Category Archives: Family

getting out of my own way

03.2018_iowa

pizza at pagliai’s; hamm’s beer and cheeseburgers at george’s; the haunted bookshop; and street art

B & I had a great visit in northside Iowa City. In my estimation, he picked the perfect neighborhood to live in, and we spent our two days together enjoying it. The sun was shining and the weather was milder than Michigan; we ran down around the University of Iowa campus, ate cheeseburgers at George’s (dive bar extraordinaire) and browsed at the Haunted Bookshop where I finally spotted the other resident cat (I had to go both days).

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We finally watched one of the Oscar-nominated films (I don’t think either of us had seen any of them yet) – Three Billboards. Although the casting was wonderful, the movie itself perplexed and annoyed both of us. Spoiler Alert –> Couldn’t they have just focused on the ensemble cast and the themes of grief and vengeance and foregone the Molotov cocktails and the throwing of people out of windows?

It was a short visit (made shorter by Daylight Savings) and all too soon I was back in my car for the six hour journey home. I picked an Audible unabridged version of Ann Rule’s “The Stranger Beside Me” (about her relationship with notorious serial killer Ted Bundy). Unfortunately, this book is leaving me perplexed and annoyed as well, and not just because Ted Bundy was an evil maniac. It’s making me feel as though maybe I’m just an overly critical consumer of entertainment. I’m not quite done with it yet, so I will refrain from sharing my feelings about it until I am.

Back home; I am plunged into preparations for Book Fair and fighting a sore throat and rampant ennui. I feel woefully inadequate for the tasks ahead of me in the next week and a half and I am trying to focus on a passage I read in the Crosswick Journals by Madeline L’Engle (a battered three-volume set that I picked up for a song at the aforementioned Haunted Bookshop, and which is filled with more wonderful quotes and musings than I can possibly begin to digest – and while I’m at it allow me to confess one additional thing that may prove my point about being overly critical – I am deeply suspicious of the new movie version of “A Wrinkle In Time” – deeply – and not just because it is packed with Oprah and “big names” – although that might be part of it):

“A winter ago I was asked by the Children’s Book Council to write a story, and agreed to do so. I was telling Tallis about it, and said, “I’m really very nervous about this.” He looked at me contemptuously: “You don’t think you’re going to have anything to do with it, do you?” “No,” I retorted, “but I could get in the way.”

Here’s to getting out of our own way. xo

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flowing not forcing

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Miss L and I have spent the last couple of weeks immersed in Girl Scout cookie sales, which means cookie booths and many last-minute trips to Fearless Scout Leader’s house to pick up final orders. Miss L always unabashedly gives me a lot of credit for her sales, and when we delivered cookie orders to Widget Central she told both the CEO and a VP that I essentially sold all her cookies for her. I’m also in the initial throes of chairing the elementary school Book Fair at the end of the month and wondering why the hell I get myself into these positions. I just got the class Valentine’s Day party out of the way.  Don’t I know that I’m an introvert?!

I kid. I am trying to ramp up my involvement in school activities because I’ve realized that she only has a year left of elementary, and then everything will change. I’m not ready for middle school and high school and I want to keep her at this stage- enjoying school dances without stress, exchanging Valentines and selling Girl Scout cookies and letting me be involved in her friends and classroom and life – as long as I can.

We got hit with a first-of-March snowstorm that dumped several inches of heavy wet snow and left many people without power – I’m blessed to say that my power stayed ON despite my fear that I would experience a repeat of last year’s almost-72 hours without it during an unexpected March storm.

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I head to Iowa next weekend for a few-day visit with B. In preparation, my taxes are done, I spent an inordinate amount of money at the Subaru dealership for Finn’s 30k check (only to be told that he’s in tip top shape which did not seem to result in any kind of good-health discount) and I’ve ordered a new pair of boots that were on my Amazon wish list for a long time, waiting for just the right time to splurge. Since I started my capsule closet project, I’ve reduced my wardrobe considerably, and although it’s not a capsule by any means, I am much more aware of what I have, what I wear, and what I need. Most of what I buy is replacement work clothes – it’s very rare nowadays that I buy something just for fun, that I can wear out on a date or casually – mostly I recycle old work clothes that aren’t really suitable for work anymore (I get my own hand-me-downs, so to speak). And I when I do replace, often times it’s ThredUp gently used items – and it’s always high-quality. I like to think I’m done with reams of trendy, ill-fitting clothes that I can get for low prices, in favor of well-made items that are classic and will serve me for years.

But I really needed a pair of casual, well-built boots and these Taos Ringer were just what I wanted. I’m pleased with my purchase and can’t wait to break them in next weekend tromping around the University of Iowa campus with my friend.

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I’m always behind in laundry, but at least I have a faithful companion who thinks being helpful at folding laundry is ALMOST as fun as being helpful with making beds.

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I hope you are all well this first week of March, 2018. xo

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thanks for waiting

The side hustle is done! and I am waiting for my grades on my last exam and appellate brief before I start celebrating! I’m happy to have some free time to do some other things that I am passionate about (including blogging). In the meantime, here’s some photos that I’ve missed sharing while I’ve been immersed in Westlaw searches and Statsky 8th Ed.

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we had a couple of whomper snowstorms –  my little battery powered Snow Joe did well but when the snow plows came thru i had no choice but to resort to manual efforts. 

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very quick trip to queretaro, mexico for work

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more than one snowy run but mostly relegated to treadmill.

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My house is still full of love, Miss L, cats, unfolded laundry, stacks of library books and incomplete jigsaw puzzles, bags of yarn. There are some new essential oil additions and a couple of new occupants in Miss L’s aquarium. The even-toed ungulates still come to raid the birdfeeders and there is still a hole in my ceiling – and I’m still a happy girl. B, my summer friend, is now my long-distance winter friend and I will be traveling back to Iowa City to see him in March for a long weekend.

I’m excited to start ramping up my running miles (I’m hanging in there at about 10 a week) and get started on some new knitting projects. A sweater is still a goal for this year but I really feel that I need a new pair of Jaywalker socks for myself as a present for getting my certificate. And this little sloth on Craftsy caught my girl’s eye, so I will tackle that first, too. After those minor distractions, I will start researching patterns and yarn for my sweater.

I’ll be back soon with some updates on what I’ve been reading, a race recap of the Betsie Bay Frozen 5k, and another major resolution that I’ll be tackling in 2018. I hope you’ve been well.

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hello, it’s been awhile

Hello friends. If I haven’t been here in awhile, it’s because I’ve had a really nice summer. I grew wildflowers instead of vegetables, except for a couple of tomato plants that seem listless in their containers. I’ve added more birdfeeders which the deer love, regularly emptying them at night – Sarge and I caught them once, in the first light of dawn, capering and kicking with ghostly grace through my backyard. I got back to running, although I am much slower than I ever have been, and don’t really care much being competitive.

It’s been a summer in which I made a new friend and said ‘yes’ to almost every invitation. I went to a baseball game and watched fireworks on the rooftop of the Detroit Athletic Club. My friend and I enjoyed drinks and small plates in trendy metro Detroit spots. We listened to live music in town squares and had a picnic on the lovely grounds of Cranbrook and watched classic cars on Woodward Ave.

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I spent time with Miss L and my brother and his family, riding rollercoasters at Cedar Point and our traditional trip to the Hudsonville carnival just this past weekend. L and I also went to Mackinaw Island with her Girl Scout troop and she got to spend a few days with my parents up north, beach time and freighters and lighthouses. My brother and father and grandfather and I fished for trout and salmon on Lake Michigan, just in sight of the Point Betsie light.

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Unfortunately summer draws to a close and there are already hints of scarlet in my front-yard maples. My summer friend has a new job and will be moving on in a few weeks and neither of us are certain what will happen next.

Labor Day approaches and I need firewood, I have knitting projects lined up and a long Netflix queue. Miss L has piles of school supplies and a new backpack for her fourth-grade year and every time I look at her she seems taller, with feet and hands the same size as mine, almost.

I hope that you and yours have had an equally wonderful summer and are growing ready for the hibernation time.  xoxo

 

good kitty.

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This picture came up in my “one year ago today” feature in Facebook and it was timely because Emmett just got a brand-new Kitty Holster and can (hopefully) enjoy going outside a bit more, with safe supervision. He’s always loved going outside – he’s the type of indoor cat that, if I make a move to the front door, will rush for it with crazy yowls and be out on the front porch in a flash. He doesn’t go far (because we’re always there to grab him) but he does love to chew on a stick or two. (Sarge could care less – he likes his nice comfy house and will watch, nonplussed, from the front hall as Emmett rolls around ecstatically on the brick walk.) Unfortunately, although his pet-store harness was cute – it had a little skull & crossbones on it – it was also no match for him. He quickly learned how to sunfish out of it and lead us on a merry dash (once into the neighbor’s garage).

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I bought the Kitty Holster from Amazon and although we’ve only used it a couple of times, I see a big difference. It’s much more substantial – more like a wrap. It firmly fastens with wide Velcro strips around his tummy and chest, and although he doesn’t like being so contained, I can tell he won’t be able to wriggle out of it very easily.

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We have to be very careful with his outings, as the neighbor has a dog and there are two horrible neighbor cats who frequent our yard, but I am hoping that at some point Emmett can enjoy being out with us on the front porch or back patio, maybe with a long leash. We shall see.
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the simple, the plain, the ordinary life

So I was one of the 800,000+ people who lost power in Southeast Michigan’s windstorms last week. I was, however, lucky from the word ‘go’ that despite the gale force winds, ALL of my old trees stayed firmly planted, as did my roof and siding, as many of my friends and neighbors were not so lucky.

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My neighbor, who has frequently throughout my tenure living in this house, berated me for the tall pine trees that border my property (because they “make her yard too shady” – never mind that they are thirty years old if they are a day, and have been here long before either of us bought our houses, and which I shall NEVER EVER CUT DOWN) was unfortunately the recipient of a downed pine tree. Not one of mine. No damage to her house or any of her property, but dare I say, karma?

I was out for just about 72 hours. The timing on Mother Nature’s side couldn’t have been worse, because despite the unnaturally warm winter we’ve mostly experienced, the power outage was concurrent with an extreme drop in temperature, into the teens F. for 2 of the 3 nights I was out. Fortunately, Miss L’s dad and stepmom had power, and immediately took her, so I didn’t have to worry about her safety and comfort (can I say again how lucky I am?)  I had many offers of shelter, showers, charging places, wood, etc. but I had nowhere to take the cats. Plus, I stubbornly wanted to be in my house to make sure the pipes weren’t freezing and bursting. I was ready to go down with the ship, like Royal Tenenbaum’s ideal epitaph.

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I have a woodstove that kept the house in the ’40’s during the outage, which was sufficient to sustain life and keep the pipes from freezing. I also have a gas range so I could boil water, and do a little cooking. But all in all it was a miserable and dehumanizing experience. The cats crouched and stared at me accusingly, and the three of us burrowed into sleeping bags and fleece blankets on a pad in front of the fire at night. Dirty, stressed, sleep deprived from feeding the glowing-sided baby chunks of wood throughout the night, refrigerator full of rotting food with no way to effectively clean it. Where I once loved the smell of woodsmoke, I began to thoroughly detest it on my clothes and greasy hair.

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I read at night by flashlight, made coffee in the mornings in the French press, and rigged the garage door so I could manually open and close it. At night, I pulled Finn in; in the mornings, I pulled him out so I could sit in the driveway with the engine running to charge my phone and check the DTE outage map. It never seemed to change. I didn’t receive any estimate on when my power would go back on, no responses to my emails. When I called to check my status, I was informed by a robotic voice that they could not match my phone number with my account even though I was looking right at my account with that phone number on my mobile app. I know that they had linemen working around the clock to bring people back up, and they brought in many crews from other states to assist – I don’t blame them for the outage. But it would have been nice to have a bit of an idea as to when I could expect power back. For a few bad moments, I was pretty sure I was going to run out of wood.

I did pretty well for the first 48 hours or so but the last night & day, it really took its toll on me. I realized how quickly the situation brought me down. I imagined I was living in “Dr. Zhivago”. I’d wake at night and see the moon hanging in the branches of the willow tree and feel entirely alone, with no connection to the outside world (except for regular messages from my brother, who has bottomless loyalty and empathy, and never failed to make me laugh). It made me think of the poem “The Moon and the Yew Tree”:

The moon is no door. It is a face in its own right,
White as a knuckle and terribly upset.
It drags the sea after it like a dark crime; it is quiet
With the O-gape of complete despair. I live here.

I probably could have made it another 24 hours, getting down to the last of my woodpile; I was at Home Depot buying batteries and Envirocare logs, which my brother had suggested, when I got the notification that my power was back on. I didn’t believe it; the app had told me the same thing several times while I was actually sitting in the freezing house, staring at it as it cycled back towards “OOOOPS OUR BAD, YOUR POWER IS NOT ACTUALLY RESTORED!! LOL”. I drove home quickly; the dentist next door was still running his generator. I ran up the steps, greeted Emmett in the foyer with a head scratch, and flicked the light switch. Nothing. I sagged with disappointment and then girded myself for another dark, cold night. Then I heard a beep from the kitchen and the grinding noise of the furnace waking up in the depths of the basement. I flicked the switch again and stared at the miracle of modern electricity.

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I guess the upside to a few days of inconvenience is the realization of how blessed I am to live the life I do. It humbled me and made me ashamed at how many people live without the daily blessings that I take for granted; power. Heat. Water. The knowledge that I have safety and a roof and the ability to take care of myself, my child, my pets.

I cleaned the house, vacuumed, ran the washer and dryer, took a blistering hot bath perfumed with lots of scented bubbles; slept ten hours in my own bed, with the humidifier and the heated mattress pad cranked up to the max, and woke in the morning stretching and sighing in utter bliss. I had coffee while catching up on my Internet tasks. I picked a Sarah Blondin meditation before going to fetch Miss L (and take her dad and stepmom a dozen donuts to say thank you) – and the meditation was perfect:

“to the wealth that waits for me to turn my gaze toward it; to the simple, the plain, the ordinary life I get to live, I would like to say thank you; I would like to share my most sincere gratitude and love and appreciation to the simple, the plain, the ordinary life I get to live. I would like to say a most sincere thank you for all of the glory that waits for me to turn my gaze toward it. I thank you. I love you. I thank you.”

murder, malpractice, arson, harassment, and thin mints.

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This weekend didn’t feel much like a weekend, except for the relaxing evening I spent binge-watching old episodes of Forensic Files on Netflix. I think I’ve spoken about my love of true crime before, and my addiction to a variety of true crime podcasts. What can I say? It started young. I had a biography of Ed Gein on my bookshelves in high school. I’m sure the woman behind the counter at our town bookshop (“The Printed Word”) thought I was ’round the bend when I slapped that baby down on the old-timey glass topped counter (probably along with the current rolled-up paper horoscope and the latest “Seventeen” magazine). So anyway. My brother & I were DM’ing and I sent him a pic of a screenshot and then of course Facebook did that thing where it puts together a slideshow of your photos with a suggested title in case you want to share it and no lie, it was a picture of my cats and this screenshot of the creepy Forensic Files mad bomber that I’d sent to my brother and the suggested title, in purple neon, was “Big Friday Night!” I had to laugh. Fuck you Zuckerberg.

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Yesterday I was asked back to “role play” at a workshop for prospective mediators-in-training. I took this course two years ago and really enjoyed it (and actually it’s not only where I learned to mediate, it’s where I was exposed to meditation, seriously, for the first time). The past two years I’ve been asked back to role play during 4 test mediations and I really enjoy it, even if it means giving up a Saturday. I was a grieving widow, the amputee victim of medical malpractice, a young female victim of sexual harassment and retaliation, and an insurance adjuster investigating an arson claim. I prepare for all my roles and really get into it.

Miss L is in the thick of Girl Scout cookie season so this morning it was up and at ’em to another cookie booth. It was the last one this year and hopefully by the grace of God I can someday shake the nickname of the “Pusher” around Widget Central. (Pronounced “POOOOSHER”. As in – “you want cookies? Go see the POOOOOOSHER in Legal. She’ll hook you up.” *sniff* *furtive glance* *wipe nose* *slink off*) And if you haven’t already, try Breyer’s line of Girl Scout cookie ice cream. The Thin Mint ice cream goes right to the vein.

Hope you all had a lovely weekend of whatever it is you like to do. xo