The hush of a snowy Sunday

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Winter is my least favorite season, but even I will admit there is something magical about watching children as they watch snow.

We got about eight inches last week — unusual for Maryland. Generally the weather is mild here, and we’ve gotten spoiled by some exceptionally warm winters. It’s almost like we get to skip that season entirely.

Every now and then, though, Mother Nature rears up and reminds us who is really in charge here. Our snowfall came last Saturday into Sunday and, though we had lingering closures and commuting chaos into Monday, it wasn’t too stressful.

I welcomed the reminder to slow down. The holidays were so stressful this year. Much of that was self-imposed, I know, but I have struggled terribly with the sickness that is trying to make holidays “perfect” since my first child was born.

I have a hard time just letting things . . . be what they are. To accept that I don’t have to do All the Things, and my children would be just as happy with cardboard boxes as toys. We’re trying to raise them to be kind, empathetic, generous people, and mountains of presents aren’t in keeping with that goal. They’re not in keeping with anything I want to be about these days, actually.

Still: the pressure. Commercial. Societal. I work in marketing; it’s not like I’m unaware of advertising and messaging. I know how important it is to surround ourselves with positive energy that keeps us feeling strong and confident in our choices.

But when I looked at the small-ish pile of gifts under the tree — gifts my husband and I had carefully chosen for our son and daughter; ones we thought they would really enjoy, not just “stuff” to check the box of “Lots of Stuff for Christmas” — I had this pang of . . . not-doing-enough-ness. A sense that somehow I hadn’t delivered.

That is ridiculous, of course. I do know that. I spent hours planning for, decorating, baking and organizing for Christmas, because everyone knows mothers make the magic happen. And I have very acutely felt the sense of needing to measure up. And that, somehow, I’m not.

I’ve been sitting with these feelings lately, wondering where they come from. What I can do about them. Basically I’m a giant stress ball, and that doesn’t make me a good . . . anything. Partner, parent, employee. So many roles and responsibilities.

My anxiety is usually the root cause, but I actually feel like I have a decent handle on that lately. This is less the panicky fight-or-flight feeling I’m used to, and more just a general unease that I’m not keeping all the plates spinning. That a few are about to fall.

I’ve been reading Breathe, Mama, Breathe by Shonda Moralis — one of approximately 2,000 parenting self-help books I own, but have never made the time to crack open. It’s quick and helpful. I actually meditated for the first time this morning, sitting in our bedroom closet — the only place I can guarantee I will have five minutes to myself — and sat on the floor, emptying my mind until I was just a breathing person. A real living, breathing person.

What a miraculous thing that is.

It felt a little silly at first, but it wasn’t as hard to clear my thoughts as I expected. I’ve been needing a way to take a broom to the ol’ cobwebs in my mind, clearing away much of the useless clutter and trying to focus more on living in the moment.

Oliver will be four this spring, and Hadley almost two. They change so much every day and seem to grow overnight.

I need to be present. Present so I can enjoy it.

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Spence and I took them out into the snow last Sunday, tying on boots and knotting scarves and stuffing hats over curls. It was cold and wet and I hate both of those things, but I pulled on my long coat and joined them.

Hadley was delighted, sticking out her little paws to feel the cold flakes on her fingers and blinking as they dusted her face. Oliver tromped around in his Columbia boots, looking for all the world like an explorer who had recently discovered a new land.

And it occurred to me then, as it occurs to me now, that I have spent so much time standing behind them — arms outstretched in case they fall. But both my son and daughter walk more confidently now. I was amazed at how quickly they took off on uneven ground.

I was grateful for that simple, quiet moment: one that involved nothing but happy kids and heavy coats, a hushed afternoon and warm home to reenter when we were ready.

I haven’t felt sad that a soft January has followed sparkly, edgy, frenetic December.

I know how to appreciate quiet these days.

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Let it snow, snow, snow (whether we like it or not)

Winter snow

The weather reports are pretty unanimous now: we’re in for a big one. At least a foot of snow, if not more, plus strong winds, ice, low visibility — the works. Needless to say, all plans are cancelled and we ain’t going anywhere. It’ll be our first family snowed-in weekend!

Our last major snowfall was the February snowpocalypse of 2010. About 2 feet of snow fell around D.C., grinding the area to a halt for more than a week. It was about a month before I met Spencer, and I remember everyone — ev.ery.one. — logging into OkCupid, bored at home and rekindling their efforts to find romance. It was kind of fun.

So now it’s six years later, and we’re staring down another monster storm. I’m a little excited . . . and nervous, too. It’s strange to know a crazy weather event is coming to pummel your area full days in advance. We’re grateful for the warning, of course, but we’re all just holding our breath as we wait. It’s going to be bad, but we don’t yet know how bad.

As long as the power stays on, we’ll be fine.

And if it doesn’t, we’re heading to the basement.


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Spencer and I have spent the last few weeks transforming a little-used storage room downstairs into a space for my crafts, home decor, organization of random junk I’ve somehow carried through two moves, etc. January seems to be the time for that. Put away all the Christmas decor and you’re suddenly aching for a clean, fresh, unsullied start.

After dropping way too much cash at Lowe’s, Spence is building me a counter/table work space. I’ve been Googling “craft rooms” and saving all sorts of photos to my own for inspiration, turning to Pinterest and basically pretending I know what I’m doing. (I don’t know what I’m doing.)

But we’re figuring it out. Sometimes it’s easier to pinpoint what I don’t like, decor-wise, and I basically buy everything from Zulily, anyway. So soon I’ll be dragging plastic storage bins down from every corner of the house to finally have my art supplies, stationery, seasonal decor and such in one place.

No more chaos. Organized chaos, perhaps, but I can work with that.

I’ve never considered myself OCD, but a coworker recently commented on how “clean” my desk was. I glanced over at a strange blend of clementines and bananas (always have healthy snacks on hand! Still going strong on Weight Watchers), many scratchy notes on Post-Its, various magazines I’m using for research, Coke Rewards caps, etc.

Everything was in tidy piles: right down to the bottle caps. Square things were at right angles; round things were grouped together.

I’ve always thought of it as being orderly. I just like things the way I like them.

But we have to be flexible sometimes, right? With the looming storm, we’re converting my soon-to-be craft room — currently just a newly-painted space with a bookcase — into The Bunker. The basement is strangely warmer than anywhere else in the house, plus it’s below ground . . . and, as in a tornado warning, that makes me feel safer.

The Bunker will have bottled water, extra blankets, a power pack for charging cell phones, the baby’s formula and extra bottles, flashlights, etc. I don’t know why I’m treating this like, say, a hurricane . . . but weather-related disaster prep is apparently all in one mental manila folder.

I have always lived in suburban Maryland, surrounded by bedroom communities with commuters heading into D.C. every day. The jokes about Washingtonians not being able to handle a single inch or two of snow aren’t wrong, but that’s not the full picture. Trust me, I get it; my husband grew up outside of Buffalo. What freaks me out doesn’t even begin to worry him.

But the roads quickly get congested and messy here. Our traffic is horrendous on a normal day, let alone during a rush hour with sleet coming down. We’re not used to cruising on ice, and hey — no one is safe on ice.

Plus, in our case, we have this little baby now.

I can worry about my own safety just fine, but worrying about Oliver’s safety is an entirely different shade of anxiety. Being responsible for a child is stressful in the best of circumstances, but having a 9-month-old still recovering from a weird virus, refusing to sleep and dealing with an upcoming blizzard has had me hitting the coffee — my drug of choice — pretty hard lately.

We took him to the doctor yesterday, knowing he wasn’t too ill yet . . . but we’d soon be stuck inside for days, and on a weekend. We’re no stranger to emergency rooms and urgent care, unfortunately, but I’d rather stave off that sort of craziness if we can.

Ollie is doing better today, thankfully, and I’m hoping the worst has passed. I stocked up on diapers, water, formula, etc. on Tuesday, ducking out after work before the crowds got unmanageable. Marylanders do tend to panic at the word “snow,” but this time? Well, I think that’s warranted.

I’m not going to lose my cool, though. We’re working from home today and tomorrow, Ollie is doing better, we have plenty of peanut butter for PB&Js if it should get a little dark in here.

And if nothing else, we’ll have stories — many stories — to tell.

Stay safe and warm, my friends! I’ll be looking for your Instagram photos and snow totals this weekend. Keep those yardsticks handy.


Blizzard envy?

Hot chocolate

Okay, I’ll admit it — I have a little blizzard envy.

With record snow falling in the Northeast, I’ve been following the snowfall and clipper activity with the intensity of a true weather junkie. Here south of Washington, D.C., we’ve gotten nothing but cold rain and dreariness.

As a kid, word of an approaching snowstorm was an excuse to stay up late watching for your school district — C’mon, Charles County; c’mon, Charles County — to scroll across the ticker tape on the nightly news. “CLOSED” meant big breakfasts with Dad, staying in our pajamas and snowball fights with our family dog.

Idyllic, indeed . . . and decades ago. Though I’m far removed from those carefree days, I can’t help remembering the snow days of my youth: long, languorous things filled with hot chocolate and unlimited Nickelodeon and Uno with my sister. Definitely not the harsh reality of snow as an adult.

Which sucks. Generally speaking.

Though snow is dangerous and messy, scary and intimidating, there is a beauty and simplicity in being stuck indoors with hot tea, a fat novel and your significant other curled up at your side. Nothing to do, nowhere to go . . . just a cozy day indoors watching the fat flakes fall. You know, until you have to go out and shovel.

I think some of the romance is tied to the idea of taking a break from reality . . . this unexpected detour in an otherwise planned set of events. Finding yourself at home making breakfast instead of wedged at your desk is a wonderful change, indeed, and sleeping late on a Wednesday feels positively luxurious. For as much as I love schedules and to-do lists, color-coded calendars and plans, sometimes I need to be shoved out of my routines.

Snow does that. Maybe not three feet of snow — Boston, I feel for you — but . . . a few inches? Enough to change up the day? Well.

I’m being snow-fully romantic, I know . . . in fact, just a few weeks ago, I complained about the cold and how being pregnant with ice on the ground makes me exceptionally nervous. If I fall, I’m falling for two.

But I can’t keep out winter with full-body bubble wrap. All I can do is be careful — and roll with whatever Mother Nature throws our way.

Which, thankfully, hasn’t been much. (But I would take a little.)

If you’re home, stay safe — and have some cocoa for me.


Wintry war

Snowy road

I’m no snow bunny.

After the wicked winter we endured last year, I still get panicky on icy roads and drive like an inebriated toddler as soon as the first fat flakes begin to fall. A Marylander through and through, I’m unused to bad winter weather and would prefer to, you know, never go out in it. Ever.

But I work at a newspaper. Believe you me: we close for no man (except for the year we got three-ish feet of snow in two days . . . but that was freakish. So.). Even with falling temperatures and scary, slick roads, we operate on a normal schedule — and I had to get my little self into the office.

I understand, though; snow isn’t supposed to slow us down. By day, I’m an editor and columnist and really like my job. There are always stories to edit! Pages to lay out! Columns to . . . columnize!

(That’s not a word. I apologize.)

But this year? I’m commuting for two. When I spy an icy patch of pavement, I legitimately think about how I cannot fall because I’m carrying a baby — and though he/she is partly to blame for my clumsiness lately, I’m already a mama of sorts. Totally in protective mode.

It’s making me nervous.

As a hardened New Yorker, my husband isn’t phased by any of this. Snow? Sleet? Press on. What scares him are, of course, the people like me — the nervous Nancys who drive 10 under the speed limit and shake a fist at the renegades who fly by in their BMWs on salty highways. The ones who have no idea what they’re doing.

When we visited Spencer’s hometown over Christmas break, I couldn’t believe how unfazed everyone was by the inches of snow that fell overnight. Where everyone in D.C. would be off work with hot cocoa watching “Judge Judy” snug at home (just me?), the good people of Western New York were donning their boots and setting off into the squalls without hesitation.

It’s kind of impressive, actually.

Though he’s lived in Maryland for half a decade, Spence hasn’t forgotten the tricks of the wintry trade that make him such a pro. We have shovels and salt, snow blowers and winter car wipers. Pretty soon I’ll pack my car with emergency rations and begin practicing my patented white-knuckle-grip on our back roads.

Last year we lived right off a major highway — and on a major plow route. This winter? We’re not in the middle of nowhere, but we’re in a neighborhood off a side street off a thoroughfare that’s off a highway . . . and in terms of being stuck, I have no idea what to expect. Will someone come to dig us out? Who will save us?

I’m being dramatic, I know. Extra-crazy hormones? I mean, it’s just winter. But where I’d rather be inside making homemade Hamburger Helper, burning candles and watching the woods whiten from the comfort of my window, I’m mentally preparing myself to join the masses schlepping to work and school without complaint.

Well, with a little complaint.

I’m only human.

(Is it too early to ask if it’s spring yet?)


Lilac and spring daydreams

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It’s spring!

I know, I know . . . another post about winter being over. But seriously: this one was one for the record books, and I’m just so thrilled it’s over. As temperatures reached (and have stayed) above the 60-degree mark since Monday, I’m prepared to declare the cold vanquished and prepare for some sunshine, sandals and ice cream.

(By the way, these photos are totally of my mother-in-law’s stunning lilac from last year . . . but let’s pretend, shall we? The buds of trees are only just starting to open now, and I have absolutely zero photogenic shots to share.)

In less than two weeks, Spence and I will be taking our first non-honeymoon trip as Mr. and Mrs. — up to spend time with his parents in Western New York! And to pop up to Niagara-on-the-Lake for a few days of walking, talking, eating, hanging and photographing. I am so excited to be spending time with them, and so happy to be on the move. As the cold held us all captive in our own homes, I’ve felt caged and listless and suffocated by winter.

Must go.

I also just bought a really cute, barely-used suitcase in an all-over London-themed print from a coworker for $30, so. Bargain and a new bag . . . win/win.

Nothing renews the spirit like travel. Even with the impending home purchase and floating $$$$ signs following us everywhere we go, we’re going to get away twice before summer — and I’m so ready to get out of dodge. Maryland, I love ya, but I need a change of scenery.

In a big way.


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Have you noticed the lack of Wordless Wednesday posts around here? It’s pitiful, I know. I feel guilty every time we reach midweek, desperately wishing I had something — anything! — to share. I like consistency, organization, routines. And WW has absolutely been a routine through the years. But if I’m being honest, I just haven’t been out doing anything worth photographing. I have nothing new. I haven’t been creative enough in our tiny apartment to branch out, and Spence and I have basically just been hibernating and signing paperwork.

Paperwork is kind of our thing.

On the home front, there’s not much to report as yet. Our closing date got pushed back, which is not a bad thing; it gives me more time to emotionally prepare, for one! And . . . well, I’ll need that. I think we’re both alternating between wanting to just move and get it over with and wanting to soak up the vibes in our first shared place together as long as we can. I love being in the center of town, so I’m hoping we’ll be able to go on a few evening walks before we go.

But with the first bursts of sunshine, the first warm breaths of spring, I feel so revitalized and ready for a new challenge. I’m still scared, still worried, but I know this is a good thing. A grown-up thing. A family thing.

And I’ll find plenty to photograph very soon.


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Necessary blooms

Flowers in vase


I’ve needed fresh flowers to get through this interminable winter.

Months ago I stumbled across a bulging bouquet of carnations for $2 at Safeway; they were perkily peeking from my shopping cart before you could count to three. The pink blooms wound up in my mail organizer and in vases around the living room; there were so many — an embarrassment of flowers — that I crafted arrangements for many spots in our apartment.

I loved them. They were so happy, so joyful. But like all blossoms, well . . . they withered, shedding all over the carpet. They died.

Our place has been far less welcoming since then.

The days of my $2 flowers are long gone, especially in the cold. It snowed again yesterday. Every time we stop by the grocery store, I peek at the bundles of colorful stems in pots near the entrance — but they’re $12 or $15 or $20 apiece. As we get closer to closing on our new home, budgeting takes on greater importance. I clip lots of coupons. We’ve cut out (most) frivolous spending, and I couldn’t justify spending $10 on something that was going to wilt in less than a week. Better to buy meat and bread, you know?

But I’m learning that beauty is worth a little investment. Some splurges are simply good for the soul. After checking the flowers at Giant for the fourth straight week to learn the prices had finally dropped to $6, I cracked. Caved. Was all too happy to give in.

Everything is brown and gray and covered in the lingering vestiges of this cold, but I can see it turning around again. We placed bouquets of royal purple in our windowsill and the hallway, and I smile at the blooms every morning.

Winter’s thaw at last.


Flowers


Blue morning. Home.

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We woke this morning to a blue world — incredibly still, snow-covered, wracked with ice slapping against our windows. Everyone along the East Coast knew about the impending storm, and most of us spent last evening breathlessly anticipating the first few flakes . . . but by 10 p.m., nothing much was happening.

I had that familiar pang of disappointment left over from my days as a student — the one that accompanies epic snow predictions that ultimately result in . . . nothing. Our meteorologists in the D.C. area are notoriously off-base, but I can’t say I blame them. Things happen, you know. Storms shift course. Snow fails to fall. Classes resume.

But by 6 a.m., it was a different story. Spencer stirred first, stumbling to the window to peer through our thin curtains. The hill was glazed and frosted.

“How much?” I croaked.

“Not much,” he said. But I immediately asked for the “Maryland version,” knowing “not much” to my hardy New Yorker husband is pretty different from our standards.

It was much. Even the plow trucks weren’t out yet, our parking lot a drift of deep snow. But without my contacts, I had to take his word for it. I’m so blind in the morning.

When I could finally gauge the situation for myself, I decided to stay home. And it’s super strange. Between the violent ice crashing into our windows all night and the roads being far from passable now, I decided to take a vacation day and hunker down in our condo.

After all my big talk of never getting a snow day, it feels so weird to be home on a Thursday morning. We’re watching “Today” and its Olympic coverage, dreaming of balmy 60-degree temperatures in Sochi and staring at piles of dirty dishes. This isn’t a true snow day — the kind granted free-of-charge by a benevolent employer — but hey . . . I’ll still take it! And gratefully.

But . . . I’m trying to figure out what to do with myself. I’ve been up since 6:30. Faced with hours of freedom and seclusion, Spencer is working while I envision finally backing up years of photos, working on our wedding photo album, vacuuming, finishing The Heart Is Not a Size . . . or just clearing out the DVR, drinking tons of coffee and scraping this place into some semblance of organized.

This is the first snow day I’ve been snug in our condo, not at home with my parents and sister — and maybe that’s where my sense of nostalgia stems from. I’m thinking of our old snowmen, epic snowball fights, shoveling with Dad as we sweated through our winter coats. Here we have nothing to dig out save our cars, nowhere for snow forts. And though I’ve felt at home in my new space since my October move, there are still moments — sudden, overwhelming moments — when I feel 10 years old again, wondering how I got here. Where my snowman went.

But there will be more snowball fights and hot cocoa. It’s a gray day, but it’s a beautiful one . . .

. . . And it’s all mine.