On the best days, words fail the gleaming – fading – world.
A tiny songbird with a yellow stripe on her head visits the old spruce tree. She hops from one branch to another, eyeballing me. I’ve never seen her like before – and maybe I never will again.
Even the darkest clouds are illuminated.
On those days “sorrow and love flow mingled down” – and solitude suits me.
On others? Friends lift the heart and liven the senses.
Today, I’m delighted to share the wit and wisdom of my friend Deena Drummond, running a business (Roux Maison) and managing two little girls (as well as her husband)…
Thank you so much for spending some time in the Bacon Neighborhood today, Deena!
What is your state of mind?
It definitely fluctuates. January is my least favorite month, it’s cold and grey and depressing in a good year. But it’s also a new start and after this last crummy year, I’ve got to believe things are on the upswing!
How do you have fun in the time of corona?
Corona has definitely gone in phases for us, starting with the puppy adoption phase, which still provides endless entertainment.
We’ve had theme nights and dressed like Venetian gondoliers and eaten Italian food, we’ve covered lots of nationalities and ethnic options, had hula nights and some other things I’ve already forgotten.
We had a fitness phase and got a Peloton like everyone else in the world. This also provided a new best friend/imaginary friend, my favorite instructor Cody.
We planted a garden and grew lots of great veggies and have even bigger gardening plans for this summer.
The garden led to the arrival of a deep fryer, don’t ask how or why, thus balancing out and negating both the garden and the Peloton. I’ve never cooked so much in my life. If I were a restaurant chef, I would have been fired about 100 times for bad reviews by now.
Between the puppy and the people, I am constantly trying to keep up with the mess they create which brings us back full circle to my family’s insistence on imminently adopting yet another puppy. I’ve lost my will to fight and I’m outnumbered.
Here’s a shameless plug as well as a way to support an amazing community mental health agency. I’m really excited to chair How About Dinner and A Movie for Park Center next month on February 25th. As with all things in the time of Corona, it will be a virtual event where you will get a fantastic Dani Kates dinner and some surprises and a link to watch a great film at home. This event usually takes place at the Belcourt with dinner served on lap trays and a great silent auction and this year you can have the same great experience at home in your pajamas! Please join the fun and get tickets here.
How do you relax, or manage stress, right now?
Relaxing is kind of tricky with everyone constantly under foot. There’s always so much to do and it stresses me out to know it’s all just sitting there and accumulating while I ignore it. However, I still frequently manage to do just that!
We all pile in our bed for movie nights and everyone likes that. The grocery and Costco are about the extent of my escapes these days.
Who is the most challenging person or animal in your house? Who is the easiest?
This list constantly changes and they all swap out, usually multiple times per day. It’s amazing, if one kid is being moody and cranky, the other one magically becomes an angel. However, it is a proven impossibility for both of them to be angelic either simultaneously or for any extended period of time.
If you can’t hear or see the puppy and if she isn’t in her crate, she is most definitely destroying something. Probably something that was at one time sentimental and meaningful before it became a tasty treat. Otherwise, she really enjoys tearing up the trash which someone forgot to close.
Are you sick of your house? Your family? 🙂
I am oh so very ready for a change of scenery. The bar is so low now that almost anywhere sounds good. My youngest recently said we used to be a traveling family and now that’s over. We all like to be busy and on the move and travel and we all miss that so much. Funny enough, I’m pretty sure I would hate being away from everyone for any amount of time after being constantly together for so long. It would be so weird and seem strange. I guess the only way to know for sure is to try it! A real spa day would be most welcome though.
What are you proud of in the time of corona?
I guess that we all still like each other and like being together for the most part. I’m really lucky that my kids are an age where they aren’t fully humiliated by us yet and still want us around, at least some of the time. They’ve been troopers just rolling with the lack of birthday parties, playdates, trips and normalcy. As long as we’re together, I think they’re ok. At least so far.
There have been brief flashes of accomplishment, many of which were quickly crushed. Early on, I got both of my kids’ closets all cleaned out and organized. Then they both grew 2 more sizes to make my efforts mostly moot.
What are you embarrassed about, if anything?
The fact I’ve all but quit wearing real clothes. I’ve given up. If I worked out as much as I wear workout clothes, I’m sure I’d be an Olympic level athlete at something by now! I’ll need occupational therapy to re-learn how to use buttons and wear real clothes. I do dread that day because jeans never lie!
What have you learned about yourself during the pandemic?
My natural inclination to procrastinate does not diminish with fewer external distractions. Even with nowhere to go and no one to see, it’s still pulling teeth for me to check everything off my lists. The fact that there are so many additional items on my list now that I’m also a full time cook and butler, it’s really hard to work and get everything done.
What will NOT change for you once you’ve gotten the vaccine? What’s the first thing that WILL?
Oh I wish I knew for sure. This is at least what I hope. I hope I can see more people and go more places again, regularly. I miss people so much and I am constantly dreaming of my next imaginary exotic trip. I want to sit at a table full of people who do not live in my house and see smiles on all of their faces and hug them.
When do you think will things get back to “normal”?
I’m trying to be an optimist that it’s just around the corner, but I think we’re going to have a rough couple of months ahead of us before that begins.
What are you reading right now?
Right now I’m listening to Is This Anything? by Jerry Seinfeld. It’s a perfect little brain break with so many quick jokes that are all completely hilarious and insightful into the most mundane aspects of life. Seinfeld is such a great observer of human behavior and really finds the funny in our daily lives. During a time when there’s so much less interaction with others, it’s even more welcome as a reminder that we’ll get back to normal eventually. It’s a great distraction from all of the very not funny things happening and my attention span has definitely suffered of late so this is just my speed.
I’m just starting The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett and can tell you more soon. I still want to read The Best of Me by David Sedaris because I love everything he writes and think he’s hilarious.
What were some of your favorite reads of 2020?
I really loved The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson. It chronicles Winston Churchill’s first year as Prime Minister. It’s a history book that really reads like fiction. Everyone is so colorful and interesting and it delves into his family life as well as his professional one. We already knew that Churchill was an inspiring leader who gave confidence to his supporters and instilled fear in his foes. They all respected him and his constant bravery and fortitude in the face of frightening adversity. The book only covers this limited period of time and really gave me new insight into the daily unrelenting pressure to stand up to Germany while under-funded and supplied. He was also trying to get the US on board for support while Roosevelt was worried about his own re-election and how to provide unofficial assistance to the war effort prior to joining the war when Pearl Harbor was bombed. Everything was a chess match. Reading about living though the constant bombing of your homeland while so many sacrificed and went off to fight in the war definitely gave me some much needed perspective. Churchill was steady and calm.
My book club is the source of many of the great books I read. Another good one from last year was The Mountains Sing by Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai. It takes place over almost a century in Vietnam starting with the French colonial period to current times through famine, wars and strife and follows one woman, Diệu Lan, and her family and their unimaginable efforts to survive with almost constant adversity and hardships. It was really haunting, beautiful and painful to read how much they had to endure for so many different reasons for so long. Families were divided and torn apart as much by the Marxist government as by the war itself during the Vietnam War. This book makes you rethink ingrained concepts of who and what constitutes “the enemy” when discussing war and how quickly the label can shift. The propensity for horrible actions is not limited to one defined group and this book details how it morphed and evolved over time and so many were willing participants. Diệu Lan and her granddaughter, Hương, struggle to maintain their humanity and keep their family intact while others question familial loyalty and love as incongruous with government directives.
What are some of your kids’ favorite recent reads?
Oh too many to count. They’re big readers and consume everything. My older daughter is completely obsessed with The Simpsons and has this enormous book she’s been reading. She also enjoyed the Harry Potter and the Dork Diaries books too. Right now she’s reading Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. She says she isn’t enjoying it because there’s too much murder in it.
My youngest goes in waves of the same book over and over for a week and then moves on. We try to mix in some secretly educational books and classics too. We both really like the I Am – Ordinary People Change the World books by Brad Meltzer. We’ve read all of them. They’re actually pretty dense with information about a historical figure that is presented in an interesting and fun way. They talk about the subjects first as kids and show the potential inside everyone to do great things and impact society in a meaningful way. Each person had self-doubt that they overcame in order to accomplish so much.
What are you watching or listening to? TV shows, podcasts, music…
I’m pretty sure that we’ve now seen every single episode of The Great British Baking Show. It’s so great even if you aren’t sugar and carb obsessed. The people are funny. Everyone is nice to each other and genuinely helpful and kind. The fails are so relatable and the successes are inspiring. I have delusions of recreating some of the masterpieces, as if I could, but have yet to make any attempts. Maybe that will be the next phase of quarantine. I’ll keep you posted and drop off treats if I do.
I just binged Bridgerton. It is so beautiful! The sets and costumes are visual candy. I’m also sad it’s over. I’m going out on a limb and saying that the Duke may be the new Mr. Darcy! The music is just gorgeous too. It’s all chamber music but it’s Billie Eilish and Ariana Grande and other very current and popular music. This is definitely not a family show though.
We watched all of Schitt’s Creek. I could not love it any more. We’ve also been watching Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. It’s more Seinfeld and I guess there is a theme here. I just want to see funny and happy people being nice to each other. We definitely need more of that. We’ve been watching lots of comedies and comedy shows. Anything that has nothing to do with current events.
We just saw the new Wonder Woman. It was not as fun as we had hoped. Everyone periodically bailed out from boredom. We did see the best new Christmas movie that was so sweet. It’s called Jingle Jangle and will definitely go into our annual holiday rotation.
We have lots of music at my house. Alexa is on most of the time. I think it was the summer of Harry Styles and Taylor Swift. There are always some good show tunes from Hamilton and The Lion King and Matilda thrown in as well. We’ve had lots of dance contests to Just Dance 2020 and 2021 on the Nintendo Switch so we listen to their repertoire a lot. You’d think our dancing skills would be better than they are by now. At least we have something to work towards.
I love podcasts but have a hard time listening to them with everyone around and asking questions and talking to me all the time, in addition to my easily diverted attention span. I like Armchair Expert with Dax Shepard. He’s funny and has great guests and asks good questions. I like listening to the Daily Show Ears Edition podcast too, which brings me back to another great book.
I really loved Born A Crime by Trevor Noah. I read it because we took a family trip to South Africa last year and I really like to read about new places I go when I’m going there. I thought Trevor Noah would be funny and it would be an easy read. Not exactly. It was just fascinating to learn about his life growing up bi-racial during apartheid in South Africa. The title references the fact that his actual existence as a bi-racial person was illegal. He literally could not be out in public in certain places if any law enforcement was present. The breadth and scope of racism and discrimination were hard to comprehend. There were extensive laws and regulations in place severely restricting where people could live, their access to services and shockingly redacted educations. These laws were for so many arbitrarily designated groups of people who had no meaningful hope of improving their situations. I was aware of the horrors of apartheid, but it is always so different to see what you previously only thought of in a very abstract context. In my mind it was not such current history and I don’t think I fully realized the extent of its reach in people’s daily lives, along with the constant terror and oppression. Seeing the townships still standing today, which are the slums where the oppressed were forced to live, and how huge and crowded they are was hard. They are everywhere.
Trevor’s mother was a force and has her own amazing story that he tells as well. He tells his story in a matter of fact and fairly dispassionate voice. He isn’t angry and just relays his experiences, which makes it more powerful. He still manages to find humor in really awful situations. The saddest part was that the end of apartheid, at least not in the short term, did not create better education, jobs or opportunities. Many minorities were left with marginal means of supporting themselves and no resources for improvement.
Any New Year’s resolutions?
This one is tough. I’ve had the year of yes, the year of no, the year of health, the year of buckling down with work and I have tried to mix in giving back with all of these. I think I’ve run the entire resolution gamut, probably several times. One of my many takeaways from this last year is that the best laid plans definitely can come apart and in a major way. So, this year will be the year of positivity and perseverance for whatever curve balls are around the corner. With little kids, they definitely pick up on my stress and mood and my goal is to keep it together no matter what and keep everything running in all the ways I can. I am really going to try to stay positive and happy, even when my natural inclination is to worry and fret. My girls and I were discussing optimism and they didn’t know the word and it became awesome-istic. I am going to try and be awesome-istic during these very weird times and encourage them to do so as well.
What gives you hope?
Hope has certainly seemed elusive at times lately, but we’ve got to hang on to it! The vaccine gives so much hope and possibility for things to turn around. There has been so much suffering in so many ways by so many that it’s hard to process. I hope for a mild winter and an early Spring for sure. I hope for a return to civility, decency and mutual respect in all discourse. I so look forward to more time with more people that I miss. I am encouraged that we are part of such a great community that always comes together and really does offer a great example for hope and perseverance.
Thanks for sharing you “awesome-istic”perspective on life during the pandemic, as well as some great reads. Hugs to those precious girls.
Love you Dara!!