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Pocket of Joy: Vintage Spring Jackets

Happy spring jacket season! I love rotating clothes in and out of storage with the changing seasons, and I also love "shopping" my collection of vintage outerwear from my own youth, from Before Times secondhand shopping trips, and from my mother-in-law when she moved to Florida. I have a vivid red wool bathrobe-style coat and a quirky beige trench that I bought in the 2000s, a worn-in classic denim jacket, an antique WWI-era dress jacket of green silk, and a few leather pieces from the '60s and '70s. I've taken many of these to the dry cleaner and the tailor over the years for repairs and maintenance, which I'd much rather do than replace whole garments with brand new ones. There's something exquisite about the combination of that fresh-new feeling of taking out new-season clothes and the comfy-old-friend feeling of a garment with lots of history. I feel good about the environmental impact of not buying new things, and I also really like well-constructed,

Pocket of Joy: Using April Fools' Day as an Excuse to Stay Under a Blanket on the Couch

Ha! Nobody likes this stupid day. If it's still April Fools' Day when you're reading this, consider saving yourself a lot of trouble by logging off everything, shutting off your phone, and hiding under a blanket for the rest of the day. You can't trust anyone or anything you see or hear online today. Today, it feels nice to read a book or watch something prerecorded, like an old movie or TV show. Then tomorrow, you can plug back into the world to watch and read about all the incredibly hilarious pranks you missed. After a year filled with so much death and shocking news and mental health degradation, I can't even imagine what kind of prank would be harmless this year. Hey, we learned last year that it is not only possible but deeply pleasurable to skip major holidays . So why not skip this stupid little one too? This is the second April Fools' Day of the pandemic, when many of us have a good chance to avoid social interactions without being missed. Isn't th

Pocket of Joy: Last Snow

Every kid-at-heart celebrates the first snow of the season, but what about the last snow? My newish boss, who immigrated from Canada, recently expressed disappointment that the winter snows here in Michigan had already ended by March. The seasoned Michiganders on staff assured him that our last snow almost never happens in early March, even if we get a false springtime that brings flowers into bloom. Usually there's at least one more blizzard that bestows enough snow and ice that we can play in it one more time. We never know exactly when to expect that random last chance, after it looked like winter was over, to use the new skating rink downtown or slide across a frozen puddle one more time. Its fleeting joys can only be captured by those who stay ready. It's easy to get excited about a fresh blanket of snow when it means Christmas is coming. But honestly, here in Michigan, a hearty blizzard might also crash Easter Sunday. (Above, my daughter is threatening the weather w

Pockets of Joy

As we enter the second year of the pandemic, we should all agree on two things (besides the science of hygiene and vaccination, obviously): that this situation is truly awful, and that it has never been more important to cultivate little pockets of joy in our lives anywhere we can. The light at the end of the tunnel is dim and seems to keep moving, sometimes closer, sometimes farther away. Even the rollout of vaccines is being undermined by new virus variants that are riding the waves of spring fever to whip Michigan up into the country's hottest of hot spots for rising infections. Herd immunity feels like a pipe dream around here, especially because almost half the population still says they will refuse to get a vaccine. And children won't have a vaccine this year at all, so families with children won't be able to socialize safely with other families (without masks and social distancing) before the end of this year at least. My daughter already knows that she'll probab

Pocket of Joy: Coming Out

Happy Pride Month! Has it ever been a better time to come out? Lil Nax X has died for our shame, descended into hell on a stripper pole, and slain the devil with his lap dance. Tig Notaro has conquered the undead and possibly usurped Kate McKinnon as most badass comedic lesbian paranormal action hero, which is now A Thing. "Schitt's Creek" has normalized pansexuality and revived America's faith in all kinds of enduring romantic love. Elliot Page has freed the trans man nips in joyful thirst traps on Instagram. After a year in quarantine, drag queens Trixie and Katya have become everyone's imaginary best friends. And my Instagram feed is sprinkled with videos of happily married, openly HIV-positive Jonathan Van Ness doing the happiest gorgeous little back flips. Kids today have all of these pop culture examples of people of every gender identity and sexual orientation living their best lives, creating joy and sharing it with others. Sadly, the danger in coming out

Pocket of Joy: Entering the Flow

Over the past year, much has been written about how entering into a flow state with an immersive hobby can protect us from the negative effects of a life-disrupting disaster like a pandemic. When the world outside is out of control, it can be lifesaving to find escape and release inside of our own minds. As a writer, I can get into my most intense state of flow by writing long fiction. When I wrote my last novel, Leirah and the Wild Man , I felt possessed. I lost myself so completely in the narrative that when I went back and read some of the pages I had written, they surprised me. I remembered something like having a dream about the contents of the story but not actually coming up with those particular words.  During the writing process, I experienced sudden storms of inspiration that drove the story in unexpected directions but never totally off course. I learned to trust these moments and open my mind's sails, and my story grew more complex and nuanced and wild without losing t

Pocket of Joy: Michigan Seasons

Michigan's four seasons can be dramatic, especially as climate change progresses, but I've learned that I just can't quit them. Their rhythm is embedded in my soul. Without them, I feel adrift.   When I was young, I had that itch of wanderlust that comes naturally to young people everywhere. Although Michigan boasts some of the most beautiful landscapes on Earth, I needed to see what else was out there. I longed to sample the nuances of other cultures, other kinds of lives, other fields of human experience. After I traveled and spent weeks or months at a time in faraway places, I realized that getting far, far away for long, long spans of time and coming home again was the only way I could fully appreciate the place where my roots had formed.   My husband and I agreed: It was ourselves that needed to expand and grow and change in order to put down deep roots in the first place we had ever learned to take for granted. We married young for our generation, at 23 and 24, and al

Pocket of Joy: Indian Food

I have adored Indian food since I first tasted it at a fine Indian restaurant as a young adult. And I loved it so much that I wasn't content only to keep coming back to that restaurant (though I certainly did that); I wanted to learn how to participate in the alchemical art of Indian cooking.  Indian food isn't just a full bouquet of sensory pleasures, it can also be exceptionally healthy . Like the Mediterranean diet, traditional Indian food packs in a variety of whole grains, fresh ingredients, vegetable proteins, and immune-boosting herbs and spices. It's also very labor-intensive and complex, requiring quite an arsenal of spices and herbs, some of which can be hard to find outside of specialty Asian markets--but, for me, the time and investment are so worth it! And shopping at Asian markets is a delight. Realistically, made-from-scratch Indian food is not something I can have every day. I can't afford Indian restaurant meals of the quality I prefer very often, and I

Pocket of Joy: A F* Sh* Stack of Cookies

Life's simple joys include a casserole dish filled with cookie-topped cookie bars. When you or someone you love needs to be celebrated or comforted, consider rising to the occasion with a f*** sh** stack of gooey, home-baked cookies. Here is the basic recipe in the form of spoken word art and interpretive dance: https://vimeo.com/13897452 . They aren’t fancy. They aren’t too pretty to eat. They’re just a thicc luxury, like a pile of heavy blankets with a layer of toasted, shredded coconut in the middle. I made this “cookie casserole” with a recipe from an old, worn book that my late grandmother gave me as a child, perhaps because she recognized that we both shared the love language of butter. I remember her describing decadent desserts as “gorgeous” with a beatific glow. Sadly, my grandmother struggled with various addictions, including her sweet tooth, and her life was cut short by diabetes complications. So when I carry on the tradition of making a gorgeous f*** sh** stack of sug

Pocket of Joy: Old Books

Old books! You can judge them by their shabby chic covers, because they function as objets d'art and objects of desire on a shelf no matter what stories they tell inside. Books with leather bindings, books embossed and edged in gold, books with plates and illustrations and fancy lettering inside, books that give off the subtle scent of an aged library, books with fraying ribbon markers and tactile spines. Old books are charming, comforting, and, when they aren't first edition antiques, they are usually cheap. The stories told inside of old books can also be wonderful and so thick and rich that you can revisit them again and again, each time discovering something new or forgotten, as fans of Jane Austen and George Eliot know well. Those were stories built to last the ages. An old book can be a roundly multi-sensory experience. I once picked up an old maiden volume by Anthony Trollope that had never been read--and I know, because I had to rustle up an antique book knife to cut ap

Pocket of Joy: Going Out

My husband and I have had our shots and started going out in public for fun again! After more than a year of staying home and staying safe, I have put away my sweatpants, pulled out my skirts (it's too hot for pants already), painted my toenails, and broken in my cute slides and high heels! We are grateful for the privilege of being able to go out and have fun safely. We understand that not everyone else enjoys that privilege, including those undergoing chemotherapy or taking certain kinds of lifesaving medications that render Covid-19 vaccinations ineffective. We understand that some people have disabilities or health conditions and a lack of access to accommodations. We know that some people simply lack transportation to get anywhere, or leisure time to go out. And even among the able-bodied and financially free, there are those who have to be careful where they go in public due to threats of social violence--gendered harassment, racism, nationalism, homophobia. We live in a cu

Second Spring Breakdown

It's the second spring of the pandemic, and it's... not all better. Time to break down how bad it is and how good it can be if we can get through this year’s spring fever. Case rates of Covid-19 are far higher this March than they were last March when the big lockdowns happened, and the infection rate is roaring upward because people are losing their minds faster than they are getting vaccinated. Italy is going into its second Easter lockdown, and the United States has made a clear collective decision that the mindless consumption of novelty products and services matters more than human life. As a nation, despite the refreshing progress and signs of hope coming from the new White House, we're done pretending to care about each other. We still haven't agreed that childcare and elementary schools are more important than bars or that real children's childhoods are more important than adults' rights to party like Florida Man. Our culture of overwork and gross consum

Pocket of Joy: Real Clean Scents

It's peak lilac season where I live, and on warm days, one of my all-time favorite scents wafts in from every window, along with the scents of apple blossoms, violets, and roses. My daughter enhanced the moment in her bedroom by cutting a bouquet from the back yard. We avoid artificial scent chemicals at our house, so when we want our spaces to smell better, we clean up anything that stinks and add real things that produce aroma, like fresh flowers from the gardens outside and fresh-baked pies and cookies. Real clean scents almost always smell better than fake ones, and they are usually less toxic to release into your precious indoor air . The only way to truly banish a stink from anything that is dirty, deteriorating, or moldy is to remove the stinky material from the premises. Bad smells are your clue that it's time to do some spring cleaning. This spring, my husband and I made a few changes that gave the smell of our walkout basement a total rejuvenation. We already take ca

Pocket of Joy: Heavy Metal Belly Dance

The ability to dance to the beat of your own bum is one of the best perks of being a human person. Sexy or sensual dancing to whatever makes your muscles want to stretch and flow and make space in your spine and hip joints, no matter how weird or dorky or trashy, is a great way to stay strong, healthy, and happy in your own skin during a time of continued social isolation. There are people who make good money posting video tutorials or performances of sensual dance, but it's also freeing and empowering to dance when, truly, no one is watching. You can dance with or for a sexy partner, or you can dance for yourself alone. Doing the tango or learning to salsa dance with your lover can be a great way to spice things up, but your most important and intimate dancing partner is always yourself. When you know that nobody can see you, it can help you loosen up and discover the movements that feel good from the inside, no matter how they look on the outside. One of my favorite ways to work