Just a Riff

The Inside Scoop


So I needed a day to breathe.


Yesterday was . . . hard. I was exhausted. Disappointed. Kinda broken. I entertained various notions throughout the day. Living a quiet life off-the-grid somewhere very remote. Like maybe the Shetland Islands. Never talking to anyone. At all. Ever. Taking a long (and possibly permanent) hiatus from blogging. Going to bed and just staying there.

Which is ultimately what I did: I napped. And after a nap - when I woke to better news from Michigan - I felt a bit brighter. But seeing footage of people with guns trying to crash into absentee ballot counting locations on the east side of the state . . . well, it just about broke me again. Because the people in there counting? They're just like me: official Michigan election inspectors (that's what we call poll workers here) who were assigned to the Absent Ballot Counting Board for this election.

I feel so sad that people have been turned against the very election system itself. Because . . . it's a system that is designed to work! When I went through the training required to become a Michigan election inspector, I came away in awe -- of the Fort-Knox-like system that has been designed around the entire voting experience. Having seen what happens from the inside, I TRUST the system more than ever. And . . . I trust that the system will hold up against any challenges.

Here in Michigan (and I know this will be the case in each state), there are voting safeguards in place to MAKE SURE each person can ONLY vote once. To MAKE SURE that ONLY people registered in a given precinct can vote in that precinct. To MAKE SURE absent ballots are tabulated accurately. To MAKE SURE there is balanced party representation in each polling place and in the Absent Ballot Counting Board -- and to MAKE SURE that an election official representative from each party is present at EVERY step of the process. It's all balanced. It's as close to non-partisan as you can get! Before beginning our duties we take an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Michigan. We are sequestered. We sign our names over and over and over again on documents and results and checklists. There are seals and locks and safeguards. It is an amazing system. Trust it.

And . . . I saw it work on Tuesday! Not because people were trying to "cheat" -- because I don't believe they were doing that in any way -- but because voters were in the wrong precinct, or had received an absentee ballot but never submitted it, or filled in too many bubbles on their ballot (we still use paper ballots in Michigan, although we have tabulators in each precinct for the counting). And there are protocols in place for EVERY situation!

And at the end of the night when the polls close, election inspectors don't just pack up and go home. Not until EVERY ballot is accounted for (voted and unvoted) with reports (many reports) that require balancing and totals and signatures. Not until every piece of voting equipment or report or piece of paper is packed securely away - and under lock and seal - to be delivered to the clerk's office by a team consisting of representatives from both political parties. . . together. Not until the entire precinct is packed up again and cleared.

It's a big job.
(Fort Knox, I'm telling you.)

And it's the same way in the Absent Ballot Counting Board. On Monday, I worked all day to help process absentee ballots for my city. Here in Michigan, we were not able to begin processing the absentee ballots until the day before the election. ("Processing" means . . . opening the envelopes and assuring that the ballot numbers inside match the assigned ballot number on the envelopes.) By getting a one-day head start on the processing, the Absent Ballot Counting Board could then begin tabulating ballots right away on election day -- without also needing to process them. My city, alone, received approximately 20,000 absentee ballots! That's a whole lot of opening envelopes. (So when you wonder why it takes so long to get the results? That's why.)

Anyway. My work on Monday also began with the oath, and I was sequestered. We worked in teams of two -- and, as you can probably guess, each team comprised one Democrat and one Republican. We had to do everything together - including bathroom breaks! It is very official and very bi-partisan . . . and VERY congenial. Because when it comes down to it, all election inspectors want the same thing: a fair election process where every legitimate voter CAN VOTE safely and securely.

I wish more people in this country understood how the system works -- and how hard the people working behind the scenes are committed to and CARE about fairness and security and transparency!

Trust the system.
And be patient.


I also wanted to mention that I worked in a primarily "red" precinct on Tuesday. It turned out to be far less busy than we expected, and especially later in the day. (This is because we had so many absentee ballots submitted in Michigan.) (I could have knit, in fact, but I didn't have my knitting. . . ) Still, we had a big morning crush and a steady stream of voters for most of the day. I am happy to report a very civil day -- everyone (voters and workers alike) were kind, considerate, and patient. There was one kind of grumpy man (he was in the wrong precinct), but even he was mollified quickly. We had good questions from first-time and not-in-a-long-time voters. It was an excellent experience - no intimidation, no rudeness, no disruptions. And most everyone wore masks (although there were a LOT of under-the-nose mask wearers. . . ). I felt safe and supported all day.



On Letting Things Go

Let it go.

How often have you said that? To a friend, or to your kids, or to yourself.

Just let it go.
You need to let that go.
I'm working on letting it go.

But it is so hard (so dang hard) to just . . . 
let things go!


I've mentioned  that I'm paying less attention to the actual calendar . . . and more attention to the natural flow of life . . . as I'm setting intentions and evaluating my goals this year. Lunar cycles. Seasonal rhythms. Signs from nature. That kind of thing.

Yesterday was the the autumnal equinox. A day of balance . . . equal hours of daylight and darkness (or close). A good day to . . . let go of what is no longer serving you and prepare for the darker days ahead.

And there we go again!
Let go.

So much easier said than done.

But I started thinking more about fall. And what happens in nature. Plants go dormant. Leaves change color and eventually drop from the branches. All the focus in nature right now  . . . is on shedding what is no longer needed by the plant, by the tree . . . in order to shore it up for the winter ahead.

And maybe that's a better way to think about letting go for me (and maybe for you, too). 

I'm thinking of the things I no longer need in my life, the things I have trouble letting go of -- the easy-to-identify physical things, sure, but also stale ideas, goals that have lost their meaning, grudges, tired items on my to-do list that I never seem to get to, sidelined plans. For a variety of reasons, I keep holding on . . . struggling with the letting go.

So rather than continuing to feel bad about them; rather than stress about what to do about them; rather than stubbornly holding on way past their "sell by" date . . . I'm going to start thinking of them as . . .


First, I'll cut off their energy supply . . . and allow them to turn brilliant fall colors.
(After all, they all represented bright ideas or hopeful plans or good relationships at one time.)
And I'll take some time to appreciate their beauty.
But then, I'll let them fall.
I'll rake them into a pile.
And have a bonfire!

Letting things go . . . 
Autumnal equinox style.


Truth in advertising announcement. That photo up there? It's my Golden Redbud tree. And those leaves are not turning red because fall. That's actually what the newly-emerging leaves look like on that tree (which is very cool and quite beautiful throughout the growing season). I used a photo of that tree because the other trees around me aren't really colorful right now, and I wanted some fall color for this post. Even if it's not fall color. Here's another, closer-up photo of the emerging leaves on that same lovely tree.



Sentimental Gentle Winds: A Riff on Time

(Here's a soundtrack for you.)
(Because you'll likely be singing it in your head by the end of this post anyway.)

This morning, in my laundry room, I turned over a new month in the calendar I keep there. 



(Big sigh.)

Usually, in normal times . . . the Before Times . . . September always felt like the start of things; a more real "new year" for me than January ever tends to be. 

I'm sure it's that starting-school-again, academic kind of mind set that has never left me. September always feels like a fresh start to me (a "clean slate," as Gretchen Rubin calls it). After a summer break (because doesn't summer always feel like a break?), September is always that month where activities begin again and "structure" returns. It's when the more casual rhythm of summer is replaced by the steady drumbeat of fall.

And as much as I love summer, I'm usually very ready for the routine of fall to kick into gear again.

Except . . . Nothing feels quite the same this year.

'Cause we live in a time
When meaning falls in splinters from our lives . . . 

Sure. There will still be some structure. My watercolor class will reconvene next week (via Zoom), for example. But most of the other things I would ordinarily be building into my calendar are . . . well. They are gone. And because we can (with wide-open calendars and the reality that Tom can do his work from anywhere now), we'll be holding the cabin open and the boats in the water a little longer up north this year. Which will further blur the lines between summer-casual and fall-routine for me.

So. September is lacking its usual punchy freshness this year. And that made me a little bit sad last week when I allowed myself to accept how much I was missing that very fresh-start kind of feeling. And that led to a lot of reflecting about . . . Time. Which has really taken on a weirdness for me since the pandemic started. All the days are so similar now. They all seem so . . . alike. Even the weekends don't have much to set them apart from the rest of the week anymore. And, somehow, inexplicably, time seems to be going both really fast and super slow. At the same time.

'Cause we live in a time
When paintings have no color, words don't rhyme. . . 

I got to thinking that . . . maybe I should just give up on thinking about time. Not altogether, of course. Not time as in the clock or the days of the week. I'm not talking about chucking my planner or schedule here and ignoring time altogether. But, well. Maybe it's time I stop thinking about months, chunks of time. . . as discrete. Or meaningful. Time is a circle after all, and it's not like everything changes just because you turn over a new page on the calendar (even though we might like to think it does).

This year, as part of my one-little-word explorations, I've already been paying a lot more attention to the flow of time; trying to tune into rhythms instead of calendar pages. 
I've been marking the moon phases.
Celebrating the seasons.
Embracing Mother Nature.

I'm expanding the ways I'm thinking about time.
The rhythms are there. 
The framework is just different.

And I think it's time I just . . . go with that.
A little bit more; a little more freely.
September? Hello. Goodbye!

Don't Ask

I'm not quite sure how this even happened.  

I mean. . . the roads around town are a MESS after the winter.  Giant potholes.  Open canyons down the center of lanes.  Huge chunks just out of the roads altogether.  Washboards.  We're driving on washboards.

But here in my neighborhood . . . pretty much tucked away and not traveled except by the people who live here and the people who visit the people who live here . . . we've got this going on:


Yep.  Our perfectly fine, pothole-free, entirely drive-on-able neighborhood streets are being completely resurfaced.

Right now.
This week.


We've got scrapers and dumptrucks and smoothers and all manner of beeping back-up vehicles clogging our streets.

We even have a couple of sign-guys.  Which is kind of humorous . . . because we don't really have much traffic here, and I think we can all figure it out, y'know?  


(This guy hasn't directed a single car in the hour I've been keeping watch.)  (His partner at the top of the hill did nearly fall over with grand gestures trying to get me to turn left . . . when I was just trying to turn right into my driveway.)  (Really, Guy.  This is my driveway.)

So.  Here we are.  Major street hassle in the 'hood.

I don't know how this is a priority, given the state of the main roads.

But there you go.

Don't ask.



So I took a "personal day" yesterday and didn't blog.  Because . . . well . . . Sometimes Mondays . . . just look like the same old crap, y'know?

Same old weather.
Same old dining room project.
Same old cup of morning coffee.

Yeah.  I was not in a positive, thoughtful kind of mood.
To tell you the truth, I was grumpy.
As in G.R.U.M.P.Y.

I tried all my tricks to de-grump.  I had a nice cup of tea and thought about gratitude.  I journaled.  I meditated.  I did some yoga stretches.  I went to the gym and kick-boxed.  I knit a little and drew a little and talked to my sister on the phone.  I ran some errands and crossed things off my to-do list.  I even took a nap.

Nothing worked.
Still grumpy.

I've decided it's because this. . . 


Crap weather.
Continuing north winds.
For days.

I've really tried to be a good sport about all y'all's buds-and-blooms pictures.  And at first, when they started popping up on blogs and Instagram, it gave me hope.  But now, they just depress me.  Because we don't have buds on our trees yet.  No forsythia blooms are ready to explode here.  There is not a sign of life on my lilacs.  (I know.  I have had crocus blooms.  And I am grateful.  Because I know many of you further north have only snow-and-more-snow and what-am-I-even-whining-about.) (But still.)

Then!  Then. . . I saw photos of some of y'all wearing spring shoes.  And even flip-flops.  Bright pedicures reflecting the sun!  And I am still wearing boots.  (And don't even get me started on the whole sitting-on-the-patio-furniture-OUTSIDE-while-sipping-drinks situation.

It was too much.  It sent me over the edge of despair!

I'm working on it.  
I'm trying to be positive.  
To be grateful.  
To turn that frown . . . upside down. 
Because I know spring will get here, too.  (Eventually.)  The winds will switch direction at some point.  The sun will shine.  A couple of warm days will bring those buds out, nice as can be.  And the blooms will come.  And I'll be able to get the flip-flops out.

On my way to the gym this morning, I even glimpsed a little sliver of blue sky, trying it's best to peek out.


(I took this photo at a long red light.  No worries.)

Of course, by the time I was at the gym, it was snowing like crazy and that little sliver was long gone.  But I saw it there.  For just a minute.  (It looked like . . . hope.)

On my way home, I stopped at the grocery store and picked up some spring blooms to take home.


I'll make my OWN spring, damnit!



Icing on the cake:  Tom and I have a little get-away planned for this weekend.  He'll be curling in a bonspiel, and he asked me to come along -- because it's in a really fun place that we both love to visit.  Traverse City, Michigan.  Up north.  Where it's snowed like . . . 100 inches or so in the last 5 days.

(I know.) 



A Question Worth Asking


Let's just start by saying this is not the post I wrote in my head yesterday. 

(And this is not the photo I planned for the post I wrote in my head yesterday, either.  But a decaying leaf from my garden seems appropriate, somehow.)


Like so many others this morning, I'm struggling to make sense of what happened yesterday.  To understand how I can be walking among so many Americans who are so clearly . . . walking in a different world from me.

Call me an idealist, but I really didn't think I lived in a country that would reward such blatant ignorance!  I've always known I lived in a place that is comfortable with misogyny and racism, but one always can hope for growth and development.  Y'know?  But this ignorance thing?  It's only going to get us in trouble.


I'm trying to get my head around . . . what now?

As I lay in bed last night . . . fretting . . . and not sleeping, one thought kept playing over and over in my head.

What's going to become of us?

And then, I remembered something a friend said recently:  When you find yourself asking that question, sometimes it's best to flip it around and ask a different question.

What are we going to become?

For some reason, flipping that question around this morning has helped me.  (Not much.  Just sayin.)

I think we need to finish feeling all our feels -- for as long as that takes.  (But not too long.  Just sayin.)  And then we need to pick ourselves up and figure out how to move forward. 

Because this can't be the end of the story.

What are we going to become?  I think that's a question worth asking.

Juggling On a Friday

I really can't believe it's the middle of October already.  

Thankfully, we've had several very nice fall days lately.  Lovely afternoons where I can sit in my swing for a few minutes and . . . well . . . just pull things together in my head.

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Which is a good thing.  Because I've got a lot of stuff going on right now.  

Many, many balls in the air.

(And if you don't happen to hear from me for a day or two?  It probably just means I got hit in the head with one of my flying objects...)

(Such was the case yesterday.)

Have a great weekend.  (I'll be remembering that last year at this time . . . I was at Rhinebeck!



Seeking Normal

I've been Not Blogging since August 11.

I'm going to admit it . . . it's been rather nice to not "think in blog" over the past couple of weeks.  There are just too many other things to stress and worry over right now.

In fact, I can see . . . never blogging again.

Because it is so hard to be upbeat and cheery when life just . . . isn't.


I'm traversing some uncharted territory.  Picking my steps carefully and trying not to fall over the edge.  Nothing feels quite right at the moment.  I'm not eating or sleeping well.  I haven't worked out in weeks.  I'm not knitting or gardening or drawing.  I'm not blogging.

Nothing is normal.

Everything stinks.

Last night, laying there in bed (not sleeping, of course), I decided I need to flip the switch.  I am not going to be able to face what is ahead of me if I don't . . . seek some Normal in my life.


I'm going to yoga tonight.

I'm going to do some deadheading and weed-pulling in my garden.

And I'm going to blog.

Because I NEED some Normal.  (And I also need all of you.)

Weekending: More Than You Bargained For


How was your weekend?

Such a typical, normal start to a Monday morning between friends.

(But sometimes you get more than you bargained for.  Y'know?)


My weekend started out pretty well.  All the usual weekend activities . . . gardening, a swim workout at the pool, wine on the patio.  

There was a date with Tom on Saturday afternoon.  (We went to see the new Jason Bourne movie.)  (Which is actually much like all the old Jason Bourne movies.)  (Only maybe not so novel.)

Sunday, though?

Not so much.

It started with a bang.  (Not my story to tell.)  

And then things went downhill.

Like . . . really downhill.


We have a pretty significant grass slope in our front yard.  As I headed down the hill to check out some massive weeds (I could see them from my front window), I slipped on the very wet grass (we had a lot of rain this weekend) and fell.

I screwed up my knee.  (My bad knee.)

Rest and ice will help.  But, really?  I don't need this in my life right now.  (Or ever.  Y'know?)

But it didn't stop me from rockin' out last night . . . 


At the Boston 40th Anniversary concert.  (Yep.  40th anniversary.  Time flies.)


This weekend was WAY more than I bargained for.

(And instead of heading up north today . . . I'm searching for Brian's old crutches.  So I can really rest that stupid knee.)

How was YOUR weekend?

Attitude Adjustment: May Day! May Day!

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There's something about May.

I mean. . . I always expect Trouble in December.  I just know - and accept - that December will be Impossible.  Too many activities and too many obligations and too many things to keep track of on the to-do list.

But May?

May always seems to surprise me.

I used to blame kids and school and activities.  You know . . . all those "year-end" things to tie up -- with the added bonus of spring sports.  Field trips.  Awards ceremonies.  Spring concerts.  Final projects.  Exams. Late games. Rain outs. Prom. Fidgety kids.

But I don't have kids at home anymore.  I can't blame school.  No one here is taking any exams.  Or going to Prom.

But May is kicking me in the butt again anyway.  

And I never seem to see it coming.

Suddenly, it's light until 9:00.  My garden is exploding.  The "up north" place is open again.  I have a bike.  The dogs want to run.  Drinks are served -- outside.  

I want to Plant All The Things.  I want to Go All The Places.  I want to Do It All.  

I am overwhelmed.

I blame May.

Does this happen to anyone else???

What I really need is an attitude adjustment.  I need to keep my face to the sun (assuming I can find it) and just . . . 

slow down

step back


roll with it.

May is busy, sure.  But it's also grand!

(Let's get out of the shadows, shall we?)