All good things

Parenting in 2021 is a lot of “Are you on mute?!” during midday kindergarten Zoom meetings.

There’s a sentence I could have never made sense of a year ago.

As expected, we’re all being clobbered with “pandemic retrospective” pieces right now. I’m … not here for it. Maybe 10, 20, 50 years from now — when my grandchildren or great-grandchildren ask what it was like to live through COVID-19 (so much searching for toilet paper). But not every March, just when the first tentative buds appear on the pear tree in the yard. Is this going to be an annual thing? Two years since COVID hit. Five years since COVID hit.

I love spring, but it’s also been associated with worry and trauma since my son’s early birth six years ago. It doesn’t take much to put me back into that scary place — though our little family has certainly come a long way since.

My daughter will be four this week. Last year’s birthday party was our last “normal” family gathering for months . . . or longer. I remember our governor pulling together a press conference to address the growing threat of coronavirus, and hearing the earliest murmurs of stay-at-home orders as we prepared for Hadley’s birthday dinner. So much of what seemed unthinkable then has come to pass.

But lately I find my fingers trailing along more and more delicate threads of hope.

Do you feel them, too?

  • A year after I first googling “novel coronavirus,” I’ve been vaccinated against the illness (I work in communications on-site at a hospital). Many family members, including all three grandparents, have also received their first or second doses. Though close relatives did get sick in January, they had mild cases, and somehow we managed to escape getting infected as well. I am truly grateful.
  • The days are getting longer. Sunshine does all good things for the soul. I’ve been listening to vintage John Mayer — as I always seem to do with the changing seasons? — while remembering the hopeful college kid I once was compared to the hopeful minivan-driving mom I am now. Considering it was nothing but the “Hamilton” soundtrack on repeat since last summer, it feels good to return to comforting tunes.
  • My son will be starting in-person kindergarten next month! I didn’t dare hope that he’d have any physical instruction this year. Though Oliver has done as well as could be expected with virtual learning, it’s … well. You all know, I’m sure. While I’m nervous about the transition, particularly given he’ll only have a few months of in-person school before summer break arrives (more changes to routine). But he has amazed me with his adaptability, particularly to face masks, which I assumed would be tough even without sensory sensitivities. He’s a surprising little dude.
  • It’s almost cherry blossom time. Even if we still can’t experience the Tidal Basin as we typically would, I hope I’ll be able to get a glimpse of my favorite trees with my mom and dad.
  • Our house is calmer. I’m actually typing this after dinner, when the kids are still conscious (though ensconced in “Despicable Me,” it’s true). We still have our fights and rough days, for sure. But it’s been months since I ran outside barefoot in the cold to stand alone in the dark night and contemplate life because I just needed five seconds to myself for god’s sake. At nearly four and six, Hadley and Ollie are settling into themselves as little people, and we’re learning how to communicate more effectively. Myself included. Also? They can use the bathroom without much help. Man, a diaper-less world is great.
  • We have summertime plans. Nothing crazy, but two nearby trips are in the works. I’m so excited at the idea of getting away and seeing something new. Like all of us, my daytime views largely consist of my office at work and my toy-cluttered living room at home. Obviously plans will adapt should the COVID situation change, but I’m cautiously optimistic we’ll get to pack a suitcase for the first time in a year.
  • I’m writing again! After my newspaper column came to an end last year, I wasn’t sure when or if I’d be settling back here at ye old laptop. I was excited to begin a new bimonthly column for Southern Maryland Woman Magazine (my latest piece, “Making Rainbows Out of Rubbish,” is up now). “The Short Years” comes out every other month, as opposed to twice a week, so the pressure is far less intense than when I’d kept up “Right, Meg?” as a freelancer when I left the paper in 2017.
  • I’m narrating, too. My dad, Rick Snider, wrote and produced The Angel Among Us, a podcast series we cut just before COVID hit last spring. It’s a fictional multi-generational story that is, of course, free to download now. I pop up as Lilith, a demon with dark motives (surprising, no?). And it was really fun to act again, even for just an afternoon! And I’m proud of Dad for doing something outside the box. He has more in the works, too.

So that’s my good list. Capped off by the cup of coffee I’m currently sipping and a few episodes of “90 Day Fiance” stacked up on my DVR as bedtime approaches for two sleepy kids. I’ve got mermaid balloons ready to prep tomorrow night, in anticipation of my girl’s big day, and vanilla cupcakes soon heading into the oven.

Happy Monday, friends. ❤

I feel happy

Walking out of work last night, I looked up at that more-vivid-than-life tree and thought: I feel so happy.

The low-lying fog wrapped around my brain seems to have dissipated. I’m thinking it’s thanks to the real-deal explosion of spring: everything is so bright and fresh and colorful, it seems I’ve left the sepia-toned world and stepped straight into Technicolor. The world feels good again. It felt rough for so long.

Spencer is home again! He was out west for almost two weeks for work, and I don’t believe we’ve ever been separated that long. I missed his smile and very presence, for sure — but more than anything, I missed the little emails we exchange throughout the day. I didn’t realize how important it is for me to share the tedious details of my afternoons — random stuff only a fiance would care about, like what Weight Watchers-approved item I had for lunch. And for me to know all the random, silly stuff he’s up to. Our life is an ongoing, run-on sentence. Not hearing from him too often was . . . strange. He’s my biggest fan, supporter, confidante. Sometimes I still get that “pinch me” feeling . . . you know, pinch me and I’ll wake up, still wandering aimlessly in my own life.

Thank goodness I’m not.

My sister got a job! Oh, my sweet sister: the hardest-working twenty-something I know. She’s now working for a production company in Washington, D.C., which means she gets to go downtown every day . . . and I get to bug her for the haps on what’s going on in the city. She’s still working in her field, which seemed up in the air — and on just her second day of work (!), she attended a press conference at the White House . . . where she totally saw the president. Wow. As her own wedding day approaches, this job has brought such relief, I can’t even tell you. I hadn’t discussed that situation here or elsewhere because it wasn’t my story to share, but it weighed heavily on all of us. Thank God.

Wedding planning is coming along! Most of the major items are in place, and Spence and I are working on the details of flowers, tuxes, etc. I’m getting ready to order our invitations, which is so exciting and scary . . . I am a stationery freak, so making a final decision is hard for me. I guess I was waiting for a “This is The One” moment with my invites? I don’t know. Like, this is The Man. And this is The Dress. And this is The Venue. But I’m so undecided about paper, of all things, but I think it’s time to just make a decision. I’m sure they’ll be lovely. (And yep, ordering from Wedding Paper Divas. Everything else I’ve looked at has been EX-PEN-SIVE. Like all things bridal.)

Hanson is coming in concert! After they released information on their world tour, a D.C. area concert was conspicuously absent from the schedule. Thankfully we got word that a local show on June 15 had been added, so I’ll be nabbing tickets for Kate and me. This will be our tenth or eleventh show? I don’t know. I lost track long ago. But if Hanson’s comin’, we’ll be attendin’. Laws of physics and such.

Our friends are getting married tomorrow! I haven’t attended a wedding in years, and the weather here in Maryland is supposed to be perfect this weekend. We’ll be outdoors at a restored barn, and I am just so ridiculously happy for Bethany and Mike. They’re such a sweet couple, and it’s so exciting for the first of our three weddings to arrive! Bethany got engaged two months before Katie and me, and we’ve been doing lots of planning together. Time to find a fun dress and get out there!

I’m back on a reading kick! After working through a slump in the winter, I managed to read six books in April (and all good ones). I’m halfway through Jen Lancaster’s The Tao of Martha right now, and Jen is just my hero. I doubt it’ll be on par with Such a Pretty Fat or Bitter is the New Black, but it’s definitely a fun read.

I’m still losing weight! Down 16.6 lbs and going strong. Another .4 lbs. and I’m officially at my 10 percent weight loss goal for Weight Watchers. I want to lose another 7 lbs. to be at my personal goal, and then I’m going to start maintaining before the wedding. Feels so great.

Hope everyone has a very pleasant weekend!

Random things that make me happy, pt. 3

1. Tea.

The quickest way to perk up my afternoon is to make myself a cup of hot tea. I have no less than six different kinds in my desk drawer — and I often find that the most exciting part of my work day is choosing a flavor. (It’s the little things . . .) When my boyfriend’s parents were in town at Christmas, I took his mom to an awesome local tea room. I just wanted to gobble up everything there!

2. Pretty postage.

I send lots of mail. Whether we’re talking postcards, love letters or old-fashioned mail to family, I better have a hefty stack of stamps at my disposal. I have the “Garden of Love” stamps now and use them to death.

3. Spencer’s wrinkle-nosed laugh.

Everyone has a Face. It’s the look you make when someone has really tickled your funny bone, you know what I’m sayin’? I’m not talking an obligatory chuckle here — I’m talking a big, from-the-gut, uncontrollable laugh that cannot be controlled. And when I say something that really makes Spencer double over or do something clumsy and hilarious, he wrinkles his nose and gives me a look of utter disbelief. That makes me laugh. And I love to laugh — especially with him.

4. Beautiful book cover art.

I totally judge books by their covers, and sometimes their covers are awesome. The books themselves? No clue. But at least they’re pretty.

5. Nail polish.

My obsession has reached a critical juncture. I joined the Julep Maven (affiliate link) program and am now treated to surprise nail shades and goodies coming to my mailbox every month, and let me tell you: this is bad. Well, I mean, it’s good; it’s awesome getting surprises in the mail. But it’s bad because I have to pay for it. And I have very little self-discipline when it comes to cosmetics.

It’s also bad because I’m the nut who now needs to change her polish constantly, and since I’m rarely sitting down long enough to do it . . . well, I’m typically up at 11 p.m. trying to keep my eyes long enough to give myself a manicure. Don’t stare too long at the smudges.

6. Post-Christmas clean-up.

I love holiday decorating as much as the next guy (or gal), but I’m very eager to pack up the inflatable snowmen and Christmas bulbs once the season has passed. We cleaned up our house last weekend and Spencer packed up his place this week, too. My desk is now free of miniature pink Christmas trees and my officemates have helped take down all the hanging icicle lights once strung along the ceiling of our office space.

The new year always feels like a clean slate, and I like having a (literal) clean space in which to embrace all that possibility. It feels good to have order restored, you know?

7. Instagram.

Yes, yes — after joining the iPhone world, I’ve become completely obsessed with the Instagram app for photos. You might have noticed my own recent shots look a tad bit different than the photos I normally share, and that’s because I can’t stop snapping shots with my phone.

While I once judged this and judged this harshly (I mean, what kind of quality are you getting with a phone?), I understand now. Instagram is awesome. And if you thought I took too many pictures of my food before, be afraid.

I’m also doing a 2012:366 project (leap year!) wherein I take one iPhone photo daily for 2012. I’ve seen lots of folks doing similar but always thought they were unrealistic for me. Since I’m not going anywhere without my phone, it’s easy to remember to document at least one small part of my day — and it gets my creative juices flowing on otherwise hum-drum occasions. And yes, there’s an app for that.

Random things that make me happy, pt. 2

1. Hearing a favorite song on the radio.

In a digital age when anything and everything is available with the click of a mouse or the smack of a button on our iPods, how much fun is it to randomly turn the radio dial and hear a favorite tune pour through the speakers? My current joy comes from Jay-Z and Alicia Keys’ “Empire State Of Mind, Part II,” and I love that song so much that I refuse to download it. Why? Just for that moment of pure euphoria when the opening bars begin as I’m driving home from work, sailing down a dark road, and I sing along and shimmy alone in my car, happy to be happy.

2. Polka dots.

They’re retro. They’re fun. They look good on clothes and jewelry, and I’m obsessed with them as button earrings. In fact, I may or may not order a dress just so I can wear the navy-and-white polka dot earrings with it and look like the 1950s teenybopper I am in my fantasties. Classy never goes out of style!

3. Highlighters.

I’m a listmaker — and I like to highlight things. Back in college, my textbooks and novels would look like colorful charts to unknown worlds — everything was organized and, to me, a graphic representation of everything I needed to cram in my brain. Seeing streaks of green, pink and yellow through my history book was a way for me to organize knowledge . . . and there’s nothing I like more than organizing. Or, based on this list, is there?

4. Hot chocolate.

Is there anything better on a cold winter day following a marathon snow-shoveling session in the driveway? Or as an evening treat before settling in with a good book or a few episodes of a great show to watch on DVR or TiVo? Or, you know, whenever?

Hot chocolate is just delicious and an instant cup of happy. Even when I make it with water — which purists will, I know, find disgusting — I just can’t get enough of it. Weird miniature marshmellows are a plus — as is a healthy dollop (or four) of whipped cream.

5. Wall calendars.

I’m ridiculously obsessive-compulsive about calendars — having enough of them; making sure they’re cute, fun and/or useful; strategically hanging them at eye-level around my desk for maximum enjoyment. In 2010, John Mayer is perched above my keyboard — as are scenes of Great Britain. Y’all know I’m not going to go an entire year without some piece of England around to sate my Anglophilia!

6. Laughing until my stomach hurts.

When did I stop getting so many bellyaches from giggling? My gasping-for-breath, oh-my-God-that-is-so-hilarious moments typically come from spending time with my sister and friends, new and old, or quite possibly with my coworkers — particularly when Brandon announces, not for the first time, that he is “going out in his chair!” (I know you can’t see me right now, but trust me — I’m convulsing with laughter. And someday I’ll write a blog post about why that’s so funny, but for now? Keeping you in suspense.)

7. My golden retriever, Rudy.

He’s cute. He’s cuddly. He lumbers around and acts like a human, sniffing the air constantly to see if anyone just happens to, you know, have a dog treat we won’t be needing in the near future. Or something. He knows when I’m sad and doesn’t bombard me with questions about why; he just lets me be.

He’s silly and crazy, and I don’t know what my life would be like without him in it. I live for hearing his puppy paws on the wood floors when I come in the door. Even though he’ll be six (or seven?) this spring, I can still picture him as the nervous, underfed young dog he was when we picked him up from a rescue shelter in 2004. You’ve come a long way, baby!

8. Putting loose change in a piggy bank.

Okay, so my “piggy bank” isn’t technically a pig. It may actually be a plastic red double-decker bus I bought in London’s Heathrow airport mere minutes before hopping a jet plane to return to Baltimore. And by “may actually,” I mean definitely is. And I love it. I keep it on my desk at work, just to the right of my computer monitor, and I look at it lovingly as I drop my loose pennies in the “roof.” Because what am I supposed to do with all these pennies? They make my purse heavier than it already is, and trust me — I don’t need any help adding heft to my bag. So the metallic ting! of sliding my pennies into the London bus sets my little Anglophile heart a’ fluttering.

9. Food photography.

When out to lunch with my ex-boyfriend P., a frequent argument could be heard at our tiny cafe tables. Just as our food or drinks would be set down, I’d scrounge in my (heavy) purse to find my digital camera. I’d stick out a hand to cover P.’s drink before he could take a sip, which would prompt the inevitable eye-rolling as he leaned back and said, “You’re not going to take a picture of that, are you?”

Why yes, P. Yes, I am going to photograph your latte. And there’s nothing you can do about it.

My obsession with food and drink photography is potent — and I celebrate it with separate albums on Flickr that rapidly expand with each passing day. Why am I so addicted to documenting what I consume? The world may never know. But I’ll tell you what I am on a hunt for: a man who won’t get snarky when I take pictures of his supper. Because like death and taxes, folks, it’s inevitable.

10. Love notes.

Even though they’re hard to read after the fact, love notes are a quick way to get in good with yours truly. I’ve probably saved almost every letter from every boyfriend I’ve ever had — all carefully stashed away — and I flip through them from time to time, mostly just when I’m feeling nostalgic. (Or depressed and eager to cry my little heart out. Whichever.) Even though they were written in a very different place, it makes me happy to remember the good times — and even to see their scratchy handwriting again. Like a wave of cologne, those notes are a quick way to transport me to another time entirely.

I guess at some point, I’ll have to get rid of them . . . or purge them, at least, saving only the Very Big, Important Ones. But sometimes the little notes left from boys — like “hope you’re having a great day” or “miss you” on my windshield, say — were just as meaningful as the Important Ones in which their eternal love for me was pledged. And who knows which I will choose to remember most fondly in the future? For now, they all stay in the cool, dark recesses of my under-the-bed “boyfriend box,” a dusty capsule of love lost.

Random things that make me happy

green_light1. Approaching a red light — only to have it turn green.

I mean those times that you’re cruising along, see all of the glowing brake lights ahead of you in the other lane . . . and then, miraculously, the light turns green! And you get to zip right past all those suckers stopped at the intersection, accelerating on your way to total freedom.

And if you’re me? You cackle maniacally and, quite possibly, shake a fist in triumph. But you’re definitely cackling — cackling is a must.

2. Finding things in pockets.

This is especially fantastic at this time of year. Coats get dragged out from the closet and, courtesy of my mother, I have a ton of coats. Everyone in my family is obsessed with jackets — specifically, do you have enough of them and are you going to where yours — it’s cold outside. I’m not a jacket person, I’ll be the first one to admit; in fact, I’m usually the oddball standing outside in 40 degree weather with nary a stitch over my arms. I get this from my grandmother, the original hot house flower (hi, Maw Maw!).

So when I finally break down and get out my red pea coat — the cute one with the toggles? Sometimes I find things in the pockets. Like money. And random ticket stubs to events long past but still remembered. And unwrapped candy. Sometimes? I eat the candy. But let’s keep that tidbit between us . . .

3. Christmas decorations.

I’m most definitely not the angry shopper going on a tirade about how the local mall is already adorned in sparkly red and green though it’s only October — I’m the one whipping out my camera and photographing it. Seriously, Christmas decorations are awesome! Who doesn’t love a life-sized Rudolph, gingerbread house or piles and piles of fluffy, fake Buffalo snow? Philistines, that’s who.

4. Holding hands.

I especially enjoy it if the hand I’m holding is warm and dry. And if it belongs to someone funny, kind, intelligent and good-natured? All the better! College-educated and good looking works for me, too. Just, you know — putting it out there.

perfume_bottles5. Perfume.

Unlike lots of ladies I know, I don’t have a “signature scent”; I prefer to switch it up daily, according to my whims. Oh, and I have lots of whims.

It’s impossible to have too many bottles, though I’m putting that theory to the test with each new Avon order I place.

6. Funny baby videos.

So we’ve all seen the baby dancing to Beyonce’s “All The Single Ladies.” It’s totally hilarious . . . especially when the youngster really gets the arms going! He’s really a better dancer than I am, to be honest.

Who knew there was such an industry of cute kids doing adorable, ridiculous things on the Internet? I mean, sure — my parents have been recording my sister and me acting like fools since we could first toddle around. And “America’s Funniest Home Videos” — or its modern equivalent — has been broadcasting said moments since “Full House”‘s Bob Saget was around to introduce them (remember that insanity?). But it seems to me that the whole Funny Baby phenomenon has taken on a life of its own . . . and I’m totally okay with that.

It’s not rare for me to decompress by watching some kid throwing a tantrum on my iPod touch. It’s . . . oddly relaxing. And I say this knowing full well I will now be punished with the children from Hades — and all those tantrums? Yeah — not so funny when they’re mine.

7. John Mayer’s “Good Love Is On The Way.”

It doesn’t get much more personal than this, my personal anthem! “Done with broken people, this is me I’m working on. ‘Cause I know . . . good love is on the way. I’ll be lonely but I know I’ll be okay . . . good love is on the way.” The Gospel of JM — worship.

acorn_pumpkin_earrings8. Acorn earrings.

Bizarre, right? But I just really like looking at them. They fill my little pink heart with autumnal joy. I have a ton of them in my Etsy favorites, and I may or may not have created my whole recent “Etsy finds Friday” based on the fact that they’re, um, adorable and I’m obsessed with them. Obsessed.

And there are plenty to obsess over, should you want to join Acorn Earring Lovers Anonymous. We meet on Etsy daily, usually between the hours of 2-9 p.m., and light refreshments are served. Just, you know . . . you have to supply them yourself. Because all my spare dough is going to acorn earrings, you know what I’m saying?

9. Live albums.

Why are they always so much better than studi0-recorded albums? Seriously, if you offered me the synthesized, produced and slick studio version of a song or the raw, flawed and sincere live version of a tune, I’d take the live version every time. Examples? Coldplay’s “Glass Of Water”; John Mayer’s “In Your Atmosphere”; Ben Fold’s “Army”; The Script’s “Break Even”; Ingrid Michaelson’s “The Chain” . . . and that’s just a primer.

10. Sprinkles.

But you already knew that about me.


“Green means go” photo by Eleda
“Perfume bottles” photo by me
Pumpkin acorn earrings by decoratethediva