Monday, October 19, 2020

October Summer

I have been meaning to write this blog post for some time now, but I didn't know exactly what it would be about. Really, all I had was the title. Because it excites me to see two things go together that don't usually go together, like October and summer. What? Bananas.  I considered trying to find other dichotomies but that sounds too strenuous for me right now so instead I think I need to just make a bulleted list of the most pressing things going on right now until I get bored.  That sounds pretty good.  So here it is:

  • First, summer lasted forever this year. Global warming and impending doom of the earth aside (which actually does alarm me), this sounds like a good thing, and it is, but it's also a little unsettling because once again, you feel like the seasons broke and someone forgot to turn on the new one.  It was bothering me for a while, especially with the extreme desert dryness and miserable fires going on over here, but then I had a comforting thought: If summer lasts until mid-October, then maybe winter won't feel so long! I can dream. (I'm actually freaking out about going into a mild, dry winter. But that's a post for probably never)

  • Do you have a favorite font? What am I saying, of course you do, everyone does.  And I know we all have phases of favorites as well-- Comic Sans, Arial, Wingdings, some kind of cursivey handwriting one.  Right now mine is courier.  It's a classic typeface and one as old as time, or at least as old as type, or pressing print. I love courier because it looks old timey and like I used a typewriter, which is another cherished favorite. I love fonts so much that I try to write them longhand.  Like this:

    You do not know how much I practice this.


  • About 20 minutes ago, a horrifying event took place for what I think is the 3rd time in my life but perhaps it is more. What was it, you ask? I went out to the garage to do something and when I returned I almost walked RIGHT into a spider dangling down at face-level from the doorframe. "NO, SPIDER, NO!" I immediately spat-breathed out (so as to avoid accidentally inhaling the spider as it gets sucked into the vortex of my intake. Why do i think I take great gulping breaths all the time? I don't. Not all the time) which totally worked. It floated away from me, and then I recoiled and shouted at the spider, shaming and repudiating it. Why does this keep happening? Is it a joke? I guess it is Halloween. Good one, spider. 
  • Today's the last day of fall break, and I made Julian do odd jobs with me all morning, like dusting the blinds, which is the worst. Sometimes he makes fun of when I talk to him like what he would call a "typical mom." I had him begin and reminded him,

    "Ok, now be sure to get every slat. Do a good job." 

    "Ok, Mother!" with a grin.

    And then we laugh and I call him Cinderulian. 

    We also cleaned his room and i made him watch me closely to learn how to clean. For example, I had him go fetch me some dusting wipes and we stood at his bookcase and I told him, "Now listen up. I am a lazy cleaner. Am I going to pull out all the books to make sure I get ALL the dust? Heck no! You just dust where you can see. So go in and out and dust all the spaces between the jutting-out books, like this.  There you go."   

    I also taught him how to clean up all the crap on his dresser and desk.  He complained about not having anywhere to put anything.  

    "Sure you do! See your cute little wooden box? Anything in there? No? Great, put all your metal knick knacks in there. Your little pocketknife and leatherman and all these random keys. Do they even go to anything? Whatever, doesn't matter, put them in the box! See? Organized!" 

    He wanted to keep some piece of junk "for the nostalgia!" --a small plastic gold trophy-- but didn't know where to put it so first he just set it down on his dresser which I rejected, as that was where it had been, and next he suggested atop the corner of his closet door which is just ridiculous. I told him, "ok, you need to put it in a place that makes sense and is also out of the way. Like, see how you have projects and awards on your bookshelf? Put it with that, up high, so it's out of your way and can collect dust that we won't notice as much."  

    I motioned to a shoebox full of a hammer and junk ("it's my toolbox!"  taking up a good 15% of his desk space and said we needed to do something about that. Thinking it unsolvable, he refused to try, so I showed him how you can rearrange things so that the lid will close. I then gave it to him and said, "ok, now find a place in your closet to put this."  A minute later I turned around and he had placed the box on the floor BARELY inside the closet doors, so thy couldn't even shut. Like it was almost the closet guard, standing afoot the citadel. "What?? No! Someplace else!"  "but there IS nowhere else!" "Ok, well, at least put it on the floor up against the back of the closet. There, now the doors can close."  See, Julian? Problem solved. 

    I am so good at cleaning and even better at teaching others how to clean. This comes after Julian was digging around in the kitchen junk drawer and exclaimed, "I LOVE this junk drawer! It is the best!" to which I emphatically agreed. 

This feels pretty good for now. I just wanted to let you know that I will never quit blogging and I just need to get my wheels turning again (speaking of settled dust). In fact, I happened to capture myself thinking of what to blog about and coming up with this brilliant result you read before you.

Happy autumner, friends. Fallsum? Sumtumn? Ha ha, we have a winner. Anyway, may your October be whatever temperature you desire and may you find your life as rich and exciting as mine. 

Monday, September 07, 2020

Collection of Quotes

I wrote this blog post months ago, like early March.  I think I forgot I hadn't posted it, and instead of adapting it to present day, I'm just going to post it with you knowing this was six months ago, with a few new additions.  Also, we had him tested for the flu at that time which was negative and now we're convinced he had the Covid and possibly spread it around in California from our trip which was at the end of February. So, sorry.  Sorry about that.  


Early March, 2020: 

Julian is the greatest thing in existence.  He is still recovering from the biggest doozy of illness he's ever had. He missed two full weeks of school which just sounds incredible to me. Like, what? He was so sick that first week, I wasn't sure where he had gone. I did not like it. Fever + gastrointestinal encumbrance + double ear infection + boat load o' snot and respiratory issues.  It was also a big fat bummer because he was super sick during our trip to Disneyland and did not have all his wits about him to fully enjoy.  I'm still working through the guilt of taking him on the long drive, pumping him full of meds and forcing him on all the rides, as well as enjoying with Sean the perks of quick ride-access via the wheelchair we put him in because he was so sick. But let's not dwell. 

The best thing about his recovery, other than his whole feeling good again is that we have our boy back. It felt like it took foreeeever and it was really unsettling. But he's back to his high-energy chatter of about 50 million things in under ten minutes, 15% of which I have genuine, true interest in/even slightly understand.   He's back to his jokes and brilliant one-liners and to celebrate this extremely celebration-worthy fact, I have got a stack of post-its here that need transcribing onto ye olde blog.  They range from recent to several months ago and are a tribute to this child whom I love dearly.  So let it be blogged, so let it be done.

"I'm friends with spiders as long as they don't catch me by surprise."
Ha! Cute. 
"I wish I could punch and get a satisfying thunk like Davy Crockett does."   

This is so funny and kind of adorable to me. I mean, who doesn't, kid.  I love that Sean shows him all the old things.  Julian learned how to whistle this past year and has perfected the Andy Griffith Show theme song, a show he enjoys watching.  All of the adults in the room are always entertained by him, which is usually how it goes.  He told me he tells Reader's Digest jokes to the class and his teacher is the only one who gets them.

  "It seems to me that instead of getting angry, I should just try."   

-My brain exploded a little bit at this one but in a humorous way.  I laughed while it exploded.  He was at piano and what.a.freaking.revelation.   Love the latent life lessons that I get to witness. Latent meaning I was probably on my 10,000th iteration of this idea and to hear it back was a little much for my brain. 

"Whenever I'm called up to the front of the classroom,  I have a comedian's entry."   

-I believe it.  This loner introverted weirdo is a bit of a showman.  He loves being the funny one which I deeply understand.  I basically tell him this approach to life will take him far and is a quality not to be underestimated. I think he said he tells a little joke, a warm-up for the crowd or something, and possibly does a little jig, maybe a two-handed wave. 

Julian has strong opinions, a high opinion of his opinions, and no real filter. Thus we get this one:

"Sometimes I wish God put more effort into things."  

Ha ha! I don't even know what he was talking about. It probably doesn't matter. But you can bet Julian will find ways a thing can be improved upon. 

This next one was a thinker for us and kind of came out of nowhere:

"There's no difference between too hard and too easy."

Me and Sean:  25 Hilarious Photos Of Animals Looking Shocked

I can't even remember what he meant by it, probably because I was so stuck on this line. I think he was maybe talking about school and how he's not interested if it's one way or the other. Or something. Who knows. Who will ever know.

This last one also made my brain explode a bit.   I feel like it's so beautiful and profound, but I'm still trying to figure out what it means.  I may always be, like with the others.  But i loved it:

"Words are people, you just have to write them."

Fantastic.  He likes to write and was in the midst of telling me his thoughts and feelings on words and the personalities he feels they have, which is just right up my alley.  15% might sound like a small amount of things he says that I'm interested in but you do not know the enormous volume of things this kid can rattle off to me at any time during the day.  So it's actually quite a lot.  And the problem with this is that the 15% is SO GOOD that I have to pay rapt attention to everything else, lest I miss it, and I do not want to miss it.  It's a challenge but one I [mostly] enjoy.   But back to this quote--seriously? Are you being serious right now? It's just so good. Excuse me, I need to go continue thinking about it some more and perhaps get it embroidered onto something.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Kat: A Tribute

 There once was a cat who came to us at Christmastime, a kitty cat Christmas present, in a carrier on a pillow, under the Christmas tree.  He was tiny and peppered stripey grey and a little feisty ball of fierceness.  From the get-go, he would charge through the house, darting from one corner to the opposite corner, to where we sat, where he would tap our foreheads to exert his dominance (as if it were ever in question), and in a flash, be gone again. He bit and he scratched and then he slept and nuzzled and purred and curled up in your lap, head on your knee.  He grew up big and found where you were and stayed there, needing to be near.  He remained ferocious and wild and knew one day he would be the tiger he was destined to be.  

When the new cat was introduced, tensions ran high.  Who is this new lesser creature? He always wanted to know.  In time, he would grow accustomed to the new cat and exert his dominance over her as well (as if it were ever in question).  They'd fight and he'd bite and then they'd snuggle and sleep.  An anxious thing, she was always on high alert for the gray tiger, both intrigued by him and fearful of him. Playing with him but never knowing herself where the line was between play fighting and real fighting. 

The big gray cat grew into an expert hunter.  We'd never know what surprise would be awaiting us at any given moment, like the day when Julian and I were busy with a piano practice and we heard a fluttering of wings behind us in the house, turning our heads in time to see the kill bite administered and the newly dead bird discarded on the carpet.  This cat promised us with adventures and horrors. Dead birds, dead mice, live mic, mice dangling out of his mouth as a casual snack brought into the house. Parasites from eating who-knows-what in the wild of the nighttime.   

This cat loved to hunt at night, when his wildometer hit maximum level. Several times he came home in the morning with some unfortunate and mysterious injury having befallen him.  After a couple of vet visits, we realized we were dummies and if we wanted these misfortunes to stop, we'd have to keep him in.  We did our very best to never let him out at night, to give him exercise by other means (often at the sacrifice of the second, anxious cat).  We tried to take him for walks on a leash. We tried tethering him to the yard.  He learned that if he pulled the leash on the tether taught, he could worm his way out of it and go find a nice dirt pile to roll around in, then come home and ask what was for breakfast/lunch/dinner/second/breakfast/elevensies/supper/snack.  I got so that I kept the pet wipes out so I could wipe him down before he soiled anything. Several times in a day. 

And then came a day earlier this summer when neighbors complained of a "chicken thief" on the neighborhood Facebook page.  Also possibly some missing gerbils. And that we should all watch out for this chicken thief. Sean and I looked at each other and then down at who we were sure was said chicken thief as he had slipped out of our house the previous night in spite of our efforts.  Feeling the guilt, we didn't know what to do. Do we try to give him away? Put up an ad on the pet classifieds? Would anyone want this wild beast? We weren't sure.  But later on that day, when he casually strolled in and dropped something on the floor, I knew we had to do something. "Thaaaat's an organ," I said in my accustomed horror.  "That's a body part. That used to be in something alive."  Repulsed and envisioning him with a secret stash of his latest kill somewhere where he could come and go at his leisure, with the disgusting evidence lain before us like it was a cat toy he'd gotten bored with, the decision was made. 

We made an ad with the headline "Expert mouser who's also good with people," took some pictures of the kitty cat tiger, and didn't imagine we'd get any takers.   Except we did, the next day. A family in the town next to us, with a large fenced-in yard and small children and a LOT of voles.  And so we scrambled together his favorite bed and snacks (they did not want the leash) and hugged him, took some pictures, and said our goodbyes and just like that, he was gone, out of our home to another. Kitty re-homed.  Julian and I couldn't be there, so, letting Sean handle it,  we hid in our bedrooms until it was over. 

When he was gone, I initially felt ok about it. I felt relieved.  The next day is when it really hit me.  The shock was acute, as I woke up and went to go about my daily cat rituals, so many aspects of my daily life surrounding this cat. Unlock the cat door, feed cats, groom, let outside to pee in the neighbor's garden and roll in the dirt.  And I had to remember he was gone so many times, over and over.  It was hard, and I missed him, that lovable beast.  It took me 3 days to where I didn't cry at some point in the day, and Julian, a full week at least with many tear-filled nights.   We watched the other cat look out for him, expecting him to show at any moment. Every day. Until she slowly forgot, and chilled out, her world no longer dominated by the king, no longer someone's prey.  

We grieved his absence and it was a somber time and I felt a lot of guilt about giving him away, which Julian fully brought to my attention repeatedly, in wails. But I knew it was the right thing to do.  The new family said we could visit him any time we wanted and I seriously considered it, or at least texting to check on him, but, fearing they were experiencing their own horrors, decided I'd be better off ignorant of his new life, which I now envision for myself to be good, happy, with wider open spaces and where killing rodents is welcome.  

The world we live in was too small for him, the call of the wild too loud. We are grateful for the time we had with him.  Be free now, Pepper Kat, and be loved.  

he knows


{broken heart} 

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Treading Water Part II

 This summer, we didn't do much. In a different letter to a different friend, I shared a few things we had done or places we had gone and said something like, "but I think this summer, the real hero was our back patio. We spent so much time there. We'd read books there, do puzzles. Eat dinner. Sit and talk about life, ideas, and Minecraft.  Turn on the fire if it wasn't too hot out.  Get reacquainted with the stars. We've slept out, gathered with friends, meditated with the cat, watched the pinwheels and windcatchers and listened to the little sounds of chiming fish."  I've loved that patio and adding the pavers in a 10x10 square of space in spring has made all the difference.  

Julian learned to mow the lawn this year. I enjoyed this very much.

Just a real good picture of childhood summer.

Breaking a paver in half. *tap tap*

*clean break*


Paver base! Paver sand! Water! Sean's special tool used to keep the pavers level with the cement square!

Digging was a pain in the arse. Took forever. But we paved the whole thing in a day!

yes, sean!

go, Sean!


The crates with all the supplies killed the grass, i mean left this cool design.

Julian sanding wood 

I kept buying mini cones from TJ's for myself and Julian just kept eating them for himself. Two-at-a-time summer cones. 

My zen-fish bell.

my zen-husband.

I don't mind sleeping outside. It's the not sleeping I don't really love. Still, having the stars keep me company isn't so bad.  



I needed to get out, though.  Desperate for it.  And really, really hot.  So we found a house with a pool about 25 minutes away on VRBO and booked it.  It was soooo good. The house was huge and the owners who normally live there on the upper floors were away that weekend so it was just us and their enormous white fluffy dog-yeti, chickens who ranged freely, and a trio of ducks that made me laugh every time they waddled by in their gang. We ordered dinner from restaurants that didn't delivery to our house.  We swam with friends and swam alone and having that pool was EVERYTHING.  On the last bit of the last day it was the three of us and Julian, nervous about the deep water, only ever kept to the shallow side the whole time. I said to him, "Julian, let's learn to tread water. Let's do the deep end before we go."  He refused.  Did not want to do it. He said he already knew how to swim. I told him it doesn't matter unless he can do it in deep water. That's the point. That's the goal.  I worked on him.  "Come on! Then you can jump off the diving board! It is so fun! You'll love it! Plus, this is the only chance we'll have access to a pool like this, with no other kids."  He was terrified.  But deep down, he did want to do it.  He knew we didn't have much time there left. But he was certain he couldn't. Ever.  This is how he is.  And maybe how I used to be. 

I thought I was sort of a "throw 'em in the deep end" kind of person but i have inklings of memories of feeling serious trepidation with things as a child.   I was super bold with some things and much less so with others.  But we decided to let him guide the process.  Whatever he was comfortable with, we'd start there.  He shot down all of my suggestions and in the end, these were the steps he took to get from not getting near the deep water to running and taking a flying leap off the diving board:

1. Hanging on to the edge in the deep end. Crying. Moaning.  Dooming the whole prospect.  Being filled with terror. Sean swimming in the water near him, offering encouraging words.  Julian wanted to touch the bottom to know how far away it was, for some reason. This would be reassuring to him. But he could never get to it. Because he's so buoyant, something else he never believed.  "I will sink straight to the bottom and drown."  

2. Letting go for a second and trying to tread water.  

After many minutes of this, I suggested jumping off the side of the pool into the deep water.  He said no. I offered my hand to hold.  He said ok. 

3. Holding hands, we jumped in together. 

4. Holding hands, we jumped in together and this time I let my hand go slack. It was up to him to kick to the surface (but still holding hands).

5. Jumping in holding hands, letting go when we got in the water. 

6. Jumping in together, not holding hands.  

By this time he was realizing he'd rather swim to the edge than stay afloat treading all day.  So he started doing that.  Sean was near him the whole time. 

7. He started treading in the middle of the pool with Sean.  Then he'd start to swim to the edge.   

8. Then he started swimming from side to side, demanding that Sean be near him the whole time, which he was. Never leaving his side, but never taking him when he called out for help. He was so close to the edge every time he called out.  We let him find it himself which gave him the courage to push himself a little further.  

Finally he was ready to jump off the diving board. 

9. He walked to the edge and jumped off.  

10. He surfaced, desperate for help, for someone to save him. We told him, "you can do it! Just start swimming! Go!"  

And he did.  Kicking and splashing and making it, just barely, to the edge.  

11. When he saw he could do it, he had no fear.  He loved the diving board. He went off so many times after that, I could never count.  He began to swim from the deep water to the shallow end of the pool. Pushing himself further and further until there were no more challenges.  

We were so completely thrilled for him, this kid who has a lot of anxiety about facing difficult things. He negatively self-talks constantly, he carries a lot of fear.  I have had to revisit the way I respond to this many times over the years. I'd go from being encouraging to agreeing with him because i was tired of trying to convince him of something that ultimately he had to decide for himself.  I was never going to be the one to do it.  But I could hold his hand if he needed it. That was something I could do. I told Sean, "This is the kind of rewarding feeling about parenting that people talk so much about!"  It was euphoric.  So many struggles in his short lifetime.  And so few of them celebrated.  This felt so great and I marveled at all the tiny steps that got him there.  It didn't matter how many steps it took or how broken up the process was. He decided what he wanted to try. Sometimes he'd take our suggestions and sometimes not.  I pressed many times early on, "how about we try the board now?"  and he'd say "no" every time.  

Watching him get himself there was amazing.  And it reminded me that we can do so many things if we break it down and do it our own way, maybe taking eleven steps, and that's ok.   What a lesson.  I love this kid so much.  I watched him turn eleven today and we walked together on the first day of school, a day that is generally not his favorite but one he was willing to face, under unusual and unsettling circumstances.  It's so lovely to know that we have this pool experience in our arsenal of encouragement.  "Remember doing the diving board for the first time? Remember how you can swim now and you thought you never would?"  He cannot deny that he achieved something big that day. And any time that happens, man, I am here for it.  

Happy birthday, you tall lanky squirt, you. And thanks for teaching me important lessons.

Sean's cannonball faces are A++

almost there!


Treading Water Part I

I have a friend who lives near me and we are pen pals.  Our letters are long and crammed full of stories and information and points of view and I love them.  I pretend I'm Elizabeth Bennett and carve out a decent chunk of my afternoon with plenty of paper and ink and the letter to refer to.  My friend shared with me her feelings of discomfort this summer at the whole world having gone down the crapper, as Elizabeth would say, (or I guess Charlotte, if I'm Elizabeth. Sucker, friend!) I wrote in response:

I feel you with the treading water feeling. Like, ok? I guess I can do this? But I'm getting tired?  What do we do to give ourselves a sense of stability? I think we may be in it for the long haul, but perhaps we can do things to expedite the process of adapting.  "Surrendering to the uncertainties" is really great. Because it's either surrender to it or be crushed by it. But it's really hard to feel the crushing weight of it and then just... not.  Because you know what it can do to you. How could it just suddenly change what feels like its very physical properties one day? I'm pretty sure there's an applicable law of physics here. But-- I find that sometimes, somehow (and I don't know how) --it does. A few nights ago I felt myself feeling the weight of it all -- the intensity of it feels so permanent-- and when I woke up, it was gone. The facts remained but the effects were gone. I think my brain just hit its max capacity and pushed a little reset button while I slept.  While I cannot explain it, I call it a gift.  And it's happened before. Fighting along day by day sounds about right. Not every day is a rose but the thorns might lead me there. 

When I feel this way I like to watch movies about people, in their total and absolute solitude (because that's how I feel) problem-solving.  Like Cast way or Gravity.  And I am shocked and increasingly reassured that, like Tom Hanks says, "the sun will rise. Who knows what the tide will bring." (Keeping in mind that sometimes his problems to be solved were just getting through another day--for years)  And Sandra- I mean, she could only go from air source to air source, having to forge an impossible path with only the most immediate steps somewhat available to her.  And look how strong she stands after fighting through all these forces pushing against her. 

So, what I do:  I try to live more in the moment because I can predict nothing, control nothing.  Two days ago I was writing a short blip in a 5-year journal. Hang on, I will go get it.  July 21.  The prompt reads: Do you have a view of the sky?  I wrote:  "Yes. Praying it stays blue and pollutant-free. But I wouldn't mind a rain cloud."  And then do you know what happened?  Yesterday, July 22 it RAINED.  Rain clouds came out of nowhere and gave us a baptism.  

There's a spot on the back patio where I like to do yoga, but it's hard to get out there early enough to beat the heat and morning sun.  But yesterday the cloud cover and misty air let me do it and it felt SO GOOD.  Restorative.  Isn't it interesting how after days and days of sun, we yearn for rain?  


Thursday, August 06, 2020

The Everyday of Summer

This summer has been a lot of things.  I asked Sean what he thought of it and he said, "It's been different. It's been marked by a daily and weekly rhythm when normally it is punctuated by events.  Now, the everyday is 'summer.'"  

I like that.  Often when we think back on the summers of our youth, we might remember trips we took--camping, Disneyland, big vacations to wherever.  And then if you peel back that layer there's an inner layer of  going to the pool, swim lessons, sleepovers, night games, family reunions, fireworks on the driveway. Peel back another layer and you have consuming popsicles in quick succession, filling the freezer full of treats, reading a whole book series, having lazy lemonade stands.  And then you finally get to it-- the "beating heart of lazy monotony," as Sean just said.  Waking every day to morning chores and structured time which bleeds out into afternoon calm, playing video games, watching a movie. General lolling about. Eating pizza for dinner and sitting outside because it's finally tolerable.  Staying up too late because the night is when it gets good outside, a new kind of day with new possibilities. And true summer sighs over you with that quiet, warm blanket breeze that the wind chimes just catch, lazy in and of themselves. And that's sort of what I love most about summer.  That steady rhythm that's been more pronounced this year because we had nowhere to go and not much to do.  The summer in-between the big things, in those gaps where it really settles.  Sleeping outside, looking at the stars, being content with the smallest thing.  Those gaps have come to the forefront and that's where I've found myself this summer, inside those gaps. Even if we don't do anything big or fun, the do-nothingness is its true essence which we've fully embraced.   I'm going to miss it. 

Friday, July 17, 2020

It's July Now

Here we are into the belly of the heat monster-beast, mid-July.  I wrote a poem about this guy last year. In case you wanted to read it again, let's post it here for you: 


You can try but you shan't defy
The blistering heat monster called mid-July
He sharpens his knives in continuous supply
And waits for you with plans to subdue
His kitchen swells until he's satisfied.
Bakes and sets and wins each time.
Nestled in the crockery tin
His stewy breath blown in your eye.
The fiery glint shows his new fry
He'll serve you soup but it's bone dry
Resigned and brined, no you can't deny
The new cook in town with a plan for pie
The new cook in charge, called mid-July

I have a million ideas I've jotted down for potential blog posts.  I don't know which to choose, which particular vibe I'd like to project, or which would turn into something or which would result in probably a lengthy stream of pointless nothingness.  Or--and what I often end up doing-- I wonder, should I serve the need I have within to record everything in a hodgepodge conglomeration and who cares if it's coherent or cohesive? At least it's all out and I don't have to think about it anymore.  A purging of the thoughts, if you will, that probably serves no one but me.   

I don't ever know. So, in the meantime, all I do is jot. Jot, jot, jot.  Jot this, scribble that, record this, note that.  Funny quotes caught in a moment, interesting quotes to come across, thoughts of my own, etc. Almost everything on a post-it note.  But also in journals, notebooks, whatever is nearby.  Today I listened to a podcast while driving in the car and kept a spiral notebook on my lap so i could jot down notes at red lights that never lasted long enough. But I did get pretty good at writing almost a whole sentence without looking.   What is it all for, though? What will it end up being?  Why do I do it?  What will come of this? I ask myself this all the time. What? Why? What? And why? 

A big part of my process, and by process I mean "life" is to try and make sense of whatever is going on around me.  Day in and day out, I devote myself to it. It's automatic. I can't stop.  I can't escape it. I never take a break.  Maybe it's more prevalent in weightier times such as these, where it greets me at every turn.  And the only thing I know how to do is take it and try to turn it into sense of some kind. So the way I do that is to jot. The first step in discovering meaning in something is to decide it's something "write down-able."  Worth recording.  Taking a second, finding some paper, and throwing it down, all the while recognizing that it probably isn't.  It's maddening.  Why do I do it? I don't know. But I do it still.  And if I don't turn it into something, then I feel like I'm merely taking notes on life, and that feels dumb because what test am I preparing for?   It just feels incomplete and purposeless which can bum me out. 

But let's have some examples. 

I don't know what this moment captured.  I wrote it on a post-it note weeks ago and i've been looking at it every day and with each passing day, it makes less and less sense.  I've forgotten details along the way, including the initial reason I thought it worth recording in the first place.  But I still look at the note and try to extrapolate whatever I can.  But I believe it to be folly.  Because:   

Try as I might, I cannot figure out the significance of this. I think Sean and I were talking about the mid-90's, reminiscing about something, maybe a movie. I don't even know. And then as old people do, we jumped from then until now, unable to account for what happened in-between.  

"Where did our life go?"

"Between 1994 and now?"


"Well, we've spent the majority of that in quarantine."

I think I just thought it was a funny quarantine quote because it felt very, very accurate about the new way time passes these days and our comprehension of it.  But then I had inserted a [scream] that I cannot account for at all.  *shrug*  Thus we see: they're not all diamonds. And maybe that's ok.  

And then I have this one, which needs no explanation at all, other than it's my favorite way to start a Julian day:  

This next one came from a notebook and taps into my frustrations as a writer and speaks very well to the entire theme of this post.  I think about writing all the time but thinking is not the same as doing.  So instead of doing, I just think about it and then write down thoughts about doing it, instead of actually doing it, writing the thing I really want to write about:  

The poetry line is a thought I had to make myself feel better about writing poetry.  To create this idea that maybe poets aren't untouchable literary gods, but just people. And then I say to myself, "well, I'm a person too." And then I think about the difference between poets and people.  And that maybe, just maybe I can count myself one of them. At least, one day. 

The second thought is a thought I will apparently have 40 years from now because, ?? Can't explain that one. But it was written (or will be written, I guess) out of miserable frustration and a moment of motivational despair.  It is very easy for me not to write.  I can do SO many things that aren't writing, throughout the course of my day.  I could list so many things right now you would be amazed at all the things I can do that are not writing.  And every day they fill up the day and every day I continue to JOT AND SCRIBBLE in the silly hopes and futile plans to one day actually write something into something. But it's sooo easy for me not to. 

To close, this exchange I have recorded in my phone. A few days ago I left a comment on someone's Instagram or something and I chuckled to myself at what I considered a witty contribution.  I asked Sean,

"Am I funnier in writing than in person? Be honest."


Then I said, "OR, am I not funny either way? *suddenly angry*-- 'be honest.'"

This is often the kind of set up I present to Sean.  He stood there and thought for a few seconds and then said that I may be funnier in writing, which we agreed was a compliment to my writing and an insult to my face.  


Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Three Good Things

Here we are, into that magical fairyland season called Sprummer. When the grass fools you into thinking it'll be this nice all summer long, when the daffodils and irises bow out, and roses make their stunning debut, unfurling their fantastic faces. When the mountains open their doors for a cool respite from the heat instead of a menacing dare during the wintertime. When bikes are left unlocked and everything in general lets its guard down. When the days begin to stretch their restricted bodies, and the sun takes center stage for what is sure to be an impressive and in-your-face show.  

These days are glorious and I capture them by heightening every thing that happens within their brief and hallowed duration. For now, I have three things.  They stand out to me and as beacons representing a short period of time that may otherwise go unnoticed, unremembered, let these three things serve, years down the road from now, to highlight a moment and make a memory for myself.  

Like many people, we've decided we're going to make some improvements on the yard and like it.  This is a bit difficult for me but even I have come around because I really like the changes, I like the feeling of having some control in these wildly capricious times, and frankly, it gives us something to do.  I also see the benefits of physical work for the boy.  He's started mowing the lawn, much to my delight. All of my memories come flooding back to me of learning to mow. My dad doing the edges first. Him showing me where to line up the wheels so they overlap with the line I already made. Me being confused about which wheels to overlap (somehow) so sometimes I'd almost completely mow the same line except for a few inches of yet-to-be-cut grass.  Losing the line entirely and wandering into no man's un-mown land.  Forgetting to let go when I wanted to stop. It's all so entertaining to me to watch him and turns out, he's awesome at it.  Little champ.  

1. Projects. In earlier spring, Sean planted some lilacs in the corner of the house. Lilacs are the best and I have fond memories of discovering about a million more species of them whilst living in New York. They created a fragrant fantasy land, albeit so very fleeting, which is also something I love about them and which adds to their magic.  If magic just stayed, would it be magical?   We then took some ancient paver stones I took from my parents' house when they renovated their kitchen last year and took out the old patio wall from 1972.  We turned them into a pathway.  And then we took a look at our cement square, a pathetic excuse for a patio, and decided to get some more pavers and extend that to something a bit more substantial.

The square we were to fill was about 10x10 feet and first we had to dig a big pit.  Dig, dig, dig.  At first, Julian loved it. He looked forward to it every day, when he and Sean would go out in the evening and just dig.  He's a little weird about manual labor.  He can really get into it sometimes.  And then his interest waned because the dirt here is terrible: dry and jam packed with rocks, and it didn't take long before the labor became quite... laborious.  I joined in and we dug a little every day, every day feeling like we hardly made progress.  Sean and I would take turns using the shovel and the pick-ax and, as is natural, it didn't take me long to get my complain on.  And you know, I realized something.  I really enjoy complaining.  And if done right, it can be fun and funny for those around you.  I'm embracing it. 
 I think it is really fun, and frankly, it's the kind of worker I am, especially when the work is ridiculous, as this was. After comments of "prison labor" and singing "Every town..." from Robin Hood, other jokes would spring forth out of the dead, dry, impenetrable dirt, like pick ax jokes.  "I'm gonna pick your ax!"  And wondering how to phrase variations of it-- "pick-axed?"  It was a new experience and entertaining, and will mark my remembrance of this particular time. 

2.  Every day of every new year I grow to love birds more and more.  Ever since that college Appreciation of Nature class where the required textbook was a Bird Field Guide book and we had to go out and identify a million birds as an assignment.  Then I sat at the window in my Bklyn apartment for hours and became intimately aware of different birds in my area which I loved.  And then I moved here where I lived in a bird sanctuary for a year, particularly owls on the first night of my stay in the country, as well as the robins who nested in a nearby tree and let me see the tufts of baby heads whereupon I died of happiness.   When I was young and out weeding, I'd often hear a bird I decided to adopt and at times could mimic pretty well. Hey! I just found out it's the Black-capped Chickadee. Yay.  In my heart, it's still my bird, and when I hear it sing I call back. 

There are two other birds I've worked on mimicking-- the Mourning Dove and the Eurasian Collared Dove.  They are similar to each other.  If I were to describe their songs and tones using numbers and spaces, the Mourning Dove would look like this:  1 2 1...1...1.   The other one is 1 1...1.  1 1.... 1.   I used to think that Mourning Dove could be a loon but then I figured out I was wrong. And then I looked up what a loon sounds like and played a video on Youtube of a loon in Minnesota (that I happen to know is the official state bird. Thanks, 5th grade state report that I inexplicably chose to do on Minnesota) that was so startlingly beautiful, Sean and I were both significantly shook up. Here's a link.   And to answer your question, yes, I would go to Minnesota just to hear this. And cry.

Whenever I respond to these birds, which I try my very best to do, I always imagine them being super confused and wondering what's wrong with this poor friend.  They keep calling and respond back but they're a little like, ??? "That bird is not ok."  And it makes me laugh.  And then for fun, I imagine the bird I'm responding to actually being another human who also thinks they're talking to birds and we're both just making cupped-hand bird noises to each other, feeling really cool and super connected to nature.  

3. Julian is really smart and knows a lot of things.  So when he doesn't know things and doesn't know it, like mispronounces words or just has false ideas or displays sweet innocence, I pause a moment to relish that a bit before I decide what to do next.   

One example has to do with the digging of the pit.  Sean told me when they were digging, they'd take turns shoveling dirt into the wheelbarrow which would then be driven to the fence and dumped to create what would eventually be a raised flower bed along the whole fence. Every time the wheelbarrow was full, Julian would say "I think it's time to take a dump,"  or "do you need to take a dump?"  And it was just his way of phrasing that, never having heard it before to mean anything else, and it was so hilarious and pure, Sean and I decided to just let it be and adopted it ourselves.  "I think I need to take a dump.  Whoops-pause! Let's take a dump."   One day he may learn for himself what this means and he may not even connect it to this moment but right now, it is golden for me. 

Another example is when he was telling me about some book he was reading.  He gets these weird books from the little free library and it's either like, weird inappropriate teen books or child-rearing books.  "teaching your child to be financially responsible"  No Cry Sleep Solution.  He really wants them. He's so weird.  But I think the one he had been reading was I Know What You Did Last Summer. He was telling me about it and said, "so these kids had been smoking a pot..."   And he said that a few times and it was so adorable how he was probably trying to appear in-the-know, but clearly wasn't, quite.  I think he eventually outright asked me what that was and I told him but when he first said it I just played a long-- "Ooo.. smoking a pot.  Bad kids."  

And these are the three things that have stood out to me lately.  Truth be told, I bet there are plenty more and if I really want to do right by way of remembrance and my life, I'd write them all down and add them to this collection. But for now, I will let these three stand by themselves and I will read about them later and I will smile every time.  

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Really Good Julian Story

This one is actually a two-for-one, so get excited.  First, it may have been mentioned that Julian has certain tendencies. We love him dearly but as an example of the following funny thing, when he was in first grade, I had to ban "bad guy" talk at breakfast.  It was excessive.

Lately we've had to crack down on him for saying basically every thought that enters his head, to us. It's all conversational. He's not being unkind or intentionally offensive.  Really I think what it is is he needs to learn how to have a filter.  Like, not EVERY thought needs to be said. We all have thoughts, I mean, c'mon.  But do we say every thought? No.  He is still learning this. This could be because he is so comfortable and open with us which is really a positive thing, and also that he has a dearth of kids, perhaps particularly age-appropriate boys in his life to share these interests.  

I have also told him I refuse to be a garbage receptacle in that I won't just listen to whatever thought happens to enter his brain. After a certain length being subjected to a certain style of talk, consisting of an over-abundance of certain subjects, it can bum me out or annoy me to high heaven.  Same goes for Sean.  So, like I said, we're cracking down and have to practice constant vigilance. This may not sound like a big deal to you and it's not really, but he talks about these things on a constant basis.  Bombs, weapons, death, dying, weird, disturbing, gross, etc. 

Sean just came in the room and I told him that this morning Julian started on something and it went like this:
JULIAN:  The way I'd like to die is-- 
JULIAN: [laughter]  Yeah, ok. I guess I'm young and don't need to be thinking about things like that... 
JEN: very good.

And then we laughed and Sean said he had one similar the other day:
JULIAN: I think I'd like to make some grenades--
JULIAN: .. I was going to say, 'with molasses in them!' 

Ha ha ha. 

Ok, that's funny story number one.

Here's the second and best one:

Julian has a certain quality where he is so smart, perhaps is told that he is smart, and therefore thinks he is sooooo smart.  And the way he talks about things can convince you he really knows what he's talking about and that you should believe him.  Sean confesses he shares this same quality.  Therefore, another thing I like to do is shut down Julian and remind him to humble the heck up and that he doesn't know what he's talking about. 

He's so insistent and passionate about these things. One small example is he's been reading Old Yeller and then he found my Zombie Survival Guide book and has been reading that, which i have now banned (banned books in our house) because it's chock-full of--you guessed it-- weapons! It's actually totally entertaining but not what i want for him at this moment in time. 

The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living ...

Anyway, the other day he said something so ridiculous and i had to jot it down:
JULIAN: But there are real accounts of being a zombie. 
JEN: No. 
JULIAN: Yes there are!
JEN: No. It is not real.
JULIAN: Yes, it's like with hydrophobia, which is technically being a zombie. 

ha ha ha. a) "hydrophobia"  b) "technically" and c) FALSE. 

I just realized that zombie book was written by the World War Z guy, which I read, and was totes different from the movie. I liked it, but now I'm thinking that Max Brooks may actually agree with Julian.

Ok, I guess this turned out to be sort of a three-for-one.  HERE is the final and best story:

We were in the car, driving to the library, back when that was a thing we did.  He was going on about something he was soooo sure he was an expert on and I was saying words in response, probably trying to shut him down. Dialogue went like this:

JULIAN:  I guess I am kind of a know-it-all.

Jen thinking, ah-ha, hallelujah--

JULIAN:-- but that's because I DO know it ALL! 

JEN: *exasperated eye roll.*

JULIAN, all smarter-than-thou:   Other kids say things like, "funner" and I'm like, go back to first grade and work on your pronunctuation. (read that to yourself a couple times. Like a combo of pronunciation and punctuation)

JEN: Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha

JULIAN: What? Why? What is it??

JEN: ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha

JULIAN: What!! What IS IT?? What's the right word??

JEN: ha ha ha ha noooooo! I'm NEVER TELLING! You're soooo smart! ha ha ha ha ha.

JULIAN: What is the right word???

I refused to tell him.  Julian also loves swears but is not allowed to use them. So he's been experimenting with replacement swears, where you alter it slightly to make it ok. So the next thing he said was:

JULIAN:  Tell me! TELL ME. Tell me the gob-dan word!!

Which sent me over the edge on our way into the building.  


Ohhh it's my favorite story. Later on we told Sean this story and I made him promise not to tell him either, which he abode by.  Several weeks later we did tell Julian the correct word but I'll be danned if "pronunctutation" is not my new all-time favorite word.  

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Joy Bringer

What if your name was Joy Bringer? Joy S. Bringer.

I just discovered there's a song called Joybringer by some band named Manfred Mann's Earth Band, which is a pretty cool band name. Also I just learned it's Earth Day today, so that's serendipitous.  The song is from the 70's and it's not the world's greatest, though there is some pretty excellent digital/laser space sounds.   But here are some simple lyrics:

I bring joy and I can take you through
All those days when people seem to get to you
I bring joy and I come here to you
I bring life and I can take you where
You can see and feel and breathe and touch the air
I bring life and I can take you there
Feelings inside that we keep
Out of sight and out of reach
Brings us to the things we seek
Take your time, remember when you do
There are days when people feel the same as you
I bring time and I can take you through

Today I am focusing on things that are bringing me joy these days.  Yesterday Julian and I went on an epic scooter ride to my parents' house because I ran out of apricot jam.  Listen, we are self-isolating pretty hard and don't see an-y-one, much less my aged parents.  But like I said, i ran out of my mom's apricot jam and desperate times call for desperate measures of putting yourself and your loved ones at risk.  Ok, I am JK-- we did stay outside and I kept inching away if I felt too close-- but my point here is that I've realized that apricot jam brings me a lot of joy these days.

Yesterday I was sitting in the hammock chair reading my new book, one that everyone but me has read, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.  I remember a book club reading this one a million years ago when we had first moved to Bklyn and at the time I was like, book clubs- lame (I was young) and I didn't read it. And I'm glad I didn't because it wouldn't have been right to have read it then, being newly transplanted in Brooklyn, not yet knowing the place.

The time is right, now. And as I sat swinging lazily in the morning sun that is like an intravenous hookup to the only thing that can keep me alive-- as often happens, I started thinking about bread, particularly rye bread.  On the handful of occasions we've been out to the grocery stores, we always look for a good loaf but there are none, of course.  And also of course, we aren't going to be making any any time soon, though we did buy some yeast, which is sitting in the cupboard--what I consider a huge step.  So I got online and actually ordered two loaves of marble rye bread on Etsy-YES. Etsyyyyy.  I can't tell you how happy that made me in that moment.  And then I read a bit more and then sent this text to a friend:

We've decided to tame our wild cat, who loves to go out into the night if he can, getting in all sorts of trouble, and are hoping to stamp out his wild outside cat-ness (ha) and turn him into an inside cat.  He's come back with so many mysterious injuries and as mentioned, hunted and murdered much wildlife.  He also cannot resist rolling around in dirt piles and I'm sick of it.  So we tied a rope to a stake in the back yard, make him wear a harness, and only let him out when we can hook him up. Julian tries to take him on walks which is comical.  


But he's becoming much more docile and I have to be sure to give him lots of attention.  This is him right now. And this cat is me right now, and the cats in general, are taking me through the days.
wherever you can, Kat. Get it

And here was me in the hammock swing yesterday:


I go out back on every nice morning, go walking or biking or scootering in the day, and then sit on the stoop out front every evening.  I've also been known to open the front blinds and park myself on the rug inside, late afternoon sun full in eyes, and just bask. That life-giving sun is taking me through. 

Other things that bring me joy:

- our blender.  We got a blendtec blender for Christmas, after years of foolishly thinking our junky one was sufficient (also: there's a difference between "junky" and "junkie," I have just learned, ha ha).  I make smoothies every day and every time I use the blender I stand there looking at it and think how amazing it is, and with its easy-clean feature.  It brings me joy.

- our vaccuum.  In my moments of stress-cleaning, this one is a big player. We recently acquired a cordless Dyson vacuum and this thing is a literal life-changer.  I wouldn't include it here if it didn't bring actual joy to my life.  It is a pleasure to use and the nightmare of a corded vacuum is and will hopefully ever be a distant and forgotten memory.  

- food.  Food brings me joy.  I plan my days around food. We even meal-plan, something I abhorred up until now.  This is also necessary so that we don't go to the store too often, something we are accustomed to doing.  But food has taken a prominent place in the joy centers of my brain.  I made chocolate lava cakes last night. I had to make some adjustments because our recipe has not enough chocolate and too much sugar and zero salt, so it's a hard balance and guessing game, but I got it.  I got it.  It worked.  Too bad I didn't measure anything out exactly.  But they were so good. I'm still thinking about them, especially that 1/3 stick of butter I consumed.

Once again, it's the simple things, and may you have some of your own that bring you a moment's joy throughout the days.