Features + The Weekly Edit

The Weekly Edit: Sleepless in Self-Quarantine

Yesterday, I had a plan.  I was going to get up for work, put on one of my favorite dresses, and bring a little style to an otherwise mundane work-from-home day.  But it didn’t happen, because I never went to bed the night before.

Around 10:00PM, I got a call from one of my candidates.  Something had happened, and we needed to be prepared to respond in the morning.  8-hours of researching, writing, and re-writing later, I finally squeezed in a three-hour nap before getting up to deal with the next wave.  Proving you can make plans, but you can’t always keep them.

After weeks of pandemic-induced quiet, I was almost grateful for proof that at least something, somewhere was just like before.  Because everywhere I turn, it feels like what qualifies as normal is rapidly changing.

When I was young, I loved studying history.  I used to pepper my older relatives with questions about what it was like to live through The Great Depression, WWII, the Cuban Missile Crisis and Vietnam.  My great aunts would tell me about ration cards, my grandfather would tell me about building a bomb shelter in the basement.  And it always boggled my mind how they could live through such incredible, historic events and act like they were no big deal.

As my Papa once told me, “You don’t know it’s history when you’re in it.  You’re just living.”  An answer that eight-year-old Abra found deeply unsatisfying, which now makes perfect sense to 37-year-old Abra.

I have lived through the fall of The Berlin Wall, the collapse of the Soviet Union, 9/11, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, The Great Recession, the rebirth of authoritarianism across the globe, the Obama presidency, the Trump presidency, and the Covid-19 pandemic.  And while I may have appreciated that history was being at the time these events happened, I didn’t understand how powerful any single event was until I looked back on it months, years or decades later.

Because even though you see the stone hit the water, you don’t know how big it really was until you see the ripples.  And as I sit here on day 25 of my self-isolation, watching the crisis unfold from the spectator seats (which is something I have never adjusted to since leaving the Hill), I have a sense that the ripples of this crisis will be more like tidal waves, both for me and for my country.

I am obsessed with process, so documentaries about the inner workings of different industries fascinate me.  And there are so many good ones that are worth your time.  This week, I watched a trio of documentaries about the music industry that would make for a great movie marathon.

The first documentary, The Rainbow, is about the family that owns and operates L.A.’s famous Whisky-a-Go-Go and The Rainbow, a lesser known restaurant down the strip.  The life of the family patriarch, Mario, is the stuff of Hollywood legend.  And the documentary is full of well known rock-n-roll icons paying tribute to the man who they loved and respected.

The second documentary, Hired Gun, talks about the session musicians and background players who make the music industry go.  It’s incredible how many huge musical acts many of these mostly unknown (but incredibly talented) musicians have toured with.  Some went on to impressive careers as producers or full band members, others were happy just to keep playing in the studio making a living doing what they love.

And the last is the award-winning documentary 20 Feet from Stardom which tells the stories of the background singers who are  just as talented (if not more so) than the famous musical acts they support.

By any metric, I am wearing a lot of athleisure right now.  I started off my quarantine wearing jeans.  But as my daily 3-mile walks and occasional Peloton rides have become critical to my mental health during the shelter-in-place, I find myself wearing less casual attire and more workout wear.  And this dramatic increase in use has revealed a problem in my athleisure wardrobe: I own pieces, not outfits.

And so, I spent some time this weekend examining what I own, what I wear, and what holes I need to fill to turn my athleisure pieces into stylish outfits.  Here were the pieces that made the list.

Outerwear.  Being something of an indoor creature, I don’t own a lot of outdoor attire.  So when my black vest was taken from a party a few weeks ago, I didn’t replace it.  Once my daily walks started, its absence was immediately felt.  Luckily, Backcountry is having an epic sale, and I could pick up this better quality North Face replacement for a good price.

Since I expect to be outside a lot more during Washington’s traditionally rainy season, I’m also considering a rain jacket like this Arc’teryx Codetta Coat or this North Face Venture Jacket.

Tops. My athleisure tops fall into one of two categories — worn out or short-sleeved.  So I decided to use the Athleta sale to pick up a couple of long-sleeve options (25% off with code GOODVIBES).

I already own this Uptempo top in another color, so grabbing it in grey was a no brainer.  It’s a good weight, wears well, and is very comfortable.  Also, when I realized this Momentum Top came in the signature color that I’ve used on my blog for nine years, I had to have it.

Everyone’s talking about the Quarantine 15, but I’ve somehow lost five pounds.  Probably because I can’t go to restaurants, order food delivery, or spin through the Taco Bell drive thru at midnight.  It turns out my weight was connected to my gluttonous food choices, who knew?  So I decided to eat pasta.

And let me preface this by saying that I don’t like pasta.  I do not enjoy Italian food as a whole.  I’ve even been known to get upset with people who make me eat Italian food when I’m on vacation.  But twice a year or so, I make Lidia Bastianich’s Meat Bolognese, because it is that good.  To quote Steel Magnolias, it also freezes beautifully.

The trick to cooking it is to buy a a 5qt. Dutch Oven, Le Creuset or other, so you can make it all in one pot.  But if, like me, you have no need for such a behemoth, you can just brown the meat in small batches to make sure you get a lot of tasty crispy bits.  Because when you crowd a smaller pan with too much meat, it won’t brown properly.  Instead, you’ll wind up steaming it in a sausage fat sauna, and steamed meat is disgusting.

Like most of the planet right now, my stress level is a bouncing 10.  I’m not sleeping, and even when I am sleeping, I’m not resting.  So I went hunting for the weighted blanket I haven’t used in a few months, and it has helped a lot.  Just that moment of relief when I lie down to sleep, game changer.

This Ella Jayne blanket at $60 is the best buy out there.  The secret to a weighted blanket is to choose one that weighs 10% of your body weight (or as close as you can get).  If you’re concerned you can’t keep white clean, it also comes in all grey.

This should actually be titled what I’m writing.

As I’ve mentioned before, I have extraordinarily vivid dreams, particularly my nightmares.  And a few years ago, I had a nightmare that I could never shake.  It was so odd how it unfolded, and the storyline of the dream so perplexing, that it just stuck with me.  So last week, I decided to turn it into a short story.

I haven’t written creatively in a long time, and it’s a very different skill set than I use on this blog, in my legal work, or in my political work.  So I needed some help.

Skillshare has a lot of good creative writing classes.  I have some time off today, so I’m going to work through Crafting Complex Characters and Writing Character Driven Short Stories.  Even if it’s just for fun, I want to be proud of it.

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  1. samantha says:

    I have TNF Venture rain jacket. It was a birthday gift a few years ago and it’s one of the best gifts from my parents (besides life, of course). Fantastic buy! It a great for layering sweaters/pullover under, too.

    March 25, 2020/Reply
  2. Nicole says:

    Thank you for the weighted blanket recomendation. I’ve been wanting to get one but the different options out there were overwhelming. I can’t wait for it to arrive.

    March 25, 2020/Reply
    • Cait says:

      Seriously, it’s like Abra read my mind! I was looking at the weighted blankets in the Rack sale yesterday, but there were too many choices. Thanks for making the decision easy!

      March 25, 2020/Reply
  3. A says:

    LL Bean Stowaway Rain Jacket with Gore-Tex, hands down. I bought the mid thigh length in college a decade and a half ago, replaced it in law school (weight gain) and then went with the shorter jacket now (postpartum wider hips and ribs). I have never ever ever been wet in it, and by all accounts I should have. For winter I now use the shorter jacket as a shell and layer a down puffer under it for warmth – works just as well as my best ski jacket, but more adaptable to multiple seasons.

    March 25, 2020/Reply
  4. Jen says:

    Wow, I was already watching Hired Gun when I clicked on this post! Talk about timely. Very good recc 🙂

    March 25, 2020/Reply
  5. Shanghai says:

    I’m just relieved to know I’m not the only one who isn’t in love with Italian food. It’s fine…but I clearly don’t love pasta the way other people love pasta!

    March 25, 2020/Reply
  6. Pam says:

    Great suggestions to help on writing. I just signed up.

    This is why I love your blog! You read my mind.

    March 26, 2020/Reply
  7. CAITLIN says:

    I totally get you, Abra – despite BEING half Italian, my mom (the non-Italian) was always the cook, so I didn’t grow up with that same love. Most pastas seem so one-note to me. It’s a delicious, carb-y creamy note if done right, but… I never think to order Italian or even really cook it, because it seems so indulgent, and I’m tired of it by bite five.

    *Maybe I’m thinking mostly of classic Italian-American food? I’m sure actual Italian food is far less fatty…

    March 27, 2020/Reply