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Hello, friends. It’s February, which is always a long month, even though it’s a short one. (See also: endless pandemic fatigue, etc.)

We’ve had some snow and will have more, and I keep thinking of E.B. White’s words about cold weather: “firm, business-like cold that stalked in and took charge […] as a brisk housewife might take charge of someone else’s kitchen in an emergency.” My kitchen, thank goodness, is full of tea and flowers, but I can see White’s point.

Last week, my friend Anne Bogel shared, as she does every winter, the surprising daily things that are saving her life right now. (This year, it’s laundry.) I am a whole week behind in sharing my own winter lifesavers, but I wanted to do it because I believe the practice is important, even in this pandemic year.

I am still job hunting, still missing my people, still spending a lot of time alone in my apartment. But here are the things getting me through these midwinter days:

  • Strong black tea, forever and always. I mostly drink MEM teas from Somerville, but have also been enjoying David’s Cream of Earl Grey lately.
  • Clementines by the handful (I say this every winter) – tart, sweet and cheery.
  • Nina’s writing class on Tuesday mornings – best Zoom of all, by far.
  • Daffodils! So cheerful and bright. Spotted at the florist and at Trader Joe’s.
  • Mini peanut-butter-filled pretzels, also from Trader Joe’s.
  • Morning runs and daily walks in the neighborhood, even when it’s frigid. (I’m still aiming to leave the house at least twice a day.)
  • Some really good books: New Yorkers by Craig Taylor, Wintering by Katherine May, A Cuban Girl’s Guide to Tea and Tomorrow by Laura Taylor Namey.
  • Good pens and my Wingardium Leviosa Moleskine journal.
  • Vitamin D pills, my happy lamp, and (best of all) real sunshine, some days.
  • Daily check-ins with my guy, my friend Allison in California, and a couple of other dear ones.
  • Martina McBride, whose music I have loved for years – but I’m rediscovering her badass-women anthems and sweet love songs, and they are saving me.
  • Yoga – on Zoom for now, and maybe back in the studio soon.
  • The knowledge that we have a competent administration in Washington working to combat this virus and other problems.

What’s saving your life these days? I’d love to know.

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“Is there a word for when you wait three weeks to do something, and it takes five minutes?” I asked a few girlfriends the other day.

“Being human,” one friend responded wryly. Another came up with the brilliant portmanteau you see in the post title: procrastiminutiae, or putting off the tiny things.

I’ve been deep in a post-holiday, endless-pandemic funk of worry and frustration, unable to motivate myself to do much besides run and read and wash dishes. (All of which are good things.) But a few days ago, I decided to tackle one small task I’d been putting off for weeks: calling the gas company about an inspection. I’m not sure why: maybe it was the sunshine, or my inspiring run playlist (heavy on the badass female ’90s country singers), or just the general sense that it was time to stop avoiding this one little thing.

It took (less than) five minutes, in the end, and I got so inspired I tackled a few more minutiae: taking down the Christmas cards and stockings (I know it’s mid-January; don’t @ me), dropping some clothes off at a donation bin, making a bank deposit, ordering more compost bin bags. Each task took just a few minutes, by itself. But the mental space they cleared felt so expansive – and so good.

We have little control over our lives at the best of times, and lately, with so much disease and upheaval everywhere I look, I’ve been feeling particularly helpless. But it felt very satisfying to exercise some agency over my life for just a few minutes. Bonus: my apartment is a bit clearer, and so is my head.

What are the procrastiminutiae on your list?

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Hello, friends. Welcome (?) to 2021.

It’s hard to believe we are only 10 days in. Last week’s insurrection at the U.S. Capitol has left me reeling. My partner and I both have family members who have the virus, and the general stress and isolation of pandemic life has not let up. If anything, the cumulative weight of the last few months makes it feel even heavier. So I’ve been quiet here, because really, what is there to say?

I still don’t know, but a comment from a reader (hi Mary!) helped remind me that coming back to this space is often a healthy outlet and a source of joy. So I’m starting the year on the blog with a list of the tiny good things that are getting me through, at the moment. Here they are:

  • My paperwhites (above) are finally blooming. Every year this is a miracle, and I have rarely watched so anxiously for those buds and creamy flowers as I did this year.
  • My Christmas tree is still up (oh yes it is), and twinkle lights feel hopeful in this dark season.
  • The fish I am feeding for a friend are all (knock wood) still alive.
  • I started a new journal last week, and this one is Harry Potter-themed.
  • Dinner on Friday was a new recipe from Real Simple, and it was delicious.
  • My new coat does have functional pockets (I had to open them with a seam ripper, but they are there).
  • The fizzy shower bar a friend sent for Christmas is such a treat. (I have a tiny shower and no bathtub, so it’s perfect.)
  • I have been reading some really good books: Elizabeth Wein’s gripping YA novel The Enigma Game and Horatio Clare’s gorgeous, honest memoir The Light in the Dark.
  • My writing class has started back up, and seeing everyone’s faces and sharing our writing is so nourishing and fun.
  • The Wailin’ Jennys’ cover of “Light of a Clear Blue Morning” – with their ethereal, bell-like harmonies – is perfection.
  • My local tea store, Mem Tea, is still faithfully shipping out online orders, and I just stocked up on my winter staples: English Breakfast and Earl Grey.

What are the small things getting you through, these days?

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It’s been such a strange year that I almost decided to skip this annual blogging tradition. But – why not? – we can still take stock, even at the end of all these months of isolation. So here we go. In 2020 I have:

  • run probably hundreds of miles through my neighborhood of East Boston
  • gone through three pairs of On Running shoes
  • taken dozens of yoga classes, in the park and via Zoom (and, briefly, in the lovely studio at The Point)
  • gone on so many bike rides with my guy
  • participated in my first protest rides
  • walked with my friend Marisa a few times a month, keeping each other sane while trading news of work and books and life
  • survived divorce court (back in January)
  • worked on campus for two and a half months, worked from home for two months, then been furloughed and eventually laid off
  • covered Berklee’s Dancing with the Stars event, pre-quarantine (so much fun)
  • driven up to Gloucester for a sweet birthday weekend with my guy
  • celebrated a cozy, quiet Thanksgiving, just the two of us
  • spent some time hanging with Chloe, my friends’ kitty
  • read about 220 books
  • adjusted to reading and reviewing ebooks for Shelf Awareness
  • taken Nina Badzin’s wonderful ModernWell writing class
  • drafted a novel during NaNoWriMo
  • tended herbs, geraniums, paperwhites, a fern and an amaryllis
  • sung in a virtual Christmas choir
  • made and delivered numerous lasagnas for my neighbors
  • filled up several journals
  • enjoyed a cozy, sweet Christmas
  • looked ahead to 2021 with tentative hope

Happy New Year, friends. Here’s hoping it brings more light.

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We’re in the middle of week 6 (of how many?) of quarantine over here, and it seems clear this is going to be our lives for a while. I am alternately grateful for my blessings and privileges (my lovely apartment, a job that allows me to work from home, virtual connection with family and friends) and really missing the aspects of “normal” life that are suspended right now (in-person yoga classes, trips to the library, hugs).

Like a lot of folks, I do better with a bit of routine and structure, so as I adjust to wearing a mask, doing yoga online and canceling travel plans, I’ve come up with a few daily rules for myself. I’m sharing them here, and I’d love to hear yours, if you have any.

Leave the house twice every day.
I need fresh air and movement like I need oxygen. And while getting out for a run is great (I do this most days), I get tetchy and restless if I’m inside for the entire rest of the day. So I’m walking myself to work, going to the bodega, meeting my guy for a bike ride, walking the compost bag down the hill – whatever it takes to get outside more than once.

Related: Get up and move. 
I’m spending a lot of time sitting at my kitchen table, and my body is starting to feel it – so I’m trying to get up and move around the apartment as often as possible. Even a few steps makes a difference (or so I’m telling myself).

Write it down.
I journal regularly anyhow, but those morning pages (and sometimes evening ones) feel important right now. Sometimes I’m just whining on the page, but sometimes it helps to think things through, remember moments of joy or make lists. I stocked up on journals right before our stay-at-home order hit, so I’m set for a while.

Drink more water.
However much I think I’m drinking, it’s probably not enough.

Pick up the phone.
I’m alone most of the time right now, but I need my people, and I want to be there for them, too. So I text a friend (or three) every day, FaceTime my sister, call my mom, trade Marco Polo messages with a couple of friends. Hearing a friendly voice, or just getting a text update, helps.

Wash the dishes.
Because if I don’t, they tend to pile up quickly – plus it’s often oddly grounding.

Tackle at least one book from the long-unread stacks every week.
While I’m bemoaning the temporary loss of my library, I’m trying to see this as a chance to catch up on the books that tend to linger on my bedside shelf. So far, I’ve picked up (and loved) an Ivan Doig novel, a quirky collection of Boston-themed comics, and now a memoir about life in Alaska.

Make a list.
I’ve been making “Today I…” lists each night, as a way to reassure myself that yes, I did the essential things today, and to capture some memories in list form if I’m too tired to write it all out. It’s a (mostly) reassuring practice.

Give myself a break.
My friend Jen Lee keeps reminding us to “go gently” in her Morning, Sunshine videos (they are so good, y’all). I tend to be hard on myself at the best of times, and it’s helpful to remember that we are all dealing with a lot right now. So I’m giving myself a break: curling up with a book (see above), taking a leisurely walk, going to bed early if I want/need to. This rule (and the first one) may be the most important one on this list.

Do you have any rules/practices for your daily routine during this time?

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This is the winter of lunchtime runs, hauling my running gear and bright blue sneakers to work in my gray backpack so I can get out on the Esplanade twice a week or so, catching the sunshine and whatever warmth it provides.

This is the winter of all the puzzles, spread out on my friend Chrissy’s coffee table: NYC signs and Italian hillsides and bucolic New England landscapes, worked a piece at a time while we talk about our lives.

This is the winter of Cooking Solo, Klancy Miller’s brilliant cookbook about doing just that. I’ve been eating her lentil soup (stuffed with other veggies), her lemony pancakes, her roasted veggies with tahini dressing, for weeks.

This is the winter of almost no snow and only a few extended cold snaps. I’m missing the brilliance of sunlight on reflected snowbanks (and worried about what it means for the climate) even as I give thanks for the lack of grey slush.

This is the winter of settling into Eastie, continuing to make a home in this neighborhood that became mine last year. I’m growing paperwhites in my kitchen window, meeting a few more neighbors, going to yoga and strength training classes at The Point on the regular.

This is the winter of a(nother) Harry Potter reread, undertaken in tandem with someone I love, walking alongside Harry and his companions as they learn and grow and face unbelievable evil with courage and love.

This is the winter of sharp loneliness and sudden tears, still mourning the death of my marriage and adjusting (in all ways) to a new landscape without it.

This is the winter of avocado toast, handfuls of clementines, chunks of Trader Joe’s crumbly English cheddar, Molly’s scones and Jessica Fechtor’s oatmeal cookies, soup simmered in my red stockpot, endless cups of Earl Grey.

This is the winter of runs along the Harborwalk, vivid sunset light reflected in the water, marking the tides and the miles with my feet and the pounding of my heart.

This is the winter of Tuesday indoor picnics in the Pru, hearty soups decanted into red-lidded Tupperware and heated in the office microwave, cloth napkins and on-the-go utensils and laughter before we hug and go our separate ways.

This is the winter of starting to heal, doing my best to welcome unexpected joys where they appear.

What does life look like for you this winter?

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I’ve lived in Boston for nearly 10 (!) years now: a real switch, in all kinds of ways, for this small-town Texas girl. (I grew up in what is technically a mid-size city, and went to college in another one. But I still run into people I know at the grocery store when I go back to either place.)

I’ve been thinking about the triumphs (and trials) particular to living in the city — those moments where you either think, I have nailed this, or the city itself seems to give you a little gift. I’ve had a few lately, so I thought I’d share them with you.

In no particular order:

  • Finding the random item you’re looking for at a grocery store/corner store on your regular route. (Last week: tea lights.)
  • Having just enough quarters (or a couple extra) to do the required amount of laundry.
  • Memorizing your public transit route so you don’t even have to glance at the map (and/or can keep reading your book as you switch trains).
  • Finding out there’s a subway station/bus stop located exactly where you need to go. Bonus points if it’s a route you’ve never taken before.
  • Exploring the library branches and how they’re tailored to their particular neighborhoods. (Though the central Boston Public Library is my neighborhood branch, and it has my heart.)
  • Deciphering the local accent. (Smaht Pahk, anyone?)
  • That moment when a new neighborhood/area gets added to your mental map. Sometimes I can almost hear the puzzle pieces snapping into place.

What would you add?

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We haven’t seen the sun since Tuesday, friends, and frankly, I’m getting a little desperate. Boston hasn’t had much snow yet this winter (though my West Texas hometown got seven inches the other day), but it has been chill, grey and rainy for days on end. I am pulling out all my lifesavers from Monday’s post, but here are a few that have particularly come through in the clutch this week:

  • Eating all the clementines. They remind me that brightness will return, and they taste so good.
  • Making travel plans to see family and friends (in reliably sunny locales!) this spring.
  • Dinner with a girlfriend the other night – the curry was delicious, but two hours of good talk was even better for my soul.
  • My happy lamp – even if it’s a placebo effect, I will take the blast of bright light in the mornings when it’s so misty out that I can’t see across Boston Harbor.

  • Reading fun kid lit. Currently loving To Night Owl from Dogfish, recommended by Anne.
  • Daffodils from Trader Joe’s, which were on sale for $1.50 this week.
  • Reading a gardening book – in this case, Six Square Metres by Margaret Simons.
  • Writing snail mail love notes – I’m trying to write one every day in February.

How do you get through the truly dreary days?

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It’s become a midwinter tradition: every February, dozens of us link up with Anne Bogel to answer a brilliant question (from Barbara Brown Taylor): “What is saving your life now?” I make these lists periodically throughout the year (the act of making them can itself be lifesaving), but I always need the reminder in midwinter. So here, as we head into February, is what’s saving my life now:

  • The witch hazel blooming in the Prudential Center courtyard: a bright, hopeful neon yellow.
  • Related: Tuesday indoor picnics in the Pru with someone I love.
  • I say this every winter: all. The. Clementines.
  • Maggie Smith’s poetry, especially “Bride,” which appeared in the New Yorker recently and is now taped to my bathroom mirror.
  • My winter uniform: fleece-lined tights + black Clarks ankle boots + dress (denim, black or striped) + black quilted vest + scarf.
  • That stunning red amaryllis in my kitchen, above.
  • My umpteenth reread of the Harry Potter series. (Starting Deathly Hallows now.)
  • Yoga at The Point every week, the occasional boot camp class there, and being recognized when I walk in the door.
  • Shafts of full-on sunlight in the conference room at work, on the sidewalk and really wherever I can get them.
  • The wisdom in Sheryl Sandberg’s book Option B.
  • Making soup in batches for work lunches throughout the week.
  • Shalane Flanagan’s superhero muffins.
  • Slathering on the hand lotion and moisturizer (hello, dry winter skin).
  • Acing a freelance writing assignment last week.
  • Pulling out a beloved banana bread recipe.
  • Sunrise over the harbor.
  • Washing a sinkful of dirty dishes: reliably satisfying.
  • Making a few fun plans with friends.
  • Finding welcome, and being welcomed – both are such a gift.

What’s saving your life these days? I’d love to hear, if you’d like to share.

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…is something I am saying a lot these days.

One reason for that: it’s winter. Never mind the mostly-mild weather and wild temperature swings; this time of year is always tough for me. The lack of sunlight can leave me feeling dull and flat, and I’m always exhausted (physically and emotionally) after the holidays. But I am trying (as Maggie Smith keeps reminding us) to keep moving, whether literally or otherwise.

Here are a few things that are helping me, as we continue to move through January:

My light therapy lamp. Real talk: some days I don’t know if it makes any difference. But I flip it on every morning anyway, and most days I think it does take the edge off these long, dark evenings.

Putting the bread in the freezer. This is not like Joey having to put Little Women in the freezer on that episode of Friends (by the way, I saw the new movie twice and adored it). I live alone, so freezing a loaf of bread is one way to ensure it doesn’t all mold before I can toast it. (These days I’m loving Trader Joe’s multigrain sourdough.)

Taking a walk. Which is always a good idea – whether it’s down the street to the library or Trader Joe’s, around my neighborhood on a weekend, or over to campus for a meeting.

Eating all the clementines. I’m going through them like they’re candy, and I’m totally fine with that – because they’re bright, delicious and healthy.

My budding amaryllis, which I wrote about the other day, and which might actually be magic.

Working a puzzle at a girlfriend’s house the other night. I agree with Anne: puzzles are relaxing and good for your brain.

Yoga, even if I have to drag myself there (and sometimes I do).

What’s helping you get through, these days?

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