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.
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.
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.
A number of times in my life, I’ve uttered these words: “I’m not a crafty person.”
But are they true, though? I mean, I’ve patched and painted many a wall in my life. Is that not some type of craft? And while I always avoided the craft room as a parent volunteer at elementary school parties, I could often be found assisting my children with activities such as making greeting cards or carving pumpkins at home. Are those not crafts?
Maybe my self concept can change, even at my advanced age. I have decided that I am going to have at-home summer camp days for myself this year. I will do crafts — in a low-risk environment, of course, where I can easily dispose of the evidence if things go too awry.
Here’s where I’m starting:
When my oldest moved out, I undertook the massive task of cleaning out his room. My reward was that I got to keep for myself a handful of things he left behind. One was an unused tie-dye kit. It took me a couple of years, but today, I finally broke it out and tie dyed a t-shirt for myself. It might look hideous when it’s done, but at least the process was fun.
I had some dye left over, so the husband tossed me one of this shirts to experiment on as well. I will post the results in a couple of days. It’s okay to laugh if they look funky.
As an aside, the buckets are only there for weight in the breeze. They’re citronella candles I keep on the deck, not part of the craft process.
Let it never be said that I’m not frugal. Just how frugal? The image above is an example of my thrift. It usually has a liner in it, but I removed it for the photo.
In 1994, I worked as a secretary. On Secretary’s Day that year, my boss gifted me with a really nice, large fruit basket. Once the contents had been shared and consumed, I was left with a sturdy wicker container. As fate would have it, I was in need of another small trash can for my home. Being true to my nature, I thought, “Oh, this basket will work until I come up with something else.”
27 years later, it’s still in use. We have moved four times, so this is its fifth household.
I wonder if my former manager even remembers me or the fruit basket. If ever I should run into her again, I suppose I’ll refrain from mentioning that I think of her when I throw away my used dental floss.
Make do and use things up. I guess I took that lesson to heart.
Today is my birthday, and I don’t ever seem to get tired of having them. It’s a great time of year for it, early spring when the day is finally a little longer than the night and daffodils are blooming everywhere. I appreciate my parents arranging this for me.
This past winter, I was about as depressed and anxious as I’ve ever been, but my own light is shining a little brighter again, too. Though this is my second consecutive pandemic birthday, I think I can enjoy the occasion. I’m off from both of my paying jobs today and plan to spend the day not putting pressure on myself. I’m going to Zoom with some friends in a little while. The weather is supposed to be gorgeous later, so a long afternoon amble will be in order. I’ll follow that with sending my husband to get carry-out so I don’t have to cook dinner.
I’v already had my birthday present for a few days — something I’ve wanted for a long time and that has improved my life at least 25%. Friends, I am 57 years old today, and for the first time ever, I have a headboard for my bed. I can now sit up and read without murdering my back. The headboard is nothing fancy, an inexpensive one from Target, but it has not disappointed as far as the reading in bed experience goes.
Happy day, everyone, wherever you happen to be in your own solar cycle!
In my family, love doesn’t often come in the form of flowers or frilly cards. Here’s what it looks like:
It’s me, already tired, double masking and wading into the fray at the packed grocery store after I get off work on a Saturday so I can make sure we’re stocked up before the next day’s predicted (now occurring) snow.
It’s my husband dragging himself out of a warm bed earlier than he wanted to on Sunday morning and working his way into the weird, cold, uncomfortable corner in the basement to set up a space heater and wrap a heating pad around a frozen water pipe. (Water is running in our bathroom again. Yay!)
It’s my older son, born and bred in the Midwest but now a resident of the Pacific Northwest, going out in bad weather to rescue his stranded friends who don’t know how to drive in the snow. (Always keep a Midwesterner around.)
It’s my younger son spending time compiling a list of resources and advice for a young person he barely even knows because they’d expressed an interest in learning game development but didn’t know where to start.
However you celebrate and express love for those in your life, Happy Valentine’s Day!
My mother left us five years ago today, an anniversary that’s hitting me harder this year than it has the past couple. The five-year mark seems to be driving home the truth that she’s gone permanently. It’s one of those things you know in your mind, but don’t really know in your bones when the loss is fresh. Last night, I kept thinking, “I didn’t understand she was going to be dead for this long.”
When my mom took me for my first day of kindergarten, an eon ago, I was puzzled by the children in the class who were crying, distraught over their mothers leaving without them. I thought to myself, “Don’t they know they’re going to come back?”
Now I’m dropped off, the day has grown long, and I see she’s not returning for me. I’m on my own here. But she didn’t toss me upon the world with no provisions or comforts at all. She had a fascination with bells, and collected all sorts. I experience a lot of joy from this tangible item she left with me — a good part of her bell collection. I rang them all for her this morning.
“Ring the bells that still can ring.” — Leonard Cohen
Note: I originally started writing this on the evening of January 6, but I discovered I was too unsettled by events to gather my thoughts. So I’m starting over now, while holding my breath and crossing my fingers for a peaceful Inauguration Day this coming Wednesday. **
I have little patience for anyone over the age of 50 making statements or jokes insinuating young people today are somehow soft or entitled or not quite up to snuff compared to older generations. My kids are just at the age to really be laying the foundations of their adult lives. I have a number of friends with kids in the same age range. And what I see is not so much foundation laying as young adults treading troubled waters, trying not to drown. There’s no there there upon which to build.
I’ve read a few posts recently from historians putting the present day into context, and they verify what I suspected. The youngest Millennials and oldest members of Generation Z are coming of age in one of the most difficult periods of American life.
Would I have made the decision to have children if I had known how things would shake out? What if someone had given me a crystal ball that told me the terrible things that would happen by the time they were grown? Would anyone ever choose to have children if they knew what disasters lay in the future?
On April 19, 1995, I was eight months pregnant with my firstborn and shaken to the core by the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. I saw the photo of a lifeless baby carried from the rubble and wondered if I’d made a grave error in choosing to bring a child into a world where such a thing could occur. But the delight and wonder of motherhood eclipsed all, prompting me to have a second child three years later.
Then followed the Columbine school shooting, 9/11, the economic crash of 2008, Sandy Hook, the Fukushima nuclear accident, the election of an unhinged narcissist to the U.S. presidency, and a mishandled pandemic leading to widespread unemployment. And now January 6, which it seems is going to be referred to by its date, just like 9/11, with no further explanation necessary.
You make the choice to have kids when the world is one way, with no idea what lies ahead. How different everything is from the 1990s. Everything. I mourn that my children don’t remember the pre-9/11 world, one where you could hang out at an airport and watch the planes taking off and landing as cheap entertainment, one without security checkpoints and searched bags at every venue from airports to amusement parks. One in which we weren’t at perpetual war. A few times, I have feebly opined to them that I’m sorry for how the world turned out, that I had no idea it would get this bad.
Going back to my earlier question — if I had known, would I have chosen to remain childless? Maybe. Do I regret having them? Never. I regret much about the world as it is. I wouldn’t have them disappear from it. My love for them makes it both bearable and unbearable. It’s a paradox.
I suppose every generation could make its own list similar to mine. Would you want to become a parent if you knew the Black Plague was just around the corner? The Dust Bowl? A World War? My mom was carrying me when John F. Kennedy was assassinated, after she’d already lived through the Great Depression, WWII, a polio epidemic, etc. Individually, it feels like we have so little control over world events. We as humans are always working to survive and make our own happiness, create our own hope. I guess that’s consistently true, from the hunter/gatherers of ancient times thinking about the year’s berry crop to those of us today worrying about who has access to the nuclear codes.
Babies are still coming along, in the middle of this big old mess we have right now. Multiple friends of mine have welcomed grandchildren to the world over the past year, vibrating with a happiness that is more contagious than the coronavirus. I hear the news on a Zoom call or see it on Facebook, and a glow comes over me. I feel so much joy for them.
As humans, we keep choosing to go on, to try our best to survive. I would never dream of offering an opinion to anyone about the right time for them to birth or adopt a baby, or about whether they even should. But every arrival of a new baby says to me that collectively, we haven’t all given up all hope. That thought also makes things bearable.
I wouldn’t want to know the future, even if I could. It’s best that we don’t. Things could get even worse. They could also get a whole lot better. So much is possible. Nothing is certain.
A counselor I’ve been seeing told me to notice the times I’m okay, “even if it’s only 15 seconds. Pay attention and remember it. You can build on that.” Maybe that’s the foundation we all can lay.
I’m not even sure where I’m going with this. Just pondering on the unpredictability of life and how we cope during bad times. I want to do whatever I can, with whatever little power I have to make this a better place for those joy-bringers who are arriving right now. And for the joy-bringers who have already been here a while.
Take care of yourselves, my friends. And let’s take care of each other. Let’s create those moments of okayness and build on them.
My winter holidays this year have been very on-brand for 2020. We started with the world’s skinniest Christmas tree, one of about half a dozen we could find still for sale in the entire town three weeks back. That was followed with the common affliction of some of our gifts and mail not arriving by the expected date. (I’m still waiting on one item I ordered in November!) Then on Christmas day, about three o’clock in the afternoon, I received a phone call from my manager informing me that a colleague with whom I had worked three days earlier had tested positive for COVID. We’re on top of our mask game there, but I was advised to start quarantine immediately. Good thing we’d already opened presents!
I informed my husband and son that game night was cancelled, then moved into my office/guest bedroom. I’ve mostly lived there since, wearing a mask when I emerge into the common areas of the house. I’ve had no symptoms and had my own COVID test done this past Tuesday, with a negative result. Yay! But my referring physician and our local health department say to quarantine for 14 days from exposure even with a negative test.
It hasn’t been all that bad, to be honest. I have a lot of advantages. I’m not sick, is the main one. We have a spare room, which is where my desk is anyway. My husband has done curbside pickup of groceries for us. I got an extra week off of work. I’ve been sleeping and sleeping and sleeping, finally catching up after a quarter century of sleep deprivation. I’ve also done a lot of creative writing, read a couple of books, kept up with my Spanish lessons on Duolingo, and even done a little work from home for my job so that I won’t be impossibly far behind when I return. Oh, and Kakuro to keep my mind sharp, thanks to a timely Christmas gift.
Still, I have felt a little claustrophobic. Thank goodness solo outdoors activities are allowed. I’ve been walking three miles a day, wearing a mask and avoiding trails that might be crowded. It’s kept me sane.
I hear the year 2020 has one last “gift” to drop off for us on its way out the door. We’re supposed to receive a massive ice storm starting around an hour before midnight tonight, New Year’s Eve. Oh 2020, you’re staying true to yourself to the very end.
“Tell me good things to think about while I fall asleep.” For years, this was the near nightly request of my firstborn, a sensitive and anxious child.
I’d prop myself up with Firstborn’s head against me, my hand resting on their back, as I murmured a recitation of everything good in the world that my brain could conjure at that moment. I would talk about puppies and kittens, individual varieties of colorful flowers, the interesting shapes of clouds, fun games and toys, whatever books and movies my kid was interested in at the time, their friends, comfortable clothes, lightning bugs. The list would go on and on. I’d keep talking, my voice soft, until I heard the rhythm of breathing that announced the arrival of sleep. The prime years for this were between the ages of four and eight, though the request still came at less frequent intervals right up to about age fourteen.
Being un-churched, I suppose this was the form of our evening devotion. It started as a way to help an anxious child calm enough to sleep. But it also became a comforting ritual for me.
I know the advice to count your blessings seems hackneyed. But if I really do it, it helps with my own anxiety and depression (my offspring come by this trait honestly.) The key is, though, I can’t just think of one or two things and flip a switch inside. For me, for it to be effective, I have to keep thinking and adding to the list, literally for as long as I can until I run out of ideas or fall asleep. Usually, it’s fall asleep. Because this is how I’m now soothing myself at night when the problems of the world loom. I tell myself good things to think about while I fall asleep.
In helping someone else, I inadvertently created a gratitude practice of benefit to myself. Funny how that works.