Just Life

Have You Seen Me?

Right before we went to bed last night, Tom got agitated. He was clearly searching for something.

Tom: Have you seen my Air Pods?
Me: No.

Now, for those of you unfamiliar with the maddeningly wonderful Apple device known as Air Pods, here they are . . . 


(Let it be known: these are MY Air Pods. We have ascertained this fact. Mine are not missing.) (At the moment.)

Air Pods are wonderful because they work brilliantly.
Air Pods are maddening because they are so freaking easy to lose track of.

And Tom has lost track of his.

We searched everywhere last night.
We ascertained the events surrounding his last Air Pod "use."
We know they're in the house. 
(Because we didn't leave the house.)
(Also because we tracked them using Tom's "Find My" app.)
(But you can't "ping" them unless they are currently bluetooth connected to a device.)
(Sadly, Tom's are not.)

We have looked in all the likely places.
Multiple times.
Each of us.

We have looked in all the unlikely places.
Multiple times.
Each of us.

We have looked in ridiculously impossible places.
Multiple times.
Each of us.

We slept on it.

We repeated our looking again this morning.

Tom's Air Pods remain AWOL.

The Hunt continues.

So send the good searching juju our way, please.
Because we'll be obsessed with finding these damn Air Pods . . . until we find them.


I wish you all a great weekend. With no lost items. And good searching juju should something go missing.






A Different Kind of Holiday

Last Friday, I wrote a blog post about hope and gratitude when it comes to the Thanksgiving holiday this year. In the post (which you can read here), I explained my heartbreak at needing to change our plans this year . . . because of Covid. (Aren't we all just so tired of saying that?) But change our plans we did. Because it's the right thing to do. And many of you shared how you'll be changing things up this year, too.

Just a couple of days ago, James Hamblin wrote an essay called Cancel Thanksgiving for The Atlantic. Hamblin writes, "few things sound nicer than sitting around eating with friends and family, after so much isolation and worry over this decades-long year." But . . . then he goes on to explain that we're in "precarious moment" in terms of the pandemic, with infectious-disease experts giving us some very straightforward advice:

  • limit activities to those essential to life
  • don't gather socially
  • don't travel
  • don't celebrate Thanksgiving in anything resembling the modern American way


Of course, this is a very unpopular message, and few of our country's leaders are brave enough to deliver it. (Although just today, in the Washington Post, seven governors - 5 Democrats and 2 Republicans - published a joint statement imploring people to re-think their Thanksgiving plans and stay home this year.) (And a shoutout here to my own state's governor, Gretchen Whitmer, one of the seven governors.)

In his essay in The Atlantic, James Hamblin tells us "this is a moment for creativity," and encourages us to think about what we like most about the day -- and then to think about how we can make that happen in a different way this year.

In my house, we've decided to cook our same menu (although we'll do the cooking ahead of time and over the course of several days) and then pack it up to deliver to my dad and to Brian and Lauren so we can all share the same meal - separately - on Thanksgiving Day. And I've sent Erin several of my recipes so she and Keith can try them at their own dinner this year. And we've got a family Zoom planned, as well. (Erin and I are also planning to do our annual gingerbread house decorating via Zoom this year. It won't happen on Thanksgiving Day, probably, but sometime over the weekend. I'm putting together a "kit" for her, which will soon be on its way to California.)

Many of you who commented on my blog post are planning to celebrate in similar ways:

  • Most of you are planning on family Zoom get-togethers.
  • Almost all of you are scaling back the number of people gathering around your tables, just keeping it to your household and maybe including a couple of family members from your "bubbles."
  • Some of you are changing up your menus (Kay), or scaling back the amount you'll be cooking or the size of your turkeys (Carole), but some of you are cooking just like always (because who doesn't want those leftovers!) (Bonny).
  • Several of you are coming up with creative ways to share your family recipes with kids - even incorporating cooking-together FaceTimes. (Kat)
  • A couple of you are excited about starting new traditions (this will be Sarah's first time cooking a turkey, for example), while others are figuring out clever ways to carry out your usual traditions (Kathy will still be making treats for the birds in her yard as she does each year -- and this year, she's put together a tutorial in case you want to try this, too).
  • Some of you are keeping your fingers crossed for decent weather, which would allow for family hikes or campfires, and might make getting together with others possible and safe (Patty and Geri).

None of us like the changes we're making to our usual Thanksgiving traditions -- but we're finding ways to make it work and keep our families safe. Like Geri said in her comment last week, "With such encouraging reports regarding a vaccine I want to make it to the finish line, healthy, whenever that is!" That's what it's all about: Keeping ourselves - and our families and friends - safe and healthy!

It's going to be different.
But we're going to be okay!


Into the Fire

Good morning!

By the time your read this post, I'll be well and busy at precinct 10 looking pretty much like this . . . 

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Yep. It's The Look for election workers this year! (Complete wth fogged glasses.)

I spent the day yesterday processing absentee ballots (not counting yet . . . just slicing them open and making sure the ballot numbers matched). Today, though, I'm heading directly into the fire . . . to work in a busy polling place.

It's riskier this year, for sure . . . what with Covid and angry people and all. I considered bailing for this go-round. But . . . I didn't. Because this work is important and vital and, well, sometimes you just have to channel all those people who did hard things to make voting possible for disenfranchised people throughout our country's history.

Hang in there, friends.
The voting system is strong and secure -- and there are lots of committed people working today to make sure that is so.

I'm glad to be one of them!


A Pandemic Silver Lining Story

Today's post is in the Doing Things Differently Because Pandemic (And Finding That's a Good Thing) camp.

As I've mentioned over the years here, I regularly take art classes at our local KIA art school. I actually started taking photography classes right after I finished my chemo treatments (12 years ago now!!!) as a way to "move forward" after cancer treatment. But then, I switched over to drawing . . . and then colored pencil drawing . . . and, finally, about 5 years ago, to watercolor.


Watercolor . . . was what I really wanted all along. 

But watercolor is hard. And intimidating. It's one of the least forgiving of the painting "media" to work with. Because once you've got that paint on the page, there is no erasing, no turning back! (Although there are tricks. . . ) And that water. Oh, so much water sometimes. . . 

Anyway. Watercolor was especially challenging for me. I've taken lots of art classes in the past, but never watercolor. There is so much to learn, and it takes a lot of practice to get things looking even kinda-sorta like you imagine they might, or want them to. It is hard not to judge yourself harshly - with any art form, but I think especially with watercolor - because watercolor looks so easy, so simple, so . . . flowing and gentle and natural.

(It's not.)

IMG_6629 2

I have learned many, many lessons as a beginner watercolorist. My most important lessons, though, have had nothing to do with materials or technique or (the ever-elusive) "water management." No. My most important lessons have been all about myself.  Just allowing myself to be . . . Not Good; that it's okay to BE a beginner; to manage my expectations and learn from experience. 

These are hard lessons. (Or, at least, they are for me.)  My watercolor classes are a mix of students -- some who are just starting out (me) thrown right in with experienced students who didn't really need a "class" as much as they needed the weekly discipline and support of a "painting group." Oh, man. The intimidation at first was overwhelming! But, ultimately I found this kind of class structure to be a powerful learning environment. The experienced students were welcoming and encouraging and supportive. They helped me improve -- and, more importantly, they gradually became MY support group, too!

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Our pre-pandemic, 3-hour, in-person class sessions always kicked off with what our instructor called "show-and-tell" . . . when each of us shared what we'd been working on - at any stage in the process - for critique. (This is where the "support" part of all this really came in to play -- because the critique was always matched up with what the student needed. Newer, beginning students got encouraging words and helpful feedback, while more experienced students got the serious feedback they needed.) Then, our instructor would move on to the "demo" part of class. She'd select some piece for us to paint together -- always different styles, always different source material. She'd demo. She'd teach. We could either paint along with her . . . or just watch.

I always, always . . . just watched.
I almost never painted in class!

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I would go home after class, and sometimes try the demo on my own. But often, I didn't. (I did paint other things. I was big on the practicing; just not with the demos.) I had plenty of excuses for not doing the demos, but - if I'm honest with myself -  I was afraid to fail. I didn't want to paint in front of other people and have them see my attempt go right off the rails right off the bat. (Even though they wouldn't have cared and most of them went off the rails right off the bat, too.) I practiced my painting at home, privately . . . in my own little "studio" . . . and never really got the very freeing benefit of just . . . letting loose and trying new things on the fly!


Enter the pandemic.

Last May, my watercolor instructor moved her classes to a Zoom-based format (which was super awkward at first, but it really works now). It's been so wonderful to be with my watercolor group again! And we follow the same format as always . . . first the "show-and-tell"/critique, followed by the "demo." The big difference?

I paint along with the demos now!

Part of it is that I do the Zoom class right in my "studio," where all my painting stuff is already set up and it's very convenient to just . . . paint. But I know that the bigger part is that . . . I'm not worried about having a "bad start" in front of people. Because, of course, no one can see what you're doing on Zoom unless you show them!

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Over the past several months, I can tell that my painting is improving. I'm gaining more confidence about just . . . diving in and beginning. I'm (kinda-sorta) developing my own style. It's liberating to feel like I don't have to try to make my piece look just like the instructor's demo lesson. And . . .  I don't hesitate anymore to hold up my in-progress demo when our instructor asks at the end of class if anyone would like to show what they've been working on.

And this is big.

Maybe . . . by the time we all get to meet together for class in person again . . . I'll paint right there in real time!
And that is a Pandemic Silver Lining!


(The photos in this post are from my class sketch book, each showing a "demo" I painted during my Zoom classes.) (Including this one. In progress. From yesterday.)

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Hear Me Roar

I turned 12 in 1971.

Shenanigans 1977

Here I am on my birthday . . . sporting a "me-made" flannel skirt and unfortunate bangs. (And I swear, our house was not as drab as that photo would indicate.) A lot of things were changing and happening in 1971, including my family's move from northern Illinois . . . to Cheyenne, Wyoming. It was an interesting time to be 12, and on the leading edge of adolescence.

  • The 26th Amendment was passed in 1971, lowering the voting age in the U.S. to 18.
  • The Apollo space missions were still landing on the moon.
  • Nixon was the president.
  • The New York Times began publishing The Pentagon Papers.
  • China was admitted to the UN.
  • Disney World opened in Florida. Greenpeace was formed. NPR broadcast for the first time.
  • Jim Morrison died. Lance Armstrong was born.
  • The pocket calculator was invented by the Sharp Company.
  • We all gathered around our TVs to watch Mary Tyler Moore.

And this song was released . . . 

I actually remember the first time I heard the song. I was at a 4-H meeting (my 4-H club was called Flour Power) and we had the TV on while we all sewed together. Helen Reddy had just been thrust into the spotlight with the release of "I Am Woman" -- a song so earth-shattering that it made the national news! Anyway, I - along with all the other Flour Power girls - stopped our stitching to watch and listen. We were entranced! We'd never heard such a powerful song before, and it spoke to us immediately.

It became an anthem, of course. A Power Song for women -- and especially for a 12-year-old on the cusp of growing up in a world that was changing fast. I still hum the song to myself whenever I feel empowered . . . or feel like I need to draw on my own strength.

Thanks, Helen Reddy.
For singing out in 1971.
And for giving a 12-year-old with bad bangs and sad knee socks a theme song.

I am woman.
Hear me roar!

Bright Spots

Several years ago, we re-did our master bathroom. (It was one of those give-a-mouse-a-cookie situations that began with a shower stall that needed to be replaced, and then just mushroomed from there.) In the process, we ended up removing a jacuzzi bathtub. Most people look at me like I'm kind of crazy when I tell them we did that. But, although I tried really hard to become one, I am simply not a Bath Person. The tub just sat there. Taking up space. Requiring dusting and cleaning. And (truth be told) serving as a "clothes horse" for Things I Decided Not To Wear.


We had the tub torn out. And we converted the space into (what has become) my own, private little yoga "studio." 


The stained glass windows were always there, but before our re-do, the walls in the bathroom were covered in VERY dark blue striped wallpaper. When that came off? The windows became the star attraction!

I created a little meditation space in the corner. It's always really nice, but when the sun is shining, it becomes a magical space. I just never know what will greet me when I sit down to meditate. Yesterday, I got this. . . 


Sunlight through the stained glass. Plant shadows. Candlelight reflections. (And a little heart if you use your imagination.)

And then, when I stood up to begin my daily yoga practice, this was my view in mountain pose . . . 


It's not like this every day, of course. It depends on the time of day and the angle of the sun and the amount of cloud cover -- and when I'm in the space to notice. (Whole weeks can go by in the winter without any wall-sparkling, for example.

It's a good reminder . . . that there ARE bright spots.
We just need to watch for them.
And be there to notice them.
And marvel whenever they appear.

Even in the dark times.

Right In My Own Backyard

The other day, we woke up to some Big Drama in the garden . . . 


(Husband included for scale.)



So it's a bit of a drag, for sure. But it could have been much worse.

I'm counting my lucky stars and feeling grateful that . . . 

1 -- It didn't hit the fence.


2 -- It didn't hit "Tom's garden" or the patio furniture. (Although it came close.)


3 -- It didn't take out or damage ANY OTHER trees or plants in the garden.

So . . . good news all around!
(And BONUS -- the tree guy is going to do a well-needed prune and trimming to the rest of the tree when he cleans up the limb next week.)

But not altogether bad drama.


Be sure to visit Carole today for other Three on Thursday posts.



On Unraveling

Yesterday, I thought about putting together an Unraveled post.

And then I didn't.

After a significant amount of reflection, I realized . . . it's ME . . . who's come unraveled.


(Drawing by Charlie Mackesy and picked up via his Instagram post. You can find more about him and see more about his work here. You can follow him on Instagram here.)

For weeks now, I've been out of sorts.
In a Mood.
A Funk.
Worn down.
Sick. Of. This. Shit.

It's not the "staying at home" part. Because I'm okay with that, really. I mean, I'm an introvert anyway, so it's been easy for me to adapt to just . . . not going anywhere.

I've unraveled . . . because of the ALL of it.

The lack of a coordinated response to the pandemic.
The politics of Every. Stinking. Thing.
The lack of kindness and compassion and empathy.
The ugliness of people.
The misplaced trust and the telling of lies.
The stupid-ness. (Really, it's the stupid-ness.)

(I think the secret police thing, though? I think that was the last straw for me.)

I unraveled.

I lost hope.

So. I've been taking some time to sort through a whole lot of feelings. Trying to work my way out of a good, old funk. Trying to find my flow (be like water, my friend). Trying to get back to what grounds me (I'm rooted, but I flow).

But, oh my. What a struggle it is.

I've been pulling a lot of weeds and escaping to the lake and balancing my chakras and working out and meditating and doing yoga every damn day and reading poetry and knitting silly little things and journaling. And I think I might be finding my way back. Or . . . beginning to. I'm sleeping better (which helps a lot). I'm ignoring (most of) the news. And I'm starting to think about blogging again.

I'm still having a hard time finding hope. (But I'm feeling like I can begin searching again.)

So. That's where I am.


But ready to re-wind.


Shake Things Up Once In A While

We have a little patio right off the kitchen at our house. In the summertime, it's a true extension of our house; our outoor living room.


(Here's Jenny, giving you a warm welcome earlier this summer.) It's comfortable and easy and there are patio lights hanging for evenings. Tom's grill is out there; my herb garden borders one side of the patio, and there is a garden path on the other side leading to a large garden bed.  Because it's on the east side of our house, it's shady in the afternoon and evening, and - somehow - always comfortable, even on the hottest days. Tom and I meet there every evening for a drink on the patio.

But the other night? We shook things up!

You see . . . we have another patio in our garden. It's in a more remote corner, and far from the kitchen (although easily accessible through a slider in our basement). We call it "Tom's garden" -- because Tom built the brick patio and put in a small retaining wall to make the space happen in the first place.


It's kind of a ... secret garden.
Secluded and private -- and cool and shady, there under the "umbrella" of a golden redbud tree.


Earlier this week, we decided do something different . . . to meet in "Tom's garden" for drinks instead of on the patio. It was so nice back there. Such a treat to shake things up -- just a little bit.


(Yeah. Tom built a fire pit. But we don't really use it.) (Long story.)

Sitting there, relaxing, we realized we were seeing our yard from a whole different perspective. It got me thinking about . . . what we do out of habit and routine. And how a shift of location - even just a slight shift - can help you see things in whole new ways.


Like . . . I had no idea you could see our tri-color beech tree from that back patio! Such a lovely surprise in the very early evening light.

Anyway. This is a long and rather drawn out way to say that -- especially these days - it's important to shake things up however we can. Use my patio story as a reminder to . . . 

  • break out of your daily patterns and habits
  • try something just slightly different: move to a different room -- or chair or corner
  • see things from a new angle


Give it a try! Shake things up!


(Can this really loose ramble of a post qualify as a Three on Thursday post? Maybe?) Be sure to check out Carole's blog today for more Three on Thursday fun.