Tuesday, 12 October 2021

Crunchy leaves and spiderwebs in the eaves

Reading: Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
Listening to: "Just Like Fire" by P!nk
Outside: Low gray sky, a first breath of sweet wind

Holding my newborn daughter, I got it. I got the love the guts you, the sense of responsibility that narrows the world to a pair of needy eyes.       
- Michelle McNamara, I'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer

If you're reading this, life has continued. 

We're here again, sidestepping leaves as they dance across our path. Ordering Christmas presents in an unheard-of frenzy, desperate for those bicycles and Paw Patrol toys currently locked in the holds of ships docked and still. We are hoping Santa gets those precious presents to us in time. Our soft miracles await them.

We're admiring the glistening ghosts of sun-caught spiderwebs in the porch corners. We're taking our children to school. We're masking up to walk into Aldi, bleaching handles and counter tops. We're hanging Halloween decorations, we're mixing up bowls of individually-wrapped treats. Stocking the sanitizing gel. 

We're dusting off the costumes, blowing off the cobwebs layered over our seasonal thrill, that secret sweetness of pre-midnight moonlight, the giddy tap of little soles on pavement. Our campfire kindling piled on to crackle and flare. Dormant emotion stirring again. We're getting ready.

I close my front door, my Twig Owl Wreath watching as I turn the key in the lock. Tiny cute scarecrows grin and follow my progress down the front path. I'm almost twenty pounds lighter, and much less-haired, than I was this time last year. I have given my daughter - lithe and no longer guileless in her approach to age eight - to her teachers for the day, so they can measure her knowledge and encourage her love of learning. I have given my baby - no longer the needled-and-bruised newborn newly-released from emergency surgery, but rather the attentive and confident one-year-old eager for a new changing table escape route - to his grandparents for the day, so they can dote and inspire.

I am back at work, after one year of maternity leave. The hardest year of my life. New Mom Blues. Old Mom Blues. Pandemic Blues. All the Blues.  I check the laces on my Nikes and lean against the beige brick side of my house, stretching my calves. I count to twenty - one of thousands of times I've counted to that number - then switch feet, count again. I'm ready. 

I enter the path next to the road, no pontail, no baby weight. I walk for a little and then step it up, pacing the runner I was since I was 16 and joined the MV High School track team. I'm toning my body, and my mind, which still crawls with the last weakened tendrils of post-natal depression, or regular depression, or just plain sleeplessness. Today I am not the person I was yesterday, or the person I was for the past long year. I have slept. The serotonin is good. It fizzes and makes colours bright again, makes the ground velvet, makes me weightless. I am who I used to be. Who I'm supposed to be. 

I wave at the neighbors across the road, across driveways, faces become familiar through my dark year - people who watched my journey through pregnancy, through baby-in-the-womb to baby-in-a-pram. These who have watched me change. Their dogs smiling at me at the end of leashes or behind fences: Tilly, Betsy, Charlie, Bailey, Alfie. I am thankful for their owners' "Good Mornings," for their homes so close to the red-capped sycamore trees, for their quiet, private cul-de-sacs. I move faster today than I ever have. 

Back at home, I let myself back in the house, an echoing shell without my children. I will occupy myself with Lena's 8th birthday preparations; I will have a delicious lunch. I will stop whatever I'm doing and notice the golden autumn sunlight when it blankets the playhouse in the back yard. I will not obsessively vacuum; I will not clean. Today is enough. Today is coffee and candle light. Today is photograph-touching and baby-home-video watching. I will note the progress of my life - my babies' first squawking baths in the dishwashing tub, Lena's memorization of the entire P.P.A.P. song, Indiana's choosing of the same bedtime book every night; I will shed my broken skin. I will rejoice in the recharge. 

In the mirror, I'm bluer-eyed than before. 

May your day be everything you need it to be. If you are struggling, for any reason, please tell someone. 

There's a whole world out there waiting for you, and it is far, far too beautiful to waste.

Grandad and Lena at Mam Tor,
August 28, 2021

Happy Tuesday, everyone.

Wishing everyone a safe and Blessed Samhain.

Saturday, 8 May 2021

The times, they are a-changin'

Reading: I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream by Harlan Ellison 
Listening to: "Rise Up" by Andra Day
Outside: rain 

Just as we begin to notice the smell of bleach is making us salivate like Pavlovian dogs, and as we notice the sun stays up higher in the sky each evening, lighting our way longer as we instinctively side-step strangers and loved ones alike, the light comes closer to us at the end of this long, unbelievable, horrible tunnel. 

A week from tomorrow, the UK looks forward to a huge step forward on the roadmap out of this hell. May 17th will be an important day for millions. We will be able to join another household indoors. We will be able to dine inside restaurants, walking past those soggy picnic tables we, only recently and briefly, huddled at, swaddled in coats and scarves, with our pints and our wine glasses. Inhaling our first hesitant nuances of Normalcy. Local Test & Trace teams will be busier than ever, keeping track of all of us as we travel further, or remain close, as we emerge out of our houses to get those haircuts we have so desperately needed and only a few weeks ago were able to get again; as the ink in the tattoo artist's needle warms up again. 

Our masks are now a part of our wardrobe; we hold our breath now, in suspension, to see when we can take them off. And we are part of the pandemic, holding our arms out for the vaccine, for the first and the second. We take selfies in our cars or outdoors or in the pharmacy or community-centres-turned-vaccination-stations, our t-shirt proclaiming it, our little paper card printed for the world to see, we are changing.

My household changes, too. Lena gets her very first visit from the tooth fairy, and the very next day, her little brother Indiana turns six months old. 

She introduces him to solid food gently and confidently, as if in a previous life she has done this before. Or as if her ancestors, my mom, or her great granny, or a ghost from even further back, is there, guiding her hand. Maybe Tabitha (long "i") Ross Milner is there, maybe she is the starched-and-corseted twenty-year-old she used to be, experienced after one baby and with ten still to go - maybe she gave Lena silent pointers, because spoon-feeding a baby was the same in 1899 as it is in 2021. 

Today I huffed and puffed my way through the beginning of my fifth month jogging, and, for the first time in a long time, indoors. Rain keeps me inside. My poor treadmill was dead, and Dave made it live again. My poor heart was dead, after being inside these four walls for so long. Today I stepped on the treadmill for the first time since October 2019, back before Everything Turned Upside Down. Today, toggling the incline switch as much from muscle memory as from my need for an uphill challenge, I looked around my dining room. My living room. The dining table from Grandad George that didn't used to be there, the table-and-temporary-school-desk-for-Lena. The baby toys piled up in the re-purposed Moses Basket, so big has my baby got. The bib curled up on the arm of the couch, Dave rocking a quiet bundle on his knee. I sweated amidst this brand-new treadmill tableaux. The old music, the Pre-Pandemic music, the before-we-planned-another-baby music, thumped and thudded in my ears for the first time in almost two years, the rhythm matching my feet, matching my heart, and I sweated and marvelled at the differences. The differences. The pandemic, the baby, our lives completely rearranged. 

I've been told to embrace change. 

Through the inertia, the frustration, the hesitation, the fear. Through the days when I think, We will never see Normal again. When I think, We will hide behind masks forever. We will never hug our friends again. We will watch movies made before 2020 and think - That's how things Used To Be. (Tearing up at the senseless ease of it all, imagining what we'll say to our kids and grandkids, speaking in soft tones of our tender lives, how we used to let the kids steer the shopping carts in Wal-mart. How they had little kiddie shopping carts, and the bright coin-operated horsie ride outside the store wasn't taped off. How clothing stores didn't have to count the customers, and you didn't have to line up for blocks to buy a bra. How toy machines clanked and jangled in every pub. How the mall Santa was there every Christmas, listening with bated breath to your every little want.)

I wonder what the ghosts of our former selves think, our selves who saw us through those first awkward days at school, the rising tide of our emotions as we grew and fell and learned, the selves who made sure we got through - a lost puppy, a divorce, a death. Did we get through? Did we change? 

Sure as hell we did. 

Some things can only be carried. 

The isolated.
The rainbows on every window.
The applause on summer evenings to say Thank You.
The cracked hands.
The children who have no-one to play with.
The distance between us.
The visits cancelled.
The celebrations postponed.
The lost.
The alone.

Let us all help each other carry this. 

Let's watch the world together.

We'll watch the sun rise again. 

Warming our faces again. 

Photo taken at beginning of the UK's first Lockdown, over a year ago. 
Our hearts, love and gratitude are still there.

Let's see where this road takes us.

Happy Saturday, everyone. 

Friday, 8 January 2021

This is life now

 Reading: Paris Trout by Pete Dexter

Listening to: My husband coo at our wee baby son

Outside: The sky's unsure - rain or snow? It wants to do something.

Last time I wrote a post, I was still pregnant, heavy as a tank rolling through mud, and waddling my way past a jogger who, I have to admit, made me just the teeniest bit jealous. She was slim and seemed to run so easily, moved so painlessly. I know, I know, jealousy is a horrible way to feel, and yet there it was, just the same. I was still weeks away from my baby boy's impending arrival, and I was trying my best to just enjoy the pregnancy, which is very hard to do so close to that illusive Due Date. Any woman who has been pregnant will tell you, and if she says she enjoyed her entire pregnancy, she's lying through her damn teeth.

Lena and Baby Indiana, October 2020

I am completely on the other side of that now. I went into labour in the early hours of October 1st, 2020, and gave birth to a healthy baby boy at 6:20 am, very quickly and without complications. I was lucky. He was lucky. Giving birth - and yes, pregnancy and labour - during a pandemic presents its own set of challenges, and I was there to meet them, alone, mask, and all. I submitted to the pain as you must, and then, there he was: seven pounds and three ounces of pure miraculousness. 

New Year's Day, 2021

He is three months old now, and I have run again for the first time in more than a year, and believe me, I didn't feel it go easily at all. I weigh in at 9 stone 6, which is the heaviest I have ever been, minus pregnancy, and I could feel every pound as I took the same route around the neighbourhood that I used to take - and continue to take - for each oxygen-infusing walk. 

Me, Makeupless, First Post-Pregnancy Run - January 8th, 2021

I can't believe what life has thrown at us in the space of time between my last run and this one - a broken treadmill, a baby, an extra 20-odd pounds. A pandemic, home-schooling, masks and antibacterial gel and a healthy paranoia when touching door handles, mail and parcels fresh from the Amazon delivery van. Everything, it seems, is teeming with germs, with threat. I'm sure none of us imagined we'd be washing our hands every time we opened a letter or slid the blade of a pair of scissors down the tape over a box. I'm sure we never thought our children would be home for weeks or months at a time, asking us what the word "commemorate" means, because we have now become teachers for some hours each day, doing our best to make sure lunch doesn't boil over, stirring the soup with one hand, feeding a baby with the other, and lobbing letters through the open kitchen door, "c - o - m - m - e - m - o - r -a - t - e...." into a dining room turned classroom, at a child who may or may not want to entirely listen. 

A girl indulging in greats - December 17, 2020

I never expected my child would ever say that she misses school, the lunches, the lessons. Life has thrown at us the unimaginable, life handled clumsily through ill-fitting latex gloves. 

But, through the caffeine-fueled haze that is motherhood-teacherhood-pandemic-survival, there have been other wonderful things. The feeling of a clean diaper on your baby's bottom, the way he snuggles his head into the crook of your elbow as he falls asleep. Your girl pouncing through unexpected snow, making cairns out of ice. 

January 2, 2021 - Snow!

So I guess this is just to say, This Is Life Now. We must submit to it, open ourselves to it, let it become us. 

We are paranoid, worried, humming with exhaustion, washing our hands again and again and again. 

We are bleach-washing our groceries, feeding babies or children or ourselves, we're delivering food, we're texting our mom-in-laws to say We Appreciate Them. We're receiving gifts every day, in ways that are sometimes hard to see: chopping an apple for a snack that will taste sweet, sharing a laugh with our little girl as she does Mad-Libs for the first time, watching our son's eyes over the bottle, his baby gaze contemplative and content, sage-like. 

We are unsure, depressed, busy or bored, working or unable to work, lonely and missing others, missing from pub or kitchen tables, missing the point if we don't pay attention: we are holy

We are just one species on this big rock, surviving one day at a time, doing our best. We have already learned, are learning: it is no use to consider One Year Ago, that last time at TGI Friday's, under the neon lights in a bustling restaurant, the sound of frying crowding our ears - we had that once, and it seems so far away now it hurts. And we will have it again. Until then, This Is Life Now.  Drink your coffee. Zoom with your friends, text, connect. Exercise. Read. Rest.

In the meantime, embrace those you have, and cry for those you can't. Feel deeply, my dears. We relax, soften, and surrender. We will breathe through it one day at a time. Be priceless, lucky, and precious. Be holy. 

Miracles await.

Happy Friday, everyone.

Friday, 18 September 2020

Pregnancy & the pandemic

Reading: Desperation by Stephen King    

Listening to: "Animal I Have Become" by Three Days Grace

Outside: Autumn trickles closer with every scudding cloud

This morning on my daily walk around the neighborhood, I saw a young woman jogging. She rocked a high ponytail and fluorescent clothes, and moved with a grace and lightness at which I could only marvel. She rounded the playing field in an effortlessly honed curve along the fence. She was so thin. She looked like me. 

How I used to look. Pre-pregnancy.

I'm caught between the two things that make you slow down: pregnancy and a pandemic. I have hefted this weight (at least an extra healthy thirty pounds and more every day) for what has felt like a lifetime. Pins-and-needles feet, sore back, bathroom breaks every twenty minutes. I can't get out of the way quickly enough for children dashing past me at the school gates, or for a spider making its way across my living room floor in the evening's lengthening shadows. I calibrate my every movement with the dedication of a time-worn scientist: how to climb and balance on the couch to hang early Halloween decorations, twisting the window's string of LED ghosts as they play in the sunlight; how to un-squat myself at my Hospital Go-Bag, after kneeling at it, praying to it, patting the bathrobe and the toothpaste and the baby blanket and the snacks I probably won't want; how to roll off the couch or back onto it, and the delicate, desperate reach for a remote control always an inch too far away. I am bigger, slower, full of baby, my voice muffled to the life inside me as I tell him all the things I feel he needs to know. Mommy and Daddy are ready for you, I say. What we don't remember will come back to us, I think. Taking care of babies is like riding a bicycle. I hope.

I have grown, literally and figuratively, during my time in Lockdown. I remained in Lockdown these past six months even after it eased, strictly observing social distancing, still not visiting restaurants or supermarkets, still not going to parks to watch my daughter swing from the monkey bars. My expanding girth taunts passersby. And me. I bite down hard on patience: patience for my daughter's complaints at my gripes and constant need for help; patience for a school year that started late; patience for a pandemic's rise and fall, now, at the roughest almost-there beginning of fall. 

And here! Good things: the slide and clink of ceramic plates like the tinkling of laughter at the start of every tea-time. The postie who lets herself into the backyard and chocks parcels anywhere she can fit them so I don't have to bend down to pick them off the front stoop. These past months of 100% time with my daughter, her last days as an only child, painting rocks and wood pieces in the sun.

Our Mother-Daughter walks - sacred now that the school year has begun - to our favorite trees, so pregnant themselves with late-summer leaves. 

Lena's home-school homework.

Lena's practiced pike. 

My view of beauty-within-exhaustion.

I have whittled and worried about all kinds of things. About everything. Will I give birth alone in the hospital? Will we even make it in time? How can I keep him safe in this world he's coming into, where going without a mask, in some places, is as unspeakably embarrassing, as shockingly vulnerable, as horribly exposed as suddenly discovering you're naked in public? (So skittish we are now in this Covid Era, so ready for distance; the introvert in me, I daresay, rejoices.)

So I guess this is the best of times and the worst of times. Three Days Grace comes back to me again from one of my favorite summers, also distant - windows rolled down in my rustbucket 1991 Pontiac 6000 LE, the bass throbbing through the September-hot blue cloth seats as I gravel-bounce my way past a high-sided cornfield - I'm the animal pregnancy and pandemic makes you. It turns you into a strange creature. You need sleep, quiet, peace, time to just Be. You find yourself yearning for Before, like the taste of a cake you only had once, wishing for that part of you that once reveled at a holiday resort's poolside, or that selfishly indulged in a cramped, beer-soaked pub, cheek-to-jowl with the next table's strangers. How foolish we were, how unthinking. How easy life was then. But we're past the teenager-years now, aren't we? Death has its gloves off, breathing closer, hanging over you. We think twice about handling an envelope from our mailbox, or pulling groceries out of the bag; we wash our hands 8,000 times a day. 

Our eyes are Nicole Kidman-expressive to make up for our inscrutable hidden mask-mouths. 

This morning the young woman ran past, a yellow glowing blur. I gave her a wide berth, as she did me (thank you!!!). I lumbered along, feeling kicks, making my slow way home, every cell shrieking my mammalian need for water, water, water. Her Nikes flashed at me through fresh-cut grass like the winks of lightning bugs on a pond, receding into their own new season, as I shuffled forward, wispy and Corona-gray-streaked, into mine. 

Happy Friday, everyone.

May you all stay safe and well.

Friday, 1 May 2020

From the quarantine trenches

Reading: The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
Listening to: All the to-do jobs around the house calling to me at the same time
Outside: Clouds taunt with possible rain

What a difference a year makes.

Long time, no see!

In my last blog post one year ago, recounting an April visit with my daughter to the community park, since what feels like a geological age, I spoke about Being the Change. And here we are again, enacting change in an environment that really, really doesn't like humans right now. We are usually scurrying, meddlesome creatures, exploiting land and fossil fuels for our own selfish gain. And now we are stopped, stunned, and peering through our living room windows like pensive house cats, wondering who will go by next, what will happen next.

The birds are louder, the cars are less, the air is cleaner.

Our species suffers: 26,000 deaths from Coronavirus in the UK alone, as of 20 minutes ago, according to Wikipedia. People all over the world are mourning their loved ones, the ones who have passed, the ones who are fighting, alone, in their hospital beds.

Countries compare their death numbers like nervous, knock-kneed schoolchildren comparing grades on a particularly tough test: Who has done the best? Who has done the worst, and why? There really are no answers; there are different testing methods used, and numbers fluctuate and will continue to do so until this is All Over.

Which, of course, as we twitch the curtains at the windows, staring down the street or as far as we can eek out a view between apartment buildings and over slanted roofs, we can't foresee an Ending. We don't know when it will happen or how it will look.

For the first time for many of us, we are experiencing our first Major Crisis. For others, this is something Terrifying That Can Be Gotten Through. They've done it before: The Second World War, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Vietnam War. These changed lives, as our lives are changing. (But while they went to bed not knowing if their street would exist in the morning, we can at least depend on our Wi-Fi to bring us our favorite shows, news, food delivery and Ebay, holding out as best we can, giving us something to look forward to.)

We evolve to face the Unknown, which breathes in our faces, invisible. We are stepping up to it, putting our memes up on Facebook, bingeing on Netflix, ordering pizza delivery. We are joking, connecting in any way we can, via Zoom or Facetime and we are telling each other, "I'm in this with you."

So let's embrace the change. Let's applaud the NHS, those of us who live here in the UK. Let's applaud the legions of hospital staff around the globe, and anyone who must don gloves and mask and face-shield in order to do their daily work. Let's applaud ourselves for staying home and staying out of the way of essential workers. Hell, let's applaud the delivery drivers for that pizza. That pizza's getting us through this damn thing.

Let's slow down, learning along with our children since we are now their teachers; let's make those mud pies and play "pub" at the table in the back yard. Let's learn what it feels like to discover what's really essential, what really makes you happy, through all of this hardship. You may have lost your job, or you may have lost your wedding, your trip, your big 40th birthday celebration that you didn't know about that someone spent a long time planning. You may have lost the chance to hold your brand new grandchild. You may have lost someone. You may have lost a sense of yourself, anxious house cat that you are now.

In all the things that we lose, we must remember that we are all in this together. We mourn together. We heal together. Those good bones of this world are still here, that integral structure that keeps us solid. Those good bones are still here, and we're still inside them, and when we emerge again in an entirely new world - one in which we will wash our hands more often, or still wipe down the groceries upon entrance to the house, or stand six feet apart at all times - we will emerge deeper. Stronger. We will emerge thankful. 

So that when our children grow up, we will tell them about the world from Before. They will hear our survival stories, our sad stories, and our stories of hope, and they will see that the world goes on, connections live on, and that we must always hold hands through the scary times. They will understand the impact of choosing to be kind

Lena hugs and whispers to her new brother or sister, Pumpernickel.
April 24, 2020

We are all in this together. 

So I ask you to write, reflect. Feel deeply. Connect. Connect with your departed ones. Commune, in any way you can, with your family and friends and feelings. Sing, dance, paint, cry. Bake and laugh. Mend and create. Learn and teach and share and rest. Change.

So when the time comes that we can gather again, our reunions will mean that much more.

Stay home, stay safe, save the NHS.

Happy Friday, everyone.

Thursday, 13 June 2019

Be the change

Reading: I Know This Much is True by Wally Lamb
Listening to: "Be" by Neil Diamond
Outside: Rain threatens and waits.

Us and a flower.
- Bentley Park, April 18, 2019

So I was on the treadmill yesterday, and a little bug of a thought got jittering around in my head and wouldn't stop buzzing. I ran through it, but it still wouldn't let me go, and so I'm here to tell you about Things That Rustle My Jimmies.

I mean there are quite a few things.

Like when I leave the windows open and it rains.

Or when I have laundry drying on the line and it rains.

Or when there's a bee in my living room and she doesn't listen when I say the window is open over here. Over here. But they're endangered and important to the planet so I have to do everything I can to get her out safely without her getting scared and stinging me and dying. Cue a lot of gentle paper-wafting, coaxing, and a little bit of nervous sweat.

Or when a TV Preacher asks his congregation for millions of dollars to fund his fourth private jet. I mean, why in the world? Why are we even allowing this? Is this not the exact opposite of what Jesus represented? (I am not a Christian myself - despite every effort of my family's early teachings; I have learned over time that I am who I am: I've learned you should never try to wear shoes that don't fit, because they will hurt. But that doesn't prevent me from recognizing, and being, a Decent Human Being.) There are countless others, real religious leaders all over the world, working night and day to scrape up funding so that they can keep their church or mosque or synagogue doors open, so that they can sponsor food drives or library collections, so that they can donate money to the people who need it most, and this guy wants a fourth private jet. This particular TV Preacher, certainly narcissistic if not psychotic, appears intoxicated on his own power; religion has nothing to do with it but is merely the vehicle for his obsessive hoarding.

Or, of course, a giant Wall. Wow, that Wall. (Why stop with merely one Wall? Why don't we build walls between every single state, crossing rivers and roads? Why not put them in our back yards, turn every house into a fortress? Why not? Let's close everybody out. Because who can you trust? The only thing we have to fear is tolerance and understanding.)

Or America's lax gun laws, so lax it's as if the laws don't even really exist.

Money, not humanity, seems to be running the United States right now. And pretty much always has, off and on, since Columbus came in and shit all over everything the Native Americans worked so hard to create, protect and preserve. That's why we have psychotic TV preachers. And ass-backwards abortion laws (because let's remember, in America's Deep South, lawmakers have decided that they can rule women's reproductive organs, and by doing so, have not prevented abortions, but have prevented safe abortions).  Also we have staggering medical bills, because in America, treating illness is a business. It's purely numbers, cash and coin. 

Stephen King wrote somewhere (maybe it was in The Long Walk?) about how we're all trying to create a bulwarks against mortality. We all want something to leave behind, a monument to the world to proudly declare, I Was Here. What is your bulwarks going to look like? What are you collecting, earning, or making today that you will leave behind? Is it cartridges of ammunition or compassion for others? Trouble or trust? Will it be a Wall, studded with sentries, or will it be sharing a table of photographs with your family and friends - sharing stories of infancy, of travel, that sense of wonder of the world? Will it be an invitation to share a book or a meal, to make a friend, to hold a hand - or will it be fear and anger? Will it be prejudice or promise? Music or madness?

How about the future voices of your children (or nieces or nephews or beloved friends' children)? After all, that's the great biological imperative - to keep our species going. Will they speak only of making money and buying things, or about how they helped someone learn to dance or play the piano? Will they squash a bug or save it? Will they be proud, and happy, and will they do nice things for others? Will they recognize the nice things others did for them? Will they know that kindness is far, far more important than cleverness? I mean, really, really know it?

So here's what I think: let's celebrate those real leaders who have left a lasting monument through bravery and deep truth: Chief Seattle, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi. 

Let's help that guy trying to get on the bus with a stroller. Let's pick up that piece of trash. Let's pay a stranger a compliment and make their day. Let's help someone up the stairs. Let's put the phone down and listen to our children. Let's recycle for crying out loud. I know, I've been there with the excuses: I'm running late, I'm too busy, too tired, my hands are too full - I admit it.  But kindness is the most important gift to bestow upon those who will inherit the earth. Our children are watching.

Be the change, friends. Be the change.

Lena awe-struck - a Monument to Flowers.
She calls it hers. I assure her she will make her own someday.
- Bentley Park, April 18, 2019

Happy Thursday, everyone!

Thursday, 2 May 2019

How to keep your sh*t together

Reading: Magic Terror by Peter Straub
Listening to: "Doe-Eyed Dancer" by Wild Moccasins
Outside: Rain, glorious rain

Dear loyal, neglected readers,

So it's been almost a year since I've graced you all with my presence.

I'm sorry about that.

Really, I am.

I don't have much to show for it except tons of train tickets to and from Sheffield which have accumulated in my daughter's room, wild across dresser and window sill and floor, splaying out like poker hands. In between trips to big S-town and back, where I work untangling misspellings and garbled syntax in death notices for newspapers across the country, I've joined my family on whirlwind visits to caves and cafes, swimming pools and ice skating rinks. Grinned up at the gallows while docents at the preserved, ancient Nottingham Gaol explained the hangings there more than a hundred years ago, telling stories, histories, in a funny way, because history can sometimes be a comedy. Even when it's really not. I tromped down the narrow staircases of the Robin Hood Experience, taking in the Pound Shop Halloween decorations sprouting up everywhere, giving the young (and the young at heart) an idea of the Sheriff of Nottingham's wickedness - spray-painted foam tombstones, skulls and crossbones, glow-in-the-dark skeletons strung across doorways. I have observed, relented, to a fallow writing period, and allowed the stuff in my mind to catch, take seed and grow.

I have done everything I can to distract myself from Purgatory, the Waiting Room, the Inertia of Uncertainty, as the Powers that Be decide the fate of my manuscript.

Blogs of the people who have been there, who are still there, give advice on how to keep your sh*t together. They say just live. Just keep on truckin.' So I'm doing that.

I've eagerly lapped up Life, all of it - chilly sheep-spotted hillsides, dripping stalactites, quirky pubs. I have walked through my village, breathing in the hearth fumes, vapors of Victoriana still lingering well into the 21st century. I helped find a way out of Nottingham, missing my daughter after our delicious weekend away, celebrating the 20th Anniversary of my husband's friendship, following the Google Maps version of our exit back onto familiar roads, my pink-polished fingernail catching the diffused light through the windshield.

I've written another book or two.

And read several books, some for the third or fourth or fifth time. Maybe I craved something familiar, like a room I used to live in, where all the furniture is exactly where you remember it to be.

I've eaten a lot of chocolate. Ice cream. Wine also continues to be my friend.

My daughter, in my home office, requesting a snapshot
in her new summer outfit, "Writing just like Mommy."

I am still following a map, that Virtual Map in my head. I'm sure you have one, too. The one that's splatted with those saccharine platitudes in curly cursive you find in card shops, on fridge magnets and stencil-burned into driftwood picture frames: The one that reminds you to enjoy the journey. To learn to dance in the rain. The map unrolls an inch at a time, like weak headlights bathing a midnight country road. Giving you just enough to roll ahead and trust what's out there in the dark

You know what, f*ck it, I'll just pour the wine into the ice cream.

Have a great Thursday, folks!