ALL IS CALM

The first Friday night in December has arrived, leaving just three weeks until Christmas Day. The anticipation is real and I am ready!

In a most surprising turn of events, I have managed to finish the bulk of my holiday shopping. Making a concerted effort to patronize small shops and makers meant I could not leave any purchases to the last minute. Of course, Amazon managed to be the only place I was able to find a few of the particular items for which I was searching and while I’m loathe to inflate the pockets of Mr. Bezos anymore than they already are, I’m grateful to the platform for many reasons.

Not having to stress about scrambling for gifts to give is one of the best presents I am giving to myself this year, the gift of Christmas Presence.

TAKE A LOOK, IT’S IN A BOOK

It’s been quite some time since I’ve had a good mind boggling, and let me tell you. I wasn’t even halfway through the first chapter of this book I’d borrowed from the library before I purchased a copy for myself and had it shipped expeditiously.

I want to finish (no pun intended) before sharing a more thorough review, but I can say that it is a compelling and captivating perspective offered in an excellent, easy read.

I’m so close to achieving the goal I set for myself on goodreads back in May, when we were still pretty deep in the haze of quarantine and I needed something to work toward. It was an excellent decision because, inspired by the challenge, I’ve read more for pleasure (again, no pun intended) in the last few months of this year than in the entire previous year.

Also, reading > scrolling. Exponentially so.

TRIM THE HEARTH AND SET THE TABLE

There are no fewer than seven different advent calendars on display in our Tiny Apartment Palace, and a fragrant fir that is ever so slightly lopsided when you look at her from one angle. My Leaning Tower of Treeza.

I love this time of year for just about every reason you can imagine, but most of all for the open invitation to bathe in nostalgia. Our holiday decorations are a collection of things made, saved, or gifted and decking the halls is a more a trip down memory lane than an attempt at cohesive interior design. And I absolutely would not have it any other way.

This year, in a conscious effort to imbue as much holiday magic as possible into every single day, I have added a few special trinkets and traditions that I hope to build upon and treasure for years to come.

The kids are most excited about the basket of 24 presents wrapped and numbered and meant to be opened one day at a time leading up to Christmas. Each of these presents is a different seasonal story. There are advent tales from Italy, Appalachian stories, a classic children’s story to welcoming the first night of Hanukkah, a story for St. Nicholas Day, a story for Santa Lucia, a Mexican folktale about the Poinsettia, as well as old familiar classics such as How the Grinch Stole Christmas (which happened to be this evening’s story). This is something I’ve wanted to do for several years and just never managed to get it together – seriously, wrapping 24 books individually is kind of a pain in the neck – but it has been totally worth it to see the way even my biggest kids are enthusiastic about having a little something to look forward to each day.

The simple set of Swedish angel chimes that I’ve (finally!) added to our collection are even better than I’d hoped. And if I manage to get the supplies together for the project I have in my head, and then manage to execute said project, we will have a new festive garland to bring out each year to come.

As much as I am looking forward to the fresh start that a new year brings, I am in no hurry at all for this month to end. I’ve had a long and well documented love affair with December and that is just the way it is.

DECEMBER, COME TO ME

Eclipse season. Full moon. December 1st.

I decided to delete the Instagram app from my phone without any predetermined idea as to when I will return to that platform, if ever. I have not seen The Social Dilemma, but I have experienced the dilemma social media inherently presents.

What is not receiving my attention when my attention is given to my phone? Let’s find out!

COUNT YOUR MANY BLESSINGS, NAME THEM ONE BY ONE

In a year that has obliterated most everything, the practice of gratitude seems an altogether radical act of defiance. Though 2020 has transpired in a way that is entirely other than what I had anticipated, the truth is that I’m better off for it. I, Lynzie, have grown and stretched and learned and I just don’t think it could have happened in any other way.

I’m currently waiting for the bird to finish roasting in the oven. The pies have been cooling for nearly 24 hours, the stuffing and green bean casserole were both prepared last night, and the berries were sauced the day before yesterday. I’m so far ahead of myself, I managed to whip the last of the pumpkin puree into a mask that is moisturizing my hair as I sit and let these thoughts of mine flow through my fingertips and land here, in this oft-neglected space.

(Oh, this space.)

The family I have made, the shelter we share, the food we enjoy – these are the things for which my gratitude is in constant flow. I recognize my great fortune to be surrounded by the people and places in my day to day life, and I regularly acknowledge how lucky am I to be exactly where I am.

But, wow, if this year has not been the dooziest! I think I’ve cried some of the deepest, darkest tears to ever have fallen from my eyeballs and I know I haven’t had this many sleepless nights without a single child to blame for keeping me up all night. I was laid off from a job that I loved (but that did not love me back). The dance studio that had once again become my sanctuary has been closed for more than seven months, and my body has lost much of the strength I had worked hard to regain. I started projects I did not finish.

And yet, in spite and because of everything, my heart is bursting for the simple everyday joys and sorrows that make up this life of mine.

Happy Thanksgiving!

CH. ONE

Sit down, get comfortable. Have I got a story for you.

I suppose it begins last Sunday, when a lady was told unequivocally that she was being laid off from the job she adores (and which supports her family). In some ways, you could say it began when she moved back from Southern Appalachia two years ago, but really, it all started with the election of a certain individual just after Halloween 2016.

Let me be clear, this has little to do with anything of that sort of nature, it is merely noted as a reference in time. And to provide a bit of context. A setting, if you will.

So. After years of working in a supporting role at a particular school with a particular pedagogy in a particular place that is just north of Mexico, it suddenly became urgent that this lady find full-time employment or, at the very least, a pay increase from the pennies she’d been making for half a decade.

After all, since the new administrator came in, all new hires were making $15 per hour which was almost 25% more than she was earning at the time.

Did I mention this lady had three kids? PENNIES.

The request for a pay increase was scoffed at, naturally, so the lady decided to inquire as to other positions that might possibly be available. There was a subject in need of teaching, but the material was not at all this lady’s area of expertise. Despite this small detail, because this lady loves to learn (and loves to teach!), she decided to give herself a crash-course in biodynamics and go for it.

The long and short of this part of the story is that no, the lady was not hired for this job. But she was hired for two others, at two different schools with the same particular pedagogy. So she picked the town that sounded most appealing (read: least cold), packed up two of her three children, and drove eight states east.

What happened with the third child, you ask? Well. The lady really did love this particular school with a particular pedagogy in a particular place that is just north of Mexico, and so did her kids. The oldest one was headed into his last year with a class he’d been with since he was young enough to show his age with his fingers, and there wasn’t a great option for him in this other town where the rest of the family was headed. So another family – who had already departed from this particular school with the particular pedagogy, but who really loved the lady’s oldest son – offered him room and board for the year so he could finish with his class.

The lady had never once questioned this decision, even during the long snowy months when she did not see (or speak to very often because three hours is a lot more of a time difference than one might realize) her firstborn baby, until that last paragraph. Oof.

Where were we? Oh, yes. In the mountains.

Turns out, the lady really enjoyed working at this other school. She even liked the town, though it was much colder (and muddier) than she prefers. Seriously. So much mud. Full disclosure, the mud was the youngest child’s favorite part, and absolutely everybody loved the fireflies.

There was even a somewhat attractive option for high school for the oldest child. In the most serendipitous of exchanges, it was discovered that the current headmaster of a college preparatory school in this town had been the assistant headmaster at a different college preparatory school in a different town, and had once written a college recommendation for the lady – who’d been a student of his nearly two decades prior.

But, the son was waitlisted due to the high number of students remaining from the middle school. And also because, you know, private school is expenisve and the lady’s work has always been in service of a particular pedagogy. She wasn’t going to work at this school and therefore would not receive tuition remission, and financial aid would have still been quite a stretch. Another option was explored, and it wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t perfect.

And that is when a job became available at the particular school with the particular pedagogy in a particular town just north of Mexico. And not just any job. A dream job. The kind of job that is perfect for a lady who wants nothing more than to share her love of creating things with others.

You don’t have to wonder because I will tell you, yes. The lady did apply for that job. And then she waited.

And waited.

And waited some more. Which is what you’re going to have to do now because it’s getting late and mama’s tired.

THE MEDICINE I NEED

One of the most consistent memories I have of my Baba is of her sitting at her kitchen table, painting her nails. She would keep her naturally long nails well manicured, the polish ever shiny and free of chips. She rotated between the same few muted shades of rose, coral, or cream, and there was always the faintest aroma of acetone as you approached that side of the table.

My Baba is my dad’s mom, and largely responsible for seeing me through my teen years when my father’s wife had decided that I was far more than she’d care to deal with. My Baba lived alone in a sprawling California ranch style home in the equestrian neighborhoods of the Burbank hills, and an entire wing of her house had naturally evolved into my retreat space. A few years later, I’d live there with my young husband and our brand new baby. But long before I nested there in my days of early motherhood, in the late 90s that wing was my safe place.

She was my safe place.

I’d gotten in the habit of taking myself for monthly pedicures and had grown accustomed to having polish on my toes. When all the salons were ordered to close, I sighed and started attempting at-home pedicures. They’re neither easy nor relaxing, but the result is more or less the same.

On a random trip to Target a few weeks back, I decided that I’d select a new shade of nail polish. I always limit my browsing to the small section dedicated to the slightly-less-toxic brands of polish, and quickly spotted the Olive & June display.

Obviously, I’m familiar. I mean, I am from LA, duh, but I hadn’t realized the products were available in store. I immediately grabbed a pretty light blue, and recognized it to be one of the original Olive & June shades, which is named after a girl from my high school soccer team who’s gone on to become a successful lifestyle influencer. Sold!

Back home, I painted my toes, loved the color, and proceeded to read all about the company, its founder, and its philosophy, which is mostly about manicures.

I work with my hands, so keeping polish on my fingers has never really been high on my list of priorities, but I do like my nails to look well maintained. Olive & June has developed an entire system for at-home manicures, including a tool to help assist non-dominant hands with painting. It’s actually pretty brilliant.

Thinking it’d be a fun summer project for Jade and I – learning to give ourselves high-quality manicures – I bought a tool kit and a few shades of polish. As a reward for finishing my reports last night, I gave myself what I’m sure will be the first of many manicures.

There is a lot of room for improvement, and after years of caring for them incorrectly, my cuticles aren’t in the best of shape. However, I’m super inspired to keep up this habit. Especially since the entire time I was painting my nails, I was thinking about my Baba.

Tomorrow, Jade comes back from her dad’s house and we’ve got plans to practice painting our nails. Even though the polish we’re using hardly smells at all compared to the noxious stuff my Baba used, I can only hope it’s an odor my daughter associates with peace.

TO RELEASE ME FROM THE LONGEST AFTERNOON

I finished writing my end-of-year reports, submitting them just in the nick of time. I am so gld to officially be finished with the 2019-20 school year. GOOD RIDDANCE.

Yesterday, my oldest child, my first baby, the person that has affected my life more than any other, celebrated his seventeenth solar return. That kid. He’s incredible, and being his mama is the greatest honor. Obviously I will be his mother for always, as he will forever be my son, but I am painfully aware of how fleeting my time with him is, how quickly he’ll be off to the next chapter of his extraordinary life.

We had an intimate gathering at the beach, just his nuclear family and the two friends he calls his very best, and we each bestowed upon him our wishes. It was humble and somewhat impromptu, and as we made our way around the small circle we’d formed offering our hopes for his bright future, Emet looked at me and said, “This is super cool, mom, thank you.”

An instant, frozen in my memory for as long as I shall live. You’re welcome, Emet. I love you so.

But oh, to have those reports behind me is a different kind of celebration, a release of the weightiest weight. Now that they’re out of the way, I’m hoping to be flooded with inspiration. At the very least, there is space in my brain and that is always a great place to start.

WISHING THE RELFECTION WOULD TELL ME SOMETHING

When you’re content, write it down.

I read those words yesterday and my mind has been racing ever since. I often struggle to find any words at all when I am caught up in a series of unfortunate events, yet when the stars are aligned and I am in that elusive flow state, words pour from my fingertips faster than I can think.

Sometimes, in the very darkest of seasons, I turn to writing as a kind of centering practice, because clearly I associate writing with a certain brand of homeostasis. Somewhere in the desperate searching for a sensible sentence or two, I manage to find even the most narrow pathway back to myself.

It is when I’m faced with what I suppose to be ordinary challenges, or perhaps slightly out-of-the-ordinary-but-not-altogether-dismal circumstances that I struggle the most to put words together. Also, when I’m lazy.

I think this particular dry spell is a combination of the two, compounded by the variable of summer break. And end-of-year reports, ahem.

Reading, on the other hand. I just can’t get enough at the moment. I picked up a memoir from our local library, a collection of essays about coming of age alongside technology, written by the gal from whom I lived across the hall Freshman year at NYU. And now, her wit and knack for constructing a clever turn of phrase is preserved within a volume of her own making. Magic.

The moral of this phenomenal piece of nonsense is that when writing feels difficult, I have a choice to either work through it or wait. By constantly choosing to wait, I am also choosing for writing to not be my work.

Time to make a different choice.

FROM SEA TO SHINING SEA

I’m born and bred in Southern California, but I have lived all over this wild country. I spent two years in the Northeast, living in New York City. I spent 373 extremely long days living in Portland, Oregon and I promise I will never again reside in the Pacific Northwest. I recently spent eleven glorious months in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, and while Southern Appalachia might just be my favorite region in all the land, I just can’t seem to quit San Diego.

My point is this. Our country is sprawling and every bit as diverse in population as in landscape. We are capable of being a truly great nation where real liberty, equality, and fraternity exist as fundamental values espoused by and for everyone. We aren’t there yet, but we can be.

I have always always been proud to be a Californian. One day, I hope to claim the same kind of pride in being an American.