Friday, December 29, 2023

But no one will see it

I set up the nativity in the back yard again this year. In the past it has been out front near the fire hydrant that is on our property, and possibly near the turnaround – I don’t exactly recall. (This year I decorated the turnaround with the large, outdoor ornaments instead of putting them on the trees out by the street – and fire hydrant – because one of my boys parks there.)

Back to the nativity: I was informed, “But no one can see it out there.”

I thought for a moment, and pondered…

…No one can see it when they are up at 6 a.m. making the morning pot of coffee?

…No one can see it when they’re putting away groceries or food prepping?

…No one can see it when they are standing at the sink doing all the dishes?

…No one can see it when they’re doling out the dogs’ medicine or letting them out the back door and watching for them to come straight back in after they’ve pottied?

I replied, “I can see it when I am standing at the kitchen window.”

I guess I am “no one”?

But I am not.

I am someone.

I am the someone who makes the coffee, buys the food, puts it away, prepares it, serves it, and cleans it up for the people in the house as well as the pets.

“I spend a lot of time in the kitchen, at the sink,” I continued and thus concluded the conversation.

Similarly, it doesn’t matter to me if the only person who appreciates the turnaround décor is my youngest son. He is also someone.

Thursday, November 23, 2023

Thanksgiving for one

Thanksgiving hasn't been my favorite holiday since my mother passed away at this time of year 15 years ago. Although I tried to carry on or create new traditions, it didn't really work. It involved traveling to distant relatives' houses or going out to eat with three little kids who only cared about chicken nuggets and rolls. It was such a dark and hard time for me back then and it was all a blur. That is why I didn't remember that today -- Thanksgiving Day -- is the actual anniversary of her passing until someone sent me a message about it. (The year it happened, it was the Sunday before.) I just usually associate Thanksgiving with my mother's passing. So whenever it's that week, it's the anniversary.

The best part of Thanksgiving was always getting together with family, not so much the gluttony part of it. This year, although I was white-knuckling it to get to my eating window, I couldn't finish the plate. I'll save it for later. I'm not really feeling 100% and have been taking cold meds.

Why am I alone? It is because all of my boys are with their girlfriends' families. This is fine with me. My husband is holed up in the bedroom, convalescing from a routine, elective surgery that he scheduled two days prior to Thanksgiving. Initially, he told me he wouldn't be hungry for three to five days so we had no specific meal plans. I had all the vegetables on hand because I eat them regularly anyway; just last night I ran out to get a small rotisserie chicken, cranberry sauce, gravy, and an apple pie. My husband ate the chicken last night, so when I bring him a plate, it won't include chicken. (I'm not eating meat these days; I had a pumpkin protein smoothie.)

I got an invite to join my work family today and much as I would like to, I am going to remain at home and have a quiet day, except for a scheduled trip to do the evening dog-sitting shift at our neighbor's house for my youngest. Aside from getting over a cold, I have a knee injury -- in addition to the need to take care of my husband (because what kind of person would leave their spouse alone on a holiday?). I'm fine with all of this, though --  I had a wonderful friendsgiving on Saturday after the annual Pass the Biscuits roller derby scrimmage (before I hurt my knee playing hockey that night) where I tried tofurkey for the first time.

Perhaps it's time to finish reading the condolence cards that have been sitting in this basket for nearly 15 years, The year my mother passed was such a dark and hard time for me as a single mom with three kids ages 8 and under, I couldn't bring myself to do it. Or perhaps I will just take a nap on the couch with the dogs.

Sunday, February 26, 2023

Thanks, Mom, for teaching me to be "crunchy"

I wrote on social media that I would be honoring my late mother on her birthday by eating tofu and sprouts (that I had cooked and grown myself, though I didn’t share that detail), which I was subjected to as a kid when all I really wanted in my lunchbox was a Fluffernutter.
For those of you who don't know, a Fluffernutter is Marshmallow Fluff and peanut butter (probably creamy Jif) on Wonder Bread.

I knew about these because kids in school ate them, and also because the recipe was on the jar of Fluff, alongside the recipe for "Never-Fail Fudge," which we made as gifts for the holidays (because you could source all the ingredients with food stamps, therefore it didn't cost anything other than the sacrifice of not eating the food we could have bought).

But we ate brown bread and natural peanut butter. We never had Fluff except at Christmas time when we were making our wreath-shaped fudge gifts, and there wasn't enough left over to make a Fluffernutter. (At most, we could enjoy the scrapings of the jar.)

I just wanted to be like other kids, to fit in. What kid doesn't?

(And when do we grow out of the desire to fit in, if ever?)

But this isn't really about fitting in (or not) or the fudge recipe (which I still use) or how crappy for us processed foods and animal products can be (and my lingering sugar addiction).

It's about reframing some experiences from my childhood that were super awkward and sometimes painful then, but are extremely valuable and useful today. Thank you, Mom.

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Disposing of the sharps

I finally got rid of the sharps that had been sitting in my garage for how long? Six years?

I had them because I used to have a special-needs cat. She had diabetes and hyperthyroidism and weighed less than seven pounds. She was once feral (and had always been small), but when we moved into the house where we currently live, she chose not to go outside much.

Getting rid of the sharps was one of those things on my to-do list that I wrote over and over again, intermittently.

I gave up trying to figure out what to do with them during the pandemic. The vet I used retired. The police station said no. I heard you could drop them off at the Board of Health, but I never remembered to put them in my car when I was in that neighborhood, which was every six months or so (because the dentist's office is right around the corner). But who really wants to go into a board of health during a pandemic? I'm sure they had bigger things to worry about.

The needles were in their boxes in the garage, out of sight, mostly out of mind.

But I had started Marie Kondo-ing. I thought we were on the fast-track to downsizing, and though our timeline is now uncertain, it still doesn't hurt to purge.

So today was the day. My youngest son had a dentist appointment -- probably the last I'll ever attend since he'll be 18 next time he's due for a cleaning). After I did all the confirming and signing, I left the dentist's office and drove around the corner and down a couple of streets to the Board of Health.

I traipsed in with my dusty supermarket bags containing the two boxes of sharps (and a mask, just in case) and the woman pointed out where to put them and informed me that it was going to be $5. 

"Five dollars!" I exclaimed and then proceeded to (over)share about how the needles had been sitting in my garage for so long, how the vet retired, and how hard it was to inject my cat twice a day, but how much I loved her, and how awful it was the time I dropped the bottle of insulin and it shattered...

...culminated with how I had to run back out to the car because I "didn't have any money" (I had only brought my cards in.)

I think she was on the verge of letting me off the hook for the money, after agreeing with me about how unfortunate it was to have to pay full price for insulin, but I skipped out and back in with a $5.00 bill.

The whole exchange took less than 10 minutes, didn't affect my budget the way I had imagined, and the relief I felt with being able to cross that off my list and not avoid looking at the boxes in the garage every time I got in and out of my car is invaluable.



Monday, January 24, 2022

Frayed and coming apart at the seams

My nails represent January.

December was a blur because I had to squeeze in  trip to Florida for my son's graduation the week before Christmas. (I love Florida!) That meant a lot of orchestrating with other people and dogs. Fortunately my middle son and his GF stayed at the house and took care of things and made sure my youngest was on track with hockey and school.

Coming home just three days before Christmas means a lot of scrambling to get the house festive and the gifts sorted (and bought) and wrapped. My oldest came home and I was also managing a big surprise for my husband...his daughter was flying in from Spain for the holidays! (Fortunately, he hadn't noticed that I had set up the small bedroom as a guest room. (I had been using it as an office until my computer refused to work without Ethernet. Hello 1996.)

Hockey doesn't end for the holidays. The only days off were Christmas and New Year's Day.

I barely decorated so cleanup was...non existent really. I have all the bins and decor in that small bedroom, waiting to go up to the attic because the door to the attic is in that bedroom. The small bedroom is cold and the attic is even colder. (I was the last person to sleep in there during the few days I thought my husband might have COVID.)

My tree is still up. There are maybe four ornaments on it. Each of the boys looked through their box of special ornaments but didn't feel like putting them on the tree. No one watched The Polar Express because my middle had brought it the disc to his apartment and left it there.

I haven't sent out too many New Year's cards yet. I should have just got Valentines. (I did send out most of the graduation announcements I planned to, though.) Every year I say I am going to stop doing this. Maybe next year...and instead I will make a donation to an organization that plants trees. (Except, my older relatives...)

I can't get that nail polish off because I have too many hangnails and split skin, both from work stress (my contract didn't get renewed at my primary gig until mid-January and there was a massive leadership change and reorg where I contract and that is all I will say, other than it is a challenge for me not to roll my eyes on many Webexes and I often have to shut my camera off) and using so much sanitizer and disinfectant when my husband was sick.

Then my youngest had COVID, and at that point I just gave up worrying about sanitizing and disinfecting (as much as I had before, mainly to prevent my husband's possible COVID from further disrupting my son's hockey season). The first time he came downstairs wearing a mask (to protect me, he said), I told him, "Please don't worry. If I'm gonna get sick, the wheels are already in motion." (We spend a lot of time together in the car.) "Give me a hug."

The frayed cuff on my shirt? That is actually a shirt I bought as a souvenir in Clearwater, FL (just a month ago) at a 24-hour Walgreens. I liked the saying, Stay Salty, on the front. But it's coming apart at the seams, in addition to fraying. 

What an apt metaphor (I think that is the right word, and I'm a writer, and I just Googled it, and I still don't know for sure) for what my life could be like: "frayed and coming apart at the seams," if I didn't work out regularly.

I haven't posted during the pandemic. It has been a wretched time. This will possibly be the 3rd roller derby season lost (2020, 2021, 2022). In 2020, I began "rage-skating" on our local rail trail. My skating buddy and I did the whole trail a couple of times -- it's the equivalent of skating a marathon. In August of that year, I joined a boxing gym. Do not underestimate the importance of hitting and kicking things. Skating and boxing have kept me on a mostly even keel. But I'm not gonna lie, I destroyed my teeth during the pandemic by grinding and clenching and am now wearing Invisalign. (I know this because my roller derby mouthguard no longer fit after our forced nearly 18-month hiatus, during which time our rink was sold and converted to a U-Haul storage facility😭). I'm also taking an anti-anxiety med, which I had declined the first time my doctor suggested it, but the discovery that I needed braces, even after rage-skating and boxing workouts, prompted me to reconsider. My stress level as indicated by my fitness tracker was too high. (Stress = cortisol = belly fat = other health problems.)

Why do I have time to write today? I got up at 3:50 a.m. to help my son get out the door for before-school hockey practice. His ride came at 4:30. It's still dark out and I have taken care of the dogs (one has a medical issue that necessitates bloodletting) and cleaned up the kitchen. Now I am going to get shit done so I don't feel bad about taking off midday to pick up the cats I am adopting. They came from Arkansas and they're finishing their mandated quarantine at a human society far, far away.

(Life is better with pets. I love my dogs and I have missed having a cat since our dryer kitty, "Ditty," passed away five years ago.)

So byeeeeeee for now!

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Mothering never ends

"You don’t want it to end because the day it does, you’re underground,” is more wisdom from my mechanic (and former neighbor).

I was explaining why I was making the executive decision to go ahead and have some work done on my son's car (including a new starter) now rather than “roll the dice” and wait a year or two. 

My son, aged 20, just embarked on his trip back to college, 1200 miles away, with his youngest brother.

My older two made the trip together last year and shared the driving. This year, my youngest will make the trip to keep his brother company.

Because of the travel restrictions and COVID testing required both for my oldest to go to school and for anyone traveling back to our home state, things are complicated. My middle son can’t afford the time away or a possible two-week quarantine upon his return. He could get a COVID test, but by time it takes schedule it and then get the results, could be almost as long as the quarantine.

My mechanic said that the starter might last a year, but then again, “you wouldn’t want it to give out when they’re halfway to Florida.”

And that was when all the mothering kicked in and I said, “I know he’s 20, but I’m still his mom and I can’t help but worry with the pandemic at all…”

I’m not only worried about my son making the drive (his original plan was to drive straight through, but now he’s got a stop planned), but I’m also worried about him living off campus in an apartment with two grad students. (Will he get his housing grant back when he returns to campus next year, which is a requirement of his school, which was only relaxed this year because of the pandemic?). I worry that COVID-19 will continue to run rampant in Florida. (What if he gets sick?) I worry that his school will shut down again, which also means he’ll be out of a job since he works on campus. (I already worry enough about financial matters with two kids in college.)

Then I also worry about my youngest, a rising sophomore, hanging around with much older people for a week. (I’m not so worried about him flying back since I was able to secure a direct flight.) Then he’ll have to either quarantine or get a COVID test, which doesn’t seem to be that easy or affordable. If I am not careful, my worrying snowballs until I feel like I am buried under an avalanche of it. I have never worried so much in my life or had so much anxiety to the point of breathing difficulties. My fitness tracker notifies me frequently that I am stressed and asks, “Breathe with me?”

…I happen to know that my mechanic’s mom is still very much involved with his day-to-day life: she is responsible for the décor in the front office of his shop. She has a candy dish and seasonal decorations and arranges the magazines artfully in the waiting area. She does his bookkeeping.

I pointed this out to him. “I guess you’re right, given how involved your mom is with everything here…”

He said, “Yep, that’s how I know!”

Mothering apparently doesn’t end just because your kids have grown up.

I imagine I will be mothering my kids in some way until the day I die, and maybe even beyond. Much of my mother’s wisdom and guidance still guides me, though she passed away more than a decade ago.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Glee club

Someone in my writer’s group suggested we listen to “Oh Happy Day” every day to keep things in perspective; to keep a positive attitude.

Times are hard between the pandemic and the current political climate, but they could be worse. Things could always be worse.

I listened to the song that day and then remembered a three-CD gospel choir set I had, which I unearthed and put in the car. Not only did I listen to “Oh Happy Day” (uplifting), but also to “Nobody Knows, Nobody Cares” (same idea as “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen” – and they don’t really need to), “His Eye is on the Sparrow” (I’m not alone), and “Jesus, Lover of My Soul” (obscure words but super-catchy song). These are the gospel versions of these songs, not the hymnal versions (if these songs even exist in the hymnals of any church I ever went to, and I am not sure that they do). It reminded me how much I LIKE gospel music, or “spirituals,” which have uplifting musical messages.

Then I remembered Glee Club.

When I was in second grade at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School in Providence, Rhode Island, one day I was plucked out of class and brought to the auditorium for Glee Club. I don’t remember signing up for this or why anyone thought I should sing. I guess it was a privilege? I was studious and an advanced reader so maybe I didn’t need to spend as much time in class? I don’t know. (I do remember taking extra workbooks home for my brother and me and writing potty words to fill in blanks, like nonsense mad-libs. We cracked ourselves up and no doubt drove our mother nuts, but that is a story for another day.)

We had moved to a first-floor apartment in a triple-decker in Providence after living in a 3,000-plus square foot single-family home in Newport, off Bellevue Avenue when my parents divorced (because my mom thought she needed to go back to college to finish her degree at University of Rhode Island and probably other reasons that I can only surmise because I was only just turning seven when we moved).

It was devastating, to say the least. We were plunged into poverty. I used to get free hot lunch back in the day when everyone knew you got free hot lunch because they’d call you to the office to get your free lunch token.

As I recall, Glee Club was a bunch of kids singing happy songs at the tops of their lungs – like loud and joyfully. It was not at all like the chorus that my kids experienced in elementary (and middle school, for the one who didn’t pick up an instrument to escape chorus) where many of the kids mumble or even mouth the words, and God forbid should they emote at all in any way, though there were the occasional outliers and the elementary school my kids attended had a pretty good music program.

It was Glee Club where I learned about spirituals. We sang “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” and “Down by the Riverside” and something about Mary and Martha that I can’t remember.

I realize today that these are religious songs. I don’t think there’s any way these songs would fly in a public elementary school nowadays. (And because I grew up Unitarian, I likely would not have heard them.)

My kids said the Pledge of Allegiance and at least one of them stepped out into the hallway after morning message to sing patriotic songs, which included, “God Bless America” and yes, this was within the past 10 years. But blatantly religious songs like the ones we sang in Glee Club would not be politically correct today. I imagine perhaps they were touted as American folksongs, which they are. And if it weren’t for “Down by the Riverside,” I would not have a ready example to teach my sons about the correct use of “lay” vs. “lie.”

(“Basically, boys, it’s lie, lie, lie. Never say ‘lay’ unless you’re going to lay down your sword and shield. You can lie down to take a nap, and you lay your head on the pillow.”)

It has been during the pandemic and the current political climate that I have really been missing church.

There are many reasons we’re not currently going: our pastor retired and it’s just not the same, hockey and roller derby are on Sundays, and then there’s the pandemic itself. No one is congregating.

I’m thinking when it’s time to go back, I am going to find a church with a “glee club.”

But no one will see it

I set up the nativity in the back yard again this year. In the past it has been out front near the fire hydrant that is on our property, and...