My “Uneventful” Week, Firemen and All

You know how once in a while you’ll look at your calendar and see a few blank squares and go (silently) yippee!–a few days to catch up, read, watch TV, or whatever is your favorite way to fill uncommitted time?

Even in the pandemic, with all the staying at home, I still have weeks that are filled with doctor appointments, errands (pharmacy, library) and taking the granddaughter to her one daily in-person class.

But last Thursday there were those blank squares (except for the school thing). This is how those days went:

First thing, I noticed the deer had eaten the flowers off the cyclamen I just planted. We’re in drought and the deer must really be hungry to eat flowers.

I now cover them at night and the flowers are coming back.

While we were getting ready to leave for school, a bird got in the house. We opened doors and windows and it soon found its way out, but I was cleaning up droppings in odd places for a few days. (This has happened before and they are drawn to the high clerestory windows, which is the worst place to be trapped. I’m glad this one got out quickly.)

I dropped the child off, picked up a prescription at the drive-through, and by the time I got home there was a flurry of messages and texts regarding her returning to school after Thanksgiving break. I quickly arranged to go in for a conference with her, the counselor and the school psychologist to work out a plan. Afterwards she had her favorite treat, Starbucks, including a snowman cookie. Then she began ordering clothes online, her first priority (rather than finishing up all her online work, because she’ll have different teachers).

Friday was grocery shopping, which is anything but routine. Between the pandemic and our bright, shiny new (huge) store, even getting there at 8 a.m. I found myself dizzy and disoriented wending my way through the unfamiliar and overstimulating space. I got a small-ish turkey for our small Thanksgiving–us plus one neighbor, a widow who would otherwise be alone. (We’ve agreed, sadly, with out-of-town family to avoid risk this year.)

Saturday was my husband’s birthday, and granddaughter wanted to bake a lemon cake. Naturally she found a complicated three-layer job–I would have done a loaf, sheet or Bundt. She zested and juiced the lemons and did the measuring while I ran my ancient (harvest gold!) Sunbeam mixer. Once it was in the oven I needed to deal with an awful smell in the garage. It smelled like burned (or burning) rubber, but we couldn’t figure out where it was coming from–no smoke or flames.

So I called 911 and asked for the fire department to check it out. The truck with flashing lights (but no siren, thank you) got the neighbors’ attention. The squad was wonderful. One used a heat sensor to try to find hot spots. They went around the breakers, the outlets, outside by the AC and pool pump, and into the garage attic! Finally, they pulled out the refrigerator and determined the smell was coming from the back of it. The motor wasn’t running too hot but they recommended turning it off. It was immediately unplugged. I thanked the firemen and dealt with moving everything into the house, while also keeping an eye on the cake’s progress.

Naturally, the fridge had Thanksgiving items in it, including the turkey, beer and wine (that’s why it’s known as a “beer fridge”), bottles of water I fill and keep for emergencies, and the like. The inside refrigerator is now crammed full. (The old one is 21 years old and not worth repairing so we’ll live without it for now.) After making the cake icing and cleaning up, I was exhausted but too wired to nap.

We had a nice birthday dinner (salmon, asparagus, baked potato and the lemon cake.) I went to bed early.

Sunday really was uneventful. I walked the dog, did Zoom church, read, napped. No school this week. Today I made this little ornament. I’m going to get different colored yarn and make them for small gifts (teachers, neighbors). They are super-easy to make. Instructions are here.

This is not knitted. It’s basically a type of macramé. The pompom needs a little more trimming.

Why Math? A Modest Proposal

One nasty aspect of this terrible pandemic is the struggle with online learning. The eighth-grader in our house is one of those struggling, and because of local Covid cases and her asthma, she is unwilling to return to in-person school.

The biggest struggle is with math. I can relate because I had similar problems at about the same grade level, but at least I was in school, face-to-face with teachers and others who helped. (Although my eighth-grade math teacher was a misogynist and thought girls weren’t good at math, but that was the 1950s.)

I don’t get it either.

I am 75 years old and never in my life have I needed to be able to solve anything like the problem above. Nor have I ever needed to find the area of a triangle or a circle. A rectangle, yes, if you’re measuring for wallpaper, but that’s about it. Given her similar skills and inclinations (art, English and theater) I’m guessing the same is true for her.

So this is my Modest Proposal:

In seventh grade, test kids for math aptitude. In eighth, track them thus: those who show skills for engineering, science, medicine or as math teachers learn geometry, calculus, trigonometry and whatever other -metries there are.

The arty kids, the sporty kids, the ones who can be successful without learning how to plot an angle on a graph (like me), learn what I call useful math: basic arithmetic, simple accounting, financial planning, budgeting, yes, even how to find the area of a wall to see how much paint to buy. Problem solving, puzzles and calendar/clock math are also useful. That’s how I got math credits to graduate from college–a course in programming in Basic (I could program a quadratic equation but had no idea what it was) and a summer course that was all about Venn diagrams and problem solving. It was actually fun, and I got an A, thanks to a brilliant young grad student brought in at the last minute when the scheduled professor died.

This two track systems seems so obvious to me that I don’t understand why educators haven’t figured it out as well. My therapist says doing hard math helps with brain development. But so do reading music, learning a play script or balancing a checking account.

I wish educators would wise up and try this. It would save tears and grief across the land: my small contribution to child-raising. Let’s start a movement!

Friday Thankful: Thursday Circus

Yesterday was an even crazier day than last Thursday, which I thought was quite crazy enough, thank you.

I had been trying to get my shaggy Covid hair cut all week, and when I tried online sign-in the wait was too long (because of an appointment with the roof guy), so I put it off again. The pool guy came early, so I was glad I missed the haircut, because the roofers (stay with me here) had damaged the vacuum connection when they dropped the tarp onto the pool. The pool guy ordered the part and I ran down to the pool store–so grateful it’s only a couple of minutes away even with the continuing road work blocking some of my route (are you still with me?). So when the roof guy came at 10 I was able to give him the $34 bill for the pool part, which he said they would, of course, cover. We did a walkaround for the remaining repairs.

Then granddaughter came to me with a very sick hairless rat (have I mentioned the pet rats? I don’t think so.) She was so bereft I called around to find a vet who treated rats, fortunately nearby. Made an appointment for 2:45, forgetting we had a 3 o’clock video appointment with husband’s neurologist. Then I realized we could do video anywhere, so he would just trundle along to the vet so we could catch the call in the parking lot if necessary.

Took granddaughter to her midday in-person elective. Came home for lunch and fed the dog. Picked her up and did a quick Walmart stop for a prescription and a few items. When we got home Eros (the rat) was much worse and he soon died in her hands. Called and canceled the vet appointment (saving $50; the rat had cost $25). Between then and the doc video call guess what we did? Dug a hole in the backyard and had a little rat funeral, Eros joining Milo and whatever the other guinea pig’s name was.

After the seemingly endless video call (Parkinsons makes everything move in slow motion), granddaughter and I went across town to the pet store, where she picked out two more rats to join the living Winnie (not hairless this time; I think the genetically modified hairless rats have poor immune systems. Eros was only about three months old). Phaeton and Silas* are now happily (and, I hope, healthily) in their little rat home in her room. Oh, and we got 100 superworms for the dragon (words I never in my life imagined writing).

Let’s play find the rat! I can find two of the three….

Picked up comfort food for her, came home, had a glass of wine and fixed tuna casserole (comfort food for us). Walked the dog. Watched the debate until I couldn’t watch any more. Read a little, “In Praise of Difficult Women” (I think I am a difficult woman).

Slept like an innocent child.

That, my friends, is where the gratitude comes in. After that insane day, even with trying to juggle two nearly simultaneous appointments, I never stressed out.

Must be the CBD oil. Whatever it is, I’m grateful. I got a haircut this morning.** And it’s raining. The rain barrels are nearly empty.

What are you grateful for today?

* I have no idea where she gets these names.

** No pics. A new haircut needs to settle in.

 

Roofs, Roads and Other Obstacles

The past couple of months have felt like a slog up a mountain, dragging a boulder behind me. Or sailing stormy seas in a leaky boat with an unruly crew. Fighting my way through a forest of brambles. Pick your favorite metaphor for struggle.

A recent New Yorker article explored in great detail the perils and shortcomings of online schooling. The upshot, after a great deal of data analysis, was that kids are better off in school.

Our eighth-grader has been doing mostly online school for these first 12 weeks, and it hasn’t gone well. Her best work is in her one in-person class, theater. I’ve been trying to persuade her to go back to in-person school, but she has been resistant, partly with justification because her asthma can be aggravated by wearing a mask all day.

Given her recent progress reports, the school psychologist, who has been working with her since last school year, attempted to talk her into returning to school. I felt somewhat vindicated when even she failed.

But I think the child got the message, while I realized that if she’s going to succeed I need to be more proactive, supervising, sitting in, providing incentives and consequences–all that parenting stuff, which is tough for a grandparent.

I often say that the job of parenting a grandchild requires the ability to be two contradictory things simultaneously–loving, indulgent grandparent and stern disciplinarian parent.

New rules, plans, schedules, organizing tools and so forth are in place. The trick now will be follow-through, but it’s too important to allow failure. She says she wants to return to school after the winter break (presuming no Covid cases at school), so we just have to hold on for a couple of more months.

In the meantime, the challenges of a husband with Parkinsons, the usual household care, including yard, trees, pool–all those possessions that own us (thanks, Thoreau, who said “We are owned by our possessions”).

After the big hail storm May 27, we got our new roof yesterday. The same day, major road work was being done around our neighborhood. So at dawn I heard workers setting up outside my window, then men with pitchforks on the roof, and air compressors and hammering all day long. The road work closed off one end of our street, making all my trips in and out slow and convoluted, dodging massive trucks and paving machines. It was such an insane day of disruption I had to laugh, and in way I’m glad we got it all over with at once, including the trauma of a possible confrontation with the kid.

So today I got up at 5:30 a.m. ready to take on this new phase, optimistic that the new regime and routine will work.

Grateful for our beautiful home with its new roof (and having insurance!), and looking forward to getting back to my reading, needlework, doggie play, plus a driveway coffee tomorrow with a few friends.

Laurie Graves of “Notes from the Hinterland” writes weekly gratitude posts. I haven’t been so regular, and I’m going to try to keep my blog more up to date, and especially with gratitude.

Much to be grateful for.

 

 

Bored? Me?

Since the pandemic set in, several publications have addressed the issue of boredom. I can understand that maybe if you’re stuck in a tiny New York City apartment with few options, yes, it could get boring.

I have not been bored for one minute since the lock-downs began. For one thing, we’re not really trapped inside: we have a big backyard with a nice pool, several nearby parks and trails, and opportunities for road trips to other outdoor activities. Errands such as grocery shopping and picking up prescriptions, masked, as early in the day as possible, also get me out of the house. We have Zoom church, video doctor appointments, so there is no lack of contact with the outside world.

The only times I have ever been bored in my adult life were if I ever got stuck in a situation without anything to read or to do. I keep a bag by the back door with reading and knitting in case I have to make an ER trip, having been stuck previously with a dead phone and nothing to do for four hours.

So, what’s keeping me occupied during the pandemic?

Let’s see, a household with a husband with Parkinsons, a 13-year-old granddaughter and a dog. The man and child are fairly self-sufficient, but there are doctor appointments, meds to manage and unpredictable interruptions*. The dog needs to be fed, walked, belly-rubbed and have tennis balls tossed. I do all the grocery shopping, most of the errands, most of the routine cleanup (we do have weekly pool service and a cleaning lady every two weeks), and most of the cooking. Lately the meals have been pretty simple–burgers, tacos, chicken, pasta, which is why I think the granddaughter has started cooking a tasty dinner one or two days a week. I take her to school for her theater elective at midday, come home for lunch and pick her up again; the rest of her schooling is on-line for now. I do monitor her schooling and intend to add some enrichment learning this week.

When the tasks and chores are done, this is how I use my “free” time:

  • Exercise. This time of year it’s swimming. In the cooler weather it’s walking and going to the gym (where I can swim in the winter), and I walk the dog unless it’s just too hot (with highs near 100F lately).
  • Puzzles and games: On the dining table is a seemingly impossible jigsaw puzzle that may outlast the pandemic. (We have completed three others.) Our local newspaper publishes a weekly puzzle book with mazes, jumbles and crossword puzzles.
  • Art: some painting, but mostly my favorite, postcards. I’ve been working on some computer-generated designs, using my own photography, as well as original art in collage, water color and other media. I’m almost ready for a fall postcard mail swap.

My latest postcard, “Fall is in the Air,” with Junior pasted into the autumnal image. (Collage, with stamp by Nat Uhing.)

  • Knitting and other needlework. I completed so much knitting over the summer I decided to try to finish a needlework project started about 10 years ago. It may take another 10 years but I’m making progress!

Lilacs bloomed around my birthday in Ohio. I miss them in Texas. This was originally going to cover a purse. See how dog-eared the instruction sheet is!

  • Most of all, my favorite default mode: reading. Daily periodicals (the local paper and the online New York Times); weekly (The New Yorker); and a delicious pile of books. I’ve even read some fiction, which is rare for me: a chick-lit piece about older women in Tuscany (almost like going to Italy); a novel about South Africa during apartheid and the Soweto rebellions; “Longitude,” about the search for how to determine longitude, thus saving ships and sailors; the Mary Trump book about her uncle (he’s even worse than I thought); and I continue to re-read “Waterlog,” which is maybe my favorite all-time book. I just started “The Soul of an Octopus,” which is a delight. I think science and nature and memoir are my favorite genres of reading. Prompted by last Sunday’s sermon, I printed out Eliot’s “Four Quartets,” about which whole dissertations could be (and probably have been) written. I’m also going to listen to Alec Guinness reading them (on YouTube).
  • Writing: I have a novel, or novella, or something, in my head that I need to get down. So far all I’ve written is the premise, but I have the opening chapter in my head and need to lay out an outline, then start a draft. I have never tackled a novel, but I’ve written several novels’ worth of words in my career so I’ll give it a try.
  • If all else fails, there’s always TV. We have full cable, Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu. It takes so long to scroll through the menus to decide what to watch that I often give up and read. Husband has been watching “Outlander” (which I would call “Outlandish”). We dip in and out of “The Good Place,” and enjoyed Ricky Gervais‘ “Extras” and “After Life.” (Gervais is an acquired taste, but love his humor.) Lots of movies. Most recent, “The Current War,” about Thomas Edison, George Westinghouse and Nicola Tesla. Poor Tesla got lost in history.

Hope y’all are staying healthy and busy. This difficult and historic time will end. I tell my granddaughter that she is living history. When she’s old she can tell her grandchildren (if she’s lucky enough to have any) about the pandemic of ’20, as well as the other history that’s being made this year.

* At least three while writing this post.

I Must Speak Out

If you support Donald Trump, please read this!

There is a Facebook meme going around that says: “Wake the hell up America! We are one election away from open borders, Socialism, gun confiscation, total full-term abortion, Sharia law and a godless nation.” I’m not going to show the images, which include a black person with what appears to be African tribal face decoration or mask; photos of identifiable and unidentifiable white people (one could be Ernest Borgnine as far as I can tell) and pictures of a woman in hijab (the implication of which may be that all women will be required to wear headscarves).

I’ve never been shy about speaking out, and the combination of that meme and the current Democratic Convention has spurred me into writing this.

The allegations are so sweeping, and some patently untrue, as to be ridiculous. Rather than break it all down, let’s just say that nobody’s legal guns will be confiscated; no one will be forced to have an abortion, and so on. I personally don’t wish to own a gun, and I believe women should have autonomy over their own bodies, so let’s just look at it this way: if you don’t want one (gun, abortion), don’t have one.

When I walk around our neighborhood and see the Trump signs (which are surprisingly few in our small-town Texas red zone—a neighborhood house that used to have two now has none in the yard, and I saw them stacked in their garage), my first thought is “how can anyone support this guy?” How can anyone tolerate someone like this:

A sulky Trump being scolded by Angela Merkel
and other world leaders at the G7. (Photo: The Guardian)

Sweethearts. (Photo: New York Post

More sweeties. (Photo: Vanity Fair)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Xenophobe
  • Misogynist
  • A poor Christian, if indeed he is one (see the upside-down bible he held up in front of a church that did not want him there)
  • In short, a total failure.

People support him. Somewhere around a third of the country. WHY? HOW?

Then it becomes clear. If you support this horrible, terrible, corrupt incompetent creep, you must be any or all of the following:

  • Racist
  • Anti-immigrant and xenophobic (afraid of foreigners)
  • Misogynist, opposed to women having autonomy over their own bodies
  • Gun nut
  • Homophobic
  • Religious fanatic, but not in a way Jesus would recognize
  • Small-minded, provincial
  • Fearful of losing white privilege (especially white male privilege)
  • Fearful, period.

Where is the joy? Watching Eva Longoria, Tracee Ellis Ross, Billy Porter, John Legend, all these amazing people of color give me hope for our country. Seeing a woman of color—black as well as South Asian—nominated for Vice President is exciting! Especially one who is brilliant, articulate, caring, beautiful and a total badass! Kamala Harris and Jill and Joe Biden are decent, honorable, caring people, which is what the country needs now more than ever.

Eva Longoria hosting the first night of the Democratic National Convention (photo: New York Post)

Tracee Ellis Ross, who hosted the second night of the DNC. (photo: CNN)

John Legend, just because he’s wonderful. (photo: Pop Sugar)

VP elected in 2020, first woman president, elected in 2024 (photo: 24newshd)

I am hopeful and excited that change is coming. It must come. We cannot stay on this road of corruption, division, of “I’ve got mine.” Too many people don’t have their fair share, and they are the ones doing the dirty work, picking food we enjoy eating, processing our food, caring for our elders in nursing homes, delivering our mail and collecting our trash—people of all colors, races, religions, weaving a beautiful tapestry that the United States has aspired to for 244 years!

I believe this pandemic is the Earth’s, the Universe’s, God’s—whatever works for you—way of forcing a reckoning.

We can be better. We must be better.

Billy Porter, who is completely himself, and magnificent. (And to tweak any homophobes who have read this far.) (photo: Shavonne Wong)

 

 

The Millennium is Late…

… and the revolution will be televised. And broadcast over every social medium platform known and as yet unknown.

When the calendar rolled onto 2000 (which, as we all know, was not exactly the start of the new millennium), chaos was expected. Well, we did have the messed-up 2000 election, followed by 9/11, so the new millennium did get off to a rocky start. Then there were the disastrous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the economic crash of ’08. Mass shootings that became almost routine.

Now we have 2020, which is coming on like the Apocalypse: a devastating, seemingly endless pandemic; outrage and uprisings over police killings of people of color; melting ice caps; locusts in Africa; murder hornets; a new rabbit-killing virus (affecting “pets or meat”*; Sahara desert dust in Texas (!); for us, two damaging hail- and windstorms in two days in late May. I’m just waiting for it to rain frogs.

So the new millennium is still kicking us humans in the butt. Deservedly so, in my opinion. Mother Earth is trying to send us clear messages, which we seem unable to decipher. We’re in a hole, and (to quote the late, inimitable Molly Ivins), the first rule of holes is when you’re in one, stop digging. We just keep digging.

Yet I am optimistic. As my 13-year-old granddaughter reminds me, Millennials and Gen-Z kids will take over about when we Boomers die (or get Alzheimer’s). And these young people, growing up since 9/11, never having known a world without war, without environmental devastation, without cruel economic disparities, kids who’ve practiced active shooter drills–they are paying attention and they intend to make changes. Environmental activist Greta Thunberg; human rights Nobel laureate Malala Youzafzai; the kids from Marjorie Stoneman Douglas high school in Parkland, Florida, who advocate for sensible gun regulation; LGBTQ activists fighting for fair and equal treatment; the Black Lives Matter movement, with  people of all races, colors, ages and backgrounds marching and protesting the terrible killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Atatiana Jefferson, Stephon Clark, Botham Jean, Philando Castille, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown–the list goes on and on….

The critical time for the U.S. to dig itself out of its hole leads up to November 3. The corrupt government in power (the swamp hasn’t been drained, just stocked with snakes and alligators) must be extracted. Unless decent people turn out in unprecedented numbers, the Orange One will claim the election was rigged, or he will call out the military–there could be blood in the streets, even civil war, if he loses the election (which he surely will, unless the ridiculously established Electoral College once again allows the loser of an election to become president). The margin must be unarguably huge.

If you are not registered, do so. And VOTE. Vote by mail, vote absentee, contact your state officials to make sure voting will be safe and secure and effective.

This is truly a tipping point. The United States and the world depend on change, now. We are running out of time.

Pride and the Black Lives Matter movement march together for ...

Getty Images

* An article by Susan Orlean in the July 6 & 13 issue of The New Yorker explains how this virus is devastating domestic and wild rabbits, and points out that rabbits are the only animals humans use as pets, meat and fur.

The Days are Long…

… but the years are short. Countless times I have quoted that to young parents struggling with endless days of diapers, sleepless nights and toddler tantrums, reminding them that before they know it they will be attending graduations and weddings and welcoming grandchildren.

Those words have taken on new meaning during these long days of staying home to avoid contagion during the pandemic. What I’ve discovered is that I am quite content staying home.

Recognizing the suffering of people who have lost loved ones, people who have lost incomes, all the terrible suffering this pandemic has caused to millions of people, I appreciate the privilege of having a comfortable home and sufficient resources.

I’ve also realized how much of an introvert I am. Despite being outgoing, confident and friendly around people, I grow weary of too much social contact and definitely recharge in solitude (which defines introversion). Or, as a minister once told me, I am a “performing introvert.” It was necessary in my public information job.

All my adult life I have volunteered: League of Women Voters, PTA, room mother, scouts, neighborhood and condo associations, church, politics, arts groups–I often felt over-committed. 

Now it’s easier to say “no.”

Recently I was asked to consult on a project, which turned into an assumption I was “leading” the project. I quickly reiterated my role as consultant, and short-term at that.

It’s partly age and fatigue–I’m ready to hand the reins over to younger, more energetic folks after 50+ years of activities. Another big factor is my personal responsibilities: having a husband with multiple chronic health issues; raising a 13-year-old granddaughter; taking care of a beautiful but high-maintenance home, a dog and a pool (which is like another pet); and managing my own health. People who say “age is only a number” do not suffer with chronic, painful conditions, because no matter how active you remain and how positive your attitude, pain is pain and can be exhausting. I am also aware that the years are indeed becoming short.

But the main reason I’m pulling back is that I have discovered how much I enjoy my time with fewer responsibilities. I am never bored, ever. After the “musts” are done, this is how I spend time:

Reading (books, magazines, poetry, online publications etc.): The New Yorker, the New York Times, the local daily and San Antonio papers, “The World Without Us,” “Waterlog,” about a man swimming around England, and poetry.

Puzzles: I’ve rediscovered the pleasure of taking short breaks to work on jigsaw puzzles, crosswords, jumbles and mazes and appreciate the newspapers’ including puzzle books in their print editions.

The view from the dining room, where I eat, read and do puzzles. I am so lucky!

Knitting, stitching and other crafts. I’ve been making cotton dishcloths and coasters; a lace scarf; a baby blanket; and I have two shawls waiting, as well as several stitchery projects.

Art: postcards, painting, helping my granddaughter (whose artistic skills surpass my own) with her art.

Photo I took and used for a painting, which will go into a show this summer. I’ll post the painting on my art blog when it’s ready.

TV and movies: Netflix, Amazon Prime, Red Box and Spectrum are like drinking from a fire hose. My current favorites are “Space Force” and “After Life,” both on Netflix. Ricky Gervais manages to be snarky/cynical and sweetly touching at the same time, especially in this series about a man struggling with grief after his wife’s death. We also like his series, “Extras,” also on Netflix.

Walking and playing with the dog; taking walks on the river trail with husband and dog.

Meditating.

Meditation garden (note my buddy, Junior, on the far left).

Swimming: after a very messy spring of hail storms and fallen branches and leaves, the pool is finally clear and a perfect 78 degrees F. It’s a respite on steamy Texas afternoons.

Yes, I miss church and art openings and occasionally eating out. But I see neighbors and friends on walks; we’ve had outdoor church and a couple of “driveway coffee breaks.” I’m fairly competent on Zoom and Duo, so I don’t feel out of touch. (Imagine going through this without technology!)

The days are just the right length. I fall into bed and sleep deeply until daylight and dog wake me.

I hope you all stay safe, healthy and (possibly) content during this weird and challenging time.

Reflections on Three Quarters of a Century

Seventy-five is one of those numbers that makes one think–about the years behind and (you hope) the years ahead.

Lately I mostly complain about the challenges and disappointments of a retirement life very different than I would have imagined. We’re nearly five years into the adventure of raising a granddaughter, who is now 13. It’s about two years since husband realized he had Parkinsons, which complicates and is complicated by a number of other health issues. Add to that a second dog and many of the responsibilities of our home, including big yards and a pool. (The second dog is going back to my daughter today, not too soon for me. She’s sweet, but with dogs one plus one equals about 143.)

The operative word has been “responsibility.” Some days I am overwhelmed with it. Just don’t want to have to be a grownup for a while. I almost went away on a retreat, alone (in a rented cottage on an unused rural property) a few weeks ago, but chickened out. Maybe the idea of total solitude was just too scary, or I felt I was shirking my multiple responsibilities.

So on my birthday I’m reflecting on the positives. I sat in the meditation garden. (Of course the yard guys arrived while I was meditating and the dogs were set off barking.) Oops, this is supposed to be positive. Here goes:

  • We are blessed with a beautiful home in a neighborhood and community I love. It’s warm enough now for a cooling afternoon swim in the Texas heat (and our pool guy managed to un-green the forest-glade we had last week).
  • View of the patio from our bathroom window. One day I want to convert the window to a door. (The curtains have a story of their own. I did a “reverse Scarlett O’Hara” and turned a silk dress that didn’t fit me into bathroom curtains.)

     

    The same patio (with Junior)

    Meditation garden

    View from the meditation bench. Some day there will be a proper rock garden. I even dream of a water feature.

  • We have excellent health insurance and, for now, my own health is pretty good except for some pretty normal aches.
  • The 13-year-old is much less challenging as she gets more mature. She manages her schoolwork; she’s an amazing artist; and she can be a lot of fun (as well as a pain in the butt–she’s a teenager).
  • I do get to spend time making art, which is a great joy. I am working on a painting and some mail-art postcards. I am in the middle of a postcard swap. I also have knitting and stitching projects and always have ideas in the works for future projects.

Lace scarf I have started and ripped out about 100 times. Dishcloths make nice small gifts.

  • Despite how awful the pandemic and quarantine have been for the world at large and for many individuals, we have been lucky to be in a county with few cases, and staying at home has given me more time for household projects that have been put off, as well as watching movies and TV and reading. I even made bread, and granddaughter made a cake.
  • I am blessed with a circle of friends that I have made in the three years since we moved here. Through church, the arts communities, politics and neighbors, I have met so many wonderful people and made good friends. Last week I had a driveway coffee break with seven or eight women friends and we chatted for a good two hours.

I wanted to have a mid-May pool and birthday combo party, and my hope is to have it during the summer, celebrating my birthday as well as my older daughter’s and my 17-year-old grandson’s.

Optimistic I can use these napkins for a party.

I hope everyone stays safe and healthy.

 

Another “New Normal”!

As if there aren’t enough challenges in this household, we have added a new one, nine-year-old Stella.

Stella, our pretty girl

Having a husband with a variety of health issues, a 13-year-old granddaughter who is distance “learning” with a school system that hasn’t quite smoothed out its system, our original dog, Junior, a house, yard, and pool that all require attention and care, as if all that weren’t enough, I’ve taken on another being to care for.

My two-dog nap a couple of days after she joined our household.

Stella was my granddaughter’s first dog when granddaughter was four and Stella was a puppy. My daughter, who lives in another town, can’t keep Stella right now and it seemed only right for us to take her since she’s one of the family. She’s a sweet girl and gets along well with Junior.

But. Two dogs are more work, more vet bills, more food, more poop(!), and more difficult walks, especially in the morning when I don’t want to disturb anyone else and I venture out with two very excited doggies ready to go, in every sense of the word. Stella is very needy and gets in front of me for attention. I call her “Roadblock.” And when she wants affection when Junior’s getting it I call her “Stellous.”

And there’s the other “pet,” the pool, which this spring looks like a woodland pond. The pecan trees have produced a record crop of “catkins,” (aka green worms) that steep in the water and turn it that luscious shade of unswimmable emerald. I’ve managed two swims this season, and it’s really hot now. Our pool guy has recommended remedies, which I’m trying, and I assume that when the pecans quit dropping this stuff things will clear up.

Not very inviting.

The irony of these added stressors is that none of it is related to the pandemic or quarantine. In fact the quarantine has made my life somewhat easier. I don’t have to get up early and get the child off to school, or break up my afternoon to pick her up. I’m an introvert, and a blank social calendar doesn’t bother me. We get out for walks and see friends at the park or in the neighborhood. We had a driveway coffee break a few weeks ago, with about seven or eight friends and neighbors. We have appointments and meetings by Zoom. We’ve done jigsaw puzzles and streamed Tiger King on Netflix (as well as more enlightening programs), and I love having more time to read and knit.

But for everyone who is sick, dying, suffering economically, working in essential jobs, saving lives–my heart goes out to all, and I am grateful for their sacrifices.

Stay home, stay well.

 

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