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My Super Secret Pack List

(Plus, Five Fab Takeaways from our Family Vacation)



Hello, Bonjour! 


This is yescessary – a mostly monthly newsletter where I transfer my production strategies to my busy family life and share what’s bringing me joy. I’m still learning what works for me as I pursue a sustainable, symbiotic work + family life. It’s a journey. Thanks for being here! 


Happy Lunar New Year! I hope Val-Pal-Gal-entine’s was heart emoji worthy. 


I’m focussing on one number this year – 29. I dig leap years. Why aren’t we making a bigger deal of an extra day? An extra day! That’s wild to me! 


I’m feeling this year’s energy. I’m praying for peace abroad and election outcomes. I think it’s going to be super special – beyond the 29th. 


It’s Family Day long weekend in my part of the world. Seems right to focus on our little unit.


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Skip, scroll, click. Contents below!


  • Five Fab Takeaways from Our Family Vacation ( + Pack List)

  • How I’m Supporting Black History Month

  • My YES-ESSENTIALS – All My Yeses Right Now

 

Five Fab Takeaways From our Family Vacation 


My daughter wanted a beach vacation and my son wanted to see a Boston Bruins game. Those two things don’t go together! Thanks to the Coyotes’ hockey schedule and my deep fondness for Sedona, we chose Arizona. 


I felt all the feels on our winter escape - deeply grateful, loved, frustrated, in control, free, trapped, proud, invigorated, exhausted. Adding “Able to travel safely and comfortably” to the wheel of privilege


There were some discoveries – my kids are gaga for hot tubs. I’m obsessed with concealers and dragged the brood to four different Ulta Beauty stores. This pre-made margarita is surprisingly muy saborosa on ice. No one complained. Biggest shock of all. 


Observing, looking back and assessing are my integral producing strategies. I’ve been processing what I’m taking away from our compressed, bed-sharing “Stop kicking me in the back,” time together and carrying what I learned with me this year (and beyond). 


I thought there may be some nuggets in here that could prove useful to you! 


1. I need adventure.  


It was a go-go vacation vs a lie around and bake vacation, so we had choices to make every day. Namely, what to eat, where to eat and what we wanted to do. 


We had a random exchange with a woman in a parking lot (not unusual for me btw) and she said the diner across the way was excellent. So, we went the next day to Randy’s. Old-school diner, no credit cards. They still take checks (American spelling). It was homemade biscuit and gravy dee-licious. 


Step pointed to Piestewa Peak on the map one morning. Little did we know it was also a Double Black Diamond ascent. The hills were alive folks. It was steep, the air was crisp, and it was brilliant fun. Every day was a blank slate, and we filled it with my fave expression: “Let’s find out!” 

Takeaway – I like to jump and see where I land. I don’t do it enough. Between the hectic extra-curriculars, my demanding work schedule, errands, chores, and protecting time to write, there may be a window once or twice a month to plan for an adventure to see what we come up with. 


2. I'm gonna check the weather forecast.


Sunny days. Cold nights. Rain. Frost. I knew what conditions we’d face on the trip because I was fanatical about checking. About ¾’s through, I asked both kids if there was something they wished they’d brought. They both said “No.” Nailed it. 


I have no interest in looking at the inside of suitcases, but I do love a good pack list. Are you saying that you want me to share my personal producer pack list that took YEARS of perfecting? I'm flattered. Thanks for the prompt! 


This list is beyond the basics like anti-bac wipes, first aid kits, vitamins. You pack those, right? 


Here’s my “Won’t leave home without them” items for family and business trips -


  • Small scissors. To cut chip bags, tags, gum outta hair. Sh*t happens. I always have one small pair in the packed luggage.

 

  • Multi-purpose clips. I dig the colourful ones. They double duty as as chip clips  and work for hanging bathing suits.

 

  • Luggage scale. For the trip back. A stress repack at the airport would give me night terrors.

 

  • Cash. For tipping at hotels or eating at old school diners. If we can afford to vacay, we can afford to pay people proper.

 

  • Compact flashlight. Hard pass on fumbling with a phone. A flashlight works for late-night walks or rifling around the hotel room when everyone is asleep. 

 

  • Retractable umbrella. The hotel may not have enough. I brought mine from this company. Here’s a list of hard-working umbrellas designed to travel. Nowhere near as cute as mine, but not judging. Ok, judging.

 

  • Extra storage bags. Sandwich size, large freezer, extra-large. I know plastic boo (!), but so helpful for dirty laundry and toiletries that could leak. Reusable option (Marni-approved!) Stashers.

 

 

  • Cashmere scarf. Bougee but the temp range of cashmere is brilliant. It keeps me warm and doesn’t overheat. If you’re going somewhere that will dip below 16 Celsius or 60 Fahrenheit, you will thank me.

Takeaway – I wore that scarf most days because I knew what I was walking into. When I’m on the hamster wheel at home, I don’t check the forecast. I should. It takes five seconds. Adding this to my day. 


3. I will ask. 


I do a warm compress on my face and eyes every night. Technically, I don’t NEED it. I prefer it. This is my futile attempt to look as luminous at Tracy Chapman at her age.  


Usually, there is an extra charge for a microwave (if there isn’t one provided), but I asked nicely, and they comped it. I was ready to change my night routine for the trip. But I did something super simple – I asked, and I didn’t have to pay. 


Takeaway – I’m going to ask for more things, more often. If they say no – no biggie. I’m ramping up my self-advocacy, keeping up my age-defying routine, and saving moola when I can. 


4. Positivity is a skill.  


I lean into the word “practice.” I have a producing practice. I have a writing practice. I’m a practitioner of ARDEI. I had a lightbulb on this trip as I watched my family go with the flow in a positive way. Even on the snowy day (yes, it snows in Arizona), my peeps talked about how lucky we were that it wasn’t worse. I wiped away happy tears in the shared bathroom. 


We often think of positivity as fixed. “He’s so upbeat” or “She’s such a downer.” People aren’t inherently anything. We are our circumstances and then our choices. And then we are seen through other people’s lenses and biases. I watched my family intentionally choose positivity on multiple occasions. I don’t know what got into them, but I was there for it. 


Takeaway – Sometimes, I’m in Sucksville, but I try not to hang there for too long. I practice positivity. It is a skill I work at. And, it’s a skill my family is willing to work at. This trip reminded me to keep it up. 



5. I’m learning to be an everyday birder.  


My daughter is a birder. My son and Step are aces at spotting animals, too. My kidlets have a game advantage of 20/20 vision, and they love it. We saw a family of Coyotes, Hummingbirds, a Great blue heron, a Roadrunner, Javelinas, a Red-tailed hawk, a Northern mockingbird. We spotted 32 different birds and animals native to Arizona on the trip. It was super cool. 


Takeaway – I want to borrow from birders. They are still, patient, they use binoculars, they listen and they’re always on the lookout.


I tend to pause in production even when the pressure is on. It’s always served me well that I zig when everyone else wants to run ahead and zag. Being next-level hyper-observant is a superpower I can build and apply to all aspects of my life – work, relationships, bargain hunting. There’s a secret joy in spotting what other people miss. 


There it is! 11 exhausting and fun days wrapped up in 80 photos and this commentary. I had no idea I would still be drawing on what I felt, processed, and extracted from this trip. Our time together stretched my soul in a very good way. Hope something in here was helpful to you!


 

How I’m Supporting Black History Month


Last March, I wrote about the pressure and complexity that I feel during Black History month. Racism, struggle, dehumanization, oppression, continued anti-Black racism are triggering.


As a leader, I have to perform, excel, exceed, and push through no matter what month it is. On the flip side, it’s fantastic to celebrate, recognize, process and support. Not just this month, but all year long. 


One question to ask ourselves in February – how do I or can I support Black livelihood? 


Here’s what I’m doing this February - 


  • Supporting Black-owned businesses. A colleague introduced me to Hutchie's. Beautifully layered flavour, not-too-hot jerk I’ve had in my city. I go to Beach Hill Smokehouse for kick-ass brisket and ribs. My daughter is named after Nelson Mandela, so I got her the kids’ version of A Long Walk to Freedom from A Different Booklist. And you can check out my list of businesses from this post!

 

  • Watching/reading Black creators. I devoured Kiley Reid’s Such a Fun Age so I just started her new book Come And Get It. And I’m working on cramming in anything Oscar-nominated before March. Colman Domingo’s performance in Rustin is spectacular. American Fiction is a refreshing examination of family dynamics, is HILarious, and talks about artistic freedom in a way I’ve always advocated.

 

  • At least one BHM excursion. We’re probably heading to this event @ stakt market next weekend. This wine night is just for me though!

 

  • Resting, eating, walking, cocooning, thumbing my highlighted sections of Rest is Resistance. Quoting Black brilliance. From astronaut Mae Jemison, “Never be limited by other people’s limited imaginations.”

 

My YES-ESSENTIALS – All My Yeses Right Now 


Yescessary is about prioritizing what brings me joy in this full life, so I thought I’d pop in a few more links as I’m really loving winter survival guides. How come no one is linking to the products that I love? Harrumph. Let’s fix that business right now!


Winter body besties - I’m a raisin with no sun and so thankful NoAshAtAll lives up to its name. This eucalyptus scent gives me spa vibes at home. My brown kids go pink with windburn (oh, Canada) so I slather FAB on them before they venture out.


Winter comfort eats – I’ve been making Jamie Oliver’s Beef and Ale Stew for over a decade now. Pre-hockey - can’t lose. My son LOVES these Halal breakfast rounds. Only way I can get an English muffin to cross his lips. I’ve been making Ottolenghi’s Mejadra when the dinner party include vegans, vegetarians, meatarians. Crowd. Pleaser.   


Winter wardrobe winners – People think I have a lot of clothes. I do because I take care of them and have a methodology – my sweaters never touch my skin. How? Long-sleeved tees. When it’s super frosty, I layer my bottom half with silk long johns. I love Roots socks that are mostly cotton. This hoodie is a “keep me cozy” thick cotton that looks cute under a pea coat.   


Winter extras. I’m in a steam room twice a week to get through. I may try this cocktail to celebrate the leap day OR might invent my own. I’m fixated! I don’t have a signature scent, so winter is perfect for discovery sets. Watching Late Bloomer and laughing hysterically. 


 

If you have Family Day this weekend, please enjoy the bonus break! 


Thank you dearly for spending some time with me. You are my community and I appreciate you very much. One more thing – Enjoy the 29th! 


What the what the? Happy Leap!


xoAG

 

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