The late eighties and early nineties

The cover of Judy Collins’ Wildflowers
The sounds of the harpsichord on “Both Sides Now”
Knowing that my mother studied the instrument but I’ve never heard her play it
I wish I could hear her play it

A rare evening with the lamp over the piano as the only light in the room
Mom at the bench, fingers rolling over keys through scales, her feet pushing the pedals to let the music pause, breathe
Bound books of piano music from the ‘60s with plastic covers that seem quilted; I still don’t understand what they were made of, or the notes someone had written in pencil on the pages
Stories about her piano teacher, Lois Gardell, Mrs. Gardell
The chords of “Feux Follets,” a song that doesn’t seem to exist in the outside world, only in our old living room with the fluffy brown carpet
For years I couldn’t find a recording of the piece, but I remember that room

Cassette tapes with songs that very much exist in the outside world
Michael Bolton, Milli Vanilli, a specific one labeled “Toto – Africa”
Records, too: Carly Simon, The Moody Blues, Diana Ross, boxes of them
The illustration on the cover of her copy of “Mahogany” is probably why I love design today
Tapes labeled in her perfect school-teacher print
Oh my God, blasting those tapes on giant speakers, all the speakers then were so giant
Dancing around the room with music at full blast, jumping on the bed
Not sure why she let us break that rule
I’ll ask her

Long plaid wool skirts with pleats
Bangs curled up and also down over her forehead
Curling irons coated with the crust of a thousand mists of Paul Mitchell hairspray
A tube of gel-like Revlon (?) liquid blush that smelled slightly floral
A compact Mary Kay eyeshadow palette, all blues that never worked with my green hazel eyes
Rows of heels I liked to try on that always caused me to sprain my ankles
How did she teach for all those years in heels?

Being so short, hugging her very tan legs as we stood by the pool
Feeling her warm skin in the Arizona sun
She has always been so, so tan
And yet, there’s a Dartmouth pennant with creases of being folded and stored for decades that reminds me she had a whole other life before Arizona
It was all lived in snow (I imagine)

The kitchen with square yellow tile, not a bright yellow but more like the Crayola crayon called Goldenrod
Seeing her tears one afternoon, I think it was the afternoon
Too young to grasp the weight of the news that my uncle had died
I have a better understanding now

Photos of her that look like me, photos of me that look like her, all in a three-ring album with a fluffy padded suede cover
Photos of her as Lockport Junior Miss
Unfortunately, the trophy and I think the crown were lost to fire
A small plastic briefcase perfect for toting Barbie to her next destination with Beautiful Hair, Breck, a label and slogan of a brand and time that will only ever be hers, not mine
It came from the Junior Miss pageant and it’s still here

Cream rinse, and how I hadn’t heard anyone call it that until just last week
A specific Jhirmack shampoo that smelled like creamsicle, which she let me use and I sometimes snuck without permission
Her very small gold hoop earrings I brought with me to college, definitely without permission
I can count on one hand the number of times I have worn them
I wonder where I can still buy that shampoo

Reading her the stories I’d woven from little words and big ideas
Hunting for “treasure” in the neighborhood and sharing my finds, exquisite pieces of gravel, foliage
She was mostly patient
But she always listened

Warming rituals and relaxing spaces

On the second day of the cold snap, I decided nothing would help restore my frozen limbs quite like a hot bath.

I lowered myself into the hot water, at first one frozen toe at a time. Then foot, then ankle, then calf. I felt the gentle burn of warm water on my cold skin, resigning myself to the feeling and giving in to it, inch by inch.

Once finally submerged in the tub, I thought about the comforting ritual of baths. It’s more than just being warmed on a cold night. Baths take us all back to our childhood, to the leisurely play of splashing around in a tiny ocean of our own that boasted no fish but plastic alphabets and rubber duckies. What a calming luxury of time and freedom. And for me, soaking in a hot bath for no reason other than to feel warmed to my core reminded me of all those nights I’d resort to the tub, exhausted after hours of training in the pool and long days of school.

Do I even deserve a bath right now if I’m not sore and tired, with a few hours of math homework and reading ahead of me? I wondered. (Deeply rooted Catholic guilt is a powerful thing.) I enjoyed the soak anyway.

A few days later, the cold became too much, so I decided to take some time to myself in the bath once again. It was then I realized how much I want to bring stillness and quiet back into my life in 2018. I can’t think of a more perfect way than a long soak to calm my mind, and it almost goes without saying that I love simply being in water. And self-care is so important! I know this goes well beyond things like bath bombs, glasses of wine, and cliched, basic-white-girl rituals, and I’m thinking about what else I can do to slow down and truly relax.

Some other ideas I have in mind for this year:

Returning to doing my own manicures and pedicures. It doesn’t save me any time at all, but there’s something really satisfying about getting the polish just so and taking the extra time to do something yourself. It doesn’t hurt to save some money… and then use it to buy even more nail polish. Ha!

Cooking at home more often. In the spirit of the previous list item, making a great meal is something to be proud of. This also falls squarely in the intersection of things I like: making things with my own two hands, delicious meals. Unadvertised benefit: fun activity for introverts to recharge! 

Baths, for staying warm reasons, relaxation reasons, and cozy reasons. Baths are pretty hygge, right? And then at the end of it, I guess you’re clean, which is nice.

I know no one needs or even wants an update on adventures in leisurely baths, but as for the other things on my self-care radar, I will probably continue to document some things here.

Hello, new year

Hello from the other side of my life’s greatest craft project, our November wedding!

We made it out alive, and even better, the entire experience of the wedding events, honeymoon, and newlywed life was nothing but perfect. The bliss is real and I wish this sort of unbridled happiness for everyone. 

Leading up to the wedding, I had no idea how busy things would get. I had aimed to keep all the DIY on a tight schedule and minimize the number of last-minute tasks. But you know how life goes. The to-do list kept getting longer and the few days before the wedding got a little crazy. It was all good and worth the effort in the end. I couldn’t believe how beautifully everything turned out and how happy we were on the day itself, and not just thanks to well-executed crafts. I won’t forget the way I felt every second of the day.

Our honeymoon in Mexico was an extraordinary escape. For the first few days, we stayed at an adults-only all-inclusive resort. Those two conditions made the departure from reality a truly relaxing and indulgent adventure. We slept in, ate three or more full meals every day (cheese plate and wine for lunch, anyone?), floated in aquamarine seas, and lounged beachside with books and cocktails. If you’re wondering if that gets old, it does. So a few days in Tulum on our own were just the thing we needed to feed a nagging desire for adventure and self-sufficiency. I’m still dreaming about the powder-soft sand, gentle seas, and lush jungles leading right up to the beachfront. What a magical time it was. I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to experience that and hope to make a trip back soon.

Now that the wedding and honeymoon are over, I’ve been reveling in the newfound sense of space in my life. Without a whole lot on my to-do list, I can take more time to read, write, and explore some creative endeavors. Of course, we’re filling in a good bit of time searching for a home of our own, an exciting development that gives me so much life when I think of all the things I want to do. Garden! Cooking in a space much larger than the one we have now! Feeling a sense of permanence after years upon years of moving, change, and never knowing what’s next!

All this being said, I plan to make much more regular appearances here and really begin sharing some things I’ve experienced and done. Cheers to a 2018 that promises space to expand in every direction.