Friday, July 31, 2020

Dump the Slump


I just walked myself out of a slump—at least most of the way. I don’t get out of sorts easily, and I don’t like it one bit when I do. It’s boring, unproductive, and leads nowhere.


My recent slump occurred for several understandable reasons; a pandemic, the general state of the world, especially in the political arena, and the fact that I’m temporarily looking pretty freaky because of some bad skin issues. (There will be no photo to accompany this piece!)


It was hot out this morning and my search for shady places to walk was only minimally successful. Nevertheless I plugged along for an hour and 48 minutes, time enough to create an improvement in my general outlook.


People often accuse me of being an introvert and while I do lean in that direction, the Myers Briggs personality indicator puts me right in the middle between extrovert and introvert and I think that is where I belong. I know that 75 percent of Americans are extroverts so that puts me a bit out of sinc with the majority. My mate of many years and my four offspring are all solidly part of the majority, some more so than others. The four children have produced an even dozen grandchildren ranging in age from 15 to 31, six boys and six girls, outspoken, vivacious human beings that thrive on interaction with the world around them. To my great delight, these cousins get a huge charge out of interacting with one another.


I’ve lived alone for more than a quarter century and done so happily, enjoying my independence. But with the onset of coronavirus restrictions, my need to interact with my fellow human beings has become ever more obvious to me. 


One of the reasons for this feeling has to do with the fact that I have less that I have to do and more time on my hands. I love to grow things and pull weeds, but you can’t do that eight hours a day. I love to mess with the written word, but right now I don’t have an engaging project underway. Daily runs have deteriorated into daily walks. On occasion I can break into a run but I miss working up a really good sweat.


I talked to myself as I walked this morning, pointing out that it was time to “shape up or ship out.” Time to broaden my horizons, time to realize how incredibly fortunate I am to have family and friends nearby even if it is not as easy to spend time with them these days. 


Here’s what I think: When things look glum, step out the front door, head out into the world, be thankful to be alive, and talk kindly to yourself. 


Friday, July 17, 2020

Living Behind a Mask-A State of Disarray

 I wanted to share this piece written by John Frey, my brother.
       I get it. I recognize just how important these measures are to our tenuous hold on life. COVID is real, I don’t dispute that, and mandatory mask wearing and the like are the best ways to at least slow down its progress and, as they say, “flatten the curve”. I accept the science and support the powers that be in their efforts to attempt to keep us safe at every possible cost. But that doesn’t mean I have to like it, or to go quietly into the night accepting the cost that this may ultimately take in our human interactions. To the contrary, while we all must accept the changes that we are now subject to, we must equally recognize the ultimate threat that what is happening now may ultimately change our lives when the threat is over, and perhaps change the lives of generations to follow. 
       What of the disarray that it has made of our lives? How do we measure that in the long run, or even in the short term? What are we doing to our children by keeping them from socializing in schools? What will be the long term effects of keeping us locked in our houses? How can we survive rules that keep us “a social distance” apart and encourage limited contact with fellow members of our human race? 
I accept the science and believe that all of this is vitally necessary now, but I remain adrift on what will be left of life when COVID is conquered and we are free to return to life as we previously knew it, or at least thought we did?  What if we don’t remember? What of the sweetness of touching one another? Will we forget how to do that? What of interacting we each other intensively at things like theatres or grand sporting events? What about intimate dinners and drinks with someone you are just getting to know and perhaps fall in love with? 
Will we forget how to do all these things? Will a post-COVID society be the new society, the new normal? Will we be condemned to a life of wariness and fear? It is not what immediate havoc this pandemic has wrought that is the problem. The problem is the state of permanent disarray that we will be left with. Will we have nothing but the ashes of long gone memories, unable to restore the sweetness of what life was before we condemned ourselves to lives of loneliness, fear, and separation? 
I suggest it is time to not only remember what we had, but to record it for the future lives of all of us and those who follow. Talk and write of the sweetness of life. Write and remember intimacy with our fellow humans. Write and remember the richness of sharing space and shaking hands, of going off to school and work without the fear of spreading deadly germs. Remember the richness of taking minimal risks while being part of raucous crowds. Record what it was like go on a blind date or to a house party, where you will know but a few of the attendees when you first arrive. 
There is no question that society as a whole is struggling mightily to contain and ultimately defeat the horrid threat of COVID.  I applaud those efforts. The steps we are taking, may or may not be exactly correct or nearly enough, but we are ethically and intellectually bound to take them. Likewise, when we have won, if indeed we do win, we are equally bound to try to restore our societies to some semblance of what we had before, perhaps even eliminating some of the bad and replacing with good as recognition of the fight that we have fought. 
We must wear masks for as long as is necessary, but we must also remember to tear them off as quickly as we can when the threat is gone. The sweetness of life demands it. 

Thursday, July 9, 2020

The First Bean

Here it is! The first bean of the season!


 And this morning I picked raspberries in my backyard and enough apples to make two batches of applesauce. I labeled the jars “ 7-9-2020” and popped them into the freezer.

None of us will soon forget 2020, this strange and crazy year when so many things seem topsy turvy, out of whack, and nothing like the normal we used to know and probably never will again.

It takes some getting used to, but since there is no other choice, grab yourself a fancy mask and get on out the door.

Even though you can’t see much of their faces, I think you’ll find people doing their best to smile with their eyes, give a friendly wave and often a cheery hello as well. 

I recently joined a community circle of people in my neighborhood who go to the Unitarian church and it has become an hour every week that I look forward to. We chat about our lives, our families, our gardens, our small surprises, and our discouraging moments, and somehow it is good to know that we all find ourselves in similar spots.

None of us gets to know what is around the next corner right now, but it is good to know that we will not be going there alone. 

Thursday, June 11, 2020




Brenna James, my youngest grandchild, has lived in Tokyo since she was two. She and I have not had many chances to hang out together over the years. She will be 15 in a couple of weeks. I have watched from afar as she grew into a beautiful young woman.


Gradually, over time, I have come to realize that while her heritage is both Japanese and American, she was becoming Japanese in her everyday life. Her lifestyle, language, and cultural orientation, I thought, had become totally Japanese.


While I understood this was only natural, it saddened me to think that my relationship with her was practically non-existent and would only grow more so with the passage of time.


And then, a few months ago, things began to change.


Brenna wrote a poem she titled I’m two but full. Below are a few lines from her poem that surprised and delighted me.


“I’m two pieces, like the way you split KitKats into two equal pieces.”


“I have two countries to represent in my body.

I have the responsibility to be able to know that nationality

I have the right to choose which one I want to make my home

But I don’t, because both of them are equally my home.”


“I have a full heart

Even if I have to change who I am between cultures

I will never change the kindness I have towards anyone in the world.


My outside might change but my inside won’t.

I’m always going to be two pieces

But always full—at the same time.


I was inspired by her words and grateful to know that she embraced her American heritage along with her Japaneseness.


And then, what seems to me like a small miracle occurred. She and her dad, who lives in the US, had been in touch daily via an app that allows both visual and audible international exchange. Brenna wanted to increase her English vocabulary. In order to do that, father and daughter were sharing articles. Brenna read aloud and when she came to an unfamiliar word, they discussed it, she learned its correct pronunciation, and then she wrote a sentence using the word. They set aside a time every day to do this. I was thrilled when they invited me to join them.


Together we have been reading excerpts from Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers. He writes beautifully, with great clarity, and he uses plenty of “hard” words. Brenna takes them all on with glee. We laugh about alternate meanings and some of the craziness of the English language. Is the word “read” past or present tense? Or both? And how do you spell the past tense?


Sometimes our conversation strays. “Yuk,” said Brenna. “Dad thinks uni (that’s raw sea urchins) are delicious. I think they are disgusting.” And then they went on to talk  about durian, a fruit that is prized b y many but that smells so bad that by law you cannot carry it onto a train in Singapore. This morning we were together for more than an hour and a half.


She’s a long way away, and who knows when she will be able to travel to the US? No matter.


I have my granddaughter back.

Brenna a few years ago!

Sunday, May 10, 2020

A Happy Mother's Day

It’s not even mid afternoon and already I’ve had an amazingly wonderful Mother’s Day—one of the best I can remember.

It began with a Zoom gathering with my two sons and two daughters, ages 55 through 60. I could not be more proud of them. They have produced six granddaughters and six grandsons, 11 of them between 21 and 31 and a “caboose,” who will be 15 this summer.

In our Zoom this morning, my kids each shared the good things that have grown out of the lifestyle they have been living for the last couple of months. Most of their children have returned home and are working or studying remotely. The families have been having a blast!. They play cards, piece together enormous puzzles, cook, garden, do crafty things, and run, bike, golf, and hike together.

Fortunately, none of them have lost their jobs though there has been a pay cut, and there are changes afoot. One had to furlough 200 people. Painful. Another is investing in a farm produce-food truck business. And two are looking at new opportunities—in a law firm and in an online teaching position.

They report sleeping a little later, learning to “go slow,” spending less time in their cars, and gaining new insights into work activities, sorting out those that are the most important and letting other things go.

To one degree or another, all of them are extroverts who thrive on their relationships with others. But for now, they are thriving on being at home and enjoying their offspring.

It will be interesting to see how this episode will change, and perhaps enrich, their lives.

Here they are 50 years ago!

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Time for some limericks

 April 16 and it’s snowing like a banshee!  After a lame attempt at shovelling the heavy wet stuff, I returned to my new occupation—making masks.  My trusty Bernina sewing machine gave up the ghost and spent a few days in the sewing machine hospital before returning as good as new.  I have been given so many scraps of material that I will never be able to use them all. The donors seemed so happy to be rid of their scraps that I may have to find some new uses for these leftovers.
I have permission from my grandkids, now hanging out with their parents in Fort Collins, to share a bit of their at home recent creativity.

Abby is 26 and will attend graduate school at Columbia University to study Latin American language and culture this fall.

There once was a girl very fine
Who said, the future – it’s mine!
She applied to grad school
And felt quite the fool
It seems it will all be online!

Henry is 24 and coming down the home stretch majoring in oceanography and GIS at the University of Colorado in Boulder. He’s a food lover and made us a great dinner the other night.

There once was a man from the West
Who put his body to the test
He ate a whole pot of chili
Then felt rather silly
And decided he’d best get some rest. 

Mason is 22 and a junior at Middlebury College in Vermont majoring in Spanish and economics. He spent a semester in Chile and had planned to be in Cuba for spring but….

There was once was a young Matey-Moo
Who thought, one year abroad, I’ll make it through! 
In Chile he found 
He was mostly house-bound
And that is his current fate too. 

 There was an old lady who thought
 This virus may have been brought
To offer a lesson or two
About the best thing to do
When all of the world's so distraught.

Well I can't complete with these kids!

Here they are -photos from quite a while ago. Top to bottom: Mason, Abby , Henry

Friday, April 3, 2020


11 a.m.,  Friday, April 3.

I feel the urge to write something—a blog?—but about what???

I’m weary of COVID-19 chatter, doomsday talk, and advice about how to stay sane while isolted.

I have watched some inspiring TED talks, especially J.K. Rowling’s Harvard commencement speech from 2011 touting the importance of failure and imagination, but enough is enough. I can only sit for so long.

I have hauled out my ancient sewing machine and stitched up 4 masks, none of them wholly successful, but all of them probably better than nothing.

I hate the idea, and feel, of wearing a mask. I hope that doesn’t mean I will find myself disobeying orders one of these days.

I have regrouted the tile in my shower. A nasty job. It looks better, but who cares?

I have nibbled at the edges of a writing project in hopes that one day I will figure out what I’m trying to say.

There’s a bit of snow on the ground, but the sun just came out and I’m outa here to move my body for an hour or so.

I’’ll be back. Maybe with a new insight.  Stay tuned.

12:10 p.m.

27 degrees, bright sun. It’s quiet out there in the world. A few walkers on the sidewalks. A few cars on the road. A few skiffs of snow in the process of melting.

The world seems to be in waiting for spring. Coming soon. We know that.

We’re waiting, too, for a new day to dawn. We’re just not quite sure when.