We are home from a holiday few days in New Hampshire. Julia and I stayed at the Henry Whipple House in Bristol, visited with friends at a nearby lake house during the days, boated and swam and hiked and ate summer foods and played many games of skipbo. We wore our masks at our inn and walking in the little town center and tried to stay socially distant from everyone not in our immediate party. Sometimes that felt awkward and uncomfortable but I was grateful that most people we met were observing the same rules. I so enjoyed being spoiled a little bit—having someone else cook breakfast and make my morning coffee felt like a spectacular extravagance.
“Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day.” ~Henri M. J. Nouwen
I don’t agree. At least, in part. I remember a time when moments of joy were effortless—falling in love, singing into a mike with a tight spotlight, making it to 20 weeks pregnant, arguing Roe v Wade with Professor Dworkin, cooking a first meal in my first house. As I write these moments, there are dozens more I could include. Oh, I didn’t include Italy—Siena, Venicia, Torino, Frascati and my friend Sylia. There was a time when joy—near effortless joy— was liberally sprinkled through life. Those were times of purpose—some very grand and pretentious, some as simple as well baked biscotti. Continue reading
A rain storm is coming in. Slowly. I sit on our front porch tapping on the laptop. It was cool, sunny and breezy this early morning and I checked the weather when I woke up. Giving Julia the choice of a morning bike ride or walk, she chose the ride.
Biking has been a very long process for Julia. It took a long time to learn to pedal, and then to balance, and then, even after balancing, it has been years of practice to get her to the point of riding steady enough to do it in the street. Our shut down lives have yielded a bonus of empty streets. Julia is riding on quiet streets, and occasionally rides on streets that get a few cars often. She is finally steady enough to be able to ride on smooth, wide sidewalks. In Madison, we had the benefit of being close enough to a small bay to ride around. Fortunately, this year I think she is ready for streets. Continue reading
That’s me—a helicopter gardener. My first year since 1993 without a real garden of my own and I have all the time in the world to plan, plant, weed, mulch and water. Well, not all the time but much more than I’ve had previously. So with time and a little plot, much like an over protective parent, I am out watering and a bit of weeding most days. The weeds are small and mighty—how I wish I had brought my small curved fork on a stick. Moving, I let go of almost all of my gardening tools. I use the rake my landlords have to weed and then put in some hands-and-knees time. I contemplate straw mulch. I’ve spotted the morning glory seedlings along the fence line but I don’t know what sunflower seedlings look like. I weed around the morning glory and try to remember where I planted sunflowers.
Most of the vegetable plants are doing well without fuss. I planted too early—yes, indeed, I did—and there have been many slow starts. Some of the basil and the rainbow chard show cold burn but even those are beginning to perk up. I worried the sudden onset of very hot weather yesterday and then laughed at myself. Too hot, too cold—most of the plants will do fine. They always have. Continue reading
Morning before 8. I’ve gotten up, dressed, set up breakfast, taken out garbage cans, said hello to the guy across the street who is returning from food shopping—Ah, the wonder of senior hours. I wish I had opened a window last night to wake up to the birds. There is a lot of bird song this morning; the street, this tiny enclave, is quiet. Julia is still asleep—classes begin at 10, so no need to rush her up. I have my fresh, hot coffee and I put myself on the front porch to tap on this machine of see what comes to life.
It has been another challenging week although the challenges have been different. Julia did most of her school work, with even a bit of help from me; however, we’ve had trouble getting her linked into the zoom calls. I’ve asked the school IT for help—re-boot and reinstall—and then no way to connect. I was enormously frustrated yesterday. No way to get in, no way to get immediate help for class after class. Reboot and reinstall. I am almost sure it is my fault. I am probably doing some part of the set up wrong which makes me feel quite inadequate especially when I manage to sit Julia in front of her chrome book for class after class and she is utterly frustrated when it fails to connect. I wonder why I am not willing to just give her a pass, give us both a pass, duck out of school and go for a walk. Continue reading
Time to sit in the porch. Two porches here—front porch with chairs and back with table and chairs. Last summer, when we moved in, I was shy about using both spaces. Upstairs (landlords and neighbors) were home and using the back porch and the front porch felt public. After a winter and a quarantine, I am ready to occupy outside, share it with anyone. However, upstairs is at the summer house since the beginning of March and not planning on coming back until the end of quarantine. Muta has been at home in these spaces for months. Now I join him.
Whenever the weather has permitted, and there have been many chilly, rainy days, I or we’ve been in the side garden possibility weeding and preparing. The soil is not rich by any means. Lots of stones and pebbles. Digging it feels just a bit removed from a pebble driveway that was broken up. The best part of it, the back 10 feet or so, grew tomatoes last year. I made a garden plan—so much for just sticking a few plants in the ground in a nonchalant way—and we went shopping yesterday. It was the first time Julia was at a store since quarantine. We both wore masks and gloves. Continue reading
Written on Monday for Wednesday’s Awakening Joy workshop:
We live in “the hard knuckle of the year.” Those words from Crooker’s poem spelled themselves out in neon when I opened this file and I’ve carried them, close to my chest all week.
Day 47 in this house, alone with increasing challenges, on another dreary, wet, cold day. Fully conscious of my privilege, I gingerly step round pits of self-pity and despair. I hold on tight, white knuckles on the safety bar of this roller coaster. Disneyland’s Space Mountain, a dark roller coaster, feeling faster than fast and terrifying because no one sees what comes next. In these Space Mountain days I search for gratitude. I find an hour of sun on the otherwise gray day; a zoom call with creatives in captivity; still fresh greens for a salad and reading James’ words to get ready for this workshop. That has to be enough. Dayenu. Continue reading
How did it get to be the end of April?
Setting: rain and 40 degrees. The house is dark. This is a day for the potato leek soup that is in the fridge and a book and a cozy chair and throw over legs. Maybe it is not a day for momentous accomplishments or even folding the wash.
Time: Monday morning. That time when online school work comes streaming in and students are supposed to get organized for the week. In this house, it is the time to wrangle Julia to help me organize her work. This morning, Julia has a check in with her case manager and a speech group.
Back story: Last week, I advocated for support from school to get school work done. Two weeks ago I advocated for her speech services to resume. The weekly plan came back this morning with no more help than last week. There is a speech group meeting this morning.
Character: Increasingly, Julia lives and talks in a fantasy of teen sex and anime violence. Lots of blood and boys obsessed with her. She talks to herself. More and more often. She resents being pulled into the reality of our lives (which, at least to me, is not so bad at all).
Plot: Julia is declaring independence today. She doesn’t want me to have anything to do with her schoolwork. Continue reading
My April plan was to remain curious, survive, grow compassion and nap. Today, I feel ok about those goals. I’ve been meeting some of them. Monday was a different story. Julia was difficult and I saw no end to her behavior or this time of quarantine, no break away from her, no respite to replenish myself. I wanted a few hours, the length of a school day. We can, at times, get out of each other’s line of sight, but unless we are whispering, we cannot avoid each other’s sound waves. Ironically, I am picking up something from Julia’s physics class studying waves.
Tuesday was better and Wednesday started well. I am using every ounce of organizational skill and discipline I have to keep us on track. School is a moving target with classes, office hours and services changing at least every week if not a number of time during the week. I fill in calendars, mine and hers, and then change them often. As school changes, time with counselors and therapists need to be rescheduled. There are daily lists of educational work and home tasks to be accomplished and I make sure Julia is taking appropriate breaks. I am teaching a weekly class and attending a weekly HILR class on musicals. Sometimes it feel as if all the zoom meetings are little wooden balls that are shaken up in a box. Balls get scattered on the floor, zoom meetings missed. Sometimes the balls are damned slippery. Continue reading
Happy Birthday to my baby girl who was bald for a long time, a squirmy worm who preferred to snuggly to the stroller, the baby who didn’t sleep that first year and had a smile and a laugh to melt her groggy parents’ hearts.
This year has been full of so much joy and so much ambiguity. Through everything you are still a wonder. All grace and ease. Your new year holds new challenges and I am so happy to be close enough to have a front row seat. With face masks and social distancing, of course.
You are the apple that makes the tree look pretty darn good. Happy, happy new year!