journal

2019
  • Notes from a Clamshell Path | No. 25

    March can really jerk you around. Not only did we have to adjust to Daylight Savings Time (seriously, just leave the time alone!), but we had Mercury Retrograde almost the ENTIRE month! And we had a full moon and the spring equinox on the same day. I also celebrated a birthday and now I only have TWO YEARS to plan my Blow-out Jubilee (title in progress.) The snow and cold came in like a lion, too. But now it's all lamb-y and I am super happy. It's also the time of year when my calendar starts to fill up with the word "opening!" And, tomorrow, we are off to JAMAICA! Spring energy is flowing!


    Thinking About:

    • Injustice. I am doing all I can not to brood. I believe in karma. A person cannot put that much negativity into the world and not have it come back at them. I just want it to happen in this lifetime so I can witness it. Learning to live with the possibility that this won't happen is a goddamn struggle.

    • Being a Pisces during Pisces season. Us Pisces are super emotional and spongy so when we're in our own season and everyone else is also feeling emotional, the effect is amplified. My colleagues used to call me "The Onion" at work because people would cry in my office all the time. There were terrible, painful cries like the man who burst into tears, covered his face with both hands, and wailed that he had disgraced his religion, ancestors, his entire country! (The thought bubble over my head read: "Fuuuuucccckkkkk.") Best thing to do during Pisces season is to hide as best you can (and maybe not hang out with me.) To my fellow suffering fish, hope you made it through another one unscathed!

    Thankful For:

    • Distractions. I am so grateful to be fortunate enough to travel to Jamaica tomorrow for vacation but also to have spent this week packing and getting ready instead of wringing my hands and sighing deeply all day. Also, grateful for Paddington and Paddington 2which I watched the day after the report was submitted, but before that stupid Barr memo came out. And for the crispy rice The Super Mr. made me and the hearty walk on the beach we took with Stephen that weekend.


    Watching:

    • Shrill. That first sequence of scenes where she is wearing silver shoes and is loving on her dog and then pulls her shirt over her knees to stretch it out stopped me in my tracks. Oh my God, SHE IS ME! So many familiar moments in this short six-episode series cut right to my heart. ALSO! This article about how they had to make or alter most of her clothes because they couldn't find stylish plus-size clothes for her! 

    • True Detective, Season 3. I had no intention of watching this one, but I kept reading that it was good. There are three timelines that phase into each other abruptly so be ready to adjust to that. The storyline is disturbing, but the ending is just right!

    • Three really good action series where you learn something about the world. Jack Ryan. It took us a while to get through this because it is so stressful. We were deeply involved in caring about the fate of several of the characters. Also, Carlton Cuse directed this! The Widow. I love the way this show reveals it's secrets. The ending was a bit white messiah-ish, though. Secret City. Both seasons of this Australian political intrigue show will pull you in. 

    • End Game. Grab a huge box of tissues before you press play. This Oscar-nominated short (it's less than an hour long) follows several people at the end of their lives and the different paths they choose for hospice. I'm a fan of the Zen Hospice Project, which is featured.

    Creating:

    • Rediscovering my lists in the li.st archive. I used to publish a "20 Things I Googled This Week" list, which was really a precursor to Notes. Inspired, I've decided to resurrect a monthly list in this section. 

      I recently saw a thread on Twitter about imagining a college do-over -- you get to do the same four years again, but knowing what you know now. Here's my first "List of the Month":

      What I Would Do Differently If I Went Back to College Now:
      1) major in environmental science/biology instead of art history and SAVE THE WORLD
      2) study abroad junior year, on an island, scuba diving
      3) avoid a small handful of people who individually brought me nothing but grief 
      4) not be the rush chair for my sorority senior year
      5) mend my relationship with Sarah a lot earlier (didn't happen until I moved to Boston)  -- she died almost eight years ago now of ovarian cancer
      6) cultivate friendships with a few people who turned out to be my kind of people
      7) avoid fraternities and encourage two of my friends to report things that happened to them there
      8) talk over the boys in class 
      9) be better prepared and have better outfits for the Tri Delta National Convention in Palm Desert (boy, was that eye opening in a which-one-is-not like-the-others kind of way)
      10) be better about my vegetarian phase (or rather my cereal and pasta phase)

      What would you guys do differently? It's a fun exercise and can really help you see how you've changed and what you value now.

    Reading:

    • City and regional magazine newsletters. I started following Texas Monthly after reading several interesting stories about the border wall and about Beto. From there, it expanded to San Diego (Claudette from Top Chef  looks different! and she has a James Beard award nomination), Sarasota (mid-century modern architecture and J. McLaughlin), Portland, Oregon, (for 20 years, "float fairies" have hidden glass-blown floats along the beaches of Lincoln City for people to find!), Chicago (even with a Tiger Woods golf course, Obama's Presidential Center is creating a few concerns about it's impact on the South Side), Charleston (meet the Crabbin' Queen!). I've been drawn into the local stories and have been learning about what it is like in Toronto (super high rents!) and the controversy around Drag Queen Story Time in Houston.

    • This month's reading list. I've done a bit better this month and got through two books: How To Be a Good Creature (I sobbed the entire way through the book, see Hygge-ing section), and When My Brother Was an Aztec, a book of poetry that I had started awhile ago. It left me both amazed at what a person can do with language and pained by the content (much of it is inspired by her brother's drug addiction.)


    Listening:

    • The Dropout podcast. Let's just talk about the best person in this whole thing, the professor of medicine from Stanford who was all BITCH, PLEASE! from Day One! Girlfriend was not fooled by Elizabeth's intense commitment to Gatsby-like deception! I also watched the 20/20 special and The Inventor, the HBO documentary. It was WAY too much Elizabeth, so just pick one and skip the rest. 

    • Iditapod podcast. You guys! I know I mentioned Blair Bravermann and her #uglydogs before, but I had no idea how emotional I would be when she crossed the finish line with the dogs I had come to know through Twitter. And I followed along through the Iditapod podcast the whole time. Also, huge hugs to the dogs who refused to move after the musher yelled at one of them (He lost a five-hour lead because of it. If only this would happen to all the screamy people in the world.) 

    • Mile Marker 181 podcast. A young woman was killed in a single car crash in the most horrific way ... or was she murdered by her friend? Yes, the Lifetime movie plot drew me in, but I found the investigator/narrator's style and earnestness with which she pursues answers for the family to be the real hook here. 

    • Podcast episodes:
      -"What Happened to Lindsey Graham?" episode of The Daily. I was surprised by this take on crazy Lindsey's sharp veer off the cliff.
      -"Why Didn't Mueller Decide on Obstruction?" episode of The Daily. Still not sure. Give us that report!

    • The Eurovision 2019 songs! All the countries have released their songs for May's competition and I have started culling through them for the gems! I like the dance-y songs with catchy choruses and/or a satisfying drop. So far, here are a few that I like: "Say Na Na Na" from San Marino (um, where???). "La Venda" from Spain. "Chameleon" from Malta.

    • RavenKis' version of "Rollercoaster" and Tame Impala's "Patience." I added both to my Poolside Mix. Because I'm gonna be POOLSIDE in 24 hours!

    • GMA changed their morning song. Someone over there must have read my last post about how GMA's song is all terrifying because they CHANGED IT! Now it's mostly cymbals crashing while the "G" moves dramatically around the screen.


    Eating + Drinking:

    • Bread broth recipe. This is so ridiculously simple and I eat it at least once a week for lunch. Using grapeseed oil or avocado oil, sauté some garlic (I use lots and often cheat by using the stuff in a jar). Add a drained can of Northern white beans (Trader Joe's has good ones). Fry until crispy but not burnt. Toast some thick, hearty whole grain bread. Heat up the chicken broth. Place the toasted bread in a shallow bowl, pour the heated broth over it and top with a generous helping of the white bean and garlic mixture. Eat with a salad and you have a balanced quick and easy lunch! Tip: I make the beans ahead of time and use them in several recipes during the week.

    • Malt vinegar POWDER. Did you know it comes in powder form? Try it on green beans. 

    • Roasted buffalo chickpea bowls. You can make just the chickpeas, sprinkle them with blue cheese crumbles, and eat along with baby carrot sticks for an easy and tasty snack. I don't add the butter to the buffalo sauce -- extra calories no one needs!


    Learning:

    • 16 Personalities. I am a huge fan of the MBTI. (INFJ here.) This is one of the best sites I've found for discovering and learning about your personality type. They add a fifth component, Identity, which is either assertive (A) or turbulent (T). I'm an A. The free materials are really terrific and every now and then I'll get an email them on a certain topic for my type. The most recent was "The Problem with Mind Reading," which my type is pretty good at.

    • Recycling bottles with the caps ON. First they told us to take them off, now you are supposed to leave them on! And not crushing cans before you place them in the recycling. We've been doing this single stream recycling thing all wrong apparently. Here is a good guide in case you want to make sure more of your stuff actually gets recycled and doesn't just get thrown in with the rest of the trash because you messed it all up!

    • The New York Times copy editing quizzes. These are challenging, but in a good way!


    Hygge
    -ing:

    • I spent my entire birthday just reading. It was glorious and I highly recommend finding a day when you commit to only doing that. Here's just one of so many passages from Sy Montgomery's book that wrapped me in a warm hug: 

      "Being friends with an octopus -- whatever that friendship meant to her -- has shown me that our world, and the worlds around and within it, is aflame with shades of brilliance we cannot fathom -- and is far more vibrant, far more holy, then we could ever imagine."

    Loving:

    • Wobble cushion. Working my core muscles is a key component of managing my back pain (and preventing it from returning.) I sit on this when I'm at a desk or kitchen chair and often stand on it when I'm working in the kitchen. Every little bit helps!

    • Murder She Drank: a bingo drinking game. Right? Once a month you can participate online, but I think it is the perfect activity for a bunch of friends on a rainy afternoon! Lots of bingo cards are available on the site. (Bonus: this reggae song was on repeat at one of the resorts we visited in Jamaica. The Super Mr. and I couldn't stop singing "Muuurder she wrote. Muuuuurrder she wrote.")

    • Bird saver stickers. Unfortunately one of the unpleasant parts of putting up a bird feeder is the random bird strikes on our windows (so far, no fatalities, thank goodness!) We put up these very cool UV stickers that look clear to us but are bright to the birds (because they have magic eyes and can see colors we can't!)

    • This eyeball test. Ok, FINE! I got most of them wrong. I thought they were all sloths.


    Eliminating:

    • Marie Kondo for Twitter. This site will have you go through each one of your Twitter follows individually, show you their latest tweets while removing the bio information, and ask you if they are still meaningful to you. I eliminated 122. I wish there was one for Instagram because that has gotten out of hand!

      ALSO! I muted "Trump" and "Mueller" on my Twitter feed for 24 hours and, boy, what a difference it made. All the good stuff was able to rise to the top and not be suffocated by the vileness. It was so good that I made it a permanent change. 

    • I cut three inches off my hair. Friends, I hadn't gotten my hair cut in almost a year! My hair stylist moved salons and, while Orleans is only about 40 minutes away, it was just too much of a pain. Anyway, Ptown has quite a few salons and I found one that is off the main drag, has parking, and is super chill. Hooray!


    Expanding:

    • "You Can Achieve Anything If You Focus on ONE Thing." Sometimes I can't believe how many things I used to juggle when we lived in the city. But ask me what I actually achieved. I'm not sure I could name much of anything in the last ten years we were there. I was just doing lots of stuff and ticking boxes, I guess. So when I read this approach to single-tasking, I thought I'd like to try it. 


    Planning + Organizing:

    • Post-winter activities. I just created a "Spring" on the Cape Pinterest board with things I want to do before summer arrives. There are lots of flowers and food and nature trails and local trips on it. (Spring is in quotes because we don't really have a spring here. It's not quite winter, but not quite the spring I grew up with either.)

    • Apartment Therapy has a spring cleaning project email-a-day series that you can sign up for here. It starts April 1!


    Fur Mama-ing:


    Health-ing:

    • "Nearly all Americans fail to eat enough of this actual superfood." Curious what that superfood is? FIBER. "Fiber is the closest thing we have to a true superfood  Eating a fiber-rich diet is associated with better gastrointestinal health and a reduced risk of heart attacks, strokes, high cholesterol, obesity, type 2 diabetes, even some cancers" And it's really EASY to add to your diet! Popcorn!

    • "Why do we need sleep? Israeli scientists solve the mystery." Turns out it's the only time our cells can repair damaged DNA. Before reading this I never considered that one night of bad sleep could lead to disease. Especially when your DNA repairing mechanisms are working at half speed, it makes getting a good night's sleep every single night even more important. Sleep is so magical! 


    Traveling:


    Extra Credit:

    • "How I Lost My Legs and Gained ... You Want Me to Say Something Inspiring Here." After reading this, I HAD to solve the mystery of how she lost her legs. She's very squishy on the details. She mentions how awful the accident was, says she doesn't remember it, describes other people's reactions when she tells them what happened, and shares that maybe she was at fault. I found her fantastic writing on Medium, checked her Instagram and Twitter, and Googled her. The Miss Nancy Drew in me put it all together and found this. Her story hasn't left my brain since.

    • "The Hills Are Alive." The first time I saw Laguna Beach, I was hiding in the one room that had AC in our apartment on Irving Street and was gobsmacked (also furious) that teenagers lived like that. This Vogue multi-media presentation is a masterpiece!

    • "Life, Death, and PTSD as a Ranger in the Tetons." Warning: this is disturbing. We all need to be aware of the cost of making risky choices, especially when someone else has to come rescue us. 

    • "The 'Top Chef' judges never ate Eric Adjepong's final meal. This is what it tastes like." We were routing for Eric for most of the show (although it took us longer than usual to pick our favorites this past season) and were totally disappointed when he didn't make the final. Glad he has so much success coming to him anyway!
       
    • "Revisited: Watson and the Shark." We had an art history book in our home library and I was OBSESSED with this painting. I would stare at it all the time, wondering what was going to happen to that poor person (my young mind was confused whether it was a girl or a boy) in the water. Seems I'm not the only one who had this obsession.

    • "Welcome to Birdpunk: A Subculture of a Subculture."  I like birds because they are cute, little creatures that come in all sorts of colors, sing their hearts out, have magic eyes, and can fly. Plus, they used to be DINOSAURS. That's as punk rock as it gets.


    Thank you all once again for reading! I'll be stuffing my face with fresh papaya and floating around in the Caribbean Sea looking for starfish next week. And I'll be sharing a bonus Jamaica post next month in addition to the regular Notes from a Clamshell Path. Get out there and enjoy the "spring," everyone!

     

     

  • Notes from a Clamshell Path | No. 24

    February is probably my least favorite month of the year -- fully winter, pretty empty in town, and a bit too far away from vacation and summer. But this year, snow came very late for us out here and I was thinking I could totally do winter if it was mildish and snow-free. You know, like fall. The Super Mr. and I have even managed to take advantage of the tolerable weather and get in some up Cape excursions. But as a seasoned New Englander and wicked superstitious person, I know we're never really safe from the winter storms until May so I will not make any grand proclamations about this being a mild winter until I am wearing flip flips again on a regular basis.

    Thinking About:

    • How to handle impending doom (I promise this is positive. Ish.) It's clear that my natural hermitting and prepper instincts can only go so far to provide protection from the growing list of things that keep me up at night: our town drowning as the sea-level rises; the possibility that we will never know what is in the Mueller Report; the Trump Crime Family and Devious Associates, LLC never paying for all their corruption and cruelty; karma not catching up with Mitch McConnell in this lifetime and me not being able to wear my sequined Ding-Dong-the-Bitch-Got-Hers celebratory costume (see also: my 'When It All Goes Down" Pinterest board.)

      I've tried blocking it all out. Doesn't work. One little piece of news will filter in and I'm agitated and stuffing cheese puffs in my mouth while muttering swear words and spewing orange dust as I stomp around the house.

      Now I'm working a new angle. I'm focusing on very, very tiny things. Like keeping my plants alive. Filling the birdfeeders. Spoiling my dog. Picking up trash on the beach. Moving my disco balls around the house so the sun hits them. Planning a bee-, insect-, bird-friendly sanctuary around our house. Eating my vegetables. 

      The world will rage on -- whether I rage with it or not. But you can definitely count on me when it's time to take it to the streets. I'll be the one wearing the spectacular outfit.

    Thankful For:

    • A few warm days in February. I was so grateful for the spring-like days we had earlier this month. It gave me just the boost I needed to remember how nice it is to be able to walk around without a ton of extra clothing and how hopeful everything feels. We barely have spring here and I do miss it -- I grew up in Pennsyltucky and everything bloomed around mid-March. Winter lasts until May here.

    Watching:

    • Obama's list of favorite movies from 2018. I've been working my way through his recommendations and it has been refreshing. So far I have watched: Annihilation, Black Panther, Minding the Gap, Support the Girls, Eighth Grade, and Leave No Trace. My favorites have been Eighth Grade (I think we can all agree that, as human beings, this is our collective worst year ever) and Leave No Trace (such a sensitive handling of the issue of veterans and mental health and the choice to live off the grid. Also, if you are curious about the story that inspired the film, read this.) And you can go to Just Watch or use the app to figure out where to stream any movie.

    • Fortitude. I seem to be on a Arctic-ish setting, dark mystery kick lately. The first season of Fortitude is really special -- so unique in plot, mood, and setting. Plus you get Dumbledore AND Stanley Tucci. It's a bit on the gruesome side and very, very dark. Watch season 2 if you want to see where the story goes from there but be ready for some super gross stuff. I hear season three is airing in the UK now so it won't be long until we see the end of this bloody thing.

    • Castle Rock. Another dark mystery (Stephen King-style), but pretty rewarding in the very end. I was super conflicted and a bit confused until the very last second of the show. There's a bonus mid-credits scene, by the way. Also, I still miss Stephen King's Entertainment Weekly column.

    • Russian Doll. Clever, clever, clever!!! I laughed every single time she died and woke up swearing. Death No. 8 is my favorite -- I HOWLED! Also trying to work "ipso facto" into my regular conversations.

    • Abducted in Plain Sight. You may have to watch this one a little at a time and you may not make it through the whole thing. I know these people were being targeted by a master manipulator, but seriously! 

    • The ABC Murders. John Malkovich plays Hercule Poirot. It's a bit icky but nice and twisty in the best Agatha Christie way.

    • Bonus: I noticed Harper's Island  is on Amazon Prime! If you missed it, it was THE highlight of summer 2009 TV viewing (in a Scream, the MTV show, kind of way.) Definitely worth a revisit.

    Creating:

    • Accessories for our Jamaica trip. Ever since I got in trouble at my first grade birthday party for telling my friend Tracey that I didn't like the necklace and ring set she bought me (apparently honesty is not the best policy), I've been rejecting normal jewelry. I rarely wear it but when I do, I go big. The more Wilma Flintstone-sized, the better. And I finally realized I could just make my own.

    Reading:

    • Progress on my reading list. I definitely lost some momentum with my 30 pages a day habit but I did finish a book I started twice before, An Embarrassment of Mangoes. A couple quits their jobs to sail around the Caribbean. There are recipes at the end of each chapter and I love vivid descriptions of the islands -- some familiar to me, some not --they visit. 

    • The Disaster Baking newsletter. Based on this excerpt alone, I am CERTAIN she and I would be best friends: "How about, like, one piece of good news? One shred. Because I have 52 tabs open at the moment and four of them are about crimes and three of them are different Everlane sweaters that all look like ones I own and six of them are research so that I can formulate a clever, but informed response to this MSNBC tweet that quotes Vice President Mike Pence who has decided to pontificate about antisemitism." And she ends each one with a recipe, like chocolate chunk tahini banana bread.

    • Hula Seventy, OG blogger, is posting again. She never truly stopped, but she is now posting one list every single day and they are SO great, like "words and phrases recently heard while watching british period films that I'd very much like to work into my own vernacular" and "seen on my walk this afternoon."

    Listening:

    • TOKiMONSTA's Lune Rouge. Her masterpiece -- which she wrote after having brain surgery -- is only 40 minutes long. Her unique sound combinations just grab me. "I Wish I Could" is my favorite song in the collection.

    • Anjunadeep 10. I was surprised by how mellow (bordering on snoozy) this latest Anjunadeep collections starts out. It's no competition for my favorite compilation in the series, Anjunadeep 02.

    • Podcast episodes:
      -The "What Motivates Mitch McConnell?" episode of The Daily. Grab yourself a two finger pour before you press play on this. 
      -The "Playing Through the Pain" episode of Gladiator is jaw-dropping. So many ethical issues with the NFL, which is why we stopped watching it in our house several years ago.

    • The Investigation podcast. I'm trying very hard to find ways of consuming the news through a buffer (which means, after the fact and usually in writing.) This new podcast from ABC News about the Mueller investigation is bordering on sensational but it is definitely better than watching the news or reading Twitter. 

    • Good Morning America  vs. CBS This Morning theme songs. I recently shared that I had switched from Good Morning America to CBS This Morning. I noticed a huge difference in how I felt based solely on their theme songs. GMA's is all "urgent!, urgent!, you are in danger!, and this is exciting!, you must pay attention!" and CBS's is more "stuff is happening, but don't worry, you are fine, and it's going to be ok." 

    Eating + Drinking:

    • Adventures in cruciferous vegetable eating. At my last session with my nutritionist, I reluctantly set a goal of eating cruciferous vegetables (BLECH!). Not only do I dislike the taste, but I also find the texture entirely unappealing. SO, she said I can do whatever I need to do to them to see if I can eat them without gagging.

      So far I've fried the hell out of cauliflower rice, made salty kale chips, ate Portuguese kale soup, tried bok choy in an Asian recipe The Super Mr. made for us, added arugula (YES, it is a cruciferous vegetable!) to my salads, and enjoyed a kale pesto pizza with a cauliflower pizza crust. Next up: Brussels sprouts chips. And this article, "How to Stop Hating Your Least Favorite Food" is amusing.

    • Kale pesto cauliflower crust pizza with pistachios and local honey. So far, this has been my favorite cruciferous vegetable meal.

      Here's the recipe: I use Trader Joe's cauliflower pizza crust. Bake it according to the instructions on the box (skip the optional additional broiling time for the crust). Spread a few scoops of Trader Joe's kale, cashew, and basil pesto on to the pizza crust. Add tiny balls of fresh mozzarella (or torn up pieces if you can't find the pearls). Fill in the gaps with Romano, Parmesan, or Asiago cheese. Broil for 4-5 minutes. Sprinkle top with crushed pistachios (the smaller the pieces, the better), drizzle with local honey. Tear up pieces of basil and sprinkle liberally. Slice and serve. Reheats well, too!

    • Trader Joe's instant unsweetened oatmeal. Oatmeal can be pretty mushy but this one has all sorts of other grains in it, making for a crunchier bite. I like a slightly savory oatmeal so I've been adding ricotta, black pepper, and olive oil plus a few leaves of fresh spinach. It's also good with nut butter, dried cranberries and mandarins, and whatever nuts or seeds I have at the moment.

    Learning:

    • To type on my phone with both thumbs. GAH! Is this hard for everyone over the age of young? (I can see my niece rolling her eyes!)

    Hygge-ing:

    • Snow day! Yesterday we woke up to our first real snowfall of the year. Miss Tipper Marie, my moms' dog, was spending the day with us while they went up Cape for some appointments. It was so bright in our house and the flakes were big and fluffy. I turned on some Thievery Corporation and we snuggled -- one dog on either side of me -- while I finished editing this.

    Loving:

    • Panos on Lindsay Lohan's Beach Club. We all know who the queen bee is of this show, especially when he CLAP CLAPS to cut off any conversation he doesn't like. Also, I kinda like LiLo's "Bossy" song.

    • My new giant glitter snow globe. Urban Outfitters was offering 50% off items already on sale one day and I scooped this up for $15! It's now sitting on our coffee table. I also bought this light-up glittery snow globe for $5.

    Eliminating:

    • Cable channels. We've been talking for ages about going streaming only. This past month we did a total comparison of our current cable package and streaming options. In the end, we just downgraded our cable (after a lot of conversations and hard sell tactics from them -- thank you, Super Mr., for taking that on!) and are saving a good amount of money. 

    • The Walking Dead. I KNOW!! You are shocked. My all-time binge record is watching four seasons of this show in four days -- 40 episodes in total, 10 a day! But, all good things come to an end and, since Michonne is leaving the show, I'm out.

    Expanding:

    Planning + Organizing:

    • What to do with your leftover plastic straws now that you use your reusable stainless steel ones. Ladies, do your necklaces get tangled? Put one end through the straw and reclose the clasp. Works like a charm and you can easily cut the straws to size. Keeps them separate when you travel, too!

    Fur Mama-ing:

    • Brushing Stephen's teeth. My vet has always strongly advised that we take care of Stephen's teeth. He gets a greenie a day and we've been working hard on brushing his teeth almost daily. It's important to use special toothpaste (the kind people use can be dangerous to them). We use this London Broil-flavored version. For tips on how to brush your dog's teeth, read this.

    • "Would your dog be happier with a second dog?" I often think Stephen would like a buddy but I'm also not sure how happy he'd be sharing our attention. This article has some great guidelines if you decide to expand the family.

    • Leaning how to use the Heimlich maneuver on dogs. I'm truly a Dog Mama AF and worry about all the things that could happen to Stephen. I printed this out and put it on the frig (along with the emergency number for the vet.)

    Health-ing:

    • It's really important to get on the floor. I recently read this article about how important squatting is. "Test subjects who showed difficulty getting up off the floor without support of hands, or an elbow, or leg (what’s called the “sitting-rising test”) resulted in a three-year-shorter life expectancy than subjects who got up with ease."

    • What doctors really mean when they say your condition is "treatable." A recent study found that when patients hear the word "treatable" they think it means "curable." But when doctors use the word, they are often telling you that your condition is uncurable, but there is a treatment for it. That treatment may not be successful. GEEZ! This article has a list of questions, like "what is the goal of this treatment?," to ask if you are ever in this situation.

    Traveling:

    • Shopping my closet. Not sure if you've been around here long enough to remember my resorting tips series (you can read them all here). I am a bit obsessive when it comes to what I wear on vacation. Currently in my closet and drawers there are enough swimsuits, caftans, pareos, and outfits for me to go away for over a month (maybe even two) and never wear the same thing twice. YET! I want ALL NEW THINGS!

    • Avoiding ciguatera poisoning. I would like to thank Mark Bittman for bringing yet another thing for me to worry about to my life. Eating large reef fish -- like RED SNAPPER -- can cause an illness with long-term neurological impacts. Also, here is a very useful guide to eating fish in Jamaica.

    • Travel insurance. Do you buy travel insurance? We used to skip it. But, ever since I injured my back, we buy it as soon as we book our trip (so that I can get the pre-existing condition waver! Did you know about that?? You usually have a 14-21 day period to buy after you book your trip.) And, if you are a frequent traveler, you can buy an annual plan.

    • Caribbean airport amenities. We are about to go on our 8th trip to Jamaica and we are avid users of their VIP arrival and departure service, Club Mobay. If you've ever stood in a humid, non-airconditioned line with the passengers from six other flights that just landed, you know how valuable it is to get through immigration quickly. Club Mobay takes you past the lines (both coming and going) and has a comfortable lounge with free wifi and snacks. AND, turn out these other airports have similar-ish options (definitely checking out that pool at the Punta Cana airport next time!)

    • "The Ultimate Cheat Sheet for All-inclusive Brands." We almost always go the AI route for ease and value, but they are certainly not all the same. If you are interested in going that route, this is a great resource for figuring out which one fits your needs. We've stayed at resorts in six of the brands listed and can attest the information is accurate.


    Extra Credit:

    • "A Suspense Novelist's Trail of Deceptions." Everyone loves a Gatsby story!

    • "A Personal Choice: The Reason I am Getting a Preventative Double Mastectomy" by Nina Garcia. “So sorry you have to endure this upcoming TEMPORARY Hades, but I will be your tits fairy! You WILL get through this and you’ll actually discover lots of new things—new shows, books, and people who demonstrate they are your truest friends."

    • "The Lonely Life of a Yacht Influencer." As an avid fan of Below Deck, this did not surprise me at all. 

    • "What's Next for New Yorker Report Jane Mayer?" "In the early ’90s, she returned from a reporting trip to discover that the lawyer she’d been living with had taken up with her 'polar opposite,' Laura Ingraham, now a Fox News host. The new couple refused to return Mayer’s dog, so one day, when they weren’t home, she and [Jill] Abramson drove over, and Mayer climbed through the pet door to retrieve it."

    • "In Search of Emiliano Sala." Yes, this is an ESPN article. It is very sad, but it's also quite beautiful: "He loved Carquefou, loved the quiet and the quaintness and the charm. He loved the farm behind his house, where his rescue dog, Nala, ran off the leash, skipping among ducks and chickens and cows, including a pair named Prune and Pomponette. He loved the small vineyard, just across the road, where they make Muscadet wine and he could walk with Nala among the grapes." Sigh, Nala and Prune and Pomponette!!

    Thanks again for reading! If you enjoyed this month's content, consider sending me a metaphorical coffee. Next post will be on April 1, which I will prepare for you in advance since I'll be in Jamaica sipping my fruity cocktails.

     



  • Notes from a Clamshell Path | No. 23

    January is an epic milestone month of new beginnings for me and I've been reflecting a lot in the darkness of these days. Four years ago, we moved here just before a series of major blizzards. Life has changed in drastic ways since then and I share my thoughts on that later in this post. 

    And this week, I marked a full year since my surgery. While my brain remembers nothing of the experience -- except the before and after -- I am certain my body does. Anxiety has been bubbling at the edges for weeks as the anniversary approached and I have needed long stretches of nothingness -- of staring out the window at the trees, walking on the beach with the wind stinging my face, and hiding under the covers for hours. I know this will pass as we move away from this date, but for now I'm swaddling myself with stillness and quiet.

    ********************

    In my last post, I promised to share a publishing schedule for 2019. I should confess that I considered turning this into a subscription-only newsletter. After much thought, I am keeping it the way it is and embracing the "back to the blog movement." 

    Two ways you can support my efforts: 1) click on and buy from my Amazon affiliate links. I get a few dollars here and there from that, possibly enough to cover some of the cost of maintaining the site. (PLEASE NOTE: I only recommend products I have bought myself, used, AND feel strongly about their quality and usefulness), or 2) if you like what you read and/or hate Amazon, I've set up a Ko-fi page that works like a virtual tip jar. Check it out here! Thank you so much for your support!

    With that, here's the 2019 schedule:

    Notes from a Clamshell Path (in its regular format) will be posted on the first day of each month. I'll also be adding special postings around specific topics (like finally getting around to fleshing out the Chronic Pain Library, sharing new editions of my used-to-be-popular travel posts, and adding a whole new Cape Cod insiders section.) 

    ********************

    Thinking About:

    • The changes in my life after four years in Provincetown. Often and weirdly, it's hard for me to remember what life was like in Boston. Twenty years is a long time, yet I have only a short list of things I really miss from the city -- my neighborhood nail salon, crab rangoons, someone else shoveling the snow, and the 10-minute cab drive to and from the airport.

      And since then:

      I stopped dying my hair, wearing makeup, and discarded all my Spanx. I have dress sneakers, beach walking sneakers, and everyday sneakers. I recognize the nuances of the seasons by the order in which the flora blooms: from wisteria in the spring through to the Montauk daisies in the fall. I can often tell where the tide is by a quick glance at the harbor.

      I have three weather apps, a tide app, a shark tracking app, and the hunting seasons marked clearly in my calendar (so Stephen and I don't get shot!). I own a balaclava and ice traction grips for my shoes. I have fisherman-grade water shoes and a shellfishing license. I know the difference between a bearberry and a cranberry and where to find them in the dunes. I can identify some animal tracks in the sand and the snow -- although this is forever a work in progress.

      I know where to get local honey and freshly grown sunflowers at the farmstands on the back roads of the Outer Cape. I have spare flip flops, safety orange vests, an extra long leash, towels, and a shovel in the back of my car at all times, year round. I carry a laminated townie pass to Tea Dance and a Provincetown Public Library card in my wallet.

      I schedule my days around the weather, the tides, and when the sun sets and rarely look at the clock anymore. I know when there's one turkey in the road, there are at least ten more behind it. I know coyote deterrent strategies. And I know what the fox says, in the middle of the night when she's calling to her babies.

      Everything I own has a spattering of sand (and/or glitter) on it. My two most-used pieces of equipment are my cordless leaf blower and my hot glue gun. Treasures from our walks are scattered on every horizontal surface in our home. I have a storm prep list posted on the frig and I am perennially prepared for a weather emergency. I now have not one, but two, large costume boxes and a closet full of sequins -- name the theme, she ready.

      My life has contracted down to the essentials, but it has expanded in ways I never thought would be so meaningful. And even though I prefer to linger at the fringes, I am proud to be a member of this small, hardy, determined group out here on this narrow sandbar. More often than not, I am deeply content.

    • Mary Oliver. I cried when I read that she had died. Mary Oliver IS Provincetown in many ways. ("After winning the Pulitzer, she worried she might not be able to go to the town dump to get firewood.") In honor of Mary Oliver and her walks on this land, I'm taking steps this year to conquer my fear of being in the woods by myself. (I'm fine when I am with other people and/or with Stephen and totally comfortable in open landscapes, like the dunes or the beach.) 

    Thankful For:
    • A fairly open calendar. Last year I had at least one medical appointment almost every week for six months straight. And then one every few weeks after that. I've returned to only annual exams from this point forward and I cannot tell you how good that feels! 

    Watching:

    • The Looming Tower. No idea why I decided to end the year binging this stress-inducing series about the rivalry between the FBI and CIA leading up to 9/11 and how it may have kept us from preventing that attack. Warning: the last episode has real footage from that day. I watched it from the kitchen, as far from the TV as I could get.
    • Avicii: True Stories. It is extremely difficult to watch this film. I was struck by just how little control he seemed to have over his own life decisions. And when he finally did, he should have flourished. The most painful part is we know he didn't. 

    • Derry Girls. IT IS HILARIOUS!!! We watched it the same day there was an IRA bombing in the town where it takes place (London)Derry. I mean, really? Are we just going to do all the worst things over and over again? Tip: turn on the subtitles.

    • A Simple FavorSuch an entertaining film -- creepy but campy! That Anna Kendrick is definitely someone I'd be friends with. 

    • The Smiths' last live show. I was/am/will always be/Morrissey forever! a Smiths fan. I will liquidate my retirement account to pay for a ticket to see them should the impossible happen and they reunite for a reunion concert. Favorite song is at 27:10.

    Creating:

    • Winter bird resort for our feathery friends. It's really easy to get involved in birding on the Cape. Between the Bird Watchers General Store and the Massachusetts Audubon Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, you have all the tools and resources you need! We started with a small feeder that attaches to our side window and a squirrel-proof feeder that hangs on our deck where the disco ball goes in the summer. It's been wildly popular with the neighborhood birds!

    Reading:

    • 30 pages a day or 10,950 pages by the end of the year. After receiving an email telling me that I was in the top 1% of Pocket app article readers and the article pages I read last year were the EQUIVALENT of 48 BOOKS, I am now being WAY more selective with my article reading. Combining that with my new habit of reading at least 30 pages a day has resulted in me finishing three books already this year.

    • My 2019 Reading List. As promised, I published my reading list for the year on a separate page. I've also added a short list of books I want to listen to on Audible. There are a lot of Cape Cod, nature, animal, and Jamaica-themed books on it. You can check it out for inspiration here.

    Listening:

    • The Big One: Your Survival Guide podcast. Granted, I am as far away from California as one can get in this country, but I am (not-so) secretly a prepper. It is horrifying to hear how the earthquake will likely go down and I am translating the survival tips to our own dangers out here. Step one: put sneakers by your bed so you can quickly put them on should you need to flee unexpectedly in the middle of the night.
    • Podcast episodes:
      -Elizabeth Gilbert's The Moth episode about the death of her partner, Raya. You will cry and you will laugh and, most of all, you will remember why you loved Eat Pray Love so much. 

      -How To Survive the End of the World  episode, "Awww Shucks: How Do We Prepare for Climate Apocalypse?" Clearly there is a theme here. But assuming a climate apocalypse would require you to stay where you are (likely not the case for us as we would be UNDERWATER), how would you survive? Do you know how to grow or forage for food? Who in your community could you depend on? It is Walking Dead Season 3-level planning.
    • The Ravenclaw Common Room ambient sounds on Ambient Gradient app. The Super Mr. and I both were sorted into Ravenclaw and, thanks to someone's absolute brilliance, I can write this post while pretending I'm at Hogwarts. (I also like the Slytherin one, which sounds like you are underwater -- just turn off some of the jarring noises and you will feel like you are floating.)

    Eating + Drinking:

    • Nothing. Sweet Baby Jesus, do not make me eat one more cookie or cheesy casserole or bacon-sprinkled dish!! Those holidays did me IN! (Actually, this is a fib. I've been eating EVERY delicious thing The Super Mr. has been cooking up this winter.)

    Learning:

    • Nature classes. As an adult, I can only tolerate about an hour or two of "instruction" in a group setting. (Flashback to a cooking class I took in Cambridge when we went around the room to introduce ourselves, one woman READ A POEM she had written for the class. On day one. It was the most Cambridge experience I ever had.) However, if you add a live animal or nature in general to the mix, I turn into Hermione Granger. I am filling up my late winter and spring calendar with these types of learning experiences. 

    • The struggle to understand "Stan Twitter." I fell down a rabbit hole a few weeks ago after that whole hoo-ha with Paulie, Cara Maria, and Danielle came out. YES, I am still watching those damn Challenges. And, YES, I watched the live stories and listened to Reality Steve's podcasts. And, YES, I read all the Stan Twitter accounts about what was going on. I AM NOT PROUD OF IT.  I'm still not super clear how to use "stan" in a sentence, though. 

    Hygge-ing:

    • Crawling into bed around 4:30 pm every day to watch the sunset from under the covers. I cannot tell you how much joy this brings me -- something about the weight of the blankets and the warmth of the bed and all those pretty colors outside (we have the BEST winter sunsets out here!)

    Loving:

    • The peacock at Snug Harbor Farm. It's half peacock-colored and half white. But all mixed up. I can't stop looking it at! 

    • Plant lights. The Super Mr. calls them my weed lights. I was able to bring several of my summer container plants inside and am trying so very hard to nurture them through the winter. We have some really grey days out here and I am hoping these will fill in the gaps.

    • The Merlin Bird ID app from Cornell. I have my mother, an avid birder, to thank for this discovery! You can set the app to your exact location, pick a date of year ("today" is an option), and get a list of common birds you are likely to encounter. AND there are recordings of all the songs and callings the bird makes!

    • The Hay Bullet Pen. I bought one of these at my church, also known as the McNally Jackson pen store in NYC. It's shiny, writes smoothly, is sleek, and feels great to write with. Mine is also bright metallic green. And it's #9 on The Strategist's 100 Best Pens list.

    Eliminating:

    • Savagely purging my digital intake backlog. At the end of the year, I cleared out most of the things I had saved in DVR (except Bourdain and a select number of House Hunters International), got rid of anything in my Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime watchlists that I would likely never watch (goodbye Oscar-nominated shorts from 2016!), trimmed my saved items in Feedly down to less than ten, and cleared a backlog of articles in my Pocket app. I also edited my Overcast podcast player and unfollowed at least 100 accounts on both Twitter and Instagram. NO ONE NEEDS A CONSTANT REMINDER OF ALL THINGS YOU WILL NEVER DO. Purge away, my friends!

    • White sage bundles. Did you know that white sage is a protected plant?? Best to steer clear of those smudge sticks and burn something else instead. The Good Place is right -- you can't do anything good without doing a million things bad at the same time.

    Expanding:

    • I just bought a fire ladder. I have no idea where to put it, though. Do I store it in one of the two rooms where we would need to use it? Do I put in the closet next to my escape sneakers because we can take it where we need to should there be a fire while we are sleeping? And don't think I haven't figured out how to get Stephen down it. I'm currently speccing a backpack to carry him.

    Planning + Organizing:

    • My 2019 Plan. My overall goal for the year is to be more purposeful in how I use my time. I mentioned in my last post that I have a million things on my to do list for the year. Most are things I have put off doing for some time and now I need to get cracking!

      My system this year is NOT simple and involves daily work in the Many Moons planner, a super comprehensive Trello board named "Life" that I have been developing for about five years, and a new two-page weekly To Do Sheet that includes:
         -my quote for the year
         -my 2019 themes (like cancer prevention and debt reduction)
         -my monthly goals (like getting the car detailed)
         -my daily questions (which I mentioned in my last post), and
         -my areas of daily focus (like nourish, meditate, earn, read, write, etc.)

      It is a bit of a beast but I have learned that in order to keep things top of mind I need to SEE it all. Just taking 20 minutes in the morning to remind myself of what I want to make room for in my life has been super useful!

    • I've been working on the January Cure from Apartment Therapy. Happy to report that I have tackled most of the assignments so far and the china cabinet and utensil drawer have been cleaned out and organized, I have an ever-filling box in the laundry room of stuff that we'll donate or get rid of, and a project plan to make the office easier to switch over to a guest room. You can start anytime but you may want to go in and print out the assignments because they go away at some point. Note: the premise is small actions add up and you don't have to go all Kondo on your home.

    Fur Mama-ing:

    Health-ing:

    Traveling: 
    Welcome to a new section! Much of Juniper Disco over the years has been about traveling to warm places. I'm adding this new space to share with you some of my tips and things I discover.

    • Compression bags. We recently bought a new suitcase that I SWEAR was listed as the same size as the one we had. It is WAY smaller! We've taken two trips with it so far and I've managed fairly well with it. However, Jamaica is coming up soon and I tend to bring a lot of outfits with me. Luckily, I found these compression bags that you can stuff to the gills and then zip them up to compress everything. 

    • "How to Pack Like a Doctor." Luckily, I've never gotten horribly sick on a trip so far, but I do go prepared. Unlike this doctor, I buy small travel size versions and leave everything in the box unopened (just in case the country you are traveling to has some questions!). And remember to leave products that contain stimulants (medicines that contain pseudoephedrine, such as Actifed, Sudafed, and Vicks inhalers) or codeine at home if you are traveling to Mexico -- it's illegal to bring them into the country!

    Extra Credit:

    Once again, thank you so much for reading! See you back here in a few weeks! This is a short month. Make the most of it!