Hobby, Life, NaBloPoMo

I Need a Hobby

Last year my social feed was filled with friends with extra time on their hands, who took up a hobby.

I was not one of those folks.

However, now that life is resuming and calendars are filling up and I have very little time for myself, I have decided that I need to find myself a nice little hobby.

My new hobby needs to fit the following criteria:

  • I need to be able to do this hobby at home
  • This hobby cannot require any additional time out of my day
  • Hobby must be relatively easy and inexpensive

Based on this list, I introduce my future hobby: knitting.

While I’m not yet ready to join official Stitch & Bitch groups (as much as I want to, I just love the name!), I can confidently say that knitting:

  • is something I can do at home
  • is something I can do while I’m doing something else (ie: watching TV at night)
  • may take time to learn, but once I get the hang of it might be therapeutic

For my very first knitting project, I think I will order a scarf-making kit from Stitch & Story:

I’m excited about this project! A long time ago I started knitting with one of my friends, but I never kept it up. but I’m ready to start again and actually produce something! First, a scarf! Then, a knit banana hat!

Plus, I just read Sutton Foster’s memoir, Hooked, which – you guessed it! – is about knitting!

Hopefully, I finish this knitting project before next November so I can share it on the blog!

NaBloPoMo, Pandemic, Restaurants

The Service Industry Is Suffering

This past September, we were in Newport, Rhode Island for a wedding. The day of the wedding dawned sunny and bright, 70 degrees and no humidity. The perfect day to dine al fresco by the water if there ever was one.

Our group of six made out way up and down the wharfs until we came to a restaurant with a stellar outdoor patio, right alongside the water. AND, it was empty! This was like kismet because finding a spot to eat for 6 people was proving to be difficult.

We walked up to the host station. “Six please, for outside,” I said.

“I’m sorry,” the host said, “We don’t have any availability.”

Me: “But your entire patio is empty. Can’t we sit at one of those empty tables? Are they all reserved?”

“Reserved? No,” she said. “I just don’t have any waitstaff to work this area.”

And so it went, as we stopped at a few restaurants. They had open tables, but no one to work them.

Fast forward a month and a half to tonight. Mr. KK and I decide we’re going to do take out. The fact that we made this decision – and picked a place – in a relatively timely fashion was a miracle in itself. When it came time to order, Mr. KK took one for the team. I took the dogs out.

When I came back in, Mr. KK was still on the phone, holding muzak blaring from his phone. “I’m on hold,” he told me.

This went on for several minutes.

“Let me call, too,” I said, dialing from my cell phone. It rang and rang. No one even answered.

“It’s been 10 minutes,” Mr. KK told me, “and I’m still on hold.”

I called three separate times, and each time my call went unanswered. “They must be short staffed,” I said, hanging up. For the record, this was a Wednesday night. Not a busy Friday or Saturday.,

Just a day earlier, we read about a restaurant in a neighboring town that was closing because they couldn’t find a chef to hire. Imagine that, they couldn’t find someone to cook at the restaurant.

Last year was horrible for restaurants and staff; Mr. KK did what we could ordering from our local favorites when they had family meals and take out available. And here we are – a year later – and restaurants can’t staff their establishments.

This is so sad to me. And maybe it’s only happening in places that aren’t big cities where there are thousands of people who need/want a job. But in our small town, restaurants are on the verge of closing their doors (if they haven’t done so already).

Maybe it’s The Great Resignation. Maybe people don’t want to work in the restaurant biz anymore. But it seems that people don’t want to work anywhere anymore. I’m not going to lie, while I love my job, if I could retire tomorrow in a way that I was financially stable, I would do it in a heartbeat. Not because I don’t like to work, but because I could think of a million things I could be doing every day that aren’t work.

So what is going to happen to restaurants? I’m sure the popular and city ones will be fine. They will bounce back and have full reservations. But what about the other ones? The local bars, Nonna’s Italian place down the street, and the local pizza joint? What happens to them?

Even in cities like Boston, so many familiar, old-standby bars and restaurants have closed. College and 20-something favorites have shuttered their doors, leaving behind vacant buildings and memories.

So what’s going to happen? Restaurants just start closing down because they don’t have anyone to work? There are so many people out there looking for jobs, why can’t restaurants staff their establishments?

Age, getting old, Life, NaBloPoMo

You’re Only As Old As You Feel…Until They Tell You Otherwise.

They say age is just a number.

But then they also tell you – in a variety of ways – that no matter how young you feel, you are, in fact, OLD.

I remember the first time I was Ma’amed. I was awkwardly ordering at a Starbucks with their exclusive sizing language when the extremely young barista said, “Here’s your change, Ma’am.” The word rang in my ears. I silently repeated the word in different voices and tones in my head. I was far to young to be a Ma’am…wasn’t I?

Oh, but society is tricky! Just when you’re feeling good and young and NOT your age, whammo! It’s time for a medical test that “people your age” start to have. Or, if you’re a woman and you’re pregnant at age 35 or later, you are considered of “Advance Maternal Age” and quickly shuffled off to a “special” office with “expert” doctors and “personalized” care. You’re suddenly in a decade that is being called “[YOUR AGE] is the new [INSERT YOUNGER DECADE HERE]”.

Personally, while I know that time is passing, I still have a misconceived notion of how long ago things happened. This is me exactly:

I can’t be the only one who is time-challenged.

I have a headshot that I use that Mr. KK took of me over a decade ago that I still unabashedly use because 1. I love this photo of me and 2. In some weird way, I still think I look like this. (Sad, I know.) I feel like almost no time has passed, when in reality, a dozen years have gone by and our lives have changed so much (we had a kid, which contributed to me no longer looking as young and relaxed as I do in that photo), so perhaps I hang onto that photo because I wish I STILL looked like that. I also still have the blue scarf.

Interestingly, while my mind may still feel young(ish), my body hasn’t gotten the message because GOOD LORD why do so many things hurt? And when one thing starts to feel better (my back), something else starts to hurt (my shoulder). Speaking of shoulders, a few years back I was having so much shoulder pain I went to see a massage therapist who basically said, “You have frozen shoulder. It happens to women around your age.” Hmph!

Physical aging aside (eye sight, crawling out of bed every morning, constant nerve pain), I am aging out of “cool” social platforms. Case in point: TikTok. I just…can’t. I mean, I do, a bit, for my job. But personally, no thank you. I already have ZERO time in my life, and I imagine a constant stream of videos that never, ever stop would be such a time suck out of my life, that I would open TikTok on Tuesday, and before I knew it, it was Thursday afternoon and I haven’t slept or eaten, and Little Mister has lost 2 teeth.

I suppose in a few years, Little Mister will be my tie to all things social and cool. He’ll want to be on the latest social platform that is yet to be invented by some future 17 year old billionaire. I’ll have all the knowledge of cool parent phone spyware and be not only up on what he’s doing, but still somewhat cool. When we have dance parties now in our kitchen – and Little Mister asks me to “Please don’t sing” and “Do you have to dance like that?”, I like to tell him how much I’m looking forward to chaperoning his school dances and busting out with some signature moves while he and his friends look on. Fun fact: I will absolutely do this.

I will continue to use my out-of-date headshot (maybe even for my obituary?), and remain young mentally. Fashionably, I will age; I will wear what’s comfortable, even if everyone is hating on skinny jeans and I still have a pair I feel halfway decent in.

And I will still let myself think that 1980 was twenty years ago, and that me and millennials are “around the same age” because, well, why not?

Bruno, dogs, Life, NaBloPoMo

The FOMO Is Real

Last year, we added a pandemic puppy to our family. And let me say, it has been a challenging year and a half. Bruno is a medium-sized dog (a little bigger than we thought he would be), is constantly into everything, and I must blurt out, “Where’s Bruno?” at least a thousand times a day. Because if I can’t see him, he’s doing something he shouldn’t be. But he’s a big goof and we love him. And it’s no coincidence that the word ‘NO’ is at the end of his name.

Adopting a puppy during a pandemic meant all the “pros” were also cons.

PRO: you are home 24/7 and can effectively potty train the puppy!

CON: you are home 24/7 and your puppy turns into velcro dog, develops separation anxiety and can’t handle it when you leave a room.

Move over Millennials and Gen Z, Bruno has you beat when it comes to FOMO.

I think every pet has a preferred parent. It could be the one who gives out extra treats when the other isn’t looking, or the one who snuggles them on the couch. In my case, I have become Bruno’s “person” because I’m the one who takes him on long walks every day.

These walks serve a dual purpose: 30 minutes of exercise for me (at least) and hopefully wearing out Bruno so that he will take a nice, long nap. Because a tired dog, is a well-behaved dog.

And because I’m Bruno’s person, he is extremely attached to me. And he’s afraid I’m going to do something fun (read: go outside for a walk) without him. It’s like having a very unflattering stalker.

Bruno’s FOMO looks something like this:

While I’m playing with Little Mister in the playroom.
While we’re in the living room.
While I’m trying to work.
Sharing my chair, again, when I’m trying to work.
Whenever I try and leave the house.
And…when I’m blogging.

I spared you all and didn’t post a photo of Bruno joining me in the bathroom every time I’m in there, standing in front of me, staring at me.

In the early spring, when we started going out again, we could not leave the house without Bruno freaking out. He’d be in his crate, scratching at the bottom like crazy, whining and crying. One time, he moved his crate halfway across the kitchen floor because he was trying to get out so badly! We were prisoners in our own home! It took a bit of training, leaving for short periods, and some “herbal” remedies of a spray and some calming drops to get him to be calm when we put him in his crate when it’s time for us to go out.

We didn’t know when we adopted him he’d become velcro dog, but I suppose being with us 24/7 trained him to think we’d always be around. Sometimes Bruno’s FOMO is cute and it makes me feel very loved and admired…at a very close distance. And I hear that Rockwell song in my head, “(I Always Feel Like), Somebody’s Watching Me…”

COVID, Kids will be kids, Life, Little Mister, NaBloPoMo, Pandemic, parenting

Should Kids 5-11 Get the COVID 19 Vaccine?

Last month, we were all invited for dinner at the house of Little Mister’s bestest friend. It was October and still warm, so the plan was to eat outside. However, Mother Nature was like, “Oh no, you’re not!” and it proceeded to be rainy and cold. The soirée became an inside party.

Little Mister asked me before we getting ready to leave, “Do I have to wear my mask inside?”

I hesitated for only a second. We knew the family, and I know how conscientious they are. And I make my family practically live in a bubble, so…

“Not tonight,” I replied.

Little Mister’s face lit up like a Christmas tree. “I DON’T??? Hooray! This is the best day ever!”

And my heart broke a little bit.

Never did I imagine that my child’s “best day ever” would be not having to wear a mask at a playdate.

Now that we are back in school in person full time, he is wearing a mask all day long. And guess what? It doesn’t bother him. When we venture out of the house, he puts his mask on while we are still in the car, driving to our destination. At his annual pediatrician’s appointment, she wanted to look in his mouth and asked him to remove his mask quickly. “Will I get the virus if I do?” he asked sincerely.

With the news that the COVID-19 vaccine has been approved for use on children 5-11 years old, you’d think we’d all be running to get in line. But, I’m not running. Or even fast walking. I’m meandering at a leisurely pace…using the time it takes me to get there gather up as much information as I can.

I should be thrilled! A vaccine! To help prevent COVID! So why am I hesitating? For starters, I am 100% fine doing something to myself, however, when it comes to my child, that’s a different story. What if he has an adverse reaction? Why wasn’t the test group larger? Do they know enough about the effects of the vaccine on the Littles?

Also – but not as important – is Little Mister’s fear of needles and the self-induced anxiety he gives himself whenever he thinks he needs a shot. Someday I’ll tell you about getting the flu shot this year…

A mom friend to whom I was telling about my hesitation, shared this article with me, which is basically the 5-11 COVID-19 Vaccine Guide for Dummies. And I appreciate this non-scientific explanation of what is going on with the vaccine and the young test groups.

Giving the COVID-19 Vaccine to young children is such a personal decision. I’m not sure what the availability of the vaccine will do for the mask mandate in school – will it be removed? Because if the answer is yes, that would definitely sway my decision. Because as much as I want to believe first graders are awesome about mask wearing – and they are pretty good – I know little kids can’t help but be on top of each other…and the few times I’ve been in the school I’ve seen mediocre mask wearing at best by lots of the kids.

I have booked Little Mister an appointment for his first vaccine. We have a few weeks to think it over and make a final decision. If we do it, he’ll be fully vaccinated by Christmas. And a COVID-free holiday sounds amazing!

NaBloPoMo, Pandemic

5 Things I Hope Last When the Pandemic Ends

Boy, did the last 30 days fly by! I did it – 30 posts in 30 days…AND I didn’t drive Mr. KK crazy in the process!

November 30 is also my cancerversary – 16 years today I had the surgery that saved me. I love that this special day falls on the last day of my blogging. It’s like I’ve reached two accomplishments in one fell swoop.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect blogging this year. I wanted to be careful to not make every post about the pandemic (though, let’s be honest, have we focused on anything else in the last 9 months besides COVID and the election? And lord knows, I don’t want to talk about the man-child who is sitting in the White House right now – when he’s not playing golf, that is.)

2020 is one for the books. It’s a miracle we made it out unscathed and mostly sane. It was a year that made us relook at how we did everything – from going out to eat to visiting an amusement park to picking up milk at the grocery store. In the blink of an eye, the way we’d become accustomed to living had changed. Schools were taught on a computer. Businesses shut down. Travel ceased.

And in the midst of it all, we learned how to live with it. We changed how we did things, and what we expected. Surprisingly, there were some silver linings that came from the “new normal”.

I’d like to celebrate my last post of the month with a list of things that I’d like to continue after the pandemic is over (whenever that may be):

  1. Zero wait times at the doctor. For a variety of reasons, I had to visit multiple doctors, for multiple reasons, in multiple venues this year. The one common denominator: I never had to wait to be seen. Gone were the days of sitting in a waiting room for God knows how long at the mercy of the doctor’s schedule. Instead, I found myself parking my car, calling up to the receptionist, being ushered inside and seen immediately, and back in my car in about 15 minutes flat.
  2. Outdoor dining at restaurants year-round. If you live in a warmer climate, you likely already have this luxury. But us New Englanders, we have a very short season for dining al fresco. And for someone who loves eating outside (but hates being cold!) this is a huge win! Restaurants across the country are suffering right now, and pulling out all the stops so they can continue to stay in business. Climate controlled yurts, greenhouses, heat lamps…anything to keep you toasty warm while dining at your favorite establishment.
  3. The ‘do whatever makes you happy’ mentality. Christmas decorations up in October? Sure! Candy for breakfast just because? Don’t mind if I do. Ignoring your to-do list because you just can’t bring yourself to get up off the couch? You betcha. Do whatever floats your boat without worrying what others think about your watercraft.
  4. Respecting your schedule, and not over booking your life. Don’t get me wrong, I miss doing things. Doing anything, really. But what I don’t miss, is mentally – and physically – over extending myself and our family. This place in the morning, this chore in the afternoon but be home by X time so we can meet up with friends. It was a little exhausting. There’s something to be said about picking one thing to do each day and enjoying the crap out of it.
  5. Having my WFH partner. Back in March, Mr. KK’s company closed down, moving all employees remote. It was an adjustment for me, to have someone home, and for him – to all of a sudden be away from his normal day-to-day and amenities. But as time went on, we both got used to working together. I no longer had to talk to myself; I had another human to chat with! We could bounce ideas off of each other over coffee. Tag team walking the dogs and making lunch. And just get to spend more time together.

There you have: the last post. Thank you all for reading along this month! Cheers to another successful NaBloPoMo!

See you in 2021!

Christmas, NaBloPoMo

How to Buy a Christmas Tree

Every year we go out on the weekend after Thanksgiving to get our tree. And this year, since we decorated the house so early, it was hard to wait until after the turkey was cooked to bring home that Frasier fir. But even I knew that getting a tree earlier than Thanksgiving was a recipe for a dried out tree disaster.

This year, because it’s 2020 and nothing is remotely normal, it was almost 60 degrees on the day we went out for the tree. That’s about 30 degrees warmer than normal. Little Mister, who is a creature of habit and Type A personalty, insisted on wearing a winter hat (and one that was way too small) because he wears a hat to get the tree every year. I tried to explain global warming to him, and that it was too hot for a hat, but he insisted on wearing it and then complaining to me that he was sweating. Kids are awesome.

We went to our usual tree place, which is actually a local produce store that gets a shipment of precut trees each year that are fresh, well-shaped and reasonably priced. Because even though I love Christmas, I won’t spend a fortune on a tree. (Also, we usually get more than one tree so I need to be smart about my tree dollars). And I will not be trudging out into a field to cut down my own tree because I’ve been there and done that, and for me it’s completely overrated.

Here are the steps to getting a Christmas tree, according to KK:

  1. Get a real tree. I know artificial trees are a better financial investment in the long run, and there’s no mess, etc. But a fake tree – no matter how expensive – will never be mistaken for a real tree. Real trees are just imperfect enough. Plus, no scented candle can replicate the spicy piney smell of a real tree in your home.
  2. Be picky. Years ago the family joke was how long my mother would take to pick our her Christmas tree. She would evaluate at least 20-30 trees before deciding. I’m picky also, but I can pick out a tree in 10 minutes and be in love with it.
  3. Look at all angles. In most homes, one side of the tree is going to face a wall. Use this to your advantage! Very few trees are 360 degrees of perfection. Wonky branches? Gaping hole hear the top? Funny shape on the left? Put that side to the back. No one will know.
  4. Measure! If it were up to me, we would get a 10 foot tree each year, even though we only have 8 1/2 food ceilings. That’s why Mr. KK comes along, to bring me back to reality. We also use his homemade measuring system, when he stands next to the tree with his arm straight in the air. If the top of the tree and the top of his hand are the same height, the tree will fit in the house. Works every year.
  5. Don’t feel pressured. Some places have workers who want to follow you around and pull out the trees for you to look at. Try and avoid this at all costs. Not only is it awkward picking out your family Christmas tree with a stranger, I am forced to say not-so-nice things about their trees in front of them. (No one wants to hear they have scrawny trees).
  6. Use decorations to your advantage. Lights and strategically-placed ornaments can make or break a tree. Admittedly, some trees are beyond salvation, but twinkly lights and themed ornaments can really go a long way.
  7. Don’t settle! If you don’t find a tree you love, move on. There are a million trees out there, you will find yours.
  8. Be prepared to compromise. I love big, fat trees. Mr. KK likes more tapered, thinner trees. And I feel badly that every year he has to concede to a perfectly fat tree because they are the best trees around.
  9. Make a fresh cut. If you cut down a tree, be sure to bring it home and put it in water right away. If you bring home a tree but you want to let it “settle” outside for a day, that’s fine – just make a fresh cut so that baby will start drinking water once you put it in the stand.
  10. Accept the fact that come December 26th, you will hate your tree. Well, you won’t hate the tree itself (unless it has completely gone the sh*t) but you will hate the idea of your tree, and the fact that you have to take the tree down, put the ornaments away, and clean up. Even for someone who loves Christmas as much as I do, come the day after, I’ve already written the holiday off.

I’d like to say that we got our tree this weekend. However, we did not. After going to two different places, we didn’t find our perfect tree. Plus, at each place, we had tree workers following us and asking if we liked certain trees. I didn’t want to be rude, but when I go shopping for clothes, I don’t have someone following me around asking if I like a certain sweater, and if I don’t why not. Christmas trees are a personal preference, so please, kindly back away.

We’ll be back on the hunt next weekend, I know my perfect tree is out there!

NaBloPoMo, only child

It’s Tough being an Only Child During a Pandemic

Mid-pandemic I sent a text to my Boston friends saying “Check on your only child friend, she is not OK.”

I’ve written about how hard it is to have an only child during this pandemic, but man has it been hard to be an only child this year.

I feel there are two types of only children: those that grow up to crave togetherness (Mr. KK) and those people who loved – and still love – alone time (me!).

I loved growing up an only child. I was never bored. I entertained myself for hours, and I brought that special talent into adulthood. Before kids, I would spend an entire day by myself: cooking, reading, shopping, doing things around the house, and simply enjoying time alone. It didn’t matter if I spoke with anyone the whole day because I would often find myself having faux conversations with myself.

When the Little Mister was still little, I relished nap time because that became my “alone time”. Also, when I could sneak away for a few hours on the weekends to wander around a few stores, it was heaven. I even counted my time at barre class or kickboxing “kk time”.

Fast forward to 2020, and all of that alone time just vanished. Poof! I wasn’t leaving the house to go shopping. Poof! All kickboxing classes became virtual. Poof! Nap time was just a distant memory. I was spending 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, with other people. I couldn’t find 5 minutes alone, let alone a full hour!

At work, we were encouraged to take our vacation time. For what? I would think. What the heck am I going to do? Where the heck am I going to go?

As someone who worked from home before it was required, I would have 8 hours to myself each day. Rocco was with me, but he was small and quiet, and usually spent the better part of the day curled up behind me on my chair. But now, there is always someone home – and at times, multiple someones. We brought Bruno into the mix, and boy are puppies needy (and does that teething stage every end? This dog is part goat, he chews everything in sight!) Gone were the long stretches of time when there was just silence. Part of my job is content creation: blog posts, website pages, marketing materials. The quieter it is, the more productive I am. Now, however, I find myself trying to multitask writing and keeping one eye on the puppy while shouting things like, “No!” and “Leave it!” and “We don’t eat chairs!”

I had to work hard to find “alone time” this year, outside of the work day. I started waking up extra early and reading quietly in the darkness before it was time to start the day. I was reading a few books a week and I felt a little more like myself. I scheduled “work out” time a few days a week. I started taking walks, just to get away from my computer and to be lost in my own thoughts. I solve a lot of problems of the world during my alone time.

Just last week, Mr. KK – whose makeshift ‘office’ was a desk in our kitchen – moved into the back office with me. It’s a small room to begin with, and now it has twice the amount of furniture (and bodies!), and boy is it cozy! I haven’t shared an office with some one in a very long time. We’re finding our groove when one of us has a call, I’m trying to reduce the amount of reading aloud I do when writing, and Mr. KK is working on reining in his ‘sighs’ while working.

I miss being alone sometimes. And if you don’t like being alone, it’s hard to understand. But I like my small doses of solitude. They keep me sane. And that has been the hardest struggle for me this year. Being the best me I can be, while still being good to me.

Don’t get me wrong, I will cherish all of this family time. Mr. KK and I have found our groove of working from home together. Our Little Mister seems happier because we’re always around. We’ve played lots of games, watched lots of movies, drawn so many pictures.

And now that the weather is turning colder we’ll find ourselves in the house even more. We already weren’t going anywhere, now we won’t even be able to hand out on the patio with friends (or, in my case, to sit down outside alone and read for a half hour).

Only children, I see you. And I feel for you.

Now if you need me, I’ll be hiding in the bathroom. Shhhh…

Christmas, NaBloPoMo, shopping

A Whole New Day After Thanksgiving

It used to be, that Black Friday meant kicking off the Christmas season with shopping. I’m not talking about getting in line at 3am for a TV. The one time Mr. KK attempted to leave the house at the crack of dawn for a good price on a TV, he got up and dressed and when he got into the car, it wouldn’t start. So he came back upstairs to bed.

For me, the day after Thanksgiving was simply the start of the Christmas season: Christmas music, Christmas shopping and Christmas decorations. I loved going shopping and seeing everyone carrying bags and smiling. If I’m being honest, about the half the gifts I would buy would be for myself; I would shop with the “one for me, one for them” mantra.

When Mr. KK and were first married, we would make a day of Black Friday. We’d get up early – but not too early – and head to the mall, and then an outdoor shopping center. The whole day would be planned around where we’d go for lunch. So, basically, we’d go for lunch on Black Friday and maybe buy a gift or two in the process.

The first few years after Little Mister was born, we’d bring him with us. We’d strap him into his stroller as we perused Crate and Barrel and West Elm, stopping at the huge kids’ section in Barnes & Noble to feed him and let him play for a bit and stretch his legs.

Eventually, Little Mister reached the age when it was less productive and fun taking him with us on Black Friday. So I started shopping alone or with a friend. It was still all about the feeling of the holiday, and it put me in such a good mood. I still planned the entire day around lunch.

THIS year, however, like everything else in 2020, Black Friday was off. Instead, gifts were bought online. Movies were watched. Pajamas were worn until after lunchtime. Cupcakes were eaten for lunch. Cocktails were had before 5pm. Our Elf arrived.

Masks are worn at the North Pole too!

Our house has been decorated for over a week, so Thanksgiving was a bit of ‘holidays colliding’. This weekend we’ll get the tree, and pray that the puppy doesn’t knock it down, eat the ornaments or pee on it.

The alarm to move the elf has been set, and the season has officially started!

(Perhaps the pajama-cupcake-eating part of Black Friday can become the new tradition, because I can totally get behind that!)