Archive for the ‘reflections’ Category

It’s been hard to sit down and put words to my feelings about this new Covid-19 way of life.  Partly because my feelings are all over the map.  But also because the news is changing so quickly (and somehow also not at all?).  Five weeks ago we were wondering how in the world we’d weather a two-week school closure and I was conceding to Shane, “Ok, we’ll skip dinner at our the Rusts’ house just this week, until this whole thing blows over”.  And now school is closed for the rest of the year and I feel like I may never hug Nancy or La Verne again!  I’m in an emotional tailspin, feeling ups, downs, and every-which-ways every 15 minutes.  I’m loving the extra time at home after a season of being away so much, but am increasingly desperate to be out and about.  I’m thankful we’ve stayed healthy and absolutely believe that we can get through this, but I’m frustrated and bitter about all the missing-out, about the cancellation of the kindergarten musical and the Easter service at church.  One moment I’m listless, unable to extract myself from the couch, and then I’m suddenly swept up in a frantic bout of doing, cleaning the house with a vigor that’s almost manic.  I’m tired.  A little worried.  And lately pretty lonely.  The drama of it all overwhelmed me last Sunday as we joined our Easter church service from our couch and Matt sang Waymaker and I saw La Verne in a little square on the upper left corner of our TV playing her cello from her music room.  I missed our church and being in the physical presence of people so much that I couldn’t help the tears from spilling over.  This quiet retreat into the cozy enclave of our home was nice for a couple of weeks, but I think I’m done now.  Over it.

Juliette’s done, too – she came home from playing with the neighbor kids outside later that day and when I asked her about the chip crumb on her mouth (we’ve had so many talks about not sharing snacks right now), she started to sob, wracked with a wave of guilt.  “I’m so sorry!  It’s just hard, Mommy!  I want it to be like it was!  I’m sorry!  I won’t play with anyone else until the virus goes away, I promise…I’m sorry!”  She then stormed down the hallway, slammed her bedroom door, flung herself onto her bed, and yelled “I JUST WANT TO BE ALONE!” when I knocked gently on her door.  This damn virus has turned my little girl into a brooding teenager!  She eventually let me in and I held her close and then Shane entered a few minutes later to find us both weeping.  Happy Easter, folks!

But like we sang that earlier that morning,

You made a way
When our backs were against the wall
And it looked as if it was over
You made a way

There’s a way through this.  I don’t know what that looks like or when full relief will come, but God will make a way.  Maybe God’s making a way right now, even as we’re in the thick of it?  Maybe this is the way, piecing together a slap-dash homeschool schedule and savoring the beauty of our own backyard and scheduling Zoom calls with our family and friends?

We winged the first two days of homeschool, but after being interrupted by Juliette every seven minutes because she was bored or couldn’t find her colored pencils or wanted to show us the spider outside her window, we found we needed more structure.  Shane laid it all out in half-hour increments.  Piano, writing, snack, art, science, lunch, math, reading, RECESS.  On the best days we hit five out of six subjects.  On the worst days, which are usually the days when Shane and I are busiest with work, Juliette ping-pongs between us until we finally send her outside to see if she can rustle up some outdoor playtime with the neighbors.  It’s hard.  But the moments when I’m able to work with her quietly working alongside me?  Those are the best.

Science scrounge: basement constellations.

Juliette misses her teachers and her classmates fiercely and has taken to writing letters to them each day.  I loved this note for her teacher…”Luckily I am just a few blocks away.  Feel free to drop a letter off…”  She’s so subtle.

Juliette’s school holds an online “assembly” every day for all the kids and the principal reads a book or the art teacher leads an activity or the school counselor takes a poll on how everyone is feeling.  I do enjoy peeking over her shoulder, getting to see her school’s leaders in action.

Juliette had her first call with her class last week and her teacher asked everyone to wear a hat for show and tell.  This kid took the challenge all the way!

The utmost kudos to Shane for truly channeling his inner teacher.  I knew he was good, but he’s good.  He leads Juliette through piano lessons each morning and sets aside time with her each afternoon to work on projects for the coding class she’s taking.

Meanwhile, I bake with her.  Measuring flour counts for math, I guess?

I think, I hope, we’re finding our rhythm.  I can see Juliette becoming ever-so-slightly more independent, able to enjoy time on her own for 20 or 30-minute stretches.  Last week I came into her room and found that she’d converted her bed into a boat and was ready to cruise the world, with a plastic plate for a ship’s wheel and an Easter basket full of snacks.

And at the end of the day, even after it feels like I’ve told her 47 times that I don’t have time to play with her, she still likes me!  Sweet, forgiving child.  At bedtime, after I tuck her in, she begs me to stay and cuddle, because “she’ll miss me so much!”  I’m more than ready for a god-dang break by 8pm, but Juliette, I appreciate the sentiment.

Finally, on Fridays, we toast with white wine and ginger ale, celebrating the fact that we made it another week.

Like much of the world, we’re leaning on technology to connect us with our nearest and dearest.  Church online, virtual happy hours and breakfasts with the gang, Zoom calls with the family…while it’s no substitute for spending time together in the flesh, it’s something.

Thankfully, thankfully the weather has been good enough to be outdoors and we’ve done lots of exploring in our neighborhood.  We scaled a large hill near Me Kwa Mooks with our neighbors last month and came across a couple of surprise rope swings.

And the blooms.  The blooms!  I lamented the fact that we missed the UW cherry blossoms this year, but West Seattle is full of pink and white.

Our backyard hit peak magic last week, color-wise, and has been the perfect place to eat lunch al fresco, or to send Juliette outside to burn off some wiggles.

This is the view from where I work – while these girls are sitting a little too close together, still, I’m thankful for neighborhood playmates.

I’ve been impressed with how good the kids are at finding things to do outdoors.  For example, the burial and memorial tribute to the bird that crashed into our window and died took up a good couple of hours while I was tied up on a work call.

We dusted off our fire pit a couple of weeks ago and have loved ending the day with sunset s’mores.

Plus, our back porch is perfect for P.E.!

…and…snow angels?

I mentioned the big emotions Easter Sunday brought, but in between the crying there was a very sweet egg hunt and some cherished family time.  Plus, Juliette loved having an excuse to put on a dress and tights and raid her dress-up drawer for her bunny ears.

 

 

 

I wonder what my lasting memories of this virus will be.  Probably people in masks.  Playgrounds strung with caution tape.  Working nights to make up for days full of distractions.  But also, this.  Family togetherness like we’ve never known before and likely won’t ever experience again.  Inconvenient, patience-testing, love-filled, restorative togetherness.  I’m here for it.

The 2019 highlight reel!  These are a few of my favorite things…

Favorite book:

As per usual, I fell short of my annual reading goal, but finished 17 books and liked most of them.

Favorite fiction was Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson.  I grabbed this one from the library on a whim while I was waiting for Juliette to pick out her books and it surprised me the very best way.  Woodson has a way of bringing you up close and personal with her characters in so few words.

Favorite non-fiction was Shameless by Nadia Bolz-Weber, because it challenged ideas of mine that I didn’t even know were up for debate.

And favorite of favorites, in a category all its own, was Devotions by Mary Oliver, because…Mary.  I lugged this book around on nearly all of our camping trips and have the fondest of memories of reading about nature and beauty and solitude while the waters of Priest Lake shimmered in the distance.

 

Favorite movie:

I was a year late on watching this one, but I caught Bohemian Rhapsody on one of my flights to San Diego and YOWSERS.  Totally brilliant.  I never really loved Queen, but suddenly found myself with a profound appreciation for Freddy Mercury’s creativity and talent.  Five stars.

 

Favorite TV show:

Again, I’m late to the party, but helloooooo Stranger Things!  I initially passed on the first couple of seasons, put off by the sounds of shrieking girls and screeching creatures as Shane binge-watched this show downstairs, but he finally convinced me to sit down and give the show an honest shot before Season 3 dropped this summer.  So we watched Season 1.  And 2.  And then 3.  And it was good.  So ridiculously, outlandishly good.

(Honorable mention to Succession!)

 

Favorite podcast:

I’m still faithful to my tried-and-true trifecta of The Daily, Reply All and Heavyweight (Heavyweight!  Listen to #27 Scott and try not to cry).  But I’ve got a new favorite, and it’s got very little substance, but WHATEVER.  I’m loving Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend when I want…a friend!  So light, so funny, so easy to imagine you’re in the room with Conan and his assistant Sona.  Best episodes include his chats with Malcolm Gladwell, Steven Colbert, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus.

 

Favorite song:

Oh boy.  This one is hard.  Especially now, when it feels like we’re stuck in an endless loop of Frozen 2 tracks.  We listened to a lot of Taylor Swift this year.  Hopped on the Billie Eilish bandwagon.  Juliette and I instated a Dixie Chicks revival.  But the song that probably got the most play is Some Type of Love by Charlie Puth – it’s poppy and sweet and perfect for belting out when Jules and I are cruising in the Subaru.

 

Favorite purchase:

We have a concrete pad in our backyard that’s been screaming for a fire pit since we moved in.  After searching high and low for something not-too-big and not-too-ugly, we landed on the Solo Stove and it’s been great!  Compact, burns crazy-hot, and the perfect reason for the kids to gather on the backyard on a summer evening.

 

Favorite personal pastime:

Totally stumped on this one, as I feel like 2019 was the year of “painfully minimal personal time”.  Work kind of sucked me dry last year.  But.  BUT!  The work travel that zapped me was also dotted with some pretty incredible beachfront evening strolls.  How lucky am I that my project site is a mile from here?!

 

Favorite family pastime:

Juliette has recently graduated from mind-numbingly simple games like Candy Land to board games that I actually want to play.  Ticket to Ride!  Harry Potter Hogwarts Battle!  Quirkle!  We’re in such a good game groove right now – I’m loving winter weekend mornings when we can crank up the fire place, pour a couple of mugs of hot chocolate, and open up the game cupboard.  (Again, though, as I say every year, camping ultimately for the win.)

 

And, favorite moments…

 

Show me whatcha got, 2020.

The message at church last Sunday was all about Joy.  JOY.  Seeking joy.  Sharing joy.  And pausing to fully revel in joy when you unexpectedly stumble upon it.  Be present in the spontaneous moments of mirth, “stop and snap a memory picture of them”.  This struck a particular chord with me – I pack joy into our holiday calendar in the form of tree hunts and Santa visits and Christmas light tours, but I’m seeing there’s actually so much extra goodness to be found in the in-between times, if I just step back for a hot minute and let life happen.  This past weekend was busy, with a company holiday party and a birthday party and a Santa visit and cookie decorating and a Christmas lights bonanza, but the moment that’s given me warm fuzzies all week long wasn’t a part of any Christmas programming.  It was a Saturday evening and I was feverishly cleaning the house before our neighbors came over for dessert and Shane was blaring Chicago songs on Alexa when You’re the Inspiration started playing and he grabbed me for a living room slow dance.

“You know our love was meant to beeeeee…the kind of love that lasts foreverrrr…”

I sighed at first, annoyed by the interruption (dishes to do!), but then channeled my inner romantic and leaned my head against his chest.  Juliette stood by and grinned at the sight of the two of us swaying together with our hands clasped in some kind of slow waltz, and then she did the same – put her left arm around an imaginary waist and raised her right arm to hold an imaginary hand and swayed right along with us.  She looked up at us both with twinkling eyes and then dashed to her room to grab her teddy bear to bring him back for the chorus.

“You’re the meaning in my life…You’re the inspirationnnn…”

Shane leaned down and kissed me on the cheek and then Juliette kissed her teddy bear on the cheek in just the same gentle way and I nearly burst into tears with the goofy tenderness of it all.

JOY.  I’m here for it.

Juliette and I have put In November by Cynthia Rylant into our recent reading rotation, flipping pages that speak to the quiet and coziness of this month.  In November, mice burrow into little barn nests and dogs curl up by fires and families share pies while sitting by crackling woodstoves. In November, in this book, all is well.

In reality, though, this month has been tough.  In November, the sun started setting well before 5 pm, which zapped me of my evening energy.  In November, my mom underwent her first round of chemo to treat her recent cancer diagnosis.  In November, I endured one of the busiest, most stressful seasons I’ve ever had at work while Shane struggled to find his footing in his new job.  In November, Juliette proudly presented me with a card she’d written out all by herself at school that said, “Dear Mommy, I wish you did not have to go to San Diego all the time.  In November, all did not feel well.

So I’m self-medicating with Vitamin D capsules and lots of water.  Some nights I’m allowing myself to fall asleep in Juliette’s bed with her at 8 pm.  And I’m getting outside.

I literally headed for the hills at the end of a particularly busy week and spent a Friday morning hiking up to Mason Lake.

The terrain was so diverse, alternating from closed-in woods to panoramic views.

I sat lakeside for a bit and savored every bite of my granola bar, recuperating from the steep 3.5-mile uphill climb.

I made it.  And it was good.

 

Even on gray days, I’ve been trying to rally and do a loop down by the water.  There’s solace in fog, like the weather is saying, “I know how you feel…”

 

The ultimate solace continues to be a walk through the leaves with Shane and Juliette – we spent a Sunday at Ravenna Park strolling and crunching.  Juliette insisted on wearing this rubber finger that someone gave her while trick-or-treating.  She’s so weird.  I love her.

(Juliette does not seem to be one for November blues.)

This grove is one of my favorite Fall spots.

 

We arrived in Idaho this afternoon for a few mellow days with my parents (my mom is doing phenomenal, by the way!), so it looks like we’ll be rounding out November with pie and fireside chatter after all.  In November…there’s still plenty to be thankful for.

It took all of two weeks for those final mellow days of 2018 to feel like a distant memory – the new year is HERE and it’s busy as all get-out.  But 2018 still deserves a proper homage, a proper highlight reel. My favorites, in no particular order…

Favorite book:

I didn’t read nearly as much fiction last year as I hoped to, but the few I did pick up were very solid choices.  4.6 stars out of 5 to The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd for breaking my heart and putting it back together again.

In the non-fiction category, 4.7 stars for Educated by Tara Westover, which had me hooked from page 1.

I’ve been trying to leave more poetry laying around the house on our coffee and end tables to be picked up in a free moment and had my literary mind blown by Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson, which was such a beautiful mix of poetry and memoir. 4.8 stars.

 

Favorite movie:

I made it to the movie theater a whopping THREE times this year!  I think that’s three times the number of new movies I saw in 2017, so I’ll take it!  Award goes to Mary Poppins Returns for positively exuding creative energy.  Juliette carries her umbrella with her everywhere now.

 

Favorite TV show:

By about a thousand points, the new Queer Eye on Netflix takes the prize.  I tuned into an episode on the recommendation of a friend and was immediately smitten with Jonathan, Karamo, Tan, Bobby and Antoni.  This show was a much-needed, light-hearted reminder that in these divided times, people can still come together with vastly different perspectives and weave something beautiful.

(Honorable mention to Better Call Saul!)

 

Favorite podcast:

This one’s tough, as I didn’t venture much outside my usual fare of Reply All and The Daily.  But there were a couple of Oprah Super-Soul Conversations that really had me Amen-ing on my lunchtime walks (favorites include her chats with Cheryl Strayed, Julia Roberts, and Steven Pressfield).  Also, muchas gracias to The Story Pirates for capturing Juliette’s attention on many a long car ride.

 

Favorite song:

I just scrolled through my latest Amazon playlist in search of any standout faves and had a hard time finding anything that rocked my world.  However, I have dozens of happy memories of Jules and I bopping our heads along to Jack Johnson’s I Got You.  This tune’s a few years old, but it’s gotten its second wind in our house on cozy Saturday mornings when we’re making breakfast and reading books in our pajamas.

 

Favorite purchase:

I started typing about the delicate gold stacking rings I’ve been wearing every day since I picked them up in Paris, but couldn’t shake the feeling that I was missing something bigger and better.  Duh.  Our house!  Golly, we feel like we hit the real estate jackpot.  I mean, this place isn’t perfect – the toilets are pink and there’s a portion of the basement that inexplicably smells a little footy, but it’s home through and through and I feel a little buzz of gratitude every time I walk through the front door.

 

Favorite personal pastime:

I bought a package of classes at my local Barre3 studio right after Thanksgiving, hoping that would jump-start me out of my fitness slump.  It felt like a splurge since I already had access to the online workouts and could do those at home, but my living room exercise sessions were lacking a certain focus and energy.  And…wowsers – the studio classes are kicking my butt in the most fun way.  The music and the pumped-up teachers and the presence of 15 of 20 other bad-ass women moving along-side me – total fitness game changer.  Plus, it gets me out of the house on these dark winter evenings, when I’m tempted to go to bed at 7:30 pm.

 

Favorite family pastime:

I could populate this field with camping each and every year, but I’ll give it a break and talk about our family bike rides.  Bicycle Sundays are so fun with all three of us on wheels and with Juliette’s big new bike, I’m expecting we’ll venture to new paths this coming year.  (Seriously, though, camping for the win.)

 

And, favorite moments…

CHEERS TO THE NEW YEAR!

Our community group is doing a series of “self-portraits” this year, where everyone takes a turn describing themselves with whatever medium they choose.  There have been poems and essays and timelines and memento-filled shoe boxes, each telling a unique story.  Given my penchant for reminiscing, I decided to go way back (all the way back!) and cull through my photo albums, selecting and sharing a snapshot from each year I’ve lived.  This was such a meaningful exercise that I wanted to capture it here on the blog – not as a complete life story, but as a series of moments or phases or people that have stirred my soul in some way or another.  There are high highs and low lows.  And some very questionable hairstyles…

My mom woke up in the middle of the night in Denver, Colorado on October 9, 1981 and “felt things happening” – it was go-time!  She wanted to pack a lunch for my dad and get a few things ready, but my grandma promptly pushed my parents out the door and told them to get their butts to the hospital.  At 11 am, all 7 pounds, 11 ounces of me made my arrival.



I don’t remember anything from 1982, but photos tell me that I took my first trip to Florida that year and loved the beach.  I teethed on chicken drumsticks and my favorite hiding place was in the cabinets under the kitchen sink.



In 1983 we took our first family camping trip, in the Colorado Rocky Mountains.  My parents were novice campers and grabbed the cheapest gear they could find – my mom ended up zipping our sleeping bags together so that we could keep warm in the cold Colorado nights.  I got filthy and poked at the campfire with my “burning stick” (my parents apparently gave me oodles of freedom) and got my first taste of the beloved outdoors. It tasted like Tang and roasted marshmallows, so clearly I was all in.



My best friend Amy lived just two doors down from us on Dean Drive and we spent much of our time running back and forth between each other’s houses.  She had a pretend grocery store in her basement with a cash register that actually beeped and I had a sand box in my back yard, so we both brought something valuable to the friendship.  In 1984 we had matching Raggedy Anne dolls. And our moms cut our hair.

In 1985 my bowl-cut grew out.  But my bangs-game was strong.

Most of my memories from the first few years of my life involve the outdoors – winter snow forts and summer sand box castles and trips to the mountains with my family.  I prided myself on being my dad’s fishing buddy, picking the worms out of his bait bowl and then dropping my own line near the shore. Sometimes I got lucky, like on this 1986 trip to the river.



I was always trying (and usually failing) to keep up with my older brother – I remember watching Mitch zoom down the street on his bike or kick the soccer ball around with his friends, our five-year age gap seemingly insurmountable as he left me in his dust.  However, on family vacations he had no choice but to hang out with me! This is us on a 1987 camping trip to Ruedi Reservoir.



I have the fondest memories of visiting my grandparents in Maryland – Nannie kept an endless supply of Brach’s hard candy in her crystal candy dish and my Aunt Norma had an above-ground pool in her backyard.  My cousin Rachel was the coolest – she taught me all the words to Tiffany’s I Think We’re Alone Now and we had some killer dress-up sessions with treasures from Nannie’s closet. If this picture were zoomed out a little, you’d see that I was wearing a great pair of Nannie’s heels – 1988 was apparently the dawn of my shoe fetish!



The blissful summer of 1989 was our last in Colorado, as my dad was transferred to McMinnville, Oregon in the fall of that year.  My brother and I were both devastated when we found out we were moving – I was spending more time than ever with Amy, and Mitch’s best friend Duane lived two doors down in the other direction.  Our street was the center of our universe, and the thought of leaving it all behind was unbearable.



Our first few months in McMinnville were…transitional.  We lived in a couple of rentals while waiting for our new house to be built.  I was quite shy at my new school and didn’t make any immediate friends (though I do remember getting a particularly amorous Valentine from Justin McKinney).   I spent a lot of time with my stuffed animals.

By 1991 Oregon had become home – I had found a few friends and loved Friday night sleep-overs, where we’d pull out the sofa bed and watch the full TGIF line-up, making each other giggle with our Urkel impressions.

In 1992 I saw Wayne’s World for the first time, while slumber partying at my friend Lindsey’s house. We both became completely obsessed with the movie, learning all the words to Bohemian Rhapsody and creating our own low-budget version of Wayne and Garth’s cable show.  It was called Babe’s World and we recorded episode after episode on my audio cassette recorder.  I mean, that perm!  Nothing screams “babe” like a triangle-shaped haircut.



In 1993 my dad’s job uprooted our family again and moved us to Turlock, California.  I had a lonely start to sixth grade and have distinct memories of sitting at our kitchen table, telling my mom through tears that no one liked me and that I wanted to move back to Oregon and my Babe’s World co-host.  Thankfully, my loneliness was short-lived and by October I was able to get up the gumption to invite a few girls over for my twelfth birthday party. And they actually showed up! Bless their hearts. Francine, on the right, ended up being a bridesmaid at my wedding thirteen years later.



In 1994 I entered seventh grade at Turlock Junior High.  The words “Junior High” literally make my stomach flip-flop.  The girls I had befriended in our cozy, insular sixth grade classroom left me in their dust when we hit the big-time.  They joined forces with the richest, prettiest girls from the other elementary schools to become “The Preps” (my words, not theirs).  Thankfully, THANKFULLY, I had a true friend in Jody. There were times when I had an only friend in Jody. We saved each other from eating alone at lunch time and we spent every Friday night together, memorizing the words to Smashing Pumpkins’ 1979 and Bush’s Glycerine and No Doubt’s Don’t Speak.  We were convinced that good music had the power to make us cool.

In 1995 I dabbled in “grunge”, wearing men’s polos and oversized flannels and suede Vans.  I begged my parents for a skateboard, to complete the look, but they said no.  I lived for the moment between first and second period when I would cross paths with Justin Houts, the end-all be-all in cute skater boys.  He had no idea who I was.

In 1996 I left the cold, cruel world of Junior High for the bigger, colder, crueller world of High School.  On the first day of our freshman year, Jody and I walked the two blocks to our high school together, clinging to each other for dear life and setting a very specific lunchtime rendez-vous point.  We spent all week every week looking forward to the weekend, when we could hole up in the safety of Jody’s bedroom and be unabashedly silly and talk freely about our crushes and do each other’s make-up.

  And check us out, doing a selfie before selfies were even a thing!

In 1997 I had my first beer and my first cigarette and my first joint.  I was rebellious and “cool” and down-for-anything (and desperate to feel included).  I was also super-involved in my youth group and jumped at each chance to go to winter camp or to summer camp or to Six Flags.  I was goofy and fun and intensely boy-crazy (and desperate to feel included). Teenage years are hard, gang.



In 1998 I fell away from the party crowd and started hanging out regularly with a group of seven other girls.  We cruised down Geer Road on Friday nights, belting out the words to Cowboy, Take Me Away and spent hours in the aisles of Blockbuster Video, agonizing over the perfect movie selection, which we usually didn’t watch anyway because we spent the whole night talking and giggling.  Jody and I had found our people. We belonged, and it felt so, so good.

In 1999 I was asked out on a date by the nephew of a couple whose kids I baby-sat.  I said yes, and he took me to the movies to see Notting Hill and then out for milkshakes.  He was cute and wore good-smelling cologne and drove an electric-blue Dodge Neon that started only sometimes.  His name was Shane.  



In 2000 I packed up my truck, said teary good-bye’s to Shane and to Jody, and caravanned with my mom and dad to San Luis Obispo to get settled into my dorm at Cal Poly.  I had chosen to major in architecture and was immediately overwhelmed by the work load, staying up well past midnight every night struggling through calculus equations and drafting complicated two-point perspectives.  I have a very specific memory of taking my dorm room phone out into the hallway, dialing Shane’s number, and sobbing about how stressed out I was while my roommate, Jenny, invited a pile of friends to come over to our room to just “hang out”.  What had I gotten myself into?



In 2001 Shane and I settled into our long-distance relationship.  It was hard, seeing each other only once or twice a month, but it freed me up to work like a dog during the week,  and the anticipation of those weekend visits was fun and romantic. My stomach would be a-twitter with butterflies on Friday evenings as I waited for Shane to pull up in his yellow Volkswagon, and then we’d greet each other with the ooiest-gooiest embrace.  Ahhh, young love… 



Between the out-of-town boyfriend and the long hours in studio, I didn’t find myself with a lot of time for socializing with my Cal Poly classmates.  I joined a co-ed fraternity and went to handful of parties, but my heart was still very much back in Turlock with my girls.  Christmas break 2002 was a series of movie nights and Jamba Juice runs and living into the comfort of being 100% myself.



In the summer of 2003 I boarded a plane for Paris and kicked off my year of studying abroad.  That first month in France was one of the best and worst months of my life. Paris was one of Cal Poly’s smaller, less-organized study-abroad programs, so I was left to find my own way through enrolling in classes and getting my student visa and setting up my phone line and bank account – all in a language I was struggling to learn.  But I DID IT. And when my friends from Cal Poly’s Florence program came to visit me that October, I showed them around the city like I owned the place.



By 2004 I had fully embraced La Vie Francaise.  I met friends down by the Seine for late-night picnics.  I frequented a Brazilian bar named Favela Chic with my friend Nikole and sipped Caperinhas and danced until 2 in the morning.  I would wake up at 10 am and then spend hours at a time just walking through the city, stopping when I pleased at a cafe terrace to order a 2-euro espresso and write or draw pensively in my little black journal.  I got a membership to the Pompidou and fell in love with art. I took a solo trip to Berlin and Prague and Copenhagen and went to a Czech nightclub with a handful of hostel roommates (seriously, who was I?). I wore my independence like a badge of honor.



In 2005 I completed my architectural thesis, a conceptual bath house that commentated on gender and gentrification and other too-big issues.  The nights in studio were long, but when the stress got to be too much, someone cranked up Hey Ya on the stereo and we all took a dance break.  I ran my pinky finger through the table saw when working in the shop on my final model and was set back a few days by the surgery I needed to reattach the tendon.  My half-arm cast made it hard for me to model-build, but my dad came down to help me finish up my shop work and Shane came down to help me set up my final display, pulling his first college all-nighter.  All the blood, sweat, and tears was well worth-it – my determination had been pushed to new limits and my confidence that I was cut from creative cloth soared.  I was ready for the real world.  Which, it turned out, was not at all like college…

In 2006, nearly seven years after our first date, Shane and I said our I-do’s on the lawn of a lovely Turlock dairy.  Shane’s vows made me cry and the whole ceremony made my dad cry and then dinner was served and wine was poured and we all laughed and danced the night away.



In 2007 Shane and I signed about a million pieces of paper and were the proud owners of a new Columbia City townhouse.  I loved making that place home, painting each room a (regrettable) shade of blue and stocking it with (mostly IKEA) furniture.  I was finding adult-ing to be much more satisfying that I’d imagined.



On the afternoon of March 2008, my brother called me to let me know that Elise Wynn had been born early that morning.  I immediately loved her.  And I really loved this new tender-hearted side of my brother. 



We had started a c-group with a group of random folks in 2007 and by 2009 we were all-in, all the time, spending many of our weekends together.  Most of us were transplants from other states, so we were each other’s local family.  We called each other for help moving and started a slew of annual traditions, like the fall pumpkin patch/dumpling-making bonanza.



After a couple of years of dabbling in art workshops at community colleges and Pratt, in 2010 I hung twelve encaustic  paintings on the walls of the Q Cafe and invited all my friends to my real-life “opening”. I had found the realities of architecture to be less creatively-fulfilling that I’d hoped, but getting into the studio and producing a body of work that legitimized my aspirations of “artist” was incredibly gratifying.



In 2011, after a year of trying and hoping and praying for a baby, I found out I was pregnant.  Two weeks later, I started my period, which was weird, because doesn’t that go away when you’re pregnant?  We went to the doctor and heard the heaviest-ever silence where we should have heard a heartbeat. We went home and I spent the next 48 hours curled up on the couch, sobbing.  Nancy came over and I told her I just wanted this thing, this thing that just a few days earlier had been my beloved baby, out of my body so that I could move on. I miscarried that afternoon.  I didn’t move on.

I’ve termed 2012 my “dark year”, as I was all-consumed by my infertility, convinced that God, my body, and the glowing pregnant lady I often saw on my morning commute had all conspired against me to make my life less-than.  One by one, my girlfriends announced their pregnancies.  I sat across from La Verne at the bakery and struggled through tears to tell her that I was happy for her and Jack, but she knew me and my struggle well enough to know that my envy was almost suffocating.  On a happier note, the Giants won the World Series that year and we had a hell of a time watching their wins over hot dogs and fried zucchini at the Auto Battery with our crew.

On September 14, 2013, Juliette Grace reluctantly left my belly and entered my arms.  She was none-too-pleased about the whole thing, fiercely emotional from the get-go, but it was the happiest day of my life.

In March of 2014 my maternity leave ended and I returned to work, easing back into my job with a three-day work week.  Gosh, that very first daycare drop-off was rough.  ROUGH.  Shane and I stood on the street corner outside of daycare and struggled to hold it together as our very-attached baby cried in the arms of her new caretaker.  I spent as many lunch hours as possible with Juliette in those first couple of months, “jail-breaking” her on sunny afternoons for walks along the waterfront.

In 2015 we took our first trip to Minnesota with Juliette.  I loved watching her run free on the dirt roads and climb up into Grandpa’s tractor.  Mostly though, I loved watching Shane’s family love on our little girl with such abandon.  It was abundantly clear: she’s so very lucky to be a Schnell.

In 2016 we took our first camping trip with Juliette – it rained most of the weekend and we spent several hours holed up in a Roslyn cafe with the Hickory’s.  But we survived, soggy marshmallows and all, and cemented our fate as a camping family.  I was proudly carrying on a much-beloved Jarrell torch.

2017 was a year of incredible adventure – we camped in Canada and wine-tasted in Napa and did the all-inclusive thing in Mexico.  I spent a few days in Paris with La Verne.  But our close-to-home trips were some of my favorites, like the few days we spent along the Hood Canal with Mitch and his family.  We paddle-boarded and kayaked and dance-partied.  Shane scooped fresh oysters off the shore.  And got unbearably sick.  But still, the water was amazing.  And the cousin-love was fierce.

And in 2018, the Schnells bought a new house!  New to us, at least…  We closed on this 1950’s brick beauty on Monday and will move in two short weeks.  Our heads are still spinning from how quickly our very long search came to an end, but we are over the moon and can’t wait to kick off this next chapter in our lives.

 

Closing thoughts?  Mostly, I’m exceedingly thankful.  Thankful that my parents planted a nature-loving seed in me at a very young age.  Thankful for the number of kindred spirits that God has placed in my life over the years, girls and women that have carried me through some dark and lonely times.  Thankful for the places I’ve been and the things I’ve done and the person I am. But, I also see the gaps.  Gaps in the shape of places I want to go and people I want to know better and ways I want to give more.  May the next 36 photos fill in those gaps.  And so much more.

One last look-back at 2017 and then it’s on with the business of a brand new year! My favorites, in no particular order…

Favorite movie:

This category always has the slimmest pickin’s to choose from, as it’s rare that Shane and I get out for a movie (RARE, as in hasn’t happened since…2014?  when did Gone Girl come out?).  Thanks to Netflix and Amazon Video, though, we’re not totally out of the loop; we’re just a few months behind the curve.  And so award for best movie goes to Get Out, for getting under my skin and making me squirm on so many levels.  Who knew horror could run so deep?

 

Favorite TV show:

This one is so easy this year!  Slam dunk for The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.  Shane and I started watching this on a whim a couple of weeks ago and plowed through all eight episodes in just a few days.  Funny and dramatic and full of characters you can’t help but adore.  OUTSTANDING performance by Rachel Brosnahan.  I can’t wait for the next season (there better be a next season!).

(Honorable mentions to Atlanta, Ozarks, and Big Little Lies.)

 

Favorite podcast:

I’m going to go with the bandwagon on this one and pay homage to S-Town, which was superb.  It was also tragic and terribly unsettling, but gosh, when I put on my headphones and hit play on an episode, I was in it.  A nod to Still Processing for making my world view a little bit bigger and to The Daily for distilling down the crap-storm of national and international goings-on into bites I can actually digest.

 

Favorite song:

Gosh, I listened to the Moana and Trolls soundtracks A LOT last year.  But on the rare occasions that Juliette gave me control of the music queue, I put on Fool for You by Alice Smith and got my feely feelin’s out.  I just discovered this is a cover of a Cee-Lo Green song, but Alice does it so much better, with her silky, bluesy, soaring vocals.

 

Favorite purchase:

I mentioned to Shane a few months ago that I was feeling ready for a new camera, ready to up my photo-game a notch.  I said it a little off-hand, thinking, “Someday…”.  But there are few things my husband loves more than a good gadget hunt, and so down the rabbit hole he fell into consumer reviews and expert analyses on the best mid-level DSLR.  A few weeks later, he presented me with a spreadsheet of models and costs and pixel counts and I hemmed and hawed about the investment but ultimately decided to trade in my Rebel T4i for a 6D Mark II.  And I love it.  It took me a little while to get used to its heft, and I have much to learn still before I can maximize its potential, but the outlook is good.

 

Favorite personal pastime:

I had high hopes of diving deep back into my art last year, hopes of spending some time in the print studio and reconnecting with my sketchbooks.  Shane and I got rid of the futon in our downstairs office and I set up a sweet little project table down there, thinking that would inspire me to spend more evenings drawing or crafting.  It just didn’t happen.  I was too busy or too tired or too caught up in keeping this space up to date with photos and narratives of our assorted adventures.  This space.  In scrolling back through the last year’s posts, I was struck by three things.  1) We took A LOT of great trips last year.  2) I took A LOT of pictures last year.  And 3) I’m really really thankful for the record I’ve kept of our family’s comings and goings.  There are certainly times when blogging feels like a bit of a burden, when we come home from a vacation and I know I have several evenings of photo editing and writing ahead of me, but in the end, I’m so glad I take the time to keep Little Black Journal current.  These are the Schnell Chronicles, and I’ll cherish them always.

 

Favorite family pastime:

Camping took this category in 2016 and I do believe that 2017 was even better.  Our trip to Fort Flagler was a spontaneous-but-magical little retreat.  Our weekend at Bainbridge Island with our extended crew was packed with laughter and sun and general familial bliss.  And our few days up in Whistler were some of my favorite days of the year.  If all goes according to plan, camping will win this category every year for the next decade…

 

And, favorite moments…

20170101-new-years-snow-day50-sm

20170121 womens march6 sm

20170203 leavenworth11 sm

20170203 leavenworth20 sm

20170216 napa34 sm

20170219 turlock3 sm

Alrighty, 2018.  Let’s make some more magic happen.

After January’s relative quietude, February felt full, with trips to the snow and the sun, much talk of big changes (the house-hunting bug bit us hard), subsequent talk of little changes (should we just clean out our closets, repaint our bedroom, and stay put for awhile?), and great big joys held in tension with deep, deep sorrows.  A few (dozen) photos to recap…

It’s been an unusually snowy winter in Seattle, and I find myself giddy with child-like “hope-school’s-cancelled” excitement each time flakes start to fall.  School actually was cancelled one Monday a few weeks ago, which meant that Shane and I both stayed home from work to hang with Jules because, well, it takes two.  Plus, which one of us was really willing to head into the office and miss out on this magic?!

20170206 seattle snow day5 sm

We kicked off the day with a walk through the whiter-than-ever greenbelt across the street…

20170206 seattle snow day2 sm

20170206 seattle snow day3 sm

20170206 seattle snow day6 sm

20170206 seattle snow day7 sm

20170206 seattle snow day10 sm

20170206 seattle snow day11 sm

20170206 seattle snow day12 sm

20170206 seattle snow day13 sm

We heard a tree come crashing down in the forest as we were on our walk, likely due to the extreme snow loads, so we high-tailed it to the Columbia City Bakery to seek shelter and coffee with our southside friends.

20170206 seattle snow day15 sm

20170206 seattle snow day14 sm

And then right back out we went, to Jefferson Park for sledding and fort-building.

20170206 seattle snow day16 sm

20170206 seattle snow day17 sm

20170206 seattle snow day18 sm

20170206 seattle snow day19 sm

Shane had this snowman up in about six minutes – his Minnesota roots really shine on days like this.

20170206 seattle snow day20 sm

20170206 seattle snow day21 sm

20170206 seattle snow day26 sm

20170206 seattle snow day22 sm

20170206 seattle snow day23 sm

20170206 seattle snow day24 sm

20170206 seattle snow day25 sm

 

20170206 seattle snow day27 sm

20170206 seattle snow day28 sm

20170206 seattle snow day29 sm

20170206 seattle snow day31 sm

20170206 seattle snow day34 sm

An hour in, we were all soaked by the downpour of huge, wet snowflakes, but this girl wasn’t the least deterred.

20170206 seattle snow day36 sm

20170206 seattle snow day37 sm

Eventually we bribed her indoors with the promise of pizza and gelato at Tutta Bella…

20170206 seattle snow day38 sm

And then set her loose for the catching of a few last flakes before this all turned to slush.  It was fun while it lasted.

20170206 seattle snow day39 sm

20170206 seattle snow day40 sm

My mom spent a couple of days in Seattle in the middle of February, and Juliette was attached to her hip throughout her stay.  “Sit by me, Grandma!  Hold my hand, Grandma!  Read to me, Grandma!”

20170210 grandma sm

20170211 grandma1 sm

Kombucha cheers!

20170211 grandma2 sm

We took our annual winter stroll through the Mercer Slough on a clear(ish) Saturday…

20170211 mercer slough1 sm

I feel like I snap the same photos here year after year, but…the colors!

20170211 mercer slough4 sm

20170211 mercer slough3 sm

20170211 mercer slough2 sm

20170211 mercer slough5 sm

20170211 mercer slough6 sm

Juliette looks like such a big kid in this picture, doesn’t she?

20170211 mercer slough7 sm

20170211 mercer slough8 sm

20170211 mercer slough9 sm

20170211 mercer slough10 sm

20170211 mercer slough11 sm

20170211 mercer slough12 sm

20170211 mercer slough13 sm

And finally, in news that cast a melancholy shadow over last month’s goodness, my dad’s dad, Grandaddy, passed away two weeks ago.  He had been weak for quite some time and living under the care of my aunt and uncle in their home for the last several months, but still, saying good-bye was obviously painful.

As I mourn, I’m feeling all the feelings, often all at one time…gratitude for the man Grandaddy was and the lives he touched; sadness over the fact that this giant piece of the Jarrell family puzzle will be physically absent from all future family gatherings; comfort that he passed away in a home filled with love and that his hand was held more often than not in his final days; and intense regret that I didn’t make it out to Maryland to see him in the past several years.

Gosh, how I wish I’d spent more time with him.

Growing up, I usually saw Nannie and Grandaddy once a year – they’d come out to visit us in Colorado or Oregon or California, arriving with suitcases heavy with country ham and homemade fudge, or we’d make a family trip out to Maryland to stay at their cozy home on Windy Hill Road.  I loved that house – sneaking hard candies from the well-stocked crystal dish that Nannie kept on the coffee table, flying down the gravel driveway in a plastic wagon that rattled so hard I thought the wheels would fall off, the sound of crickets in the backyard on those hot, humid East Coast nights.  And the merriment.  Where two or more Jarrells are gathered, there will inevitably be laughter.

1985-04 jarrells sm

2005-08 grandaddy and nannie sm

2007 grandaddy and nannie sm

2011-03 grandaddy sm

The visits became fewer and farther between in my college and post-college years – my grandparents were older and less prone to travel, and I was eager to spread my traveling wings wider than the reaches of Maryland.  But still, even when I went several years without visiting, there was reassurance in knowing that Nannie and Grandaddy were there in Maryland, holding down the fort and anchoring our family with love and joy.  The boat was rocked when Nannie died in 2008, and then it wobbled again when Grandaddy sold the house on Windy Hill Road to move into a senior apartment, but even in his grief, he was ever the steadfast, thoughtful, fun-loving patriarch.  He was faithful in his letter-writing and I received a page or two of hand-written updates each birthday and Christmas.  I saved a handful of those letters and dug them out this afternoon, desperate to draw close to him as his absence hit me with a new wave of sadness.  I chuckled through my tears when I read this snippet from a few years ago about his senior living experience at “The Home”, as he so fondly referred to it…

Last week the social director arranged a “fashion show” for the old ladies.  She thought it a good idea to have an escort to help steady their walk down the runway.  Guess who was asked to be “the escort”?  I said, “Why not?”  I told the social director after the show that I had admired models for 70 years but had never touched one before!  Bear in mind, these models were mostly in their 80’s, so the thrill was dampened just a bit!

His funny anecdotes are all knit together with an overwhelming tone of kindness, generosity, and unwavering devotion to all things family.  As I sniffled through a letter from 2007 in which he marveled at how quickly 61 years of marriage to Nannie had gone by and wished Shane and I the same good fortune, Juliette looked up from her coloring book and asked, “Why are you sad, Mama?”  “I just really, really miss my grandpa,” I replied.  She furrowed her brow, a look of utmost concern on her face, and then followed up with, “Well, why can’t he just come over?”

Oh, if only, kiddo.  If only.

1982-06 grandaddy and nannie sm

1989-06 grandaddy and nannie sm

1995-12 grandaddy-nanny-mitch sm

 

2000-06 nanny-grandaddy murphys ca sm

20100426 kelly and grandaddy sm

Ohhhhh, January.  January.  JANUARY!!!  What a friggin’ month it was.  Cold and dark and fraught with political turmoil the likes of which I’ve never seen.  Looking back at my photo log, I see it held a few bright spots, though…

We spent a Friday out at the summit watching Juliette get her ski on.  This kid is a natural!

20170113 ski day1 sm

20170113 ski day2 sm

20170113 ski day4 sm

20170113 ski day7 sm

Before long, she’ll be zipping down mountains like these!

20170113 ski day5 sm

The chant of the morning was, “Faster, Daddy!  I wanna go faster!”

20170113 ski day11 sm

20170113 ski day13 sm

20170113 ski day10 sm

I was so proud of her unshakable spirit – even after a tumble, she squealed with laughter and popped right back up.

20170113 ski day14 sm

20170113 ski day16 sm

20170113 ski day17 sm

20170113 ski day18 sm

20170113 ski day19 sm

The staff member at the top of the magic carpet became Juliette’s new best friend, as she exuberantly high-fived her at each dismount.

20170113 ski day20 sm

20170113 ski day21 sm

20170113 ski day22 sm

This place we live in really is somethin’ else…

20170113 ski day23 sm

There were a handful of lovely (though freezing) sunsets last month – Juliette and I enjoyed this one from the grass at Jose Rizal Park in Beacon Hill.

20170115 january sunset2 sm

20170115 january sunset3 sm

A buddy turned four on the 14th and we partied hard.

20170114 birthday1 sm

20170114 birthday2 sm

On the 21st, we gathered with our crew and 130,000 other Seattleites to take to the streets for the post-inaugural Women’s March.  It was a beautiful day, full of sunshine and incredible kindness.

20170121 womens march1a

20170121 womens march1 sm

20170121 womens march2 sm

20170121 womens march3 sm

20170121 womens march5 sm

This girl refuses to despair.

20170121 womens march6 sm

20170121 womens march7 sm

20170121 womens march8 sm

20170121 womens march10 sm

20170121 womens march11 sm

And oh, the dinners!  So many warm, restorative, good-for-the-soul meals shared with friends (these two make a mean cornbread).

20170121 little bakers sm

Today marks the beginning of a new month.  The world outside is still feeling awfully shaky and dark.  But as I was taking my lunchtime walk today and listening to the latest report on immigration reform, I heard a voice: TURN IT OFF.  I paused my podcast and queued up Oceans by Hillsong.

I will call upon Your Name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

The waves are indeed huge.  The future is so uncertain.  And yet, God offers rest to the weary.  I sensed Him urging me to unplug for a couple of days as I head into the mountains tomorrow for a snowy getaway with Shane and Jules.  I’ve felt an overwhelming sense of responsibility to stay informed, concerned that I can’t properly empathize or advocate if I’m not up to speed on all the latest coming out of D.C., but I need a detox.  I need to let God pull my head above water.

And once I’ve rested?  I will march on, this verse ringing in my ears:

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior

I sat back and breathed a small sigh of relief after I published my last post.  No resolutions.  No obligations.  No pressure.  I was officially off the hook.  Only…if ever there was a time when I should feel compelled toward self-education and action, it seems THIS.  IS.  IT.

Donald Trump has been president for one week.  Each cabinet appointment he announces, each executive order he signs affirms my fears that he cares little for the poor, for the environment, for the public education system or the people suffering abroad.  I mean, I knew he and I wouldn’t see eye-to-eye on most things, but wowsers, my head is spinning.  And then, Wednesday night, as I was reading the latest headlines about his notorious border wall and falling deeper into despair, something inside of me awoke.  I don’t have to sit idly by.  I can do something.  I have to do something.

Yesterday I left voicemails for several senators, urging them to vote against Betsy DeVos as secretary of education.  Today Juliette and I shopped for diapers and wipes and dropped them off at the Refugee Womens Alliance, a non-profit down the street which serves refugee and immigrant families in our community.  I’m organizing a group of co-workers to spend an evening serving dinner to homeless men at the Union Gospel Mission.  Shane and I have a date this weekend to sit down and re-evaluate our charitable giving as we seek to support organizations that fight for human rights.

And finally, I’m opening my eyes and ears wider than they’ve ever been before.  Reading, researching, seeking, listening.  I’m turning off The Daily Show and getting my news from less-partisan news sources (if you have a non-partisan news source, let me know!).  I’m asking my gay friends how I can support them.  I’m looking for was to uplift and learn from the immigrant community that’s so vibrant at Juliette’s school.  I’m reaching out to conservative friends and family members in an effort to understand their frustrations with the previous administration and their hopes for the current one.  I’m rooting myself in truthful reporting, not just of the goings-on in D.C., but of the lives and stories of my nearest and dearest, as we’re all walking into the new political era from very different places.

A friend marched with a sign last Saturday that read, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”  Humbly, step by step, I’m trying.

20170121 march1 sm