Life

These are hard times

Living in hard times is nothing new. If you look back on history (and you need not go far), people have been presented with awful, horrific situations as bad or worse than what’s happening in modern day America, since the beginning of time. Floods, fires, pandemic, inequity, misogyny, racism, economic insecurity, climate change, partisan politics, to name a few. There are an abundance of examples of this in the Bible as well and on the morning after the news of another blow to 2020, the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsberg, I found myself looking to God for answers to my biggest, burning question: How can you send so much grief and angst to Your people in one year?!

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Life

The day is here!

Today is the day! It’s finally here. Although if it were a year ago, my sense of peace and serenity in this moment would be a little easier, not slightly clouded by a thought that something could go wrong. The first day of school.

Even as thoughts of possible COVID situations appear like unwanted wasps circling my head, I have been laser focused on this day for weeks, the day when one very important part of all our lives returns to some semblence of a different kind of normal. In-person school.

The pros and cons have been considered. The school plan studied, questioned and verified, giving weight to the decision to send our son back to school where he was a once thriving student who loved to learn. The year feels like the freshest start we have ever needed after months of home/online school, a dearth of activities to keep us occupied over the summer months, and spending altogether too much time together in close quarters.

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Life

When in doubt, unplug

The printer at work was giving me a run for my money last week. If it wasn’t callibrating, warming up or asking for new toner (it needed all four cartridges replaced in three days time), it was going into power save mode and to wake it up I had to open and close the paper tray several times which usually does the trick. More than once I simply turned it off, took a few deep breaths and turned it back on. And of course this is going to happen when the workload that requires a bunch of printing is at it’s height!

My job is not stressful. I work in the Faith Formation office at my Catholic church and spend most of my three day a week gig organizing for the in-person weekend mass as well as corraling volunteers to help give out communion in the parking lot. My favorite part is talking to parishioners who call to sign up for mass and I get to learn about the intricacies of their lives as I become a trusted listener.

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Life

What makes you anxious?

For several months I have been consciously avoiding the news which isn’t easy when your husband turns on CNN before bed most evenings. Turn off the hearing aids and whala – no more news. The reason is mainly because I hate politics as much as Michelle Obama claims to and I do understand it is a necessary evil but the rhetoric of Trump’s campaign was really getting to me.

I decided to tune into the Democratic convention and thought it was well done. It kept my attention all four nights and the words spoken were a balm to the crushing, anxiety inducing rhetoric coming out of the White House these days. By the Friday morning after the convention I felt my anxiety lift as hope took over and that in a short time there would soon be adults running our country again. Optimism for our country’s future was on the upswing. And that’s when I started to tune into the news more.

Big mistake. Once again, Trump has managed to make my anxiety for our country soar. We need someone with feelings, empathy and heart leading us in these uncommon and hard times. He doesn’t seem to care the USA is number one in COVID deaths by a good percentage of the overall population and he keeps saying it’s going to “disappear”. He lives in a different world than the rest of us, I guess. He incites radical behavior, fueling the fires of unrest and blaming it all on Joe Biden who IS NOT PRESIDENT.

My optimism has faded as I read the latest polls which has Biden and Trump a bit too close for comfort. How do we live in a society that doesn’t care about equality and the health of our neighbors? How have Republicans let this man (and family) take over a party that didn’t used to be so radical? Who can we blame for all of this? The people who didn’t exercise their voting rights in 2016?

I have become used to gently rolling my eyes at my husband, a lifelong Republican, who feels it is his patriotic duty to gobble up all the books that lay bare the sins of Donald Trump. I do not wish to know how truly bad he is although I have more than an inkling. But when it came to hearing what Melania was about (because we have barely heard a peep from her in four years), I couldn’t help but be drawn to a New York Times article about the new book her former friend wrote. The last sentance of the article left me chilled. Melania claimed to her friend who was worried she was having a nervous breakdown that “You give people nervous breakdown, you don’t have it your own”. I, for one, do not wish to live in a country that promotes this kind of anxiety and I hope I am not the only one.

MC

Life

Nothing to do

As a parent, there are very few words that pain me than when my teenager says …but there’s nothing to do. Or, what can I do? Or, I’m bored. Reaching back into my own childhood, those questions and statements would be met with a list of chores guaranteed to keep you busy for days and would teach you that uttering such phrases to your parents was a very bad idea. To my chagrin, that does not work with my own kid.

Since we are all new to the land of The Cape, we don’t have a handy list of things to do when the weather isn’t cooperating. And so we Googled it (or more precisely asked Siri) when presented with overcast and rainy weather on our second day here. The list was good but it required us to be in “normal” times and not our current social distancing, everything’s closed state of being. It sent me back to our second summer visiting Delaware when he was barely three and we were unlucky enough to presented with four consecutive days of rain and very little to do outside of shopping at the nearby outlets. You can imagine this isn’t a three-year-old’s idea of fun. Fortunately we had packed a dvd about farm animals and we watched it non-stop until our eyes were bleeding but it kept him occupied. When we couldn’t take it any longer, we packed up the car with two days left on our week’s rental and headed home.

That’s where my thoughts were drifting yesterday afternoon, not even twenty-four hours into our trip as I stared into a pair of sullen eyes. The kids is addicted to The Office and even episodes of that would no longer placate him. Let’s go for a ride, I said. Always an option regardless of the weather and so we jumped in the car and headed to explore what lay beyond our very “boring” room at the Inn. We hunted down a shack selling lobster rolls and the best clam chowder I have ever tasted. We drove a little more but then I remembered my quest to visit the nearby bookstore and so entered the address into my mapping software and guided my husband on what turns to make.

When we arrived at the sparsely stocked new/used store they both looked at me with a look that may have said $%@& but I gently pulled them inside and said I’d buy them anything they desired if we could have a few minutes of peaceful browsing. The store does not accomodate more than one family of browsers so we had to wait our turn at the back of the store until the others had been checked out. In the end, the visit netted three new/used books and at least two happy people (me and my husband, in case you didn’t guess). I bought a book that has over 100 people waiting for it at the library both online and hard copy and the book seller warned me I wouldn’t be available for family interaction for the next day or two until I finished it. This sealed the sale for me!

We did not come up with any other options about spending the rainy day but somehow we mananged to survive and today the sun is gloriously shining for a beautiful day at the beach. We made it to the other side. At least for now.

MC

books

Book browsing vacation

This morning I’m dreaming of the past where bookstores, mostly independent, peppered the retail landscape. Once upon a time I had several choices in the city I now live and then one by one they quietly shuttered as they gave way to the super stores. Borders, Barnes and Noble and another chain called Media Play. And then the last ones standing were Barnes and Noble and one independent. Having so many choices was something I never took for granted as I gave all of them my love. A Friday night browsing with a friend in tow or even on my own was a great way to start the weekend, in my opinion. So many books, so little time.

So now when I’m visiting a new town, I’m drawn to seek out the local bookstore, hoping it’s not a Barnes and Noble and I usually find success. For the past 10 summers we’ve been vacationing on the Delaware shore and a trip wasn’t complete until I found my way to Rehobooth’s Browesabout Books. I’d tell the others to walk along the boardwalk without me while I perused the shelves for something new to read even though I had loaded up my Kindle for the trip. To my nose, the scent of a bookstore is the most beautiful aroma in the world.

I Googled bookstores this morning and three independent’s popped up within a short distance and looking at the map I see Cape Cod is peppered with them! This is a book lovers haven. But how will this work in our current COVID climate? Can you just walk into a bookstore and browse these days? I have yet to visit one in person since mid-March when lockdown began but I’m not going to be able to pass up the opportunity to at least try to visit the one in walking distance and make a purchase no matter how small. To me it would be a national crisis to let these gems close down due to financial insolvancy.

It’s just part of my DNA to equate vacation with books and the pull of a new bookstore to discover is too strong to ignore. I’m anticipating the jingle of a bell as I open the door to the discovery of a new world and it’s a music I long to hear.

MC

Writing

Keep (Free) Writing

After months and months of daily writing on 750words.com, I abruptly stopped a week and a half ago. Blog ideas were coming to me and I was feeling inspired and thought my creative dryspell had gone bye bye. But it was more like that writing had helped me gain momentum and in order to keep it, I needed to keep going. An object in motion stays in motion, right? Stopping writing, the ideas began to dry up again.

So once again I’m free writing in the mornings but instead of slogging through what’s happening in my current life, I find that I’m drifting back in time, digging into old memories – some good and some not so good. In one of my AA meetings, we read a passage called Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow and it’s all about staying in the day but for us writers, that’s a tough place to remain. We like to drift.

In anticipation of vacationing on Cape Cod (a place I’ve never been unless you count a rainy March weekend on Nantucket), I’ve been picking through the vacation memories of my young life when my parents would pack the station wagon with the seven of us, a tent and a mix of warm clothes and bathing suits for a week in Wells, Maine. I distinctly remember needing the warm clothes more than the bathing suits even though it was the middle of summer because the nights were very cool in this northern U.S. city. I don’t have memories of enjoying the beach but we must have.

That stream of consciousness led me to places and things I’d forgotten about as I remembered how we spent our free time on those trips. Cards, Yahtzee, truth or dare. I was the youngest of five at the time and probably no more than six with the oldest of my siblings between thirteen and fifteen so there was a wide range of experience for when someone chose truth. I did not have any secrets back then and what a nostalgic place to be. A time with no secrets, shame or regret.

So here we are, embarking on brand new memories, in a brand new place, something that doesn’t happen to me (us) often these days as quarantine has turned life upside down. What will I pack, what books will I bring and what will the car snacks be for this three plus hour ride to the Eastern seaboard? We’re leaving in a little over an hour so there’s no time to spare.

Keep writing.

Life

Untamed

Did you happen to read Glennon Doyle’s recent book, Untamed? While I have been familiar with Doyle through the years, I never got around to reading any of her other books. She popped up in my consciousness through authors I am keenly interested in – Elizabeth Gilbert, Brene Brown and of course, Oprah. If Oprah likes you, you are gold, right? But somewhere between the time I discovered her and sort of knew who and what she was about (life struggles included anorexia, alcoholism, drug addiction and unplanned motherhood to name a few) to her writing the book Untamed, she seemed to have undergone a complete shift in thinking.

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Life

Empathy for lives lost

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Life just got incredibly hard for four families in my community. No longer are worries about finances and social distancing and lack of toilet paper on the forefront of their minds. My interest in reading the obituaries in the local paper doesn’t usually send my morning into a wave of saddness because if you see one young person in the pages, it’s occasional at best. Today there were four. Thirty-one, thirty-one, twenty-five, twenty-three.

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Life

Music For Life

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Music has always been a big part of my life even though I wasn’t born with talent as a musician myself. Unlike with writing, I have never been bothered by lacking this innate aptitude many others enjoy and I’ve taken up my lot in life as an enthusiastic fan. From an early age I was blessed to possess my very own compact turntable and I collected 45’s of my favorites so I could play them ad nauseum. My first favorite song ever was You Never Promised Me A Rose Garden by Lynn Anderson (remember Hee Haw!) and I think I made my family crazy playing it over and over and over until YMCA and then Funkytown took its place. By the time I was nine or ten, I graduated to full albums and collected everything by Shaun Cassidy, Leif Garret (my secret boyfriend), the Jacksons and the Osmonds (I liked Jimmy but he wasn’t a big star like his other siblings). 

Of course I was highly influenced by my older siblings tastes so by my teen years I was turned on to a wider range of artists including Boston, The Eagles, The Steve Miller Band, Peter Frampton (my older siblings) and The Clash, AC/DC, Yes, U2, The Kinks (my brother, Jeff who was two years older than me). I borrowed their albums and sometimes returned them with scratches, much to their dismay, which probably caused them to hide them on me. My dad was no fan of AC/DC and I recall an incident where he broke one of their albums over his knee due to unwholesome lyrics, I guess. It was the same album I brought to play at our catholic school’s sixth grade Christmas party and I was probably lucky there was no time to play it because I might have been expelled.

High School was a time I came into my own as far as musical tastes went. The early years were Loverboy (my first concert sans parents), The Little River Band, Journey, Tears for Fears, Culture Club and Prince. When I discovered Prince, everyone else took a back seat and I’d play and pause the albums (particularly 1999 and Purple Rain) on my cassette player while I’d write the lyrics in a notebook so I could sing along. Kids these days don’t know how good they have it with the internet as lyrics were not always included in the liner notes. One of my bucket list items was to see Prince in concert and luckily I crossed that off when he came to Boston and I made the six hour round trip trek to hear him from the top of the bleachers. It was a moment in time I’ll always cherish. It’s a good thing my dad didn’t take note of his lyrics as I’d have a lot more broken albums on my hands.

I started to learn about heartbreak as I moved onto college and there would be playlists to recover from these season of life events. Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive was the gold standard of breakup songs along with Nothing Compares 2 U, Missing You by John Waite and anything by Natalie Merchant and Alanis Morissette. My last really hurtful breakup was in 1997 and I spent hours driving around listening to Chris Isaak’s Forever Blue (my newest favorite artist after seeing him on a Friends episode) until I was out of tears. Listening to his live rendition of his iconic song Wicked Game (also a good break up song) was the background music of my impromptu engagement in 2002. It was my very first Chris Isaak show, another bucket list event and special memory.

There are many, many other musicians I enjoy and when a song I haven’t heard in years pops up on the random selection feature of my iTunes library, I am often pulled back into the past to relive a time when I played them over and over, the times vivid once again, both good and bad.

MC