Musings

Ode to the Target flyer

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If you’re not a newspaper reader, you may not know what I’m talking about. Sometime about the end of March, I noticed Target stopped inserting their weekly flyer into the Sunday newspaper. Honestly, it was a highlight of my Sunday reading experience. Among the bevy of flyers that come with the paper each week, there was just something about the Target insert that stood out. Maybe it was the paper, the size, the graphic design, the way they didn’t cram the space like grocery stores do so you can easily see what’s on display for the week.

Reading the Target flyer, saving it for last, was like prolonging that yummy dessert while you consumed the nutritious protein and veggies first. I’d pull it from the large stack of flyers, it was usually nestled into the front of the comics and I’d give it a place away from the general muck of the other sections so it didn’t get lost. I’d scan headlines, read stories that didn’t require a jump (continue on another page) and kept to the lighter stories of the day.  Hey, it’s Sunday, a day of rest and good news, right?

But then it was time to devote some time to Target. What was on sale this week? Would there be anything we needed to stock up on or think about for a future purchase? Page by page I’d note what were the electronics specials, what new books and movies on DVD were coming out on Tuesday, what season of life it was – summer, back to school, holiday.  I’d scan for the specials on clothing and fitness gear.

Those days are gone along with living our public lives without masks. It doesn’t keep me from hoping there will be a flyer in the current week’s Sunday edition, especially with back to school right around the corner, whatever that may mean. My trips to Target have dwindled whether it’s due to the missing flyers or the pandemic’s lack of needs, I’m not sure. I hope someday it will be back, it just won’t be today.

MC

 

Life

Beyond the headlines

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We are holdouts on dropping our subscription to the daily newspaper. Although you can get most of your news from other sources these days, especially national news, the newspaper is still a long term habit we’re not ready to let go of. Of course the fact I used to work there and had nearly twenty years to build this habit at half price gets most of the credit for this. Also, for several years after I left, the familiar bylines were like an invisible connection to the people I knew and grew to love. Yes, reporters are a curmudgeonly and questioning lot. The sky is blue? Prove it.

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Writing

Word by word

Writing a book is daunting. I’ve made a few stabs at it but the words don’t come in a way I feel satisfied with. I read other people’s work with longing. And regret. Regret that I can’t pull together a plot or even sentences the way other people can and even though I know it’s not easy for them either (I’m subscribed to the hashtag WritingCommunity on Twitter), I feel like they were gifted with some sort of innate talent that I wasn’t. Maybe it is my lot in life to be just a reader. No, I want to be one of those people where words pour out, a flow of ideas – the story, the magical sentences. I hear these people exist.

I have been writing every day. OK, so it’s pretty much nonsensical words thrown on the page describing the most mundane life moments which are pretty much the same from day to day. This is not “real” writing but for some reason, I can’t get beyond this and promise myself tomorrow will be different. I love when Ann Lamott says to just sit your butt in a chair and write and as I open a new document the words that come to me are bird by bird. However, I don’t have even one bird.

On Monday I forgot to even write. I carry guilt about not writing with me through every day and Monday was the first day in months that I didn’t feel anxious for not having written by the end of the day. Either part of me forgot I hadn’t written or the writer in me shut itself off. Powered down. Unplugged itself. But then when I sat down to write on Tuesday, I saw the gap in days between Sunday and Tuesday and still let myself off the hook from writing for one more day. I was too damn tired and now I have a two day gap.

But I pick up where I left off and write the nonsense from two lost days. And just as I come to the end of my allotted 750 words and as I’m about to get ready for work, a germ of an idea comes. I tag a few sentences at the end of my daily drivel so I have an idea where I left off. But now I have to go and hope for the best for later. Or tomorrow.

Life

Life is weird and good

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It’s 8:00 a.m. on a Friday and Starbuck’s is nearly empty, a half dozen tables moved to the front of the store with chairs stacked on top, denote we are living in a new time. It’s chilly (for August) and raining but the three meagerly spaced tables outdoors, under the eave of the building are occupied with the die hard coffee and wifi borrowing devotees who need to be in the vicinity of a coffee shop to write. Today, I am one of them as I wait while my dad undergoes a quick procedure at the hospital before he is released back out into the world. Of course, I wasn’t allowed to go in with him because – COVID.

But sitting here writing in a once bustling shop is a starker reminder of the unusual times we are living in. Weirder than masking up to grocery shop and go to work. There are no tables of early morning seniors or students or business people having a quick early meeting over a cup. The tables aren’t full of writers or readers or others just needing a quick escape from home. This particular Starbucks carries noise in perpetual motion around the room from front to back, side to side, but no conversations are bouncing back to me today. Just the peripheral vision of masked customers waiting 6 feet apart for their name to be called. A quick pick up and run.

School is on my mind these days because I have a rising eighth grader and the memories of a chaotic spring semester of online schooling from home are whirling back to me. What is school going to look like this year? Will there be sports (probably not), will there be a regular school day (probably not), will there be a return to a teen social life (probably not) – or a parent social life?! We are grinning and bearing it as best we can but the teen hasn’t been out of my vicinity (except when I do my fifteen hours a week at my job) since mid-March and I think we both need a break. COVID has changed so much for all of us but we still have each other and the instincts to keep going on regardless, day after day. We are resilient, thank God.

I can’t help but wonder what our country would be like today if we had a different leader who could have given us some real guidance in the time of this pandemic. I will leave it at that as I shy away from political commentary here. The thing I am grateful for is that I only have to worry about today. Sitting here, enjoying a coffee, retrieving my dad from the hospital and getting him back to his loved ones. Life is still good. Weird but good.

 

 

Life

Imagining a different life

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I’m not one to sit around and think of the roads that diverge in life as events lead you down one path or the other (this always sends me back to Frost’s The Road Not Taken), but today would have been my brother Jeff’s fifty-fifth birthday and my mind has drifted backward, undoing all the intervening years to his twenty first year which was his last proper birthday, the day he became of legal age, and he was on his way to getting the life he wanted. I had turned nineteen a week and a half prior and we were looking forward to being in the same city for college that fall as he was transferring to his dream college only they didn’t have space for him on campus, an incoming transfer student in his junior year.

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Writing

Routine changes

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From the time my dad came for a visit, and maybe even before that, I let go of my daily routines. No more prayer, meditation, affirmations and my writing was no longer anchored to the morning. The primary reason for this (or so I tell myself) was to give my dad as much attention as possible and since he was an early riser, I wanted to sit and have coffee with him and listen to what he had to say. It’s easy to get out of routines and harder to reclaim them. The one thing I didn’t let go of was daily writing which wasn’t always easy but using the website 750words.com was like a having an invisible bull whip to get me to sit down before the end of the day and empty my brain on the page. It’s five dollars a month for the service and even though it’s a small amount compared to say a gym membership (which I was less devoted to even in the best of times) it was enough of an incentive to keep me coming back and the daily streak tally was a boon as I watched it climb each day.

With my dad now gone to rehab for a fall he took here, my mornings are suddenly, sadly free but the routines have not been recouped. Why is it so hard to do the things you know are good for you? One thing I’ve promised myself is to reclaim my voice and this blog because even if no one reads my words, I can feel like I’m making progress toward a writing goal at the very least. My daily writing is consumed by the minutia of the day and I want more for myself than that. What we had for dinner, the chores I completed, the books I was reading. Sometimes I use superfulous words and break every writing rule just to get to 750 words each day because I’ve left it until it’s nearing the end of the day and I just about have the 20 minutes left until midnight to get it in.

But starting now, I am here. I am back to writing in public and I hope to see you more often in the future.

MC

Life

Life is a Mixed Bag

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Dad and me at his 80th Birthday Celebration

It’s been a while since I’ve published a blog post and even though I say “published” I may as well say attempted too. In the time of Coronavirus I may have run out of things to say. If like me, your days have turned into a perpetual Groundhog Day, you know what I’m talking about. What is there to say about the waking up, brushing teeth and doing eight other things, the same ones you did yesterday. Actually, it’s not as bad as I make it seem and one bright spot in my last month was that my dad was visiting me. He has slowed down quite a bit since turning eighty last December but I wasn’t prepared for the amount of help we would need to get around our house. He fell on his first day here and it was then I realized how fragile he’d become. But with a cane and someone’s crook of an elbow, it was manageable.

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Life

One breath at a time

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When I arrive at my pulmonologist’s office I am thrilled to see my doctor who has been treating my chronic bronchitis and Kartagener’s Syndrome since I was 21. Thirty-one years. We greet each other behind our masked faces, eyes light up in recognition it has been nearly seven years since we’ve seen each other. My bad. I think I have a handle on my disease and then I land in the ER with pain from a lung infection gone awry. But seven years is a good run with no hospital visits as I’ve gotten much better at taking care of myself, until I stop.

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Life

Poems from the past

 

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I’m looking for a notebook to set out the plans for my new routine. The step by step guide to take back my old life and fix this messy house. I’m home from Florida where my thirteen-year-old and I spent several weeks social distancing in nicer weather and where there wasn’t much to do other than read, tidy, and enjoy the outdoors (and school for him). It was the best place to be in this time of quarantine. Reality hits hard now as I scan the house which is in a great deal of upheaval with the contents of the thirteen-year-old’s bedroom strewn across several rooms as the project of turning it into a teenage room looms before us. Deep breath.

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Life

Backyard Observation

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My son’s last seventh grade science assignment for the school year was to keenly observe an area of our backyard over a four week period. He was to look beyond the grass and the weeds and the crisp brown leaves that never made it to the compost bin to see what is living in our backyard. This meant sitting still and turning over rocks. It meant patience and curiosity. It meant listening and learning and sometimes typing a long, descriptive summary of his questions about the plant’s outward appearance on Google.com. He was excited there’s an app that will zoom in on a plant and tell you it’s perfect and difficult to pronounce proper name along with it’s history, origin story, expected size range and how to treat them to get the absolute best results from the plant for your garden or yard. Yes, there’s always an app for that. This is a perfect experiment for a seventh grader who is still so full of curiousity and wonder, especially if it means getting dirty.

As I watched him watch the yard, I couldn’t help but think this is a good metaphor for where we find ourselves today. How many of us have keenly observed our own backyard to the microscopic extent that was asked of my seventh grader? How many of us have turned over rocks to find out what’s living underneath them? Checking our prejudices and stereotypes for what is the whole truth. It’s hard to do this kind of excavation because for so long it’s been in the background, happening to other people, and sometimes we think, but it happened so long ago. That wasn’t us.

It’s kind of like when I’m working my recovery and think about what I need to make amends for in my own life. When have I sugar coated or said, well, it wasn’t that bad? What have I forgotten or swept under the rug, away from prying eyes, making my home look nice and tidy? Yes, this is a period of excavation for our country and ourselves. A period to sit and listen without saying BUT or HOWEVER or interupting at all. Listen to what is being said. Listen and observe and (re)learn. And sometimes Google. There is not an app for this.