2022 Year in Review

January: While few snow storms complicate winter, a major poultry disease hits my employer and makes this a tragic time for our customers.

February: Cold with little snow. Poultry disease continues. Uncertainty continues.

March: I say goodbye to a good friend who dies suddenly. My tennis community comes together to grieve and celebrate a life well lived. My husband and I meet John and Giselle Fetterman and begin to eagerly back their campaign.

April: Spring arrives. My car gets towed from my tennis club. An omen of things to come. I make another video for my employer and make some new friends in the process. Our Friday night tennis social expands, and I meet more new friends.

May: We go to Pittsburgh for a three game Pirates home stand, and my husband starts suffering from a mystery illness. I begin organizing regular breakfast meetings with dear friends. I buy an espresso machine, which is one of my favorite purchases ever. I play a charity tournament with a dear friend.

June: My mom comes to visit, and we visit as many bookstores as possible, make cappuccino every day, and spend time in PHL, Adamstown, Bethlehem, and Chadds Ford. She buys me more plants. Husband goes into the hospital and begins his recovery. I say goodbye to my 14-year-old bulldog, Pom. I attend WordCamp Montclair and swing by Bethlehem for a second time on the way home. I can’t get enough.

Miss you, Pom. I’ll love you forever.

July: I play a holiday tournament with a dear friend. I attend a weekend tennis camp and learn some new tactics. My husband continues his recovery, and we welcome a new bulldog, Nellie Nell. I start growing plants in the huge windows in my employer’s office.

August: So begins Cher’s BEST MONTH EVAH! I enjoy the weather and hours and hours of tennis at the Koser Tennis Tournament and the US Open. I finally get to see Sara Errani, Nick Kyrgios, and Rafael Nadal play.

September: I travel to September for Word Camp US!! My parents both come to visit, and my mom and I go back to PHL for a jammed packed fun few days. We tour the Rosenbach and eat chocolate croissants in Rittenhouse Square.

October: My car breaks down in Allentown and gets towed again. Can you see a pattern? My Baby Cow gets diagnosed with cancer. My husband and I see David Sedaris speak in Gettysburg, and I get to meet him when he signs my books. I start tracking all my food and making lifestyle changes.

November: We travel to NYC, and my 10-game winning streak continues at Met Life Stadium. I’m the NY Jet’s good luck charm! We stay in the flower district for an unusually warm few days and have leisurely breakfasts at L’Express. I manage to hit a 50% off sale at my favorite thrift store on 17th Street. #heaven John Fetterman becomes the junior senator from PA. I read more about minimalism and continue changing habits.

December: We meet up with our best friends in PHL for an amazing day. I lose my phone on Amtrak on the way home and get it back two days later. It’s my Christmas miracle! I have a health challenge and minor surgery, which results in a black eye. I tell people I got into a fight. My car dies for good, and I buy a 2023 model to replace it.

Hold your friends close. Remember things are just things. Spend your time wisely.

Goodbye, Sweet Volvo. I will miss you.
Welcome, Moshu. I’m looking forward to our adventures together.

Making Madeleine Memories

I just recalled this story to a good friend a few weeks ago, and now I’ll share it with y’all. When I was in graduate school, one of my professors, Dr. Liliana Zancu, was teaching Modernism, and one of our first assignments was the first volume of Marcel Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu. In it, the narrator is transported to his childhood by the taste of lime blossom tea and a petit madeleine. Before we knew what was in store in the novel, she walked slowly around the room and put a piece of paper on each of our desks. It was a recipe for petit madeleines. She said, “I’d really like it if someone would make these.”

The class was small, but in that moment, she was speaking to me.

Madeleines require a particular pan, and this was the early ‘90s before I could order that pan off the internet. I spent a fair amount of time tracking one down and arrived the next week with the cookies. The look on her face made the entire experience worth it. I hadn’t thought about those cookies in years, but I went to Starbucks that day for a package. They sell them by the register. I had never been able to find the tea in the past but quickly ordered it online to have the full experience. It does not disappoint.

The cookies, of course, weren’t part of my childhood, but they are definitely now a very fond memory. I made them today for the first time in years.

I still have the original copy Dr. Zancu handed out.
Finished Petit Madeleines.
The passage in Swann’s Way.
Madeleine’s in their special pan waiting to be baked.

Cracking the sleeping code

2020 was a rough year, and like many people, I’ve had trouble sleeping. Unlike my husband, I’m usually a world class sleeper. I even slept well as a baby. It’s in my DNA. Until recently.

I’d get up at 3 a.m. and stare at the ceiling for several nights in a row. Check my mail. Scroll through Twitter. Warning: do not do this. Nothing worked.

However, recently, I think I cracked the code. You ready? It isn’t that fun or that complicated.

First off – exercise. Every damn day if possible. I like to work out, so this isn’t a problem. You don’t have to do hours of exercise. A half hour should work. Work up a sweat or get in a nice yoga session. Do what you like. The point is that your body should feel spent especially if you do not have a physically demanding job. I really like a good 30 minutes on my elliptical. I watch an action movie and spin for 30 minutes. My legs feel like noodles. It’s perfect and easy.

Just water or tea before bed – no alcohol. It’s tempting to break out the Russian Imperial Stout especially in the winter when it’s dark by 5. A good 9.0 ABV brew will knock you out in a hurry, but you’ll be back up when the alcohol wears off. Resist the temptation.

No screens – just a paper book. If you must do screens – watch a show until you pass out. Avoid anything you have to read or concentrate on.

Melatonin. The bottle says take 1 – that’s for wimps. Take 3 or 4. They won’t kill you.

Sleep when you’re tired. If I go past my desired bedtime, so be it. However, the melatonin helps. I take it about 15-30 minutes before bedtime. I’ve been sleeping well for about a month with this routine.

Melatonin from CVS
Melatonin from CVS. Easy and cheep. Get yourself some.

The Most Boise Thing

When I lived in Idaho, people were really chatty at odd times. Odd times for someone like me who largely grew up in the Northeast and who identifies strongly with the cultural norms of the place. I’d be pumping gas in Boise when someone would start a conversation with me. Huh? I’m pumping gas here? This is no place for talking.


Today, a most Boise thing happened to me while I was navigating the drive up ATM at my new bank. (I just switched. That’s another story.) A guy in the lane next to me started up a conversation about cars. “You know how a Volvo owner knows they’ve been in a serious accident?” he shouted.

I rolled down my window and played along. I drive a Volvo. “No.”

“They’ve been cut out of the car. Those things can take a direct hit. They’re awesome. If you want a car that can handle snow though, you need a Subaru. You remember that 21 inches we had in 2017? I tried to get stuck and couldn’t.”

I laughed at this and then noticed he was driving said Subaru, and it was covered with advertisements for CBD oil, which appeared to be his personal business. Well, these are my people, I thought.

“Nice chatting with you.”

I meant it this time.

COVID “Going Out” Planning

NYU Sweatshirt

Do you remember when smoking was allowed in bars, and you didn’t smoke? You’d start your “going out” planning by deciding what jeans were about ready to wash. What sweater you could part with for a week at the cleaners, and perhaps, what jacket you might be able to tumble in the dryer with a handful of dryer sheets at the end of the night. You knew everything would smell like an ash tray, so you planned accordingly. I feel like that’s what it’s like going out now. You feel when you come back that things might be dirty somehow. I can’t wipe my clothes with Clorox wipes, but I can plan accordingly. I wore this sweatshirt all week and slept in it last night. I wore it to the doctor’s office today. I can now wash it and cleanse any “dirt” real or imagined. At least it doesn’t stink. No harm. No foul.

My last experience with leaches

Last night was the first night I slept straight through without waking at 3 a.m. to stare at the ceiling and then flip through Twitter. (This activity is called “Doomsurfing” if you’re interested.) The last thing I remember before I woke up was washing baby leaches off my ankles with a power washer and telling someone about the last time I had a leach on my skin. This was in the ’80s when my brother and I spent the summer at my grandmother’s resort in Sioux Narrows, Ontario, Canada. The town has 720 permanent residents now. “Resort” is a fancy word for the work-a-day cabins spread around the lake and a now-closed restaurant and bar. The latter closed when my grandmother’s second husband, Frank, succumbed to lung cancer. They ran it as a team, and she could only keep up the hotel portion on her own. A friend of hers gave my brother and I a canoe, and, both being athletic, we quickly figured out how to use it to explore the inlet. There were slider turtles and leaches as I found out when I tried to test the brackish water near the shore. When I hopped up on the dock, an adult-sized one had already attached itself to me. My brother picked it off while I screamed in agony when in truth it didn’t hurt a bit. Picture is me on the dock with a slider turtle. The “A’s” were the t-ball team my brother and I played on, but that’s a story for another day.

Me with a slider turtle in Sioux Narrows, Ontario Canada. Mid 1980s.


Vintage ash tray from Singen, Germany

My great grandmother, Elizabeth, lived above Lengacher’s Cheese House in Kinzers when I was a kid. It’s a vet’s office now, but the steep gable front roof is still a tell as to its origins.

She had no washer and dryer, and the hot water service in the two bedroom apartment was blazing hot owing to the cheese making going on below. My mom and I would travel there weekly to pick up her laundry and chat.

Everything smelled like swiss.

She grew up in Singen, in Southern Germany near the border with Switzerland and France. Her father owned an inn. Her mother died when she was a child, and an uneasy relationship with his wife number two led her to France and eventually to Chicago with her sister, Julie.

Several of her siblings would emigrate in all.

In Chicago, she met my great grandfather Paul “Pup Pup”. He was an engineer and frugal woodworker. They moved with his job and eventually settled in Gap.

Pup Pup died when I was two, so I don’t remember him. My parents lived in Gap when I was first born, and my mom said he would wash the diapers and then deliver them. I guess laundry service was something we shared.

He always wanted to see me, and I was always sleeping.

I still love to sleep.

When my mom was growing up, Pup Pup would talk her into going to a scrap yard near Trojan Boat, where he’d dump salvaged pieces of wood in the back of her MG. He didn’t want to pay for lumber. He made grandfather clocks and roll top desks, all of which are still in my family.

My grandfather always called his mom, Lizzie, and she had a lovely laid back demeanor. Nothing ruffled her feathers. She was even and calm, smart, and funny. She’d burn cookies and still offer them to you without thinking there was anything wrong with them.

Growing up, her middle son complained that the parents of a friend bought him a car. “What did you give me?,” he wanted to know. She replied, “I gave you a big mouth. Now go out and use it.”

Like all her sons, he became a successful business owner and sales person.

Lizzie outlived her husband by another 16 years. She lived alone for that entire time but always attended our gatherings, made trips to Idaho to see her three sons, and entertained German-speaking friends – the conversation altering between English and the language of her Heimat.

She had a stroke in late October 1992. When my mom took her to the hospital, she talked about all the people she would see in heaven – Paul, Julias, and Billy, the son she lost as a toddler. We’d find a locket of his hair when we cleaned out her house.

She lived for about two weeks and died on election day. I only saw her alive once in that time. She wiped tears off my cheek with her good arm as I looked at her limp wrist with the hospital band and the last two digits of her birthdate, ‘99, 1899.

She was the one person I lost outside my dogs that really left a hole. Cleaning out her belongings was the hardest thing I’ve had to do in life to date, but I suspect more hard times ahead. You have to decide what to do with every piece of furniture, every trinket, and you riffle through drawers of scarves and underclothes. Everything you touch feels like a loss.

It took days, and I only kept a few things – a rosary, a red area rug, an ashtray and a calendar from her hometown, and a scarf dotted with coffee stains. The latter probably still smells like swiss.

Home Office

Like many office workers, I’m working from home these days.

It’s a great space. See?

The windows face west and south, so it gets light for a nice portion of the day. All the original wooden windows have now been replaced, but the south facing one to the left in this photo was originally broken when we purchased this house 15 years go. It had a small crack in the right corner of the bottom sash.

At some point, I got a bee in my bonnet and took the sashes out. I stripped both of 80 years of paint, had the glass fixed, and then reglazed and painted the entire thing. I bought new rope, fished the window weights out of the frame, and re-weighted them. They never moved as effortlessly as I would have liked, but it was a good first effort.

My dad is a contractor and can fix virtually anything. He’s an artist. When he was staying at my house a few years ago, he re-weighted all the living room windows while my mom and I went grocery shopping.

He got bored and needed to do, do do.

I share this trait.

I make lists every weekend, and the lines gnaw at me until I finish every last one.

Busy. Busy. Busy.

Why I don’t decorate

This is a shot of my neighbor’s porch pumpkin in early March. As one might expect, it’s been there since before Halloween. I find it amusing as this is entirely something I would do. I’d put it out there and totally forget about it.

WordCamp US 2019

I’ve been digging deep into WordPress this year– attending my local MeetUps monthly and attending three WordCamps – Lancaster, Leigh Valley, and PHL. I’m into it, but even more than that, I love this community.

Given the time I’ve put in and the interest I’ve developed, I was overjoyed to get the opportunity to attend WordCamp US this past weekend.

The event had about 6 tracks instead of 2 or 3 and child care. Much of the other community standards were in place – close captioning, support for people with disabilities, a code of conduct, and plenty of diversity.

Besides the classes, which were amazing, I really enjoyed just talking to the attendees and vendors. I met people from all over the country and many from Canada. Morten Rand-Hendrickson of Lynda.com was there, and I got to meet him and tell him how much I enjoyed his classes. He literally taught me how to build in WP.

Pam Aungst, who spoke at WordPress Leigh Valley, was there, and I saw Beth Soderberg, who I saw at all three WordCamps I attended earlier. She wasn’t presenting this time, but it would be hard to beat the talk she did on building her starter theme at WordCamp PHL.

I also met up with three of my colleagues from the Lancaster MeetUp. One of them invited me to work with him at one of the Gutenberg Block Workshops. I have only known him for about a month and was so pleased he asked me to join him. I hope I can pay it forward like that some day.

The weekend ended with Matt Mullenweg’s keynote. I noticed a few things about it. First off, he’s an inspirational speaker. He ended his main address by requesting the audience give back by donating 5% of their time to WordPress Core development. I’m going to take this challenge to heart.

He also took about an hour of questions and answered them with a calm professionalism that I admired deeply. I found myself wanting to work for someone like that – be their friend – learn from them. It was deeply moving just to see him navigate the questions so respectfully.

As Scott Galloway says, Life is So Rich.

I have so much to learn.