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Posts Tagged ‘daily life’

Thirty-nine. Almost 40. I’m still amazed by that reality, especially since I sometimes feel 17 or 22 or eight years old inside. But as I say often (quoting Madeleine L’Engle), I am every age I’ve ever been.

Thirty-nine is getting up and going for a run most mornings, even when I don’t feel like it, because I know I’ll be a better person the rest of the day. Thirty-nine does her best to hydrate, moisturize, make the bed, wash the dishes – all those acts of self-care that sometimes seem boring but are actually so important. Thirty-nine does a fair bit of yoga and walking, eats a ton of yogurt and granola, drinks black tea like it’s my job, indulges in a cider once a week or so.

Thirty-nine moves more cautiously, these days, after some serious shakeups the last few years. Thirty-nine does her best to lean into the present, to be here now, living with heart and commitment, while also realizing that things can change drastically at any moment. Thirty-nine loves her current life and is starting to dream about making some changes. Thirty-nine is grateful – as a teacher of mine once said – that not only have I survived through great upheaval, but I’ve thrived.

Thirty-nine has seen her life and world shift in ways she never imagined a few years back. Some of those changes she chose and orchestrated; some came out of nowhere and left her staggering, for a while. Thirty-nine is still healing, still grieving; learning to name and acknowledge the wounds that linger longer than we think they will, while also making space for new and vivid joys.

Thirty-nine still writes for Shelf Awareness, still texts a few stalwart friends nearly every day, still loves chai from Darwin’s and flowers from Brattle Square, still reads piles of books and still needs a dose of Texas once in a while. Thirty-nine is trying, always, to live with grace and courage and wisdom. Thirty-nine knows it’s important to be both brave and kind.

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Hello, friends. It has been hot here in Boston (though I hear some relief might be on the horizon), and my workplace is still operating on a hybrid model. I like the flexibility of having a work-from-home day each week, but I can’t spend all day in my studio apartment without going a bit mad – especially when the temps are in the 90s. So I’ve been heading to (where else?) the local library on Tuesday afternoons to work.

I love the Eastie branch library: it’s airy, open and welcoming, with a cadre of friendly librarians whose faces I know now. It has air-conditioning, free wi-fi, and (of course) lots of books nearby. I bring my laptop and settle in at one of the tables, getting up occasionally to stretch or refill my water bottle. The people-watching, when I need a break from work emails, is always excellent: Eastie is truly multicultural, and the folks who use the library are multigenerational, too. There are worker bees with laptops, like me; folks who come in to use the public computers and printers; children coming in and out for summer reading programs; and lots of teenagers, who drift in and out during the afternoon.

I love both the idea and the reality of third places – those locales, neither work/school nor home, that bring people together and foster connection, as well as serving other purposes. My beloved Darwin’s in Cambridge was my third place for a long time; ZUMIX, my workplace, is a vital third place for the young people we serve. I love watching and participating in the library as a third place, too, and seeing my community thrive here.

Yes, it gets a little loud sometimes – but the presence of other people is often the whole point. I’m grateful the library is just a short bike ride away.

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It started off small, as so many things do: with a job I hated and a commitment to buying myself flowers on Mondays.

My essay “Becoming the Crazy Flower Lady” is up at Random Sample Review! Please click over to read it, and let me know what you think, if you’d like.

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It’s suddenly August (how??) and between work, a couple of weekend getaways and serious summer heat, here’s what’s saving my life right now:

  • Poetry Unbound. I had missed the most recent season, but am catching up, and it’s a joy to hear Padraig’s lilting Irish voice and discover new-to-me poets.
  • Daylilies, echinacea and sunflowers – it’s hot, but these beauties (like me) are hanging on.
  • The teeny tiny cherry tomatoes I’m growing on the back patio.
  • Sitting out back in the evenings with a book and some lemonade, when I can.
  • My favorite denim shorts, my trusty Allbirds sneakers and a few new tops from a friend, which amounts to a mini wardrobe refresh.
  • Lots and lots (and lots) of water.
  • Tea, always tea: MEM ginger peach, Trader Joe’s watermelon mint, the occasional iced chai.
  • Texts from a couple of lifesaving faraway friends.
  • Planning a couple of August adventures.
  • Watermelon facial mist from Trader Joe’s, which sounds ridiculous but is very refreshing.
  • Ukulele fun at my workplace: “Ode to Joy,” Bruno Mars’ “Count on Me” and assorted other tunes.
  • Fun books: rom-coms, mysteries, middle grade, a super nerdy nonfiction book about blurbs.
  • An occasional walk to the neighborhood park to watch the sunset (see above).

What’s saving your life in these deep summer days?

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We’ve arrived in mid- to late July, and thus the annual summer heat is here. June was dry but temperate this year, with most evenings falling to the 60s overnight: what my New England friends call “good sleeping weather.”

I love summer, with its fresh produce, abundant bright flowers and long, light evenings. But even for this Texas girl, a true heat wave can be rough. Here are some of the signs:

  • I’m running both box fans in my apartment 24/7, and pulling down the shades when I leave for work. At night, I turn on the tiny green fan next to my bed for an extra breeze.
  • I’m sleeping on top of the covers, and remembering childhood summer nights at Neno’s, when my sister would flop onto the bed dramatically and exclaim, “It’s too hot to live!”
  • I’m still running in the mornings (yes, I am), but I can wring out my headwrap in the bathroom sink when I get home, and a cool shower sounds quite appealing.
  • It’s iced chai weather – I’ve been frequenting Travelmug, the local coffee cart, and also getting a weekly smoothie from my friends at Eagle Hill Cafe.
  • I’m trying not to turn on the stove, except to boil water for tea, or to make that chickpea thing I’m eating almost every week lately.
  • I’m tending my cherry tomatoes (in pots, on the back patio) carefully, which right now means watering them almost every day.
  • I’m sipping Trader Joe’s limeade (in addition to lots of water) and eating raspberry sorbet in the evenings.
  • I’m strategically seeking out air-conditioning: at work, of course, but also at the yoga studio, the library, the grocery store or indoor cafes.
  • I’m trying to catch a sea breeze wherever I can: in the park, by the waterfront or even in my own backyard. It helps.
  • I am (of course) reading fun, summery books: YA and mysteries and lighthearted fiction. Preferably outdoors, and/or with a cool drink to hand.

How are you beating the heat this summer?

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A couple times recently, I’ve heated up a frozen meal for lunch. On the surface, I suspect, that might not seem revolutionary. But it sort of is for me. 

The meals were part of my second shipment from Mosaic (referral link), a plant-based meal delivery service recommended by a friend. Since my divorce, I’ve struggled with cooking for one, especially in the warmer months. I can make big batches of soup in the winter and eat them all week long, but once May hits, I’m sick of soup, and it doesn’t appeal as much in the summertime. So many recipes, like enchiladas and curries and stir-fry, are meant for three or four people (at least), and not all leftovers keep as well as soup. And though I’ve been making Molly’s ratatouille about once a week, I don’t want to burn myself out on it – especially since it’s not even July yet.

My friend Sharon, who also cooks for one on a regular basis, recommended Mosaic, but I was hesitant at first to try it out. For one thing, it felt like an unnecessary expense: I already buy groceries for myself every week and eat out occasionally, and I wondered if putting more dollars toward food would be worth it. I’m aware that I’m super privileged to even be able to consider a fancy frozen-meal service, and I also wondered: isn’t there something I’m missing? Some hidden cache of easy, quick, nourishing delicious recipes that everyone else knows about and I don’t? (If there is, and you know about it, please send it my way – or any particular recipes you love!)

Resorting to frozen meals also, frankly, felt like admitting defeat: like a fundamental failure in taking care of myself. I did a lot of the cooking when I was married, and there were certainly weeks I groused about it, but for some reason, the prospect of cooking dinner for one, an average of five nights a week, every week since my divorce has ground me down. (I do eat with my guy regularly, and occasionally with friends, but everyone’s work schedules plus the pandemic means I can’t count on that more than a night or two each week.) I grew up in a household where my mother insisted on family dinner, and somehow managed to produce healthy, tasty meals night after night. We rarely, if ever, resorted to TV dinners, though we did enjoy the occasional pizza or taco takeout night. So, on some level, even weighing this option felt like a failure. 

I argued myself out of Mosaic for a couple weeks, but after a few (more) evenings of staring morosely at an uninspiring fridge, I decided to give it a shot. And you know what? It’s good. 

The meals are tasty, healthy and hearty (though I’m always keeping an eye on the sodium content, because I know frozen food has tons of it). Some of them, like the noodle bowls, are a little different than what I would make for myself, which is nice. And instead of seeing my use of the service as a failure, I’m trying to embrace it as another tool: a way of caring for myself (albeit a slightly pricey one) for the days when I’m out of leftovers, inspiration, or both. 

Any tips and tricks for a solo cook? Or do you have other prepared meals you really like? 

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My guy and I love a good bike ride, and he, in particular, can rarely resist a new trail. So when a friend of his told G about a recently completed project that links Cambridge with Watertown – and takes you from a busy retail area to the quiet of Fresh Pond – we had to check it out.

We started in Watertown on a humid Sunday, picking up the trail behind the Arsenal Mall and riding it through neighborhoods neither of us had ever seen. The area is a mix of residential and old industrial buildings, and it’s all suddenly lush with early-summer green. We crossed a few streets G knew, but so much of it was unexplored territory to him, and it was all fresh to me.

We took a snack break near Fresh Pond, eyeing the sky because a storm was rumored to be blowing in. The wind did kick up, but we decided to take our chances, and it was a beautiful ride (my first) around the pond.

I’ve been riding in Boston for several years, but there’s still so much I don’t know about the bike paths in the area. It was a particular treat, though, to explore a trail that neither of us knew – G’s delight in discovery was evident at every turn.

We’ll be riding more this summer, of course, and having other local adventures. I’m looking forward to every single one.

What local adventures are you having, these days?

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Hello, friends. It is June, somehow, and the world is purple and green: tall ruffled iris, big puffball alliums, flowering catmint, leggy delphiniums. And the pink is splashing out, too: rhododendrons, fluffy peonies, bright sweet beach roses overflowing with bees.

The weather is up and down, as it often is; the headlines are heartbreaking, as they often are; and some evenings I’m so exhausted I can barely see straight. But, as always, there are a number of things saving my life in this season. Here’s my latest list:

  • Pink fluffy peonies from Trader Joe’s, in addition to the ones in my neighbors’ yards.
  • Petting Gigi, our sweet office dog, who’s always so happy to see me.
  • Jenny’s maple-pecan granola. Making it for myself, when I can, feels like the sweetest act of self-care.
  • Moisturizer, which sounds boring but is also vital self-care (see above).
  • Friends who respond to my (frantic or joyful or silly) texts, and keep me going.
  • The occasional zoom with my writing group: class is officially out for the summer, but we’re still meeting once in a while.
  • Batch after batch of Molly’s ratatouille, which is just about the only thing I want to cook/eat these days.
  • A recent adventure to Portsmouth, NH, with a girlfriend, which included trips to Book & Bar and Auspicious Brew.
  • Bike rides with my guy, including a hop down a new trail the other week.
  • Piles and piles of good books: incisive nonfiction, immersive novels, fun mysteries, joyous middle grade.

What’s saving your life, these days?

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Earlier this month, I joined a running club – the newish, informal, neighborhood group that meets at the foot of the Golden Stairs, mere yards from my house. I’d been seeing their posts on Instagram for months now, and seen them running in a pack through the neighborhood – but I’d hesitated to try it out. I usually like to run alone, plus 7 a.m. sounded a wee bit early…plus (and this is the real thing) I hate walking up to groups of strangers. I’ve never enjoyed that moment of being the odd new person, but like so many things, it’s gotten worse with two years of isolation during the pandemic.

But. It’s spring (tipping into summer this weekend, with 90-degree temps on the way). The mornings are lighter; the lilacs are blooming; the azaleas are a blaze of pink and the rhododendrons are right behind them. And in small ways, I can feel myself opening up, too: finally unclenching after months of clinging to all things safe and familiar.

Don’t get me wrong: I still need lots of nights on my couch with a book, or morning runs by myself with the Wailin’ Jennys or Martina McBride in my ears. But some things feel more possible, less scary, than they did a year ago. I’m seeing it all around me: people are traveling again, eating in restaurants and gathering with friends. I went to the movies last night for the first time in a year. It all feels like training wheels for being back in the world, a chance to try out – in a safe context – the things we used to do and the things we want to do, and decide which (if any) we’d like to keep.

Long before the pandemic, I was telling myself a story about meeting people in Boston: that it’s hard and scary and they probably won’t welcome me anyway. This was true at my first workplace here, and I’ve carried it with me, like a stone in my chest, for a decade. It has taken years to untangle that story, and the fear still rises up every so often. But the other week, I set my alarm for 6:15, ate some granola and drank a cup of tea, grabbed my keys and headed down the stairs. Just try it, I told myself. If you hate it, you never have to go back again.

Well. I didn’t hate it – as evidenced by the fact that I got up early this morning for the third Friday in a row. I ran a 5K last weekend in the sweaty, steamy heat with some of these people – and I didn’t even mind that much when I came in dead last. I’ve run into a couple folks already in the neighborhood. And most weeks, we walk to the new cafe afterward to grab coffee and chat.

It feels like community, like connection, like finding a new way to be in this neighborhood where I’ve spent three joyful and also difficult years. It feels like pushing off with those training wheels, learning to balance again. It feels – in a sneaky, surprising way – like joy.

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Loving Working

“We clean to give space for Art.”
        Micaela Miranda, Freedom Theatre, Palestine

Work was a shining refuge when wind sank its tooth
into my mind. Everything we love is going away,
drifting – but you could sweep this stretch of floor,
this patio or porch, gather white stones in a bucket,
rake the patch for future planting, mop the counter
with a rag. Lovely wet gray rag, squeeze it hard
it does so much. Clear the yard of blowing bits of plastic.
The glory in the doing. The breath of the doing.
Sometimes the simplest move kept fear from
fragmenting into no energy at all, or sorrow from
multiplying, or sorrow from being the only person
living in the house.

April is National Poetry Month, and I am sharing poetry – with an emphasis on women of color – here on Fridays this month, as I do every year. 

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