On gratitude and pumpkin spice.

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I really need to work on noticing and actively appreciating all the wonderful little things that happen in my life from day to day – happy moments, spontaneous adventures, funny interludes, whatever. It’s such a necessary and impactful mindset shift for me – flipping from the stressed, harried getting-by of a day into this silver-lined, rose-colored glass-half-full perspective is always a good thing.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the kindness of others since my adventure with the hydrangeas at Safeway, and today brought another random act of kindness my way. It’s year-end at work, and it’s been a frantic, rushed and demanding few weeks for me. One of the perks of year-end, however, is team coffee…we take turns collecting everyone’s orders, running to the closest Starbucks, and bringing back much-needed caffeine (and warmth – our office is glacial).

Today, my order accidentally got skipped in the ordering process, and I was crushed on the inside – the mid-day jolt has come to be something I look forward to all morning. Not one to make a big deal out of things like this, I went into a meeting in the one conference room in our building that is notorious for hovering around 62 degrees. An hour later I emerged, so cold my fingernails had turned that gross gray-blue color, to find a piping-hot grande skim no-whip pumpkin spice latte sitting next to my keyboard, courtesy of one of my coworkers. She had gone back to the Starbucks and picked one up for me, timing it to return right before my meeting ended so it would be waiting hot when I was done.

So here I sit, sipping a PSL and warmed all the way through with coffee and gratitude – for people who are willing to do such kind things for me, for the little good fortunes the universe chooses to sprinkle through my life – and I can’t help but be a little bit overwhelmed. I don’t really know how I’ve lucked into a life with such an abundance of riches in it, but I truly am surrounded by so much goodness and kindness and consideration.

I like to think that doing those sorts of things attracts goodness back in turn – I have a long memory (for better or worse), and it takes so very little to earn my perpetual goodwill. It’s too easy, though, to slip into a self-centered mindset where I not only don’t do kind things for others, but don’t always notice and appreciate the patience and kindness others extend to me. So here’s a baby list of things/people/actions for which I am grateful right here, right now:

-          My mama bear for listening with such patience to my regular rants about very technical and ridiculous work scenarios

-          Dave for keeping me fed (healthily, to boot!) and handling the lion’s share of cleaning/chores this week as I’ve entered a monogamous relationship with my laptop

-          My oldest team member, who has taught me a plethora of new tasks with extreme detail and meticulousness in the last few weeks

-          My sister, for always talking Broadway and boys and Bachelor with me despite the hour or randomness

-          Tessa, for teaching me how to text with Friendmojis (Google it, it’s so hilarious!)

-          The random couple at Alpha Acid who let me actually sit down on the floor of the brewery and play with their dog for a solid five minutes

-          My papa bear, for links to libraries of the world, a sense of humor that is the epitome of “dad-ish” and a new set of baby blue luggage for our Italy trip

And here’s how I’m going to pay it forward in the immediate future:

-          Sending snail mail to a few friends with whom a conversation is ridiculously overdue

-          In similar vein, passing a new book along to Wade for the next installment of our Transcontinental Book Club

-          Cleaning our apartment til it sparkles over the weekend

-          Asking and truly listening to how my roommates’ days were, with complete focus and attention

-          Sharing the last few Starbucks Graham K-cups with Dave, who doesn’t know I’ve been hoarding a secret box in the corner of our pantry

-          And, generally, and most importantly, having an overall better attitude, more patience, and a little more kindness toward everyone I come across these days.

 

 

Skills I have that you can't put on a resume...

I was thinking just now about how carefully wordsmithed resumes are, and how really, when it comes down to it, they do very little to capture the essence of a person. Like, sure, mine tells you where I went to school and what my work/philanthropic history has been so far, but I think such a big part of why a person succeeds or even is who he/she is can’t be put on paper.

If I could write a real Lizzie resume, these things would definitely be on it:

  • excellent at getting neutral/antipathetic bystanders hooked on the “Bachelor” franchise shows

  • crafter of the perfect grilled cheese

  • has seen “Hamilton” four times and knows it word-perfect from front to back (fluent in various other shows including but not limited to “Les Mis,” “In The Heights,” “Dear Evan Hansen,” “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” “Spring Awakening,” “Waitress”…)

  • actually loves doing laundry; hates anything pertaining to cleaning a floor

  • skilled baby-amuser; core competency in playing peekaboo across multiple tables in a restaurant with strangers’ offspring and gifted at the “mom-bounce” despite not actually being a mother

  • will laugh at just about anything

  • believes that most celebratory occasions call for a card and champagne

  • internalizes and sublimates all negative feelings; will persist in insisting that “we’ll get there” or “there’s never a dull moment” or “I’m fine, this is great!” in the face of most woes, issues, and personal problems

  • excellent “interested listening face,” equally excellent resting bitchface

  • highly esoteric/rarefied vocabulary

  • master procrastinator - once wrote a term paper four hours before it was due and got a professor’s first A+ in a thirty-year teaching career

  • afraid of the sensation of falling; exercises caution in all circumstances with such potential including but not limited to cliff edges, skydecks, and relationships

  • almost always willing to forgive, but when pushed too far will never look back

  • sees the best in people to a fault - currently working on a performance improvement plan to remove those rose-colored glasses

  • has a “candles” line in monthly budget

  • basic bitch who enjoys pumpkin spice lattes unashamedly

  • collector of books, wine corks, and Christmas ornaments

  • cares way too much about what other people think; marshmallow in a suit of armor

  • faking having it figured out every day - but really, who isn’t?

Five minutes of miscellany.

Badly in need of a mental break from year-end close, so here's a quick five-minute'r: 

- Grabbed coffee at the campus Starbucks this morning and overheard the following exchange: 

"Who was that DJ that died?" "Avicii. It rhymes with ceviche."

I laughed VERY hard. 

- It's peach season and I can't get enough of it. While I've been eating them plain for lunch daily this week thanks to a generous boss who shares her tree's bounty with our team every day, I'm thinking this weekend will have to include a remake of this salad, this cherry-peach cobbler (we had something similar at Café Latté in St. Paul on Monday), or maybe just the biggest and ripest, grilled, with a little mascarpone and balsamic (a winning combo). 

- I'm having a crisis of music taste, and it's Nicki Minaj's fault. Her collab with Jason DeRulo, "Goodbye," is an updated riff on the iconic Italian love song "Con Te Partiro." At first, I hated/was appalled by it. Then I started begrudgingly kind of being into it. Now it's become a total earworm and I've had it stuck in my head for a couple days. (Other recent loves: ODESZA and just about everything on this Spotify playlist.) 

- I need new jeans, and Gap has ONCE AGAIN discontinued my preferred fit (high rise, skinny, ultra-dark denim). I ordered a trial pair from J.Crew Factory but I'm very frustrated with the current denim trend of faded/destroyed/mom-jean etc. Not my deal. 

- Watched "To All The Boys I've Loved Before" on Netflix and it was super charming. Definitely planning to take a break from my Philippa Gregory binge to read the trilogy - it's young-adult, so it should be a quick, fun breeze. 

- As Dave and I prep to move in October, I've gone on a bit of an interior decorating spree (who's surprised? Nobody? Okay...). Recent purchases: this Pottery Barn chesterfield in the most gorgeous gray-blue, which has fulfilled every dream of my heart for the last five years, and this fun masculine-meets-feminine end table. Up next? A nice, neutral ivory area rug, some kind of wall organization system, and maybe something like this to store the obscene 76 bottles of wine currently in my collection...oh dear. 

- In the Twitterverse lately: thanks to the seven friends who felt the need to retweet the nasty-af photo of the spider that escaped from the Philadelphia Insectarium. Ancillary note: why is an insectarium even a thing? No thanks. Additionally, I love the speculation around "The Lodestar Op-Ed," as I'm dubbing it - can't wait for the eventual political thriller that will for sure come out of this insane White House. Finally, the Nike-burning that ensued post-Kaepernick ad is pathetic and hilarious. I always laugh (in horror) when I stumble into some sort of ultra-conservative Twitter hole - for the spelling mistakes and complete absurdity. 

 

Happy Thursday, campers! Almost the weekend! 

Bookworm: August 2018

"I've a feeling you're one of those people who finishes every book she starts." 

"You're not?"

"If you know how a book is going to end, why keep on with it?"

- Kimberley Tait, Fake Plastic Love

Loved: 

1984, George Orwell: I have absolutely read this before, so don't judge me for putting it in a "new read" category. The issue was, I read it for the first time in third grade (I was highly precocious) and the second time in a seventh-grade gifted course centered around the themes of utopia and dystopia...so I didn't really have the context either time of reading this with an adult lens. Additionally, how can you not read this during the current political/media climate and think really long and hard about our world? A timely, incisive, necessary read for just about anyone right now, I would say. 

Enjoyed: 

Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows, Balli Kaur Jaswal: This was such a funny, heartwarming, charming summer read. Centered around the culture clash between generations of British Indians in London, I laughed out loud several times reading. Caveat: there are sex scenes, but they're written from the perspective of elderly Indian women, so I found them entertaining rather than super-smutty. 

Tolerated: 

The Last Tudor, Philippa Gregory: Her newest release left me significantly underwhelmed. I've always enjoyed Ms. Gregory's writing for its (very, very) relative historical adherence and the good balance of politics, sex, and feminism (yes, feminism!). This, however, felt one-note, kind of whiny, and repetitive. Eh. 

Re-reads: 

I got the bright idea midway through the month to re-read all of Philippa Gregory's Plantagenet and Tudor novels in chronological historical order, instead of in the haphazard order in which they were published. Given I had a crazy work month and also that they average 500+ pages, I'm only about halfway through the re-read...but here you go! 

The Lady of the Rivers, Philippa Gregory: perspective of Jacquetta of Luxembourg, the mother of Elizabeth Woodville.

The White Queen, Philippa Gregory: perspective of Elizabeth Woodville, wife of King Edward IV and mother of the Princes in the Tower. 

The Red Queen, Philippa Gregory: perspective of Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry VII. 

The Kingmaker's Daughter, Philippa Gregory: perspective of Anne Neville, wife of Richard III. 

The White Princess, Philippa Gregory: perspective of Elizabeth of York, daughter of Edward IV, wife of Henry VII, and mother of Henry VIII. 

The Constant Princess, Philippa Gregory: perspective of Katherine of Aragon, first wife of Henry VIII. 

Three Sisters, Three Queens, Philippa Gregory: perspective of Margaret Tudor, sister of Henry VIII and Queen of Scotland. 

The Other Boleyn Girl, Philippa Gregory: perspective of Mary Boleyn, sister of Anne Boleyn (wife #2 of Henry VIII duh). 

 

So that's like...halfway through the re-read and, frankly, I'm crapping out a little bit on it because I really want to read something light and frothy and fun during close...eek! We'll see if I make it all the way. 

 

 

101 in 1001 #11: See the Ring Cycle at the San Francisco Opera!

Hey campers! This one’s coming to you from the security line at SFO – I’m headed home for a long weekend with my Schwegfam! We’re seeing “Hamilton” (yes, this will be my fourth time, and yes, I know that’s absurd), hitting up our favorite restaurants, and hopefully heading to the State Fair and out on the lakes, weather permitting. I haven’t seen my parents since May and June, respectively, and my sibs since March…so this is a long-overdue reunion!

After a long summer break from writing, I have a ton to catch up on from pretty much all of 2018. It’s been a banner year for having adventures, but not a great one for recording any of it…oops. The undoubted highlight of my summer was, indisputably, seeing my first full Ring Cycle at the San Francisco Opera in June! While I had seen “Das Rheingold,” the first of the four operas, in Minnesota, I had never seen the other three, and experiencing them all in just one week was a wild ride and total adventure.

Doing a full Ring Cycle is a cultish, hardcore, elite-opera-lover thing to do – so naturally I needed to do it. Over the course of our six-day cycle, I met opera fans who have done the full Cycle as many as 22 times – people who travel all over the world to experience it, spending thousands of dollars and years of their lives obsessing over it and discussing it with like-minded fans. As a first-timer, I found that the brotherhood of other Ring lovers was warm, welcoming, and enthusiastic – we made friends over the course of the week during intermissions, at restaurants beforehand, and even in the pool of my apartment complex.

Of course, who better to do a Ring Cycle with than my favorite opera friend Michael? He flew out to California early, spent the weekend in Yosemite being a beast and climbing Half Dome, and rolled into town on Monday night. We kicked off our week of operas with Rheingold on Tuesday:

First, cocktails at Laszlo. We went with mezcal-based drinks: a Melanie for me and a Margot for him.

Then we headed two doors down for an unbelievably good dinner at Lolinda – Argentinean wood-fired meats, including the most incredibly tender tongue I’ve ever had, and a Chappellet cabernet that was revelatory for me.

Rheingold was fantastic – we actually happened to see the same Wotan (the bass) that we had seen in Minnesota in November of 2016! The SF Opera production was set at the turn of the 20th century, and was set-designed gorgeously.

For me, Die Walkure, our second show, was the standout of the cycle. We raced downtown after a long day in Muir Woods and at Lagunitas, and made it to our seats with only three minutes to spare. At the first intermission, we discovered that the balcony of the opera house had been converted to a German beer garden, serving brats and giant soft pretzels with enormous German beers. Bonus: the view of the Civic Center is absolutely stunning from the balcony…

I was blown away by Swedish soprano Irene Theorinn singing Brunnhilde – her “Heilegin hoy” aria at the beginning of the second act got a spontaneous ovation from the audience, which is incredibly rare for Wagner. The entire third act, where Wotan curses her (his daughter) to sleep, left me in tears- the music is ridiculously rich, evocative and moving, and they really left it all out there during the scenes. As soon as my tears dried, we headed out and made it home…after midnight, after four and a half hours of opera! The Ring Cycle truly is a marathon, and I think we were really feeling it after an early morning, strenuous day, and mad dash downtown.

We fortunately had Thursday off from opera for a rest day, so we didn’t pick back up until Friday. This time, to avoid another frantic rush-hour race into the city, we packed formalwear and spent the day downtown exploring, thinking we would grab drinks and change before the show. So we popped to Epic Steak for oysters and Iron Horse champagne (of course). As we finished, I headed to switch my jeans out for a gown, and almost shit myself when the zipper zipped onto the dress midway up. The restaurant manager, who happened to be in the other stall, tried to fix it and, instead, ended up ripping the entire zipper out of the dress.

Not going to lie, I had a moderate panic attack. I didn’t have a gown, and we had dinner plans with another couple in an hour, and I was NOT about to wear jeans to the opera. Thankfully, there’s a stand-alone Rent The Runway in the downtown Neiman Marcus…

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…where an absolute angel staff member hooked me up with a gown in five minutes flat. (She seriously deserves a prize for dealing with my panic-sweating, tear-stained, frantically-rushed spaz self with such grace and patience.) That gown was definitely out of my comfort zone…I tend to default to black dresses for the opera just because they’re elegant, understated, and most of all, safe. I’m not the kind of person who likes to stand out, and nothing stands out quite as much as full-length gold sequins…

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…especially when coupled with a very low neckline and a very slinky fit. The funniest thing, for me, was that as uncomfortable and self-conscious as I was, I was besieged with compliments all night. Michael, being who he is, found it more and more amusing as I felt more and more awkward…and ended up making a game of it. So there you go… “Siegfried” was most memorable, for me, for the fact that I dressed up like a human disco ball.

(The opera, for what it’s worth, was spellbinding.)

Saturday was another day off for us, and we spent it in Napa…our non-opera activities will have to be a post of their own, because this is getting long. Sunday brought us the six-hour behemoth that is “Gotterdammerung,” “the fall of the gods,” which legit ends in fire, flood and death to all parties. It is heavy, and it is dark. And I adored it.

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I found myself in tears again as the opera drew to an end – in part because it was so ridiculously emotional, but also because I was so sad that this gorgeous, immersive adventure was coming to an end. It felt like coming up for air having held my breath for a long time when the lights came up after the show…I was completely jolted.

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We went to The View Lounge to dissect a little over cocktails while enjoying, you know, the view…and immediately started discussing the Cycle. Both our opinions were largely favorable – the casting was impeccable, the staging innovative and cohesive, and the orchestra faultless. The Ring is extraordinarily demanding of every person involved, and the way the San Francisco Opera rose to the challenge of putting on three consecutive weeks of Cycles was insane. I’m already thinking ahead to trying to catch it at the Met in New York next May…anyone feeling like 16 hours of German opera?!