there, that wasn’t so bad, now was it?

So I went to my first of several appointments leading up to the Horrible Oral Surgery. This first visit was a long-overdue check-up with my regular, wonderful dentist and his staff… and to my astonishment, nothing much happened.

Oh, some things happened: x-rays and an exam, a referral to an oral surgeon, advice on dealing with dental anxiety before the surgery, another visit scheduled. But you know what I mean when I say “nothing much happened.” I mean that nothing happened that was painful or humiliating or even out of the ordinary.

No red light started flashing, no klaxons went AWOOOOOOGA, no oral surgery strike team arrived via helicopter to scoop me up and medevac me to the nearest maxillofacial unit. No one even gasped or clutched their pearls in horror or took away my official grown-up badge.

Indeed, both the dentist and the hygienist shrugged a little when I asked which should come first, my follow-up cleaning or my Horrible Oral Surgery. I somehow imagined the gaping pulpy painful HOLE IN MY JAW might constitute an emergency, but the dental professionals think otherwise… which is a-okay with me.

After my uneventful appointment I went home, where The Fella fed me my favorite non-crunchy take-out (asparagus tempura salad with spicy peanut dressing) and ice cream, stroked my hair, and told me I was soooooooo braaaaaaaave.

Whatever you’ve been putting off for too long, just brace yourself and do it. Do it now, do it soon. Forgive yourself for putting it off, give yourself permission to feel fear or anxiety, don’t shame yourself for it. Just do the thing. And when you do it, I’ll tell you the truth: you are sooooooo braaaaaaave.

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summer goals

Here in northern New England, we’ve had a pleasant stretch of unseasonably warm days tempered with cool nights. It’s enough to make me look forward to summer, traditionally my least-favorite season.

This year, I’m going to make sure I bask in the pleasures of summer. As a little spur, I’m making a list of summer goals:

Note: a friend recently asked how my summer goals were going, so I thought I’d check off a few here. Updates are in italics.

Keep my swimsuit at the ready, along with my leopard-spotted towel and my big-brimmed hat, so I’m ready to swim anytime. Oh, yes! I kept them hanging on peg in our front hall, which reminded me that SWIMMING IS GOOD. I only managed to swim a couple of times, but with squealing, squirmy, happy children and teenager, which is about the best thing ever.

Cocktails and polenta fries on the patio at my favorite neighborhood restaurant. To celebrate our first wedding anniversary, no less! The Fella took me out to the patio for polenta fries and a split of prosecco, then we wandered a few blocks and I took him out for beer and tapas. A perfect evening.

Lemonade, limeade, ginger beer. Fantastic fizzy lemonade, deliciously low-rent limeade-slushy margaritas, and homemade ginger beer.

Always keep a little cash on hand for yard sales and farmstands. I have to admit: I haven’t managed to buy one single thing at a yard sale this season. Still, this is a resolution well worth keeping, if only for the farmstand tomatoes.

Stonefruit in a pouch! Hey, I forgot all about this one! Well, maybe next year.

Go to a ballgame at the local ballpark. Buy The Fella a beer. Oops. Maybe next year!

Always carry bubble juice, for impromptu bubble-blowing parties. We can thank The Fella for this one: knowing we were going to babysit my nephews for an afternoon, he zipped out to the store and picked up a giant bouncy ball, juice, and a biiiiiiig jar of bubble stuff. What a guy!

Stop buying cheap white wine. Start buying cheap sparkling wine. Drink it. Often. Oh, yes indeed.

Eat that lobster roll! Not yet — but for this one, I’ll prolong “summer” as long as it takes. IF I have my first lobster roll as the leaves turn, or as the frost nips in… in my mind, it’ll still be summer.

edited to add:
Take the short but hilly path, not the longer and sketchier but undeniably easier street route. (This refers to an actual hill and an actual shortcut, but if you read it metaphorically too, you’re not wrong.) Yes!

Write every day. Don’t worry about writing well: write every day. You can always edit half-assed writing; you can’t edit what you ain’t wrote down. Yes! Sort of!

Do my some physical therapy every day, not twice a week. I’ve actually managed to do a liiiiiiittttttttle bit every day, which is saying something.

AC, who helped me start achieving my goals by emptying a bottle of cava with me last night, added one more goal for me: sangria on the neighborhood Promenade! Can do! In the works!

edited again to add: I’ve just added “Drink 100 bottles of bubbly” to my life list. Starting about ten days ago, the count is up to three; 97 to go. And when I get to 100? Well, maybe I move the goalposts to 1000.

reduce

Though I’m not a big believer in New Year’s resolutions, I’ve arbitrarily chosen this month to reduce my caffeine intake. And for no good reason; I was, after all, restricting myself to a sub-lethal dose.

For about a week now, I’ve been having one enormous homemade cappuccino in the morning, not one in the morning and one in the afternoon. In real-world terms, this means I’ve gone from six-to-eight shots of espresso a day to about four shots. That’s a big change, and explains my recent silence here; without the nervous pounding energy of a near-toxic caffeine load, I don’t feel the urge to typetypetypeohmygodtype.

I’m sure it will return. I think.

gratitude

With practice, it’s possible to find moments of joy and grace in almost any chore, no matter how mundane or tiresome. For example: I hate doing the dishes. I hate it so much that dirty dishes have been the trigger for most of our (rare) household fights.

The height of the counter and the depth of the sink seem almost to conspire, like malevolent creatures, to tweak my lower back and my strained shoulder. The dishes are fragile and haphazardly stacked, sometimes with tiny crusty bits, sometimes a bit slippery. Once in a great while, my tender fingers find at the bottom of the pile the shattered (and sharp) remains of a dish I loved. The metal dish drainer marks the dishes; the wooden dish drainer rots. The water chaps my hands.

And there it is: I hate doing the dishes. This idea,  firmly entrenched in my head, repeats and repeats and wears itself a track in my brain, until it seems absolutely true.

But it isn’t. It’s only a thought. I’m training myself to see other thoughts, to find reasons to enjoy the small necessities of daily life. Here’s why I love doing the dishes.

– The high citrus scent of the natural dish soap makes me smile. With the orange scent sold out, we had to buy apple scent this time. Turns out apple makes me smile, too.

– The soft floursack curtain hanging on a rod over the kitchen sink. The odd positioning of our windowframe made it impossible to use a traditional curtainrod in our kitchen, so I thought and thought and then rigged up a simple solution for a few dollars. The best part: because it’s a floursack towel, when it gets dusty or spattered or tired-looking, I can whip it down and hang a replacement from the stack of towels. It makes me feel like a genius, in a teeny tiny way.

– Bubbles. I love the tiny stray bubbles that occasionally break away from the spout of the detergent bottle, floating in the still air of the kitchen or catching the breeze from the open window.

– Filling the rack and emptying the sink. How many tasks offer that simple visual metric of accomplishment? For the same reason, I enjoy laundry: if you’re doing it even half-right, you’re quickly rewarded with obvious progress.

– The old set of silver flatware, no doubt the wedding silver of a distant great-aunt, passed diffidently on to me by my mother. I love using these pieces, I love the feel of them in my hand. I love to polish them (using the baking-soda/boiling-water method), but I also love to use them even when they’re coated with tarnish. I love to scrub and soap and rinse them, I love to slot them into their little drawer. I love them.

– Breaks. When the dishes are stacked and towering and too numerous to face at once, I wash a batch, then take a break to let them drain. It’s a chance to sit peacefully with a coffee, a book, the laptop, or the phone, but still retain the virtuous illusion of doing the chores.

– A meandering mind. I do a lot of my clearest thinking during a mindless, mechanical chore. A great many of my big a-Ha! moments come while I’m doing dishes. I exploit this for academic writing by scheduling writing breaks during which I can wash a half-sink of dishes; I load up my brain with the subject matter, examine it carefully every which way, then take a break and do some dishes. As my hands scrub and rinse and my mouth hums a song, my brain ticks away in the background the whole time, poking at the dark corners of a thesis and looking for a new path.

I love doing the dishes. I should try to remember that.

weather (or not)

After six weeks or more of nearly constant rain, even rainloving me finds it a bit wearying. The past few days, I’ve been kvetching about it.

But here’s where the complaining stops, for the moment at least.

Tonight, I’ll put on my comfiest, raggediest sweater and curl up with a book and a bowl of cream of tomato soup. Usually, July’s scorching heat means I can’t enjoy warm comfort foods. Mmm, tommmmmmatoes and cream.

Today, I got to wear boots! Honest-to-goodness boots, waterproof and warm and up to my knee! My back loves it when I wear boots, and normally by July, I’m resigned to less comfortable sandals.

Thunderstorms! We love thunderstorms.

It’s good weather for cooking, for breadbaking, for making six pounds of wedding cookies, for standing by the kitchen sink gazing dreamily out the window while washing up.

I resolved to stop romanticizing my sun-starved self as a puny tomato seedling struggling to grow without sun, and start thinking of myself as a hydroponic tomato sustained and nurtured by the life-giving water.

(We’ll see how long this lasts.)

resolute

Several of my friends undertake penitent post-holiday resolutions (jog every morning! fit into my high school jeans! abstain from all liquor! elimate all unnecessary spending immediately!) for the New Year. And for some of them, this draconian approach proves fruitful.

Others become so disheartened by their failure to adhere to the near-impossible constraints they’ve established that they give up entirely, dive headlong into a vat of premium ice cream and bitter invective (ew — invective is sticky!), and wallow there until March.

I fall in the second camp. Accordingly, when I plan to better myself or my life, I establish goals more gradually and incorporate them into my life, and when I remember to make New Year’s resolutions, I make certain that I can achieve them. This year’s resolutions:

– find more occasions to drink champagne.*
– sing more. (Sorry, everyone.)
– eat more eclairs.

*I’ve already fulfilled the first; we attended a marvelous New Year’s brunch where the hosts urged mimosas on us again and again. I accommodated their demands to drink. I am nothing if not gracious in these matters.

update, for those who yearn to know: The Fella and I spent New Year’s Eve nursing our colds by lounging sedately in bed, him at the head reading and me flopped toward the foot watching season 1, disc 1, of House, M.D.. Then he clambered over to kiss me in the middle of an episode. Only after my gratifying response of “huh?” did I glance at the clock: exactly midnight.
He’s the romantic in this home. I’m just the beneficiary of it.

resolve

Early September. Ahhhhh. New England starts to shift into fall. Leaves turn crisp and so does the wind. Classrooms fill up again. I put away sandals and tank tops and unpack sweaters. Time for tea and pumpkin bread, not lemonade and bitching about the heat.

This sliver of a season has always resonated more for me than the forced festivity of New Year’s Eve, that desperate exclamation point at the end of the winter holidays.

In fact, it feels like the beginning of a new year. And so I’m making my September Resolutions.

Carry the camera more. Some time ago, Elli sent me her carry-around camera. Though I love it, and though I’ve used it quite a bit, I haven’t developed the habit of carrying it around so I can snap anything that strikes my fancy. I’m still stuck in the 20th century mindset, where every shot costs an inch of film rather than a eensy sliver of memory.

Start uploading to Flickr. I have two photos. More would be better.

Write letters. Paper letters! Really!

This year, actually get the handmade Christmas presents made before December 20th.

Get fit. A bit. A bit fit. I’ve been vigilantly working my physical therapy routine, but I’m still too big for my britches, and that’s no good.

Spend less time online. (Sob. I know you’ll miss me.)

Get back into my breadbaking routine: twice a week every week.

Write more. I’m working on a cookbook, and I feel some other work burbling away in my brainpan, if only I would let it bubble out.

Throw a tea party, with fancy china cups and tiny teacakes and fruit and wafer-thin sandwiches. No, have one. It’s wafer-thin.