Let Me Put These Emotions in a Glass Box

Yesterday I got an email from our principal at one of our schools, detailing how we can pick up my son’s items from his locker as well as an end of the year “graduation” of sorts before he goes to high school. I read all the details and got inherently sad that his last memories of the school will be from our car window. There will be no trips, no signing of the yearbooks, no ceremonies, no kudos for a job done remarkably well. When I emailed to get some information today, the principal was notably bummed and said as much. You can tell how much our teachers and staff loved these kids, and how they wanted better. It brought me to tears. Then again, it’s been a whirlwind of emotions the past few months.

I keep reminding myself it’s all a blip in time. One day I may have great grandchildren who will read stories about what’s happened this year and they will wonder what it was all like. While for many it feels like it’s been ages since we were doing “normal” things, it’s only been a couple of months. For me it’s been an interesting experience. Someone posted a meme online that asked how many people felt that while 2020 has been rough, it hasn’t been their worst of years, and that thought resonated deeply with me. 2020 has been, for me, while a bit challenging, not terrible. If you’ve followed along on here for a while, you know I love a silver lining. There are many.

While I am saddened by missing people, by loss of activities, and some other realizations about what I will and will not tolerate (and how that will impact some things), I’m actually doing pretty good. Granted, I’m fortunate. My family is healthy and safe. While we lost half an income, I’ve still been able to work. I’ve been blessed by timing this year. Lots of timing that fell into place that allowed us to be ok. Not everyone is doing so well. My neighbor has lost two people to the virus, many people are financially struggling, and the whole thing has been pretty unsettling. That being said, I think it’s important to see the good within the bad, take stock of what IS going ok, and to be grateful.

I am loving having the four of us home as a family. We’ve never had this much time together, and I’m loving it. I am loving being productive at home. The house, as always, is chaotic, but we’re tackling some of the big jobs we’ve been wanting to do for years, so I’m ok with a bit of mess while those are worked on. I’m tackling some bucket list items. I’m working on getting into a better headspace. I’m separating myself from other people’s issues and misery. I think there will be some upheaval coming down the pike, but I’m ok with that. I’m enjoying the simpler life that isn’t filled with a jam packed calendar I have to manage. I’m hopeful to keep that mindset and to cut back on my obligations.

There are happy days, and sad days, but mostly happy ones. What I’ve realized is that with my calmer mindset and a little elbow grease, things are falling into place, and it feels amazing.

To be honest, as I look back, I realize I was constantly carrying a level of stress on my shoulders. Trying to be everything I needed to be for everyone, or at least what I thought I needed to be. I tried to go along to get along. I let people treat me as “less than”. I took the brunt of everything on my shoulders and tried to make miracles happen. The past few months have shown me a lot. I’m no longer interested in any of it, and it’s a freeing feeling. I have what matters, what is needed, and a lot of wants too. I couldn’t ask for better.

I am Not Pioneer Woman, or Am I?

One of the weirdest side effects of this whole pandemic thing is that I find myself doing things like planting fruits and veggies, composting, and getting a tad more outdoorsy. It seems that once work is done for the day, I crave the outdoors, the fresh air, and have found myself to be happiest once I can get outside and move.

In all the hustle and bustle of everyday life, I don’t get a lot of time to be outside. I work in an office/home office, and much of my time is spent indoors working, cooking, cleaning (not as much as I should) and in the car shuttling kids around. Suddenly, with more time at my fingertips, I finish out my workday and crave things I never thought I would. Bike riding, for example. Now look, I am little overweight, not much of an exercise for fun type of lass. Lately however, the idea of going on a long walk or riding my bike sounds heavenly. My bike is probably 14 years old, a bit rusty, and the gears slip a little bit, but I don’t care. I eagerly await sunny days so I can ride after work, even if it’s just a short trip around the neighborhood or into town. Usually I take the girl child with me, and the two of us chatter away while on our bikes. Last night something sort of “popped” in my knee, and I came home to put a brace on it, concerned that I may need to halt on riding for a day or two.

If I’m not riding my bike (I can’t tell you how long it’s been since I’ve dusted that thing off and ridden it) I am perusing kayaks. I’ve wanted a kayak for years. Talked about it, hinted at getting one, but never bitten the bullet because of money, number one, and number two because the thought of having to outfit my car to carry a kayak seemed overwhelming. Last year, while on our trip to the ranch (as well as some other trips) I got on a kayak and loved it. My shoulders and arms got a great workout, I was on the water, which is my happy place, and I loved it. I was able to take my phone in a waterproof pouch and listen to some music as I paddled, and honestly? It was wonderful. I also attempted paddleboarding. Paddleboarding was harder than I expected, but I was able to stand up, before promptly falling in. I got up again, however, and again, and kept at it. It was a challenge, but I found myself enjoying the challenge and the stiff muscles I had the next day. I have been waffling over whether to get a kayak or a SUP, but have been somewhat undecided. I have, however, found a compromise, and am excited that it may work out. Last night my husband put my crossbars on my new car (which I’ve barely been able to drive!) and I felt a bit giddy.

We’ve decided to outfit my car with a bike rack as well, since my car is the biggest. This will allow us to take the kids’ bikes with us if we go places (and our bikes too if we want). I think, to be honest, this is our way of optimistically planning for our vacation later this year. We are hopeful, since the place is in a fairly remote area, that our vacation can still happen. If it can’t, then we are bringing what snippets of that vacation fun we can to our house. Either way, we win.

Outside of my sudden urge to move this old body of mine on a kayak and bike, I have been trying to work in the yard more. Unfortunately it has stayed unseasonably cool here, and we’ve had a lot of rainy days. That being said, my daughter and I tried planting some strawberries from dry roots. We also planted tomatoes, and soon will add cucumbers to our plants. I’ve never been good at gardening….hell I’ve got two plants I’ve successfully kept alive and consider that a miracle. I’ve always said if the judged the ability to mother by houseplants, they would never have let me have kids. I come from a long line of farmers, but I can barely keep a plant alive. It’s terrible. Strangely, we have had some success, perhaps because I am babying these plants like it’s a second job. I have them all in pots and run them in and out each day, so they don’t get too cold over night. I laughed at myself the other morning as I ran across the yard to put coffee grounds into the compost container. Years ago, the house next door went into foreclosure, and it was left empty for about 2 years. I used to mow the grass there and keep things neat. The couple left behind a rolling composter, and I moved it to my yard so they could reclaim it. They never came back for it, so it’s been there. I’ve emptied it for the yard before, but this year, we decided to start using it. As I made my fresh coffee in the morning, I raced out in my pj’s to put the grounds in the composter, laughing at my newfound attempts of trying to do these types of things. So far, however, it’s working pretty well, and I am pretty impressed.

While I miss Homegoods, and Marshalls, miss some of the hustle and bustle, some of it I don’t miss at all. I don’t miss the constant stress, the constant racing from place to place, and feeling exhausted. I’m enjoying this slower life. Sure, I work all day, and it’s been more stressful than usual, but I enjoy finishing up and going outside in nature. I enjoy loading the four of us in the car to go for a walk at the beach. This Mother’s Day, we went hiking. Me! Hiking! I almost laughed myself out of breath at the concept, because I’m so NOT a hiker. I was proven correct when I got winded within the first 20 minutes, but I kept at it, and dare I say, fully enjoyed myself. We wandered in the woods, played by a waterfall and joined together to help each other cross the water bed. We came home tired and craving a big meal, so that’s what we did.

I always wanted to be more outdoorsy, more connected to nature. I’m honestly not sure why I never made the effort to do so. I suppose I got wrapped up in the daily business of life. If there’s one silver lining in this whole mess, outside of the fact I get to spend more time with my core family, is that I am learning to slow down, and get outside. I am hopeful I can keep it up, and spend more time outside enjoying nature, eating fresh berries we grew ourselves.

Pioneer Woman, I am Not.

So, we’re kind of in a pandemic, as I am sure you’ve noticed. I also have kids, one of whom is perpetually on the go and looking for things to do, especially if any of those things to do (outside of cleaning her room) is able to be done with me. The other night, I get a wild hair and decide we should try to grow some veggies and plants in pots.

Now look, perhaps it was a gin and tonic having that thought, because I can’t grow anything. I’m struggling to grow GRASS in my yard, and here I am like farmer Jane thinking I’m going to go all natural and grow some fruits and veggies myself. What was I thinking? But with Amazon at my fingertips, I ordered the plants, and prepared myself for almost certain failure.

The little was thrilled to see the packages arrive, along with some lavender plants I wanted. If you want to know how things are progressing in this story, the lavender plants arrived healthy and are now shriveled in a pot. I keep sending them “thoughts and prayers” but just like in the real world, that shit doesn’t seem to be working, so I’m looking up other ideas to help them.

Yesterday we planted strawberry root things, and a tomato plant. It says to put them in an area with some sun, and I did that. It says not to over water, so I am being oh so careful to give them what seems enough without it being too much. I am also bringing them inside at night so they don’t get too cold. I have Goldilocks the plant’s and a brown thumb. I have no idea if they will grow but my goodness I am keeping fingers crossed. I would love the little to see this succeed.

I come from a long line of farmers. Veggie farmers, or “market gardeners” as we called them. Everytime I put my hands in soil I feel like my ancestors are cringing. Gardening does not appear to be a genetic gift, that’s for sure.

So as I drag these pots in and out, muttering to myself about not being a pioneer woman, I am trying to hold hope. Hope we can safely hug our loved ones soon, hope I can see my family overseas again, hope that our country doesn’t go down in flames as everyone appears to hate each other, and hope that I can grow a damn strawberry plant so my daughter will see me succeed and she will feel success too. If not, we’ll chalk it up to a learning experience and “not everyone is good at everything, and that’s ok”.

But if you could keep your fingers crossed for me, I’d appreciate it.

What Are The Odds?

Once in a while, you get a person who weaves in and out of your life over time. They pop into your life, and then pop out, then pop back in at a later time. I had a funny reminder the other night of just one such person when as perusing Facebook the other night. Admittedly, I spend too much time on Facebook, however I’m starting to really dislike it these days. What was a fun, silly way for me to connect with my friends and family, since they are all so spread out around the world, has become a den of political lies/misinformation, stupid people making stupid choices, and just…ick. I’ve slowly started the process of muting people, leaving pages, and weeding out the ick, and while it’s getting better, I have more to do. I’d head off of it altogether but would lose the easy access to interact with my family.

Anyway, I digress.

So there I was, lounging outside on Facebook, and I commented on a friend’s post about a town a used to live in. Suddenly, I was tagged in a comment from a woman I had known for years growing up, but had lost touch with. We chatted back and forth before I friend requested her. I was kind of excited to see her pop up, because our friendship had an interesting plot twist over the years.

We met down in Miami as kids. I don’t remember how old I was, but I must have been pretty young because we stopped going to Miami after a while. Occasionally we would head down there, my parents and I, for a vacation, and sometimes my parents would head down alone. Sometimes we stayed at the Doral, the Fontainebleau, and once at the Biltmore (which was a favorite of mine). This was back in the 80’s. While down at I believe the Doral, I met a girl my age (probably by the pool, my favorite place at any hotel) and we spent much of the vacation hanging out together. She was from New York (I believe Queens, if memory serves me correctly) and I lived in Connecticut. We were sad to part ways after the trip and became pen pals.

Now back in the day, we didn’t have any sort of computer communication like we do today. There was no email, no social media, and no Facebook. Keeping in touch took EFFORT, especially when you had to pay for long distance calls and your parents frowned upon you making many. So we wrote long letters back and forth. This carried on for years. I got invited to a birthday party at her house and was so honored to be able to go, especially as I was surprised my dad was willing to drive me to Queens. To me, New York seemed like the other side of the country at that age, even though it was just about an hour or so away at the time. I’d been to NYC before, but not to Queens, and it seemed so exciting to visit this new place and see my friend.

Over the years, we lost touch. I don’t know why. This past weekend I even said to her “I don’t know why we lost touch, but if I did something, said something, I’m sorry”.

In the middle of high school, my dad’s company transferred us to Virginia. Several big companies went down to that area. The rents were cheaper, and I assume there was a push by the state to get some big name companies to move there. We had to go, and I was devastated. I was 16, angsty, had a boyfriend (who became another “in my life out of my life” person for years before I finally got some sense into my head) and I loved my current school. Unfortunately, where the company went, we had to go, and we moved to Virginia. (I happen to be very fond of Virginia now by the way).

The first day of school, I walked in feeling more anxious than ever before. I to this day am grateful for a girl named Angie. Angie was a tall and powerful force. Loud, funny, and always good for a laugh. She was also kindhearted and took it upon herself to call out “hey new girl!” and told me she was going to be my friend. I was so grateful for her kindness that I can’t even describe it without tearing up. Angie basically TOLD me she was going to be my friend, and that she was. She introduced me to her friends. She hung out with me, and she is a big reason I made it through those two years left of high school in a decent way instead of tumbling down into a bad way.

I remember sitting in class with Angie the first few days and a girl caught my eye. I couldn’t take my eyes off of her. She looked inherently familiar. I was so perplexed. It had to be, but it couldn’t be. I studied the girl’s eyes, hair, and smile. To be honest, I’d only seen her in Miami, and then at the party, and maybe one other time but I could swear it was her. I turned to Angie and said “hey, who is that over there? What’s her name?” Angie told me and I started laughing. How was it possible? What are the odds? I told Angie, “girl, I have a story to tell you!”

Angie was shocked too. I mean, how did two random little girls meet in Miami, while living in different states in the Northeast, end up not only in the same state, but in the same town and same school many years later? Angie called the girl over. She studied my face, and we sort of awkwardly said hi, both of us still a bit incredulous at how strange it was to end up at the same school, in the same class.

Now I wish I could tell you that we resumed our friendship in full force and were inseparable besties from that moment forward, but despite beating the odds geographically, we never quite became really close again. I surmise I probably did or said something awkward over the years, because I know I was pretty cringey as a teen. Hell, I’m pretty cringey now!

So imagine my surprise when she wrote to me on Facebook. I can honestly said I was really happy to see her face there, and see she’s happily married with a child, living a great life. We chatted back and forth very briefly, but I think I’ll write her a longer note later today. My memory is pretty bad and I’m hoping to learn more about how she ended up moving to Virginia, her life after high school, and where life has taken her.

They say it’s a small world. I can confirm it’s often much smaller than you’d ever imagine.

Ah Weekend, You Left So Soon. Also, The Leftover Controversy.

Friday night, I went to bed feeling almost….giddy. I had made an amazing pork chop dinner, which was so good my husband came over to high five me. I’ve never considered myself a great cook, so when I do ace something it’s always a really pleasant surprise. I happily ate a yummy dinner, retired upstairs to watch my drag queen show, and fell into a deep sleep. Saturday was supposed to be near 60 degrees, and rather sunny. I couldn’t wait to get out in the yard! It seems people fall into a couple of different camps during the “stay at home measures”. Some are bored to tears and others are so busy that they yearn for down time. I’m in the latter category. After weeks of being insanely busy at work and cooped up in my home office all day, I yearned to be out in the fresh air.

Saturday morning I bounced down the stairs with a spring in my step and coffee on my mind. After grinding beans and making a fresh cup for my favorite mug, I grabbed my gloves, my new powerwasher I’d treated myself to, and headed out to the back yard. Despite cutting my finger while putting together the powerwasher, I was undeterred. I fired it up and headed over to a fence we shared with the neighbors. It was a white fence that was covered in green stuff. Pollen? Algae? I had no idea. Within minutes the fence was sparkling white again. I headed over to our porch and then patios, cleaning both. My favorite is an old wooden fence near our patio that my husband said he likely needed to sand and paint. The powerwasher made it look like new. I spent much of the day cleaning our garage siding, our shed, the fences, the patio and the porch. It felt so relaxing. After a while, the rest of the family came out and started tackling jobs. I continued to powerwash the patio furniture. By the end of the day, we had a new outdoor rug out, the patio table cleaned and ready to go with a new umbrella stand we had purchased a few years ago (but it didn’t fit our old umbrella). The rug for the porch arrived, as did the chairs, and my husband began assembling them. Once we have everything set up, the lights up, and some warm weather, I think the space will look quite nice. We also upgraded our wifi router to a mesh system so we now have some wifi in the back yard so I can work out there sometimes when the weather is nice. With us being stuck indoors, it felt like time to get the outdoor space in better shape so we can feel like we have more room and more usable space. Now if the weather would only cooperate!

Sunday the weather took a turn for the rainy, which was hard after having a semi decent day on Saturday. I drank way too much coffee, and lounged way more than I had expected to. Days like that are luxurious but also a bit dangerous. The less you do, the less you WANT to do, but I could see my daughter getting antsy, so I told her to come with me to the kitchen. She is happiest when she is a helper, so I asked if she would like to help with dinner and some baking. Her whole face lit up and she shook her head yes. I’m not fancy so I pulled out some brownie box mix, some muffin mix, and we set about making brownies for dessert and cranberry orange muffins for breakfast. Then she helped me saute some onions in preparation for “cheesy meatloaf” and prep for “taco pasta” (one of the kids’ favorite meals) for today. Before long the house smelled amazing and full bellies were in effect. Tonight has been designated as “leftover night” where anyone can pick any leftover and have that for dinner. Which leads me to a strange yet interesting conversation with my dad I had a couple of weeks ago.

I was chatting with my dad on the phone and we were discussing how we were coping with the “stay at home” situation. He made a comment that occasionally my stepmother will eat leftovers if they order food in from a restaurant, but that he doesn’t. I asked why, and he said “Well, I didn’t grow up doing that”. This surprised me, and I dug a little further. Apparently, while eating “leftovers” is very common in the US, where I spent most of my life, in England, according to my dad, it’s not common at all. I’m not fully sure if they don’t eat leftovers cooked at home, but apparently while restaurants in the US offer to go containers, this is not common or usual in the UK. I was quite stunned by this. I’d simply never noticed this fact in all my years of travelling between the two countries. I told my dad that couldn’t possibly be true. He laughed and said it wasn’t common at all over there and when my grandparents had come to visit they were shocked and a bit grossed out by the fact people took home food from restaurants here. I tried to think, and realized I had never once brought back food from a restaurant in the UK. I’d never been offered a to go box there either. When visiting family I’d never eaten leftovers there. It all seemed so strange. My dad said he’d never done “leftovers” or brought a “doggie bag” home because it just felt so strange after growing up in the UK. He’d never got in the habit of eating them, and I think honestly, the thought of it skeeves him out a little. Looking back, I also don’t remember my mom ever making leftovers either. I am shooketh. Such a funny little nuance but I never in all my years noticed that my family never did leftovers. Meanwhile, I don’t mind them at all.

After getting some jobs done, like dishes, cleaning the guinea pig cage and kitty litter box, getting the kids to bed, and tossing in some laundry, my husband and I settled in to finish binge watching Afterlife2. It’s the 2nd season of a story about a man who is suicidal after his beloved wife dies from cancer. It’s gut wrenching, hilarious, and I am left hoping they continue with another season because it’s so bizarre and great. Some scenes left me ugly crying with a box of tissues in my lap, while others had me howling with laughter. It’s a funny, well written show.

As the weekend wound down, I was left a little melancholy. I felt rested, excited for our outdoor space to come together, and to try some new things. I’m antsy of course, as is just about everyone, and I often get the urge to get in the car and take a long, leisurely drive someplace. The house is still a wreck, and us all being stuck at home hasn’t quite spurred on any domestic miracles, but we’re tackling one space at a time. Right now I am nervously thinking about our planned trips this year, as it’s possible they may get cancelled, but hope lingers they won’t. Vacations are going to take on even bigger importance after this. I think getting out into the world is going to feel amazing, as long as we can do it safely.

A Little Sun

I realized the other day I haven’t really talked to many people (outside of work) during the “stay at home” portion of the Covid thing. To be honest I’ve been so busy at work that I haven’t had much time. Because my job requires a great amount of talking, after work I tend to be much more quiet these days. When I DO talk to people, I find they fall on far ends of the spectrum. Either they are, like me, insanely busy at work, or they are not working and running out of ways to entertain themselves. I have those who don’t mind the stay at home order, and others who feel incredibly antsy and can’t wait to get out and about. Me? Well, I’m sort of in the middle of it all. I am grateful to be working, feel quite content to be working from home home, but I certainly enjoyed the experience of going to a store yesterday (going out with purpose felt delightful). I have to say though, I notice a distinct downward tilt in my mood when the weather gets dreary outside.

It’s funny, because I normally find rainy days quite cosy, and they remind me of the frequent rain in England. In other words, I find rainy days rather comforting. Since I have been cooped up in the house for weeks on end, however, the rainy, cold, or windy days have left me feeling, well, rather down. I’m working during the day so I don’t get outside much. One bright spot of being stuck at home is that we as a family have been working outside in the yard more, cutting things back, expanding the space. I purchased a couple of chairs for our outdoor porch (which my husband is currently assembling!) a new outdoor rug, and a table. I also got an extra wifi extender, with the goal to be allowing us to work online outside if need be. The money saved for a small trip is instead going to our “staycation” so to speak. I think being cooped up within 4 walls will feel less constrictive if we have an outdoor space which is more usable.

Imagine my joy seeing that Saturday is supposed to be decent weather! One of my two days off, I normally luxuriate in sleeping in after a week of being up early. Not this Saturday! This week I am powerwashing, cleaning, mowing, planting and mulching. I don’t care if I end up laid up in bed Sunday with back pain, because Sunday is going to be a rainy day. I am excited to get the space up to par so we can enjoy it for the rest of the summer.

I’ve mentioned how important it is these days to find little sparks of joy. I should probably also remind everyone not to wax off a chunk of your eyebrow (oh wait, I already did) despite it sure making you feel like you should stay indoors. While our yard is nothing to write home about, I am excited to spruce it up a little and am finding happiness in doing so. Now if we could just have a few warm days so I can go out and enjoy it, that would be perfect.

So There May Have Been a Quarantine Eyebrow Waxing Incident….

Today I decided would have some self care peppered in. Since I have been unable to get my hair colored at the salon with the stay at home order in place, I decided to do it at home. Luckily because my stylist is a friend, he dropped off my formula for me in my mailbox. Afterwards I blew out my hair, and I was feeling pretty awesome. Since I had done my hair, I decided to wax my lip and brows too.

I got everything ready and set to work. Things were going smoothly. I waxed my lip (a “stache isn’t cute, even if it’s a quarantine ‘stache) and everything was fine. I did my left brow, and it looked pretty damned good. I’ll be honest, my eyesight Is going downhill, so I can’t see my brows super well unless I am right up near the mirror anyway. All was well, until my daughter came to see what I was doing. She began chatting away, and as I was trying to answer her, my attention faltered on what I was doing. Somehow while addressing my unibrow, which is all blinding light hair, I went too far over. Wax got into the start of my eyebrow hair, and unbeknownst to me, when I pulled the strip, I yanked off the beginning of my damned eyebrow.

My eyebrow now begins WAY too far over.

I looked in the mirror and I just KNEW. This had not gone well at all. My daughter paused in mid sentence, looked at my eyebrow and said “oh”….”ohhh” softly. She knew. I knew. We had had an “incident” with my eyebrow.

I’m sort of a girly girl, and sort of not. I normally wear makeup every day. Not a lot mind you, but I do wear some. I’ll put it this way…I wear enough that when I didn’t wear it and my best friend saw me, she thought I looked sick and not like myself. I told her to wait a few moments, ran upstairs and put my makeup on. When I came down she looked confused and said “what did you do? Now you look totally healthy and normal!” When I don’t wear any makeup I feel I look like a Victorian child struck with the influenza. Now that being said, I’m not what I consider good at makeup. I wish I was and could do all the cool things on the YouTube tutorials, but I just can’t master it. Maybe it’s that my eyesight is going down hill, maybe I’m just not artistic. I’m just not good at it. The thing I am worst at? Brows of course!

What’s funny is that I mentioned it on social media and my girlfriends all commented “evidence please!” And I obliged. Where I had hoped that maybe it would be only me that really noticed it, they all responded in a manner that made me realize everyone would notice my now wonky brow. “Pencilling them in should take care of it!” Clearly these friends have more faith in my makeup skills than I do. Thank goodness for online ordering. I reached out and got recommendations on an eyebrow pencil to help the situation. My female friends were all over it, trying to console me over the loss of my eyebrow, recommending items, and cheering me on.

I surmise that tomorrow night I will be researching “eyebrow videos” and trying to figure out how to hide the fact my face looks shifted to one side. If I squint and furrow my brow, it’s not so obvious, but who wants to walk around looking angry all these time? So now it looks like my face is trying to flee off my head.

As you know, I always look for silver linings. Mine for today is that I shall find it easier to maintain life staying at home so I can hide the waxing tragedy on my face. Please keep your fingers crossed my eyebrow grows back.