These are the names of the victims of the horrific shootings in Atlanta this week. Say their names. Remember them. They deserved better than murder fueled by racism and misogyny. They deserved to live.
Today my heart hurts. My mind is aghast. I am one of the lucky ones, apparently. I have a mixed-enough heritage that I am technically considered “white,” even though my father was denied entry to the United States for years due to his Chinese blood. I can walk down the street and *only* worry about being harassed because I am a woman, and not because of the color of my skin, even though Asian people, food, and heritage are part of the fabric of my life. Today I will bake a birthday cake for my friend who is part Chinese, and greet my husband who is Filipino at the door, and eat fried rice we made for dinner, and I will grieve for the eight people who were senselessly gunned down. And I will grieve for the country that claims to stand for “liberty and justice for all,” but in fact, often delivers it only to a select few.
Kintsugi : (金継ぎ, “golden joinery”), also known as Kintsukuroi (金繕い, “golden repair”), is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum. As a philosophy, it treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise.
This week we lost our oldest dog, Bailey, rather unexpectedly. He was 17 years old, so we knew our days were growing short, but it was heart-wrenching to have to suddenly say goodbye all the same. He and I had a deep bond — he was a mama’s boy in the best, sweetest sense. He saw me through many highs and lows over the pat 15 years, always patient and sweet, loving and attentive. When our other dog would run to the door to bark at a potential intruder, Bailey would head straight to my lap to protect me, his low warning woofs reverberating through his soft little body. He loved to play fetch, unceasingly bringing back his toys for yet another throw, excitement lighting up his whole face. He would sleep in the crook of my knee every night, a warm and solid assurance, until arthritis and age prevented him from getting up and down from the bed safely. Even then he slept next to my side of the bed most nights, ever devoted. He’d lick my ankles and keep me company. He loved food and treats with a zeal that matched my own, the little foodie, and ever the optimist, he’d lay on the floor near us whenever we were cooking, earning him the nickname “lil’ chef.” Family and his pack were deeply important to him — for years he’d balk at going for walks unless all of us came along. When he scratched at the grass with his hind paws, he’d leave each leg stretched back for a beat or two, like the smallest dramatic ice skater. And in his last days, his intuitive attentiveness never wavered. He was clear-eyed and trusting to the very end, showing me love even as his little body was failing him.
My heart broke on Wednesday. But I am honoring Bailey as best I can, filling the cracks with golden memories. He would want me to feel safe and loved, the way he always worked so hard to do. He will always be in my heart, and I am forever grateful to this little dog for a lifetime’s worth of trust, care, and love. Rest well, my little bear. We will be together again. I love you.
This week I’ve had retro TV on the brain, thanks to two things in particular: Disney’s new show WandaVision, and the quirky-fun Fall 2021 fashion show, Coach Forever Season Two. I find it fascinating that entities as different as Marvel Studios and Coach Leatherware captured the same sort of zeitgeist at the same time, with retro television projects that feel somehow fresh and thoroughly nostalgic at the same time.
WandaVision, if you haven’t watched it (yet?), is a Marvel series about Avengers Scarlet Witch/Wanda Maximoff and Vision living a perfect suburban life in Westview, NJ. It picks up directly after the events of the movie Avengers: Endgame. Each episode features sitcom conventions of a different decade, mimicking shows like I Love Lucy, Bewitched, and Full House to fantastic effect. The sense of familiarity and nostalgia make for a clever, intriguing way to explore fresh storytelling, and to provide a foil for the growing sense of unease that things are not quite what they seem.
Coach, under the stewardship of Stuart Vevers, has run with similar themes of retro nostalgia with their 2021 collection. Continuing the “Coach Forever” theme from Spring/Summer 2021, their CoachTV presentation of the Fall 2021 collection, “Coach Forever Season Two,” combines a quirky fashion show presentation of video vignettes with old-school home shopping channel-style segments, music videos, and TV show bits in a fun and fresh way. “Shaft” reference? Check! Early aughts teen movie riff? Check! Beautiful clothes and handbags? Check check check! It felt like a complete world despite being less than 12 minutes of content, with a cohesive design story and an aesthetic that felt deeply heritage Coach with a twist. Juergen Teller and Stuart Vevers are again a great match here.
So what do these similar-but-different evocations of retro nostalgia tell us? With the uncertainties of the past year still looming large, creating something fresh that also has a reassuring familiarity is a brilliant way to go. People crave security in times of uncertainty. Fashion and TV are not only indulgences, but also highly evocative cultural touchstones, so what better way to tie it all together? Wanda and Vision’s sartorial choices tell us everything we need to know in an instant about the era of each episode. We feel a deep sense of familiarity watching their banter and mannerisms, even though we are watching something brand new. We want new ways to escape, but we also want comfort, and WandaVision manages to deliver exactly that. And Vevers, with his deliberate use of designs and motifs from not only decades of Coach archives, but his own collections from the past few years, is deftly and boldly addressing our current moment without saying a word. People are buying less right now, and that’s okay! Pull out your sweater from three, four, six years ago and enjoy it! Wear vintage and look fab! His aesthetic for the collection is both comfortingly retro and of-the-next-moment, and he shows us how to do it, too. Not only that, but he encourages us to have fun with our clothes, which is oh-so-welcome in an industry that sometimes takes itself a touch too seriously. I think we can all use a bit of comfort and fun these days, no?
If you are unfamiliar with the children’s book, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, I should warn you that things do not stop at a cookie. He will then require a glass of milk, a straw, a napkin, a mirror, some scissors… the dominoes begin to fall, and it’s all downhill from there. If you ARE familiar with the book, then you may well know where I am going with this. My dear readers, I must confess: I am a mouse. A house mouse. I am not sure if it was the dawn of the New Year or the profound anxiety and subsequent relief of the changing of the guard, presidentially speaking, and along with it the shiny sense of a new day, but I have been on an absolute bender of a home refresh. Nothing as calculated as a specific room, mind you. No, no, it has been as meandering and quaintly maddening as the cookie mouse’s whims. Buckle up, my friends…
Quarantine has been a weird time. Most of us have been lucky enough to stay healthy — home and bored and feeling cramped while the world falls apart outside our doors and friends or loved ones fall ill. Boredom and doom see-saw for our attention. What has remained constant, though, is our collective need to make our homes work harder for us. Dining rooms have become home offices. Home offices have become playrooms and homework rooms. Bathrooms have become many of our sole opportunities for solitude. My own January saga began when the bottom drawer of my dresser broke. Ugh. Dressers are surprisingly expensive, folks. After some online browsing I turned to Facebook Marketplace, bought a dresser for a fraction of the price of a new one that I was assured was solid wood, and then once I got it out of the car the following morning, realized it surely was not. The broken one I had was much sturdier. So. We put or heads together, moved a few little things out of the living room, and voila! An underutilized space in our living room was suddenly rife with functional storage. AND with some elbow grease and wood glue, I was able to fix my old dresser. Win, win!
My appetite was whetted, folks. Soon I was mentally lamenting the wasted space that our pair of mismatched desks left in our “study,” aka the small area between our dining space and our bedroom. My desk was too deep and too tall for me — a kind hand-me-down from my in-laws at least a decade ago. Maybe I could get our home office space to work harder for us, too? An L-shaped desk could help perhaps? I was on a budget, but I thought a pair of simple Parsons-style tables could work if I couldn’t find an L-shaped desk to fit the space properly. Ikea had a ton of different options to customize last I knew, so I hopped online and found just the right sized items. Except… they were all sold out. Every style. Every finish. Most leg options. Currently unavailable. COVID-19 had hampered supply chains AND there are a ton more people working from home, so I was out of luck there. One excruciatingly long internet search later for something inexpensive, inoffensive-looking, and the right dimensions, I eventually found a pair of desks on Amazon. They arrived two days later, and victory! I listed our older two desks for sale and had buyers within a few days, but we had the too-big desk smack in the middle of in a major walkway for a way too long while we waited for it to be picked up. Wah-wah. It made me crazy for those few days, but the payoff was worth it! Functional new desks with room for both of us, and no space wasted.
Not long after this episode I was sitting on my couch, looking through the doorway of our kitchen. My admiration for all the various glass display cabinetspopping up in beautiful home spreads magically collided with my continued desire to use our spaces more effectively, and *lightbulb* I knew what I wanted to do. Another comically exhaustive internet search followed, resulting in my procuring the very last display cabinet in stock of any model at any Ikea in California. The black framed glass Milsbo was MINE ALL MINE and it was perfect. I was elated. Drunk on victory. Rearranging and plate-stacking and styling made our kitchen prettier AND more functional. Success (again) was sweet. Wasted space begone! Storage is here! Except now I had a spare side chair to find a home for…
I began adding and subtracting and moving and shuffling in the living room. I wondered if perhaps a small table and pair of chairs would work at the far end of our living room. (I should mention that around this time, the striped side table I’d been wanting to add to our living room had arrived. So now I had a spare side chair AND an extra side table, full disclosure.) In the end, a pair of our dining chairs and a stool migrated and made a nice bit of additional seating in our living room, the original extra chair was rehomed at my dining table, and my sweet niece inherited the side table for her new bedroom. All was well. Except…
Again, while lounging on the couch scrolling through my Insta feed watching Netflix my gaze wandered, and it occurred to me that out of all the artfully mismatched chairs around my dining table, none of them were actually the ones I loved anymore. My favorites now were residing in the living room for the guests we’ll get to have once upon a dream and far far away. I started thinking a matching set of chairs could be a fresh, harmonious change of pace after going with mismatched chairs all these years… you see where this is going, don’t you? Spoiler alert: our hero bought a set of chairs. Beautiful mid-century ones. Except now she (I) had 6 (six!) extra chairs to find homes for. Up for sale they went. And my sweet niece now had a pretty velvet chair to go with her new table.
Same tale for the DIY mirror on the dining room wall that I replaced with a sleeker, more geometric option. My cloud mirror now lives in my bedroom, but to make room for it, I had to move an old TV that I hated having out in the first place. So then I thought, well, why don’t I use this opportunity to make room to store it by cleaning some things out? I was selling my dining chairs anyway, so I figured I could get rid of some items I had languishing, disassembled in the back of the closet. Up for sale went a couple end tables, an old art print, a wall hanging, the faux fiddle-leaf fig that I relocated earlier in the pandemic… I was on a ROLL. Out with the old, in with the new, bitches! This girl was on fire!
Then, while proudly showing my mom a photo of our newly freshened dining room, I decided realized our entryway cabinet was now “too much brown” with our new dining chairs. Eye roll. Forehead slap. Yep, I even annoyed myself. Yet another exhaustive search ensued, except this time… I came up empty! Nothing attractive, affordable-ish, and the right size materialized. I was stumped. My phone was crying for mercy with low-battery warnings after repeated searches, because I was SURE I just had to figure out a slightly different search criteria to find the right thing. Google would not fail me, right? And yet, still nada. Finally, I had a sudden surge of creativity born out of desperation. A small cabinet I was using for odds and ends near my desk, freshened and beautified with a whopping $8 investment in forest green spray paint, became the perfect answer to my entry conundrum! And goodbye to the too-big, too-brown old cabinet. VICTORY! All it took was yet another round of shuffling things into different storage spots. Eeesh.
By this time, however, I was starting to get frustrated by the fact that our theoretically freshened, beautified, more functional home was actually starting to feel like a cluttered warehouse. Some but not all our old things had sold, and extra storage or the luxury of a garage are not part and parcel of our 1920s home. Today, after a buyer bailed at the last minute AFTER I assembled a table for them to pick up — dear reader, I snapped. SNAPPED. I was cranky and annoyed and my poor long-suffering husband had to listen to me very un-gracefully rant about people who don’t follow through while I piled as much extra furniture as I could into the back seat of my little car, just to get it OUT OF THE HOUSE.
And here we are. If you have made it this far, I salute you and offer my thanks. All this to say that home — and our concept of it — is ever-evolving. There often is no such thing as “done” or completed or finished. We are living, changing beings with a myriad of needs and wants and aesthetic desires, and it’s okay to change our minds, or refresh and refocus what our homes are and how they function. Also, the middle is always the messiest! To make changes you need to pull things apart and rework things before they come together, so don’t despair if you are in the middle of a project — whether it is a large scale remodel or some small-scale organization — and you want to tear your hair out. It will come together. Trust. I know my house will feel more “done” soon. And it will be worth it — it will be the home I need and love right now.
With the end of an old year and the beginning of a new, reflections often come hard and fast. The end of 2020 was certainly no exception. Rather than resolve to be less — to drink less, to weigh less, to take up less space — I’d like this year to be a year of more. And instead of a list of resolutions that will make me feel defeated before I begin, I like the idea of choosing a word for the year that I can grow with. I thought a lot about what I’d like my word for this year to be, and although I kept circling for something big and dynamic or profound (?), I returned to something simple over and over: rest. My personal word for 2021 will be rest. As I have delved into myself over the past year, I’ve realized I can’t seem to allow myself to truly rest. To just be. Any rest time I have, I have been consciously or unconsciously “recharging my batteries” for something. I have been focused on the need to be productive again, rather than the rest itself. Readying myself for the next slog instead of actually enjoying my downtime. What an intense epiphany.
I am goal-oriented, highly motivated, and am a relentless perfectionist have high expectations for myself, so I suppose this should not come as a total surprise. But to be 100% honest? This realization hit me like a ton of bricks. Have I really gone 38+ years without allowing myself to truly rest? No wonder I am always. so. tired. Rest for me comes with the expectation that I will soon be able to resume some kind of output, some kind of productivity, some kind of movement forward, always. And guilt comes with inaction for me, also always. Can I truly rest if I am feeling guilty about it the entire time? Turns out, the answer is “no.” Shocker, amirite?
So, perhaps my word isn’t so simple after all. Perhaps grappling with personal expectations, productivity, relaxation, downtime, self, and rest will be a complex journey. And perhaps… perhaps that is the best kind of journey. Cheers to more in 2021 instead of less — more love, more joy, more freedom, and more rest. I’m rooting for me, and I’m rooting for you, too.
Votes are still being counted as we wait and hope, stress and wonder, cross our fingers and keep looking forward. Here is a poem I wrote some time ago that seems to fit my mood this week. I’m craving some mental quiet as we hope and wait, wait and hope. Wishing you some serenity this weekend.
respair: the return of hope after a period of despair
This week, a post on anything but grief feels wrong. We lost the formidable Ruth Bader Ginsburg this week, and Breonna Taylor’s murderers walked free — charged only for the bullets that missed. I am gutted.
Instead of trying to parse my own grief into words, please let me share novelist Jesmyn Ward’s piece On Witness and Respair: A Personal Tragedy Followed by Pandemic. Ward loses her husband, suffers through the pandemic in a grief-fueled depression, sobs and bears witness to racism protests — and does so with lilting grace and courage.
I hear you, Breonna. I hear you, Jesmyn. I hear you, Ruth. We are here. We aren’t going anywhere, except forward.
Yesterday I had the pleasure and privilege of hearing truly luminous readings from an incredible line-up of California poets: Dana Gioia, Garret Hongo, Robin Coste Lewis, Luis J. Rodriguez, David St. John, and Gail Wronsky. Cartography of Poets, a virtual poetry event presented by Visions and Voices at USC, centered around the ways history and place shape the poetic experience. The idea that writers and their work are shaped by their environments is certainly not groundbreaking — what would Henry David Thoreau be without Walden Pond? — but this event got me thinking about things in a more contemporary, more personal way.
Fires are still raging in the West. California is on fire, breaking records and breaking apart lives. Amidst this landscape, this small reflection by Dana Gioia reminded me of the beauty of our summers:
I can imagine someone who found these fields unbearable, who climbed the hillside in the heat, cursing the dust, cracking the brittle weeds underfoot, wishing a few more trees for shade. An Easterner especially, who would scorn the meagerness of summer, the dry twisted shapes of black elm, scrub oak, and chaparral, a landscape August has already drained of green. . . . And yet how gentle it seems to someone raised in a landscape short of rain— the skyline of a hill broken by no more trees than one can count, the grass, the empty sky, the wish for water.
from “CALIFORNIA HILLS IN AUGUST” by DANA GIOIA
We continue to shelter in place, and meanwhile, I am contemplating shelter and place, and the way we inhabit both those spaces. Our shelters — the homes we have been confined to and seek succor in. Our places — the solidarity of New York on 9/11, the orange glow of San Francisco’s skies, the hazy rain of ash in Los Angeles, and the ways we shape and are shaped by them. I think of how we are all nesting, all trying to make our homes work better for us — dining rooms becoming offices, offices becoming playrooms, kitchen tables becoming classrooms — and how beautiful the adaptability of the human spirit really is. The way we keep working, toiling, and finding joy in between.
I put up new lamps this week that I love. Something to bring a small joy in a small way. I think I am puttering, not doing much of import, and yet my friend exclaims over how productive I have been. And I think, well yes, I suppose I have. To shelter and find small joys is no small thing, today, yesterday, or tomorrow. I am here in this place, California sunshine streaming through my windows, and I think, I am lucky. I am of this place, I have shelter, and I am learning to find joy.