One year later…

Hope is a spur to action. Hope is not a lottery ticket that we cling to. It’s a hammer that we use in an emergency to break the glass, sound the alarm, and spring into action. Hope is not a state of mind, it’s a state of action. -Ady Barkan

I’ve struggled with the idea of writing a post focusing fact that this week marks one year since the start of the first lockdown.

There’s the dreariness brought on by the soul-crushing realization we’ve now been in this bizarre version of normal for over a year that makes me reluctant to sit down and write, much less hit publish on a post like this.

There’s also the doubt that there’s much I can add to the conversation that hasn’t been said already… As I’ve said before, I realize how lucky I’ve been in the past year.

My first inclination was to post a meme I made once I’d been at parenting through a pandemic for a while… and hopefully write something funny about the strange journey of this past year:

However- the above quote from Ady Barkan has been in the back of my mind pretty consistently since I heard him speak in an interview with Jimmy marking the release of Not Going Quietlya documentary about Barkan’s experience with ALS.

Listening to a man who’s health is deteriorating at an alarming rate speak about hope captivated me.

This is a a man who, due to a cruel twist of fate, may not live to see forty and won’t live to see his children grow up. It would be impossible to blame him or judge him if he treated hope like a lottery ticket.

What else are you supposed to do when your world has been flipped on it’s end and there’s nothing to do but work with the tilted normal you’re left with?

In Barkan’s view- there is plenty to do, if you’re willing to change your view. This skewed normal is a time for action.

Since listening to that interview I’ve realized how much hope there has been in the last year, as hard and awful as it has been.

I see the kind hope Ady Barkan speaks of in the quick development of a vaccine for COVID-19. I see it in the lines of people waiting to receive their shot, going to pharmacies at closing time in case there are extra doses. I see hope as information is shared on the best way to book a vaccine for loved ones.

I see it in the effort so many have put into following restrictions that have been cumbersome and frustrating to protect others.

I see some hope for the future of education – there’s been some serious realizations about flaws in our system. This has been an opportunity to assess our values and what we want for our children and those who teach them. As there’s been a broader view into what our teachers do, there’s also greater reason for action to

I see hope in relationships. The past year has given the slightest glimpse into the reality Barkan and too many others live with. Our time is precious, and we never know how much time and freedom to move we will have. It is a reordering of priorities- we know now how much we’ve miss seeing friends and loved ones. When we’re finally able to be together again, I think it will be valued more highly than before.

Personally, I have hope my children will look back on this as a year where they realized they can be flexible, resilient and do incredibly hard things, even when they don’t want to.

I hope they remember it was a time where it was also okay or everyone to be sad and frustrated by a circumstance beyond their control, even as we all worked to make the best of it.

I hope I will remember the value I place on relationships as the calendar turns closer and closer to marking two years since I’ve seen many family and friends- a circumstance I never planned for.

I hope I will continue to work towards goals I have for myself. If I was able to find time to do some hard work in this past year, I know I can do it.

Finding hope as I reflect on this last year doesn’t discount the breathtaking scope of loss that has been experienced.

It’s more a realization this past year wasn’t wasted. It’s not a year to write off and say we never want to experience again. We can take what we’ve learned to improve the world as we go forward.

If we can do that, I’m sincerely hopeful for better days ahead.

Here is the link to Ady Barkan’s interview:

Jade Rollers and Julia Child…

So, I know this is a super random pairing but bear with me.

First thing first, Father of Gingers (FoG) got me a jade face roller for my birthday. I’m a sucker for anything natural (looking at you, Morning Thunder) and I have an eye bag situation (looking at you, Gingers). In theory it’s supposed to help moisturize my face by encouraging absorption of products, de-puff my face, and roll the effing wrinkles out encourage my “laugh lines” to move on. (Once again I specifically requested this gift- FoG is alive and well) I also got a bonus gua sha stone with my roller.

My plan for the is to use the roller at least once a day, hopefully morning and night, but I’m trying to be realistic about my ability to diligently roll my face while my hair is metaphorically on fire on school days. Last I checked, “My child is late (again) because I’m pushing forty and doing my best to ward off wrinkles” isn’t going to fly as an excuse for tardiness.  Also, the stress of running late to school is just going to cause more wrinkles, which kind of defeats the purpose. I’ve done some diligent research (I watched a few YouTube videos and picked my favorite) on how to use the roller and I’ll add in the gua sha once I get comfortable (i.e. watch the second half of the YouTube video…)

I was going to use this as a before picture:

But honestly, that’s a pretty low bar for this process to get over. So we’re going to go with this…

Good luck to you, jade roller… this is after a 5:15am wake up because, well, toddler…

So I’ll check back in on this challenge in a week or two and let you know. I totally have a backup plan of bangs (I’ve heard it called Bangtox) if all else fails.

On to part two of today’s random post… Julia Child

As I go through this last year of my thirties, I’m going to try to ask myself, “What would Julia do?”  The answer isn’t always churn out an amazing omelette and add more butter…

I just finished reading, Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child by Bob Spitz. I read My Life In France years ago and have always been a bit intrigued by Julia. I don’t want to rehash what has already been covered very well by Julie Powell  in her blog, and later her book, and of course there’s the movie as well.  Honestly, for a bit I wasn’t sure if I was charmed by Julia, or Meryl Streep-as-Julia…

For me, my infatuation with Julia isn’t because I love to cook, even though I do love it.  I’ve realized it comes from a place of admiration for an unconventional woman who lead an unapologetic life. I’ve been thinking about Julia a lot as I work on this blog. She  really personified the whole “age is just a number” thing. Her first cookbook didn’t come out until she was in her forties.  She started her television career until her fifties.  I mean, she didn’t even really start cooking until her mid- thirties after she married Paul. What I found most compelling about Julia is she didn’t settle for what society/convention/her family thought she should do in a time where it would have been so much easier if she had.

Julia Child was tall, like remarkably tall.  Six feet, two or three inches, depending on the source.  She definitely didn’t fit the ideal standard for women in that day in age.  It would have been so easy to talk herself into “well, this relationship is as good as I’m going get” or, “this is pretty good, considering my size.”  But. She. Didn’t. Some of it was that she wasn’t sure what she wanted out of life.  However, in reading about her I got the sense that she always knew what she didn’t want.  Sometimes that can make all the difference in finding what you do want. There was an easy, predictable path open to Julia; she could have married a local guy in California and probably led a pleasant, quiet, respectable life.  It wasn’t going to be enough, so she struck out on her own and hit many bumps along the way.  Julia’s unwillingness to settle took her into government service and overseas during World War II, at which time she met Paul Child. It was an unconventional path that led to what became her life’s work. (Needless to say I’m doing some MAJOR paraphrasing here!)

“If it is vile, the cook must grin and bear it, with no words of excuse. Never apologize”

I want this tattooed on my forehead… I won’t do it because that would be awkward, but the desire is still there.  I read this book over my thirty-ninth birthday and this is the quote that stuck with me and I plan on carrying with me to forty and beyond (with apologies to Buzz Lightyear for stealing/modifying his catchphrase).  Not because I plan on starting to throw insane number of dinner parties, but because I plan to abandon the idea I need to constantly apologize.

I am always leery of embracing mantras/ ideas like this because I feel like it can often lead down the wrong path.  I’ve noticed that the people most likely to embrace this sort of thing are those who least need it.  It’s been my experience that those who are most eager to “set expectations” and “set boundaries” are often using it as an acceptable way to say, “I’m going to do exactly what I want to do, but since I’ve told you what to expect, you really shouldn’t be getting mad right now.” That being said, I do think there is a place for ideas like this in day-to-day life.

Is everything I make or do going to be perfect? Absolutely not.  Not. Even. Close.  Sometimes it is going to be, well, vile (and sometimes Pinterest will have had a hand in that).  I’ll just have to move through it and push on.  The hardest thing with giving writing a try is putting these posts out there and not knowing how they’ll go over.  I am constantly surprised by how pieces do and are received.  I struggle with not adding qualifiers to every post justifying it.  I’m going to try to apologize just for having an opinion or for taking up space. It’s going to be a hard habit to break. I will of course apologize if I hurt someone, Julia Child did not just give me carte-blanche to steamroll over everyone for the next year or longer, regardless of how tempting it would be.  I can see myself yelling over my shoulder, “Julia Child told me this was okay!” in way too many imagined scenarios.  I probably need to get out more.

In the meantime, if you need me, I’ll be rolling the wrinkles out of my face while not making excuses and being unapologetic.

The Hamilton-ness of it All

So, the day I thought I had it under control continued to serve plot twists. Once again, I have been meaning to write about this for ages, but procrastination and life are quite the team. I swear there will be a post on that… eventually. Back to the day of Big Ginger’s Meet the Teacher; my bra had already made friends and influenced people, so I was slightly flustered. Then, as we walked into the classroom (with my bra back in its proper place under my shirt, thank you very much) a text came in on my watch and I saw the words “Hamilton” and “want to.”

This is going to be a disjointed post, but please hang in there, because we now need to take a Zack Morris-style time-out for some back story. I might be slightly obsessed with Hamilton and had been entering the lottery for tickets daily throughout the summer. I listened to the soundtrack nonstop when I was pregnant with Little Ginger.  Big Ginger knows most of lyrics to the first act (in a fit of responsible parenting, I decided he doesn’t need to know how it ends) and has a favorite song.  Little Ginger may have come close to having Theodosia as part of her name. Fortunately, Father of Gingers was way less hormonal and way more practical than I was at the time; Theodosia went the way of Hermione, and honestly, we are all better for it. In a way, we can blame this blog on Lin-Manuel Miranda. I realized he is the same age I am and almost has an EGOT. Given that I can not find the beat in music with a map, solid directions, and two hands, I realized I was going to have to do something else. So, here we all are.

Back to our originally scheduled story. I saw I had the text that said something about Hamilton, but we were just walking into Big Ginger’s new classroom and about to meet his teachers. Still trying to make a good, “I’m a completely normal parent who will be a joy to work with this school year” impression, I knew I could NOT pull my phone out just as I was meeting this woman for the first time. But…… Hamilton! I pulled it together and chatted with his teacher because sometimes, we just have to make sacrifices for our children. Then I hustled said children to a corner of the classroom as soon as humanly possible to look at the text, which was from my best friend since kindergarten. She had won the lottery and wanted to know if I wanted to go to see the show with her. I fired back a, “Yes, please, at meet the teacher, will text more later,” and tried to focus back on Meet the Teacher with middling success. I have since volunteered to be room parent, so I have high hopes it will all work out, karma-wise, in the end.

This would probably be the point where I should note that I met the friend who was on the other side of the text exchange in kindergarten at the exact same school I was taking Big Ginger to for Meet the Teacher. It would be appropriate to segue into the importance of life-friends: the richness they add to the tapestry of life, and how I hope Big Ginger starts to build the same friendships he will treasure throughout his life… This is not that post. We’re still talking about Hamilton.

As I have previously noted, it was a long-ass summer. (I’m clearly cut out for writing, what with the way I wield eloquent descriptors). I was keeping my eye on tickets for the show, but it hadn’t worked out.  We had a ton tasks that had to be accomplished and I got into the habit of putting what I wanted to do on the back burner. I’m definitely in the thick of the whole “Mother of Gingers” thing and its easy to get lost in it, especially with my sense of direction. I worry about it sometimes. I don’t worry about Father of Gingers quite as much on this front. He works outside of the home and runs a lot. Like runs marathons runs. Its good because it’s a hobby that requires regular scheduling and he gets a joy out of running that I just can’t quite wrap my head around. When I exercise, it is because I should and when I run its because it’s a convenient way to get exercise in with a ginger or two in tow. All of this to say, I don’t worry about him as much on this count. In a few years, if there’s a post about a stereotypical mid-life crisis mobile purchase, well, then we will know I was wrong.  This is a very long-winded (is it still long-winded if its written? long-lettered?) way to say I  needed this win.

The show was amazing, I don’t have words to explain just how wonderful it was. I got to have dinner with my friend outside on the terrace of the Kennedy Center and enjoy some wine. We can also assign some of the credit/blame for this blog to her.  She was, as always, an excellent sounding board and source of encouragement as we talked about it that night. Then I enjoyed a show that was a goal I didn’t even bother setting for myself this summer because it didn’t seem like something that would happen. Despite my excitement and the wine, I refrained from bursting into song (even during “Satisfied”) and if I cried, it was discreet, not an ugly cry (looking at you, “It’s Quiet Uptown”). I’m a good friend like that. As my friend said, “these are the best seats we are ever going to sit in for a show like this, we need to enjoy EVERY second!” And we did.

I  find myself in Doogie territory again at the end of this post, to avoid it, I’m just going to say, sometimes you have to “Wait for It” and you wind up in “The Room Where It Happens.” See what I did there? Please don’t unfollow me, it was too good an opportunity to pass up.

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Trying Not To Sound Like Doogie Howser, MD

You can tell yourself these people started out as exceptional.  You can tell yourself they had influence before they started.  You can tell yourself the conditions under which they achieved were different from yours. 

Or you can be like a woman I knew who sat at her kitchen window year after year and watched everyone else do it and then said to herself, “It’s my turn.”

I was  37 years old at the time— Erma Bombeck

So, I’m a year behind Erma, but starting a blog or two is something that has been on my mind for quite a while.  I’ve always been afraid it would wind up sounding like the final scenes of a Doogie Howser, MD, episode where we’d see the lesson learned appear letter by white letter on the blue  computer screen.  To be completely honest, the inspirational nineties music is blaring in my head right now…

As I said, I’m a year behind Erma, and forty is coming at me fast.  I’m in a different place than I imagined, not worse by any means, just different.  I’ve started this to chronicle me getting my ish together, as the kids say (I think they still say that? Anyone??) and as motivation to try things I haven’t before.  My goal is to close out my thirties strong, and enter my forties having tried some things that I have put off until now.  Strap on a helmet, it’s bound to get interesting…