Monthly Archives: November 2017

November Memories, December Goals

My “autumnal tableau.” Also pictured: YouTube fireplace.

November was a quiet, thoughtful month for me. Autumn finally arrived to the mid-Atlantic region and I love driving among all the yellow, red, and orange leaves.

I’ve written down some November memories below.

The Good:

  • A family member’s surgery went well.
  • We hosted family and friends at our house for a relaxing Thanksgiving weekend.
  • Lots of reading and writing.
  • We went to our city’s annual Christmas parade.

The Bad:

  • The unexpected passing of a friend. He was the father to a beautiful, spunky little girl and I pray that she is showered with love and support.

The Ugly:

  • Prince Harry is off the market.
  • The Florida Gators football team continued to shock and disappoint. We got a new coach, though, after the abysmal season. Here’s to a fresh start!

For this December and Christmas, my mantra is Cozy, Classic, and Simple. I want to:

  • Catch up on household tasks after a leisurely Thanksgiving; put away autumn decorations.
  • Decorate for Christmas!
  • Book tickets for one or more holiday events: the Nutcracker ballet, a Christmas tea party, a tour of decorated houses in a local historic district, a Vienna Choir Boys concert, etc.
  • Bake and decorate tiny gingerbread houses.
  • Don’t fret re: Christmas gifts, food, etc. Make a decision and stick with it. Baby suits!
  • Host a local Christmas gathering.
  • Travel to my parents’ house for Christmas.

How was your November? What are your plans and goals for the busy, wonderful month of December?

–Angela

Book Review: How to Be a Victorian

Cover of How to Be a Victorian: A Dawn-to-Dusk Guide to Victorian Life. Written by historian Ruth Goodman. Image from Amazon.com.

I recently finished reading How to Be a Victorian: A Dawn-to-Dusk Guide to Victorian Life by Ruth Goodman. I really enjoyed it. Goodman devotes a chapter to each major aspect of Victorian life and organizes the book by the time of day, beginning with morning grooming and dressing rituals and ending with evening activities such as bathing and sex.

Goodman provides a ton of great detail, including the results of her own personal experiments with Victorian life (trying period clothing, recipes, chores, etc.). She is careful, too, to compare the widely varying experiences of the wealthy, middle, and poor social classes, as well as the differences between those living in urban London and those in the countryside of England, Ireland, etc.

If you had lived in Victorian London, the odds were that you would be most likely poor, and most likely:

Cold. Coal was expensive and used sparingly, mostly for cooking. Plus, the early Victorians believed that illness was carried via bad odors/air, so homes, workplaces, and schools were left drafty and windows left cracked for ventilation where possible, even in the winter. It was so cold inside buildings that ink would regularly freeze in ink wells. People wore intricate, thick, layered clothing to combat the cold.

In the dark. Again, fuel was expensive. Most people went to bed early for warmth and to avoid burning fuel for light.

Dirty and smelly (in some ways). Victorians were very clean when water was accessible, with regular laundry schedules, daily sponge baths, etc. There were no sewers, however, and the outdoor privies (deep holes dug into the ground and surrounded with sheds) filled up quickly in the overcrowded cities. The poor could not pay to have the privies emptied regularly (a manual process that took place at night by specialized workers), so the overflow would seep into yards, streets, basements, houses, and natural waterways.

Exhausted. The middle and poor classes worked extremely hard, and 12 to 14 hour-days were not uncommon, even for children in the early years of Victoria’s reign. Housekeeping was physically difficult, too, and required hauling water and fuel, washing heavy clothes and linens by hand, copious amounts of sewing, etc.

Sick. Horrific overcrowding, poor sanitation, and poor nutrition made people especially vulnerable to the many (and deadly) infectious diseases of the time period, such as cholera.

Addicted. The popular, heavily advertised health “tonics” and “cures” of the day were made with opium, cocaine, alcohol, and other addictive ingredients. It was easy to become inadvertently addicted. I was sad to learn that many working mothers would dose their children with these tonics to keep them quiet and docile and avoid having to feed them during the busy day. Many of the opiates and other ingredients were appetite-suppressants, though, so the hungry babies wouldn’t eat even when milk and food were finally offered to them.

Malnourished. Fresh fruits and vegetables were difficult to find in the city, plus prevailing thought held that starchy foods such as potatoes and bread were better to eat (especially for children).

Hungry. Many people suffered insufficient caloric intake. The poorest of the poor often found themselves in charity-run workhouses and jail. Records show that some of these residents/inmates received only 80% of the calories they needed each day, so they were slowly starving to death.

Endangered. The jobs of the Victorian period were horrifically dangerous. You could be easily injured, maimed, or killed while working in factories, mines, railroads, etc. In addition, food, medicine, and other goods were not inspected or regulated in any way, and unscrupulous vendors would sell goods adulterated with chalk or brick dust (or worse) to stretch profits.

Crowded. The poorest London Victorians crammed into rundown tenement houses. If I remember correctly, Goodman reported that some houses had only 1 privy for every 80 people.

Of course, those in the middle and upper classes were more comfortable and healthy than the poor, but even they still suffered from illness, addiction, and malnutrition.

Ugh. It all sounds miserable.

I was particularly surprised to read that Goodman tried wearing corsets in her experiments and really liked them. If the corset wasn’t laced too tightly, Goodman found that it actually provided welcome back and torso support for the hard physical work of Victorian womanhood.

I was also struck by Goodman’s details regarding household laundry routines. Laundry was incredibly hard physical work and quite time-consuming. Goodman concludes that:

My own historical laundry experiences have led me to see the powered washing machine as one of the great bulwarks of women’s liberation, an invention that can sit alongside contraception and the vote in the direct impact it has had on changing women’s lives.

Wow. That’s a big, bold statement, but it makes perfect sense when you consider the tremendous labor of the many women who could not afford to send out their family’s clothes and linens to the commercial laundries.

The only thing I feel this book lacked was a chapter on religion/spirituality that could have touched on the elaborate Victorian funeral and mourning customs, etc. There are many other books on the subject, of course, but I would have liked to hear Goodman’s thoughtful take on it.

It was especially timely to read How to Be a Victorian over Thanksgiving week, because it reminded me of the hard work and sacrifices made by our ancestors to give us the more comfortable, healthy lives that we live today. Thank goodness for their fights for worker rights, consumer rights, voting rights, etc. Our lives would be much, much different without them.

— Angela

Happy Thanksgiving!

Illustration by Kanako Kuno.

Thanksgiving is only two days away! Huzzah! At my house, we’ve been planning and cleaning and shopping and making all the lists.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because it’s the official kickoff to the whole holiday season. The fun and anticipation of Christmas is right around the corner, but the long Thanksgiving weekend is a chance to savor the last moments of Autumn among golden light, crisp leaves, and cheerful pumpkins.

My family’s Thanksgiving traditions are simple. My parents and siblings come to town and stay at our house for the long weekend. It’s fun to have the house full-to-bursting and everyone under one roof again. On Thanksgiving morning, we watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and someone pops out to buy a newspaper. The paper is always thick with glossy holiday catalogs, which we like to peruse throughout the day.

We eat our big meal at lunchtime, buffet-style, and we invite local friends over, too. Each person has favorite family dishes that he or she is responsible for making: Will makes the turkey and his Nana Stella’s stuffing, my mom makes her famous pecan pies and my late grandmother’s cornbread dressing, my sister makes cranberry vodka, and I make mashed potatoes and bacon-grease green beans. After we eat, we spend the afternoon “visiting,” napping, grazing, drinking, and watching football.

I almost forgot to mention our most important family tradition: Before we begin to eat, everyone gathers in the living room and we take turns telling the group what we’re especially thankful for this year. There is always laughter and always tears. After that, my dad says the blessing—and then we feast!

I hope everyone has a happy, happy Thanksgiving!

—Angela

Gird Your Loins

As good as gold. Tom Hanks as Forrest Gump.

Lately, it seems like every day the news breaks that another powerful person in Hollywood or the US government has allegedly exploited his position to abuse, harass, and/or attack one or more junior or less-powerful colleagues or citizens (e.g., Harvey Weinstein, Louis C.K., Roy Moore, Kevin Spacey, George H. W. Bush, etc.).

In the wake of these non-stop allegations, there’s a meme making the rounds on social media that almost made my heart stop. It shows a photo of Tom Hanks, with a news headline: “Another Woman Comes Forward to Accuse Tom Hanks of Being a Nice Guy.”

Did your heart skip a beat as you began to read that faux headline? Mine did, and my mind began to race: Noooo! Not Tom Hanks! Is there anyone good left in the world? Oh, wait. It’s a joke. Whew.

The meme reminded me, though, of the many times I’ve been disappointed when I learned more about many of my favorite authors, musical artists, etc. When you’ve repeatedly found solace or advice in someone’s books, songs, or rhetoric, it can sometimes be upsetting to learn that s/he is just as morally flawed as the rest of us (or more so?!). And yes, perhaps the artist or leader is wise and helpful because of those very flaws and the lessons s/he has learned from them…

But sometimes you just want a hero, you know? Someone steady and good and wise, someone to admire and aspire to. Someone with no violent skeletons in the closet, someone who hasn’t humiliated or exploited another, and someone who is solid gold, not silver plate. Or just someone without gross hypocrisy, you know? But maybe this is too high a standard.

For example, I recently read Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol as part of my literary Advent calendar. Dickens was a moral compass of Victorian England. His stories trumpeted the value of honesty, hard work, and charity, among other virtues.

So I was surprised to read, recently, that Dickens kept a mistress for decades (I can’t find the link now, of course, but just Google “Nelly Ternan” for some sources). After his wife bore him several children, family life began to bore Dickens, and he found diversion and companionship in a young actress 27 years his junior. The mistress was kept very secretly, because Dickens knew that his whole career would crumble if the news got out.

Sigh.

And you don’t have to dig deeply to find dirt on other favorite authors. Hemingway left his first wife, Hadley, just as his career began to take off, after she had stuck by him and supported him (emotionally, financially, and domestically) for many poverty-stricken years. Author Joyce Maynard relates a creepy, strange relationship with a much older J.D. Salinger in her memoir At Home in the World. There’s strong evidence that Fitzgerald stole from and suppressed the art of his wife, Zelda. It’s been reported that Faulkner once cruelly told his daughter that “No one remembers Shakespeare’s children.” (But I’ve never liked Faulkner. He seems like an ass. Didn’t Faulkner pretend to have a war wound? Or was that Hemingway?) These are just a few examples of the many shady things these authors have done in servitude to fame, success, and/or alcoholism.

So I try to tread carefully now when it comes to learning more about my heroes. I read a Tom Petty biography a few weeks ago, eager for more of Petty after his sudden death. Well, perhaps “read” is a strong word. I only skimmed the book quickly, because after the first few chapters I 1) became bored with the many dull business details of a long commercial music career, and 2) began to fear that I would learn something about Petty that might make me like him less.

I don’t recall any great personal or moral failings in the Petty biography, but maybe I just missed them in my haste and fear? He kicked a heroin addiction, but that’s a good thing in my book. The long details about contract negotiations and business meetings did threaten to take some of the magic out the music for me, however, so I flitted through them.

I just want to imagine Petty jamming out in a garage with his band, or writing poetry in a ragged spiral notebook while strumming a guitar, maybe with bare feet and his long, lank hair hanging in his face…not Petty arguing with bandmates or meeting with record executives. Yes, I want to know more about Tom Petty, which is why I read the book, but please spare me the gory details.

It’s not realistic or fair, but sometimes I just want magic, purity, and divinity.

So, a warning: When you scratch away the surface, be prepared for what you might find.

Have you ever found out something about a hero that disappointed you, or made you like them less?

–Angela

A Literary Advent Calendar

Illustrated by Haddon Sundblom for the Coca-Cola Company.

I started reading Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. So far, Ol’ Scrooge has been visited by the ghost of his deceased business partner, Marley, and warned that he must change his selfish ways. I don’t believe I’ve ever read the actual story before; I’ve just seen a bazillion movie and cartoon renditions. The prose isn’t difficult to understand and it’s pretty spare for Victorian literature. The descriptions of the hauntings are surprisingly spooky and creepy. Dickens is always good for hopelessness and despair, I suppose.

Anyway, I cracked open A Christmas Carol because, as I mentioned in this post, I like the idea of organizing a literary Advent calendar for yourself or your family. It doesn’t have to be fancy: just a list of favorite Christmas- or winter-related passages to read for a few minutes every day in December leading up to the 25th. It would be fun to read your daily bit with your morning coffee or before you drift off to sleep.

It might seem early, but now is probably the best time to make your list and begin to gather your material from the library, your bookshelves, etc. I’ve included some ideas below. Some of these are novels or essay collections and some are individual stories, chapters, picture books, or poems. The longer books can be divided across multiple days, of course:

  • A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (free Kindle book)
  • Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris
  • The American Girl historical character Christmas books: A Surprise for Felicity/Kirsten/Addy/Samantha/Molly, etc.
  • The Christmas chapters in Ramona and Her Father by Beverly Cleary
  • The Christmas chapters in each Laura Ingalls Wilder book (Little House on the Prairie, The Long Winter, etc.). Here’s a handy compilation of many of the Christmas chapters.
  • “The Little Match Girl” by Hans Christian Andersen (text can be found online)
  • The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis
  • The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
  • “The Gift of the Magi” by O. Henry
  • The first few chapters of Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (free Kindle book)
  • How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss
  • The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats (did you see these stamps?!)
  • “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” by Clement Clarke Moore (text can be found online)
  • The Bible (Book of Luke, etc. describing the birth of Jesus)

There are so many other Christmas books and stories, too, especially for kids. Almost every book/television/toy series has one or more Christmas books: Bernstein Bears, Little Critter, Pete the Cat, Llama Llama, Sesame Street, Richard Scarry, etc.

Would you consider creating your own literary Advent calendar? What passages would you include?

–Angela

Literary Gifts

Beezus helps her beloved Aunt Beatrice bring in packages from her cool car. Illustration by Louis Darling in Beverly Cleary’s Beezus and Ramona.

I found a charming blog called A Lovely Inconsequence via Fiona Ferris’s How to Be Chic blog. Donna MacDonald is the writer behind A Lovely Inconsequence and she has a post or two that discusses how much fun it is to read about gift-giving in favorite old books.

I never thought about it, but I love those passages in books, too—the gifts that characters give or receive in different eras and places in the world.

In this post, MacDonald recalls the gifts that the March girls give their mother for Christmas in Little Women. Christmas falls during the Civil War, when their father is away at war, money is tight, and Marmee is exhausted after caring for a poor family in the neighborhood. The girls pool their modest savings and present Marmee with the best, most thoughtful gifts they can muster:

“I’ll tell you what we’ll do,” said Beth, “let’s each get her something for Christmas, and not get anything for ourselves.”

“That’s just like you, dear! What will we get?” exclaimed Jo.

Everything thought soberly for a minute, then Meg announced, as if the idea was suggested by the sight of her own pretty hands, “I shall give her a nice pair of gloves.”

“Army shoes, best to be had,” cried Jo.

“Some handkerchiefs, all hemmed,” said Beth.

“I’ll get a little bottle of cologne. She likes it, and it won’t cost much, so I’ll have some left to buy my pencils,” added Amy. [She later exchanges the small bottle for a larger one that uses all of her money.]

In turn, Marmee secretly places small devotional books (or maybe New Testament Bibles?) under the girls’ pillows on Christmas Eve, each bound in a different color: a green one for Meg, a crimson one for Jo, a dove-colored one for Beth, and a blue one for Amy.

I also love the gifts that Mary and Laura Ingalls receive in Little House on the Prairie, when their “bachelor” neighbor Mr. Edwards meets Santa Claus and brings gifts to the girls on Santa’s behalf.

I don’t have the book handy, but I think I remember the gifts each girl received: a peppermint stick, a shiny penny, a small cake made with prized white sugar, and a tin cup. The girls were so bedazzled and enchanted by the extravagant (!) gifts and Mr. Edwards’s encounter with the real Santa!

I also recently re-read Beverly Cleary’s Beezus and Ramona, which I believe is set in 1950’s/1960’s Oregon, and I love the descriptions of Beezus’s gifts for her tenth birthday. At breakfast, Beezus finds “a new dress to wear to school” and some “birthday books,” including 202 Things to Do on a Rainy Afternoon. Her beloved young aunt comes for dinner and brings more surprises, including a cake from a fancy bakery (naughty little sister Ramona had ruined TWO homemade cakes earlier in the day):

Aunt Beatrice always brought such beautiful packages, wrapped in fancy paper and tied with big, fluffy bows.

[…]

“Oh, Aunt Beatrice,” exclaimed Beezus, as she opened her first package. It was a real grown-up sewing box. It had two sizes of scissors, a fat red pincushion that looked like a ripe strawberry, and a tape measure that pulled out a shiny box. When Beezus pushed the button the box, the tape measure snapped back inside. The box also had needles, pins, and a thimble. Beezus never wore a thimble, but she thought it would be nice to have one in case she ever wanted to use one.

I love the description of this sewing box. I imagine each item has its own special compartment and that Beezus will have so much fun arranging and re-arranging the items. I also love how wise, cool Aunt Beatrice thoughtfully gives such a sophisticated, flattering present to a growing girl.

In all of these examples, the author perfectly captures the character and spirit of the giver, the recipient, and the time and place in which they live—and so efficiently and charmingly. I love that. In fact, I think that would be a good thought exercise for creative writers: What gift would your character love to receive? What would your character give as a gift to another character?

Do you recall any favorite holidays or birthdays in your own life, or favorite gifts that you’ve received? Do you have any favorite gift-giving passages in books you’ve read?

–Angela

P.S. When I was writing this post, I also thought about the Christmas gifts exchanged in O. Henry’s “The Gift of the Magi,” and the wonderful Christmas and birthday stories in the American Girl historical character books. Wouldn’t a literary Advent calendar be fun? Like, you read the Christmas passages from different books each day in December leading up to Christmas Day? Hmm…

Remembering Miss Melinda

Miss Melinda

Miss Melinda was a dear family friend. She passed away unexpectedly two weeks ago. It feels strange and sad to write about her in the past tense.

I’ve been thinking about her a lot.

There was always something glamorous about Miss Melinda. Everything about her was big and bold and bright. She had big hair, big eyeglasses, big jewelry, and big cursive handwriting. But it all worked perfectly for her, and was proportionate to her big, warm personality. Miss Melinda was always very put-together, very Southern, in her appearance and demeanor. She gave the impression of some kind of large, regal, maternal bird, one plumped and fluffed and coiffed and sitting tall on its nest, holding court and watching over everyone.

And Miss Melinda loved Christmas. She decorated every inch of her home with beautiful trees, ornaments, and lights. Her house was how I imagine a rabbit’s warren to be: long, low, and dim inside, and completely warm and snug. She had big, comfortable furniture and cozy circles of lamplight everywhere.

As a child, I remember being so impressed by the way Miss Melinda displayed a hardcover copy of The Polar Express as part of her Christmas decorations. It always stuck with me as a classy, creative thing to do. As an adult, I got my own copy of the book years ago with the same intention, but I always forget to set it out at Christmastime. I hope I remember to do so this December, as a little way to remember Miss Melinda.

It’s no surprise that Miss Melinda would decorate with books: She was a high school English teacher and she loved books and writing, especially all the classic young adult novels taught in school. As a kid, I always had a bit of a romantic, idealized view of Miss Melinda’s life, one with her spending her days reading and discussing good books, and then coming home at night to a cozy house and decadent meal, and then waking up the next day to do it all over again in another fabulous outfit. As an adult, I laugh at the idea of Miss Melinda living a life of ease. Being a teacher is hardly a cakewalk, plus Miss Melinda was raising two boys and often caring for seriously ill family members, including her mother and first husband.

But Miss Melinda always managed to keep it all together—her family, her home, her appearance, her thoughtfulness. She never arrived for a visit to our house empty-handed, and she never let you leave her house empty-handed. She always had gifts (books, journals), food, and a piece of décor (a potted poinsettia, a set of Christmas tree ornaments) to give.

But if you ever marveled at Miss Melinda’s prowess, or complimented her on her fabulous outfit, beautiful home, delicious cooking, or thoughtful gifts, she would just laugh with surprise and demur, with total self-deprecation. “Oh, Lordy,” I can just imagine her saying. “This poor deprived child doesn’t even know what she’s talking about, thinking that this is anything but a big ol’ mess.” Miss Melinda had a chuckle-y voice, with a kind of low, reverberating timbre, and she spoke with looooong, slow vowels and looooong, slow words.

And it’s funny the random things you will remember about a person. Miss Melinda once gave me a “Bridges of Madison County” book full of photographs of historic covered bridges in picturesque landscapes. (Why would a bridge be covered? To keep livestock from falling into the water? Ah—I just looked it up. The cover protects the structure from the weather and extends the bridge’s life.) It was an ambitious, flattering gift for a young girl, but I was not yet mature enough to appreciate it. And I remember that once Miss Melinda rented a house to a family of tenants and they completely destroyed the interior. The children drew on the walls and the family removed the wooden trim inside the house (baseboards, window and door frames) and burned them as firewood. Can you imagine?! And I remember that Miss Melinda always had the best party food, with every imaginable nibblet of every kind: cocktail meatballs in a tangy sauce, cheese straws, sugar cookies, etc. And I remember that once Miss Melinda’s storage shed of prized Christmas decorations caught fire and burned down, and she lost everything—her huge collection of beautiful decorations gathered over decades. She began to collect again, but she said it was harder to find things of same quality. I’m not sure if I would have the heart to start all over again, but Miss Melinda did.

I will miss and remember her.

Baby Suits

Here is a fine example of a baby suit. Photo from www.BabiesRUs.com.

I have a new mantra:

Baby suits.

A busy October meant that I needed to be efficient and decisive to get everything done, and my new mantra helped tremendously.

It all started when I was shopping for my friend’s baby shower. She’s a big fan of Game of Thrones and I had a great idea for a gift. I found “Mother of Dragons” t-shirts on Etsy, along with “Baby Dragon” onesies. I planned to buy the shirt, the onesie, and a plush dragon toy and—tada! The perfect present! I imagined my friend opening my gift in front of everyone and marveling over the awesomeness.

But the problems crept in like a horde of white walkers. First, what shirt size would I buy for a very pregnant and soon-to-be postpartum woman? Is there any way not to offend? Even if I decided on a size, sizing on Etsy is notoriously variable and relative. (The last gift I purchased on Etsy for an adult woman—a workout tank top—arrived in miniature.) I’d also have to track down a stuffed dragon suitable for the GOT theme and an infant: smallish, generic, no small parts.

Time was ticking, though, and the GOT gambit was proving dicey, so I finally did something I dread: I bought my friend a gift from her registry.

Argh. I dislike buying from a registry. For some reason, buying from a registry or wish list feels like I’m cheating. Shouldn’t I make more of an effort to find a gift that’s more personal and creative? One that references my relationship with the recipient or a funny memory between the two of us? Or shouldn’t I give a fun surprise?

On the other hand, people like getting what they want. They also register for things they need—like, diapers and crib sheets and…baby suits.

That’s what I finally bought for my friend: Three fleece zip-up infant sleepers, or what I called “baby suits.” The suits were cute and useful and in my budget. Shipping was fast and free. I even used a gift bag for the wrapping, even though I usually like to give people a wrapped box for the fun of ripping it open.

I fretted over my mundane gift, but my sister assured me that the baby suits were a good gift, nicely presented, and procured with a minimum of effort, and thus “Baby suits!” was born as our rallying cry, a cheer to remind ourselves to just make a solidly good decision and move on.

I have a bad habit of wanting to make the very best possible decision in every arena of my life—in the big things (career, personal finance) and the smaller things (gift giving, clothes shopping). I want to turn over every stone and research every option and then choose the perfect thing…but that’s paralyzing, exhausting, and impossible. I’m trying to remember that something done satisfactorily, on time, and without an emotional meltdown is better than chasing after the perfect choice…which may never appear. (This is not a new problem. I once submitted a “the best paper in the class” in college…but it was several days late, so I got a low grade.)

So, my “baby suits” mantra is keeping me in check lately. When I needed to buy a new dress recently, I chose to visit one—and only one—department store, one known for its good selection of dresses, rather than visiting several stores spread all around town “to see what was out there” before making a purchase. I went to the single store and tried on a(n admittedly large) number of dresses, but I found a great dress that met my criteria, fell within my budget, and garnered lots of compliments. Baby suits!

And instead of buying new shoes to go with the new dress (another shopping trip), I wore shoes I already owned. They’re not very comfortable for long periods of standing, so I bought new gel inserts and threw a pair of black flats into my bag for backup. Baby suits!

And instead of trekking to a superstore to buy a few things I needed recently, I went to a pharmacy. I never do that because of the price difference. But yes, while I may pay more for mascara and cough drops at a pharmacy than I would at Target or Walmart, parking, shopping, and checking out is so much faster and easier. How much is my time and sanity worth?  Baby suits!

I’m looking forward to baby-suiting this holiday season, too. I plan to buy online even if I have to pay (reasonable) shipping costs, rather than venturing into the stores. I plan to dial back on the number of gifts I give. I plan to buy more pre-prepared foods. Baby suits!

Oh, and my preggo friend seemed to like and appreciate the baby suits. I suppose fleece baby suits can reference GOT, too. After all, WINTER IS COMING.

October Memories, November Goals

This is a slightly melted Zombie Frappuccino. Look at the color at the bottom. Foul.

As I write this, it’s the first day of November and a brand new month in the busiest season of the year. I was brandishing a Styrofoam sword in a haunted house last night, and this morning I’m sipping my coffee from a paper cup adorned with Christmas trees and wrapped gifts. Starbucks wastes no time.

Speaking of time, I’m looking forward to a relaxing November after a busy October. I had places to be—or was sick in bed—every single day in October, which is highly unusual for a girl who strives to keep one whole day free each weekend for her books, baths, and cats. In October, there were family birthdays to celebrate, a dear friend’s wedding to attend, a trip to my alma mater for homecoming, Halloween events, urgent errands, a terrible virus/cold, several medical/vet appointments, and, of course, my full-time job.

I know I’ve been busier than usual because certain things have fallen by the wayside at home. I haven’t pulled out my winter clothing yet. I ordered new bedding but I haven’t swapped out the old. Summer-themed prints are still in the picture frames on my dresser, behind a mountain of clutter and recent purchases. October flew by so fast that we didn’t even buy pumpkins for the porch, or make our annual visit to a farmer’s market or corn maze!

It was a good month overall, though, and I certainly don’t mean to complain about friendship and fun. I’ve jotted down some October memories below.

The Good:

  • A Witches Tea Party at the Hunter House Victorian Museum, followed by drinks at a rooftop bar, poke bowls, and singing aloud to an awesome cover band.
  • My friend’s beautiful autumn wedding. The ceremony was poignant and funny and the reception struck exactly the right tone between elegant (chandeliers, string lights, white pumpkins) and casual (bluegrass band, open bar, family-style BBQ dinner).
  • Dancing with Will to Mumford & Sons and Johnny Cash songs.
  • Tailgating in Gainesville with wonderful friends! Singing Gainesville-native Tom Petty’s “Won’t Back Down” in a stadium full of Gators.
  • Helping to create an awesome haunted backyard for trick-or-treaters!
  • My pirate wench costume.
  • Clark is okay after a scary emergency vet appointment. Whew.
  • A good friend of mine began dating a wonderful guy.
  • The smell of college brochures (fancy paper, slick printing) and fun-size candy bars (plasticky, sweet).

The Bad:

  • The unexpected passing of a dear family friend, Miss Melinda.
  • The loss of Tom Petty.

The Ugly:

  • The Florida Gators football season.
  • The death of my iPhone.
  • The terrible, terrible virus that worked its way around my office and household.
  • The Zombie Frappuccino.

My goal for November is to recharge and reset. More specifically, I want to:

  • Overhaul my bedroom. Dust, declutter, and organize.
  • Assess and supplement my fall/winter wardrobe. Put away my few summer-specific items and set aside or donate anything that doesn’t feel warm and cozy. (I’m looking at you, polyester shirts.)
  • Pack away Halloween decorations (sad) and bring out the Thanksgiving things (yay!).
  • Bake pumpkin bread.
  • Make a dent in my Christmas shopping and wrapping (or, at least, the planning).
  • Plan my Christmas toy drive and food bank donations (I love to scheme to get the most bang for my buck).
  • Host our annual family Thanksgiving at our house.

How was your October? What are your plans for November? What signs do you notice in your own life when you need to recharge and reset?