I can't believe I never instagrammed this. What an amazing place to eat a custom ice cream sandwich, as the cows are about to get their evening meal. Moomers, you are delicious. Chocolate salted caramel ice cream, amazing; cookies for the sandwich—underwhelming, will not repeat.

I can't blog tonight because of an intense sugar craving and irresistible exhaustion. Maybe tomorrow will be the day I actually write some posts.

Lunch Break Reflections (While Eating a Grilled Cheese Sandwich in the Cafeteria)

So last night, when I could have been blogging and SHOULD have been getting ready for bed, I decided to move one of the couches a little bit to test out a new idea I had—a new idea involving diagonals. I was pretty sure it wouldn't pass muster with Cooper, but I wanted to see. The big couch barely fit there, but shifting it did change the shape of the room, breaking free of the tyranny of not enough space and too many doors, which had forced us to line up every piece of furniture along the perimeter of the living room (and in the bedroom, too).

A simple solution is to just get rid of some stuff, so things don't feel so tight. On the one hand, I'm not as in love with my red leather couch as I once was, but on the other, I like having two couches with room for five people, since I still harbor fantasies of having friends over and I like to have a cozy place to hang out with them if it ever happens again. So fallen from grace or not (it's an insistent red that wants to dictate every other element of design; it's holding me back!), we keep the couch, because now is not the time for a new one, and two armchairs instead of a new couch would also certainly cost too much. I can't say the red Klippan sparks any joy anymore, but it seems I'm just not ready, and not rich enough, to fully accept Marie Kondo's tantalizing prescripts and throw it away. Instead, I succumb to logic and stubbornly and reluctantly hold on to this couch that still functions, dammit, even if its existence pisses me off once a week.

But maybe, in partial acceptance of the reality of our social lives, we can turn that red loveseat that Cooper and I rarely sit on away from the TV—since we almost never manage to have people over, the likelihood of a group movie night has plummeted to zero, and we like to share one couch together—which opens up one...or maybe even two! possibilities in this tight space. Because, you see, the diagonals really didn't work. Diagonal one was promising, but couch number two on an angle leaves a super weird open triangle of room behind it, which couch one (the only couch we ever use) has to stare at. So instead, I moved the big couch farther, ninety degrees from its customary position, and put the TV in a much weirder place so that the grey couch sitters (two humans, two cats) could still see the screen, and...I don't know.
I affected change! It's kinda cozy! Whether we try out the new layout or return to the old, we need a bigger living room rug. And the lighting is currently bad in this new arrangement, there's still an awkward useless corner next to the front door where junk will probably accumulate, and not a definite spot to add in an armchair (long cherished dream; ignore what I said about already having too much furniture).

Jury's out, and so's my confidence.

If you come back tomorrow, maybe there'll be photos. If it's sunny and I can get a good one. But that would take the surprise away from Cooper, who doesn't return from California until Sunday, we'll see.

Photos 1 & 2: Before. Photos 3 & 4: After.


Looks like chaos. Feels like the path to a breakthrough.
An hour later, it turns out none of it was a breakthrough. Now I have an entire living room to move back. Some other time.

The Plus Side of Winter

Although the mountain country of North Carolina in the eighteenth century is a whole different world than this one in which we live, there are elements to aspire to. I give you Drums of Autumn, book four of Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series, which is sprinkled with beautiful scenes and feelings of homeyness:
The winter held off for some time, but snow began to fall in the night on November 28, and we woke to find the world transformed. Every needle on the great blue spruce behind the cabin was frosted, and ragged fringes of ice dripped from the tangle of wild raspberry canes.
The snow wasn’t deep, but its coming changed the shape of daily life. I no longer foraged during the day, save for short trips to the stream for water, and for lingering bits of green cress salvaged from the icy slush along the banks. Jamie and Ian ceased their work of log felling and field clearing, and turned to roof shingling. The winter drew in on us, and we in turn withdrew from the cold, turning inward. 
We had no candles; only grease lamps and rushlights, and the light of the fire that burned constantly on the hearth, blackening the roof beams. We therefore rose at first light, and lay down after supper, in the same rhythm as the creatures of the forest around us. 
We had no sheep yet, and thus no wool to card or spin, no cloth to weave or dye. We had no beehives yet, and thus no wax to boil, no candles to dip. There was no stock to care for, save the horses and mules and the piglet, who had grown considerably in both size and irascibility, and in consequence been exiled to a private compartment in the corner of the crude stable Jamie had built—this itself no more than a large open-fronted shelter with a branch-covered roof. [...] 
With few chores to do outside, there was time to talk, to tell stores, and to dream. Between the useful objects like spoons and bowls, Jamie took time to carve the pieces of a wooden chess set, and spent a good deal of his time trying to inveigle me or Ian into playing with him. 
Ian and Rollo, who both suffered badly from cabin fever, took to visiting Anna Ooka frequently, sometimes going on extended hunting trips with the young men from the village, who were pleased to have the benefit of his and Rollo’s company. 
“The lad speaks the Indian tongue a great deal better than he does Greek or Latin,” Jamie observed with some dourness, watching Ian exchanging cordial insults with an Indian companion as they left on one such excursion. 
“Well, if Marcus Aurelius had written about tracking porcupines, I expect he’d have found a more eager audience,” I replied soothingly. 
Dearly as I loved Ian, I was myself not displeased by his frequent absence. There were definitely times when three was a crowd. 
There is nothing more delightful in life than a feather bed and an open fire—except a feather bed with a warm and tender lover in it. When Ian was gone, we would not trouble with rushlights but would go to bed with the dark, and lie curled together in shared warmth, talking late into the night, laughing and telling stories, sharing our pasts, planning our future, and somewhere in the midst of the talking, pausing to enjoy the wordless pleasures of the present. (Pages 380-383) 
Photo: Snowy evergreens in Bavaria, on a visit to Schloß Neuschwanstein in 2008.

Porch Season

I wrote this post about my fire escape in the spring, and never followed up with photos of what I did. Mainly what I did was buy mostly-boring pots, and set up a little kitchen garden outside the bedroom, and then unroll a colorful rug woven of recycled plastic during patches of good weather when I thought we'd go out there more just to water the garden. The rug is pretty great, but I think sunshine was also an essential component of my modest renovation.

Basil, parsley, tomatoes, basil. A cutie red Kalanchoe to go with a turquoise pot. Spiders lived in it all summer.

A pleasing setup with the rug, and our cilantro that went to seed almost immediately. Cats who desperately need to join their humans outside (streng verboten).

Everyone out for some sun. Our previously majestic thyme (now languishing in the sunny stairwell.)
Looking out of the bedroom to the fire escape. Picnicking on the floor with leftovers and champagne.

Mornings in Turkey

The first morning back in Europe, five years after I’d packed up my bedroom in Vauban, toured Aschaffenburg and Berlin each for a second time, and flown out of Frankfurt back to Michigan for my final year of college.

No fear or apprehension, to be back in Frankfurt Flughafen. I ate a pretzel, messaged Emma (still in Ukraine) on Facebook, wandered to find my gate for the next flight—the flight to Istanbul. I’m not sure how we landed in Frankfurt; it was dark still on arrival, I think, but soon morning gave way to this thick spooky fog out the terminal windows. I alighted in Istanbul at 1pm, waited a long time for my bag, couldn’t find the sign with my name, for the taxi to my hostel in Sultanahmet. Didn’t like it one bit. Once at the hostel, a fog of sleep, a shower (maybe), an unavoidable nap. I ventured out in the evening dark to see the Hagia Sophia and find sustenance, but couldn’t shake the overly friendly young Turkish man who just wanted to practice his English with me over some tea. I went home hungry to the hostel, couldn’t sleep. After that first night, Emma and I had no reservations for anything.

On the second day, I bought us plane tickets to İzmir for that afternoon, reserved the last room at a recommended pansiyon in Selçuk, wandered the gardens of the Sultan’s palace, and took a shuttle back to Atatürk International Airport, in search of meine Emma, arriving from Odessa. When her face finally emerged from the crowd spilling out of the international terminal, I was so happy. She was wearing a striped sweater whose twin I had also packed for the trip. I hadn’t seen her in almost a year and a half.

Morning three in the Old World, morning two in Turkey, we climbed three flights of turning stone stairs to the pansyion's terrace, picked out for ourselves one of the little circle tables that ringed the bench that wrapped around three sides of the terrace, and were presented with a feast.
I wanted to write about mornings. Early morning, when the light’s still a little blue and the breeze is so fresh that you always get a twinge of nostalgia for something – first days of school past, the end of hot summers, waking up early in a tent or on a lake or for a peaceful journey through a city still mostly aslumber.

Aiming Too High

Hello, November, and the depths of the fall. I've meant to be writing here so much more, but setting aside the time is never high enough on the list, and so it doesn't happen.

I have a misguided approach when I feel behind and overwhelmed, when there are too many things to prioritize, because simply facing the entirety of the list is enough to shut you down. I tell myself that none of the parts are imposssible, and I just have to start them, and they won't be so bad. That part's reasonable. But then I remind myself that once I have done All the Things, I'll have time to relax, breathe, reflect—in place of all the panic-procrastinate-go-to-way-too-many-unnecessary-websites breaks that I take all day instead of accomplishing things. Just do one thing, and the next, and the next, until you've done everything. Then you can start fresh with a system and increased satisfaction from your quick followthrough. I do this at home and at work, even though I know a better way to finish everything is to admit that not everything matters, and cut the unimportant and unfulfilling out of the list. 

But oh, I cling so hard to the dream of clearing everything off the list and basking in the glow of open possibility.

Luckily, today I finished a fairly deep clean of the living room, to add to the bathroom, bedroom, and reorganized (but again filthy) kitchen. The home sphere is ready for a new month.

A month of cooking regularly, to take some burden off Cooper and feel happy when I've made something, and cleaning systematically, because surely it's possible to live an easy, clean life when your apartment is under five hundred square feet. A month of exercise again, because obviously, I haven't learned this lesson about not being able to do all the things, and I strive for perfection. (Ugh, please no. But moving my body is one of the best things I can do to help myself cope with life.)

A month for cozying-up our living spaces for the dark months to come. New lighting for the improved kitchen, new rugs for our cold floors, and hopefully some good ideas for spaces Ali and Drew want help with. Oh yes, and a month for meeting and loving and cuddling Ali's and Drew's little son—arriving any day now. No one can wait!

And a month of reading—Elena Ferrante number four, I'm almost ready for you, finally!—and writing every day in this space, the things I've wanted to write all year, and whatever comes to mind now, because it's NaBloPoMo, and I've never regretted doing it before.

So, here's my manifesto. I'm not ready, but here goes.


“During the Cold War, the Reichstag—its cupola wrecked, its walls bullet-pocked—was an abandoned relic in the no man’s land of central Berlin, just inside the British sector. The Wall, built in 1961, ran a few steps from the back of the building.
I start to read this profile of Angela Merkel in The New Yorker, warm in my apartment in Michigan, colored lights twinkling on my Christmas tree in the corner. I feel comfortable with the historical introduction to Berlin that begins the article, though there’s a momentary twinge of shame at this self-satisfaction. This history that I’m familiar with is so basic, bare-bones, and I fear my knowledge doesn’t go much deeper, despite the B.A. I hold in German, despite the many walking tours I’ve been led on through that city, both literal and literary.

It’s strange to me how much I warm up inside when a topic dear to me comes up. But I feel rusty on Germany, not confident on the nuances of really anything that’s German, anymore—my convictions about living there, the people, the way things work, grow fuzzier with time. I know by rote the words I used to say, but the immediacy of experience is held hostage beyond the barrier of time. I don’t feel as though I can really back up my old impressions and rusty knowledge—I don't think I have enough left of those experiences to plunge deeper, think anew.

Reading the sentence, though—the wall, built in 1961, ran a few steps from the back of the building—I remember it. I took pictures from the Reichstag, standing in what used to be West Berlin, watching people walk along a path just outside that marks where the wall once separated West from East.
I think that Berlin in icy January was probably a fitting introduction. Black and white, the weather forbidding, even if nothing else was. Historical Berlin is so many things, but first and foremost it is bombs and Nazis and Russian soldiers; the Wall, Wim Wenders’ angels in heavy overcoats in a world of quiet poetry, but no color; and spies, inoffizielle Mitarbeiter, everywhere.

Berlin was cold; my classmates complained all through the long, long walk of history our guide led us on. Nazi buildings, Checkpoint Charlie, Geisterbahnhöfe—the ghost U-Bahn stations located on lines that didn’t stop on that side of the city, because it was on the wrong side of the wall. The tour was long and not the most compelling, but I overdressed, heavy Aran sweater under a wool coat, with leggings under jeans and thick wool socks in hiking boots, so it wasn’t so bad.
I have another picture out a Reichstag window, of the cobblestoned plaza that extended so far out ahead of the building, before reaching the great park, the Tiergarten. Cold stone, ice, and little people scattered about, some with cheery red accents. I used it to symbolize the brutal length of winter, but I loved the scene all the same.

When you travel, place after place, the intoxication wears off. After six months in Europe, sights sometimes just felt like old stuff—and while before, Very Old Stuff was exciting just for the fact of its age, after relentless journeying, the spark had been diluted, deactivated. But when I stood for the second time (seven months after the group trip to Berlin, it was summer) on Bebelplatz, the square where the Nazis burned books, and I read Heine’s prescient quote from the previous century, I shivered—and I shiver a little inside every time I think of it.
“Dort, wo man Bücher verbrennt, verbrennt man auch am Ende Menschen.”
“Where they burn books, so too will they burn human beings in the end.”

It’s sort of nuts to me that I’ve been so many places, and my parents haven’t. Because I also don’t think it’s so odd that I’ve traveled as much as I have—I know many others who have too, or who will surely surpass me by far. My parents had comparable educations to mine, but unlike me, they started adult life without debt, with employed summers and cheap tuition. They may have tottered on the path to gainful employment as I did, but they also went to Europe more than once.

More than once in one decade, then never again, although it wasn’t until the next decade that they started a family.

My mom has been places I haven’t—Arizona and England, Denmark and the Virgin Islands, Minnesota and many other states, I’m sure. My dad lived in Germany a little while, like I did, and together they moved to Indianapolis, before happily returning to Michigan for the rest of forever. All three of us have been to New York City, Munich, parts of California; two of us to Montreal (none of these trips with all three of us together).

I don’t think I’m going to stop. My life is already different than my parents’, and it will remain that way. But it’s still strange that I’ve stood on the D-Day beaches, I’ve gazed at the galleries of the Hagia Sophia and taken a ferry up the Bosphorous, seen Charlemagne’s throne, and stood on the western coast of Ireland, staring out across the Atlantic toward North America—and they have done none of these things. Never seen Paris?

Beyond Small Talk

"What are you up to now?" a friend recently asked me one morning, when a group of us were hanging out, brought together by his re-emergence in America after a while away. I answered about my full-time job at the university, where I've been for just over twelve months now. I probably gave the shorthand answer about why it's a good job for now. I think that line of conversation ended about two minutes later, max. It's always an easy transition to where Cooper is going to go next, what sorts of jobs he's thinking about and whether or not we want to stay in Michigan.

Afterward, I realized that it wasn't the answer I wanted to give, and it wasn't the answer I had to give. No, a year later, I still haven't come up with a concrete plan for my next step, an end-goal or a career path I'm excited about. (I am excited about my first real raise a couple months ago,  and thrilled with how much money I've been able to save this past year.) But there's no reason talking about my job needs to be a fun conversation; it's a job. Going to an office and making money forty hours a week isn't the only thing I'm up to. It's not the only thing I do.

I reread Outlander books 4-6 this winter, then finally read 7 and 8 in the early spring. It was a glorious, intoxicating pursuit and I loved every minute of it. I read the third of Elena Ferrante's Neopolitan Novels in June, after long holding back, and was sucked into the anguish of being a woman in 1970s Italy, of being a poor worker anywhere in the world. Life is hard, guys.

I spent a few days reorganizing my Pinterest, and many more hours dreaming up new layouts for my apartment (although the quarters are too tight for any of them to really work), plotting new combinations of colors to give a new perspective and a brighter view. Cooper and I put together a garden of pots on our fire escape, and now every couple weeks we pluck a batch of basil and make pesto for dinner—just like that, pasta and chicken sandwiches and decadent egg sandwiches for breakfast. I spread out a mat between the plant pots sometimes and eat my dinner al fresco on the floor out there. Summer is glorious.

It's been some weeks on, other weeks off, but I've been running outdoors many mornings, as well as going to the Y. My goal is to feel the ache of exercise every time I get up from my desk at work—a vivid sense of satisfaction at my commitment to my health and my goals. It doesn't happen every day, but I think it's getting easier.

I've gotten so frustrated about the injustices so many people face in this country, even as the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act and legalized gay marriage across the country. The plight of the people and the planet is so serious; mass incarceration and violence and de facto segregation of neighborhoods and therefore schools and therefore life; and not enough money allocated to any of it, even if we really knew how to fix it. I've been reading articles about poverty and homelessness and student loans and money money money and the lack thereof, for years of course, but everything feels like it's coming to a head. I started to follow Bernie Sanders (and then Hillary Clinton) on Facebook; he was showing up on my feed every day because my friends kept liking his posts, and I read along, thinking, "Yes, yes, yes," so many of his succinct and successful messages on social media are things I agree with, but then I just don't even know. There are so many things that we should do as a community, a state, and a country, but in Michigan, the cards are stacked against us, and anyway, how could we ever do all these things?

So I've been up to reading, and attempting to write but never finishing anything. I've turned my creativity to my tiny garden and my home, and itched to do the same for my parents and my friends (alas that everyone has more important things to do and money doesn’t grow on trees). I've amassed my small fortune, increasing my savings with every raise, big or small, that comes my way, and I've despaired, again and again, over the state of our world.

But I've done my small part in my family circle. Ali and I reunited with Rachel in Florida; Cooper and I with Emma in New York. I drove my mom out to see her sister in Rochester, New York, the first time we'd made that trip in about four years. I helped my brother with a scholarship application, and then with the planning of the trip to Germany and the coordination with the host bakeries there, when everything seemed too big and too hard for him (I write emails for a living, although not usually auf Deutsch). The biggest victory in bettering someone's life is that I got my parents to sit down at the table with me, and put together a budget based on all of the past year's expenses, and then dig out the details on their separate retirement accounts and my dad’s small pension. Finally, my mom could see that the money was there, that they wouldn't have a lot, but it wasn't worth her working 'til she was eighty, or even until sixty-six. And so she's retiring in two weeks, at which point we'll all have to do our parts to get her working toward a healthier, more mobile life again. I hope, I insist, I decree, I demand.

I know it's not always the best topic of conversation for people who don't know everyone I do, but it turns out that the thing that matters most to me in life is my family and my friends (felines included). I thought all I wanted was to move away for college, and then when that didn’t happen, at least to move away after college, but despite the occasional regret, this is good. These people are my world. And so next time someone asks what I've been up to, after a year or two of little communication, I hope I say something more like this, and not my latest career update. It's just a little patch of who I am.

Summertime Sadness

I've been in something of a funk at work these past two or three weeks—not quite busy enough to feel the pressure to succeed. None of the work feels big enough to be worth doing—or else it's too big, but unimportant, and not something I can completely do on my own. I don't like that.

Last week, part of it was PMS, and then yesterday my cramps were bad enough that I let myself stay home sick after lunch. But it's mainly the lingering feeling of worthlessness from the previous weeks, at this point. It seems to me that I've been doing a bad job, so I am a bad worker, so I will do a bad job, can I go home now?

I know that every day is a new day, every day I can start fresh and I can do a great job and cross off a lot of things, even in fewer than eight hours. But if I can fix it any day, why do it today? Why not wait until tomorrow? Self discipline is hard. Fewer hours day after day, and then you try to work long and diligently and it just feels neverending.

Instead I want to read about the Greek island of Milos, where Emma is right now, and maybe chronicle a little of last year's travels in Turkey. Emma wants to take a boat to Turkey, and make her way to Odessa from there. I want to find podcasts to listen to while I work. I want to read Testament of Youth—we saw the movie on Monday night and it was so good!—and also read about nature and cultivation and wilderness, like Cooper's always trying to get me to do for him. Even though it's not like we share a brain, and I'm not going to take notes for him.

I want to leave early so I can rent a kayak before they stop allowing the river journey for the evening, so we can practice for our trip to the UP. I want to watch old Daily Show episodes because we watched it last night, Amy Schumer and Ta-Nehisi Coates with possibly my favorite television person in the world, Jon Stewart, whose show I've barely ever watched between boyfriend number one and now. I'm sad that the era is ended (Jon Stewart, not bf#1), and I didn't even take part in most of it. And the same for Colbert, but that was already over.

When I sit in my new office at the NCRC (right now I'm three days at the old office, two days at the new one), I think of ways to decorate it, to make it welcoming, truly mine. The big window is great; I love it. But it's not enough, especially knowing that for half the year, the trees will be naked and the ground and sky grey. I have an entire shelf above my new desk there, that I'd like to fill with books and maybe a small lamp and other pretty things. But my job requires zero books. There is no reason for me to surround myself with any. What a sad reality. All I need to do my job is an internet connection and this horrible window into bureaucracy and email. Nothing real like a book. And yet I have to sit here every day.

Porch Dreams

Right now I’m fixated on the back porch, the balcony—the feature of my apartment that doesn’t really exist. (In the background I’m also shopping for a new rug in the bedroom, obsessing over lighting and decor options for my drab taupe box of a windowless office, and wondering what color scheme would please me for pillows in the living room…and that’s just for spaces that are mine.)

Spring is here in Michigan, and so, like everyone else, I want to be outside. I want to own my desires and bring them to life, I want to bike through the fresh air and nap in the sunshine and read on the porch.

Before we moved to this apartment, our small but sufficient one-bedroom, I was already thinking about the fire escape. I knew a previous tenant had grown herbs on this fire escape, and I have fond memories of the fire escape to the apartment I shared with Emma, which was big enough for a table and chairs, three stories up in the trees. I thought of all the New York City stories that include ducking through the window to catch some air on the steps; hanging a string of lights and claiming a small patch of the sky for oneself. Sure, we have a bathroom with a tub in it, a bedroom separate from the living room, two closets, and a kitchen. We have space for our bikes in the hallway, and windows in three directions. It’s enough, but it also isn’t enough.

I imagined us, having just moved in together, mixing drinks and carrying them through the apartment, one of us locking the cats in the bathroom so they couldn’t escape, and then opening the door at the back of the bedroom and stepping out into the early evening to sit on the steps and savor the last of summer together.

*  *  *
It’s a good vision. Alas that our first September in the apartment came with a wasp infestation, centered on that back wall of the bedroom. I was checking out the fire escape, in the early days after moving in, and when I turned to go inside, I put the full weight of my leg down onto a wasp with my bare foot. That was the last time I went out that door until the following spring—and that wasn’t even the worst of it. After our maintenance guy and then an exterminator had sprayed three or four times, we started to find poisoned wasps languishing, first on our bedroom windowsill, and then all over the bedroom floor. Two, four, six, thirty, until, the final day, Cooper came home to somewhere around seventy-eight dead and dying wasps writhing on the carpet at the back of the room and under the dresser we had under the window, while a sadistic cat looked on. After that, we covered the cold air return in the room, and the rest of the wasps died and were no more.

That horror stunted my fire escape dreams, and although I swept the little landing at the top of the crooked wooden steps a couple times, nothing came of it. Until now! This year, I ‘m ready. I’ve got some copper-wire fairy lights I bought at Christmastitme but don’t really like indoors. I bought Cooper a curly parsley plant this weekend—supposedly it’s one herb that can actually do well inside, so hopefully he can permanently give up buying bunches of parsley that are always too big to use up in time. Soon we’ll add some other plants to enjoy for the summer, although they won’t want to winter with us (basil, thyme, some flowers). We can bring out a stool or two folding chairs, and sit on our miniature deck and look at the leaves in the trees, and into our neighbors’ windows.
It’s not an obvious space for enjoyment. It’s about three feet by ten or twelve feet (nothing like the beautiful 66 square foot original patio of that great blog). You could fit four folding chairs on it, awkwardly in a row, or you can fit two next to each other and have a nice time together. You could probably fit a very small bistro table, or one of those half-moon little balcony tables, and then two simple chairs. We won’t. Maybe one stool with a plant on it, a plant that can move to the ground if we want the stool. Folding chairs in the bedroom, just inside the door, if we don’t want to sit on the steps.

The structure is made of wood, nailed together well enough to work, but with no thought to craftsmanship. It was painted a bland bluish-grey a few times, and the paint is forever peeling off, every time you sweep the leaves and branches off the porch. Straight ahead from the bedroom, you see three wooden bars, and between the bars (if you’re seated low) or above them (if you’re standing), you can see a bedroom through a neighbor’s window, the curtain for which she never fully closes. She could certainly see us if she looked out. To the right, south, there’s the brightest sun and a nice apartment building across the street. To the left, north, another building. There’s also a door to the other upstairs apartment, making this space less private, a little less welcoming to a takeover. Oh well.

I’m not sure how nice we can make it. It doesn’t really matter—there are so many parks nearby, bike paths and the river and picnic tables. There are patios and decks and beer gardens downtown, a short walk away. After almost two years in this space, though, it’s a fun challenge to try to add another room, another dimension, to our lives here. An easy little escape—all I have to do is open that door that is usually just a window.

So I’ll see if I can grow any plants to block the house next door. I’ll see if the herbs will do okay back there, at the southern end of the little platform. Maybe with a little outdoor rug, and the fairy lights, it will become a porch instead of a crumbling afterthought. 

More Than Work

2014 was a year that I really tried to put what I wanted to do ahead of work. That meant giving up my pay to visit friends in Florida and California, requesting long weekends off for my birthday and Labor Day, going Up North for a full week, and taking an unpaid two-week vacation to Turkey and Germany, since I’d only been a permanent employee for two weeks when I got on that transatlantic flight. I got lots of drinks with friends and starting buying myself books again, made a list of summer activities and crossed them off one by one: kayak the Huron, Cinetopia Film Festival, Shakespeare in the Arb, drink lots of sangria (could do better at that one).

It’s a mixed message, because the rest of the time I was working over 50 hours a week—extremely bitter about that fact, as I had not requested that many hours and couldn’t get rid of them. I planned to quit all three pointless jobs to make room for my trip to Turkey. I didn’t have to, though, because I got one real job instead.
2014 was not a year I tried to really work on what I wanted to do. I didn’t submit to the translation contest that spring, or the extra one that summer, although I’d completed a full first draft and liked that text more than any of the others I’d previously attempted; I didn’t keep, or even make, an editorial schedule for my blog like I had intended; I didn’t make any business plans or take any classes or really try to envision my ideal life, beyond fewer work hours, more sunlight and freedom. Instead I read extensively about a lot of successful solopreneurs, creatives, obnoxiously/appealingly/but not too outrageously well-off and hard-working people in the blogosphere, and envied them, and then switched tabs to my money spreadsheet and stared at my savings account’s steady growth, thanks to better wages, controlled lifestyle inflation, and too many hours at those three pointless jobs.

You know what I did at the end of 2014? I cut my monthly contributions to my emergency fund ($16 IS TEMP fund) in half—since my employment was no longer temporary—and started what I named the BIG MONEY fund. Maybe I should call it the Big Dreams fund. Maybe I should stop thinking so hard about my savings, but although the level of my obsession and reveling in these details may be unhealthy, I love it, and I won’t. The Big Dreams fund could help pay to move to another city in a year or two, or buy my own car in a new place (though I'd rather it not). It could help throw a once-in-a-lifetime party and buy a once-in-a-lifetime dress. Maybe it will start a business, or buy a house. Now it’s time to get to dreaming and planning, so when the money’s there, I know what to do with it.

1. The beach at Olympos Valley on Turkey's Mediterranean coast
2. My little desk chez moi
3. Lunch under the citrus trees at Bayram's in Olympos Valley.

Laps, Lapse, Hello

So 2014 has come and gone, and so has January 2015. I’ve been exercising regularly again, after a lapse of more or less two years. I tell myself that this time, it’s going to stick, as if I can go to our local YMCA 3-4 times a week this week, and next week, and the week after, and again and again. (Of course, I could. This is attainable.)

As if I can win the battle with myself, whether or not to leave my cozy home or head straight from work to the gym without dinner, 200 times this year, and 200 times next year, until suddenly, I am sleepwalking to the Y, without a care in my mind. (Automation is the highly improbable end goal of my many habit-forming attempts.)

I’ve barely run at all since I fulfilled my last gym requirement in high school. I’ve used ellipticals, finding their movements fun, usually painless, easily accommodating of simple books or TV shows. But lifting one leg and pulling it forward and setting it down again, and then lifting the other and moving my body forward in space? I’ve barely tried it since escaping the gym teachers, and felt miserably out of shape every time I did.

But now, I’m going back and forth between the elliptical, and running tight loops around the track at the top of the Y building. Because running hurts, because I don’t want to discourage myself too quickly, I’ve started small. I’m running just over half a mile now, when I run—8 laps. Sometimes I feel confident and run fast; a lap later, I’m out of breath, a stitch in my side. But with the tiny track, it’s almost like progress happens on its own. The laps are so short that it’s easy, sometimes an accident, to go one lap further today than I did the time before.

I want everything to be this easy.