Categories
Life

Plans

I’ve restarted the process of thinking beyond the immediate future.

During the past year, most of my planning thoughts centered on today, tomorrow, maybe the next week. There wasn’t much need or opportunity to consider action or circumstances beyond that timeframe.

Occasionally, I’d envision eventualities; I’d think about a holiday or an important date, and I’d do the necessary things to prepare. But the combination of limited options and general uncertainty narrowed the process. It was best not to think too far ahead or make too many assumptions.

Now, however, that perspective is changing, bit by bit. I’ve found myself having random thoughts: What can we do next weekend? and Is that meeting next week or the week after? and I’d better get started working on that thing that’s happening in a few months. I’ve also started thinking about ideas, not just about actions. I find myself musing about the What if? type of stuff, the things that I intentionally pushed aside during this past year of cautious waiting and forced patience.

Planning is hopeful; it assumes that something is possible. It doesn’t provide guarantees, but it does create a framework of optimism. It’s nice to once again feel that little tickle of potential, that shiver of anticipation.

Here’s to plans for the future, big and small, important and trivial, and the hope that powers them forward.

Categories
Life

Ugh

Where I live, it’s been raining. A lot. I can’t remember the last weather forecast that didn’t include a chance of showers. Each morning, I wake up to overcast skies, gray and dim.

I keep telling myself to be glad for the rain. It’s keeping the hot weather at bay, refilling lakes and rivers, and the plants are thriving. In a few months, the sun will blaze and sizzle, day after day, and I’ll sweat and complain and count the minutes until summer is over. These days of clouds and water are a good thing. And mostly, I do appreciate them.

That doesn’t mean, however, that I’m not also experiencing a bit of ugh as I look out the window. And I’ve noticed that, when I go to choose my cuppa each morning, to pick the one that captures my mood and reflects my thoughts, they all look very much the same. Bland and blah; functional and utilitarian. I don’t see a lot of inspiration on the shelf.

Still, each of my cuppas has a fond place in my heart. Each of them is like a warm and comfortable sweater, the kind that reminds you of words like snuggly and contented and peaceful. No matter which one I choose on these days of ugh, it feels like a friend, one that accepts me and my bleary-eyed, early-morning imperfections and wants nothing more than to accompany me on my journey to wakefulness. I can select any one of them, and we sit together at the table and make our plans and contemplate the hours ahead. And slowly, the ugh evaporates, just a bit, and the day begins to look brighter, regardless of whether the clouds have gone away.

Here’s to appreciating the rain, even when it leads to feelings of ugh. And, here’s to the things we count on to make the ugh a little more bearable.

Categories
Life Nature

Weeds

It’s nice, having a backyard garden. We ate some of our tomatoes last night at dinner, and I’ve been adding kale to various recipes during the past few weeks (the only good kale is cooked kale). Watching the plants sprout and grow and offer their bounty is rewarding and fun.

The thing is, however, that the planned plants aren’t the only ones that grow in the garden. Left to its own devices, a bit of dirt, combined with some rain and sunshine, can quickly become a home for random stalks and leaves, bits of nature taking over the neatly-arranged rows and productive patterns.

And so, it is necessary to engage in the never-ending process of weeding.

Pull some here, pick a few there. Some days, the end result is a clean garden, nice and neat everywhere. Most days, it’s only a small patch, one area under control for the time being, soon to be back where it started but weed-free at the moment.

I confess to feeling a little guilty when pulling the weeds. They’re simply growing where nature planted them. I’m the one who’s ending their journey, telling them that they’re not worthy. And, I quite like some of them, especially those that flower and climb, offering bright cascades of green and lush tangles of color. They remind me to be humble, as they quietly grow without my involvement. I am an observer, a participant – not a creator.

In the garden, however, coexistence doesn’t work very well. The weeds use up the resources. They block the light and invade the space, preventing the vegetables from growing properly. If the goal is tomatoes and cucumbers and basil and peppers, there must be a choice. I must take action. The weeds must go.

Here’s to gardens and plants and the fine line between wild and free, planned and productive. May we all have the good fortune of enjoying the special things they each have to offer.

Categories
Life Nature

Bounty

“For ourselves, who are ordinary men and women, let us return thanks to Nature for her bounty by using every one of the senses she has given us.” – Virginia Woolf

Categories
Life

Firewood

Where I live, the days are warming up. Our days of fireplace flames are likely over for a while.

I’m still collecting firewood, however. During last winter’s freeze, when we were without electricity, the fireplace was an important heat source. Unfortunately, we didn’t plan well enough, and we had to ration the wood at the very end.

At one point, I went out in the backyard and gathered the sticks and branches that were on top of the snow. As I did, I remembered the Laura Ingalls Wilder story – I think it was from On the Banks of Plum Creek, but it might’ve been from Little House in the Big Woods – about Laura and Mary staying home while Ma and Pa went to town.

In the story, a blizzard sprang up unexpectedly while Ma and Pa were gone. Mary and Laura considered how they should manage the situation. They had heard of people freezing, stark stiff, in blizzards, because their fires had gone out. So, they decided to bring firewood in from the pile outside. That way, they could keep the fire going in the house without continually risking the journey outside in the howling, snowy wind.

They got a little carried away, however, caught up in their worry and the rhythm of going back and forth from the woodshed to the door. Ultimately, they brought the whole pile of wood inside.

When Ma and Pa got safely home, Laura and Mary explained about their fear of freezing stark stiff. Ma and Pa laughed at the situation, even though they appreciated the intent. They agreed that Laura and Mary had been wise, but Pa also said something along the lines of, “Next time, girls, don’t bring in quite so much wood.”

Each day now, in the mild spring weather, I gather a few sticks and branches from our backyard and put them in containers on our back porch. I figure that, by the time winter rolls around again, we’ll have enough to ensure our fire keeps going, even if our firewood supply runs low. At some point, of course, the containers will be completely full, and I’ll stop collecting. No need to go to extremes.

Some might think it’s a silly thing to do – in fact, I sometimes chuckle as I toss that morning’s collection into the bucket. Is it really going to make a difference? Is this ritual even worth my time? But then, I remember how it felt to worry about our firewood supply last winter, and I empathize with Laura’s and Mary’s perspective of better safe than sorry. And I tell myself it’s okay, as long as I don’t get carried away.

Here’s to being prepared for whatever life brings, as well as being wise enough to know when enough is enough.

Categories
Holidays Life

Honest

It’s Mother’s Day here in the U.S.A.

Today, the phrase “Happy Mother’s Day!” will echo across the land, perhaps accompanied by flowers and candy and handmade cards, sparkly gifts and family dinners. It is a day for celebrating moms; 24 hours dedicated to glorious motherhood.

I’m grateful for the recognition; I also struggle with it. It seems a bit dishonest to pretend, on this day, that motherhood is entirely magical. Yes, there are magical moments, but in my experience, motherhood is truly a roller-coaster ride, full of ups and downs, twists and turns.

I am beyond happy to be a mom. I adore my sons. I delight in their presence and marvel at the intelligent, kind, funny, wonderful adults they’ve become. They make my heart sing.

But. However.

As much as I am and have been and always will be a loving mom, an adoring and appreciative mom, a mom who sometimes can’t believe that she has the great good fortune of having these beautiful boys in her life, I must be honest. I also am and have been and will be, on occasion, an exhausted mom. An angry mom. A confused and scared and bewildered mom. An impatient mom; a mom without answers. An imperfect mom.

I’m also a daughter. I love my mother dearly and will spend time with her today, celebrating the good in our lives. Our roles have switched, however. I am now the caregiver, the mother figure, and the strain of this responsibility has changed our relationship. I no longer think of my mother as a provider of safety and comfort and warmth. Instead, I worry about how to provide these things to her; how to ensure that she’s as happy as possible, that she has the things she needs and that she feels loved and cared for, even if she’s no longer capable of fully participating in the experience. At times, the grief and guilt and resentment are overwhelming, damaging my perspective on what it means to be a daughter and what it means to be a parent.

Today, I also think about the people I know who’ve had (and are having) their own motherhood struggles. Some of them want motherhood with all their hearts but have been unable to realize that dream. Others have experienced the devastating loss of a child and now have only memories. I know of friends whose children have medical or emotional or educational challenges, who anxiously worry about their children’s future, their safety and their potential. Some of my friends are like me, caring for their moms as they age. Still others have found themselves caring for grandchildren, nieces and nephews, children whose parents can’t or won’t parent them, filling a gap, taking on a role they did not necessarily anticipate. And, some have lost their moms and are now coping with feelings of being adrift or alone or simply missing the person they loved.

So. Therefore.

If you choose to wish me a happy Mother’s Day today, I’ll gratefully accept. And, if you’d like me to return the salutation, I’ll cheerfully oblige.

If, however, you’d prefer to offer something like “Yay For Us, We’re Hanging In There This Mother’s Day!” or “We Are Awesome, Watch Us Getting It Done This Mother’s Day!” or even a simple “Let’s High Five This Mother’s Day!”, that’s okay by me. And, I’ll offer you whatever message works for you in return.

We can strive for perfection yet still accept our flaws. We can be happy, we can be joyful and grateful and merry; we can also be sad and frustrated and overwhelmed. We can be mothers who are real human beings, full of real human feelings, doing the best we can to do the best we can. We can be good at that, and that is worth celebrating.

Here’s to an honest Mother’s Day.

Categories
Life Nature

600

Yesterday, I read an article about Greenland Sharks.

Apparently, Greenland Sharks can live a very, very long time. Hundreds of years, in fact. Researchers have discovered one shark that they estimate is 600 years old. They’ve found others that appear to be in the 200 and 300 year-old range.

There’s no definite conclusion as to why Greenland Sharks have such longevity. It’s likely that their habitat, cold and deep water, plays a factor. But there’s obviously more at play, something in their genetic makeup that influences their lifespan.

Just as humans have a natural expiration date genetically codified in our DNA, Greenland Sharks are pre-programmed to survive to a specific range of years. Real-world living and medical circumstances can affect the actual lifespan, of course; there’s no guarantee of reaching a certain age. Assuming good health and safety, however, most humans can expect a lifetime of between 70-90 years. And, it seems, most Greenland Sharks can expect a lifetime of centuries.

During the past 600 years, humans have formed countries, invented automobiles and airplanes and spaceships, discovered cures for illnesses, and learned how to preserve an image of a moment in time and then send it to millions of other people with a simple click of a button.

I’m haunted by the thought of sharks swimming unceasingly through the deep, dark, cold water while all of this happened on the land above them. I’m also a tiny bit jealous of these sharks. I don’t want to be a Greenland Shark, but it would be nice to have the potential to live as long as they do.

That’s not the way things work, however. So, instead of focusing on the question of why humans don’t also get 600 years, I’ll be grateful for the ones I’ve had. And, I’ll do my best to make the most of the years, however many they are, that are (hopefully) left ahead of me.

Categories
Life

Battle

I received my second COVID-19 vaccine last Thursday.

I won’t lie; I had a rough weekend. Fever, chills, headache, exhaustion, very similar to when I actually had COVID-19.

I have no regrets, however. If I suddenly found myself in a time-travel situation, going back to Thursday and choosing whether to present my arm for the jab, I’d gladly go through it once more.

Because when I had COVID-19, I didn’t feel only sick. I also felt afraid. Every day, every minute. Sometimes, the feeling was just a whisper, a low undercurrent; other times, it became more demanding, requiring acknowledgment.

Fear that the illness would get worse. Fear that I’d end up in the hospital, unable to breathe, isolated and alone. Fear that there were things happening within my body, beyond the obvious symptoms, that might manifest later.

But the greater fear was that I’d give the illness to somebody else. Perhaps a family member, one of my sons or my husband, quarantined in the house with me, living in separate rooms but still exposed to shared air. Or, perhaps in the few days between when I was exposed and when I developed symptoms, I’d unknowingly spread the virus to strangers, who then took it home to their families.

I know that the odds are mostly in our favor, that most of us, even if we catch the virus, will end up fine. I also know that this illness does, in fact, kill. It kills brutally, and cruelly, and very often, arbitrarily.

It isn’t stupid to be afraid of COVID-19. It’s wise. We are wise to approach this enemy with caution.

So, if a quick needle jab and a few days’ worth of feeling under the weather could help to end that fear and destroy that enemy? Sign me up.

As I recovered from the after-effects of my choice, I experienced a new feeling. Empowerment. The fever and headache weren’t scary symptoms, like before. They were now evidence of victory.

Take THAT, you stupid virus! Ka-POW! Blammo! Hiiiii-YA! My immune system was joining all the others out there in a great battle. And every day, our numbers are growing. If we keep going, we can win.


We are no longer at the mercy of this illness. We warriors now, fighting together.


Categories
Life Pets

Awake

Pre-pandemic, my alarm would wake me up at 5:00 a.m., insistently reminding me that it was time to get ready for my hour-long commute and the official start of my work day.

Each morning, there I’d be, snoozing comfortably, dreaming away, and then suddenly, a loud, irritating beep-beep-beep would jolt me awake. It would not stop until I took action. So, I’d hit the snooze button, putting off the inevitable, only to repeat the process all over again a few minutes later. Eventually, I’d accept reality and slowly exit the soft, warm bed, shuffle around in the early morning darkness, and get the day started.

Now, I rarely set my alarm clock. There’s no need; I’m not commuting, and the morning is no longer a rush of action I have to complete before hitting the road.

Instead, my waking up experience revolves around our dogs. Today, for example, I was awakened by Mollie and Charlie bouncing on the bed. They were playing some form of Dog Tag, with Mollie merrily pushing Charlie to one side and then Charlie gleefully jumping back across the blankets for another round. When they noticed that my eyes were open, they both bounded toward me with doggie smiles and wagging tails, eager to be the first to welcome me into the new day.

I miss my job. I miss seeing my colleagues every day, and I miss the work we did together, the sense of purpose it created.

I also resent the pandemic. I resent the lives it’s destroyed as well as all the interrupted plans and goals, the lost opportunities and disrupted expectations.

But, I do not miss that 5:00 a.m. alarm, and I do not resent the change in my morning routine. I much prefer being awakened at a more decent hour by happy, playful dogs who think I’m the most wonderful person in the world.

Here’s to little silver linings, wherever and whenever we may find them.

Categories
Life Nature

Almonds

Not long ago, we experienced some bizarre winter weather where I live – heavy snow and freezing temperatures that went on for the better part of a week. An unexpected outcome of that situation is that some of the plants and trees that don’t typically thrive in this area are now…thriving.

For example, we have an almond tree in our backyard. I didn’t know it was an almond tree, however, because it had never produced almonds.

A few years ago, during the spring blooming season, I thought it might be a peach tree. But after some research, I realized it’s an almond tree. I also resigned myself to the fact that it would be an almond tree in name only. We don’t usually have the type of sustained freezing cold weather that is necessary for almond production.

So you can imagine my happy surprise when I discovered that, this year, the tree is bursting with almonds. There are so many that some of the branches have started to dip from the weight. The limbs hang over part of our garden, creating a concentrated spot of shady coolness.

It’s likely that the almonds won’t be ready to harvest until August or September. Between the summer heat and the scurry of squirrels living in my backyard trees, I’m a bit concerned about how things will ultimately turn out. Hopefully, there will be a positive ending to this adventure. In the meantime, it’s fun to watch the almonds grow.

Here’s to Mother Nature. She sure knows how to keep things interesting.