Sitting here socially distanced and masked up since early spring, I often wonder about how much people have likely ramped up drinking – out of fear.
Out of boredom.
So much anger. Because yep, it’s an election year on top of everything else. Just days away from an election that will determine our path forward, for better or worse. There is a brittleness in our communities that seems tangible. It’s just right there, under the surface. I see it when I go to the grocery. I see it on the wearied faces of the checkout clerk. I feel it in the shortness and clipped responses. So much irritability and anger.
Walking through the store, I saw an elderly gentleman while in the store with what looked like at least a dozen bottles of wine. “Eyes on your own cart,” I reminded myself. The mind still wondered though. Maybe he’s buying in bulk. Who knows? Not my business. On a different day, I saw another person juggling 4-5 bottles of hard liquor. Probably having a party of some kind. Whatever. Not my business. These kinds of thoughts flash through my mind in a matter of seconds. I’ve noticed them more frequently lately, and what seems to be an uptick of alcohol purchases at a few of the grocery stores I frequent.
My 3 year soberversary rolled around a few months ago. It’s weird how time works, both dragging and speeding by as we look through the lens of hindsight. Even more so when aboard the careening Corona-coaster that is this year.
Over three years ago we were living in another state, I went veggie right around the same time and homeschooling wasn’t seriously on my radar. Eric had left for the what felt like the longest year and last deployment. (Knock on wood it stays the last!) I was looking at selling the house while he was gone. I had survived closing up the house and evacuating from Hurricane Harvey with a torn up shoulder and a bit more confidence that I could, in fact, do hard things. I chopped off all my hair and started over because I was too impatient to let the dyed/Brazilian blowout part grow.
See, I have this thing. I like sharing pictures with people I love and I adore seeing their photos. The ability to keep up with people that I’ve worked with over the years, see their children grow (albeit from a distance) is fun! What I don’t love so much are the ads, the misinformation, and the cacophony of vile and meanness that is pervasive in social media platforms. I have tried repeatedly to disconnect before but, like an addict, I eventually come back.
I recently watched The Social Dilemma on Netflix and knew a lot of the info they covered, but not to the degree. It’s disturbing. It’s not good for us. The benefits are outweighed by the negative effects. Statistics abound regarding mental health issues linked to social media consumption. Personally, it feeds the cliche of “comparing my behind the scenes footage with others’ highly edited content”. It’s just not a positive in most of our lives.
Bored, lazy, procrastinating, waiting in line, while watching tv – I reach for the phone FAR too often. I cut back, I post daily and everything in between. It’s such a time suck. It’s not helpful for me. Deleting the account (and thinking about it for the week prior) has brought up all the usual FOMO (fear of missing out) feelings. The photos! I will miss seeing this or that. I will miss community updates! But….on the flip side, I won’t have to see the vitriol of politics. I don’t have to participate in a platform that not only markets to me constantly (that microphone hears me, and the targeted ads are creepily timed!), but I don’t have to contribute to others wasting their time. “It’s not as if I cease to exist just because I am not on these platforms,” I thought to myself, and stopped. I wondered if this is where it eventually goes in our heads – that we are irrelevant outside of what we post. It’s not true of course, but it’s where my ego went. It’s a fascinating thought experiment.
I have a stack of books on my nightstand that will not read themselves. Podcasts I have been wanting to listen to are stacking up. Writing ideas are gathering cobwebs in my drafts folders. There is so much more to do than interact on social media in exchange for my eyeballs on ads.
Like an exhale, a relief of sorts, somehow this quitting feels different.
A couple months ago I was at the dog park with with all 3 of our dogs. Everything was fine, then Hippo ran straight for the fence, slipped underneath (the fence is broken, I had no idea) and attacked another dog. We got really lucky that he didn’t injure the other dog and it was an acquaintance who used to work in a dog day care setting and was able to break it up.
We are rehoming Hippo back to our friend in Corpus from whom we adopted all 3 dogs. For the last 2 years Hippo has gotten into spats with our other dog Buck. I simply don’t have the skills to help him. The spats between Buck and Hippo have increased despite training, behavior modification and keeping them separated. 2 weeks ago Buck had to go to the ER and get stitches. We could always attribute it to fighting over a stray bit of food, the earthquakes in CA, or whatever.
Until we couldn’t.
A week ago we were in the back yard as normal. Hippo charged Buck out of no where and went after him unprovoked. I had to pull him off by his back legs. It was a nightmare. The only blessing was that it happened outside and not in front of the kids. They’ve seen it too many times and it’s upsetting and scary. This was by far the worst and had I not been able to get him off, Buck would likely be dead. He was shaking him.
We do not come to these types of decision lightly or overnight. We explained to the kids (and myself) that sometimes the best thing for the animal is the hardest thing for us. It’s not fair to Hippo to always be irritated and angry and aggressive. It’s definitely not fair to Buck.
The whole situation just blows. My heart breaks for the kids. And for Hippo. They are coming to terms with the situation and understand, but it’s no less painful.
Quarantining, pandemics, civil unrest, politics, hurricanes and typhoons, 2020 you’re not playing. Like many people, current events and a near-constant onslaught of horrifying information coming at us over this year has left me antsy.
We covered an overview of American History this year in homeschool. We discussed not only what was in the text book, but what was left out. Conclusions were drawn about how our past informs our future. I want to raise people who dig for information from multiple sources, and do not just take the first thing served to them as truth: to be lifelong learners and critical thinkers. As we went through the 1960s and the Civil Rights Movement, we looked at the photos of angry mobs of white people screaming at kids who were attending newly-integrated schools. We looked up online information about Malcom X and Martin Luther King Jr., watched movies about Ruby Bridges and her family, we read other books. As we researched beyond the text and had very frank discussions, I wondered where my place would be. In Glennon Doyle’s latest book, Untamed, she discusses a very similar conversation:
We looked at pictures of civil rights marches, and we talked about why people march. ‘Someone once said that marching is praying with your feet,’ I told them. Amma pointed to a white woman holding a sign, marching in a sea of black and brown people. Her eyes popped and she said, ‘Mama, Look! Would we have been marching with them? Like her?’ I fixed my mouth to say, ‘Of course. Of course we would have, baby.’ But before I could say it, Tish said, ‘No, Amma. We wouldn’t have been marching with them back then. I mean, we’re not marching now.’
– Glennon Doyle, Untamed
When we raise humans, their perspective can punch you in the gut like no other. No filters, they cut right to the point. Conversations like these have left me asking, “What should I be doing?” as a human, AND as a human who has other humans watching her. We continue to read, we continue to make calls to elected and appointed leaders. We have marched, safely and social distanced. We learn. We discuss. We keep learning. We have hard conversations. We listen.
A house can only be disinfected so many times. We have projected and started a planter garden. I’ve played amateur photographer, looking for beautiful. Bikes have been ridden. Dogs have been walked. The minions are learning how to cook, we are hitting the beach, and following the rules of quarantine, wearing masks at the grocery and staying home except for essentials.
I began painting rocks to leave around our neighborhood for kids to find when out on family walks. Not knowing there was a whole bunch of groups online that paint rocks and leave them for others to find and have for years – I found inspiration and glimmers of hope and kindness in these random acts of art. It was fun to leave them early and find out that someone had posted online in our neighborhood page a picture of a smiling child holding a rock Hannah and I had created. I could be creative and spread a little joy. It’s a difficult time in so many ways, but it was something I could do, even if it only made a difference for one person, for one moment.
I took home ec in middle school. My mom knew how to sew and I distinctly remember a My Little Pony kids’ sewing machine on which I made simple Cabbage Patch doll clothes. I made a mask for Eric and I based on the CDC recommended pattern. It was hard and I was more than a little rusty. The first mask I made not only took me 4 hours, but managed to break a needle. It was a circus.
Fast forward some 3 months later, and I’ve found other patterns and ideas. I have a friend in the midwest who is a radiologist working with COVID patients and makes masks for those around her. I was inspired watching her sell them online, not for profit, just to cover the cost of materials and to help her community.
I purchased a Black Lives Matter mask in preparation for a march, the kids loved it and each wanted one so we ordered a couple more. The design and fabric was so soft and seemed easy enough to replicate. Later I would take Hannah for a haircut in which she was wearing her BLM mask. Her hairstylist smiled broadly, “I made that mask! What’s your name?” She remembered it from the orders. We laughed and she asked me about the mask I was wearing (that I had made). I have a feeling we would have hugged had it not been during the middle of a pandemic. You never know how you affect others. The ripples matter.
Insecure, I didn’t think my masks would be good enough to sell, so I offered them for friends and family. As I made more, my confidence grew. My parents and hubby became mask models as I attempted new styles and different elastics.
Posting them in our little community page to start, I was surprised how people seemed to like them, and even ordered more as asked what other fabrics I had on hand. People have donated fabric for more masks. Then a good friend purchased some and posted about them to her circle. 4 more orders came in. Neighbors asked for more. Family and friends in Minnesota, Texas, Georgia, Idaho, California, and Oregon ordered. I was and am humbled, and wondered why it was hitting my heart so hard.
I think in many ways 2020 and the events of this year have been like a bandaid being ripped off wounds old and new. It’s uncovering what has been bubbling up underneath but only now, as our collective constant busy-ness has ground to a halt, is it clear. Our family calls it the Coronoa-coaster of emotions. Some days are super excited and productive, others we are sloths with zero motivation and feel depressed about the state of the world, and every shade in between.
The pictures started rolling in when my people received and were wearing their masks. I hate that we need the masks in the first place. I wish this was not our current situation. My heart breaks for those who are hurting and have lost their livelihoods as they knew them. Education will not be the same, and while in the long run, that may be a good thing, the transition will no doubt be rough.
Yet…I feel connected to my people when I see them wearing something I created for them. Walking through the commissary and spotting one of my masks on a friend’s face is heartwarming. It’s a hug that I cannot give or receive right now and My soul desperately needs those hugs.
Coming across this during a mindless perusal of social media, my niece (aka Hangin’ By A Thread) posted this from a book she is reading that sums it all up quite nicely:
I will keep making masks (At least until I get through this fabric, lol.) as long as people need them. I will continue to paint and hide rocks. I may even start another hobby, who knows?! It’s something – anything – to be useful, and contribute in some small way to helping us all get through this. Together. As Glennon Doyle often writes: “We can do hard things.”
We’d planned to get out of the house for a few days and finally made it to a day when the weather cooperated and we didn’t have other plans. After errands were ran, dogs walked, and groceries purchased – it was time to spend the rest of the day at a place I frequented as a kid. Luckily this lovely spot is 15 minutes from where we live. It has a little lake and across a tiny strip of land there is the ocean as well. Deception Pass park is the best of both water worlds.
Towels and toys thrown in the back of the car, we were on our way. As we pulled into the entrance, I rolled down the window to purchase our pass. The ranger answered our questions, then asked, “Can you tell me who does your hair? My daughter has naturally curly hair just like that.”
“Oh my gosh!” I hear from the backseat. “Every time!”
I told the ranger that we had recently moved back to the area and with COVID hadn’t had a haircut since we left San Diego, but that good products definitely help and offered her some of my current favorites. We laughed as the kids were imploring us to stop chatting so they could get to the water. I waved and said good luck and rolled up the window.
“MOM! You always chat with random people!” Hannah accused.
Jacob agreed, adding, “Yeah. You are such a chitty chat monster!” Chitty Chat Monster was the affectionate name bestowed to me when starved for adult conversation, their 2nd grade teacher and I would visit a bit after the school day ended. “You call dad ‘Neighbor Ned’, but you are totally Neighbor Nancy!” Hannah agreed emphatically.
“I can’t help it if people chat with me,” I replied, smiling. “Everyone is needing a little more conversation lately because we’ve all been social distancing.” But they are right. I have become my mother and have no problem chatting up friendly people. There are far worse things I could be accused of, I suppose.
Driving through the campgrounds and the wooded area into the parking lot, the beaches were visible. The kids played here when they were 3 and 5 but, of course, do not remember it. Looking for a place to park, I didn’t have to search long as it was certainly not typical summer crowds.
“Beach or lake?” I asked.
“Lake!” They both hollered. We proceeded to unload floats, grabbed the towels and beach toys and made our way over to a picnic area, being mindful of social distancing. Laying out the outdoor blanket, I soon realized that I had laid it on a bunch of duck/seagull poop. Apparently this side of the lake is where they nest. I promptly moved us and our stuff over and the kids were by this point in the water with their floats and flippers.
There were lots of hollers of “MOM! Come take this!” as they wanted to switch out water toys or whatever. I snapped some pictures. They claimed the water was not that cold. (Hannah’s chattering teeth and blue lips, however, told a different story). A mom with two teenage daughters was at a table about 8 feet away looked at me and giggled when, for the 745th time Jake had to change out his face mask so he could help Hannah find her lost flipper at the bottom of the lake. I shook my head knowing what our traveling circus must look and sound like. We lack volume control.
“It doesn’t get any better,” she hollered over. “Mine are 14 and 16 and just got in a fight over gummy worms!” I laughed and her daughters giggled, too. Other families tended to their own circus minions. It was calming and rejuvenating to not only be outside, but to be around other people. (Safely and distanced, of course.) It was a comfortable 66 degrees, sunny and just all around perfect.
I let the kids know that they needed to start wrapping it up – that we would be heading home soon. Gathering belongings and pointing them toward the rinse off showers, they worked it out amongst themselves that one would shower and the other one would hold both towels, then switch. When they returned ready to leave, they looked at me expectantly. I was apparently supposed to carry two giant floats, a bag of sand toys, 3 water bottles, the goggle/snorkle/towel bag and their shoes. I bust out laughing and hollered to them that this stuff would not carry itself to the car, they needed to pitch in. I distinctly heard chuckles from the other families.
Back at our car, we put in our goods as Hannah asked for her water bottle and got situated, exclaiming how fun it was, but that she was glad that car was warm, cause she was FREEZING. She was bouncing around, getting a second towel wrapped around herself (still at top volume) and announced a song request for the trip home. “Did you hear me?!” she hollered.
“Yes. I can hear you Hannah. The whole world can hear you. You are loud,” I chuckled. Looking over there was a mom unloading her car overhearing our ridiculousness. She laughed and said, “My kid is a couple years younger, but we have the same volume control issue!”
“Nice! May the force be with us all,” I offered as I waved a friendly goodbye.
“Seriously mom?! Again?” Jake asked.
“Yes. I chat with other random people because I can.”
I was able to escape my family yesterday for an outing (with masks and social distancing, of course) and took my 2 little dogs for the adventure. I met up with my mom and our friends and walked nearly 3 miles around Coupeville, WA – which is a lot for little dogs with short legs! The view was gorgeous!
These are the beautiful Pacific Northwest days that fool people into moving here, not realizing it does rain here 8 months out of the year.
After our trek, we socially distanced on the porch and the dogs had treats. They were definitel worn out and ready for a mellow 4th of July.
After our dog walking adventure and heading back up to my hometown, Mom and I decided to do a drive thru coffee and head to a park with the dogs just to sit and continue our visit. The dogs were tired and it was time to go.
Anytime my mom get started on what we call, “Solving all the world’s problems,” (and seriously there are a few!) parting ways typically takes a minimum of an hour. Or 2. Possibly canceling later plans. It was simply a lovely day. As we eventually made our way back to our cars, she backed her car in so we could chat, “just a little while longer” but let the dogs have some A/C, water and a comfy rest. And then a friend joined us.
You cannot see it in these photos, but there is a WASP-BEE-Murder Hornet flitting between our cars. We would roll our windows down, chat for a bit, and then scramble to roll the window back up as it flew back by. Side note: this is the one time that it does not pay to have power windows. No matter how hard you press that button, the window will only go up at the same slow speed. Manual windows – you could crank that puppy as fast as your arm would go and get that window up quick!
By the 14th time of windows up-down-up-down-up-down trying to avoid said murder hornet, we were laughing hysterically, simultaneously speaking on our phones. Second side note: Did you also know there is a delay when you use a cell in close proximity to the person to whom you are speaking?! We discovered that and played “foreign film montage”!
Silly from the fresh air, the exercise and/or the ridiculous wasp, as well as an overdue visit amidst a global pandemic, we did eventually bid farewell (3 hours later, whoops!). It was just what the mental health doctor ordered!
With the playgrounds closed, the only thing there is to do lately is to go on walks, hikes, or bike rides. (Or bake). I love to cook and bake as much as the next person, but I can only eat so much sourdough bread. I started painting rocks. I thought it might bring a smile or giggle to kiddos out and about. Multiplied by no parks, stay at home orders, etc., it seemed like a fun way to help get out the stir crazies. Beginning in March, it was a way to fill some time, be creative and get outside a bit.
I remember seeing cute little lady bug rocks out at my favorite trail – they’ve been there for years. The minions and I gathered up some good rocks at the beach and we started painting. One kid painted one, the other kid painting a few but lost interest. I however fell in love with it and have continued on painting little random images onto rocks and hiding them around our neighborhood. Many were inspired by the internet.
Some are better than others. A few are left in our own flower beds. Most I paint and then hide in random trees or by community mailboxes.
I love a good pun, much to my kids’ disgust. I love showing them my latest and them groaning and rolling their eyes at how corny their mother is. “Oh mom!” I don’t even care. It’s funny punny.
Our community has a Facebook group page and people started posting the found rocks with their kids’ smiling faces. My daughter was irritated that I didn’t speak up and post that it was our rocks that were found. “That’s part of the fun – not knowing who is doing it!” I explained. She disagreed. Oh well.
While out walking the dogs the latest artistic creation in one particular tree in front of a house that I know has a couple of littles. I quickly made my deposit last week and I hear the door swing open and I walked quickly away. A window slid open and the mom I regularly wave to as we drive by called out to me.
“He saw you! I couldn’t stop him!” I laughed and agreed that I was in fact busted. “Are you the one that has been painting these rocks?” She asked me. I smiled and said yes, it was me, but that I’d found some in my walks that were not ours – that others had started painting and hiding, too! She said she loved them and it gave them something to look forward to on their walks.
Today as I was finishing up painting a fresh batch, the hubby walked in holding a gift bag. Curious I asked him what it was.
“I don’t know,” he shrugged. “It was on the porch.” I opened it up and found a card and some acrylic paint pens!
I got teary as I read the card. I remember how hard deployment was with littles under normal circumstances, but with COVID19 on top of it, playgrounds unavailable, stay at home orders – Groundhog Day is likely an understatement. Painting these tiny canvases has been a fun escape but has reminded me of the importance of community. While we may be socially distancing, we still need each other. People need people.
Everywhere we look we see signs of the virus, steps to prevent the spread and the inescapable ads and emails of every single company telling us ‘we are all in this together’. People wearing masks when out getting groceries. The lack of the need of gasoline for a car that spends days in the driveway. The stay at home orders have been for us inconvenient, but hardly a hardship. My heart breaks for the many that this is not the case.
While being at home, we’ve made crafts, continued our homeschooling curriculum and have gotten outside in some incredible Pacific Northwest weather days. As an introvert, I’m good most days. When chatting with my people, we all seem to have a wide range of emotions on any given day. Life is continuing on, but we are modifying. Some are no big deal, and then other days we are sloths trying to crawl through the hours that feel eternal. Time warps in quarantine. Some days are good, others feel yucky and every shade in between. In short, it’s been weird.
After 9 weeks of being at home, with the exception of the grocery store, I had a dentist appointment today. It felt odd knowing I actually had something scheduled on the calendar. What do I even wear? Should I leave early? (New dentist, unsure of exact location – duh. Google.) All the weird anxious thoughts I usually have at the dentist, plus mush for brains due to lack of normal socialization.
I carefully selected a shirt to go with a pair of capris. I picked out sandals. Every time I’m in the dentist’s chair looking at my feet I wish I’d put in some effort into making my feet look presentable. Or at the very least worn closed toed shoes. Not that the dentist cares, but in my head the dentist totally appraises each patient’s feet. Yes, it’s weird. Yes, I am aware that in reality they likely don’t give a rip. Yes, I have imagined the dentists and hygienists laughing at patients feet after a long day. You don’t think these bizarre thoughts and imagine crazy conversations? Hmmm, perhaps just me then.
With all of that rolling around my head, I shaved my legs. I clipped, filed and painted my toenails. I moisturized my legs and elbows.
For. the. dentist. I dressed up for the dentist. Okay, that’s a lot, even for me.
After sitting in the waiting room for a few moments, I was escorted back to my extra-sanitized chair. ‘Please do NOT act like a weirdo who hasn’t spoken to adults in real life in 9 weeks!’ I instructed myself. ‘Don’t be awkward!’
Fidgety and hoping I would be comfortable with the new dentist, I settled in and chatted with the hygienist who seemed quiet, reserved and…well, that is all I could tell from the eyes up. Having curly hair herself, we discussed the thing that all curlies discuss – products. It made us both relax. ‘I can do this, I am doing this,’ I cheered myself on silently. ‘You are human-ing!’
By the end of the cleaning and consult on work to be completed, the hygienist and I were agreeing that life felt hard and disjointed. The dentist told us of his started home improvement projects, and that since he was back to the office he’d now have to manage his time better than before to get everything finished. They hygienist laughed, admitting her pants were now tight after living in sweats for a month.
We’re all just out of whack. To varying degrees no doubt, but out of sorts nonetheless. It’s all just….odd. In the meantime, I have painted toes, shaved and moisturized legs, and of course, clean teeth to go with my quarantine brain.
I have basically been at home (with about 3-4 outings for essentials) for 39 days. (The minions were ill 2 weeks before the stay at home orders in our state were put into effect). In these 39 days, I’ve learned a couple of things about myself. I consider myself an introvert, with a few extrovert tendencies. I cherish alone time – not only that, it is essential for functioning. If a solo recharge doesn’t happen on the regular, shut down is guaranteed. Being amongst the peoples drains me. Through this craziness I find I am in fact the “chatty-chat monster” that the minions have long-accused me of being. Who knew I was such an extrovert?! I will talk the ear off of a random person in the checkout line, the checker, the bagger, the checker 2 aisles over – they are adults; let’s converse the day away! I apparently have no shame. Now? Oh man, do I miss the niceties and courtesies that we all share when conducting our everyday business.
I have been craving the creative. Photography, sewing, writing, and of course art projects with the kids have been recent channels of expression. Blocks of time to fill with no must-do’s create an enormous vacuum, and Netflix, internet surfing and mindless activity will only take us so far. Creativity has been heart-filling and anxiety-dampening.
Nature hasn’t been forgotten, simply not prioritized. I crave nature like oxygen. Hiking, biking, running, walking the dogs, even standing in the back yard and feeling the soft blades tickle the arch of bare feet – it all satisfies. I feel the presence of the divine when lost in my thoughts while lost in nature. More often than not, magic happens when in that space. Not magic in the slight of hand way, but what I call “Universe Winks”. Things like butterflies landing on my shirt, that are more than just “woo-woo”, and far more than coincidence.
Whales are common in Puget Sound. But, in most of my life living here (save a few years of duty stations elsewhere) I have never seen them in the wild. Neighbors had been posting that they’d “seen the whales playing out behind our circle”. I would rush out, and by the time I’d arrived, the whales evidently thought it was time to hide. Disappointed, I would return home. My daughter and I walked along the trails that border our neighborhood looking expectantly for any signs of whales. Lots of seagulls, which I also adore, but no whales. Countless times I walked out expecting to be awed, praying for a “moment”, then immediately chastising myself for asking for something so trivial when I have already been given so much. I felt greedy hoping for more. On one of these outings, an eagle flew right into viewfinder of the camera.
Seriously, how could I desire more with the beauty that already surrounds where I live?!
This is a 2 minute (if that) walk from my front door.
But, that is human nature though, isn’t it? We struggle with desire versus contentment. Learning to be content is the key to true happiness. I continued to walk out to the water and desire more.
And then it happened.
The Universe not only winked, it wrapped me up in the best fluffy-sweater, cozy-warm, first-cup-of-coffee-in-the-morning, sun-beaming bear hug. Turns out that sobbing uncontrollably while playing photographer is as hard and awkward as it sounds! Wiping tears off of the view finder while whispering prayers of thanksgiving for such gifts that are not deserved-yet bestowed with flair and grandeur-the camera click-clicked away attempting to capture one of the most breathtaking moments.
Incredibly close to shore! And directly in front of my shore-front driftwood seat!
Not only did I witness a whale, but TWO whales. Oh Universe, you are so extra and I ADORE YOU!