Tuesday, February 19, 2019

28 Days

Without fail, this point in February finds me staring at my calendar wondering when I can reasonably abandon the wearing of Winter tights, heavy coats, wool sweaters, scarves, and mittens.  In November and December, I love these clothing items and gather them near with pleasure.  In January, I tolerate them out of their obvious utility.  But in February, my resentment builds.  Far earlier than makes any sense, I begin to contemplate abandonment of my cold weather clothing.

A reasonable woman would check out the weather forecast and refuse to set aside her Winter clothing until daytime temperatures are reliably in the 60s.  I am not that woman.  Without fail, I will declare an arbitrary end to the Winter clothing season.  I can usually wait until March for my unilateral declaration of Spring but there are no guarantees.

I’m no longer bemused by the prospect of snow in the forecast because snow will make flip flops seems like a foolish footwear choice.  I’ve begun too long for pastel sweaters and scarves, which I believe March will warrant.  I’m busily counting the remaining days of tights and heavy, dark Winter coats.  As usual, my imagination is untethered by reality.  One hopes my pride will keep me warm.  

Monday, February 18, 2019

On Presidents and Leadership

I have to confess that in the last two years the Presidents Day holiday has been more important to me than ever before.  It has nothing to do with the necessity for a relaxing three-day weekend (though that’s awfully nice) and has everything to do with the ignorant Cheetoh we (or the Russians) have installed in the White House.

For all the imperfections of our past presidents, and there are many, there are also moments when our leaders have helped us to rise above our human frailties.  I teach many of them and on a day like today, so many examples come to mind.  There is Jefferson’s 1801 Inaugural address when he acknowledges the bruising partisan divide of the 1800 election and reminds the nation that we can “unite with one heart and one mind…(and)…restore to social intercourse that harmony and affection without which liberty, and even life itself, are but dreary things.”  That Jefferson is able to bring that unity is important, both to the people in his day and to us now.

I look to the words and deeds of Abraham Lincoln in his 1861 Inaugural address, the one that famously closes with a powerful request to his fellow citizens, “I am loath to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”  Despite Lincoln’s call for unity, a civil war would ultimately follow.  But even during that most bloody of conflicts, Lincoln urged us to heed our better angels as the only way forward.  In his second Inaugural address, he asked the nation to both finish the war and look forward to being truly unified.  He closed that address with powerful words,  “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations."

I know by heart the words of Franklin Roosevelt as he opens his 1933 Inaugural speech by reminding us that “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself” and then closes with a powerful promise that, “For the trust reposed in me I will return the courage and the devotion that befit the time. I can do no less. We face the arduous days that lie before us in the warm courage of the national unity; with the clear consciousness of seeking old and precious moral values; with the clean satisfaction that comes from the stem performance of duty by old and young alike. We aim at the assurance of a rounded and permanent national life.  We do not distrust the future of essential democracy.”  FDR wasn’t perfect but he preserved democracy in our nation and in the world; he did it while he asked us to be better.

This history matters; it must matter.  For every failing leader we have had (and Trump is not alone here), we have had leaders who have inspired us to be better.   We can be better.  On this Presidents' Day, at this moment in historical time, I need to believe in that more than ever.  

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Birthday Thoughts

19 years ago today, JT was born.  He was born just after midnight after a tiring 3 days and so I slept a bit after his birth.  I remember waking up later that morning and holding and rocking him for most of the day, utterly charmed by this 7 pound wonder who had made me a mama.

That day, I sang to him and talked to him about all the lovely things we would share in the world: stories and books, trips to the park, laughter, and celebrations big and small.  I remember marveling with wonder at his dark, shining eyes and wondering about who he would become.

I thought of that on Saturday as T and I watched JT in his final 3k race of his first indoor track season for Springfield College.  His goal was to beat his best time (a 9:38 run earlier in the season).  He took off strong and as the laps flew by, T and I traded stories about the many races we’ve watched JT run.  We laughed about the fact that these days we are a far cry from the races we watched where JT rolled across the finish line talking non-stop with the other end-of-the-race runners.  We remembered the runs on vacation between his Sophomore and Junior year when something sparked and he became an impassioned runner.  We’ve always cheered as he crosses the finish line and yesterday was no different, as we scanned the results to see his final time and realized he’d bested his day’s goal, with a final time of 9:23.  He was thrilled and so were we!

I am his mother and I think that he looks to me for guidance and unbounded love, which of course he has.  It’s been a wonder and a marvel to watch JT grow up. I am proud of the young man he’s become and I look forward to cheering him on for many years to come.  On this day, I can’t help but remember that his arrival all those years ago forever changed who I am and made me so very grateful to the universe that brought this boy to me.

Happy Birthday, JT.  Fly high and run far, sweet boy.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Amaryllis Report Week 7: February 14

Over the past weekend, my amaryllis bulb finished its work and has opened up with four splendid blooms.

It’s lovely and the flowers will carry me through a few more cold weeks.  In the meantime, I’ve spotted the first of the daffodil shoots peeking through the soil.  The pretty flowers and that bit of green are hopeful signs that Spring will be here soon enough.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

The Industrious Snow Day

Yesterday, we had the day off for the sort of snowstorm that was perfect because of its timing.  This storm brought snow, ice, and sleet but not in abundance and temperatures slipped back over freezing overnight so that today’s morning’s drive won’t be horrible.  A Tuesday holiday makes for a shorter week and I was determined to both get things done and enjoy my day off.  Over morning coffee, I made a to-do list and then got after it.  I started a load of laundry and did some schoolwork.  I  completed my taxes (and shook my fist at Donald Trump, whose tax cut didn’t help me a bit).  Then I took a break, made a cup of tea, and settled in with the cats to read my book for a bit.

I baked some shortbread and made a few treat packets to give away.

I worked on the paper craft flowers that will be my March front door wreath and now I am ready to assemble the wreath.

I took after my nightstand and the tiny drawer therein, which has become completely crammed over the years.  First, I emptied the drawer onto a towel on my bed and marveled at the amount of book marks, paper, pens, and safety pins one woman can toss in a drawer.  Below is a picture of the empty drawer.

And here is the heap I had stuffed in it.

As the heap thinned, I found some treasures.  These pictures of two year old JT were charming.

I also found my grandfather’s pocket tape measure.  I suspected it was in the drawer and finding it was a treat.

After throwing out the trash, I sorted out the treasures that remained, decided which ones spark joy (I know that idea sounds silly, but it really works), and then neatly returned those items to the nightstand and the drawer..

Like all of the other Marie Kondo-inspired clean-ups I’ve made, this one is lovely because it will make my daily life nicer.  

I wrapped up the day by making a pot of red lentil soup which was warm and spicy; a perfect bowl for a cold day.  This recipe is a keeper, both because it’s easy to make and because it’s delicious.

It was nice to have some time to catch up and relax in equal measure.  This morning, I head to school refreshed and with a much shorter to-do list.  That’s good news!

Monday, February 11, 2019

Valentine Crafts

I enjoy paper crafts and the kits at Paper Source are just my speed.  The patterns and colors are splendid and the kits are comprehensive so that projects come together nicely.  I enjoyed making these mermaid and pirate valentines.

I don't have a need to hand out loads of Valentines so this kit will last me a while.  That’s happy!

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Going All Marie Kondo Up in Here

Like everyone else, I watched the Marie Kondo episodes on Netflix, consoled myself that my mess wasn’t that bad, and then and promptly got to work on said messes.  I like things tidy but I’m prone to letting little messes pile up.  When the clean up spirit strikes me, I’m more prone to a “burn it down” approach than a “spark joy” approach.  As I sort through things that I never should have kept around, I grow more and more horrified and then it all goes in a trash bag.  This is not always a good idea and so the Kondo method of being mindful about the items in my house appealed to me.  It also gave me permission to organize my things without judging myself.  And on that basis, T and I got to work.  There are no before pictures because they were too horrifying, so all we’ve got are after pictures.  But it’s quite an after, if I do say so myself.  The linen closet is pleasing every time we open the door, which we sometimes do just to be pleased with how it looks.

The cloth napkin drawer is now lovely and useful.

The kitchen towel and dishrag drawer got a clean-out and tidy-up.

Though neither are on Marie Kondo’s radar on her Netflix episodes, the fridge and freezer got a much-needed massive clean-out and tidying as well.  Shout out here to my sister, whose fridge is always this fucking clean.

The nice thing about completing these chores is that they add pleasure to daily life, reducing the amount of time I spend pawing around like a raccoon in a dumpster looking for the item I need (and loathing myself for being unable to locate it).

That sparks joy!

Friday, February 08, 2019

Working It Out

For years now, since before JT was born, I’ve had a commitment to working out.  I lift weights, I walk, and and I run on an elliptical machine.  I do other things from time to time but the elliptical has been my go-to activity for years.  I’ve made time for working out because of the payoff I experience: I sleep better, I like my body more, I have more energy and strength to do all the other activities that make my life happy.

Since I took the administrative and teaching job I now have, one I started on the eve of JT’s entry into some very busy high school years, it’s sometimes been hard to find the time to work out.  This year, with JT in college and less immediate demands on my time, I’ve gotten back into a consistent work out routine.  Even when I am tempted to curl up with a cat on my lap and a good book, on workout days I come home, change clothes, and turn right around to leave for the gym.

While I run, I work out the leavings and half-finished thoughts in my mind.  I find myself able to solve problems that have stymied me; write sentences or ideas that will pay off down the line; and generally feel better.  Some workouts are easier than others; some days it’s more of a struggle than I would like.  But the payoff is always the same and I’m grateful for that every single time.

Thursday, February 07, 2019

Amaryllis Report Week 6: February 7

It was a busy week for the amaryllis and it looks like a deep red flower is coming my way soon.

I first had an amaryllis in 2000, the year that JT was born.  That winter, as I waited for my baby, I watched the amaryllis grow and daydreamed about my growing baby.  I recall that the flower had bloomed by the time I went the hospital to have my son.  This year’s amaryllis is on schedule to do the same.  JT’s 19th birthday is next week; T and I will drive north to take him out for his birthday and I will wonder at how quickly my baby grew up.

There is something about traditions like this that I especially enjoy.  This year’s amaryllis is surrounded by other plants, all of them soaking in the Winter sunlight and making my day brighter for it.

Monday, February 04, 2019

Front Porch in February

After a patch of cold that closed out January, the first full week of February is looking to be warmer than usual.  Yesterday, sunshine and milder air were the rule of the day.   The driveway ice patch melted and I went out to the porch to set out February decorations.  There is a heart wreath with a polka dot ribbon.

The flag has some Valentine cheer.

Zip, the cast iron front porch squirrel, is doling out advice for the squirrels that try to break into the bird feeder out back.

February's calendar is already awfully full.  As the days grow steadily longer, I’m looking forward to more light in the evenings when I come home.  That’s happy!