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Posts Tagged ‘daily life’

#100happydays

I first heard about the #100happydays challenge on Kate’s blog, and several of my other friends have since taken it up. The idea is to post a photo each day for 100 days in a row – on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, wherever – of something that’s making you happy.

A few weeks ago, stuck in a post-vacation funk and disappointed at the still-chilly weather, I decided to join in. Here are some highlights from my first 25 days:

100happydays photo collage

Frozen yogurt (and weather warm enough to eat it); new green shoes; Monday night yoga. Daffodils and blue skies; tiny crocuses peeping at me in Harvard Square. A map of Cambridge in a shop window. My husband (on the far left) performing with his a cappella group. Zucchini quesadillas for dinner. A playful, floppy eight-week-old puppy who belongs to one of our interns. And good books. Always good books.

This is a perfect companion to my one little word for this year – light. (And it’s a much-needed corrective on the days I tend to spiral toward grumpy or morose.)

If you need a bit of extra happy in your life, I invite you to join in!

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daffodils

It is (finally) feeling springlike here in the Northeast – the trees are budding, the crocuses are sprouting, the air smells of damp earth (and mulch), and our students are wearing flip-flops around campus. I’m sure we’ll have more chilly days, but I’ve got a vase of daffodils on my desk and a little spring fever in my fingertips.

I’ve been making spring plans for weeks, it seems, so here’s a list of the fun things I’d like to do, try and taste this spring:

  • Watch for crocuses, daffodils, blooming trees and tulips. (Pictured above: daffodils in Oxford, spring 2008.)
  • Fly down to Texas later this month, for a work conference and a weekend with family.
  • While I’m there, eat as much Tex-Mex food as I can. (Obviously.)
  • Wear brightly colored shoes. (My silver flats and new bright green loafers are begging for a few long walks.)
  • Bake with rhubarb.
  • Continue the #100happydays photo challenge. (Loving it.)
  • Treat myself to a pedicure (maybe while I’m in Texas).
  • Celebrate my husband’s 30th birthday in early May.
  • Host a spring-cleaning clothing and book swap.
  • Make some summer travel plans.

What’s on your list for this spring?

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budding trees gutman library harvard square

It’s not quite here yet. But it’s coming.

I’m seeing harbingers of the new season everywhere, including the following:

  • I spotted a plump robin in Harvard Yard the other day.
  • Sometimes it’s cold enough for my down coat in the mornings, but too warm for it by lunchtime. (Not that I’m complaining!)
  • Related: I can walk outside hatless without feeling like my ears are going to freeze off.
  • Some of the snow has melted, revealing bare earth – not beautiful, but a hopeful sign.
  • There are buds on some of the trees.
  • Since the clocks have sprung forward, sunset comes later.
  • I can wear tights that are not fleece-lined.
  • And sometimes, shoes that are not boots.
  • My new sunglasses are coming in handy.
  • On a recent Saturday, the air was so warm that I opened a few windows.
  • I’m getting the urge to reread Jane of Lantern Hill.
  • I’m hankering for asparagus, rhubarb and anything flavored with lemon.
  • Spring plans – like a trip to Texas, my husband’s birthday, and Commencement season at work – don’t seem quite so far away.

How is spring (or the anticipation of it) showing up where you are?

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The grandest lives

I lead a small life. Well, valuable, but small. And sometimes I wonder: Do I do it because I like it? Or because I haven’t been brave?

–Meg Ryan (as Kathleen Kelly), You’ve Got Mail

tea journal sunglasses

Even the grandest lives come down to a few people and places. Loved ones, your daily work, your neighborhood. I don’t mean that in a belittling way. I’ve been realizing how complete our lives can be with just the few people and activities you most love.

–Daphne Kalotay, Sight Reading

I spend a lot of time wondering about the shape of my life.

I’ve made two grand, sweeping location changes as an adult: the first, a move to Oxford to spend a year studying for my master’s degree; the second, a cross-country move to Boston from Texas with my husband nearly four years ago. Both of these moves, the kind that would mark a turning point in a novel, required more than the usual round of packing, planning and good-byes. They demanded a leap of faith, a willingness to plunge into an entirely new culture: new weather, new food, new ways of getting from place to place. The shape of my days – my work, my commute, how and where I shop and eat – has shifted each time, forming itself to the contours of my new city.

But I still wonder if my life is big enough.

I’m over at TRIAD today, musing about the quotes above and the size and shape of my life. Click over there to read the rest of my post.

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seasonal amnesia

“I swear everyone forgets what it’s like,” I said to my sister on the phone last week. “I love living in New England about two-thirds of the year.” And I do.

 

snow trees first parish church cambridge
But then we get to this part, and I realize: we always forget how it feels to walk through this stretch, these gray, frozen, mind-numbingly cold days of the second half (or so) of winter.

I don’t mind a chill in the air in late fall, when burnished leaves begin to turn brown and the nights grow crisp and starry. I like pulling out my sweaters and boots, brewing an extra cup of tea in the evening, baking a loaf of pumpkin bread and buying fresh cranberries at the grocery store. I love Thanksgiving, and I adore December, with its atmosphere of twinkly magic and the manifold joys of Christmas.

We had a foot of snow in December this year, which felt a bit ominous. But at the beginning of winter, no one really minds. We pulled out the snow shovels, dug out our cars and scraped off our windshields, and then we flew to Texas to spend the holidays with our loved ones. We knew the winter would really start after we came back. It started with a blizzard, and has lingered with a vengeance.

winter trees boston pink sunset

I forget, every year, what it’s like to feel stuck in this stage of winter, when I’m sick to death of winter clothes, dry skin, and biting, punishing winds. My vision narrows until all I can think about is getting home after work and curling up on the couch with tea and a good story. Dust collects in the corners of my house; why should I clean those hard-to-reach spots if it’s too dark to tell the difference? Running out of milk or bread is enough to make me change the plan for dinner completely – anything to avoid a trip to the grocery store after dark. The errands pile up until the weekend, when I can at least run them in the daylight. Everything feels gray and white and worn out, and it seems as if spring will never come.

I know I’ll look back on these words in May or July or September and I won’t quite remember how it feels. I’ll remember that it was cold, and that I wore my red down coat, black snow boots and fleece-lined tights for days on end. I’ll remember brewing endless cups of tea and eating bowl after bowl of soup. I’ll remember spending many evenings holed up at home, with a book and a blanket for company.

But I won’t quite remember this, the flat heaviness that has settled into my soul. It will lift and lighten when spring comes, and by summer it will be entirely gone.

This is both a relief and a blessing. If I remembered this feeling clearly all year round, I don’t know if I could face another Northeastern winter. I wonder sometimes when I will reach the end of my endurance, when the thought of another long stretch of cold, dark, snowy days will be enough to make me pull up stakes and move back south. I have a feeling I’ll get there eventually, no matter how much I love the mild New England summers and the glorious autumns.

For now, my seasonal amnesia lets me savor the summer and fall, revel in the spring when it finally arrives, and prepare for another winter without (entirely) giving up. But I’d still welcome spring any day now.

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tealuxe interior cambridge ma

I’ve been having one of those email exchanges with a friend, the ridiculously convoluted ones in which we try to find a time to get together. This friend is in my book club, but since we don’t work or go to church together, she’s not in my daily orbit. After several rounds of back-and-forth, I exclaimed, “I swear it’s feast or famine. There are weeks when I don’t see anyone, and then there are weeks I’m trying to juggle various plans.”

It’s a frustrating cycle, this balancing of daily life with friend-dates, this complicated matching up of schedules. Often I spend a couple of weeks reaching out to various friends, trying to set up a lunch here or a dinner there, or invite a group over to our house. Everyone is buried in schoolwork, or traveling, or just too busy, so we have to make plans several weeks in the future.

Eventually, we hit the Week of All The Plans, and suddenly I have something on three or four nights in a row. After the resulting social whirl, I’m exhausted, and I put off making more plans for another week or two. Then I start reaching out to friends again, and the cycle continues.

Why, I wonder, is this the case? And does it have to be this way?

Is it the logistical challenge of living in a city, where each of my friends lives in a different neighborhood or suburb? The energy demanded by jobs, commutes and all the daily tasks of keeping life going? (And I don’t even have children.) Is it simply our overscheduled modern age? Or have we lost some sort of cultural spontaneity, the kind of freedom that can come from building time and space into our routines?

I made the feast-or-famine comment for two reasons. One was pure frustration: how hard can it be to coordinate my schedule with someone else’s? But I also wanted my friend to know that I really want to see her. I wasn’t trying to flake out or avoid her or hide behind a screen of busyness. I want to make space to spend time with her.

Micha is running a blog series on invitation and making space, and it’s causing me to ponder how I can make space for the people in my life – my husband, my family, my friends. I know none of us are likely to be unbusy any time soon, but I wonder if we could all dial back the craziness a bit and hold some space to spend time with the people we love.

Because scheduling a coffee date shouldn’t take three weeks.

Does it take you forever to make plans with friends? How can we make space for those we love? If you’ve got ideas, I’m all ears.

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snow winter harvard yard

We’ve officially hit it: the stage of winter where we’ve had several big blizzards – including the one on Saturday night that dumped six inches on top of the snow we already had – but where spring is still a far-off possibility. Also known as the time when I start champing at the bit, longing for winter to be over already. (Drat that groundhog. Also, who knew he had a website?)

snow trees first parish church cambridge

I’m sick of all my sweaters and scarves, sick of wearing fleece-lined tights every day (though deeply thankful that I own them), sick of commuting home in the dark and trudging through gray slush and not being able to open the windows. I get irrationally annoyed at the shopkeepers who fail to salt or shovel the stretches of sidewalk in front of their stores, leaving piles of impacted snow that melt and refreeze into slippery black ice.

I’m sick of the biting air on my face and the sidewalks narrowed to single-track paths by the heaps of snow on either side. I’m dreading the next heating-oil bill (always bigger than I hope it will be) and wondering whether my feet will ever be warm again. I feel like I have permanent hat hair, permanent dry skin from the indoor air, a permanently drippy nose.

And we have – irrespective of Punxsutawney Phil’s predictions – at least six more weeks of winter.

In other words, we have arrived at the stage where the only way out is through, where I have to keep following my winter rituals because it’s all I can do. I have to keep brewing my morning tea and flipping on my happy lamp every day and turning on the electric blanket before bed. I have to dress in layers every morning and check the heating-oil gauge and pull on my snow boots before going outside. I have to keep making soup and enchiladas and more tea, because they will nourish and sustain me through the rest of the winter.

Fortunately, the Olympics are on, and the days are getting longer – it’s still afternoon, not quite twilight, when I leave the office now. We are making plans for spring travel and I’m working through a stack of library books and several books I already own (in keeping with Leigh’s February Reading Challenge). I am drinking a lot of water and going to yoga twice a week. (Full disclosure: I am also eating a lot of chocolate and drinking gallons of tea.) And I’m hanging on.

Any winter survival tips? I’d love ‘em if you’ve got ‘em. And please tell me – when will it be spring?

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tulips harvard square

My husband is a focused, determined shopper. Like many men I know, he is generally not interested in browsing. I have finally managed to convince him that bookstores were meant to be browsed, though he usually picks out one book and starts reading it while I wander the aisles. But if we’re at the mall, Target, or the grocery store, he’s usually on a mission: how quickly can he get in, find what he needs, and get out?

While I enjoy browsing the racks at my favorite stores, I’m finding my husband’s mindset helpful for my lunch breaks on these frigid winter days. When I don’t want to get up from my desk, I tell myself I have to – because I have a mission.

Sometimes it’s the post office, the bank or the pharmacy. Sometimes I’m on the hunt for a particular book, or a birthday card for a friend. Sometimes I’m in need of a certain item, as I was last week when my sunglasses broke. And occasionally, the mission is simply to go to the Gap or Ann Taylor or Anthropologie, and see what’s new on the sale rack.

In any case, on these days when it’s too cold to wander and tempting to stay inside, it helps to have a goal in mind, an impetus to propel me outside for a bit of exercise and a break from the computer screen. I always feel energized after I get out and about, and I love walking the tangle of streets in Harvard Square. And sometimes – if it’s just too bitter out or I have no particular errand that day – I head to one of my favorite cafes for a cuppa and a little writing time.

tealuxe interior cambridge ma

How do you give yourself a boost on these cold days? Do you find it helps to go on a mission?

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“I wish you’d stay home, Anne. I don’t see what you want to go away and leave us for.”
“I don’t exactly want to, Davy, but I feel I ought to go.”
“If you don’t want to go you needn’t. You’re grown up. When I‘m grown up I’m not going to do one single thing I don’t want to do, Anne.”
“All your life, Davy, you’ll find yourself doing things you don’t want to do.”

Anne of the Island, L.M. Montgomery

anne-of-the-island

Anne Shirley learned this lesson earlier than I did. As an orphan who was dependent on other families for her welfare, she spent her childhood caring for babies rather than playing with her friends (she didn’t have any) or going to school. Once she came to Green Gables she had more freedom and many new friends, but she still had to do the chores (such as sewing “unimaginative” patchwork squares) that she didn’t want to do. By the time she’s preparing to head off to Redmond, in Anne of the Island, she understands what it is to tackle an unpleasant chore, or to have mixed feelings about a course of action and stick to her decision anyway.

I’ve been remembering these words recently as I (reluctantly) wait on increasingly chilly subway platforms, squeeze onto crowded commuter trains, squint at my monthly budget, or deal with nagging life admin items such as doctor’s appointments. Every day, I find myself doing things I don’t want to do – which would shock eight-year-old Davy Keith. But I do them anyway – sometimes because I have to, sometimes because I know that my life (or someone else’s) will be better if I take care of this or that task. Most of the time, I try not to gripe about it, though I do my fair share of grumbling about bad weather, long lines or high prices.

Anne is one of my heroines not only because of her starry-eyed optimism, but because of her honesty about the small trials and victories of everyday life. She wasn’t complaining when she made the statement above; she was gently chiding Davy, perhaps, but she was also admitting matter-of-factly that life – even a good life – isn’t all ease and pleasure.

Sometimes, on a gray day or one filled with not-so-appealing tasks, it helps to remember Anne’s clear-eyed words, and tuck them into my pocket as I take a deep breath and tackle my next dull or irritating task. Even Anne had to do all sorts of things she didn’t want to do. And she managed to maintain a cheery and hopeful spirit – which means I can cultivate one, too.

(The cover image is from Wilfair. That’s the edition I own, though it always bothered me that Anne is wearing pink – she never wears pink, because of her red hair!)

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Oct 2013 001

I posted my fall manifesto in early September, and thought I’d pop in to give an update. It is a beautiful, if slightly hectic and suddenly chilly, autumn around here.

Here’s my list and the updates to it:

  • Go apple picking (by now a beloved tradition). We went back to Honey Pot Hill for the fourth year. Sunshine, bags of apples, and delicious cider donuts.
  • Reread Gaudy Night for my book club. We had a brilliant discussion, fueled by wine and yummy snacks.
  • Voyager a Montreal to celebrate my 30th birthday. Such a fun trip with my love.
  • Listen to this song from The Fantasticks. (Yes.)
  • Visit Nantucket. (Don’t know if we’ll make it before winter sets in.)
  • Spend a weekend in New York. We had to cancel. Sad day.
  • Reread the Harry Potter series again. Soon! November’s blustery winds are the perfect Hogwarts weather.
  • Go to a Harvard football game. We saw them beat Brown – so much fun.
  • Head down to Texas to see my family and cuddle my nephew. (Spent three days last week doing just that.)
  • Attend author events at the Booksmith and/or the Harvard Book Store. (I went to Dani Shapiro’s lovely reading.)
  • Reread Anne of the Island and/or Anne of Windy Poplars. I loved revisiting Redmond with Anne, and plan to visit Summerside soon.
  • Start rehearsals with the choir I just joined. In full swing (or song).
  • Celebrate my fourth (!) Turkeypalooza with friends. (We are making plans.)
  • Drink chai, make pumpkin bread, simmer soup on the stove, and revel in all the fall flavors. (Absolutely. But I need to make some pumpkin bread, stat.)

tealuxe teapots tea

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