Everything seems to be holding on. Kids are back in school today, first time again in forever. I’m feeling ok about it, maybe shouldn’t be or just this is the way things are and we’re rolling with it.
Yesterday’s shovelling hasn’t seemed to hurt my back and my jaw is feeling better. Out in the snow yesterday, talking to neighbours under that huge sky knowing I had cake and tea and my book to come inside to was perfect.
And now I’m going to go write. I’ve got time before I pick the kids up and hear (unfortunately) all about the other kids who can’t seem to figure out how to wear their masks properly. My kids tend to dwell on these things sometimes, they haven’t yet completely inherited my optimism. Or I’m just swimming in denial.
Tea, check! Time to myself, check! Chocolate, check! Here I go!
As soon as I made my lists and got off of the couch and into the sunny patches around the house, things didn’t feel immediately better but I felt more in control. I wasn’t seeing time disappear without noticing. I kept moving. I was choosing how to spend my time and being on instagram and my blog more this week have been a big apart of this. That, along with buying good tea and then decorating to always be prepared for a tea party.
We did it. We made it to Friday. School work is mostly done, the term is almost over. The kids go back on Monday. I made soup and banana bread and stayed in pjs for longer that necessary. I wrote a blog three days in a row. I started each morning making a list and checking things off as the hours went by. I won Wordle almost every day. We are watching a movie all together with takeout tonight. We have presents to deliver to loved one tomorrow and there will be a bakery stop at some point. I stood at the back door waiting for my dog to come in yesterday and ached for my hammock and warm weather. I read blogs of women I admire and listened to podcasts. I watched terrible but wonderful reality tv with my youngest son and listened when my oldest told me about his video games. I enjoyed the present moment and dreamt a little about the future. I am so grateful for a husband who understands and helps when I need him to get me through one moment to the next as well as for the dad jokes I hear him recording for his lectures.
We all pushed through the last five days – you as well, friend – we may have laughed and we probably cried a little. We are one step closer to longer days, as my friend Elizabeth wrote about so beautifully.
I’ve been using the Forest app for years to give myself time off my phone to get shit done. Yesterday I was playing with it and noticed a link to another app and followed it and it led me to a tree personality test. They’re fun, meaningless and I did it while sitting on my rug and petting my dog. It took five minutes. The above image was the result and it nearly took my breath away.
I’ve written here about my Nana’s love of the sparrows at the feeder she had suctioned to her window. But just a few feet past that window, were about six baby ginkgo trees that the retirement home planted before Covid. She told me about them when I was reading Rules for Visiting, a novel I love by Jessica Francis Kane. The novel is about a young women who works as a botanist for a university while grieving the death of her mother. Chapters have simple sketches of trees and one is of the ginkgo and I remember having just read that chapter when Nana told me about her new baby trees.
She loved those trees. They were planted in the fall of 2019 I’m guessing and she was so excited to wait until the next spring and see their growth. Only one didn’t make it through the winter and had to be replaced. She talked about those trees so often over the next two years. She missed them when she went to live with family in Orillia in 2020 for a few months. I wish I had a picture of them.
I bought Kane’s book for Nana and I think she read about half of it, never got to the Ginkgo chapter which is near the end because, like so many of us, she went through times when it was just too hard to concentrate. She did love what she read and like so many other books, it gave us so much to talk about. So yesterday, when the Ginkgo tree came up as my personality tree…what can I say? That it’s one of those beautiful, unexpected gifts and connections.
The mornings have been beautiful, icy cold with sun. And it helps but I’ve still not been feeling myself. The days are long, there is so much to worry about, so much uncertainty. I’m grateful for consistency of twinkly lights, gorgeous skies, the perfect cup of coffee every morning and the newspaper we pick up out of the snow when we’re still in pjs.
I get stuck often, I’ll even say depressed because that’s just what it is, just another word and I always have, off and on. Whether right now it’s that Nana’s gone, or there isn’t enough sunlight or just so much to worry about, it doesn’t matter. Sometimes it’s hard to get off the couch and stop scrolling but the pull of the little things and love and hugs (oh, Scott’s hugs) and laughing are always stronger and bring me back.
So this morning I’m trying so hard. Yes, that included ordering more books, Maggie Smith’s Keep Moving and others. New pjs pants because it’s cold going out for that paper and I’m posting more on instagram to move through the day.
I made Julia Turshen’s delicious tomato soup last night from her latest cookbook which I love and served it with grilled cheese. I am drinking the perfect gingerbread flavoured tea right now. I am devouring Connie Willis’ Oxford Time Travelling Historian series and am looking forward to reading more books I’ve missed rather than always reaching for the newest one.
I am going to try to write here every morning, with tea and books piled around me like I’ve done for as long as I can remember. I am going to start writing once again because I have an idea for a novel that is so amazing and fun that I’m petrified to start! But I will, wearing cozy new slippers and a blanket I once bought for Nana.
I woke up this morning to a table I’d decorated for December 1st, before going to bed. I love our Christmas dishes and I figured an extra week of using them couldn’t hurt. We also got our tree yesterday, earlier that usual, so this Dec 1 was a little more decorated than normal, why not?
This holiday will be full of ups and downs after losing my Nana, and I’m ready for it as much as I can be. I’ve never experienced grief like this before, anything like this before. One day I’m happy wearing a pair of her earrings, the next day I can’t even see the jewellery box without feeling queasy. I go through bursts of nesting similar to when I was pregnant only to crash later, feeling exhausted mentally and physically – hard to life my arms, hard to go for a walk. It’s a wild ride for sure.
She loved Facebook, keeping up with people and seeing pictures of nature walks and family. But she never understood why people would post about people who had died, post anniversaries of losing loved ones. She never saw how people could post things so personal. I told her once that sometimes people need to post in order to feel love from their community to help with their hurt. Now I know what I was getting at.
There are fun things in this wild mix. I am reading again! I loved Elizabeth Strout’s Oh William! and Amor Towles The Lincoln Highway! But the book that is filling me with joy right now is Lesley Krueger’s Time Squared! So perfect.
My kids have both joined the school swim team and that for our family is huge! I am looking forward to only two and a bit more weeks of school and then time off, although, like I said, I know it will be different this year.
One thing I’ve found with grief is it’s leaving me with cravings – longing for dark and cozy nights with candles and twinkle lights and tea. Blankets and warmth. It’s a journey, this grief, this extreme, incredible love, and it’s mine.
I am watching the sparrows outside my kitchen window. My Nana, who died on October 10, loved the sparrows that flew to her own. She had a bird feeder made of clear plastic that suctioned to it, long enough to hold four or five of the little guys at once. The squirrels kept them back until Scott and I bought her the same birdfeed we use, some kind with a spicy seed they don’t like. She was so happy with how well it worked, it really does. The sparrows would squeeze in, side by side, and eat the feed. We’d watch them together and that was enough.
She told me she’d be with me always, I know she is and maybe it’s in these sparrows on my deck, at my feeders full of spicy seeds. Right now it’s not enough, not at all, but I’m hoping that one day it will be.
I love Linda Belcher, the mom on of our favourite shows, Bob’s Burgers. To me, there has never been a more family friendly, loving cast of colourful characters. The jokes and the writing has never failed us, even after watching eleven seasons over the past few years. I’ll admit, sometimes Scott and I look at each other during episodes in disbelief because it’s as though the writers have been watching us for inspiration.
Linda is hilarious, she loves to sing and loves her family fiercely. She and her husband Bob own and run a burger place. She has names and stories for the raccoons in the alley behind their restaurant and the apartment above where they live. She doesn’t care if anyone else likes her, as long as her family is relatively happy and healthy. There is one episode in particular that I have watched with my boys on my birthday for the past few years. And last night, at the end of my 45th birthday, we watched it again.
It starts with Linda waking up alone in bed, it’s her birthday too. She tries to say how old she is but can only say the first part – ‘forty’ – but can’t quite get the second one out. She hates her birthday, unlike me. Her three kids come in with a crummy breakfast of burnt toast and eggs while her husband is in the kitchen mixing mayonnaise and lemon juice in hopes of making her an at-home spa. The kids are sort of helping, Bob can’t quite get things to work. They keep Linda in her room but she’s getting stir crazy. Read already, I always say but sadly, Linda is not a reader. She asks them if she can sneak out to go shopping because no one picked up any milk so they let her go, happy for the extra time.
What follows is a horrible day for Linda. She has to stand in line behind an inconsiderate woman with takes forever at the cash register and then locks her purse, keys and phone in the car. She gets gum in her hair and splits open the back of her pants. She goes back into the store but the clerk won’t let her use their phone. She grabs a plastic bag and makes a diaper to wear over her ripped pants.
She gets on the wrong bus, ends up walking through a field miles from home, gets sprayed by a skunk twice. Meanwhile, her crew at home gets worried when she doesn’t answer her phone and goes off in search of her, realizing that something must be wrong and with every minute she is having and worse and worse birthday. They find her car at the grocery store, worry about the melting chocolate popsicles and also think they are already forgetting what she looks like – it really is hilarious.
While Linda hikes towards home, her children take Bob to the places she goes with them often but he doesn’t know about – a bakery where she’s recently been banned for taking too many free samples, a pet store where the parrots mimic her, and a hotel with a fancy bathroom where everyone who works there loves her and doesn’t mind that she comes in once a week or so to use the facilities because she loves the potpourri. It’s fun seeing Bob’s amazement as he learns new things about his wife, no matter how crazy.
Our heros finally make it home and the spa is a success! The show ends with Linda in the bath they’d planned for her, the only difference is it’s in tomato juice and not the flower petals they’d collected. Her son dips his grilled cheese in the bath while they apologize for the terrible day she had.
But she loved it, she says it was the best birthday ever! She kicked it’s butt and wants to have a challenge like this every year. Bob tells her how amazing it is to keep being surprised by her. It ends with her telling the kids to get Mom the vodka! And that’s the show I watch every year.
I don’t want that challenge, I’m happy to end my birthday just by watching but I love her spirit, her family and I think what I love most is how my love for Linda Belcher is just mine and not something trending online. Something that I love, something my family laughs at when she reminds them of me, and a show we can share and see the love we have for each other reflected back at us.
I’ve stopped sleeping in. I just don’t like to anymore, sadly that doesn’t mean I’m going to bed any earlier. The upstairs floor of our house is a square I can lie down on and reach all sides – bathroom and three bedrooms. My sons are both taller than me now. It’s hard to find privacy. It’s even harder to find quiet to be able to sleep before midnight. But I kind of love it.
For over two months I’ve been getting up, at 7am or just before, to write. I use a aeropress to make myself a sub-par cup of coffee because I can’t risk waking anyone up with our miracle coffee maker but I look forward to it’s warmth. I read Karma Brown’s The 4% Fix and got up one morning and that was it.
It’s Sunday morning now and I’ve just finished 1000 words of my novel (my novel!!). When I first started this early morning writing time it was cold and dark but now the sun greets me. I stand outside when I let my dog out. I am watching a second robin start a new nest outside out window. I sit on my couch and can see out from my front and back windows. Out back my maple tree shines and and gives a woodpecker a place to rest.
It’s early and everything feels light and possible. I’m excited for the day. It feels like summer.
May is a good month around here and this year we’ve got a kid turning 16, which is crazy seeming that he was only 14 when this whole pandemic thing started. The kids are doing alright, but we did figure out through hit and miss experiments that Rory is gluten intolerant, so we’ve been spending a lot of time figuring out what that means. It means he can’t eat many things. But he’s smart and we’re working hard to not only find good things to make but also what will work as excellent treats for this spring and summer such a place that sells gluten free ice cream cones and finding the perfect gluten free hamburger buns for Scott’s excellent burgers.
Other things it the robin’s next we were obsessed with. We could see right down into from our front window and from the eggs being laid to birds hatching, being fed and learning how fecal sacs work (google it!). We missed seeing the birds actually leave the nest which was heartbreaking after watching them for two weeks but there was a new robin checking out the nest this morning so we’re hopeful it could start again.
During my time away from here, I got up to 150 pages of a novel written but then realized a major plot point wasn’t going to work and I didn’t want it to, so I scraped a lot of it and now have just under 40 pages. Also in the time my laptop died, I got a new one, it died and I switched it for another one, a better one!.
We’re finishing up school, not too long to go now. Both boys are signed up for in-person school in September and both at high school which is so hard believe.
Writing this feels ridiculously rough but that’s why I’m doing it – a checklist of what is going on now. I’m so used to writing fiction everyday, up early and writing while they sleep has become something I look forward to, an absolute joy. The warmer weather this week along with time in the hammock has also helped lift spirits, not to mention mine and Rory’s love of watching The Circle on Netflix every evening.
We are at the stage in the lockdown that we are doing what makes us happy and gives us a break – all the good shows, all the ice cream, all the amazing books in the hammock and all the walks. We’ve been vaccinated once and the kids aren’t going to be as far behind us as we thought. Good things to look forward to is the way to go.