Archive for the ‘reflections’ Category

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…

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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?!

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

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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.

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

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

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

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

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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.

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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!”

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Kombucha cheers!

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

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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!

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

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

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

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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.

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This place we live in really is somethin’ else…

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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.

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

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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.

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This girl refuses to despair.

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

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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.

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A lot of people were closing the door on 2016 before the clock had even struck midnight on New Years Eve, eager to bid farewell to a year of loss and division, injustice and tragedy.  I get it.  But dammit if I can’t get closure on the year without hitting publish my annual recaps!  So bear with me.  I’ll keep it light.

 

Favorite movie:

I went to the movie theater once last year, for Finding Dory (we have got to get out more!), but we saw quite a few flicks at home.  Best film award goes to Brooklyn.  Shane and I watched this on our low-key-but-luxurious anniversary, when we took the day off to do the things we can’t normally do with a toddler in tow (like watch a movie in the middle of the day!).  It’s been awhile since I’ve seen a romantic movie that’s not cheesy or over-sexed, but this one nailed it.

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Favorite TV show:

I’m a little behind-the-times on this, but after much ranting and raving, Shane convinced me to sit down and give Leftovers a go.  I’d seen bits of it as he watched Seasons 1 and 2 when they first came out, but gosh, I felt like someone was either wailing with despair or writhing in pain every time I walked by the TV.  I was more interested in Season 5 of Girls and powering through the guilty pleasure that is Gilmore Girls.  Finally, though, I got on board the dark-and-twisty train, and dang, this show is good.  Superb acting, heart-wrenching characters, a complex weaving of relationships and time.  Can’t wait for Season 3.

(Honorable mentions to This is Us, Better Things, and O.J.: Made in America.)

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Favorite podcast:

Weather-permitting, I try to push away from my desk at lunchtime a couple of times a week and get out for a long walk down by the waterfront.  I’ll lace up my running shoes, put on my headphones, and queue up a podcast, fully reveling in an hour of distraction-free listening.  I’m still a devoted Reply All listener and think This American Life pretty consistently knocks it out of the park (check out Will I Know Anyone At This Party? if you have an hour), but Heavyweight stands out a new favorite.  Listen to Episode 4 for some especially sublime story-telling.

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Favorite song:

I came across Vance Joy’s Fire and the Flood when I was looking for a soundtrack to Juliette’s third birthday video and have had it at the top of my playlist ever since.  It’s got that whole slow-acoustic to happy-dance crescendo thing happening that I’m such a sucker for.  And in the oldie-but-goodie category, Juliette and I love belting out The Long Way Around by the Dixie Chicks when we’re bopping around town together.

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Favorite app:

I went on a week-long word game Letterpress binge, and I spend way more time than I should scrolling through Instagram, but I keep circling back to Wunderlist as my most-loved app.  I know, I already sang this app’s praises in my 2015 favorites, but seriously, having one place to store shopping lists and work to-do’s and house chores and meal plans has kinda changed my life.

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Favorite professional moment:

I was immensely thankful for the gracious way my office hosted Juliette on Take Your Kid to Work Day, but the real stand-out moment came right before Christmas when, with my team members huddled around my desk, I clicked Send on the final construction drawings for UW Medicine Phase 3.2.  I started working on this campus 11 years ago when I was just an intern that hardly knew AutoCAD and over a decade later, I’m leading the charge on this most recent phase of UW Medicine’s development in South Lake Union.  That single mouse click felt like the culmination of so, so much learning and collaboration.  It’s also the culmination of a fair amount of stress and far too many mind-numbing meetings with city officials and lawyers, but in 2018, when I walk through this courtyard, I don’t doubt it will all have been worth it.

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Favorite personal project:

I read a lot last year, got back into knitting once the cooler weather set in, and organized the heck out of our closets.  But far and away, the most satisfying “me-time” I spent was at a four-week summer print-making workshop at Pratt.  I hadn’t been in the studio since Juliette was born, and it just felt…right to be back there again.

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Favorite family pastime:

I cherish my personal time somethin’ fierce, but the reality is that I would usually sometimes prefer a day with Jules and Shane to a day alone.  2016 was chock-full of quality family time, but our camping trips stand out as my favorite adventures.  I had such high hopes when we set out for that trip to Owhi campground back in June, fervently praying that Juliette would sleep well and love the campfire and walk away without any severe injuries.  And although that weekend was rainy, we rocked it.  Our trip to the North Cascades was incredible.  Tinkham was a blast.  Looking forward to busting out our mondo tent again at the first sign of summer!

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And, favorite days…

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2016 was good to our family.

Shane, Juliette, and I went over to Jack and La Verne’s last night to eat nachos and watch the election coverage, our moods hopeful as we pulled into their driveway.  I donned my “I Voted” sticker and Juliette asked if we were going to watch Hillary on TV.  The vibe was warm and cheery as we walked in, Jack uncorking a bottle of wine, Nance putting together a salad, the Rust boys giving us the NBC play-by-play from the den.  La Verne was wearing her Hillary socks.  Shane immediately popped open the laptop and glued himself to Nate Silver’s electoral map, but I paid little attention to the count until Shane announced with concern, “We’ve got a Michigan situation.”  We watched Hillary’s chances of winning drop from 80% to 60% and continue to spiral downward.  There was an enthusiastic cheer when the results from Colorado came in, but our joy was short-lived.  By the time we left Jack and La Verne’s house at 8:00, things were bleak.  Very bleak.  I was anxious and frustrated and frankly, baffled.  It occurred to me as we turned onto our street that come January, Juliette’s first inaugural experience would likely be watching Donald Trump take office as our president.  And I started to sob.

I know, I know, Hillary was far from flawless, but I fiercely believed in her message of inclusion.  And everything about Donald Trump’s message felt counter to the values we’ve tried so hard to instill in our daughter.

From the time she was a baby, we have told Juliette that she was wonderfully made, that she is strong and beautiful and capable.  And now America has elected a man who says horrible, vulgar things about women, who has been caught time and again treating females like objects to be judged and/or conquered and/or disregarded.

We enrolled Juliette in her current bilingual preschool because we wanted her to be part of a diverse community, for her to revel in the ways God has created his people with a variety of skin colors and languages and rituals.  And now America has elected a man who preaches that minorities should either be feared as thugs or terrorists, or should be disdained for taking advantage of an American “handout”.

We have reminded our daughter that she is blessed beyond measure, that it is her duty to speak kindly to others, to share her belongings openly, to offer a hug to a crying classmate or give up her swing to the little boy quietly standing by the playground.  And now America has elected a man who shows little concern for the people on the margins, angrily silencing anyone who dares not share his views.

With more fervor than ever, we will speak messages of love and unity and generosity over our child.  How it aches, though, to know our nation has elected a man that will not do the same.

Architecture has had it downturns and upswings for me over the past 11 years, but at the moment I’m flying high, ending most weeks feeling super-satisfied with the work I’ve done.  It’s a good gig.  And yet…this gig comes at a cost.  There’s a guilt-tax when Juliette has a particularly rough time saying good-bye to me in the morning and I have to thrust her into the arms of her teachers as she cries, “Just one more hug, Mamaaaaaaa!”.  I make deposits in the pity-bank most Sunday evenings, when I’d really love one more day with my girl but instead know that we’re facing four days of seeing each other only during our morning dash and our evening ritual of meal-bath-books-bed.  The anxiety toll can be steep, as we worry about how she’ll do in her new preschool or if she’ll catch the head lice found in her classmate’s hair.  Which leads me to question, over and over again, am I doing the right thing?  Wouldn’t Jules be better off spending her days at home with mama?

But really, would she?

I’ve spent the past two and a half years reminding myself that Juliette loves being around other kids and, despite the tear-filled drop-offs, seems to find a lot of joy in the classroom.  And as she starts to show interest in what it is I do during her days at school, I’m discovering the added bonus of being able to give her an early glimpse of what the professional world looks like.  Which is why I jumped at the chance to participate in my office’s “Take Your Kid to Work Day” – I was eager to show Jules the ropes, to start planting the seeds of ambition.

She clutched my hand tightly as the elevator doors opened onto my lobby on Friday morning, excited but clearly unnerved by the fact that she was treading in grown-up waters.  Soon enough, though, she loosened her grip on me and eased into the apparent luxuries office life.  I mean..twirly chairs!

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This view!

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Walls you can write on!

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A coffee machine full of buttons…

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And the fanciest little dollhouses she’d ever seen!

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Once we’d made the rounds, I settled Juliette into my desk so that she could “get some work done” while I checked in with my team.

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Once she’d caught up on email and marked up her floor plans, we joined the rest of the kids for some pre-lunch yoga and story-time.

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By noon, she was strutting down the halls like she actually worked there.  If it were up to me, she’d be hired (good thing it’s not up to me).

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Juliette’s mind was officially blown when they pulled out the Pirate’s Booty and Capri Suns at lunchtime (serious, serious thanks to the thoughtful folks that made the mundane seem magical for a day!).  We chowed down and clocked out.

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It was a great morning – completely unproductive, work-wise, but so much fun.  Shane picked us up and as Juliette exclaimed, “I was an archi-tek, Daddy!”, my guilt and anxiety was washed away in a wave of pride.  No doubt, I still wish I had more time with my favorite little person.  But at the moment, this work-life thing feels right.  Be an archi-tek, kiddo.  Be a teacher or a doctor or a contractor.  And be a mama, too, if that’s your heart’s desire.  You can do both.

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