First First of 2022: Wordle

Remember how I was going to try new things and have more firsts in 2022. Here’s the first first of the year. It’s the game all the cool kids are playing – Wordle. I had never attempted to solve one until yesterday.

This is a graphic of my progress as I guessed the five-letter word.

If you’d like to try, here’s the site.

I love word games. The simplicity of this one appeals to me a lot. I like that it’s free and there are no ads. And I especially like that there’s one word per day, so I don’t get sucked into an endless vortex that shreds my to-do list. I don’t need any extra help with that.

New thing number one in the books!


Goals and Priorities for the New Year

Oh, look. It’s the path to the future!

I’ve been thinking about where I want my focus to be in 2022. I tend to set one modest, concrete goal each January 1 with the self-knowledge that my ability to think up great ideas far outstrips my ability to follow through on all of them. I can easily overwhelm myself and give up trying anything at all if I set out to do too much. For example, one year my goal was to establish the habit of taking reusable bags to the grocery store. That was the one self-improvement task I assigned myself, and by not letting it get lost in the noise of a thousand other efforts, I was able to make this single positive change a part of my routine to the point that I usually don’t even have to think about it anymore. The next year, I could move on to a new single goal.

This year, I believe I’m going to extend myself a little and set goals in more than one area and maybe not keep it as specific to one action. The first and most important involves climate change. I haven’t generally gotten into “issues” too much on this blog, but I believe every one of us needs to make sustainability our top priority. My sort of nebulous aim is to remain mindful of my actions and to continue to educate myself. A concrete goal is to foster more native pollinator plants in my yard. In addition, I am on the newly formed Sustainability Committee at my workplace and we’re in the first steps of working up a plan there to put in a mix of more environmentally-friendly plants than the swaths of uniformly green grass we have now.

Moving on to the personal, I have been pondering how easy it is to let your life shrink. I grapple with anxiety a lot and I’ve discovered that with all the not going out except to work and the grocery store has inculcated in me a whole new level of dread around things that used to be fun or at least neutral. I’ve been hunkering down in my ruts because they’re familiar and feel safe and predictable, which is okay some of the time as a way to recharge. But it’s also a way to wither. So I’m going to spend 2022 trying to do and learn new things, to experience more firsts.

The great thing about this as a goal is that it’s really pretty easy. For instance, there are a lot of great walking and biking trails in my area. I’m going to explore a bunch of them this year. A new experience can be as simple as cooking and/or eating a food I haven’t tried before. It can be listening to a musician recommended by a friend. It can mean identifying a bug I see in my yard and learning about it. Or trying a simple craft project. There’s a whole universe of firsts always waiting, no matter how old I get.

I’m hoping to hold myself accountable by posting here at least once a month about what new things I’ve tried, even if I’m the only one who reads it later. I hope I have something fun and interesting to report. Talk to you again after I’ve gone and done some stuff.


Something’s Lost, But Something’s Gained: Old Year / New Year

“Well something’s lost, but something’s gained in living every day.” — Both Sides Now, Joni Mitchell.

One reason my blogging on this site petered out quite a bit this year was because I felt I’d been posting about loss, loss, and more loss for a while. It continued for me relentlessly to the point that I didn’t want to write on that theme anymore, even though it’s what was going on in my life. But of course, the world goes on and there are gains as well, plenty of them.

Let’s just get the losses and difficulties listed and out of the way in one post here, and then move on to gains and goals for the new year. Sound like a plan?

I’ll start with the big ones. It’s been a bad year for brothers-in-law in my family. My parents raised six kids to adulthood. Five of us are currently married. Of those five, three of us lost a brother-in-law in 2021. In late March, the wife of my oldest brother lost her brother suddenly and unexpectedly to natural causes. One week to the day later, my husband’s brother died in a boating accident. That was a huge blow and consumed a lot of our energy this year. Last month, the husband of my oldest sister lost a younger brother to cancer. None of the three were especially old – all in their fifties or sixties. I’ve also had a couple of old friends who died of COVID before the vaccines were widely available. It’s been rough. I know big picture it’s a good thing to realize how fragile and fleeting life is. But maybe it could be a little less in our faces for a while.

The smaller losses seem continual, too. And I guess that’s normal. As Joni Mitchell reminded us, life is constant loss and constant gain. One that stung because it was the result of my own lazy negligence was when I lost a lot of my creative writing to a failed logic board in my previous laptop. That would be the laptop I kept meaning to getting around to backing up…for several months. This happened around the time I had two basal cell skin cancers removed from the face I had inadequately protected from the sun in my youth. Well, well, well…if it wasn’t the consequences of my own poor choices come to call. And speaking of health, multiple episodes with kidney stones, including one surgery, have meant that I’ve had to give up some of the foods I like best, as well as quite a bit of money to copays.

Talk of money segues into my older kid — who really seemed to have things finally going his way — getting his car totaled by a hit-and-run driver. He wasn’t injured, which is the most important thing. But since he works as a delivery driver, this took away his ability to earn money. He had some savings and has now gotten a check from his own insurance company. But my husband and I will need to supplement that for him to replace the car — or at a minimum, cosign a loan.

Among the things gained this year, perspective is probably the most important. I have really stopped fretting about some petty shit. I guess the less cuss-y way to say that is, I’m not sweating the small stuff, at least not as much as I used to. I’m talking about the annoying habits of other people (glad I don’t have any of those, though!), my own minor mistakes, the errors of a particular sports team I follow, the fact that my house will always have an endless supply of small maintenance issues, whether the lyrics of a song on the radio could have been improved with my editing.

Other gains include that my oldest kid has a new love and they both came to visit recently, before Omicron started cancelling flights. I really like this person a lot and the two of them seem happy together. (I hope I’m not jinxing it.) Another gain with child number one is that he’s handling the car loss pretty well, navigating the insurance, making a plan and budget for replacement, being an adult.

Another big win in our family, one I did announce here, was that son number two released a game — Happenlance — for sale this year after several months of collaboration with colleagI have lost some people, but I got one back. One of my sisters with whom I could previously go years without contact has started calling me. For a long time I didn’t even know where she was or how to get in touch with her. But she has a new phone and appears to have decided she doesn’t want to spend whatever days we all have remaining estranged from family members. She called to give me the new number, and we have spoken a couple of more times since then.

More smaller gains: My strength and stamina are much better than they were both before and after my surgery. I was able to take a 13-mile bike ride recently, something that would have been unimaginable earlier in the year. You know what? That’s not a small gain; I’m moving over to the big wins category. Also in the value-added column — while I’ve had to give up or limit some of dietary items I love, I’m developing new favorites. Used to drink cup after of cup of black tea, but now that I can’t I’ve discovered green matcha and red rooibos. Can’t have the spinach quiche that was a dinner-time staple around here. Let me tell you about the popularity of the broccoli quiche I started making in its place.

As I was typing this, my older son sent me a photo of the car he just bought, so that’s taken care of now. It’s pretty – a red 2003 Toyota Corolla with low miles for the age.

I was going to talk about goals for 2022, but this is too long already. Maybe I’ll make another post tomorrow. Happy New Year, everyone!

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on

Holiday Joy With Grown Kids

Christmas tree

I guess I could have hidden that extension cord before taking the photo, but my Christmas theme this year is “enjoying the real.” Things don’t have to look perfect to bring joy.

Our holiday celebrations are over for the most part. My older son and his partner flew in from halfway across the country to spend last week with us, flying back away last Sunday. We made Friday the 17th our Christmas Day. All of those gifts in the picture have already been opened. Add in the fact that I’m working Sunday the 26th and it’s as if I’m living in the future from everyone else, having already had Christmas, and am now merely experiencing a regular old two-day weekend.

There are aspects of holidays with little kids I miss, but let me tell you what’s great about celebrating with all adults in the group. When I was off work for their visit, I was able to sleep in if I wanted. And this morning, I slept in again. I felt no need to count and recount the packages to make sure everyone had the exact same number. We spent roughly the same amount on everyone and it was all good. I didn’t have to buy or distribute presents to teachers or friends of my kids. Truly, the workload was so much less.

In fact, as five grown-ups, we discussed and came to consensus on the idea of ordering carry-out from a local restaurant/micro-brewery our special dinner. We could each get what we wanted and I didn’t have to spend hours in the kitchen. The only real hassle came with the food pick up, which turned out to be a tricky two-person job. The location is in the middle of downtown, which was an extremely busy place on a Friday night, with no available parking. Hubs jumped out of the car and made a dash for the restaurant while I was stopped at a red light. I then circled the block three times until he came out again with our bags of food. As evidenced by the horn honks, a couple of other drivers may have been a little peeved when I held up traffic so he could jump back in with me, but I saw no other solution and it honestly didn’t take that long. I hope they’re over the aggravation by now.

Absolutely the best part of the week was getting an extended visit with my firstborn for the first time since May of last year. Since bedtime was not an issue, we spent a couple of nights sitting up late together, chatting about this and that — sharing funny videos on our phones, talking about books we’ve read, him telling me about how certain elements from The Lord of the Rings related to J.R.R. Tolkein’s life experiences. Now that we’re past the point where I make and enforce rules for him, the tension is gone. I think we’ve reached the payoff point I’ve always heard about where you get to be friends with your adult children. Lucky for me, this person makes an excellent friend.

We’re supposed to go visit him in June, but with the new virus variant, who knows. It was hard saying goodbye with the future looking so uncertain. I might have cried a tiny bit when I was tidying up the remnants of their visit. This air mattress and I deflated at about the same rate:

Only for a few moments did I feel as deflated as this air mattress.

I didn’t allow myself to wallow for too long. I’d much rather think on the fact that the week they were here was one of the happiest I’ve had in quite a while, building up my bank deposits of fond memories.

I’ve heard from many friends and family members whose holiday plans have been disrupted by the new pandemic surge. If this is you, I hope that life gets easier for you soon.

Best wishes for peace, love, and joy to all.

Little Lessons Learned the Hard Way

Measure twice, cut once. It doesn’t apply just to carpentry and sewing. A variation of this maxim can apply to virtually any activity. Pay attention and slow down enough to do it right the first time.

*Not* raspberry!

Twice in the past week, I’ve been faced with the consequences (thankfully small) of my own carelessness. I guess I have to learn the hard way. First, I *thought* I was stocking my household up on tea to get us through the winter when I went online and ordered cases of some of our favorites. Welp, after the large box arrived, I learned that Celestial Seasonings Red Zinger is not the same as Raspberry Zinger (my husband’s fave.) Turns out they are very different products. I should have paid closer attention and proofread my order rather than making assumptions based on seeing a red box and the word “Zinger.” Now we have an entire case of tea none of us will drink. Well, I already gave away two boxes of it. I’m sure I can find takers for the rest.

My second hard lesson came this morning. Read up and learn from my mistake. After refilling the tank on a humidifier, make sure that lid seal thing really is clicked in place tightly before turning it over to place it back on the unit. SPLASH! An entire gallon of water on the bedroom carpet! I saturated three bath towels sopping it up and then still had to run a fan on it. I measured once and cut twice, costing myself time and annoyance.

The worst part is, I can’t think up any excuses or anyone to blame but myself. That’s the hardest lesson of all.

My Fraught Relationship With Gratitude

Photo by RODNAE Productions on

Thanksgiving is upon us, and I find myself pondering the potential risks of being *too* grateful. Don’t worry. This isn’t heading into any kind of preachy sanctimony about how you have to do even gratitude in the exact right way or it’s wrong.

I do find a lot of value in gratitude, and have even written on this blog before about some of my practices. But like many other things in my life, it’s a subject about which I can overthink and also be irrational. See, I have a superstition my logical mind can’t seem to shake, and that is the law of non-mentionables. It goes like this. As soon as you mention something, if it’s bad it happens, and if it’s good it goes away. Everyone knows you don’t talk about it when your baseball team’s pitcher has thrown seven no-hit innings. Say the fact out loud and you’ve guaranteed it won’t last through nine. That jinx is on you. Likewise, don’t dare to utter hopes for an injury-free season for the best players. You might as well just summon the injury demon already.

This law was reinforced in my mind by a cursed Buick Skylark I owned in my young adult years. I had driven it for about six months with nary a problem until the day I told a friend, as I was getting into the driver’s seat, “This has been a really good car for me.” Then it wouldn’t start when I turned the key. On a road trip a couple of years after this incident, I made the mistake of saying out loud, “The Skylark’s done really well on this trip.” I kid you not, only two minutes later a loud thump sounded under the hood and the headlights started to dim. It was a broken belt, of course. It was as if that car was sent into my life to teach me a very specific lesson about keeping my yap shut and not looking good fortune directly in the face.

Anyway, I try not to be ungrateful. But I stop to consider exactly what it’s safe to express thanks for. Am I okay with the object of my gratitude disappearing in the immediate future? I’m (deep breath) thankful for my house because I’ve already gotten so many years out of it. Even if it’s destroyed tomorrow, it’s deposited enough in the blessing bank for me to cover the loss. That’s an example of how I try to safeguard myself.

I try not to let my superstition overpower me because I don’t want to be a sour, dour ingrate who can’t appreciate stuff. I suppose, according to my magical beliefs, never giving thanks would keep me safe-ish. But safe in an unpleasant and sparse spiritual bunker kind of way.

So I’m trying to be brave enough to notice the good. One practice I’ve implemented over the past year is to consciously increase the number of times I verbally express my appreciation of other people. I don’t fake it, ever. I only say it when I really mean it, but I’m making more of an effort to make sure folks know I don’t take them or their deeds for granted. It helps me, too, keep my perspective when it might be someone who perhaps occasionally grates on my nerves or pisses me off in some way. The fact that I’ve thanked them out loud on other occasions has given their good deeds a more firm anchor in my psyche, and thus provides some balance.

I know the real key to gratitude, what I might always be working to master, is in acceptance of impermanence. The fact is that my Skylark had been a good car for those first six months. The betrayal of my faith — er, um, I mean the coincidental timing of it’s first mechanical problem under my ownership didn’t cancel out those six months. And no car lasts forever with no problems. Maybe for me to make an effective spiritual practice of gratitude without tying myself up in knots, I need to learn to ground myself more in the moment and avoid, to echo Wendell Berry, “taxing my life with forethought of grief.” Be grateful in the moment for the moment no matter what the next one might bring.

I’m not going to express confidence that I can learn to do so, because that would be a sure jinx on myself. But perhaps, occasionally, out of the corner of my eye, I can notice I’m doing it.

Exciting News: Game Launch

Pretty exciting news from my family today. My son’s (and his colleague’s) first video game has launched.

I’ve been watching from the sidelines as it’s gone through development, noting a number of times that the job looked similar to the task of writing a novel. My son and I have engaged in several conversations about creative process, in fact, as we both work on our various projects — game development for him and creative writing for me.

It’s likely my imagination, but I thought I got the skeptical side eye a from a couple of folks over the past year and a half. They’d ask me, “What’s your son up to these days?”

When I said he was working as an indie game developer…in his bedroom…in our house…I caught a whiff of oh, suuuuurrrre, just slacking and playing games on your dime, more like. Maybe I worried this is what people were thinking because I have a history of saying, “Yep, I am in fact still writing that same novel.” (But I really am!)

Anyway, I know everyone is dying for the reveal. So here’s the real product he’s really been working to produce and is now really available for purchase.

If you’re a gamer, go check it out.

The Great Playground Stick Fight of 9-11

Photo by Miguel u00c1. Padriu00f1u00e1n on

On the morning of September 11, 2001, I was bustling around trying to get my oldest kid ready for a day of first grade when my phone rang. A friend was calling to tell me an airplane had flown into the World Trade Center. I totally didn’t get it. I was like, hm, that’s weird. Hey, I’m about to be late taking my child to school. Can I call you back?

After dropping off the six-year-old, I turned back toward home with my three-year-old still in the car. And I turned on the radio. Oh.

I had been picturing a small two-seater plane with a confused pilot. I know a lot of parents all over the country retrieved their children from school after hearing the news. I’m going to be honest and say it didn’t even occur to me. I guess I felt we were pretty safe here in the midwest.

I spent the day trying to entertain my three-year-old while surreptitiously checking the news via internet. I didn’t know how much he was capable of understanding and didn’t want my growing internal panic to become contagious. My husband and I were emailing back and forth some and decided we’d have to talk to the six-year-old about the events of the day, but would wait until after dinner when we were all together.

We tried to keep dinner as routine as possible, making our kids feel safe. They were behaving pretty normally, with the usual little sibling squabbles and testing us parents on where the line got drawn vis-a-vis the no feet on the table rule. After we were finished, I don’t remember how we distracted the younger one, but my husband and I sat down with Age Six and said we had something to discuss.

My husband started. “We wanted to talk to you about something really bad that happened today.”

Age Six immediately turned red-faced and said, “They started it! They were throwing things at us first! That’s why we picked up the sticks to sword fight them.”

On any other day, I would have been called to the school and informed that my child was one of a group that prompted a new rule about not swinging sticks on the playground. Apparently, there had been a pint-sized gang fight. Later I heard from school staff that many of the students seemed to be picking up on the anxiety of the adults and acting out that day.

But my kid’s response made me realize we didn’t have to talk too much about the terror attacks. Six years old is still young enough for the most important news of the day to be what happened at recess. So we tackled that topic first, discussing what they could have done differently and what some better behavior choices would have been. We touched only briefly on the New York and D.C. attacks, saying that grownups in charge were working to keep people safe, etc., etc. I’m pretty sure the stick fight still loomed larger in my child’s mind.

What I didn’t understand completely in the moment was how our lives would forever be divided into before and after 9-11. How everything would change, often in ways I found difficult to put into words. I have tried to tell my now 20-something kids about what the world was like Before, but I’m not sure I’ve made them see at all.

As far as they could remember, we’d always been at war. There had always been huge flags flying at car dealerships and hotels. The Department of Homeland Security had always existed. “Drone strikes” has always been a phrase in the news. They’ve always had their bags searched when entering entertainment venues. I can list these details, but the thing I can’t describe in the way I want is how different things felt before the attacks.

I know I just sound old and nostalgic when I say, you used to be able to go to the airport for cheap entertainment. You could hang around to watch the planes take off and land. People could walk right up the ticket counter and get on the next flight leaving without any ID or watch lists or anything.

I’m sad that they’ll never know exactly what it is I’m trying to say. Sad that they don’t really remember the pre 9-11 world. Sad that a stick fight on the playground was so far from the biggest news of the day that the teachers forgot to mention it.

Thoughts on Dependence and Independence

Before I get into my actual post, I feel compelled to say I almost gave up on WordPress because of frustrating formatting problems every time I tried to create a post. But after walking away for a while and cooling down, I bothered to do some research. I learned the new issues have to do with WordPress and Safari not playing nicely together. So here I am, giving it another try, via Firefox for now.


Photo by Pixabay on

On this July 4, I’m having a lot of thoughts and even feelings — those things I sometimes prefer to avoid — about dependence and independence.

My 26-year-old son has been living half a continent away from us for over a year now, while the 23-year-old has remained hunkered down in our home during the pandemic. Health issues, both personal and public, have made launching a challenge for him. But he’s taking some steps toward adulting and attaining life skills. Today, he’s leaving on an airplane to visit his older sibling for a week, his first adventure in traveling alone. Other than a couple of small road trips with friends, he’s never before traveled without at least one parent.

I think it’ll be a great experience for both of my kids. The older one will get to play host, and also finally see a family member in person. The younger one will get to gain some independent maneuvering-through-the-world competencies without a lot of risk. Considering that sibling relationships are typically the longest ones we have in life, I’m happy they get along and want to spend time with each other.

So why am I wracked with anxiety? I will blame it on the pandemic. I have become used to the idea that leaving home is dangerous. I am unused to my (7 inches taller than I am) baby being so far away. I have to remind myself that I was already married, for crying out loud, when I was that age. I also experienced anxiety recently when my husband drove to a city two hours away and back in a single day, so maybe I’m just having issues in general.

My happiness about the offspring’s steps toward independence are winning the war against my fears for the moment. My kid is going to have to learn how to be out in the world without out us eventually, one way or another. It’s nice he can do something enjoyable while learning.

At the same time I’m celebrating his growing, if slightly delayed, independence, I’m having to come to terms with the fact that aging is going to mean more dependence for me. I like to do things for myself and hate asking for help. But I’m just arriving at the point in life where I see the first glimpses of needing more assistance as time rolls on. My energy levels aren’t what they used to be. Both my husband and I are growing weary of heavy-lifting type home repairs and improvements. We had a discussion and conceded that we might need to hire younger, stronger backs for some projects.

As heartily as I endorse the philosophy that we’re all walking each other home, and as often as I ask, what are we here for if not to help each other, you’d think I’d have an easier time with accepting assistance. But apparently, I’m only comfortable on the giving end of it. Humanity doesn’t really function that way, though. You have to be willing both to give and receive aid.

Week before last, I was initiated into the kidney stone club, a real rite of passage, if you will. I spent 24 hours in the hospital. If you haven’t had a stone, let me tell you that the pain lives up to all the hype. I could barely walk, and definitely couldn’t drive myself to the ER. I had to depend on my husband to get me there. Then I had to depend on medical professionals to help me with pain relief, diagnosis, and general functioning for several hours. Almost worse than the physical pain was the feeling of helplessness. I couldn’t take care of this problem on my own.

I had to be wheeled places under someone else’s power. I ended up with all the drugs (at least it felt that way), which meant that even after the pain was manageable, my brain wasn’t functioning well and I was unsteady on my feet. I asked the same questions repeatedly and had to try with all my might to process what anyone else said to me. I needed to be walked to and from the bathroom, a nurse holding me steady.

It rained 5 1/2 inches the night I was in the hospital. Many streets were underwater and closed. When I was ready to be discharged the next morning, I had to wait a while for my husband to pick me up because he was dealing with a flooded basement. Poor guy had to run to the hardware store, buy a new sump pump, and install it all before he could come get me. So dependence means learning patience, something that is always a challenge for me. Independence means I’m more likely to get what I want or need without waiting. It spoils me.

Then there’s the guilt. I felt I should have been helping my husband, rather than being one more task he had to take care of. I guess that’s another issue for me to work on. I recognize as well, that doing the things myself gives me a feeling of control. If I do it, I have power over keeping things from going wrong, or at least over fixing what went wrong. As if we aren’t all at the mercy of chance all the time. It turns out that I have many, many issues here and should probably work on getting a grip. Great — another damn opportunity for personal growth. Who asked for that?

Welp, I should wrap this up. Son two is leaving soon and I need to focus all of my concentration on his flight. I’m pretty sure the pilot will be depending on my telekinetic powers to keep the plane aloft while my loved one is on board.


Of Hard-Working Utility Crews and My Obliviousness

I thought highly of myself and my work ethic because I made it outside to tend to yard maintenance before 7:00 this morning. But these folks were already out working when I stepped through my door.

The city switched power lines from an old bad pole a while back, installing a new one next to it. By a while, I’m speaking about increments of years, not weeks. This morning, the removal of the old pole finally made its way to the top of the city to-do list. The heat was already something by the time they and I were out there working. Stay tuned. I’m about to tell a funny story on myself.

We’ve lived in our house for 18 years this month, and there’s always been a utility pole in our yard, right on the property line between us and the neighbor to the east. It’s been defunct for a long time, too, with the city promising us they’d remove it.

While I was out this morning, weeding, and the utility workers were going about their labors, my husband came onto the front porch to monitor the progress across the street. After we watched them together for a minute, he said, “They already removed the pole from our yard.”


I looked over to where it used to be, flabbergasted. No pole no more, and I hadn’t even noticed. They must have taken it out while I was at work one day this past week. You want to know the worst part of my obliviousness? I fricking mowed the yard yesterday evening, including the place where the utility pole stood for decades, without noticing it was gone. In fact, I came to this spot pictured below and wondered why my husband (or the neighbor, since it’s on the property line) had dug a hole in the yard and then just left bare dirt. I’d been meaning to ask.

Bare patch of ground

I have had a lot on my mind, lately. But geez, Louise. Should I worry about my mental state? In my defense, the spouse has been removing invasive plants from the yard, including a huge honeysuckle bush. One of my working theories posited that he’d seen another small stand and managed to get it out by the roots. If he hadn’t told me about the pole, I’m sure I would have figured it out eventually. Maybe.

Honeysuckle stumps
Just the stumps of the honeysuckle bush remain.

The husband says he’ll get back to the honeysuckle removal and take care of those stumps when he has time. I wonder if I’ll notice.