A Pocket-full of Miracles…

So, here’s the deal… what is it with women’s clothing and the shortage of pockets? I ordered some shorts a while back to sleep in during the summer and they have pockets – great, big, huge, utilitarian pockets. And believe me, I’m one happy camper.

Four years ago, I fell and broke my shoulder. Bummer! (And I recovered beautifully with some tender loving care and great therapists.) In an effort to be as independent as possible during my recovery time, I put on a pair of leggings and fell in love. Like, seriously, where had these pants been all my life? I immediately grabbed my computer and one-handedly ordered more. And then I ordered more. It’s all I wear now and I make no apologies. (I do order them so that they’re not skin tight.) There’s just one problem… NO pockets.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mind carrying a purse, but there are times I just want to run into a store, or slip outside for a minute, and just need a few things in my pocket to do that. I’ve got a pocket sized bag I use in a pinch, but I have to remember to have it with me when the mood strikes. That doesn’t happen very often.

There seems to be some rule that men’s clothes have lots of pockets. Women’s clothes have few pockets, if any and are notorious for fake pockets. What’s up with that? Why would you have something that looks like a pocket, but isn’t a pocket? And, while we’re on that subject, why do they put pockets in baby clothes and not mom clothes? Babies don’t have phones or keys. Seriously, people!

Years ago, I had a pair of cargo shorts that had great pockets. They were also men’s shorts, so I’m giving up and buying men’s shorts again this year and I have high hopes they’ll satisfy my need for summer attire with pockets. There is a history of women wearing men’s clothes – for comfort AND for pockets. (We won’t go into the fact that I love wearing men’s shirts, too. They’re better made, last longer and are usually cheaper than women’s blouses.) Stay tuned.

If you’d like to read a really interesting article on the sexist history of pockets – and the lack thereof – check this out: https://www.mic.com/articles/133948/the-weird-complicated-sexist-history-of-pockets

I think while I’m waiting for my new shorts to arrive, I’ll take my gigantic, comfy pocketed shorts to the kitchen and see if I can bake some cupcakes. It’s MBH’s birthday and we’re celebrating tonight!

Someone else’s four walls…

So, here’s the deal…we ran away. Actually, we drove away on Sunday, just to get away from the four walls of our home that seemed to surround us with ever shrinking power. Frankly, we haven’t done much here in Bloomington, outside of drive to the CVS to purchase a thermometer and some toilet paper. I know… we really understand how to have a good time.

The age of coronavirus has forced us to think outside the box (and the carton and the packing crate) in an effort to find entertainment and simple sanity. After 3.5 months of staring out our walls, we decided to meet up with a couple of friends who have been equally careful in their pandemic hunkering down and to just spend a couple of days laughing, telling stories, and basically letting someone else’s four walls hem us in for a while.

This has become a learning experience, including the fact that a 2-bedroom suite at the Residence Inn in Bloomington has a FULL stove – four burners and an oven. That has come in handy and made us rethink a few meals and even put it an instacart order.

We haven’t been anywhere… and we don’t care. We have no desire to go anywhere other than the fire pit downstairs. That’s good enough for a handful of middle aged friends who have had more health boost in this time together than anything else could have done.

Oh, we have looked at the menus (for take out only) at nearby restaurants. We thought one had a BBQ feast that would last us two days, but we’re leaving tomorrow (after extending this trip for a day already) and we don’t want to take left overs home. We’ve all brought enough food that we don’t have to go anywhere. Have cooler and Keurig, will travel.

Sometimes, all it takes is a change of scenery to lift the spirits and make the heart sing. And now, MBH and I can return home and smile at each other, back inside our own walls. We’ll probably plan a few more road trips, to states where they’ve taken coronavirus seriously from the beginning.

Better safe than sorry…. well, safer, at least.

P.S. Be smart… don’t get so desperate that you end up watching “Married at First Sight.” Just sayin’.

In search of something and sanity…

So, here’s the deal… like everyone else in this country (or almost everyone else), we are anxious to find a piece of “normal” in our lives. That’s easy to say, but achieving it is most likely next to impossible. I think normal is gone. Time to build the next thing – “new normal.”

This is the time of year MBH* and I usually travel to some place in this country and spend a week with a some of our oldest and dearest friends in the National Association of Congregational Christian Churches world. This Annual Meeting & Conference is usually the next best thing to a family reunion. We meet, we vote, we committee, we pray, we listen, then we head to the bar where we eat and enjoy our favorite adult beverages while catching up on moves, general church madness, new grandchildren, current projects. We also mourn those among our ranks who we have lost over the last year, remember great times in previous years. We begin to ponder the prospects of where we’re going to meet next year. It’s fun. It’s fulfilling.

And this year, it’s all cancelled. Instead of three days of pre-meeting and four days of regular meeting, we’ve looking forward to 90 minutes (which probably means three hours, when all is said and done) of Zoom meeting on Saturday and another 90 minutes of worship on Sunday. That’s it.

L to R: PiC, HBH, Moi, MBH

The Facebook memories have been popping up, with equal measure of smiles and tears. And just like that, my PiC** and I decided that we could see each other this year. She and HBH*** could drive 2.5 hours south, we could drive 2.5 hours north and meet in the middle and spend a few days physically distancing from the rest of the world, but surrounded by walls that are different from the ones we’ve been staring at for the last three months.

MBH, who has felt those same walls closing in, jumped at the chance to do a mini road trip. He was ready to pack that very day and has contributed to the grocery list and growing stash of things to take with us. (Thank you for the popcorn, babe!) We’ll load up the car after church on Sunday and hit the road, even welcoming a few choruses of Willie Nelson’s standard.

We’ve got games, groceries, plans. Laundry’s getting done today. Tomorrow, before we Zoom into the annual meeting, we’ll pack (definitely include Hawaiian shirts), consider the important “must haves” (steak!) before we go and generally smile at the prospects.

As someone who has only ventured out once a week to do the drive thru at one store and spend five minutes visiting with our son on his front porch, we know that this trip is a wee bit iffy. We’d probably be smarter to just stay home. That being said, this is first and foremost, a mental health trip. We promise to be good. Our masks are getting washed today. We’ll check in at the hotel on our phones and use them as our room keys. We’ll avoid fellow hotel residents, skip the breakfast buffet in favor of our own omelets. We won’t be going to bars or restaurants. We’ll travel with Clorox wipes and a couple of ziploc bags stuffed with gloves. We’ll wear masks and keep that Purell handy.

Most of all, we’ll laugh, share memories, roll those Farkle dice, eat popcorn and cheesecake, and be very thankful for a few days together, outside of our current digs.

And, we’ll judge the feasibility of a future road trip.

Bon voyage!

*MBH = My Better Half; **PiC = Partner in Crime; ***HBH = Her Better Half

Zoom, zoom…

So, here’s the deal… The entire world has discovered Zoom, a video conferencing platform. Team meetings, office meetings, worship gatherings, board meetings, and million other “get together” things are happening on Zoom. It’s handy. If you’re in one-on-one meetings, it’s free. I’ve used Zoom for a while. The most interesting, pre-COVID use was to home school my great niece. That may sound weird, but she lives in Texas and I live in HoosierLand. We met five days a week, beginning mid morning and worked together about two or so hours each day. Homework was emailed, graded (using the stylis on my phone), and returned. Zoom made it possible for us to share screens, watch videos together, and to get her through middle school. When schools were cancelled in the spring, she was an old Zoom classroom pro. I eventually purchase a Pro membership that allowed me to use my computer screen along with my phone to enhance our teaching. The horror stories of office Zoom meetings have filled the internet since this all began (see below), but it’s also kept us in stitches.

But, I digress.

Now, churches are using Zoom for worship, fellowship, meetings. There was a Zoom trivia night that MBH* tried to take part in. (It was total chaos and he declined to give it a second try.) I even meet, every Thursday evening, with a handful of minister colleagues, to share support, brainstorms, laughter, and cocktails. (BYOB! And we’re ministers, not saints!) I offered to put together a morning Zoom, in the beginning time of lockdowns and physical distancing, so MBH could continue his early morning coffee drinking and geezer complaining with his playgroup from Starbucks. He declined. Now, they sit together, in lawn chairs, in the parking lot of Starbucks and do what they do best.

The Last supper, via Zoom. If you thought this was blasphemy, your sense of humor needs a booster shot. Ministers everywhere laughed their backsides off!

My sister-in-law went to a Zoom shower (baby? wedding? I dunno) a week or so ago. As she was telling me about it, one of us came up with the idea of doing a Zoom birthday party for her and MBH. They share the same birth date, though he’s a year older than she is. (She’s actually the twin sister of my late first husband. Marriages end. Sisters-in-law status doesn’t.)

And so… the planning for the Zoom birthday extravaganza is underway. Invitations have been created. She’s already sent them to her half of the list and I’m getting started on our half. Decorations have been ordered, thank you Amazon, and have been delivered. She and I both have tiaras to wear. (Hey, don’t judge me!) I’m trying to come up with a pseudo-party game or two that we can play with two groups of people who don’t know each other and are spread out across the country. (If you have ANY ideas, please share them!)

We have no idea how and if this is going to work, but there’s a certain freedom to giving it our best shot and just laughing our way through the whole thing. Stay tuned!

And, any excuse for cupcakes works for me!

*MBH = my better half

Risk vs. Retreat

So, here’s the deal… The subject of risk came up in our house the other night. It was stuck within a discussion on vulnerability. (Boy, is that a fraught with fear topic!) As with most weighty topics, it planted like a seed in my brain and has been running around ever since. What are we willing to risk in our lives? What will we do to avoid that risk? Or any risk? What are the “sure things” that populate our days and our brains? And what are the imagined absolutes we’re inclined to place in jeopardy? (Bonus points if you can list the “sure things” in your life.)

If you play the stock market, you take certain financial risks. Hopefully, you go into that with your eyes wide open, having done a little research, and never put more into a purchase than you can afford to completely lose. Over the course of our lives, we have seen some stocks go wildly up that green line and others tank to the point they no longer exist. Such is the name of the game. You have to know exactly what you are willing to risk.

I suppose the same can be said for playing the lottery and going to the casino. We’ve done both. I once won $40 playing the lottery and I admit to occasionally purchasing a PowerBall ticket when the pot is over $100M. We laugh about the $2 we spend as being a risk against our retirement funds. We really aren’t taking much risk on a lottery ticket. Not much at a casino either. We view casinos as “entertainment” and amazing opportunities for “people watching”. The amount we are willing to blow at the casino is strictly an entertainment fee, usually something along the lines of $20 / day. (Of course, we haven’t been to the casino in quite a while, so we might up it to $25, adjusting for inflation.)

Over the course of my parenting life, I’ve taken risks in what to concentrate on and what to let go when raising a child with autism. Looking back over the last 35 years, I think most of those risks have paid off. A few have not, including table manners, but that’s a discussion for another day.

Over the course of my life, I’ve taken risks on clothing and shoe purchases. Some have paid off big time. Some have been huge mistakes that became paint rags and chew toys. Then again, I rarely make risk vs. reward decisions in that department.

Over the course of that same life, I’ve taken those more daring risks when it comes to interpersonal relationships. These may be the most intense risks we can take. Risk, when it comes to relationships, are often weighed based on our experiences and history. We build a metric over time against which we measure almost everything.

Hormones can kick in and blow that whole risk vs reward thing. Your brain is stuck in that reward mode and risk seems impossible to grasp. Of course, if it all blows up in your face, the results go into that experience and history box. Good luck using that information if it all kicks in again.

But sometimes, a person comes along – whether a potential friend or partner – and your risk vs reward meter starts ticking, measuring the possibilities. (That meter is not infallible, but it sure is handy and you should keep it in working order.) And then, you have to decide – leap or not. If you’re of a certain age, failure is certainly an option. If you’re a kid, failure isn’t in your vocabulary.

That risk-o-meter is an interesting gadget running around in your brain somewhere. It leans toward failure and a determination that risk just isn’t worth the potential pain, but somewhere, I hope, in the back of your mind is a little voice that’s whispering, “You might not fall, ya know. You might grab the brass ring and soar!”

It’s a good voice and maybe we should listen to it. (Can’t hurt to pack a parachute either.)

May you fly on wings of eagles!

I don’t know…

It occurred to me the other day that my most used response to just about any question these days is, “I don’t know.” Whether it’s Alex asking about when he’ll return to day program, my mom asking about when we’ll come to Texas for a visit, or a friend asking when we’ll actually go out and have a sit-down meal in a restaurant, “I don’t know” seems to be, if not the response of choice, at least the one closest to the truth.

“I don’t know,” seems to be the response to almost all our when questions these days. We don’t know when our favorite places will open. We don’t know when Alex can come for an overnight. We don’t know when we can opt for six hours in planes and airports vs. 3 days in the car. We don’t know when we can gather with friends around a dinner table. We don’t know when MBH can sit in a comfortable chair for morning playgroup with his buddies at St. Arbucks instead of standing in the parking lot. We don’t know when we’ll go out to the movies again. Heartbreakingly, we don’t know when we’ll get to see a SF Giants baseball game again. We don’t know much of anything.

All that being said, in the midst of this uncertainty, we are eating more meals at home and actually enjoying it. We talk to Alex every night. While we don’t relish three days in the car driving to Texas, we are planning a few shorter road trips, just because. We know we’ll eat with friends again and John is thrilled to stand around in the St. Arbucks parking lot, chatting with his playgroup friends. We have gotten our money’s worth via Netflix and Amazon Prime, Broadway HD, and other streaming services. Baseball? Who knows? Certainly not me. We do have the luxury of watching old favorite games (2010, 2012, 2014 World Series, anyone?) that we seem to win.

I guess struggling to live with one “I Don’t Know,” isn’t the end of the world. (Yeah, yeah… I know there are more than just one thing I don’t know right now, but work with me here.)

Even surrounded by not knowing much of anything, check in with friends and family and ask questions that don’t need a “when” response. Then hug them, virtually if necessary. In the middle of “I don’t know,” a laugh, a note, a checking in call, an email or text can make those “I don’t know”s just a little less weighty!

Honestly & Gracefully…

So, here’s the deal… getting old sucks. Getting older can be a little more easily managed. They are not the same thing.

We all know people who are 90 and young at heart, active, though maybe at a slower pace than before.  We also know 25 year olds who should be issued walkers and show up at the cafeteria for 4:30 p.m. happy hour. They just think old and act old. (Don’t ask me to define ‘act old’ because I can’t, but we all know it when we see it, right?)

The United Nations defines ‘old age’ as 65+. (Hey, don’t get mad at me. I just live here. And the WHO defines old age as 55+!) So, according to the UN, I’m old. According to the WHO, I’ve been old a looooooong time! Of course, it can’t be that simple. The Journal of the American Geriatrics Society breaks this old business down to: young old (60 to 69), the middle old (70 to 79), and the very old (80+). Ok… now we’re getting somewhere. I’m ‘young old’! Zippity doo dah! (Said loudly without any fancy footwork as I don’t want to pull a muscle or break a hip.) So, I’m ‘young old’ and MBH is ‘middle old’. I think we can live with that. Well, of course we can live with that. As my dad used to say, “It beats the alternative.”

If very old = 80+, I’m thinking I need a new category for my mom. She is, today, 99 1/2. Seriously, read that again. What is that, very, very old? Maybe it’s ‘way the heck old’.

So, she’s 99.5, still lives in her own home. That sounds pretty amazing. It’s not as good as it sounds. Yes, she lives at home, but she lives there with round the clock caregivers. (And we – her children – are very thankful for every one of them.) She can’t walk (really bad knees), she can’t see very well (macular degeneration – but we all know she can see better than she lets on), and can’t hear well (mostly age related and the fact that she just doesn’t listen all that well.) Oh, and she’s got attitude – serious attitude.

This last week, she sent one staff person to the point of quitting. (Thankfully, she apologized and the staff person returned.)  She accused my brothers and sisters-in-law of trying to kill her.  She declared that the Lord should just take her now. She denied that she ever said anything untoward to a staff person or a family member and she didn’t remember anything.

Yeah, getting old sucks. 

Here’s the deal… my mom used to be (and I like to believe still is) this kind, compassionate, caring person. Apparently, that mom has gone on vacation.  I would sure like to get her back. I also know it’s not likely to happen.  Age happens and crappy stuff comes with it.

MBH* and I have been talking a lot these last weeks about aging, as we’ve watched Mother descend into her self-imposed, age-fueled, attitude-enhanced new normal.  We’ve discussed our greatest fears – being immobile and losing vision.  We’ve talked about our hopes and decided that we want the coming years to be as much the same, only maybe slower, than our lives now.

I can live with that… and as Daddy said, “It beats the alternative.”

ClosedDown_LeonardCohen

In the meantime, we’re committed to loving each other, caring for one another, making each other laugh, and maybe put something back into the world in which we live.blog-signature  

 *MBH = My Better Half

What’s on YOUR bookshelf…

I am a self-avowed news junkie. The news generally gets turned on about 6 a.m. (Note: Not the same as getting up.) Most mornings, I read two national newspapers. Add to that 2-3 national magazine. That’s been my routine for years. These days, my news junkie-ness can wear off sometime around 9 a.m. It can all become too much.

All that being said, I have found myself cultivating a new hobby: Checking out the bookshelves of the talking heads on my usual news programs. With self-isolation still the norm in many places, these “experts” are working from home. While our news anchors have created some interesting, newsroom-y backdrops, the talking heads are working from wherever they can find a quiet place and decent light. And many are sitting in front of bookcases.

USA Today’s Washington Bureau Chief, Susan Page seems to have a real working library with pictures on the wall and a mix of books and other things. She gets points in my book for the baseballs on the top shelf.

Paul Butler definitely needs to do something about the plant over his left shoulder. And what is that plant sitting on? A safe? (BTW, since I wrote this, Paul has, thankfully, pruned that plant.)

Claire McCaskill gets my vote for getting out of the ‘library’ and sitting in her kitchen. It’s a homey feel, with good lighting, and a real coffee maker.

So, here’s the deal: I kinda want to stop by and share a cuppa and talk politics and baseball with her. And maybe have a slice of cake. Claire bakes. Dawn eats. Just sayin’. Look, there’s a chair just waiting for me to show up. (I seriously have to step up the game for my comfy pants, however. Those are cool.)

I have no idea who this is, but is she living in a bunker? Is this a corner of her basement? Perhaps this is her ‘she shed’ or some similar outbuilding. Is she in solitary confinement? Whatever it is, Room Rater, on Twitter, calls these ‘hostage videos.’ I’m thinking they’re being generous. (This is just creepy.)

On of the fun things of this adventure in TV viewing is the ongoing verbal brawl about pineapples. John Heilman and Steve Schmidt are stepping up their games respectively. (And, confession: I love their kitchens!)

John Heilman
Steve Schmidt

This has become a discussion at our house. “Check that one out,” can be heard by either of us we sit in our comfy chairs in front of the TV. Without doubt, we have our favorites. Jonathan Capehart tops the list for great ‘back drop’ using his bookcases with a mixture of books, pictures, floral pieces, empty vases, and all sorts of other things. Class from the get go. When I grow up, I’m going to create this book case. Five stars from our house!

Got a favorite? A nominee for the bottom of the barrel?

Lockdown Laughter

So, here’s the thing… this whole coronavirus thing totally sucks. It’s thrown our world into total chaos. While MBH* has lived with the agony of being on a restricted diet of living, he is taking the lifting of certain restrictions very seriously and going out more often. He doesn’t do anything risky – his St. Arbucks trips are limited to the drive-thru and he goes to the grocery store – he is quick to volunteer when I realize there’s something missing from the pantry. He’s careful and he sometimes comes home with flowers, so I’m not worrying. Me? I don’t go out much at all.

I miss Thursday night suppers and Sunday lunches with our son. (He has autism and is on a very restricted routine in his supported living house and I appreciate his provider agency being very careful with his health and well being.) We managed to visit him and sit on opposite sides of his living room for a couple of weeks before we got busted and banished to standing on the front porch for 5 minutes every Wednesday. We’ll get over it and as long as he has gift cards so his staff can take him for carry-out at his favorite eateries, it’s all good. We talk on the phone every evening and sometimes I get to see him through Google Hangouts. Still, it all sucks. I mean, come on… a mom needs a hug! (I like to believe a son needs a hug, too.)

So, in the meantime, MBH and I have watched some good and some horrible theater performances (Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat – UGH), great concerts (Hello, Parrotheads!), strange series, played cards, and generally enjoyed some time together. I’m fortunate because the guy is funny, so laughter hasn’t been in short supply at our house. I can’t say the same for our FB friends.

Coronavirus, and now Black Lives Matter, have exploded our FB feeds with a real mix of stuff that informs, angers, and often leaves us shaking our heads. What it needed was laughter. Enter Dawn with a computer and some photo editing software and we were off to the races.

Let me backtrack a moment – When things started shutting down, we were in the land of Bluebonnets and cowboys visiting my 99 year old mother. We were beginning a 2.5 week visit, to be followed by a week of vacation in New Orleans. All that went up in smoke as we climbed aboard some very empty planes and made our way home after 4 days, shopping along the 70 mile route from the airport to the house, in search of groceries and those elusive toilet paper packages. In the interim, I think I’ve been in the grocery store twice, set up an Instacart account, and made those midweek runs to stand on Alex’s porch. There, you now have a picture of where we are.

On April 5, I whipped out my Chromebook, downloaded a photo of the Eiffel Tower and superimposed a photo of MBH and me standing in front of it, loaded said photo on FB, added a funny caption, and pretended we had been to Paris for a little R&R. Over the last 2+ months, we’ve posted such a picture every day and watched as family and friends enjoyed our escapades traveling the globe. (It took a couple of people a few days to realize this was all a joke. Maybe it was when we were seen standing on the surface of the moon. Hard to say.)

In the intervening weeks, we’ve visited Australia, Europe, and China. We’ve been to the moon and Mars. We’ve shown up in the occasional movie and stood on a few balconies – Buckingham Palace and the Vatican. And we have laughed along with our friends.

We’re simply doing our part, along with others. I have one friend whose son posts a joke each day. Another friend posts flowers or birds from her garden. One more friend posts something beautiful each day. All of those things help keep us taking one step forward in the spirit of humor, laughter, and just getting by.

And it involves a lot fewer calories that cooking and baking all the time!

What are you doing to make it through these days?

*My Better Half

A Delicate Balance…

We sit inside a delicately held tension right now between coronavirus and the protests resultant from the death of George Floyd (and too many others). Data tells us that the measures we took in March and April in fighting the rampant spread of COVID-19 has held our outbreak rate to 10% of what it could have been. We made a difference – a massive difference. Now as things are beginning to open up again, people are longing for a return to normal. And they’re disregarding all the safety measures we have spent the last few months learning.

People are taking to the streets, protesting the murder of yet another black man at the hands of police. The world watched the video as the life was literally crushed out of George Floyd. And people were pissed off, fed up, and done watching yet another story of someone killed by those who are called to protect and serve. They should protest. WE should protest.

This is not a problem only for the black and brown communities. This is a problem for us all and we should all take the time to make our voices heard. We have the power to affect change. In fact, protests have lead to some of the most positive changes we have seen in this country. But we have to learn how to do it.

And this is a place where people of color should lead. White folks should be quiet and listen and learn and support. We can be part of the collective voice, but it is not our voice that can speak to the issue. It is our voices and votes than can be raised and cast to make a difference.

But, while we are all doing that… please wear a mask.