Holding On, Letting Go

The past couple of weeks have been filled with the joys and heartaches of life–times that inspire the question, “Was the happiness worth the sadness that followed?”

As with other times in my life when I’ve asked myself that question, the answer, of course, was “yes.”

The greatest joy in the last several days was the arrival of Harrison James Phillips–the second son of my daughter, Andrea and her husband, James.

Harrison is our fourth grandchild, after Tommy (6), Allie (4) and Jack (2).

Though the pandemic threatened my opportunity to be in Washington DC for his birth, with a 2 1/2 day drive, and I was able to be there, not only to help welcome Harrison into the world, but to help with 2-year old Jack and later, to help however a mom can when her daughter has a new baby.

For a week, I was able to spend time with 2-year old Jack, his little personhood in full bloom. He’s an expressive little boy, in love with the world, verbalizing everything he thinks about all of it, and fully expecting that we can and should understand what he is trying to tell us.

How sweet it was to hear him call for me, saying, “‘Mon, Mamaw!” Or, when he’d say, “Hank yewww,” when I gave him a cookie or his lovie. I found a love/hate relationship with Blippi, and I laughed at Jack’s pure joy at the simple pleasure of a bath.

But there was nothing sweeter than the way he welcomed home his baby brother. His eyes widened and he instantly gave Harrison his beloved lovie bears. He touched him gently, oohing and ahhing, kissed him and asked to hold him. When Harrison cried, he said, “It’s okay, baby,” as he’d try to give him something to soothe him, whether a blankie, a lovie, or sometimes, a bite of his snack. 🙂

As the days passed and I saw that Andrea was feeling better and Harrison was getting more on a schedule, I began to wonder when I should leave.

Holding on, letting go.

In a conversation with Andrea during the week, I told her that for me, the challenge of being a mother is finding that fine line between holding on and letting go, and doing my best not to cross it.

The nearing end of my time with the new little family was but one of those times. I could have stayed longer. I loved being with Andrea and family and never felt I was “in the way.” Yet, I also felt it was important for them to begin to solidify as a new little family with Harrison, without Grandma in the way. So, after a week, I decided it was probably time to leave.

It wasn’t easy. The day of departure, both Andrea and I were teary-eyed. I put Jack down for his nap and barely made it out of his room before the tears fell. It would be the last time I’d see him for at least a few months, and I knew, as I read him his nap time story and kissed him goodbye, that he would be a different little boy by then.

But, like the inhale and exhale of life, we hold on, then we must let go. There is joy, and there is pain.

The other thing that happened the week before Harrison’s arrival, was learning of the possibility of my son, Adam, getting a promotion that would relocate him and his family from his house–10 minutes from our house–across the country to California.

We’ve been blessed to get to see 6-year old Tommy and 4-year old Allie once or twice a week since the day they were born. We’ve enjoyed getting to share many day-to-day events, holidays, as well as school programs and weekly dinners. The thought it may all go away makes us wonder if we took our time with them for granted.

Steve and I have done a lot of talking about what our lives will be like without any grandkids nearby. It will be a huge change for us. It’s led us to wonder about how to express our feelings to Adam and Emily about their move, without discouraging them from going.

We decided it’s not an “either/or event.” It’s an “and” event. We can be happy for Adam and his goals and successes AND we can be heartbroken that they are leaving.

Holding on, letting go.

If holding on is a tiny slice of life, then letting go is like a tiny death. Sad as it may be, the realization that letting go is inevitable keeps us from taking opportunities to hold on for granted.

On my drive back to Dallas from DC, I thought a lot about motherhood and the fine line between holding on and letting go.

I’m learning it’s the same with grandparenting.

 

Posted in Family, Life, love, nostalgia | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Live and Let Live

I wrote the following post on May 7, but for whatever reason, I hesitated to post it. After seeing an update on our NextDoor neighborhood board last night, my anger has been re-ignited, and so, I’m posting.

May 7, 2020

I thought I was handling the heartaches of this pandemic pretty well. The inability to spend time with my dad who’s been struggling with the effects of prostate cancer. The sudden “taboo” of hugging my grandkids. The forbiddenness of going out to dinner. The ineptitude of our government. The divisiveness in our country, even against a common enemy. The overload of new conspiracy theories.

I’ve tended to go through each day of eight weeks calmly and with gratitude for my ability to work from home, for the beautiful walks I’ve been able to take each day. . .

And that’s where it all fell apart. This morning. On my walk.

A little background. We live a couple of blocks from a beautiful neighborhood pond. In the weeks of sheltering-in-place, I’ve seen it burst with life. Families with children walking around. Young boys and old men fishing on the banks. New duck families proudly strutting around with their new broods. And geese, honking and chasing as they protect their new fuzzy goslings.

But there’s been one goose pair that has captured my heart. For approximately six weeks, I’ve watched the female on her nest at the edge of a peninsula of the pond. Her mate hovers near by. That’s about a week longer than it should have taken for the eggs to hatch.

So, in the last 10 days or so, as I’ve walked past, I’ve felt sad and wondered if there’s still a chance they’ll hatch, and if not, how long a goose will sit on dead eggs.

Maybe I’ve watched and waited because I looked for any bright light, any tidbit of hope during this dark time. I guess this might have been a sign that the pandemic is affecting me more affected than I’ve let on, even to myself.

And, I don’t think I’ve been the only one. Many days, I’ve passed by and noticed someone left her a bowl of water. Some have sprinkled breadcrumbs and even leaves and grass for her to put in her nest. So, it appears many in the neighborhood have been rooting for her, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it is for the same reason.

We all need something to root for.

So, back to this morning. Steve and I walked around the pond just as the sun began to rise. With hardly a soul out at the pre-dawn hour, the morning was quiet and peaceful, until I heard the squawk of geese echo through the still air. When I turned toward the commotion, I saw three teenagers chasing several of the geese near the bank of the pond. Knowing many of those geese had goslings with them, I felt ire rising up inside me.

We turned a corner and walked around a block that took us away from the pond. Still, I couldn’t get the image of the three teens out of my mind, concerned they’d disturb the Mama-to-Be goose.

I quickened my pace. But being the pacifist I tend to be, I tried to calm my annoyance.

They’re just mischievous kids.

They’re not going to hurt anything.

It’s none of your business.

None of my logic excuses self-inflicted bullshit was working.

As soon as we turned the corner and the pond was again in sight, I found the teens near the goose on her nest. Now, one of the boys held a long branch. He was poking it toward the goose as the other boy and girl egged him on.

My anger erupted. I tore across the lawn toward them, my mind storming with thoughts:

Stupid kids!

What do you think you’re going to do about it? Stop. Turn around.

They’re going to hurt the goose. Damage the eggs.

None of my thoughts mattered. All I cared about as I stomped toward them was preventing them from hurting the goose or her eggs.

I erupted in a loud yell. “Hey!”

They turned and looked at me. Wide-eyed and apparently startled by the crazed woman approaching her, the girl said, “What?”

One of the boys, the one with the long stick, kept walking.

“What are you doing?” I whined loudly, but felt myself trying to calm.

“We’re not doing nothing,” said the boy.

“I saw you poking that goose with a stick,” I said.

“We wasn’t gonna hurt it,” said the girl.

My anger rose again at the stupidity of her response. “Then what were you trying to do?”

“We just wanted to see what she was sitting on.”

What a miserable excuse for a response.

“What d0 you think she’s sitting on? She’s sitting on EGGS!”

The boy and the girl stood silently. That they turned to wait for us and talk to us, while their cohort coward walked away, began to calm me. My inner voice told me to try to reason with them.

Steve said, “Why would you do something like that?”

“We wasn’t doing nothing to hurt them,” replied the girl.

I said, “Why would you even want to scare them?” Suddenly, all my sadness about the likelihood that this goose’s eggs would probably never hatch rose up. “Do you know how long she’s been sitting on those eggs? Why would you want to scare her away?” I felt a lump in my throat, yet, my stubborn pride wasn’t about to let them see me cry.

There was nothing they could say. Except, again, “We wasn’t doing nothing.”

As they started to walk away, I said, “Please, just leave them alone.”

My heart continued to race as we walked home. I can’t ever recall a time in my life when I’ve reacted that way. I almost ALWAYS avoid conflict.

Update: May 16, 2020

Upon arriving in Arlington, VA, after a 3-day journey across country to be with my daughter when she, too, becomes a mama to her second child, I was perusing social media to wind down before going to sleep.

Not a good idea. I came upon a post on my NextDoor neighborhood board that made me soar in one instant and brought me crashing down in the next. (I’m not sure if you can see this without being a member of my neighborhood, but click HERE to read the post.)

For those who can’t read the post, here’s the glorious/heartbreaking synopsis:

The goslings hatched! However, within hours, an idiot from the neighborhood took it upon herself to take four of them home, believing she knew better than the mother goose how to care for them.

First, Federal law protects Canadian geese. It’s illegal to harm geese, their eggs, or their nests in the United States without permission from the U.S. Fish and Wild Service.

Second, who is SHE to believe she can care for them better than the mother goose?

I, and many others in the neighborhood are furious at her narcissistic stupidity. Many have insisted the person who originally posted the news report the woman to the game warden and have begged her to return the goslings, though I fear it’s too late.

The action of this meddler, who, after weeks and weeks of this goose’s patient guard over her nest as a hopeful neighborhood watched and waited with her, took it upon herself to know best how to care for these baby geese, reignited my anger enough to make me publish this post.

Both incidents have something in common that bothered me, and both can be summarized in what I said to those kids:

Just leave them alone.

As I mentioned earlier, for me, this Mama goose (who I’ve learned through the NextDoor neighborhood board has been named “Gracie) was like a bright spot in an otherwise sad time for our world–a ray of hope that there will still be plenty in life that will go on “as normal,” no matter what may change as a result of this pandemic. Based on comments I’ve seen from the neighborhood, many feel the same way.

It appeared that for whatever reason, the eggs would not hatch. Fearing the eggs were dead, made me sad, yet, Gracie continued to hope which reminded me not to give up hope.

To see those kids intrude on that hope, possibly destroy it, angered me.

To read on the neighborhood board that the goslings had hatched brought a surge of joy–a realization that regardless of the hope I’d pretty much lost, those eggs hatched.

But, in the next sentence, to read a woman took the babies to her home, thinking she could care for them better than Gracie, instantly jettisoned me back to anger. Even if she returns the babies, I wonder if the mother may now reject them.

I’m certain I’ve felt a personal stake in the “Mother Goose Saga” because I see it is a metaphor for events going on in the world far, far away from the pond.

The kids who harassed the goose, for seemingly selfish entertainment purposes, brought to mind people who tease or humiliate those who are different. Even those who think differently about something – about almost anything these days – are worthy of ridicule.

The woman, ignorantly believing she knew best how to care for the goslings, took it upon herself to take the goslings from Gracie, apparently believing she would be the better caretaker, an act that may lead to their deaths. It reminded me of the two Georgia men who, rather than contact police, took it upon themselves to do vigilante justice. Whether intended or not, it resulted in the death of Ahmaud Arbury.

It seems we will rally to fight a common enemy when we can “see” the enemy and are certain he/she/it exists–ie, the neighbor who kidnapped the goslings. The number of comments on the neighborhood board (many demanding to know the woman’s name) makes evident the neighbor who took the baby geese was certainly an enemy to rally against.

It’s apparently not so easy when there’s an enemy we clearly fear, but cannot see, like COVID-19. It’s not an enemy we can grasp, so instead, we look for another enemy, someone we can blame, and from what I’ve seen, it’s anyone who thinks differently.

I can’t say if the pond incident would have so affected me if we hadn’t spent the last 8 weeks in quarantine, uncertain of when or if our world will ever return to what it was a few months ago.

Does it really matter? Who we are, the events at the pond and away from the pond, are all related. We can’t control life. We can’t control nature. We can’t control each other.

Live and let live.

Second Update: May 16, 2020

Excellent news! According to additional posts on the neighborhood board, the game warden was contacted and the goslings have been returned to Gracie, who has apparently welcomed their return.

Hope won, and the Mother Goose Saga has a happy ending. Even if our future is uncertain, there will still be happy endings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Coronavirus, Life, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Sew Much Love

Last week, the philosophy behind the general public wearing masks was updated. Previously, the CDC had said only those who are sick or those who are caring for someone who is sick needed to wear masks.

Upon hearing about this change, I decided it was time to look into how to make masks. First, I had to find my sewing machine. Did I even still have it? After all, it had been decades since I’d used it.

I checked the garage, and to my relief, I found it wrapped in a large plastic bag, dusty and covered with cobwebs. I brought it inside and opened it. It was so old, it had yellowed. On its spool holder, a lavender spool remained, and I wondered what I had last sewn. I’m pretty sure I hadn’t used the machine since my kids were little.

“Oh my,” I thought. “Do I really want to do this?”

But, knowing how impossible it is to find masks, I felt I had no choice but to proceed. So, I grabbed my anti-bacterial wipes and wiped the machine down. In the process of cleaning, I discovered the light still worked. I saw it as a good sign that pretty much thrilled me. If the light worked after 30 years, there was hope.

Next, I searched YouTube for instructions on how to grease a Kenmore sewing machine. I LOVE YouTube. You can find instructions to do just about anything there. After watching a couple of times, I now had a well-greased machine. I slowly turned the wheel by hand and the needle moved up and down.

The next big step was to try the foot pedal. I was slightly concerned the machine might explode or something. But it sounded just as smooth as it had the last time I used it.

My other steps toward progress included:

  1. Finding a needle that wasn’t broken – I found ONE lone needle in my decades-old sewing kit!
  2. Finding material to use for the masks – I am taking “shelter in place” seriously, so I didn’t want to go out to buy material. Instead, I rummaged through my closet and drawers to find suitable material to use. I found t-shirts that I painted with “kissee lips” and pink and purple polka dots. I found cotton pajamas and a favorite flannel shirt. Fortunately, also in my decades-old sewing kit, I found an unopened package of elastic.
  3. Choosing a pattern – Have you seen how many mask-making patterns there are out there? I chose a video by JoAnn Fabrics that was easy to use with good instructions. (Again, on YouTube!) I set up my iPad and cut out my pattern.
  4. Filling the bobbin and threading the machine- I was a little worried I might have forgotten how to do either. But, I guess there are some things you never forget. 🙂

Next, the biggest, most suspense-filled step. Testing the machine on a piece of material. Would it sew a nice, clean straight line? Or would it bunch up, leaving a snaggle of thread on the material?

IT WORKED LIKE A CHARM! After 30 years, I was ready to do a Kenmore sewing machine commercial.

As I cut apart my pajama pants and one of my favorite flannel shirts, I hoped it would not all be for naught. Of course, making masks for my family and myself would be worth sacrificing a couple of items of clothing, but after decades of not sewing, not following patterns, not using the machine, could I pull off this feat?

To keep from making a long story even longer, let me just begin to end this post with,

I DID IT!

I made small ones for the grandkids and large ones for adult loved ones who needed masks. I’ll be the first to admit, they’re certainly not the prettiest masks. (I’ve seen many, many beautiful, colorful, perfectly sewn masks out there!)

But I hope those to whom I gave the masks will find the wabi sabi in them–the beauty in their imperfection. They’re not made with the prettiest material. The seams are crooked, too. The thread didn’t always match, but in the slim pickings from my decades-old sewing kit, it was the color that came closest.

Perfect? Heck no. But they were sewn with material I took from pieces of clothing I wore to make memories. Most of all, they were sewn with love.

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Liminal Spaces

“Liminal” is a derivation of  the Latin word limens, which translated, means threshold. The Coronavirus has brought us to one of most visible thresholds I can recall in my life.

There are some wonderful liminal spaces, like the moments before the birth of a child, or before speaking the words, “I do.” Crossing these thresholds changes our lives forever, some in ways known, many in ways unknown. But, even with the unknowns, it seems easier to accept these happy liminal spaces as a fact of life.

There have been terrible liminal moments, too, like the 9/11 terrorist attacks that changed many of our lives forever. Even on a personal level, liminal spaces follow divorce, or even an empty nest. What comes next?

When I’ve talk to friends and family, I’ve learned that much of the stress during this time is due to the uncertainty of what’s next. The past seems like a distant world, and now, no longer in our comfort zones, we worry about how our lives will change. What lies across the threshold?

The truth is, it doesn’t matter what lies across the threshold. There’s very little we can do about it, except adjust and evolve as necessary.

I believe transition periods and the resulting change can be good, even if the circumstance that brings it about is pretty awful.

HuffPost gives 5 reasons change is good:

  1. You’re pushed outside of your comfort zone.  Every time I’ve been pushed out of my comfort zone, I’ve learned something about myself, or about someone else. Sometimes I’ve failed, and sometimes I’ve succeeded. But I’ve learned more from my failures. And life went on.
  2. You get to experience [and learn] more.  During this self-isolation period, I’ve learned to work from home. I’ve familiarized myself with online communication sites such as Zoom, to keep in touch with friends and family. I’ve gone for more walks and have been more “awake” to things I used to take for granted, like trees blossoming, pairs of ducks waddling around, a heron’s graceful take flight.
  3. You get to find out who you really are. For me, rather than learning who I really am, I’ve let more of who I really am come out. I’m someone who “goes along to get along,” and throughout most of my life, that’s worked just fine. But I’ve found that being “isolated” at home for a long period of time with my husband, Steve, with whom I’m grateful to get along, I’ve found I state my preferences for something more…shall we say…”demonstratively.” Also, though I still have the inclination to withhold some of my opinions on social media, I have noticed I’ve become more open and honest about my opinions. Just as important as finding out who I am, I think this stage of transition has also helped me to learn more about who others are, both in the things they say, and in the things they don’t say.
  4. Makes you more flexible and adaptable.  Though I wouldn’t go so far as to call myself a control freak, I tend not to be very flexible or adaptable. But during this time, I’ve accepted that there’s very little I can control, except, to the best of my abilities, take care that we have enough groceries and other supplies and do my part to maintain social distance. Other than that, there’s not much I can do except wait it out, and be kind as I do so.  Like the song my mother always used to sing to me say, “What will be, will be.”
  5. You have more fun. Well, I wouldn’t go so far as to say I’m having more fun. I miss seeing my family and friends. I miss going out to see a movie, have a drink or dinner. But, I do have more time–probably more time than I’d like, and that took me awhile to adjust to. Fortunately, I’m able to work from home, so that takes up 8 hours a day. With 8 hours of sleep, that leaves me another 8 other hours to figure out what to do with myself. So, I’ve been blogging more, spending way more time (too much, I’d say) on social media, working on the illustrations for my children’s book Magical Red Kimono,  and writing children’s stories for my grandchildren. And, I’d have to say, I’ve been having fun with it all.

Who knows what life will be like when the worst of this virus is over. All I know is, in many ways, it likely will not be the same. But between endings and beginnings lies a liminal space. A space that’s open and clear. A space to start anew.

“I like to live always at the beginnings of life, not at their end. We all lose some of our faith under the oppression of mad leaders, insane history, pathologic cruelties of daily life. I am by nature always beginning and believing…”

~ Anaïs Nin

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My (Imaginary) Conversation with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick

“The mortality rate is so low, do we have to shut down the whole country for this? I think we can get back to work.”

                                                       ~ Lt. Governor Dan Patrick

I live in Texas. I’m not sure if what Lt. Governor Dan Patrick said on the Tucker Carlson Show on Fox Monday night causes me more shame or fear. Perhaps he was just thinking out loud. Perhaps he was trying to find a notable sound bite that could bring him kudos from the President. Or, perhaps this is what he truly believes.

I understand that we must find the balance between protecting the American people and protecting our economy. I understand that our opinions may be swayed by our personal circumstances —whether or not we are still employed, whether or not we have been touched by the cornonavirus.

I am grateful that at this point, I have not been touched by either tragedy, so I’ll admit, this probably sways my opinion far, far away from Lt. Governor Patrick’s opinion. Still, I find it impossible to believe that even if I found myself unemployed, even if I lost someone I loved to the virus, I’d come to believe the same things he talked about last night.

Following the Tucker Carlson interview, I had an imaginary conversation with Lt. Governor Patrick. Here’s how it went: (His quotes are from the Tucker Carlson interview on Monday night.)

Patrick:  Are you willing to take a chance on your survival in exchange for keeping the America that all America loves for your children and grandchildren? If that’s the exchange, I’m all in.

Me:  If I believed my children’s or grandchildren’s survival depended on whether or I lived or died, you better believe I’d make the ultimate sacrifice. But your premise makes me wonder if you haven’t been paying attention to the facts. If people go back to work, or play, even if “old people” take care of themselves, as you suggest, the virus will continue to spread. Old AND young people will continue to get sick and die, until hospitals, even morgues will overflow. (Have you heard what’s happening in Spain? Do you think America is so “great” the same thing won’t happen here?) What do you think THAT will do to the economy? To our society? I wonder if you understand the concept of “flatten the curve?”

Patrick:  Let’s get back to work. Let’s get back to living. Let’s be smart about it. Those of us 70-plus, we’ll take care of ourselves.

Me:  I do think about the tragedy of so many losing their jobs. I can imagine the helplessness leaders must feel. But I doubt many Americans (hopefully that would be zero Americans) are willing to risk the health and well-being of their parents and grandparents to save the economy. And, of course, many of those over 70 are already suffering from medical issues and are not able to take care of themselves. Most important, if the shelter-in-place is ended too soon, the elderly will NOT be the only casualties.

We all dread a possible recession or depression. But we’ve survived both before, without sacrificing lives to do so.

You say, “Let’s be smart about it?” Now, there’s something I can agree with. If we’re smart about it, we continue to shelter in place at least until the curve flattens. Otherwise, more lives will be lost, causing us to have to start over again with another shelter-in-place, causing perhaps an even worse economic catastrophe.

Patrick: We’re going to be in a total collapse, recession, depression, collapse in our society, if this goes on another several months.

Me: As I said before, we’ve lived through and survived recessions and depressions before. And if you want to talk about a collapse in society—sacrificing the elderly to save the economy? In my opinion, THAT is a collapse of our society.

Patrick:  Our biggest gift we give to our country and our children and our grandchildren is the legacy of our country.

Me: I’m curious. What do you think is the legacy of our country? Is it a good economy? No, a good economy is what Trump thinks is his HIS legacy. And he’s scared to death that the one thing that has kept his supporters supporting him, even through “Yeah, I know he lies,” or, “Yeah, I know he’s got a foul mouth,” or “Yeah, he’s done some things I don’t agree with,” is that they could always fall back on, “Yeah, but look at the economy.”

 Lately, I’ve wondered what Trump must feel more desperation over: 

  • He can no longer entertain his adoring crowds
  • His beloved legacy of a “good economy” has tanked

 It’s no wonder he wants this “shelter in place” to end. Both will affect his re-election chances, and his supporters understand this. So, they, like you, Lt. Governor Patrick, will go along with whatever he says, even at the expense of thousands of lives.

 Here’s what I think is the legacy of our country. It’s our ability to pull together when facing a common enemy. It’s our resilience and ability to pick ourselves up when we fall.

We don’t sacrifice those we love to put money in our pockets. That would not only be un-American. It would be inhuman.

Talk to your kids and grandkids about this sacrifice you’re willing to make. And hey, if your parents are still alive, talk to them, too. Then, let’s talk again.

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