Angela Amman

One year

one year later Milestone posts always make me cry. Most of the ones I write here celebrate birthdays or first days of school or seriously, how can I possibly have a kindergartner? My tears come, but they’re tempered by sweetness that overtakes the bitterness in the bittersweet moments punctuating childhood.

This feels different. Harder.

Grief warps time. At least, mine does. If I’ve learned anything this year it’s that everyone’s grief looks different, feels different, turns us inside out in different ways.

One year feels at once impossibly long and much too short. I remember your whiskers on my cheek when you’d kiss me goodbye, and I don’t know how it’s been a year since I felt that.

Your death helps me to find patience I didn’t think I had. I can listen to the kids longer, pay attention to stories that linger. But I’m also more impatient, because I worry more about how fleeting things may be. I want to cram experiences into too-small spaces because I worry opportunities are slipping through my fingers with me realizing it.

I didn’t know when I hugged you goodbye it would be the last time until the real last time.

I think of you every day. Some moments when you cross my mind, I have an instant where I forget you’re gone. My breath hitches a moment later, the tightness in my chest a reminder that I can’t text you or call you.

You won’t stop by with TimBits for the kids (and Ryan) and a few minutes of conversation.

Mom brought TimBits today, and I don’t know if I’ll ever see that little box and not think of you. She brought a potted purple flower, a hyacinth we took to you, and it looked beautiful against the marble stone. Geese flew overhead, and I’m glad it’s peaceful there.

Every year around Easter, you’d buy a hyacinth, the fragrant blossoms demanding spring, no matter what temperatures Michigan decided to spin that year. Once they grew in Grandma Rose’s front yard, and the plants became a tangible link to renewal and beauty.

I don’t have a hyacinth this year.

I found this candle, and I bought it without knowing it would make me cry to burn it, without knowing I’d burn it anyway and think of you.

I miss you. I love you.

A spring simplification project

A simplification projectI spend a lot of time making lists.

We’re going on a {relatively} short vacation in less than a month, and I already have lists. Part of my list-making stems from how lovely it feels to have things under control in my brain. That part works. The part that doesn’t work is how much time I spend making lists instead of just paring down the unnecessary things in my life: clothes in my closet I don’t wear, books I’ll never read again, pens that barely leave scratches of color on paper.

At the beginning of Lent, I started a project to eliminate 40 bags of extraneous things from our house over the 40 days of Lent. I’m on track to finish — with extra bags. The interesting — or terrifying — thing about the project is how so many areas of our home don’t look much different. We’ve accumulated so much over the years that removing 40 bags is hardly making a dent.

However, I feel my mindset shifting. I’m attempting to be more careful about what we bring into the house. I’m letting go of things with a little less guilt and looking forward to simplification in all areas of my life.

I’m paring down my closet to things that fit, things I enjoy wearing, and seasonally appropriate items. Of course, since I’m in Michigan, seasonally appropriate covers a wide range of temperatures and weather conditions, especially in the spring. There’s a little challenge out there called Project 333, whose premise is to wear only 33 items of clothing for the next three months.

I thought about doing that, but the 33 items includes outwear and accessories, and that kind of clashes with the whole “does it bring me joy” philosophy, because sparkly, inexpensive jewelry makes me happy, and I don’t want to count those little smiles and try to decide between a necklace and a pair of pants.

Despite my little corner of glittery ephemera, I’m enjoying the process of figuring out what should stay and what should go. I’ve bagged items for charity and dropped things in a bin that will eventually be made into beds for animals. I’ve donated to the library and recycled, and I’ve let go of items I was holding onto for sentimental reasons, even though I never looked at them and still have those memories.

I hope letting go of some of these items lessens the hold material goods have over my brain, because sometimes I feel like I spend too much time worrying about what we have and what we don’t and how we’re organizing all of it.

Spring feels like the perfect time for this project. Rain and sun mix together to create new growth, beautiful bits of green peeking out from the grey and brown ground, from the tree limbs that looked so forlorn all winter.

I’m searching for that, too, I guess, in my own way: A place for new growth to occur, letting something beautiful emerge from something dormant.

Breaking up with sugar and other thoughts

Thoughts on Whole 30 On Day 4 of my Whole 30 plan, we threw a sleepover for Abbey’s ninth birthday. Much like hostesses throughout time, I didn’t mind foregoing the pizza, but I had a harder time not nibbling on the “candy bar” offerings they used for their movie-watching snack. My entire experience with the Whole 30 mirrors those moments in so many ways.

Being intentional about what I’m eating seems to be much more difficult for me than figuring out how to eat within the (super strict, why am I doing this again?) parameters of the plan.

Sugar lurks in everything (seriously, cane sugar seems to be an ingredient in almost anything I pick up in the store), but eating lots of home-prepped meat, fruits, and veggies takes care of the majority of hidden ingredients. I find myself struggling against the mindless nibbling, though: grabbing a couple of those jelly beans, sliding my finger along the knife spreading peanut butter (no legumes!), snatching a corner of a quesadilla while dissecting it with a pizza slicer. I’m proud of myself for not succumbing to those moments, but it’s been harder than I expected.

I’m trying this eating experiment for a few reasons: an increased awareness of how my body reacts negatively to different foods, an even less pleasant awareness of how my body doesn’t react as well to my tried-and-true weight loss efforts, the desire to add healthier foods to the plates of everyone in my house.

Pondering intentional actions wasn’t a part of my goal when I started the Whole 30, but it’s becoming the thing I think about the most at the end of the day when I evaluate how the day went and what changes I might want to make for the next.

Did I grab a date roll because I was actually hungry or did it just sound tasty as I passed the container on the counter? Would pausing to make an actual lunch take more time than grabbing three small snacks between breakfast and dinner?

Those reflections extend to other parts of my day, whether I want them to or not. I notice my wasted time a little more.

Did I need to check Facebook messages before diving into scheduling posts for the week? Does answering emails need to involve clicking through to look at J. Crew sales I know I’m not actually going to shop?

After my 30 days are finished, I’m planning to keep some of the parameters of the eating plan in place and relaxing others. I need to keep the intentional thinking, though, for both eating and other aspects of my life. Just like my dietary habits affect my energy and mood, so does the way I spend my time. Hopefully, I can continue to figure out ways to use it more productively.

Have you tried the Whole 30? What did you learn from it if you did? 

Living in the village

Christmas villageI put up my Nan’s Christmas village this year, little homes and a winery and lots of people and trees curated on a table.

When Nan moved into her senior living apartment, she couldn’t set up her village and my sister-in-law and I divided it amongst ourselves at her request. My first attempt at a set up was a little bit more of an experiment than an implementation. I didn’t do fake snow or shoeboxes for hills, and I let the kids figure out their favorite places for the figures.

With the miniature houses lit and my own house quiet, I kind of wished I could crawl into the sort of life promised on a single tabletop. A toy shop, lighthouse, and a little school, all within walking distance; kids playing in the snow and a fisherman resting on a bench while seagulls perch near him.

Some of my stories take place in a town called Warden’s Bluff, a little corner of the world that I imagine looks a bit like the village I set up earlier this month. Yet even in a world I’ve created, my characters can’t manage to live up to the utopian ideals of a Christmas village. Life, both fictional and real, is messier than ceramic houses might lead you to believe.

Part of me thinks that if I make the right resolutions and goals at the beginning of the new year, I can create my own version of the idyllic village. If I just do the right things, find the right combination of action and ambition, I might also be able to find myself walking past a clock tower while dodging snowballs from impeccably dressed children.

The other part of me knows the Christmas village only exists on a table in my family room.

2016 hurt. Losing my dad changed the way I look at the universe; the infinite suddenly feels finite, and I find myself vacillating between urgency and paralytic doubt. Life was achingly beautiful and undoubtedly disappointing, both before and after April 10th, but my reactions to those moments haven’t been the same since.

Right now, the idea of resolutions seems insurmountable. Some days I want to change everything, and other days I want things to stay exactly as they are, at exactly that minute. I’m not the only one who feels like that, and a few years ago I noticed people claiming a word for the year instead of making a list of resolutions. I’ve done it in the past, and I’m going to try it again for 2017.

My word of the year is a wisp of a word, but it might be one of the things with which I most struggle.

In 2017, I want to “do”.

I spend a lot of time dreaming and imagining, thinking and planning, and sometimes the doing falls between cracks.

I can’t shape my life into the sort promised by shellacked ceramic, but I do hold strongly onto the hope that by “do”ing more this year, I can make my own life a comfortable place filled with joyful moments, surrounded by the family and friends I love.

Happy New Year, friends. May your 2017 be filled with light.

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