Three years ago the Atlantic published an article entitled “Was Shakespeare a Woman?” I read the essay while tucked into bed with two pillows and a blanket after a long day. A day when I found the bathtub strewn with hair after a child’s quick dip, the towels (all of them??) forgotten on the floor. A day when I had not said very interesting things and very interesting things were not said to me. Mostly I had repeated myself, and gazed off absently during circular story telling.
Reading the essay, I fell for the theory–well articulated and curiously substantiated–as into a hammock after a long day’s work. It only took one read for me and I was laying back, swinging within it, gently back and forth between the what and the if. Holding it in my mind as a possibility seemed to shift everything.
I told my daughters about the idea over breakfast the next day, and then referenced it in the weeks to come. Referenced the idea of a woman who had penned brilliant things and never received any credit for it, but watched the work be received, and maybe held their reception in her heart. Almost immediately there was a reason to reference it: while researching a paper on Laura Ingalls Wilder, Lux and I learned that there was substantial proof that her daughter Rose significantly rewrote her mother’s manuscripts to achieve the storybook-like, moral-and-simplicity focused style that is consistent throughout (arguably the very style that sells the books). In addition, Rose left journal entries that seem to show she felt unseen by the success that poured out onto her mother’s shoulders.
The points of proof that really pulled me in to the female Shakespeare theory? 1/ The fact that Shakespeare’s daughters didn’t learn to read. How could someone who invented Katherine Minola, “the shrew,” not have his female children educated? 2/ The way in which the plots seemed to understand and elevate complicated, rebellious females, even as rebellious complicated females had so little status in society. 3/ Winkler’s argument that Shakespeare left almost no documentation showing he was anything beyond an actor.
Months later, I thought to go back and look up what the reception of the article had been, outside of my personal tale of discovery. Caustic. Refuted. The Atlantic printed five subsequent rebuttals.
Okay. She probably wasn’t Shakespeare. He probably was. Did it still matter? I had floated on the boat for awhile, and seen things differently, revised a version of history I had taken for granted and took a closer look at what any of it meant to me anyhow. Felt refreshed by the whole thing. Wanted to re-read Shakespeare, actually.
Looking back, I wonder how much of my reaction to the theory flowered from the fact that I felt like an unseen Shakespeare? Perhaps mid the tawdry cycle of toasted bread slice crumbs, hair scattered across the bathtub, order, sorting, emails, missed voicemails, forgotten appointments, and trafficked errands; beyond how convincing the argument was–I was drawn to the idea of the credited one, the one history chose and raised up, as being the poseur, and the hidden one, the one who left nothing behind, being the genius.
Conspiracy theories have turned sour in the United States on the whole. Between people claiming that Sandy Hook parents weeping over their lost children were actors, to a pie slice of the population claiming the recent presidential election was fraudulent, to people declaring that airplane contrails are in fact malicious chemtrails, the mood has shifted. There was a time was when contemplating a conspiracy theory meant you had to learn more about something in order to have a theory about it in the first place.
Despite this sour turn, conspiracy theories will continue to flourish in my own heart, because they create the brilliant spark of a feeling that you know better. Some think that, but you know this. As Winkler writes in the essay, “The idea felt like a feminist fantasy about the past–but then, stories about women’s lost and obscured achievements so often have a dreamlike quality, unveiling a history different from the one we’ve learned.” I’d loved the suggestion of the mystery, the shape of a cloak within a dark doorway, the invitation to believe that maybe we don’t know absolutely everything about how history had happened.
Note: the Atlantic’s paywall is quite jumpy–you only get three free articles. Use your first click on Winkler’s essay. It is also available to read in the book 2020 Best American Essays.
Film photo finishing off a roll on a disposable camera.
In April I announced to my sister-in-law that this summer was going to be be my summer of structured pieces. I’d be wearing mod mini-skirts, shift dresses and fitted cropped pants with fitted tops. A couple weeks later, I found out I was pregnant and all of that went out the window! My summer wardrobe quickly turned into the summer of flow-y dresses and breezy linen everything. Being pregnant is an interesting experience (on every level) but also on a style level. It requires ultimate flexibility, something might look great one week and then you can’t even get it half zipped two weeks later. You can’t buy a dress for a wedding you have next month because you have no idea what will fit you. Your favorite go-to pieces are off limits and you kiss denim good bye for the foreseeable future. It’s a good practice in releasing control which is the ultimate lesson of parenthood (or so I’m told), very little control over very few things. (Editor’s note: this is a guest post by my sister Joanie! All links are affiliate.)Being pregnant teaches you to view your body with a degree of separation, to let it do its own thing without over analyzing every ache and pain. To take a step back from the hyper-vigilance with which we view our bodies for most of our lives, trusting the process and letting it grow and expand as it pleases. My appreciation for style and good clothes is still very much present. I’ve taken to texting links to my sisters and friends of things I would have bought but now they should. I’m one of the many that’s happily watching J.Crew return to form with their new creative director and jumping at things that I think might work on my 22+ week pregnant self.We’re still in the mega sale area. First it happened because of Covid and retailers trying to boost sales and now it’s the economy and consumer spending on the decline that’s causing price cuts left and right. Whatever it is, the buying is good right now and even in my pregnant state, I haven’t forgotten about all your style needs!
I love this sweater and you can’t go wrong with any of the colors but I’m going to give my top pick the the ivory one. And judging from the comments, size down!
This one is very much giving me the same vibes as the overpriced Jenni Kayne sweaters that people seem to love to drop $300 on. It’s under $50 with the sale right now!
We’re going to be seeing a lot of ribbed, fitted dresses this fall which I fully support. Make sure to order the right size, you don’t want it to be so fitted that it’s see-through when you bend down. I love this one.
By now you all know how I feel about a colorful jacket for fall or winter. And with the current sale climate, now is your time to strike! Love the deep pink on this one. I recognize that I’m linking a $700 coat but it’s Max Mara which is a life coat and if you ever wanted to sell it, they really hold their value.
Have we talked about loafers being the shoe you need for fall? I can’t remember but it’s true. It’s going to be a loafer heavy autumn out on the streets. I know Rachael just bought these, which I love, as her fall shoes. Also down with the preppy penny loafer and I think they can be worn in many different ways, and also these Gucci look alike as a sleek option. Woven leather is typically more of a summer shoe but I like them worn into fall. These feel very elegant (recommend in the cognac color).
And what about pants? You know I’ve been preaching the pleat front pant for awhile now and I’m not stopping anytime soon. It’s time to break away from your denim and try some trousers. There is an abundance of good options. A big YES to these. If I wasn’t pregnant I’d already own these, they’re so good.
We’re moving away from dainty jewelry and fully embracing big earrings and lots of necklaces. Pearls are having a big moment and this pair is great. And I have no idea how this is still in stock, at this price.
Thanks Joanie! If anyone has a autumn birthday coming up, I think some of these would really make lovely gifts
I had the nicest Mother’s Day. I wanted to get up before the older girls wake, like Joe and I usually do, and have our cup of coffee outside when everything is still quiet. Yet I am a big believer in the breakfast in bed parade–there’s something formative about it–so I did go back to bed with my kindle so they could still present the breakfast that Joe made. [Scrambled eggs, plus I made this King Arthur cinnamon bun box mix the night before, let it rise overnight outside (crowded refrigerator) and then put it in the oven in the morning when I was down early–delicious.]
At some point in the day I reflected on Mother’s Days of the past when I genuinely believed that I would in some way feel more treasured and special than I did on other days of year. Lauded was probably the word I was looking for. This expectation was entirely the wrong way to approach the day because it disabled me from enjoying the tiny special things that came about, distracted as I was in seeking my Greater Meaning. These days, I’m more interested in whether our daily patterns are working for us and if they aren’t, it’s better to see that and fix it than wait for a special day to declare something isn’t working.
a kitchen I like to think of as at rest. Source long lost and not findable with google images.
And yet the memes about how sleep is all a mother wants still hold of course, and being allowed to sleep in, by the subversion and removal of whatever child typically disrupts the sleep first, is still by far the cheapest luxury available to the partner-giver. Why there is still a child disrupting sleep and why I’m not in a routine of waking up before this child is just one of those things. You move the high water mark and the water rises higher anyway.
For the record, the pursuit of breaks and time to reset is one of those tangible acts with intangible results that can be very effective at solving many states of child raising fatigue. A couple hours away have allowed me to return to my tasks, just as constantly circular as ever, feeling ready to engage them again. I can still recall the refreshment from when I asked Joe to stay the girls by himself for the whole day, while I went out. I went out to a long lunch by myself and then walked around like a loner and was just silent for hours. Do I like to be silent, as a person? Not really, I’m an extrovert. But it was THE thing I needed at that moment and asking for it and receiving it was transformative before I returned to the week ahead.
Taking breaks is one of the things you hear mentioned frequently by those looking back on their child-raising years. People remark that if they could have taken breaks better, it would likely have been possible for them to enjoy their children more. The idea being that most people absolutely love spending time with their kids and innately long for them to never grow up, but it’s the other things in the room that keep the adults from experiencing that truth on a cell, soul level.
But the questions are: how to decide on the break you need based on the refreshment you seek and how to go about getting it. And beyond this question, there is the sentiment that it is important to share with your children what you are doing for yourself and why you are doing it. Sometimes the postcard of “Mommy is going away for awhile” can look picture perfect, and that’s what we’re avoiding here. It should look ruthless and lonely. As a writer my intentions are also haunted by the vision of presenting children with an inexplicably closed door–this foggy memory seems to crop up often in the recollections of writer’s children.
In parenting over the years I’ve learned it plays better to share your fullest self to them from the beginning–the one that wants a break for fifteen minutes, a nap, some time with her own book, to finish her lunch without getting up for something, who forgets to and then remembers to trim her fingernails, who confesses “I don’t like reading this book aloud,” and “I’m all done playing that game but we can sit next to each other for awhile” right alongside “I can’t wait to read this together,” and “You make the best drawings of bunnies.” It’s like the plot of you can be a complete story to them this way, instead of random chapters left out. This is in the same way that it works best to introduce manners and chores as quickly as their consciousness invites it. I write that as someone who did not do it and had to introduce it later. As we sort out ourselves in the safety of our home, we’re giving them tools/stepping stones/foundation blocks (pick your metaphor!!) to sort themselves.
Rag & Bone
(A style guest post from Joanie. All links are affiliate where applicable.) I’ve been traveling a lot lately and I almost exclusively travel carry-on only unless it’s an 8+ day trip. Packing in a carry-on, especially when traveling to cold places, like my recent trip to New York, forces you to make cut throat decisions about what’s coming with you. You can pack one jacket and two pants and a couple of sweaters and you’ll still be sitting on your suitcase begging the zipper not to break. Packing and unpacking frequently has me visiting my closet often. Going through hangers pulling out pieces that might work for that dinner event I have and maybe also for walking around the city during the day? Only pieces that can pull double and triple duty are allowed on the trip.
The thing about taking a carry-on is realizing that you can invent many outfits with a few good pieces and also, at least for me, realizing I/we are way over stocked in the closet department. That my wardrobe would probably feel more exciting with less in it. Which makes me start to ponder what would be in my perfect closet? The 10-12 pieces that would be foundational. It’s fun to think about because if those pieces really work they’ll do a lot of the heavy lifting and give you a great base to get dressed from every day. But, those pieces have to really work. We’re talking about only keeping things that really hit the mark. A lot of dissatisfaction with my or your wardrobe comes from sorting through lots of things that sort of work but don’t really and so they leave you in that spot of “UGH, I hate all of this.”
So let’s be cutthroat and think about if we were building a wardrobe with only 25 pieces in it what would be your 10 biggest players? This of course changes all the time. We dress differently depending on our life circumstances – where we work, what phase of raising children we’re in, how we feel about our bodies, the weather, etc. So make your list for this phase of your life, this moment, what you’d love to wear right now.
I’m using my pieces wisely and starting with a crossbody bag. Of all the bags I own a crossbody is 100% my most used. It has to be on the small side so I can dress it up or down and I think I want it in a color to freshen things up. I current everyday bag is yellow and it goes with everything. Love the color on this bag.
Denim plays a big role in my wardrobe. If I have to stick with one piece it’s going to be a dark wash, straight leg jean that I’ll have altered to hit right above the ankle bone. It’s the perfect length to wear with socks and boots or with flats or heels. My current favorite is Agolde Riley High Rise.
T-shirt is the next big ticket item. To be worn on their own or layered under jackets and sweaters. I’m a lacausa girl through and through when it comes to tees. Their t-shirts are perfection, all of them.
I know I’ve mentioned my love for blazers several times but they really are heavy hitters. I’m partial to Vince when it comes to them. Most of their stuff is cut every so slightly oversized and it makes for a great fit. I have this one and love it (true to size). If you haven’t joined the blazer club, I think now is the time! Also, into the cut on this one button option.
Shoes is going to have to be two pairs, one heeled boot and a flat. For the flat, I’m either going with these Gucci lookalikes or these Freda Salvador sandals. And for the boot, Everlane stopped carrying my favorite boot of all time but I do love this Rag & Bone option. That color goes everything including all the neutrals.
If I could only wear one pair of sunglasses until the end of time it would be Persol. They are by far the best sunglasses I’ve ever owned. They are an investment but if you wear them everyday, 100% worth it. Get polarized lens, it makes a big difference!
And finally, a great coat or jacket. I’ve talked about this many times but we leave outterwear out of the conversation far too often. It is virtually what you wear all winter long. People often don’t see what’s going on underneath your coat so make it count. Buy a colorful coat and wear it out on a February day, people will smile at you, I promise. This one is so 60’s chic and I love it. If you wear a leopard coat out into the world, you will make friends. And I’m willing to wager that we’re about to see a lot of varsity jackets popping up this year (and I’m not mad about it!).
Happy New Year! How are we all feeling out there in the world? I generally find that I feel a bit down in January, the weather is darker, the holidays are over and I’m looking for that elusive new year surge of energy that never seems to hit. So if that’s you, let it be, because it does pass and fighting it doesn’t usually work. (This is a guest post by my sister Joanie.)
At the end of the last year my job of almost 10 (!!) years ended. I thought that I might feel sad or anxious about ending something that has been such a part of my identity for the last decade, and I do feel bits of that but mostly I feel excited. I feel a lightness and a new energy for my occupational future. I’ve spent my entire career working very closely with women who have founded their own businesses. The experience has been truly invaluable and shaped my life in more ways than I can count but it was also a crutch for me to focus outside of myself. It feels really nice to be on my own and I’m excited for what’s ahead.
Anyways, let’s talk clothes! I think January is a good time to take stock of your wardrobe, to donate/sell what’s not working, store away some of the summer clothes you might not be using, make sure your hangers are all facing the same direction and stack and fold your jeans. It can be fun to scan through your phone and look at pictures of yourself last year. Do any outfits stand out to you that you loved? Any looks that really felt like you? In my experience, we can be really hard on ourselves when a photo is first taken and then you’ll look back on it in a few months or a year and think, “wow, I look amazing!”.
I’ve been really enjoying the coat and boot days of my California winter. Los Angeles in the winter is actually style heaven. It never gets cold enough to truly need heavy winter gear but you can wear those light cold weather looks daily. I’ve been wearing this cashmere sweater that I love multiple times a week. I also love it in the gray color. It was a Christmas gift and is on super sale right now. Did you get anything you loved for Christmas? I got several things I’m excited about, one of them being the Dyson Airwrap! If you know me, this is pretty big deal considering the fact that I haven’t blow dried my hair in at least ten years. The price tag is pretty nuts but I have to say it has been living up to its reputation. It dries my hair so insanely fast and it honestly looks like I got a blow out every single time.
I generally like to start the year out by not really buying anything for the first couple months. The post-holiday spending burn out is real and I feel like I can’t think clearly. But, I’ve succumbed to a couple of sale purchases. First, the Everlane sale is really good. This one that I’ve linked to before and loved is on sale. Please hand wash and lay it flat to try! It will shrink.
Second, I ordered this blazer. It was honestly sort of an impulse purchase but I saw it and fell in love. I’ve been on a big blazer kick. I got this one for my birthday and have been wearing it non-stop. You can throw it on with basically any pants + t-shirt combo and instantly look polished. For blazers, sizing is really going to depend on your shoulders. Your shoulders are really what’s holding the blazer and giving it shape on your body. Since my shoulders are on the broader side I almost always order up.
king & tuckfield
My commitment this year remains the same, to buy fewer, better pieces, and to prioritize buying second-hand. I think making a list of things you feel like your closet is missing is a good way to make focused purchases throughout the year. My list would include a great black belt (I love Anderson’s and have this classic black one on my wishlist), a great pair of loafers which unfortunately for me happens to be very expensive pair, and some interesting blouses/tops like this one. I think we’re going to see a return to the cardigan worn as a top this year. The lightweight ones that people wear mostly buttoned. It’s very 90’s and I happen to love the look so I’m excited. This Madewell one is a good example of the look.
I recently re-watched Under the Tuscan Sun which is far from a classic film but I absolutely adore Diane Lane’s style in it. It’s really fun and inspiring to pull up a film where you love one of the character’s style. You can watch and ask yourself why you’re drawn to certain things. The length of the dress paired with those boots, the oversized blouse that’s half tucked into men’s pants, the 40’s inspired dress fitted with a belt at the waist. You might have something in your closet that you re-think when you see a version of it styled in a different way than you normally wear it. Or, it might open your eyes to something you’ve never worn but want to try. There is so much that goes into creating a character’s style in movies and it’s fun to watch that aspect closely and see how it tells its own story.
This week I made Alison Roman’s lasagna x 3, in one big batch. I wanted to make a pan of lasagna to drop off at “winter camp,” the occasional weekend camp that our two older girls go to–skating, sledding, skiing, being cold, watching movies, drinking cocoa, sleeping over, basically the best of winter in a weekend (the kids are asked to be vaccinated, test negative, and wear masks when playing together indoors). I wanted to make a pan for a friend who had surgery a few weeks ago. And I wanted a pan for my family. I have actually never made lasagna for my family. I have never been intrigued by it. But after listening to Alison make it while I was doing other kitchen tasks, I was into it. (I think watching her handle the noodles and keep them from sticking was the most reassuring part to me.) And it was so. good. Yum. And it fed us for three nights–I’m sold! (Recipe; Youtube edition)
My sisters-in-law, sister, and I had an interesting discussion over the holiday about Alison Roman coming back from being cancelled. Given that she apologized for her in-poor-taste comments within 24hrs of the publication of them, it feels crazy that abruptly afterward she lost everything she had, career-wise. Being cancelled/crowd-mobbed-criticized seems inevitable these days, so watching someone lose their career and then restart it as her own thing feels like joining her post-apocalyptic, in a relaxing way. (This long New Yorker article summarizes it, if you missed the whole thing.)
Speaking of cookbooks, gardening podcaster Margaret Roach occasionally interviews baking hero Alexandra Stafford to get Alexandra’s take on new cookbooks. The interview is delightful, and the recommended cookbooks are always gems.
It’s been in the teen digits here lately, so cold, so I’m wandering around in knitwear and Joe and I often find ourselves in same sweatshirts from day to day. It’s still so important to get outside though; I’m thankful for whatever excuses we can come up with to do that and the random extended opportunities like the “wild” church service my friend holds outside once a month at her house. I’m always surprised by how quickly we acclimate to the temperature, as long as we are dressed warmly. We began our first week back to homeschooling after the holiday break and I felt like our brains were in birds-take-flight mode. We could handle in an hour attention span together and then needed long breaks in between. Our community day with classical conversations was as near to chaos as one could imagine. I found refuge in a few trips to the library for wanderlust-inspired reading about the Balkans, diving back into cooking for the family, and tucking into bed early.
photo of lasagna (not mine) by betainflight
The week after New Years found me and the girls staying at friend’s condo on the marina in Naples. The sun poured in through the windows first thing in the morning; the white plastic deck chairs on the porch basked in the humid breeze. While the girls slept on the pullout couch, I would make a cup of coffee on the machine that was nearly instant and piping hot and pour Esme a bowl of cereal. Around 10am there was a gentle clinking outside the windows as two female bartenders prepped their poolside marina bar for the day’s customers. There was very little for the girls to do indoors in between the trips to the beach and pool; they unpacked and repurposed the bits of fabric and toys from their backpacks over and over again, turning coffee tables and ottomans into homes for their favored stuffed animals. We sat outside at a restaurant on the water with a margarita special (happy hour specials don’t exist in New England) and a kid’s menu that included dessert and drink. We walked to the restaurant and the girls wore flip-flops, a new shoe style for them; I could only sympathize with the painful first ever flip-flop blister-to-callus process. I bought a few grocery snacks (food costs at Publix made me feel we have it good in Vermont, surprisingly!) that could work as meals, spending no time on dishes or meal prep. It was sunny escape and a chance to see old friends following an intensive few weeks of holiday-at-home life; unexpectedly I found myself with time for reflecting on the last year. I thought through a prompt that Allie included in her recent newsletter:
“I made a list of the top 10 relationships in my life and how I can show up.
I made a list of all the teeny tiny things that frustrate me regularly. One of them was that my laptop charger only works if the battery pack is tilted at a 45 degree angle. And then I made a plan to fix it.” -Allie Lehman [link to sign up]
This week for the first time we took advantage of the fact that we live within a short drive of several ski hills. Why wait three years, you may ask. Because this was the first year it worked! Age is a funny thing–it makes all the difference in a parent’s calculation of what might work. These past three winters even the prospect of one parent going with two girls and one parent staying home with two, though it would have “worked,” has not been how we wanted to spend our weekends.
But now, on a weekday, two girls are old enough to ski (together) alone at a ski hill small enough for them to come and find me at the base when they need. One girl is old enough to take a group lesson in the morning and then sit with me by the fire while her sisters ski.
Things like this take an enormous amount of prepping, schlepping and encouraging, and this year was the first year it sounded both fun and doable to me. Looking back, I would have said to myself, “good job mom, you’re making the right decision to wait.” (Both the girls are wearing Reima one piece snowsuits. We initially tried that style with just one kid and she was always warmer than the kids with two-pieces, so we’ve migrated toward that for everyone. Reima is mostly sold out by now but, just a note for next year.)
I also like to take a “first pancake” approach any of these endeavors that walk the line between experiment and investment. You’re trying it and it doesn’t quite work out the first time, but that does not mean it was a bad idea to make pancakes. Each time they get a little better. For example, on our first snow/sledding day this year, each of the girls was crying at one point or another. The week’s First Pancake ski day involved almost an hour of coaching one of the girls through getting dressed for adventure. It was twenty degrees outside and estimated to feel like fourteen degrees, we were going to be there for three hours at least; the right clothing was a nonnegotiable. Each layer was a struggle, and even after my slowest most patient cajoling, she almost bailed at the last moment. But we survived, she had a wonderful morning, and left so proud of her accomplishments. So yes! It was a good idea to make pancakes.
I slipped into my 2022 reading with a reread, the only-gets-better-each-time Circe. A wonderful story, like the most lush picnic of ancient stories paired with modern perspective and sprinkled with feminine wiles. A couple of people posted their year in review reading lists (1, 2, 3,), I always like to see those. I myself end up making a digital one, just jotting them down on a draft in my gmail, but there is something wonderful about the written list. I finished last year’s reading with Oh Beautiful World Where Are You? and the nonfiction Truffle Hound. Loved both. Happy January! I’m hoping to be here a bit more often this year.
Interior days. Gray skies, crisp cold grass, damp weather. Made a soup and didn’t like it. It’s time I admitted I can really only eat beets with a vinaigrette. I have a spiral bound book of soup recipes my grandmother loved, I should have started with those recipes, rather than a random one from online. The trouble is, I get distracted: merrily cobbling a soup together without examining the recipe closely because I’m always thinking about the bread that will come with the soup: flaky buttermilk biscuits, crispy olive oil croutons, cornbread with honey.
So, didn’t like the soup. Composted it. I’ve found that one of the great joys of composting is flinging food that didn’t work out on to it, the best regift. I do see the genius of soups though; why my grandmother loved it for lunch and had it almost every day. Often times you get in four to six vegetables in one go. And it’s so elegant…somehow.
I continue to reflect on what ten years of parenting has meant, since we passed that turn around the sun this summer, in July. Where it has brought us. How we have changed. Especially: which roles have faded somewhat, and the new ones that have emerged. I’m working on a “ten thoughts for ten years,” but concrete descriptions of the whole thing elude me. They roll away from me like yarn in this case. Having everyone in the house all the time forces the roles of each parent-child stage to be more transparent. They watch how things go with one another. My parenting of one child seems strange to the other children, as it is not age-appropriate to them. I see one needing a project, a chore, and a walk. I see another needing an hour of working together over a paper. I see one tucked away, listening to an audiobook, happy just for a snack now and then. Sometimes the girls demand that they be treated equally in all things and it’s just so awkward. It doesn’t work.
One challenge of this stage is taking on the role of severe matron. Taking it all so seriously–watching for squabbles, registering the temperature of the moods, keeping tabs on the bottomless groceries, and laundry and clutter. I find myself correcting more than laughing.
Midst-reflection (as a result of?) I’m backing up all of my photos and videos. Ten years of parenting–it is far too much for any laptop to manage blithely. I prefer laptop actions to be lithe and swift; the photos are holding us back. So I’m putting them on a hard drive, plus uploading them to the cloud (amazon, all the clouds seemed shaped as amazon these days), and seeing them sorted under a different algorithm, with ones I haven’t seen in forever popping up. I can’t believe how few photographs and videos I took of our first baby. Evidently Rachael in 2011 could go days, weeks, without bothering to take a photo. Compared to the hundreds…it’s definitely escalated. I bought my first iphone when I was pregnant in 2010; actually, I had to leave the store mid-purchase because I was about to faint and I had not figured out how to manage the pregnant metabolism, aside from wondering if the At&t guy had an orange juice in the back. I did get the phone in the end, and the photos followed. I think we’re all better photographers than we were before instagram, we don’t give ourselves enough credit. Staring at screens and thousands of photos has payed off, a bit.
Though I am now playing nursemaid to them, shepherding them gently from one maternal cloud to another, I am grateful for the photographs and especially the videos, wow. The videos of a three-year-old talking to a one-year-old. A two-year-old telling me something, only translatable by my repeating it back on video. Of dancing. Walking. Laughing. Tense facial expressions while having their face painted. Passing time in an apartment on a dingy carpet that only a few of them remember now. Some of the value comes from the “this is how it was” feeling that I want to share with the kids when we watch these together. This is how it was–we just hung out a lot, and tried to eat and sleep on time, you were a little confusing, and I was never sure what you wanted.
In the super sweet and startling memoir Everything Sad is Untrue, Daniel Nayeri declares, “The patchwork story is the shame of the refugee.” He misses all the things his mom couldn’t bring with them when they fled Iran. He misses the end of a childhood reminisce, and the middle of a story his grandfather would tell. He misses the photos and the old bedsheets. He writes so clearly of this missing-heartache into his book, you can’t help but clutch your trove of complete memories with gratitude, to say nothing of fancy photo books or bobbling framed smiles.
I didn’t really make Christmas or Birthday lists until I married my husband, and like clockwork every year my mother-in-law asks me for my list. And then when Christmas roles around I genuinely feel shocked and excited when I get to open up everything I’ve wanted and forgot I had asked for. My mom always gives us money to buy something we like for our birthday but often I’d end up putting it into my bank account and never spending it on something that felt like a gift. So now, I’m a fan of the list. I like to ask for things that I wouldn’t normally buy myself. The nice face oil, a gift card for a massage, totally unnecessary but fun tennis skirt, a membership to a wine club, pink dutch oven, +$100 pair of sneakers, a face mask that’s overpriced but really works; things that aren’t required but that are fun. Isn’t that what a gift should be?
I keep a note on my iPhone of ideas throughout the year. Things I see and love but don’t buy because they aren’t needed or feel indulgent. Here are some things on my list!
[This is a guest style post by my sister Joanie. Links are affiliate where applicable. Thank you Joanie!]
It’s fun to ask for experience gifts. I got a facial membership one year from my mom and it was such a treat and felt like the gift that kept on giving. My aunt gives me a case of champagne for my birthday and I look forward to it every year. We share it with lots of people and it’s fun to have a bottle on hand to open on a random Wednesday. I also love Helen’s Wine Club she has the best taste and was the first person who really got me into wine. She’s a wealth of knowledge and has a great wine club! Also, a coffee club is an excellent gift that keeps on giving! Go Get Em Tiger is a local favorite of ours that ships. (Editor’s note: Carrier Roasting is a Vermont brand that we love that ships as well.)
Radiance Face Oil
Every year I get a bottle of the radiance face oil from True Botanicals. They have a Black Friday sale that brings the price down and (in my opinion) it’s the best face oil out there.
I got a set of these glasses for my birthday last year and love them. Upgrading your barware is definitely not a need but makes hosting cocktails with your neighbors more fun.
Add this absolutely unnecessary but beautiful Dutch oven to your list. Cooking with color is more fun!
I highly recommend these sweatpants. They were on my Christmas list three years ago and I wore them so much and have since told about 10 people to buy a pair. They are something I wouldn’t buy myself because of the $$ but they are worth it. So comfortable and cute for running outside to walk the dog or a quick stop at the grocery store. I think investing in great sleep/lounge ware is underrated! (Editor’s note: my sister-in-law Hannah and I have both given these sweatpants are early postpartum lounge wear. The waist can be worn high or low. They are much loved.)
I don’t play tennis enough to need a tennis skirt but it sure does make playing more fun. I got this for my birthday this year and love it. So chic!
This sweater was on my birthday list this year and I have barely taken it off since I got it. I sized up (normally a small and got a medium) and i would say it’s really oversized so maybe stick with your normal size unless you want it big.
A bag that you’d never buy for yourself. Most of us carry a purse every single day so having something you love to carry is well worth it. I have a yellow crossbody bag that I wear all the time and even though the color might seem hard to coordinate with it mixes surprisingly well with many things. I love this one by Mansur, this beautiful blue woven bag by Clare V, this silver option is the perfect day and night bag, and my dream wishlist item, Celine, this one is stunning.
lightening paw perfume
fly by jing
Perfume is something I never buy for myself but love to receive. I currently have two favorites, this Malin + Goetz cannabis one smells SO good, you’ll never get more compliments on a scent. I’m currently out of it and need a re-stock! Also, this one by Olo is amazing.
I set an old photo of the girls sleeping under our Christmas tree as my laptop’s background screen a few weeks ago. The more you carry the responsibility of the festivities, the more you relate to “Christmas people”—the ones who seem to launch into the holidays promptly after Halloween. Launch early or you’ll probably wake up halfway through, right?
But I was drawn to putting up the photo as a reminder of all the simple things we love about December, like blankets and lights, even as I fill online carts with gifts and scrutinize lists for fairness, and dance with the creeping acknowledgement that we have far more than we need already.
The trees are all sticks now, the temperatures are dropping and the hours of dark are growing each day, so this time of year it does feel natural to fixate on the special moments ahead. I rarely buy a wreath from the small market near us, but I absolutely love to look at them every time I stop by for groceries, often times in the dark of early evening (4:30 around here). Just after Thanksgiving they make great piles of wreaths on the long wooden tables lining the entrance. The wreaths are trimmed with all sorts of things–juniper berries, dried orange slices, evergreen springs of different varieties with cranberry colored ribbons and dark twine. Taking a moment to gaze at them each time is a favorite private tradition.
Last week I happened upon this Calm Christmas podcast, a warm and lovely listen. Listening to her soft British accent, the entire time I was visualizing Kate Winslet’s cottage in The Holiday. The first episode for this year was just released last week, and she plans to do one every week through December.
Last year here I asked for ideas of holiday things a family could still in isolation times. Jayme shared with me the idea of a box of candy bars and energy bars put out for the package delivery people, with a note thanking them for all they do. She said her children loved peeking through the window to see what they picked out. We did the same thing, filled up a big box, and had so much fun with it. All December we kept the box stocked and the kids often went outside to greet the drivers, and watch them choose something. Honestly, it was one the few times there were treats in our home that were not intended for the girls to immediately consume. It was wonderful for all of us, the girls have brought it up as a fond memory a couple times throughout this year.
Taylor wrote to me about their family carol sing along, just the four of them around the tree with a guitar.
Margaret wrote about the muslin bags she reuses each year for an Advent calendar–tucking in chocolates, notepads, ideas for a day off together.
If I had to sum up my personal goals for the season, they would be to clear some of the administrative tasks of the household to one side before December begins–treating the month as an extended sabbath of a sort, the seventh day of rest. I’m not sure exactly how to go about doing that. Perhaps a meal plan. Perhaps clearing out the drawer that holds old bills, cards, notes, receipts. Perhaps letting go of a holiday card, this year. One success of this school year so far is that we’ve gotten to a good system with keeping the house clean together, so I can count on help with that. I’m not planning to make a homemade Advent calendar for the children, but I wonder what a personal calendar for myself might look like. This is a goal on my mind because one of my current pitfalls of parenting to wooshing around completing tasks all day, ever in pursuit of the next accomplished moment. The reason for this is entirely understandable–the list of things to do each day is truly bottomless. But accidentally it’s become a focus of my days, and I’m ready to play with that and switch it around.