[After fiddling around with WordPress tutorials and not getting very far I’m just plunging in and seeing if I can get a post out while not pulling out my hair. Please forgive formatting glitches. For example, I have typed in the title “Unraveled,” but it doesn’t show in the preview.]
One reason the WordPress changes have me so flummoxed is that everything has me flummoxed right now. It’s not even the pandemic: the adults in our household are fully vaccinated; the grandchild is going to school in person and cases in our community are staying low. It’s spring, after a truly awful winter. But now it’s already too hot–into the high 80sF or even some days well into the 90s. Along with the heat, I am dragged down by, let me just say, the challenges of my family responsibilities, and leave it at that.
The last two items I knitted have been pulled out (known as “frogging” in knitting lingo, because you “rip-it, rip-it”). This seems so emblematic of my life, spinning wheels, pulling out yarn, running around without getting anywhere.
We have been house-hunting. We want to downsize–no pool, smaller yard, fewer trees, a more compact floorplan–but it’s not a buyer’s market here, or anywhere in the country. We have looked at eight houses, put an offer on one that we loved (twice!) and we’re still looking. Here’s a rundown, mostly for my historical reference:
- N. St.: Pluses: Loved the interior: stained concrete floors; pretty kitchen/dining/great room; beautiful master bath and walk-in closet; convenient floorplan. Minuses: Busy street; no garage, just a run-down shed that would have to be torn down to build a garage; an outbuilding that could be fitted out as a rental or AirBnB–I do NOT want to be a landlady; priced to include the potential for rental space.
- N. Ln.: (Under construction.) Plus: big master bath with soaking tub, walk-in shower and huge closet. Minuses: tiny laundry closet, which is walked through from garage to a really tiny kitchen; master bedroom right off the living room (TV ears, anyone?); backyard going back to a 90-degree wall of a hillside; too small and too expensive.
- S. St.: Pluses: Beautiful renovation–quartz counters; all appliances conveyed; white shiplap walls and nice light; split floorplan with master bedroom not off the living room; pleasant fenced yard; outbuilding that could be fixed up as a studio. Minuses: too small, too little kitchen storage space; no garage (except in the outbuilding, via an alley); granddaughter hated the neighborhood (which is a bit working class with some gentrifying); too expensive per square foot.
- L. C. (1): Pluses: Pleasant, convenient neighborhood, an oval with maybe 40 houses or so. Minuses: too big and expensive; dated, stuffy, carpet, lots of florals; dead animal heads on the walls and even in the closets! (There is not enough sage in the world to smudge out all that negative energy.) Too expensive.
- E. Dr.: This is the one we put two offers on. Nearly perfect. On a cul de sac, backs onto a woodland park; immaculate; plantation shutters on all the windows; nice layout; convenient kitchen; all appliances (including a second refrigerator) conveyed, as well as a beautiful dining set with eight chairs; tons of storage; beautiful covered patio; water collection system. Obviously a well cared-for home. The owners had been burned by a deal that fell through. Then the second one fell through, but neither of our offers was accepted. Granddaughter had already started choosing paint colors for her room. We’re still mourning that loss.
- P. Way: Pluses: woodsy neighborhood, closer to the high school where we’ll be headed next fall; fairly good renovation; extra bedrooms and bathrooms (which meant studio space for me and a bathroom for each of us!). Minuses: outside city limits; septic; no garage; a really creepy outbuilding that I wouldn’t want to try to fix up; older heating system. I call the cosmetic renovations on older houses “lipstick on a pig.”
- L. C. (2): Pluses: nice layout; pretty kitchen; breakfast area I might have turned into a studio; that good neighborhood again, but… Minuses: near the front of the oval, too close to a busy road–traffic noise on the patio was annoying, and a church playground was on the other side of the fence; carpet; again, too expensive for what it was.
- L. St.: Pluses: gorgeous backyard, with a water feature, a seating area, swing. Minuses: garage was on a lower level, too many levels (built into a hillside–with Parkinson’s we must have a single level); another house that showed its age despite the reno; only 1 1/2 baths (I had considered that we could add a shower to the half bath if we otherwise liked the house).
So we keep looking. Our agent has me on an auto notification list and I check Zillow every day. We’re not in a hurry, we already have a nice house, and something will turn up. Or not, and we stay here a while longer. In the meantime I try to do little fixes around here either for us or for increased value.
Like just about everyone else right now, I’m trying to hang onto sanity while we wait out this pandemic. Now we’re doubly locked in by an ice storm, sub-freezing temperatures and a forecast for much colder temps and more precipitation.
Last week I was especially anxious and feeling at loose ends–even before the change in the weather. In fact, I sat on the patio and played with the dog just a few days ago, when it was 75F.
My anxiety stems not just from the lockdowns but also the stresses of responsibility: a 14-year-old who is a challenge to her old granny; a husband with Parkinson’s with multiple other health issues*. A dog. A pool, yard, trees, house, all of which require attention.
We have decided to try to downsize, so every day I check Zillow and contact our Realtor if I see something worthwhile. He showed us a house under construction the other day, and I thought, “Wow, I’ve never lived in a new house; this might be nice.” We drove over in a chilly rain that was turning to ice by the time we headed home. It took some imagination to visualize the finished product, but it doesn’t take any imagination to see a floor plan that just doesn’t work. The garage entrance took you through a closet-sized laundry room directly into the kitchen, which was tiny, like a New York City apartment tiny. An island with sink and dishwasher was placed so that a person working at the sink would be looking right into the living room. There was so little cupboard space I don’t know where we would put all our dishes, pans and serving pieces. One bedroom faced the street. The master bedroom was right off the living room, meaning a person watching TV will disturb someone already trying to sleep. The backyard ended at the sheer face of a cutaway hillside. The front door was approached along a narrow channel between stone walls. All this for $199 a square foot! The feng shui was terrible! The Realtor picked up on the fact that the house didn’t “sing” for me. Fortunately, he’s a great guy, patient and understanding. He knows this may be the last house we ever buy and we need to love it.
One anxiety reducer is Zumba. I find Tanju Koc on YouTube and after 30 minutes of keeping up with him–he’s cute and I can follow the steps–I feel sort of normal. I’d like to go to the gym and swim, but that will have to wait.
I was supposed to go to a retreat farther out into the Hill Country this weekend but it was cancelled because too few people signed up. Now that temps will be in the single digits, and the retreat would involve going outside among different spaces to sleep, eat and shower, I am so glad not to be out there, even though it has been, for five years, my favorite retreat ever–women quilting, knitting, sewing, stitching, felting and creative crafts I’m not familiar with, plus great company and somebody else cooking for three days.
Not being able to get out to shop, I made a Valentine for my husband while he went to a doctor’s appointment. I started when he left and finished as he walked in the door!
* In the middle of writing this piece, I had to stop and take him to the ER. He’s getting daily antibiotic shots, and was supposed to go to the nearby urgent care clinic this weekend, but it was closed. The ER nurse showed me how to give the injections for the rest of the weekend, so I can add “nurse” to my skill set.
Happy Valentine’s Day! Hope wherever you are you are safe and warm.
Some ice storm pics:
It snowed New Year’s Eve, just the right kind of snow: fat, fluffy flakes falling gently, accumulating only on rooftops and mailboxes and lawns, because the ground was still warm and the roads didn’t get slick. At first the dog was mesmerized, standing at the back door looking out. When we went out he stepped into the yard rather gingerly, and when we came in he insisted on going out the front door to check the front yard. In the evening, he and the granddaughter played in it. Since it’s been three years since we had snow, it’s no wonder everyone is rather fascinated (as long as we’re not snowed in).
Now it’s a bright, fresh new year (we hope!). My wish, like everyone else’s, is that vaccines are widely and properly distributed, SOON, and that once we’re inoculated from this horrible virus, we can again visit with friends, see our loved ones, go to actual church, theaters, galleries, and do all those things we’ve taken for granted. I know it will be some time before we reach anything like “normal,” if ever. We are forever changed by this once-in-a-century experience that our grandchildren will tell their grandchildren about: “I remember the Great Pandemic of ’20!”
Looking ahead, my personal goals are to better manage life with a spouse with Parkinson’s, and raising a teenage granddaughter. To be more patient with them and with myself. To put love above all else, which is harder than it sounds when you’re exhausted and frustrated.
I am an incorrigible new year’s resolution-maker, and I’m pretty good about keeping them, so here they are for 2021:
- To manage my days, my workload in a way that doesn’t exhaust me. Cut corners, accept disorder (better than I do), and especially lighten my load when I can. I usually cook a hot dinner six nights a week (Sunday is McDo, as my neighbor calls “on your own.”) Double-batching, a frozen meal now and then, even (horrors!) takeout. (I don’t like takeout because it costs more and is less healthful. Plus, unless you have delivery–even more cost–it’s as much trouble to pick it up than it is to fix a grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup, an easy go-to meal.)
- As mentioned above, be more patient and loving with my family.
- Make more effort to stay in touch with friends and family. Local friends, family far away, old friends–I miss regular contact. I generally don’t like talking on the phone, and maybe video chatting would work better for me. I’m going to ask people to call me, too. As I tell my sister in Florida, phone lines work both ways! I will continue sending out my postcards and might even write actual letters now and then. I’m grateful for Facebook because it helps me stay in touch with former co-workers, family overseas and others I might otherwise lose contact with.
I wish everyone a happy, healthy, prosperous and better-than-2020 New Year! Contact me if you’d like to be a phone pal, email chum, Facebook friend or just a friend!
These days I’ve been pondering death a little more than usual. I think everyone is. Even though I don’t personally know anyone who has died of COVID, my heart breaks for all those lives cut short and the grief of those they have left behind to miss them.
In the book “The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning,” the concept of döstädning is explained. Here is an excerpt from the linked review:
No, it’s not as morbid as it sounds. It’s actually quite practical.
Once you reach the end of middle age (or sooner if you feel like it, or later if you’re late to the exercise), you get rid of all the stuff you’ve accumulated that you don’t need anymore — so that no one else has to do it for you after you pass. That’s according to Margareta Magnusson, author of the book, “The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Make Your Loved Ones’ Lives Easier and Your Own Life More Pleasant.”
“Visit [your] storage areas and start pulling out what’s there,” she writes in the book. “Who do you think will take care of all that when you are no longer here?”
Plus, you’ll be able to better enjoy your life when you have less mess and clutter to deal with.
“Life will become more pleasant and comfortable if we get rid of some of the abundance,” Magnusson writes. “Mess is an unnecessary source of irritation.”
In Swedish, the exercise is döstädning — a combination of the word “dö” (which means death) and “standing” (which means cleaning), she explains in the book.
“Death cleaning is not about dusting or mopping up; it is about a permanent form of organization that makes your everyday life run more smoothly,” she explains. And you may even find the process itself enjoyable, she adds. “It is a delight to go through things and remember their worth.”
If I live out my genetic life expectancy (based on my maternal forebears, I could live well into my 90s), I may be fortunate to have a couple of more decades. But as I look around our house, I sometimes wonder: what will happen to everything? The everyday dishes, pots and pans, furniture, appliances, clothes, books and the like–useful, even desirable items–can be sold or donated. But what about all the tchotchkes, knickknacks, artwork, jewelry, and all the other stuff I’ve acquired over my life?
Henry David Thoreau said “people do not own possessions, the possessions own them.” I often think about that when objects need to be repaired or stored, especially when I consider cleaning out the garage. The last time we moved, nearly four years ago, we did what I thought was a massive purge, but here we are again with more stuff than we have space for.
I enjoy shopping in thrift stores, and I have items I bought simply because they are beautiful, not because I have any need for them. Here’s an embroidered tablecloth:
I have four silk robes, only one of which I wear with any frequency. One hangs on a wall. I have at least four shawls, two I knitted myself; several dozen scarves, again some I knitted, some that were gifts.
And the art! Where to begin? When Gary and I married we merged a pretty nice collection of artworks we both personally love, and we have added a fair number of pieces since then. Will anyone love it as we do?
This is just a small sampling of our beautiful useless things. Except they do “spark joy,” as Marie Kondo would have it. I guess one of my New Year’s resolutions will be to gradually sort through seldom-used–or useless–items that I don’t love enough to hang onto, and donate them back whence they came, ask my kids if they want them, or, most likely, return them to the closet or garage shelf until we move again. I used to joke that we should move every five years, or pretend to. It’s been only three-and-a-half….
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
- 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!
- 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.
… 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.
* 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.
… 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.
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.
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.
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.