.

She waited about a week for the wiggly tooth to fall out, which it did while she was eating a quesadilla at Grandma’s. I told Sonja I wanted to keep the tooth for the baby book (this was something that was done when I was small, but there really isn’t a place for the tooth in her baby book, so maybe it’s not done anymore? Is it too gross? It seems like there is a level of grossness about it, but it doesn’t bother me, of all people, so it can’t be that bad.) She was on board with keeping the tooth when I told her we could leave a note for the tooth fairy, and the tooth fairy would probably give her money anyway. Which the tooth fairy did. One whole dollar. Apparently, the tooth fairy has not heard of inflation.

One lost tooth.

In other milestone news, Sonja will be “graduating” kindergarten in just a few days. She is NOT happy about this. She wants to stay in kindergarten forever. I can see why – she had a good teacher and liked all of her classmates. There were lots of art projects to do and books to read, P.E. classes and music classes and library, rules to follow and things to do. She walked in to kindergarten knowing how to read and focused her efforts on learning how to spell things on her own. She’s pretty darn good for six, but the words she sounds out and then misspells are at once completely adorable and utterly logical. English spelling is bizarre. She likes to brag about how much her handwriting has improved since she was younger. She likes to watch the educational videos they watch in school at home, and she can find them herself on YouTube. She tries to set up her desk exactly as it is at school, and make calendars and folders exactly as they do in school. I’ve tried to reassure her that first grade will be just as awesome as Kindergarten, but she seems to be uncharacteristically stressed out about it.

I am preparing a bag of goodies for her last day to say congratulations and to jump start summer. Honestly, this is such a cute idea I can’t believe I came up with it. I am already envisioning it as a tradition.

And now for what we did this quarter…

We had some fun in April with a quick trip to Leavenworth.

Fun in Leavenworth.

There was a visit from a friend at a very cute café.

Eating café snacks.

Dancing under the archway. 

 

Sonja went on her first Kindergarten field trip to the “rocky beach shore,” which she loved.

Sonja and I both made this face for pretty much the entire field trip.

She also had her first piano recital. She volunteered to go first, and she played Chim Chim Cher-ee from Mary Poppins. Unfortunately piano lessons aren’t continuing this summer, but hopefully I can keep her interested and playing at least a little until fall.

The best.

There was Mother’s Day which came with this cuteness…

All About Mom. That word is supposed to be baking.

A bookmark. I always need these.

…and Father’s Day which came with this cuteness.

All About Dad

I love you, Dad, because you are silly!

As far as entertainment goes, we had a very, very long streak of watching the Cat in the Hat series, and have recently switched over to Animaniacs. At least there are more episodes of that. I’ve been renting all of the Disney movies I can think of in anticipation of our trip. I think things will go more smoothly if she is more familiar with the characters. We’ve been watching a lot of old classics that have a big presence in the park, like Sleeping Beauty and Alice in Wonderland. She has loved all of them, but I have to say, we’ve really come a long way in animation and storytelling.

And now we head into the first noticed summer of her childhood, where she’s not in school but she knows it’s coming around again. I hope we are able to make the most of it. I asked her what she wanted to do on her summer vacation, and she said, “maybe we could play school.”

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My Waste Matters (and So Does Yours)

I’ll be honest here – I’ve tried and failed to write this post so many times I’ve lost count. The problem is I don’t know where to start. I’ve blogged extensively about my love of Marie Kondo and decluttering, which seems as good a place to start as any, but somehow the line between those books and my obsession with zero-waste YouTube videos is blurry.

Zero waste is a lifestyle in which people try to produce as little trash as possible, and that includes recycling. Recycling is a very good thing to do, but it takes resources. Plus, plastics have a very short recycling life and eventually wind up in the landfill or our oceans and are generally a real scourge on our planet.

I do not remember how I found these zero-waste YouTube videos or even learned the term zero-waste, even though it wasn’t that long ago. That’s how entangled I’ve become. I should say right off the bat that I am not zero waste nor am I under any delusions that I can make that happen. I am, however, trying to rid my life of plastics. My motivation for making the changes I’ve made is one part environmental concern, one part user interface. I can’t save the environment on my own – no one can. Business has to take an interest and be held responsible for the of impact the materials they use. But I can do some things, and the things that I can do make my life sometimes easier, sometimes more enjoyable. If you think of the big picture, stuff does wear out (albeit quicker now than it used to, in most cases.) Stuff does become obsolete (see previous parenthetical.) Stuff does go to the dump. I think the zero-wasters who brag about fitting their waste into a mason jar are underestimating their impact. Yes, you can flit from apartment to apartment, leaving your wear and tear behind. When you’ve lived in a house for 11 years as I have, you know at some point you’re going to be throwing away a few broken pipes and worn out washing machines. Continue reading

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My Spring Break

Two-and-a-half years ago, in the middle of summer, we took a day trip to Leavenworth, WA, about a 3 hour drive from our hometown. It was a fun day, and afterwards we discussed potentially staying overnight in the winter, when the town is decked out for Christmas. That we found ourselves there on a family weekend getaway in the middle of April was, as Judy Moody would say, “rare.”

It was a bit of a last minute decision, when my husband had to take or lose vacation time. (Always take vacation time!) He timed it with my daughter’s spring break. “Too bad you’re not on spring break too, we could take a trip.” This suggestion floored me, because I basically spend half my waking life thinking about traveling, whereas my husband spends most of his thinking of ways to stay home. I digress. I was not on break from work, but I do have Fridays off, so we planned a little trip.

If you are unfamiliar with the lay of Washington land, but you are a cynic at heart, then you would definitely consider Leavenworth a tourist trap. It’s a small town in the middle of the Cascades decorated to look like a Bavarian town. It was a last ditch effort to save the town from financial ruin after the railroad left town and the local mill closed. It worked, and now people go there to see the sights, pretend they’re in Germany when they’re not, and spend money. So yeah, it’s a tourist trap, but a very pretty one.

Our first morning there, I left the hotel and walked across the street to the Starbucks to get breakfast. It was about 8:30 in the morning. The normally busy main street was empty. It was quiet. I looked up past the steepled building at the frothy, low hanging clouds and snow-capped mountains that surrounded me. It was serene, for two reasons. First, it is a beautiful sight to behold, and second, I was able to behold it and also be at Starbucks.

Bavarian Starbucks

This strange dichotomy is close to my heart. I want the serenity of a quiet, removed location and the convenience of being able to walk everywhere I want to go. I want to be away from the poisonous busy-ness that plagues modern-day living, but not so far away that I’m inconvenienced in any way.

On Saturday, we went to a farm so Sonja could try horseback riding. Driving there on a narrow, unpainted back road, we saw houses so few and far between, you’d almost need a car to get to your neighbor’s. These are the houses that are featured in Nancy Myers movies. I want to live in these houses.

Just not on a farm. Sonja had a great time horseback riding, though. She was very adamant before we went that she wanted to know the horse’s name. It was Cinnamon Sugar. She rode Cinnamon around the farm. There was only one other trail open this early in the year, and it was a 90-minute ride. She assured me she wanted to do this, but aside from the fact I had no real desire to be on a horse for 90-minutes, I knew she would get bored and whiny halfway through. The ten-minute trek was a perfect introduction.

Cinnamon Sugar & Sonja

There was plenty that Sonja was not happy about on the trip. I’ve been trying some new parenting techniques to thwart meltdowns, when I have the energy. I managed at least one victory on our last night in town, when she was throwing a fit about being too tired to walk back to the hotel, which was less than a block away. I suggested we walk backwards the entire way; the meltdown was thwarted and a grand time was had by all, us and onlookers wondering what the hell we were doing. But I had to ask myself why she is so good on the traveling part of our trips – you can barely tell she’s in the car, and that’s whether she’s playing a video game or just staring out the window – but so very temperamental when we get there. I asked her about it, and it seems our plans did not mesh up with her vision of the trip. She thought when we went back to the hotel after being out in the city, we would be staying at the hotel for the night. But we went back several times during the day because we could. It was very convenient On most of our other vacations, that has not been an option. I see trip-planning and to-do lists in our future.

Stupid hard mini-golf course. Clubs were thrown.

All in all, it was a lovely little getaway. The mountain air was clean and, surprisingly, not as cold or as rainy as it is here. I got to test out my new suitcase before our big summer vacation. Our motel was adorable and allergen-friendly with a wood floor. The shops were unspeakably cute. I was very surprised and happy to come home with some sustainable purchases that I have been unable to find in my own, much more populated suburb. (I will talk more extensively on that in another post.) The mini-golf course was laughably hard. Even the windy-roaded drive was fun. We stopped many places along the way and way back, including the small town of Roslyn, famous for playing the part of Alaska in the show Northern Exposure.

Our adorable motel. Sonja is putting on what she calls her, “hotel socks.” You couldn’t pay this kid to put on socks in the dead of winter, but apparently they are a must at hotels.

My lunch at Roslyn Cafe.

Roslyn Cafe, aka Roslyn’s Cafe

I see more weekend getaways in my future. They are good for the soul. A hotel across from Starbucks may be a requirement.

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My Six-and-a-Half Year Old

Six-and-a-half. Six-and-a-half. Six-and-a-half.

I’ve said this before and I’m going to say it again because I don’t know what else to say. The and-a-half updates are always slow. January through March is not my favorite time of year.

Ah, here we go. Sonja continues to take piano lessons. It has been difficult to get her to practice, especially since practicing is not something I want her to see as a power struggle. (Not that I want her to see anything that way, but least of all this.) She knows this intrinsically and uses it to fuck with me. After telling me she doesn’t want to practice, she’ll tell me how she hates music and lessons. I volunteer to go in her place. She screams no. The teacher held a students-only recital a few weeks ago which I was forced privileged to stay for. I sat at the back of the room. Sonja sat in the front row. The teacher asked the students to introduce themselves and say one thing they liked about music. Without waiting her turn, Sonja said, “I love everything about music. It’s my favorite thing in the whole wide world.”

We had some unexpected February snow. Nothing too special about that but I have pictures. If you’re reading this from the east coast…sorry?

Sonja made a friend on the bus, and that friend stayed overnight a few weeks ago. Sonja’s first sleepover. We made pizza and they watched Pete’s Dragon. I gave them a bucket of candy while they watched, and this was an excellent reminder for me that children who are not mine will eat all of the candy if not instructed otherwise.

For a minute, Sonja really wanted to have a family night, so we taught her how to play Carcasonne. She did really well for her age, and seemed to enjoy it. We have so many fun and unusual board games and I am looking forward to more family nights playing them together.

Kindergarten is a grand time. From spirit days to making leprechaun traps to being asked to read announcements to the whole school, she doesn’t want to miss a thing. When I tell her she has early dismissal on a particular day, I have to reassure her it’s early dismissal for the whole school and not just her. I took her out early once and she missed making the giant letter of the week. Tragedy ensued.

After failing to convince Sonja to see Coco when it was in the theaters, I convinced her to watch it on DVD. She cried a couple of times. It was intense. But she liked it and so did I. For some reason, she has taken to watching Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee with me. The day after her sleepover she was so tired, she could do nothing but argue with me and cry. She insisted that she did NOT want to watch something. I glanced over at our DVD shelf and saw, to my surprise, Journey to the Center of the Earth (the Brendan Fraser one). I thought it might be just the ticket. Boy oh boy, did she have fun watching that one. How we came to actually own Journey to the Center of the Earth I do not know, but surely that day it served its purpose. After completing the library’s summer reading challenge, I steered her towards a Roald Dahl story called The Giraffe, The Pelly and Me for her prize. It was difficult to get her to let me read it to her, but as soon as I did, she fell in love. We then read Fantastic Mr. Fox and watched the film and the love continued. I’m not sure at what point she watched The BFG, but she loved it and now we’re reading the book. We also recently watched Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes on Netflix, and it’s safe to say we’re big fans.

And that’s really all she wrote for six-and-a-half. Here’s to a lively spring.

 

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On Using Up My Stuff

It’s been nearly two years since I began my decluttering journey after reading the master manifesto The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. Journey is definitely the correct word here. After my initial decluttering, I continued to work on the minimalist mindset, and, as author Marie Kondo said would happen, realized places and spaces where I’d made mistakes, some by decluttering too little, some by decluttering too much.

It is the places where I did too little that I have begun tackling recently. For example, when I was first decluttering, I kept all of my candles. In general, they just seemed useful. Some of them had specific memories attached to them. But they were tucked away in a cabinet in the kitchen. Though I lit them all up once for fun, when the power went out, it hardly seemed worth the storage space to keep them for just those occasions. Since we were short on daylight anyway, I decided to put some Danish hygge into practice and burn them all to the ground.

 

A gaggle of candles.

As the wax has slowly melted away the past couple of weeks, I have felt particularly accomplished. The table looks pretty. The house smells great. And I’m getting value out of something that was otherwise just gathering dust. My fear is that I may have inadvertently created a new habit. Candlelight is definitely not unpleasant. I have decided that it will be okay, after using up most of these candles, to keep one or two handy in case of a power outage or for the extra coziness it can provide in winter. A few more that were actually on display, being used as decorations, will stay that way.

A peace candle, dating all the way back to my college years. Even though I did not go to college in the ’60s.

We found this candle upon moving into our first apartment in 2005, a gift from management.

A French gel candle, sent to me by a friend. When I received this candle maybe twenty years ago, it was blue. Or purple. Green, maybe? I don’t remember, but it was definitely a better color than the puke brown it turned into sitting in my cabinet.

Another French candle. I will keep this one.

A funky canned candle from the Daiso store. Never opened.

Until now!

A pretty purple candle.

An autumn candle.

A candle that my husband and I agreed smelled good.

A summery candle that lives in my home office, even on the darkest winter days.

Speaking of inadvertently creating new habits… Next up, I want to rid myself of the rest of  my excess household cleaners. I still have toilet bowl cleaners and Pledge leftover from multipacks that I bought at Costco before we moved into the house. 11 years ago. Hello spring cleaning!

A little bit of hygge.

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My Sensitivities

Orthorexia (noun): An obsession with eating foods that one considers healthy.

A few days ago, my daughter had a playdate with a new friend whose family I had never met. Within five minutes of our arrival at their house, the conversation had turned – through no fault of my own – to this family’s efforts to eat healthier. These people had no idea that the idea of eating healthier is one that I consider myself unhealthily obsessed with. And in a way, that made me feel a little saner. It’s not my fault. It’s a national conversation.

It’s a conversation that needs to be had. But in this conversation where everybody has an opinion on what’s right and what’s wrong and nobody is either, poor little obsessive-compulsives like me get caught up in the winds.

My obsession with healthy food does not stem from a particular fear of obesity or disease, but bends towards a generic cure for what ails me. What ails me? Migraines. Stomachaches. Things that can be correlated to food. I have been on elimination diet after elimination diet to no avail. I can’t tell if I’m just doing it wrong or there isn’t any relation between what I’m eating and the way I feel. Having brought this issue up with my physician previously, I decided to bring it up again and to insist on a referral to the allergy specialist.

The allergy specialist decided to do a food panel scratch test – 72 foods in all. My fear in requesting a referral and talking up these complaints to someone in the medical field is that the test results will come back negative, and I’ll just seem like another crazy white lady on a quest for the cure for wellness.

Preparing the test: 72 pristine droplets of potential food allergens. (This looks like the set up to a really great mobile game.)

It was quite a shock to my system then, when this happened:

Scratch testing in action

Instead of turning up no results, I turned up ALL of the results. I reacted to nearly every food they tested me for, including the negative control. So then it was a matter of deciding what was a real reaction and what was “normal.”

The two foods that gave the greatest reactions were eggs and barley. With the allergy specialist, we focused on eggs, which are much more prominent in my (or anyone’s) diet than barley. Here’s the thing about eggs: If I had not been tested, I could have lived to be a thousand before I suspected or eliminated eggs from my diet. I can’t think of any elimination diet that does not allow eggs. And I was very skeptical that this could actually be a thing. Part of the reason I wouldn’t have thought of eggs is that I’m not particularly fond of eggs. I’ll use them in baking and cooking when necessary, but I’m not big on breakfast. Except for the occasional breakfast sandwich, eggs just don’t seem to be a big part of my life.

The specialist told me to go without eggs for a week, then reintroduce and see if I could provoke a reaction. My first thought was, “this will be the easiest elimination diet ever!” He said if I had a reaction to do it again, and again, to make sure it’s not a coincidence. So after a week, I ate some homemade egg noodles. And I got a two-day migraine. For some reason, I was not expecting that. But no, it couldn’t have been the noodles. There isn’t much egg in egg noodles. It must’ve been MSG or something else. So I waited two more weeks. Weeks that were free of migraines, by the way. Then I used egg as a binder in a crumb coating and made brownies with my daughter. And I got a another migraine.

Suddenly, it all started to make sense. Eggs are not something I see as a big part of my diet, but they are present in a lot of things that I eat. If other potential offenders weren’t provoking a consistent reaction, maybe that’s because I was accusing innocent foods.

There was one other food that provoked a pretty big reaction. Bigger on the flare and the same on the wheal as the control. That was wheat. I told the doctor that I had toyed with gluten-free for a couple of weeks and felt some improvement in migraines, but that it absolutely destroyed my stomach. He told me that I should try going wheat-free, not gluten free. That would mean that I could still have grains that had gluten. But the barley caused the biggest reaction. Which I told him. And he just said, “well, that throws a wrench in it, doesn’t it?” Well, yeah. I don’t have a medical degree, but I would think wheat + barley = gluten. I’ve thought about asking for a celiac test, but I’m not sure I want to open that can of worms.

And so I continue the obsessions. I’m really good at eliminating things from my diet without necessarily eating healthy, and frequently I’m not as interested in eating healthy as I’d like to be. I mean, I probably do pretty well, but I could do better. The cultural conversation continually hammers home the point that if we don’t eat well, we’re going to die, so eating continues to be stressful and I continue to search for the diet that will make me feel the best.

I still don’t have the answers. The allergy tests could still be a fluke. But one thing is for sure: I am not eating eggs again until after I get another migraine.

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My Week in Review: January 8-14

It seems like so many things have gone wrong in my quest for absolute, unassailable perfection. After a long holiday and a weird start to the quarter (I don’t know why they had to start it on a Wednesday this time but it threw everything out of whack), my sleep/wake schedule is on the way to returning to normal. I think I’ll have it under control in a day or two, which two weeks into the new year probably isn’t terrible is pretty good if I do say so myself.

The new washer arrived on Tuesday and is about two inches taller than the dryer, and as you can imagine that doesn’t bother me at all. Nope. Nuh-uh. I’m totally fine with it. Work on the laundry room itself had to stop because I needed to do a lot of actual laundry, and then had a busy weekend. In the meantime, Shaun patched a hole in the ceiling that he may or may not have created himself. I’m trying to figure the order of operations for completing the painting but it’s making my brain hurt. Ceiling. Shuffle machines. Finish primer. Shuffle machines. Paint. Shuffle machines. Paint again. Shuffle machines. Door jambs and second coat on cabinet. Something like that.

Pretty new washer. It’s TOTALLY FINE that it’s taller than the dryer.

Friday was taken up with a meeting that may wind up being lucrative for me but will also mean more work, as well as a “short” trip to the grocery store to pick up a few things for dinner. I’ve read that despite all the conversation and focus on nutrition and eating, not that many people are cooking from scratch at home, and that’s no mystery. Food takes forever. It eats up (ha!) so much time between cooking and cleaning that it’s no wonder I spend all my free-time obsessing over it. All I really want is to eat really healthy food that’s really tasty and takes no time to prepare. Is that really so much to ask?

On Saturday, our friends came to visit so that we could see the musical, Elephant and Piggie: We Are in a Play” at a local production company. The girls loved it and it was very cute. Knowing the books as well as I do allowed me to see the clever ways they weaved some of the stories together to make the plays, but also left me feeling that familiar refrain, “the book was better.”

Meeting “Elephant” and “Piggie”

Sunday left me reflecting on food, thinking that the plan I had to eat an anti-inflammatory diet may have been too broad to be successful. I’ve started thinking of reducing or going gluten-free, at least temporarily, as a stepping stone on the whole foods journey. In general, I feel like I have been eating less and more mindfully, and that’s as good a place as any to start.

Today began with a trip to Trader Joe’s with Sonja. I took her there on a whim several months ago so I could get whatever health food it was I thought I couldn’t live without at that time, and she fell in love with it. They have kid-sized shopping carts and I let her pick out her own groceries (within reason), and by golly if that isn’t better than a trip to the amusement park. There are a few items there that I have come to really love, but for as far away as it is, with its limited and changing selection, I probably wouldn’t go as much if it wasn’t the only grocery store Sonja will go to willingly.

An Ode to Trader Joe’s in marker.

And now this day is over and I must somehow tear myself away from the agony of menu planning, and the gluttony of looking at laundry rooms on pinterest, to concentrate on the work I actually get paid to do, before turning my attentions to the laundry room this weekend.

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My More Appliance Woes

I promised in my resolutions to institute plots and plans and projects and update you on them. The current plot, to eat no added sugar and follow an anti-inflammatory diet, is not going well. But rather than admit defeat in all its glorious detail, I had a more interesting project that took up space in my brain that I wanted to expound upon.

Listen, I’m not sure if the appliances speak to each other in some kind of coded machine language, and then plan little machine revolutions, but sure as “a squared plus b squared equals c squared,” when one appliance breaks, others follow.

The first was my printer. It didn’t break completely, just the auto-duplexer. I pressed on, printing just the A sides and guiltily murdering trees, but since it has six separate ink cartridges that are getting harder to find, and since the printing usually is streaky and awful, I figured it was time to look into getting a new printer. I have one in mind and will buy it when the streaky, awful ink runs out.

Next it was the microwave. It was spinning and whirring but the food was coming out ice cold. The day before Christmas Eve we stood in a very long line at our local retailer, new microwave perched atop one of the small, I’m-only-getting-a-few-things-today carts, because that was the only cart left at the store. It was insanity, but the microwave was on sale and there was a coupon for $10 off if you spent so much money, which we did, so I guess I’m not complaining.

Then, on New Year’s Day, it was our washing machine. It actually started two days before. The machine flooded the laundry room. My husband accused me of overloading it. I took some clothes out and restarted everything went fine. The problem was solved. Or so we thought, until the next load of laundry on New Year’s Day when the same thing happened. We brought forth from our repressed memories recollections of this happening before. Shaun had cleaned the water sensor which fixed the problem, but he wasn’t able to clean it very well because it was small, hard to get to, and glued in place. He could clean it again, but this all would happen again in the near future and I, for one, am tired of mopping up the laundry room and then having nowhere to go with a bunch of wet, soggy laundry. So we decided to buy a new one. With our washing machine at just 10 years old, it’s a little ahead of schedule, but at least now we can get an HE machine. It took a day or two but I settled on one I liked at a reasonable price, then I started looking at my laundry room. I hate my laundry room. I complain every time I do laundry that I can’t open the dryer without re-positioning the door to the room. The room is also dark and ugly. The floor is tiled orange, and several years ago I got rid of some hideous wallpaper and painted the walls a complementary color, which helped, but it’s still poorly lit with dark cabinets.

Before

After

I started thinking about all the other horrible, dark cabinets we’ve ripped out of this house and I decided it was time to do so again. I calculated that ripping out the cabinets, putting in some modern shelves and repainting would be an inexpensive way to make a big difference. And so the cabinets came down today and primer-ing began. Unfortunately the new washer is coming on Tuesday and I wish I’d thought of this earlier. But oh well. The wheels are in motion and I hope to come to you with something truly pinterest-y in a few weeks. I can do it, I know I can.

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My Best of 2017

I started this post last year by saying there was a feeling that culturally, it was kind of a shitty year. HAH! Move over 2016, you got nothing on 2017. Sigh. There were still many great cultural offerings in 2017. This post always focuses on the great things I found during the previous year, whether they were produced in 2017 or not. Items on the list include but are not limited to: books, television shows, movies and trends. As I began last year’s post similarly to this year’s, so shall I begin this year’s list with:

Better Call Saul Season 3

Holy crap. A few years ago I hailed Breaking Bad‘s “Ozymandias” episode as the best hour of television that ever was. Well, there’s a new contender for that title, and it’s Saul‘s “Chicanery.” What a masterful piece of work this was. It was what’s referred to in the industry as a “bottle episode,” taking place entirely in a courtroom. Breaking Bad’s greatest strength was always what creator Vince Gilligan called “mining our own history,” searching for details from the past and letting them pay off in future episodes. “Chicanery” is the episode that this entire series has been leading up to. From there, the main character’s dissent into darkness begins. We know it’s coming, and somehow we resist and we fight and we wish we could change. We shouldn’t be surprised by the decisions these characters make – we know how this story ends – and yet we are not only surprised but we are heartbroken.

Sneaky Pete Season 1

This is an Amazon series that was developed by Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad) and produced by Graham Yost (Justified). This was a fun series that showcased the terrific Giovanni Ribisi, who I’ve been watching since he was on My Two Dads. I thought they did such a nice job of wrapping up all of their story lines too, when at the very end we’re reminded of one we forgot, and that’s the cliffhanger for season 2.

The Edge of Seventeen

Ladybird is getting all the awards buzz, but another movie with a teenage girl protagonist also came out this year to great reviews, and that’s the one I saw. The Edge of Seventeen is probably the best movie I’ve seen in a decade. I’m not sure I even want to like Ladybird, because Seventeen was so perfect. When I was writing my NaNoWriMo novel about 4 years ago, my protagonist was a teenage girl, and I thought constantly about the drama I was creating. I thought it was too much. I wanted to convey a sense of extreme urgency, but I worried that it wouldn’t make sense to anyone but me. Along comes Seventeen, which perfectly portrayed the urgent atmosphere I was trying to convey in my novel. Goddammit. If only I hadn’t doubted myself, maybe my book could’ve been that movie. Or something like it. One final thought: Why is Woody Harrelson so good in everything he does?

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, season 3

This show is reliably funny and despite the fact that I am still mourning the loss of Santino Fontana as Greg, season 3 might be the best one yet. There have been so many great musical numbers this season, it’s hard to choose just one to showcase here. But choose  I did. The following, as well as any related Crazy Ex-Girlfriend musical numbers that show up on YouTube after you’re finished with this one, are NSFW.

 

Mike Birbiglia

Netflix has this new feature where, when you hover over one of the shows you are contemplating watching, it shows you a preview. And so it was that as I was scrolling and hovering through the comedians section, I laughed at the preview of Thank God for Jokes by Mike Birbiglia. I laughed and so I watched. And then I laughed a whole lot and was also amazed. At the end of the set, I realized I’d listened to an entire story. These weren’t one-off jokes. No set up was forgotten, not a single joke was random. There was an overarching theme. It felt like a stand-up novel. And since I am nothing if not interested in storytelling, I wanted to explore more. I watched My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend – same deal. Then I went and listened to an old podcast of Birbiglia talking to Marc Maron, and they talked about the particular style of comedy, which is actually called story-based comedy, and it is so difficult that few people do it. I believe it. But I LOVE it. If I were still in college, I’d find a way to write a paper about it. On the podcast, they put forth Al Madrigal as another one who does story-based comedy, but I’ve not been able to find an act of his to check out to see if it’s the same thing. I hope that it is, but I suspect Birbiglia is just extra, extra good at what he does.

Malcolm Gladwell

Speaking of people who are extra, extra good at what they do, there’s Malcolm Gladwell. He likes to look at stories from a different perspective, and what he does is so well-researched and so well communicated that it’s difficult not to take his side. Gladwell has been around for years, and I started reading his books last year, but I read more this year and listened to his podcast and I know I’ll be interested in what he has to say forever.

Minimalism and Marie Kondo

I read Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up last year and I loved it. This year, I read the illustrated Spark Joy and that helped me fix my kitchen, which I realized I hadn’t tackled properly in my previous tidyings. I’m still far from perfect, but I’ve incorporated so many of her principles into my life that it most certainly qualifies as life-changing, and I’m all the better for it.

So with that I’ll bid adieu to 2017. I’m not exactly sad to see it go, but I definitely thank it for the things it did bring into my life this year. I can’t wait to see what 2018 brings. But I will have to.

 

 

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My Procrastination and Perfectionism Problem – Update #11 or My New Year’s Resolutions – 2018 Edition

How perfectly coincidental to conclude this project on New Year’s Eve. You say I planned it like that? Fine. Be that way.

Of all the things I said I’d do, the three that stuck the best were going to bed and rising at the same time each day (at least until this current break, when I made up with my snooze button), exercising every day, and blogging every week. I also wrote down all my expenses (something I’d started doing slightly before the project began), paid with cash and debit card (no credit) for everything, and didn’t buy things I didn’t need, at least until Christmastime. Making a wish list on Amazon re-ignited some of my retail desires, and I bought a few of the things I did not receive for Christmas after the fact, as presents to myself.

The things that fell by the wayside were meditation, picking up after myself immediately (only because it seemed futile to pick up after myself and still have the place be a hot mess with everybody else’s stuff), limiting social media, concentrating on a hobby, and not drinking soda. (That last one has been a downward spiral since a few days before Christmas.)

The things that I consider a wash were carrying a notebook with me at all times (I nearly always have some kind of paper/pen with me anyway, I just didn’t really use it) and reading more (I go through cycles but if I have some time and a good book in the vicinity, I read. I also don’t count things like cookbooks, but truth be told I’m constantly borrowing them from the library and leafing through them.)

So that’s not bad, eh? I was surprised that I liked the sleep/wake times, and that 7 1/2 hours was enough sleep most of the time. But not all of the time, because sometimes your body tells you otherwise. I was also surprised/not surprised that making the time for exercise did ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to derail my work productivity. “I can’t exercise!” I said, “I might not finish my work.” Not true. Everything worked out exactly the same before the exercise commitment as after. And of course, I was not surprised that I liked blogging every week, though I know that they weren’t all gems of entries.

So going forward, I have some resolutions, based largely on the anecdotal data I’ve collected over the past 76 days.

  1. Keep the exercise. I’ve actually done a total of 76 days of something, whether it be walking or even a quick 20-minute video. I suppose in the new year, I could take a day or two off a month, but overall, I want to keep this pace. The only trouble I forsee is getting bored with the DVDs as I slog through the winter months.
  2. Keep the wake/sleep times, but allow myself a little more slack for days that I am tired or sick, and vacations.
  3. Keep writing down expenses and being careful with what I choose to spend money on.
  4. Learn to bullet journal. I got a bullet journal for Christmas, and while the notebook is ancillary, I think the system might be beneficial to me. It might even count as a hobby. I’m not artistic, like the bullet journalers online, but after watching several tutorials, I did get really excited about the washi tape, making a trip to the store for that and a new purple pen. Side note: Sharpie makes the best pens/highlighters.
  5. Continue reducing waste. This was not part of the project, but I feel pretty great about all the things I did this year to reduce my personal waste (Here’s a list, How I Reduced My Waste in 2017, if you’re curious) and I want to continue the trend.
  6. Keep blogging once a week.
  7. Keep the projects going. I realized that the procrastination and perfectionism project was less about the procrastination and perfectionism, and more about the project. I just like exploring and learning and trying new things. So I had the idea to try a new project each month. I have several things I want to do, like not buying anything (except food), various food-related diets and experiments, and creating less waste. Writing about the projects would help me keep steadily blogging. After weighing several options, I decided January had to be food-related, because it’s so terribly cliche, how could it not? I also plan to book summer vacation plans soon, so the no-spend month would likely be out of the question.

My food project for January is to follow, as closely as possible, an anti-inflammatory diet. I’ve been moving towards eating whole foods, but it’s a long process and I really want to tackle some of the demons in January. Mainly, the added sugar demon. I’m also going to reduce meat and try to stay away from flour, but if I make it the month without added sugar, I’ll consider it a success. I’ve decided to allow myself small amounts of dark chocolate (80% and up) because it’s listed as anti-inflammatory and I think it will increase my chances of success. I get restless for chocolate the way others get restless for coffee. Also, one new food rule I’m instituting no matter what diets I try in the future: no more eliminating caffeine. I drink tea. Tea is anti-inflammatory. I’m not changing. Stay the hell away from my tea!

Anybody else vowing to eat better/do better in the new year? Leave a comment below. And Happy New Year!

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