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charcoal roast black
from old ways tea
There was a point in my life, maybe three or four years ago, where I believed that black tea was meant to be imbibed alongside milk and maybe sugar; that it was naturally just a little bit bitter, and you needed to soften it.
That was back when Irish breakfast was one of my favorite black teas, and I just want to be clear—I do still yearn for a good English or Irish breakfast tea with milk on occasion.
Then I discovered that I was lactose intolerant, and that no plant milks gave me the same feeling as milk in tea. These were—well, I would say they were dark times, but that’s a little overly dramatic. They were lightly shadowed by having to give up a constant small pleasures in my life. But ultimately, losing something dependable and delightful helped push me on a tea journey that has ended in my discovery of black tea where the tea, unadulterated, is allowed to shine.
This tea is such a perfect example of what black tea can be. It’s rich, velvety, and sweet. The sweetness is the part that was most surprising to me: I had been used to black tea needing a hit of something to temper bitterness. I had never known that tea could be sweet, that the flavors of tea could be so complex.
I’m drinking this one on a sunny morning. The snow has melted away, leaving dry leaves and plants in various states of dying for the season. This tea is perfect for this time. It’s warm and sweet and comforting, but the hint of rough edges afforded by the charcoal roast gives me that touch of bitterness I sometimes crave. It’s just enough that the first sip of that sweet with bitter gave me a bit of nostalgia for my old breakfast tea with milk.
Each successive steep (I’m typing while I drink) brings out more complexity.

I need a change
and it's all brand new for me…
I listen to music on repeat. I don’t mean listening to a song a couple times or whatever. I mean, listening to the same thing over and over and over, not dozens, not even just hundreds, but thousands of times, to the point where if you asked me if a book had a soundtrack, I would say, “yes, and it's this one song" because that's literally all I listened to while writing it.”
Right now, the thing on continuous repeat for me is Change by Monkey Majik, which fits the requirements of my brain in multiple ways. Relevant, current, involves electrified Asian instruments (in this case, an electric shamisen, a three-stringed Japanese banjo-like string instrument).
But also, I've been feeling the lyrics because things have taken a tiny turn for upheaval over in my neck of the woods. 
Not, I think, in a bad way--just in a changing way. There were ways in which I was allowing myself to be a little comfortable, and I’m going to have to be a little uncomfortable for a while.
And of course, since I just gave you the video for the Change music video, I think it’s important to gift you with Yuzuru Hanyu skating to Change.

Exactly fourteen years ago, on December 7th, I got married to Mr. Milan, and honestly, I have to say that it doesn’t feel like it’s been that long to me.
Romance novels tend to focus on the earlier stages of love: getting to know each other, figuring out whether you fit together, up until the point of commitment.
But there are ways that relationships grow (or, I guess depending on the marriage, stagnate) the longer you stay married.
On my part, it looked like this: I like getting things done. Need home improvements? I’m going to have a plan, a timeline, a method to execute it, and a list of nine potential contracts with portfolios to go throw tomorrow night. And—to be clear—I find this kind of thing fun and entertaining and I like doing it.
Eighty five percent of the time, it very well for us that Mr. Milan enjoys refining plans and looking through portfolios that someone else set up on their laptop and providing comments.
Here’s where this breaks down in the fifteen percent: in the middle of the home improvement project, when I’m trying to edit a book with someone hammering in the background and the contractor is telling us that a key part of the project did not get ordered and will be delayed by eight weeks, and the cat needs to go to the vet and someone has to send the tax records to the accountant—in the midst of all of this, on the verge of breakdown, I end up wondering, “why am I doing all of this?”
The key breakthrough for us, as a partnership, has been coming to an understanding of who we are. I have learned to take on a lot of things because in most cases, I would rather do it all myself than imply to another human being that I cannot handle it. My independence is both a strength and a weakness.
Likewise, his ability to go with the flow is one of the things I love most about him. He never blinked an eye when I told him I’d rather write romance novels than practice law. He has always believed I could do anything I set out to do. But this also means that when I tell him “I’m fine, I’ve got this,” he believes me. Even when I’m about to break.
Understanding that the things we most love about each other are sometimes weaknesses—and that we needed to shore up those weaknesses by communicating clearly when we are in distress so that we can step out of our normal patterns—has made all the difference. Stepping out of the comfortable moments, into the discomfort, and spending time figuring out where it was coming from and how to handle it has made a huge difference.
We are still the same people who got married fourteen years ago, but in those years, we’ve had to change to be better partners to each other. I’ve had to learn to ask for help. He’s had to learn that when I ask, I really, really need it.

SEE YOU next week.
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