The Happiness Project and Gender Equality

IMG_3731It’s a little bit rare for me these days to write an entire post about what I’m reading. But this book deserves it. I picked up Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project during a gleeful memoir spree while we were in Aspen (I love the library in Aspen SO much). I only read a few chapters before we had to leave town, but I always hoped I’d find it at our (stellar) library in Pasadena. Finally I remembered! And I devoured it.

I think I liked it so much because I agree that little things can make us very happy. I am a big believer in the idea that ordinary life is full of magic, that the quotidian often trumps the special, that everyday sights and sounds are very much worth celebrating. I am not a quote person at all, but I came across this one a few weeks ago that really sums it up for me:

“Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are. Let me learn from you, love you, bless you before you depart. Let me not pass you by in quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow. Let me hold you while I may, for it may not always be so. One day I shall dig my nails into the earth, or bury my face in the pillow, or stretch myself taut, or raise my hands to the sky and want, more than all the world, your return.” -Mary Jean Irion

And I think it sums it up for Rubin as well. Her motivation is that she doesn’t want her life to pass her by without her being grateful for it, without her really living it. I could not agree more, and, luckily, grateful people are happy people. It’s probably the most circular Venn diagram you could ever create. Like Rubin, I am happy, and I am grateful, but I am always open to new ideas about how to be more of both.

IMG_3992I can honestly say that this book has been transformative for me, primarily in getting me to do little things that don’t take long, but can make your whole day feel better. I never really feel like clearing away Micah’s toys at the end of the day, but it makes our living space feel so much more expansive, and it is so utterly nice to wake up to a clean house. It even somehow makes the day feel more expansive, as if it holds more possibility. It’s also been really helpful for me to try to keep our kitchen table clear of clutter. I don’t always succeed at that one (newspapers and mail and half-finished projects seem to multiply all the time), but that clean slate of a table is one that I feel I can use, and one that gives me great pleasure, however fleeting it might be. I am no big fan of washing Micah’s highchair tray and bib, but I like it even less when I am trying to do it in a hurry because he is hungry. Now I do it right away, and it makes mealtime so much smoother.

IMG_4009Part of this clearing up is more practical, since it allows me to actually use the spaces in our home. I spent one afternoon clearing my cluttered desk and another organizing the chaos of my craft table. It makes me so happy to see these little islands of order, and I am so much more likely to use them now. I think this kind of task is having a cultural moment right now, what with our Marie Kondo-ing and our capsule wardrobes and our determination to simplify our lives and enjoy the things we have. But Rubin beat us all to the punch, starting her project in 2006.

IMG_3997One of the best ideas in the book, to my mind, is that if anything takes less than one minute, just do it now. I have started making our bed in the mornings, and now our room feels like this marvelous oasis that I can retreat to during nap time to read and rest. I am really spending a lot more time in there. It is glorious!

IMG_4002I also joked for a long time that I had an unintentional capsule wardrobe because my clothes went straight out of the dryer and into my desk chair, or into neat little folded piles in front of my dresser. Part of the problem was that I couldn’t fit everything into my dresser (now at least partially remedied by some sorting), but the bigger part of the problem was that I just really don’t like hanging up clothes. But I did it! Now I can sit at my desk and not trip over piles of clothes by my dresser. Again, glorious! It is amazing how good these little things make me feel. It’s almost like having a new home, just by being able to use the spaces that were once so cluttered. And you also get the bonus of feeling virtuous for having tackled an annoying task.

Rubin and I are both devotees of the small pleasures: fresh sheets and clean towels, morning rituals and long walks, uncluttered bedside tables and happy little everyday adventures. But of equal importance are the things we do to invest in future happiness. I never skip off with glee to pick up toys or start laundry, but I know it will make me so happy to have it done. It does make me wonder why we often don’t do the things that will make us happy. For instance, Rubin strives to get more sleep, and I know I would feel better if I spent some time stretching every day, but I usually don’t. It makes me wonder if Dostoevsky’s Underground Man isn’t right–is there some pleasure to be found in acting against our own self-interest? Or is it just that we derive a greater pleasure now by not doing something that will make us happy later? Probably the latter, I think, or else 95% of the internet wouldn’t exist (you know, that 95% you’re always reading when you should be going to bed or starting the dishes). Ah, well. We are human after all. But I am trying to think more about future happiness when faced with everyday tasks. The other day Eric and I were on a brunch date (yay!), and I said to him, “I want to do something really crazy.” “You have my attention,” he said. I leaned in and confided, “I want to take down all the light fixtures and wash them. They’re covered with dust.” Eric didn’t think that was particularly crazy, but it sort of seems that way when there are so many other pressing obligations in the day. Still, I will feel so happy every time I look up at them and don’t see years’ worth of dust!

IMG_3999I am also experimenting with changing my attitude by changing my thinking. There are plenty of tiresome tasks in our lives, but the drudgery can be countered by grateful thinking. I would really love to sleep in someday, but every morning when I hear Micah happily talking to himself in his crib, I remind myself of what an intense joy he is, and how utterly grateful I am that he is healthy and happy. Every time I have to do some annoying thing with the car, I remind myself how much easier that car makes my life. This isn’t to say that our negative feelings aren’t valid, but just that they needn’t ruin our days if we can channel them in a more positive direction.

Some of the key points in Rubin’s theory of happiness are the importance of growth and learning new things, as well as helping and being kind to others. Of course, beautifully, everyone is different and will have their own individual paths to happiness. For me, I know I am happier on a daily basis when I am making things with my hands, when I’m reading, when I’m writing, when I’ve got a home that feels like a clean slate, when I’m learning new things or seeing new places (or seeing old places with new eyes). I think it’s key to be realistic, and it’s true that not all of those things are possible every day, but some of them really are. It would be really easy to say, “Well, I have a baby, I can’t really be expected to do much these days.” But the thing is that this is my life right now, and I know that I will mourn its passing when my sweet boy is grown up. Why not do everything I can to enjoy it to the fullest?

None of this is really revolutionary, of course, but that’s kind of the point. The best part of all this wisdom is that it is all renewable–there will always be a long trip, a harvest season, a new baby, or a job change that will throw these little things to the very end of the priority list. And then we can take joy in rediscovering them. I am not foolish enough to imagine that my desk and craft table will not need re-clearing by the end of the year. But instead of dreading it, I am looking forward to the wonderful feeling I know I will have when I get them in order again.

And, as if this weren’t already the world’s longest blog post, I have a concern. I was, frankly, not terribly impressed with Rubin’s husband, so I looked at Amazon reviews of the book to see if anyone else had the same visceral reaction I did. (I don’t know, maybe I am just spoiled in the husband department? Probably. But if my husband did and said some of the things her husband does and says…let’s just say it would be a real impediment to my happiness.) I was rather horrified to see numerous reviews stating that Rubin is an annoying neurotic nag, and that her husband should get a medal for putting up with her. What?! It is a brave thing to publish a book about personal self-improvement. Rubin mentions her husband’s faults, yes, but she spends far more time and detail on hers. I couldn’t help but wonder if the response would be the same if Rubin were a man? Benjamin Franklin also had a boatload of faults, and yet people see him as inspiring and upstanding. This disturbs me.

Another common complaint was that we have nothing to learn from Rubin because she is a rich, skinny white lady. What?! This statement particularly rankles the literature teacher in me, who has heard too many times, “Why read F. Scott Fitzgerald? He was a drunk.” Separating a work from the biography of a writer is the very first step toward achieving an insightful reading of any text. (The author can be brought back in later to add to analysis, but should never be the basis of an entire reading.) Rubin is upfront about her life situation and is not trying to hide anything in that regard. Yes, she is lucky to be able to do this work, but you know what? She does a great job at it. I would love to spend a year researching this stuff, but since I don’t have time, I am happy to let her do it for me. More importantly, it truly isn’t money that brings happiness to people. Arguably, it’s some of the wealthiest people who are the most unhappy on an ontological level. Yes, we need to acknowledge the baseline happiness our circumstances provide (and research does indicate that a modest amount of money–enough to cover our basic needs–is necessary for happiness, but more money does not make us happier): we have homes and health and family and friends. To a certain extent, these privileges are what allow us to contemplate any higher meaning or art–the same way that hunter-gatherers did not create cave paintings until they had food to eat and a place to sleep at night. It is a privilege to be able to devote our minds to higher concerns, that is true, and this is a truth worth recognizing and being thankful for.

The reviews in The New York Times were even more upsetting. They seemed to gently mock Rubin for focusing on this project, the more barbed of them suggesting that trying to be happy, to be more present and grateful, is a moral wrong. These reviews also harped upon Rubin’s privilege, actually suggesting that Rubin and her project are disingenuous because her house is bigger than the houses on the cover of The Happiness Project. This, I confess, made my blood boil. There is always some mockery of self-help books, but deciding that Rubin is not qualified to speak to us about happiness because she happens to be wealthy is both petty and ridiculous. And there is nothing Rubin is doing that really requires a lot of money. I never once thought, “Oh, huh, I’m not rich, so I can’t do that.” Instead, her project is really about making decisions on a very small personal level to enjoy and be more grateful for the lives we have. We can all do that, regardless of income bracket, and Rubin’s does not disqualify her discoveries. The thing about small pleasures is that they’re scaleable. I kind of thought that when she mentioned a modest splurge, it would be some kind of $400 purse (for some, it is a modest splurge). What did she buy? A box of roller ball pens. A boxed set of some of her favorite books. A drawing class. My modest splurges almost always occur at the thrift store, where I never have to feel guilty about them, or when traveling, which is, frankly, my favorite kind of modest splurge anyway. But there were times in my life (grad school!) when a $2 cup of coffee was a weekly treat I always looked forward to. I think we all know, on some level, that money doesn’t buy happiness. What makes us happy, I think, in connection with money, is the idea that we are doing some small good thing for ourselves, whether it’s a weekend away or a new candle.

I saved the most concerning point for last. This is an actual quote from an article about Rubin in The New York Times: “And to those who may feel daunted by how she does it all — the charts, the reading, writing, exercising, volunteering, socializing, parenting, scrapbooking and glue-gunning? Relax. She has a sitter and a housecleaner.” I am really kind of appalled that The Times would publish this. First of all, would we ever ask this of a man? No! And secondly, are they shaming her for working full time and having childcare? Yes, yes, they are. Is this ever going to end? My goodness, I hope so. This is a tightrope I think every mother walks. In my case, I am currently staying home with my baby. Should I feel guilty for not working? When I start working again, should I feel guilty for not staying home? These decisions (and their attendant emotions) are difficult enough without criticism being leveled from every direction, toward every decision.

As to the housekeeper, who cares? I have a lot of things in my life that others would probably consider luxuries: a husband who does all the dishes, a baby who sleeps through the night, a gym I can walk to. Does that mean that nothing I say about building happiness and contentment in my life is of value?

But there is something even more alarming about this quote. Isn’t it really saying that what a woman should be doing is raising children and cleaning the house? …IT IS. IN THE YEAR 2010. If I weren’t five years late to the game, you’d better believe I’d be writing a letter to the editor.To be clear, I don’t mean to say that Rubin’s work shouldn’t be subjected to fair criticism (I read her second book, for instance, and found it be a mostly unnecessary retread of her first). I do find it very upsetting, though, that both popular opinion and multiple reporters at the newspaper of record have chosen to harp on some aspect of Rubin as a person in order to discredit all of her work. Frankly, it is as unprofessional as it is insulting and unfair.

I didn’t set out to write an essay about gender equality, but my goodness, every now and again I am just hit right in the face with devastating evidence that things are just not the same for women and men. We can do better. Let’s do better. I really do think it would make us all, dare I say, happier.

Gigantic Road Trip, Part the Second: Zion National Park

IMG_1155And now let us return to the glorious wilds of Utah! After leaving St. George, we drove to Zion National Park. There was a long line to get in, and I was so excited to see the official sign in the distance. It turns out that, in an unlikely twist for a girl who has never even been on a proper camping trip (but aspires to!), the National Park System is kind of my Disneyland (where I have also never been!). I like roller coasters as much as the next person, but that arrowhead-shaped marker…it makes my heart sing. Thank you, Teddy Roosevelt, for the parks and for the bears (Micah is a big fan of both).

IMG_1131It was an overcast morning, which somehow lent even more gorgeousness to the coral shades of the rocks as we drove in. This was our first time putting Micah in the hiking backpack (thank you, Hillary and Danny!), so we weren’t sure what he would think. He loved it! He laughed for half of our hike and slept the other half. A small miracle. You can’t see it in these pictures, but we dressed him in his special bear onesie, a gift his godparents got him at Yellowstone, for a little extra National Park love.

During the peak season at Zion you have to ride a little shuttle bus to the trailheads and other points of interest. It seems like a bit of a bummer, but I really did not mind at all. It was amazing that there were no cars on the park roads, and we never had to wait long for a shuttle (even though the line at the entrance looked frighteningly long). It’s also so much easier for us not to have to get Micah in and out of his carseat.

IMG_1136We decided to ride the bus all the way to the last stop, Temple of Sinawava, and explore there first. There is a beautiful trail down to the beginning of The Narrows, where you can actually hike through the Virgin River, gorgeous canyon surrounding you on all sides. You can rent special river shoes and pants to do this, and we weren’t able to pull it off on this trip, but it looked so utterly awesome. My friend Kam (who is also one of the creators of 30 Days of Lists!) recently hiked The Narrows, and I totally encourage you to check our her post and this one, which has just unreal photos. None of mine come close to doing justice to this incredible place.

IMG_1139It’s hard to describe how BIG these rocks are. Do you see that tiny-looking person at the bottom of the picture? This rock soared way beyond the top of the picture too. Whoa.

IMG_1145As we approached the river on a little trail along the side of the canyon, it started to rain a bit. It felt so lovely, since we were all wearing hats and had our pick of rock overhangs to duck under. I was carrying a backpack with both our laptops (we never want to leave them in the car), and Eric was carrying Micah, so we were kind of proud to make it to the end of the trail to see people setting off into The Narrows. Someday! It makes me shiver with joy to think of all the adventures that are ahead of us.

IMG_1160After the hike back (and a sighting of a beautiful mule deer with his antlers in velvet), we boarded the shuttle and make a quick stop at Big Bend to see Angel’s Landing. We could just barely make out the tiny dots that were actually people winding along the precarious trail.

We would really have loved to have time to hike down to the Emerald Pools or even stay the night in the Zion Lodge (a historic lodge in a National Park?! This is more or less my dream vacation), but we had a five-hour drive to Green River ahead of us, so we had to hit the road just after lunch. Still, we were so happy to have seen the bit that we did. Visiting a place like this feels sacred to me, just as swimming in the ocean does. There is a powerful joy in experiencing this kind of beauty that I think is a deeply human thing. It makes me so grateful to be alive.

My Language

IMG_4171-001I was watching a show the other day, and I was struck when one of the characters said, “I’m working on my Spanish.” Okay, it was Narcos. Because I have a cold. And because it is awesome! It made me think about how we use the possessive for language. My French. My German. My Turkish. I realized that the same possessive construction is used in almost every language with which I have even a passing acquaintance. I started thinking about how our language really does belong to us. And then I started thinking about what a beautiful thing that is.

IMG_1603-001In all this world, there are probably no two people who have the exact same vocabulary in any one language. Some know all the terms for heart surgery, others the specialized terminology of salmon migration (my friend Leah!), still others the idiom of historiography. Some know the names of all the native wildflowers and prairie grasses in their region, others every type of airplane that ever taken to the sky. Some know all the intricate parts of exploding stars, others the proper vocabulary for corporate litigation. In addition to the language we gather to ourselves through our careers and interests, we all carry words with us that we learned from our parents and grandparents (“nuthammer” is my personal favorite), from our friends, from our colleagues, from books or articles we read (or translated) that sent us running to the dictionary. We all speak the vernacular of the place we’re from (y’all!), the places we have lived and studied and traveled. And, of course, we all have our own private and personal languages–with our parents, with our friends, with our partners. Half the fun of being in love is having a language shared only by two.

Eastern Europe 2007 Full 062In all of this world, there are probably no two people who have the exact same vocabulary in multiple languages. One person may know a smattering of Bulgarian and a few words of French in addition to their native Japanese, while another is fluent in Greek and Spanish, with a bit of Cantonese on the side. Our languages are layered, the more of them we learn. My Spanish, for instance, is buried under my French and German, my Latin deeper still. Every now and then there is an earthquake, though, and a few words from those languages rise from the rubble. Puella (Latin, Girl). Abre la puerta (Spanish, Open the door). C’est la deuxieme fois! (French, That’s the second time!) And then there are the words that drift over from other languages and settle on my little Grand Canyon. Kol hakavod! (Hebrew, Good job!). Dobrze (Polish, Alright). Kamsahamnida (Korean, Thank you). I like to imagine that all these linguistic layers are just as bright and beautiful as our most beloved geological formation. And, of course, we all have our own.

Parizh-Berlin-Praha 2006 081-001Beyond simple proficiency, though, we make our language(s) our own because we inhabit them. We have our favorite words and pet phrases in each language that we speak. And we have our own personal windows onto the worldview of a culture with every little bit of language we acquire. I used to make my friends in the German department laugh by shouting all my favorite words at their German parties: “Kugelschreiber! Vorgeschichte! Umweltverschmutzung!” (“Pen! Foreword! Pollution!” For the record, I am not a fan of pollution, only of the literal translation of this word: the schmutzing up of the environment). And all of my friends in Russia used to laugh at me for my penchant for the cheery “Vse poluchitsia!” (“It will all work out!”) And also possibly for my great love for the ultimate quotidian joke: “Who’s gonna wash these dishes? [Nineteenth-century poet and national treaure] Pushkin?!” In Istanbul I never tired of saying, “Iyi akshamlar” (“Good evening”) or of waving down a waiter to request, “Hesap, lütfen” (“Check, please”). And is there anything more perfect than “L’esprit de l’escalier?” (French, literally, staircase wit; the clever retort you think of only as you are leaving the place where you were challenged). What are languages but ways of understanding ourselves and the world around us? There is so much to celebrate in each and every one.

Parizh-Berlin-Praha 2006 319We all have our individual love affair with language, down to its nuts and bolts. I have an undying affection for the Russian case system (particularly the instrumental plural), and I am dumbstruck by the elegance of vowel harmony in Turkish, even though I will probably never master it. I also carry a candle for the Turkish plural –lar (or –ler, depending on the vowel harmony). But maybe what I love the most is the melody of a language. Russian intonation patterns are a beautiful roller coaster. I do not speak Romanian, but it sounds to me like the most beautiful marriage between Italian and Polish. I love the lilting notes of Italian and the gentle hushes of German. And who could ever be immune to the charms of French?

Eastern Europe 2007 Full 173I’m reading Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project, and one thing she mentions that really resonates with me is the idea that happiness is always tied to growth, and that learning a new skill is a pretty sure path to happiness. Why? Because it enlarges our sense of ourselves–suddenly we can fly fish or sculpt or speak Mandarin. And, I would add, this feeling of capably adding new facets to ourselves also makes the whole rest of the world seem that much more accessible. If we can fly fish, why not learn to waterski? If we can sculpt, why not learn how to grow an herb garden? Learning another language, I think, makes the rest of the world seem smaller, and at the same time, closer. Now we have more ways of understanding and describing emotions and paradoxes, as well as flowers and trees. (It is a particular and hilarious pleasure, I think, to be working a crossword puzzle in one language and to think the answer to every clue is…the same word in a different language). But what I love best about languages are the untranslatable parts of them–the words and phrases and grammatical constructs that express some aspect of our lives in a wholly unique way. Languages give us more ways of understanding and inhabiting this wild and wonderful world.

IMG_4165-001And then there is the pure magic of watching your child develop his own language. So far Micah has twenty-five words (!!), along with a nice smattering of gleeful shrieks, dissatisfied grunts, and hilarious babble. He strolls through our apartment naming everything he sees (“Ball! Bear! Shoes! Water!”), like Adam in the garden. It’s amazing to watch. And amazing to see him begin to understand our language. He answers, “What’s this?” and “Where’s Daddy?” He definitely understands a playful “Mommy’s gonna get you!” He pretends not to understand “No,” but will sometimes humor me by responding to, “Look at Mommy.” But the thing I most want him to understand is the thing I can never ever say to him enough, “Mommy loves you so much.” I love him in every language, in every untranslatable word.

Baby in the Bay

I kind of feel like this is turning into a travel blog, and I…have no real problem with that! I am, however, super behind, but this will hopefully be remedied by the blog accountability club I just set up with my BFF. There is only one tenet we hold to in our club: blog post by Friday! My BFF just made a cross-country move and is working remotely for a law firm while planning two weddings (one in Greece and one in the States!), and I am chasing a tiny angel around all day, so once a week seemed like a good place to start. Here we go!

A few weeks ago we hit a major milestone: baby’s first trip to the Bay! Berkeley will always be such a special place for us: it’s where Eric and I met and fell in love, and where, after only a few weeks of dating, I was already certain that he was the man I wanted to marry and grow a family with. What can I say, he is just the brightest and most brilliant gem of a human being I’ve ever met (tiny angel excluded). It’s where we got engaged and planned our wedding and wrote our dissertations and cooked millions of dinners together in the rain. It’s where we went to football games and museums and parks, where we took day trips and scenic routes and little hikes and exploratory missions, where we put on funny robes and hats and walked across a stage to become PhDs. It’s where we rode trains and buses and bikes and climbed steep stairs to fall into each other’s waiting arms. It’s the locus of love. And also, independently of all those marvelous memories, it’s one of my favorite places on earth.

I haven’t been back to the Bay since before I was pregnant with Micah (on this majestic trip!), and I was thrilled to go back and start showing our baby the wonders of this beautiful place. The only sad part was that our Daddy couldn’t come–he was at a meeting in Berlin. However, as with our trip to Memphis, the timing was in our favor–being with family in the Bay kept me from shouldering all of the childcare while Eric was away. We missed him so much, but would probably have missed him even more if we’d been at home. I am happy to say, though, that all three of us will be back in the Bay together twice in October! What wonderful life is this?

The reason for the trip was a happy one: for years and years and years my dad has taught a course in San Francisco, always during the week of my birthday. When I lived in Berkeley, my parents would both come every year, and we’d party it up. This was even more fun when my brother also moved to San Francisco. As soon as I found out the dates that the course would be held, I invited myself on the trip. As I have mentioned before, I am very good at inviting myself on my parents’ vacations. We found out about the Berlin trip shortly after that, so I booked a flight just for myself and my tiny companion.

This was my second solo trip with Micah, and I wasn’t too worried about it for two reasons: 1) flying out of Burbank is a dream, and 2) it’s a really short flight. While I am sure I looked like something of a clown car (wearing baby, pulling suitcase, pushing stroller topped with carseat topped with diaper bag), it all went very smoothly. Thank goodness! However, be warned, airlines now charge $100 if your bag is over 50 pounds. Even if it’s just by a little bit! Thankfully, they will let you put stuff in your carry-on to avoid the charge, and that is how I came to fly home with a diaper bag crammed so full I was afraid to open it and a stroller zipper pouch full of Peet’s coffee. Whatever works!

On to our adventures: on Friday we met up with my parents at the airport, much to Micah’s glee, got checked in, and headed over to my brother’s place. I sadly took no pictures of our dinner at Pizzeria Delfina, for it was deeply delicious, if punctuated by a lot of walks up and down the street with periodic little exclamations of “Bear!” because someone very adorable thinks that dogs are bears.

IMG_3454On Saturday we drove over to Half Moon Bay, a lovely little town on the coast that I hadn’t been to in years and years. My dad and my brother had driven over earlier that morning to buy a huge salmon straight off a fishing boat, and my dad had scoped out this pumpkin patch that he thought I might like. Sweet sweet. Half Moon Bay has a huge pumpkin festival in October, and it looked like they were gearing up for it. The traffic is so treacherous that weekend that I’ve never been…but perhaps someday we can sneak into town a few days early and stay locally to avoid the standstill on 92.

Spring 2011 224Just for fun, here’s a picture of us at the Half Moon Bay tidepools in 2011, a few months before we were married. Babies!

IMG_3455About an hour before lunch, I was ravenous, so I ate BOTH of these cookies with a huge Cappuccino. YOLO.

IMG_3466This did not stop me from eating fish tacos a few hours later at a little brewery by the water. Magnifique. We met my brother and sister-in-law and her parents there, and they brought me flowers and Russian chocolates for my birthday. So sweet!

IMG_3467That night my brother cooked the salmon in herbs de provence, and it was unreal. I don’t even particularly like salmon, but it was incredible. And, of course, there was cake.

IMG_3469And what would a trip to the Bay be without some time in Berkeley? Here we are at the original Peet’s on Vine in North Berkeley. There were a bunch of old gentlemen playing guitar outside, a fall breeze was blowing, and the scent of coffee was in the air. Heaven. It was like coming home.

IMG_3474We took Micah to campus to see some of my friends and professors and meet a fellow Slavic baby boy: ten months, and as cute as the day is long.

IMG_3482My sweet and awesome parents pushed the babies around campus so I could catch up with my friends.

IMG_3485We wore ourselves out with a trip to Berkeley Bowl (o land of glorious wonders!), and then we headed back down to the peninsula. We had hoped to make it over to Rockridge, my old stomping grounds, for a cup of coffee at Cole, but…next time! Thankfully, next time is coming very soon.

IMG_3502On Tuesday we had lunch in Burlingame and headed up to Golden Gate Park, where someone very cute did not want to wear his hat.

IMG_3508The weather was prefect, breezy and crisp and enough to make anyone fall in love. I am always amazed that every time I go I end up finding something I’ve never seen before. This time it was the dahlia garden, gorgeously blooming, tucked along beside the conservatory of flowers. And the carousel! Which was heartily enjoyed by our little tiger.

IMG_3530On Wednesday while my dad was working, my mom and I had lunch with Micah at Plant. Delicious, as evidenced by these meager morsels of food left on our plates.

IMG_3531We had a mission that day: baby shoes! Micah’s feet are wide and, as Eric says, look like little dinner rolls. Getting them properly fitted with walking shoes was one of the more adorable errands I’ve ever run.

IMG_3535Big boy wearing big boy shoes! This child, he brings us immeasurable joy.

IMG_3545The next day we took the train into the city (holding a BART card in my hand! Oceans of memories!) to go to the Mission. The neighborhood and the actual Mission, which, unbelievably, after all those years in the Bay, I had never actually visited.

IMG_3549Inside the chapel. I travel so differently with Micah. I definitely don’t take as many pictures as I used to. I don’t even bother bringing my real camera (an awesome Canon Powershot that Eric gave me for our first (dating!) anniversary six years ago). I don’t collect as much ephemera, and heavens knows I’m years behind on my scrapbook. But seeing beautiful things like this with my precious boy in my arms, the sweet smell of his baby hair perfuming every experience? I would not trade it for anything in the world.

IMG_3582After the mission we walked over to Tartine, where I had the croissant of my dreams, tried my mom’s chocolate rye tart, and only had a little bit of my cappuccino spilled by my curious baby. A great success! With a side of Cheerios for our little explorer.

IMG_3565We let him stretch his legs in the sunshine at Dolores Park, where he befriended everyone while pushing his stroller through the grass. Adorable.

IMG_3567And we saw way too much beauty to photograph.

IMG_3580Then we boarded the train again to head up to Britex Fabrics in Union Square, a place I have always wanted to visit. Four stories of fabric and notions! Paradise! Our tiny angel slept in the Ergo while my mom and I ogled cottons and wools and buttons and zippers.

IMG_3573Not pictured in this photo are the wooden ladders they use to reach the fabrics at the top. Ladders!

IMG_3578Buttons and crystals!

IMG_3579Zippers and binding! All those pretty colors made me anxious to sew pillows and quilts and dresses.

IMG_3581After a lovely dinner with my brother and sister-in-law, we headed for bed and a low-key last day in town. I somehow have no pictures of that day, but here is what I remember: a stroll through Anthropologie in Burlingame, my mom asking me if I wanted a cup of coffee, to which I replied, “I would MARRY a cup of coffee,” a wonderful chat with my parents in the sunshine, a marathon of stair-climbing in the hotel, a quiet dinner, an early bedtime, a morning dash to the airport. My parents got off the airport shuttle first to go to a different terminal, and we got off to kiss them goodbye. As soon as we got back on the shuttle and Micah realized that they weren’t with us anymore, he burst into tears. Poor sweet baby!

IMG_3570After the aforementioned suitcase drama, we spent a long time hanging out at the meteorology-themed playground at gate 87 (What?! I love you, SFO!) and flew on home to wait for our Daddy’s arrival from Berlin. It was a wonderful week, just too short! San Francisco, we will be back soon!

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