Notes from a Clamshell Path | No. 22
Eight years ago this month, I started a little personal project you know as Juniper Disco. I had just changed jobs and was looking for something I could create that was all mine, without any pressures from overlords and/or the expectation to be proper and appropriate. There were times when I posted every single day and there were also long gaps of silence, but mostly there were spits and sputters of inspiration. I've thought a lot about this space this year. It requires a decent amount of time, thought, and effort to put these together and it is very much worth it to me. I hope you think so, too. Look for my post in mid-January for the details on a regular posting schedule. And thank you all for reading! A special shout out to those of you who have stuck with me through all of my iterations. I appreciate you so much!
20 f#@king 18. I remember how I felt this time last year -- terrified by the prospect of my impending surgeries and crying in the bathtub every day. I have since had two ectomies, one oscopy, and an ometry. I no longer mix up "salpingo" with "Spicoli." I am missing six body parts and have some badass scars. I'm cold all the time and wear thermal vests or extra tank tops to stay warm. I no longer have to get squished into a machine or fight hyperventilation while a tube around me clangs -- something I would have had to do every six months for the rest of my life had I not chosen surgery. Best of all, fear has been replaced with curiosity and confidence -- in myself, in my choices, and in the people around me. Also, the word I uttered most this past year was "douchebag."
Intentions for 2019. I recently read this quote: "The plain fact is that the planet does not need more successful people. But it does desperately need more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers, and lovers of every kind. It needs people who live well in their places. It needs people of moral courage willing to join the fight to make the world habitable and humane. And these qualities have little to do with success as we have defined it." - David W. Orr When I sat down to do my 2019 intention list, I ended up with a giant list of things I needed and wanted to do, especially after a year of rest and healing. On the one hand, it's great to know where to put my efforts and how to organize the year around what I want to accomplish. On the other, productivity is not my main goal in life. So, in addition to ticking things off my giant checklist, every morning in 2019 I am going to ask myself these three questions, inspired by that quote above, and see where we go from there: What am I going to do today to "live well in my place"? Who do I need to connect with today and why? What am I doing to enjoy this day?
Having most of the family here for Thanksgiving. In addition to the three parts of our family that live in Massachusetts, the in-laws joined us from Jersey, and my dad came up from Pennsylvania. Although we realized we may have over programmed our time (and despite two falls, a sick parent, and a knife wound), we enjoyed our together-ing.
An unusual Christmas. This year we celebrated with our family over the weekend -- a short but festive bout of eating, eating, and more eating. And for the first time, maybe ever, The Super Mr. and I spent a rather quiet Christmas Eve at home, watching Top Chef and eating chicken saltimbocca with pesto pasta. And then on Christmas Day, our friends came over for a marathon day of watching Hallmark Christmas movies and playing the accompanying drinking game. I usually find the holidays overwhelming and exhausting, but spreading the celebration out like this was rather nice.
Taken by Trees' "Holiday." If you are more of a holidays-make-me-emo kind of person more than a joy-to-the-world celebrant, you'll love this single.
This year's John Waters Christmas card. It's one of those holographic cards!
The Clinton Affair. It's long. It's painful. It's maddening, but it is worth the time watching the Hullabaloo-Formerly-Known-as-the-Monica-Lewinsky-Scandal be reframed. Douchebags. Every one of them.
Dumplin'. I thought this was meh until the drag queens entered the story, which is pretty much how I feel about most things in life. Also, I have woken up with Dolly Parton in my head every day since watching this. Consider yourself warned.
Dirty John. I was riveted by the podcast so of course I needed to watch the Bravo adaptation. A few things: 1) It's way more terrifying on screen, 2) My imagined Debra and John were not nearly as attractive as these actors, and 3) Tami Taylor can do no wrong.
Momentum Generation. It's a little Broskies-do-the-Lord-of-the-Flies, but it's also a really great surfing documentary, ultimately about friendship. And it sums up GenXers pretty well: "You're on your own, dude." (Also, did you see Kelly Slater's latest? at 46!)
Pseudo-decorating. Mostly I just put sweaters and hats on all my animal figures in the house and toss some bottle brush trees here and there. I already have twinkle lights all over the place year-round so it was pretty easy to festivize.
Florida by Lauren Groff. I took this with me to read on our recent getaway to Florida. It was a perfect short story collection to get me back into reading. It also made me feel super meta. Someone on the interwebs recently heard her read and found her tone to be rather sarcastic and light, which is not at all how these come across to me. I found myself slightly horrified by the plots (abandoned children everywhere) and frozen in my tracks by some of her words, like: "I duct-taped the gauze to my head, already mourning my long hair, which had been my most expensive pet and "They worked in silence, only the noise of exuberant natural Florida filling their ears, the unafraid birds, the seethe of insects."
Rivieria Maya News. The Super Mr. and I have been thinking for some time about our retirement plans (who doesn't?) and every time we go somewhere, we think, "ah, maybe here?" Ever since my famous $13 dinner feast in Playa del Carmen, I've been following the local news there, to see what it's like outside the tourist resorts. It's cray-cray, as evidenced by these stories: "Two senior citizens surrender their pet crocodile after 30 years." And, "Grenade thrown in central Puerto Morelos bar injures two." Or, "Taco thief threatens Playa del Carmen stand owner with knife, but owner has machete."
Tournament of Books. They just announced next year's Short List (here's the Long List.) In case you've never heard of the 15-year old Rooster, here's how it works, like a March Madness bracket competition for books.
Tsundoku. I wish I had known this was a thing because our family could compete at the Olympic level. It is the art of buying books, not reading them, and letting them pile up.
The Competition podcast, season 2, about the Mr. Los Angeles Leather competition. FIRST: NSFW! And if you are at all a little prudish, this is not for you. (Or maybe it is? Expand your comfort zone.)
Podcast episodes: *"How El Chapo Ended Up in a Brooklyn Courtroom" episode of The Daily. Insane! *"Settlers, Unsettled" episode of Studio 360. It was fascinating to hear what Bill Jankowitz of Buffalo Tom did after being a rock star! (Starts around 21:20.) Also, I played Big Red Letter Day so many times driving my charge around DC when I was a nanny in the 90s, she knew all the words. Her favorite? "Sodajerk." Oops.
10 Things That Scare Me podcast. Only a few minutes in length, each podcast features an interesting person listing things they are afraid of and why. People like John Green. And Anthony Scaramucci. My list is now 1,457 fears long.
Broken Harts podcast. Remember that story in the news of the women who adopted six children and then drove them off the cliff? This podcast is digging deep into their lives to try to fiure out what was going on in their home. I'm transfixed.
Eating + Drinking:
Beanstock's Ho, Ho, Joe! coffee. Locally roasted in Eastham, this coffee is a "seasonal blend of vanilla, hazelnut, and chestnut with a warm cinnamon background." Holiday in a mug! (Also, if you like a darker roasted flavor, you can mix it -- 50/50 -- with your regular coffee and still get the wonderful seasonal flavor.)
Trader Joe's Salted Caramel Hot Cocoa. I currently have two cans of this in my pantry. So yummy! I would eat it with a spoon if I didn't think it would choke me, à la the cinnamon challenge or tiramisu.
Cape Cod Cafe's frozen bar pizza. I first heard about "bar pie" when we lived in Hingham. Even though "Cape Cod" is in the title of this, it's totally a South Shore thing. Luckily, we can get frozen versions in our local Stop & Shop. Locals, stock up for the winter!
"Investigating Pennsylvania's Very Particular Penchant for Potato Chips." Born and raised in the heart of Amish Country (as outsiders call it), I can attest to the potato chip thing and affinity for "mom-and-pop brands." We were a Martin's family growing up.
Bacon jam from Winslow's Tavern. In addition to amazing white drippy candles and modern nautical design, the food here was SO good! We took a jar of bacon jam home with us to serve at our grazing table for Christmas. You can order some online!
Udemy. This past month, Udemy had a special $9.99 sale on their courses and for 24 hours you could also get a free course -- so two for $9.99 seemed worth the exploration. I chose an animal reiki course (for Stephen's benefit, of course) and one on passive income. I haven't had a second to start either of them but once the holiday hoopla disappears, I'll plunge right in.
Dorthe Nors' short story, "Hygge," and this interview with her in Paris Review. Let's just say hygge-ing takes a dark turn in her short story. She has a different way of looking at things: "Baileys tastes of German rest areas and the corner of some party where nothing's happening."
Uniqlo Heat Tech clothes. I mentioned that I am cold all the time now. I have a ton of these clothes (and especially love the Alexander Wang stuff, which is a little heavier and design-y. Scoop it up now, it's almost sold out.)
"It's OK to Slow Down: an affirmation for winter." One of things I like most about winter is crawling into bed around 8:00 and not feeling bad about it. This article makes the case for embracing that seasonality.
White dripping candles. As I mentioned, we recently visited Winslow's Tavern in Wellfleet, and at the bar they had these three huge wine bottles that were covered in dripping white wax from candles. My Nana used to have a bottle with drippy wax at her kitchen table. I had completely forgotten how much I loved them! I even asked Santa to bring me some.
Our quick trip to Fort Lauderdale. Every year we try to go somewhere warm at the beginning of winter and then towards the end over my birthday week in March. Fort Lauderdale is super easy to get to from Boston (nonstop flights on JetBlue). My bucket list read: stone crabs (apparently it's been a tough season for them), key lime pie, Scoobies and paella at Coconuts, pool. Check, check, check, and check! You can view some of our trip here (find the Fort Lauderdale story at the top.)
Soda. A number of years ago I completely cut out soda from my diet. I went cold turkey (except I reserved the right to have it with pizza.) Somehow, however, it's crept back into my life and I am now, once again, trying to oust it.
My favorite magazine has stopped subscription publication. Waaaa!!!! I've received my last copy of Coastal Living magazine in the mail. However, they will now be publishing seasonal editions for the "newsstand only." All is not lost!
"12 Items You Should Toss Before 2019." A great list of easy things to get rid of to make more space for the new year. I'm working through all my old cords and chargers.
Nutritionist. I recently had my first session with a nutritionist to help me manage some of my health risks that cannot be addressed through other means (like surgery or medications.) Good news is that we are doing pretty well with our overall diet choices. My goals for the next two months (after the holidays, of course) are pretty simple: 1) limit soda to no more than one a day, 2) eat fruit/vegetables with every meal AND snack, and 3) check the sodium levels on everything we buy and stay away from anything the has 20% or more of your sodium for the day, the lower the better. I think I can do that (as soon as someone eats these cookies.)
Planning + Organizing:
Invierno + Hiver Pinterest board. I've had success using my other seasonal Pinterest boards, so I put one together for winter. It's MUCH smaller than my summer board, but in those moments when I actually want to do something, the board is a great reminder of the options.
Get ready for Apartment Therapy's January Cure! I tried to do this last year -- while I was preparing for surgery -- and failed. I loved the simple challenges I saw and am ready to give it more of an effort this year. Sign up if you want to join in!
Many Moons Lunar Planner for 2019. It's sold out most places, but you might be able to find it at one of the smaller retailers listed on the website. I've set aside a morning for myself to do the prep work for the year. I think I'll be able to manage this one more than the previous Many Moons. Everything is broken down into smaller pieces that I think I can manage.
An update on the dangers of a grain-free dog food. SO, it turns out the "grain-free dog food causes heart disease in dogs" thing isn't quite so simple. My vet explained to us that they aren't sure what the issue is, but making sure Stephen gets a variety of foods is really important. The latest update clarifies that it seems to be boutique foods and exotic diets and maybe grain-free food. If you haven't talked to your vet yet, you might want to get some guidance. Also, you can subscribe to this newsletter from Tufts Veterinary Medical Center if you want the latest info on nutrition for your pets.
Blair Braverman. She's got an uplifting Twitter feed about her sled dogs -- especially this thread about her dog, Grinch. She lives in Alaska right now and is about to run her first Iditarod. And she had some hilarious tweets after that huge earthquake -- making for higher ground after the tsunami warning and the tragedy of glass bottles in liquor stores (only the cheap stuff in plastic bottles survived!) She's also written a book, Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube (which is on my 2019 Reading List that I will publish in January's post.) And apparently her husband is transgender. She's a super interesting person to add to your circle!
Coyote deterrents. A few days before that dog with his coyote vest went viral, I had ordered one (in teal Kevlar with French blue whiskers) for Stephen! It was a bit small so we're waiting for the size exchange to arrive (he's short but long so his butt was exposed in the original size we ordered.) The Super Mr. has been seeing coyotes all around our house lately during his evening walks -- and one that was entirely too close for comfort for him. We also ordered air horns to carry, which is supposed to frighten them off. I know people think it's a bit extra, I'm guessing they've never had a German Shepherd-size coywolf come charging at them. These are real life issues out here!
New leash. Recently, we had three leashes stuck in the open position at the same time. Ocean air and ocean water mixed with wet sand ruins them. So we are trying this hard core leash that has an anti-rust carabiner instead of the standard attachment mechanism. It's way too much leash for our little boo but I feel like he is securely attached to me now and that carabiner is going to stay closed.
I will never eat a pine nut again. As soon as I finished reading that article, I ran to the cupboard and threw out the jar of pine nuts we had in there. If you get the wrong kind, it can mess up your taste buds for months!
Vitamin D and fish oil. Did you see the recent headlines that taking these supplements has no significant impact on your health? A bit misleading since the study found there WAS a positive impact on preventing heart attacks, especially for African-Americans and those already with heart disease. And an impact for those of us with high triglycerides. I'll keep taking mine. AND I'll keep going in the sun and eating seafood.
"'I was pretty much mute at school': how Bake Off's Kim-Joy found happiness." She was my favorite of her season (even though I kept calling her Kim Chi). Her intricate designs and loveable weirdo personality were so adorable! I mean look at this! Bonus article about the show's illustrator. And an explanation of what caster sugar is -- YOU CAN MAKE YOUR OWN!
"The Oral History of 'San Junipero.'" The story of how everyone's favorite Black Mirror episode was created. Sniffle! Sniffle!
"Meet Pattie Gonia, the Backpacking Drag Queen Promoting Inclusivity in the Outdoors." I like the videos the most. Werk!
"The Watcher." I made the mistake of reading this at night, in the dark, while I was home alone. It freaked me the F out! The story is so good that Netflix bought the rights to it. SO CREEPY!! You really have to read it!
"How the Ghana ThinkTank Challenges the White Savior Complex." "Ghana ThinkTank, the Moroccan think tank, made up of a donkey-pulled cart that toured villages looking for participants, suggested that many US problems stem from architecture that exacerbates social isolation." FASCINATING!
"A Day in the Life of Lloyd Squires, Vermont's 'Best' Bagel Maker." A) It's exhausting. B) I want those bagels.
"The Great Glitter Conspiracy of 2018." "Who is this mysterious glitter buyer and what don’t they want us to know?" WHO IS IT???
The Annual Best Of the "Best Of" Lists Round-up (so many "Best Of" lists out there this time of year, here are my favorites:)
"My Not-Top-Ten Television List: The Best TV Shows of 2018." I tend to agree with Emily Nussbaum on most things, including her dislike of Mrs. Maisel. My favorite show this year is a toss-up between Succession and Killing Eve.
LitHub's "The 75 Best Book Covers of 2018." My favorite is the UK edition of The Handmaid's Tale.
Paste's "The 10 Best Documentaries of 2018." I've seen zero of these. Nope, not even the Mr. Rogers one. And I consider myself a documentary junkie. Adding these all to my list, especially the M.I.A one (which I just saw you can stream on Amazon and iTunes now.)
The Millions' A Year in Reading: 2018. One of my favorite end-of-the-year series always delivers an astonishing array of books, including ones you never see on other Best Of lists. I love how each list is presented so differently. My favorite so far is Bryan Washington's. Read it. You'll see why.
"Longreads Best of 2018: All of Our No. 1 Picks." The very best in longform reading on the internet. A couple of these I've recommended here.
Chatelaine's "18 Best Books of 2018." Canadians are great storytellers and can recognize a good yarn when they see one.
Hope you all get some quality rest and have great times with the people you love in the next few days! Enjoy saying goodbye to the Year of the Douchebag and let's all usher in a new phase of hope, common sense, and being people who live well in their place!