Tuesday, August 31, 2021

My Assessment May Have Been Premature

 

"I know there's a lion six inches from my butt. SHE HAS DIPPIN' DOTS!"

Back in the early days of blogs, I regularly read several that were so funny, so well-written, so poignant and admirable, that I looked for them every day as soon as I fired up my computer. For years they were part of my life to the point that I knew the names of these writers' children and the brand of mascara they preferred. 

And then, suddenly, they were gone. 

From one day to the next with no warning at all, one would disappear. Then another. Then another. And to this day, I don't know where they went. Did they run out of material? Did they get tired of the pressure of producing content? Did they simply grow out of needing the writing outlet? I didn't understand it.

Now I do. 

The last post I wrote was three full months ago, and I had no intention of being gone so long. It just sort of...happened. 

I am here, in fact, because in the wee dark hours of this morning I suddenly found myself wide awake and convinced that the internet had deleted my corner of the blathersphere because of lack of activity. All of my observations on the joy and absurdity that is my life were gone, gone, gone. 

The 3 a.m. thoughts of a post-menopausal woman are always so rational. 

It isn't as if I haven't been writing blog posts in my head--if I managed to build a mental modem between my brain and this address I would have had, well, more than zero posts since May. So I knew I was being irrational, but rather than just checking my phone and going back to sleep I laid awake and stewed for two more hours because that is a much more rational reaction. 

Anyway, here I am! Back! And it appears that the title of my last post may have been just a tad premature. 

Hahahahaha! Babies Wonderful, the world has not righted itself. 

Because our half-hearted response to the original infection gave a new and stronger version of that infection the chance to sweep back in just as we decided we were done with it, we are now listening to Delta laugh heartily. 

In spite of vaccines and science and whatnot, hospitals are still filled with pestilence and plague to the extent that a dear vaccinated friend experiencing a life-threatening gallbladder infection had to wait on one of those narrow emergency room beds for the better part of a day before a bed opened up and she could be admitted to the hospital. 

We have watched as schools within sneezing distance of the House on the Corner open without masking even though science, and friends on Facebook have posted instructions for ivermectin dosages in spite of SCIENCE.

So, yes. I am a teensy bit bitter, and thank you for asking. But I am also so very thankful for all the good things that have happened in the non-posting months.

We are, fully vaccinated and masked, cautiously out and around for the most part. We've been able to be with each other in person as well as by Facetime. We eat in restaurants, sometimes, although we try to hit off-peak hours. We attend the church service that is least attended (hymn singers for social distancing!).  

And we have been able to see the Babies Wonderful and their parents, and cuddle them (the babies, not the parents) and watch their progression from newborn to baby to full-blown chase-me-around-the-zoo toddlerhood. I had forgotten that toddlers see animals in practically every book in the nursery, but the misting machine! And the non-nutritional snacks! Those are new and amazing!

My life truly is wonderful, and I am doubly blessed that the biggest worry I have during my irrational early hour panic attacks is that I might be missing some words from my life. I am not among those who are missing people. 

But I'm back now. I'll try not to disappear again. 


Monday, May 17, 2021

Dear Babies Wonderful: The World MAY Be Righting Itself

 

Dear Babies Wonderful,

I've spent the past 10 minutes staring blankly at the computer screen, wondering what the title of this post should be. Not only has it been a loooooong break in posting (so sorry!) but I couldn't decide how to caption this scribble I thought might never be written. Should I categorize it under the World Turned Upside Down posts that have dominated the past year? Or should it be a Baby Wonderful episode?

I finally decided that honestly, it's both. By the time you're in grade school and the other kids are interviewing their grandparents about what it was like to live through the Great Pandemic of 2020 I may have forgotten everything, including my name a few details of this so I'm giving you permission to turn this in as your fourth grade history assignment. 

See that picture up there? That's your handsome grandfather sitting across a restaurant table from me. He had taken me out for Mediterranean food to celebrate Mother's Day 2021. But you'll want to notice a few details that are a bit different from typical Facebook I'm-on-a-date updates. (Do kids still have Facebook? What do you mean the cool kids didn't even use Facebook in 2021? Huh.) 

It was the first time we had eaten inside a restaurant in 15 months. 

Notice that the tables around us are completely empty. That's because we were at this restaurant on a Friday afternoon at 4:00. Your grandfather suggested that maybe we should move our date up two days rather than patronize what he accurately described as "sneezed-on Mother's Day buffets." And maybe we should eat our falafel and hummus at the senior-est of senior citizen hours to avoid crowds.

He knows me so well. 

He knew that I have spent the past year in the most prolonged state of fear I've ever experienced. I honestly did not think that all of my loved ones would survive the pandemic. It seemed so capricious--old people were dying from it, but so were young and healthy people. Hundreds in Small Town became ill, and many died, but even more were ill and didn't know it. 

The worst part was knowing that even if we did every single thing we could do to stay healthy (and we did--we isolated, wore our masks when we had to be out, stopped going to any in-person gathering, Zoomed everything including coffee dates) it might not be enough. The virus could find us. 

Now extrapolate that worry to the people we loved the most. Would you two precious wee ones be safe? Would your parents, your uncles? Your great-grandfather and your aunts and uncles and cousins? I discovered that worry compounds exponentially, not arithmetically.

I don't want to make this a long slog about how awful the pandemic was because while I recognize how scary it was, I also recognize how lucky we were to have the luxury of choosing isolation. So I will just say that when we ate in that restaurant, I may have had to choke back a tear or two as I realized that vaccinations and caution mean that the world that has been upside down for a solid year might be tilting toward its correct axis again. The weird epoch during which we found pulse oximeters in our Christmas stockings, and were grateful for them, may be coming to an end. 

It doesn't mean the pandemic is over--hospitals in other parts of the nation and the world are still packed with desperately ill patients. In Small Town we are still seeing obituaries of people who have been taken by this horrid virus. We are still wearing our masks inside and in close quarters with persons we aren't sure have been vaccinated. We are not yet hugging indiscriminately.

But oh, my precious ones, you just can't imagine the joy of the steps we're making back toward normalcy. We are experiencing the upward bounce that began with vaccinations.

I am wearing lipstick again, and smiling at everyone I see. 

God willing, right-side-up is just over the horizon. 

Much love,

GrandmaQueenBee

Monday, April 12, 2021

Dear Baby Wonderful #2

 


Dear Baby Wonderful #2,

You will not know for many years, decades even, the emotions of writing that opening sentence. And in many ways, I hope you never know, because my dear one, those emotions are wrapped up your arrival almost exactly one year after we started a year that was indescribably dark and fraught.

Your cousin had made his appearance just one day before the pandemic was officially declared, and at the time I reminded God that this baby was symbol of hope. A year and a few weeks later, here you are, the other end of the rainbow. Quite sensibly you timed your birth so that you could shout "Hallelujah!" for vaccines, symbolizing a cautious return to (socially distanced, masked) meetings, and the possibility that Grandma and Grandpa could safely fly out to meet you. 

We can't wait to meet you, a child so obviously one of our clan. 

First, and most obviously, you are a boy. One of these days you'll undoubtedly gain a cousin who doesn't have the XY chromosome combination, and I'll be just as thrilled to meet her, but I have to be completely honest: I was secretly hoping you would be joining the guy brigade that is the House on the Corner. 

And then, there is the sheer adorableness of your presence, as evidenced in today's pictures. Has there ever been a more moochy-moochy Shar-Pei of a baby? You were a well-nourished newborn, and at 9 lbs. 14.4 oz., pretty much the Gaston of the nursery. In fact, one of the first things your delighted mom told us on the phone was "He's got rolls!" They are everywhere--creasing in your tiny thighs, your sweet upper arms, on your back. I don't want to harsh your buzz this early in your life, but while I am thrilled you take after your GrandmaQueenBee in this, these are much less adorable when you are on  Social Security. You might want to try to avoid that better than I have. But on you? Flaunt 'em, Baby!

You've also made it clear that you have a mind of your own, as did all of the boys who have preceded you in the hive. The photographer who arrived for your newborn shoot was not able to coax you to open your beautiful eyes even once. The second she left, though, you woke up, looked around, and grinned. As Uncle Boy#1 pointed out, you are nobody's monkey. 

Your Mom and Dad have been warriors. They rolled with the punches of pandemic childbearing, with Lovely Girl #2 attending prenatal scans and appointments by herself--only the patient could enter the hospital, so Boy#2 missed seeing your first stretches and yawns. There were no baby showers, no hugs from excited friends at church. 

But what do those really matter now? You are here. They FaceTime often, so we recognize your prodigious startle reflex, and your amazing strength--you're able to hold up your head already, even though the replacing of said head on a shoulder is a less-controlled operation. (THUD!)

They adore you, and watching them in their new role as parents is perhaps the most miraculous transformation their own parents can see. 

Next week Grandpa and I will be coming to meet you. Don't worry--we're fully vaccinated, have a full stash of masks and hand sanitizer, and will hand you back to your Mom or Dad the second you start to cry. They aren't leaving you, and even though most of the time we'll be halfway across the country, neither are we.

You're the other end of the rainbow.

Much love,

GrandmaQueenBee

Monday, February 22, 2021

A World Turned Upside Down: This Is What Hope Looks Like

 

The folder next to my head is appropriately named.

I sat down this morning to write about the latest pandemic development and realized I had no picture to go with the post. Rather than take a selfie of my current post-workout self I stuck my celebratory sticker right next to a face on my monitor's screensaver. It seems appropriate that the picture is part of a family portrait taken in a moment when I was happy clear down to my bones, just as I was 10 days ago when a nurse jabbed my left arm.

I got my Covid-19 vaccine. 

As it turns out, it is possible to put a timeline on hope, and my clock started ticking at 10:17 a.m. Wednesday, February 10. That's when I masked up and left the house to line up with teachers, aides, and staff in the school district where I accompany the middle school choir. Three weeks from that moment I will get the second shot, then I will wait another two weeks before I begin to cautiously emerge from isolation. 

That second shot will come exactly one year after Baby Wonderful was born, the day we were able to hold and cuddle our hours-old dear one. The next day, as we were on the road back to the House on the Corner, the president addressed the nation concerning a crisis that already was spreading. In the hazy Is-This-True-or-Not world of a year ago, it was hard know how seriously to take his announcement, but then we heard that March Madness had been cancelled.

I turned to Husband: "This could be really bad." 

It has been.

It hasn't just been the constant, low-level worry about whether my children, my father, my beloved siblings and their families, were still healthy. It's also been actively avoiding other people when my Before way of life was built around being with other people. 

Picking up groceries rather than doing my own shopping. Moving my women's group and Bible study meetings to Zoom. Not eating in a restaurant during this entire year. Going back to work at the piano for a few months but realizing that the worry a child would unwittingly infect me was too draining, and taking a leave from that job. Attending church remotely, even after the church re-opened. Teaching piano via Google Meet. Not singing Christmas carols.

Getting to know my grandson by FaceTime and hoping he would recognize my voice when I finally hold him again.

This was not the way I had planned to be a grandmother. 

But then, last night Boy#1 texted us with a question: "Hey, when are you all supposed to get your second Covid shots? We're planning for Baby Wonderful's birthday party." 

We've reached the point where we can begin planning, albeit cautiously, and knowing this gathering is even a possibility is such a hopeful sign. 

Don't think that after a year in which Husband was literally the only other human being I saw for weeks at a time we will immediately go back to our Before behaviors. We'll continue to mask and distance and we'll limit our contacts to friends and family we know are similarly cautious and vaccinated. We'll avoid crowds and handshakes, and it may be years before I am not angry with non-maskers whose disdain for science and disregard of others has been so cavalier. (Your excuses are meeting my upraised open palm.)

The end of this is not even on the horizon yet, but we are vaccinated. 

We have hope.

Monday, February 8, 2021

One Is More Than Enough

 


Before I start today's actual story, I have two prefaces. 

The first is this: I am incurably squeamish about small critters. Even though I am the mother of four sons, I do not enjoy bugs, or snakes, or things that skitter.  I did my best to cover this personality failing when the Boys were little. 

"Oh, look! It's a cute little frog!" I would exclaim in a voice that was too high and a tone that was too quavery. Then I would grit my teeth and accept the frog onto my own palm for what I considered a reasonable amount of time before returning it to nature and fleeing inside to soak my hands in boiling water. 

I am also physically incapable of killing anything that might contain instestinal goo. Just the thought of that ooziness triggers my gag reflex. Step on a cricket? Nope, not happening. Clap a fly to death between my bare hands? I have tried, honestly tried, but without fail the clap veers off to miss the fly by a measurable distance. 

So that is the first preface to this story, and here is the second: Even though the House on the Corner is nearly a century old, in the 34 years we have sheltered within its walls I have never seen a mouse sheltering inside with us. Oh, I thought I did once, and even blogged it with what turned out to be the exact same clipart I am using today, but the "mouse" turned out to be rampant dust bunnies. 

That's why I was more than a little shocked last week when, as I sat in the recliner working on my latest knitting project and streaming an old "Columbo" episode, an honest-to-gosh mouse sauntered into the television room between me and Peter Falk. Believe me, the murder victim was much less surprised than I was. My room exit rate was in hyperspeed gear.

I texted Husband.

It's like he's never met me before. But God bless him, I married a good man. Within minutes, even in the full throes of tax season, he had locked the office door and was on his way home. Meanwhile, figuring the mouse would be occupied for at least half an hour before Columbo figured out that the baseball manager had clocked the star pitcher with a big chunk of ice and shoved him in the swimming pool (sorry, spoiler alert), I had moved to the kitchen.

And it was there, five minutes later, that I glanced down and strolling through the kitchen door was THE MOUSE! It stopped in the middle of the floor, not three feet away, and took a break.

I know! It's like it knew I am incapable of killing small critters and was taunting me. It's a classic mouse move. 

Sadly, even though I was literally surrounded by sharp weapons, there was no way I was going to impale it with one of my good kitchen knives (see also: intestinal goo) so my mind raced to a more humane method of disposal. 

Moving slowly, one inch at a time, I reached into the cupboard and pulled out a large plastic cup, the kind that holds overpriced Diet Pepsi at football games. The mouse was still sitting there.

I inched toward it, moving at the speed of a sundial. No rodent movement. 

Finally, fully expecting the mouse to dash off at the final moment, I slammed the cup over it. 

It did not dash off. 

Instead, my critter-avoidance instinct kicked in and instead of slamming the cup over the mouse I managed to slam the cup onto the mouse. If you drew a dotted line from its twitchy little nose to the base of its repulsive tail, that's where the edge of the cup smacked down.

OMGOMGOMGOMGOMGOMGOMG!

There I was, bent double and as trapped by the mouse as it was by that heroic plastic cup. I couldn't pick up the cup, because I wasn't absolutely sure the mouse was dead and I saw that episode of The Crown where the injured elk just wandered around in the queen's forest for days and days. No way was I letting an injured mouse loose. But I also could not bring myself to exert more pressure on the cup for a definite demise. Nope, nope, nope. Not in a million years. 

And at that moment, I heard a key in the back door. Friends, Sleeping Beauty was not nearly as happy to see her Prince pucker up as I was to hear that door open. 

"A little help here?" I croaked from from my bent-double position behind the island. 

Husband, who actually does know me very well, took charge at that point and held on to the cup while I fetched a pair of pliers so that he could grip that disgusting tail, remove the cup, and discover that Mickey was indeed dead as a doornail. 

Later, after he had gleefully sent pictures of the (completely flattened) rodent to the Boys and crowed about what a mighty hunter their mother was, he went back out to the hardware store and came home with six each of three different kinds of traps. Then he Googled the best place to set them (everywhere) and so thoroughly carpeted the ground floor with anti-mouse protection that we may never find every trap.

In the three days since, the traps have seen no activity. I'm hoping this means we're started on the next 34-year mouse-free streak. 

But if we do find anything in the traps, be watching the real estate ads. One episode of intestinal goo is more than enough.

Monday, February 1, 2021

A World Turned Upside Down: The Pandemic Check List

 

Brioche!

So we can all agree that this pandemic has gone on waaaaay longer than we would have preferred, right? We are tired of the masks and take-out restaurant food, and there is a real danger that Netflix may run out of content before we rise to the top of the vaccination wait list. (Not that I'm complaining, but as I have mentioned before, I have four tickets in the let's-kill-grandma lottery and am still a couple of months away from the jab, based on the priority list and the rate doses are arriving in the county.)

I have now moved from "Let's Be Smart About This" to "I AM NOT GOING TO WASTE ALL THOSE MONTHS OF HUGLESSNESS" on my scale of isolation. I no longer go into stores, even masked, and Husband is pretty much the only face I see outside of Zoom calls. (Just an aside: I've concluded hell must be an eternal Zoom meeting made up only of senior citizens. Honestly, I could not have made it through this without seeing the gorgeous faces of my friends, but trying to walk a newbie through the subtleties of the mute button is...challenging.)

The up side of all this isolation is that I am working down my pandemic check list with  surprising efficiency. I'm assuming you all have lists that you wrote out in a panic last March when everything was cancelled and the end was not even over the horizon, much less in sight? 

What were we going to do with al those empty hours stretching out inside the four walls of the house? 

I know, I know. I am so lucky that this appeared to be a problem. Parents of children who have not yet flown the list, I cannot express the depths of my admiration for you. I could not have handled this 20 years ago, when the Boys were all sulky teenagers under our roof. I could not have handled it 15 years ago when the college kids would have been sent home to suck up the WiFi and my sanity. 

But solitude does have a way of allowing one's mind to be super-productive and active in a dire, non-productive way.  What would I do to keep myself on dwelling on the constant, low-grade drumbeat of doom that was present in March of 2020? 

I made a list. 

On that list were things I've wanted to do or learn but never "had the time" for. The irony quotes are, obviously, to indicate that I know very well that we have the time for what we make the time for, and it's all about choices, and blah-blah-blah. But I hadn't done these things, okay? And I wanted to, okay? 

On my list were some items I've already bragged about here. There's the sourdough starter, for example, which was so delightful and yummy that two weeks ago it was flushed down the garbage disposal because ye gods, so much bread. Some day I will have to wear clothes again. There are the aforementioned Zoom calls which had intimidated me but which now are my primary means of communication with the outside world. 

For years I've wanted to learn to do brioche knitting. I'm a fair-to-middlin' knitter and have loved this stitch since the first time I saw its intricate patterns (on both sides!), but in spite of YouTube tutorials and even the purchase of a book, I could not figure it out. This week, thanks to a stocking-stuffer video class from Husband, I have learned to brioche. Hooray! Hats and fingerless mitts for everyone!

But perhaps the list item that delights me most right now has me setting the alarm clock for 7 a.m.: I'm taking an online Zumba class. 

I know! Me, the worst dancer in the world. Me, the person least likely to move out of the recliner. Me, the person whose lack of coordination is legendary. 

Three times a week I push back the coffee table and tune into a Silver Sneakers Zoom session led by Damaris in Miami. She is a Li'l Dumpling-shaped dynamo in Spandex, and she has all of us old people doing cha-cha and meringue and the twist, sporadically yelling "Hey!" and making heart-shapes with our hands as we pump our fists. I am so bad at it, and it is so much fun that I don't even care that I'm bad at it. By the end of the 45 minutes I am sweating profusely and have achieved a self-righteous glow that will last all day. 

So maybe that's the best thing to come of my list--I'm enjoying trying things I'm really bad at. I have enjoyed but am not bragging about my bread baking or my knitting. I knew I could do those things fairly well already. The Zumba class? That was light years out of my comfort zone, and here I am, loving it.

I'm not looking forward nearly as much to the next item on the list. Maybe adding random "Hey!" and hand hearts to attic cleaning would help? I can't wait to see if Husband agrees.


Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Why I'm Feeling This Way

 


When I was younger I slept deeply no matter what position I was in. 

I could sleep on my back, or on my stomach, or with my head propped up on the too-high arm of a sofa when I fell asleep during a television movie. After a few minutes or a few hours or even an entire night (barring nursing sessions and child nightmares) I would wake up, stretch, and walk back into my life. 

As I have gotten older, I have discovered that aging bones and tendons mean that too much time in one position leave me ossified rather than refreshed. If I sleep on my back all night, for example, I can barely stretch my creaking skeleton back into usable form. I roll my creaky shoulders and achy feet like a ballet dancer just to walk down the hall to the bathroom.

So instead of sleeping like a log, I sleep like a rotisserie chicken: left side, stomach, right side, back, left side, stomach...and so on for the hours I'm in bed. Sleep has become lighter and more easily interrupted.

You may think that I'm complaining, but I honestly I am not. In fact, I would say that having to change positions during the night is a delightful benefit of old-ish age. 

When I wake up in the night and realize I am curled into a fetal left side heap of tightened knees and sleep-needled hands, I make a quarter turn and stretch completely out, toes over the end of the bed and fingers curled around the top of my pillow.

It is the most delicious feeling, knowing I will rest easy and stretched between cool sheets. The pain in my hips that woke me is almost magically relieved and I flex my feet and smile just because I can. It is a fresh start during a night that has become intolerably painful. 

This morning, as I put on my pearls and lit a candle for the unity of our nation, I tentatively flexed my feet. 

All of my muscles suddenly relaxed and I smiled.