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Showing posts with the label peopling

Here We Go Again

As we prepare for our daughter to go back to school at the end of this month, I've gone back to working from home. I returned to my office after the 4th of July, took down my March 2020 wall calendar, and worked onsite for one month before the delta variant had me hauling away my office's potted plants once again. Here we go again. I'm sad, and I'm letting myself feel that. Today, I'll get my hair cut for the last time before my daughter can be fully vaccinated. At that joyful time, we'll schedule a mother-daughter visit to the salon. I hope that it happens before her next birthday in January 2022. Back to WFH. Back to masking (or double-masking) in public and staying home whenever possible.  Working from home suits me just fine, but the reason I need to do it again has me feeling profoundly sad. I sat alone in my office on Friday and shouted some swears into the void. Then I took a few breaths and started loading up my car with houseplants. Again. Around the sa

Pocket of Joy: Heart Fire

Is anything better than a beach bonfire?   A few days ago, I wrote about taking a playful approach to natural forces while maintaining respect for them . Today, I'm reminded of the bittersweet pleasures of a well-controlled fire. Some of my happiest memories have occurred around a fire, such as this Great Lakes beach bonfire above, with my husband and two dear friends. We haven't done any burning in a long while due to our air quality already being compromised by the tragic wildfires that have overtaken Canada and the Western U.S., but we know that "fun fire" season will return, probably sometime this fall, and that we will be able to enjoy it responsibly. We built indoor and outdoor hearth fires into our home environment when we bought our house. My family dug a fire pit in our back yard by hand and surrounded it with all the rocks we could find in the rubble of a previous owner's landscaping.  We chose a house with a good, solid fireplace in the middle of a walk

Playing in the Eye of the Storm

My daughter has always loved a summer thunderstorm, and so do I! And so does my husband. And, honestly, so does our cat--she runs to the window to watch when she hears thunder. But we all respect the power of nature too. A few years ago, we attended a beach birthday party at this very time of year, on a lovely summer day, and an unexpected storm came upon us so quickly that there wasn't even time to run to our cars in the parking lot. Above, my daughter is "flying" into the wind that has come rushing through the pavilion, which was momentarily followed by a drenching, sideways rain and a dramatic show of thunder and lightning over the water and all around us. As quickly as it had hit us, the storm passed without doing us any more harm than knocking everything over and soaking us all to the skin. My daughter declared it "the best" birthday party ever.  As magical as that was, we didn't take away the wrong lesson from that exciting and fortunate experience--th

A Lightbulb Moment

All the lights are on! This weekend, my dad finished installing our kitchen cabinets as well as three pendant lights that hang above them. Hallelujah, let there be light! Now we can finally see what we're doing, giving us a boost of productivity by providing both visual access and a more pleasant work environment--which will soon become a warm, welcoming place to cook and eat and converse! This bright, warm light is a great metaphor for something else I've realized over the course my month-long home renovation staycation--which, though hard and busy, has been a clean break from my nonprofit work, my novel-writing creative work, and most of my social life too. I had an "aha" moment about illuminating the kitchen that my family has designed and built ourselves with a set of clear, warm lights that my husband and I chose together, as well as the fact that we are no longer living in other people's stuff. We're approaching 40 now, and we've finally been able t

Pocket of Joy: Renovating to Love, Not to List

My mom and I have watched Love It or List It for years, and it's no surprise to us that most families choose to stay in their own, customized home rather than move into a new, blank box. The qualities that make a house a home are not the same qualities that make a marketable real estate property. Houses sell better when they are whitewashed into sterile, blank boxes where a new homeowner can come in and add their own personalized color and texture. If you're rich like the people on LIOLI , you can custom build a personalized home from scratch or personalize a market-fresh house in a short time, but even so, it's easier to stay in an already-customized house than to start over.  For regular people who aren't rich, turning a house into a home takes even more creativity, hard work, and time. But working class people certainly can create beloved homes. I've seen dream homes created from the tiniest of tiny houses in the humblest of neighborhoods, in trailer parks, in a

Pocket of Joy: Old Books

Old books! You can judge them by their shabby chic covers, because they function as objets d'art and objects of desire on a shelf no matter what stories they tell inside. Books with leather bindings, books embossed and edged in gold, books with plates and illustrations and fancy lettering inside, books that give off the subtle scent of an aged library, books with fraying ribbon markers and tactile spines. Old books are charming, comforting, and, when they aren't first edition antiques, they are usually cheap. The stories told inside of old books can also be wonderful and so thick and rich that you can revisit them again and again, each time discovering something new or forgotten, as fans of Jane Austen and George Eliot know well. Those were stories built to last the ages. An old book can be a roundly multi-sensory experience. I once picked up an old maiden volume by Anthony Trollope that had never been read--and I know, because I had to rustle up an antique book knife to cut ap

Smashing the Ticky-Tacky

The demolition has begun! After more than a decade of living with an outdated and dysfunctional kitchen, we are slapping the tackiness out of this place and creating our own functional, beautiful, and family-and-friends-friendly space. My husband and I are thrifty, practical people--and because of that, we put off updates to our home until we got through the messy, silly, frantically busy, and expensive years of early parenthood and entertaining groups of rowdy children. But now our daughter is graduating from elementary school, my parents are newly retired and eager to help, and pandemic legislation put our student loans on hold, so IT IS TIME!  Until a couple of weeks ago, our late kitchen featured: a partially broken, scuffed-up, shabby, and weirdly tiny sink; a rusty, falling-apart vent hood; a poorly installed, ugly tile backsplash; broken cabinets with peeling doors; three lights and several outlets that don't work, due to horrifyingly wrong electrical wiring; countertops mad

Pocket of Joy: Going Out

My husband and I have had our shots and started going out in public for fun again! After more than a year of staying home and staying safe, I have put away my sweatpants, pulled out my skirts (it's too hot for pants already), painted my toenails, and broken in my cute slides and high heels! We are grateful for the privilege of being able to go out and have fun safely. We understand that not everyone else enjoys that privilege, including those undergoing chemotherapy or taking certain kinds of lifesaving medications that render Covid-19 vaccinations ineffective. We understand that some people have disabilities or health conditions and a lack of access to accommodations. We know that some people simply lack transportation to get anywhere, or leisure time to go out. And even among the able-bodied and financially free, there are those who have to be careful where they go in public due to threats of social violence--gendered harassment, racism, nationalism, homophobia. We live in a cu

Vaxxed and Unmasked for Margaritas with Alice

My dear friend Magdalena has always had a special talent for sniffing out delicious secrets. She's an outgoing, bold, colorful woman, but she keeps an eye on the quiet people. She has a knack for glancing over a bunch of same-same-looking folks, breezing past all the dull sad sacks, and picking out the socially camouflaged, melancholy few who seem to be harboring some kind of romantic ennui, guarded eccentricity, or rich private life that they aren't eager to share. And then she goes after those people with the focus of a truffle pig on the scent and won't stop until they reveal themselves to her and let her love them! I had the pleasure of meeting Magda's latest conquest, a silver-haired lady I'll call Alice the Archivist, last weekend in my very first post-lockdown public group hangout (everyone 100% vaccinated!). The following is my understanding of how Magda infiltrated her personal bubble and founded the official Alice Fan Club. Alice is Magda's next-door a

Pocket of Joy: Coming Out

Happy Pride Month! Has it ever been a better time to come out? Lil Nax X has died for our shame, descended into hell on a stripper pole, and slain the devil with his lap dance. Tig Notaro has conquered the undead and possibly usurped Kate McKinnon as most badass comedic lesbian paranormal action hero, which is now A Thing. "Schitt's Creek" has normalized pansexuality and revived America's faith in all kinds of enduring romantic love. Elliot Page has freed the trans man nips in joyful thirst traps on Instagram. After a year in quarantine, drag queens Trixie and Katya have become everyone's imaginary best friends. And my Instagram feed is sprinkled with videos of happily married, openly HIV-positive Jonathan Van Ness doing the happiest gorgeous little back flips. Kids today have all of these pop culture examples of people of every gender identity and sexual orientation living their best lives, creating joy and sharing it with others. Sadly, the danger in coming out

Pocket of Joy: Human Touch

Are you vaxxed, relaxxed, and ready to satiate your touch starvation ? It is time! All human persons need skin-to-skin contact sometimes, even those who value their personal space. It doesn't have to be sexual or intense, but we can't do without it indefinitely. The gentle, electric exchange that occurs between two animal bodies that meet in meatspace boosts our immune systems. It calms the vagus nerve, the heart, experiences of both physical and emotional pain, and the release of the stress hormone cortisol. It stimulates the release of oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine. Going without touch for too long can lead to depression, anxiety, and behaviors that exacerbate social isolation. And loneliness can erode bodily health faster than cigarettes. All humans need touch, but it doesn't always have to be human-to-human. Pets can provide beneficial snuggles and wrassles to a person who lives alone. Volunteering at an animal shelter and petting kittens and puppies to socialize th

The Pandemic Turned My Church Outside and Online

The pandemic might have permanently pushed my church outdoors and online--even after we can come inside again. The radically inclusive church that I work for, UU Lansing , has adapted so successfully over the past year that we've learned how to make better use of technology to reach more people; we've found creative ways to accomplish more effective community care without putting people at risk of disease transmission; and we've connected more deeply than ever with our land and local ecosystem.  As Molly Costello has illustrated with her generously shared activist artwork : Crisis expands our imaginations around what is possible. I'm so grateful right now to be a part of a respectably longstanding faith tradition that never wastes an opportunity to learn a hard lesson and transform itself from the inside out. Unlike some centuries-old religious institutions, Unitarianism (and its more recently evolved form, Unitarian Universalism) had open-mindedness and adaptability

Pocket of Joy: Close Grandparents

One of the best decisions I ever made in my life was to settle close to my parents before having a child. I even convinced my parents to move right into my neighborhood after they retired, a ten-minute walk from my backyard, and everyone in my family has benefited from the arrangement . Grandparents and grandchildren are great for each other's physical, mental, and emotional health. And the support grandparents can provide in helping to care for and raise a child benefits the child's parents. Over the past year, I think we all realized just how important it is for parents to have reliable and safe childcare, and unfortunately our nation has some work to do to provide for the needs of working class families. Those of us fortunate enough to have parents who are willing and able to help us care for our children are blessed indeed. Close relationships between grandparents and grandchildren create well-being and resilience in every generation of the family. It is wonderful to have

How Diverse Friendships Elevate Our Family Dinners

And not just because we learn new recipes. Our friendly relations with immigrants and second-generation Americans from all over the world, from casual encounters to long friendships, have benefited each member of my family and our shared dinners together by nourishing us with knowledge, inspiration, cultured openness, and fresh ideas about food, health, cooking, responsibility, gratitude, respect and appreciation for differences, the variety of sensory pleasures available to the human heart and palate, and the sacredness of shared mealtimes. It is tragic to me that so many Americans--white and white-passing and others too--fear racial diversity due to misleading stereotypes and the brutal trauma of institutionalized racism in our nation.  And maybe, for some, due to some throwback tribalism inherited from way-back, animalistic ancestors who really didn't know how to cook and ate a lot more dirt, sand, and parasite-infested raw meat than what is imagined by fans of 21st century &quo