with a voice as big as the sea

This year’s song lyric that has been rolling around my December brain is “with a voice as big as the sea.” Maybe not such a surprise that I choose the oceanic line, but I think it’s in keeping with the theme from November of celebrating bigger. I’m celebrating having Quinn home for a full week for the first time since March 2020. I guess you could say I identify with any Mary who bears a precious son, has to live without him, but knows in her heart she will be reunited with him one day. I’m also celebrating eleven years of loving Rich. I took my camera to document the rose-gold ocean sunset on the shortest day, because I’m also celebrating the return of the light. Amazing how the change can be so incremental – just three seconds more light the next day – but somehow light accumulates and there will be summer once again, with a little patience. Happy holidays to all our loved ones.

~thankful thursday~ peanut butter

~30 days of gratitude~ day 25

11/25/22

Grateful. It’s been too many pandemic holidays without him. So grateful to fill him up with food and love.

 

~30 days of gratitude~ day 26

11/26/22

Today I am grateful for my brothers, one of whom has a birthday today. I have said this before, because it’s year six of this gratitude project and every November 26th I’m going to think about them. And always I’ll feel grateful for the humans they are, their presence in this world, the slices of bread to sandwich me, which I guess makes me the peanut butter. I am grateful to have unearthed this photo of them, uninhibited, nontoxic to the core.

 

 

~30 days of gratitude~ day 27

11/27/22

I’m grateful for: listening to Rich offer to teach Quinn to drive; and an all-day game of Cat-opoly with the two of them.

 

 

~30 days of gratitude~ day 28

11/28/22

I am almost out of days of gratitude and books have not yet had their day. Tonight, while Rich took in a Steelers game and popped us some popcorn in Bob’s honor, I listened to the exquisite audio of this book that I have on my library app even though I bought the actual book and have it in my lap. And as soon as I get done listening and my library hold ends I will open this up and start again at the beginning and underline all the things that made me speak aloud while I listened. There are some books that dunk you right away and sweep you along in a current and you just hold on for the ride. Lidia Yuknavitch is one of those authors. I’m such a fan, and also, I get to sell heirloom tomatoes to her family at the farmer’s market once in a while, so that’s also fun.

And while I’m feeling thankful for books, my gratitude for librarians continues to be ardent, as I’ve leaned heavily on the interlibrary loan privileges that come with my student status at SNHU. The benevolent book fairies have been busy whizzing articles at me across cyberspace whenever I hop down another research rabbit hole.

 

~30 days of gratitude~ day 29

11/29/22

Holy cow, it’s penultimate gratitude day. I scanned back through the month to review:

We made it through another winter, we will make it through this one. Get us some therapy if we need to.

Sunshine, nachos, a pallet pirate ship full of feral kittens.

Job, house, MFA.

Cows who have names, four gallons of honey.

Cloud whales, crock pot.

Husband hugs.

Sunrise, sunset.

Men’s gummi vitamins.

Ma and Pa.

Soft walls, warm fires.

Peanut butter.

I am grateful for the way these gratitudes, post-it-note and placard-sized, and every size in between, collect into a quirky little bundle each year and make a kind of sense together, put off a sort of warmth, a little light, they almost hum. It’s a nice way to stand on the threshold of December, with this little bundle in my pocket.

 

~30 days of gratitude~ day 30

11/30/22

For the first twenty-nine gratitudes this year, I was thinking this was year six. Then I looked back at the previous years to remind myself what they were all about, and it turns out, this year of gratitude posts is year seven. How powerfully magical.

I think you know what we ate for dinner tonight, official meal of the gratitude challenge. And to kick off December, we decided to put up our tree, and I am excited for morning writing time with not only my sun lamp but also twinkle rainbow lights. I am grateful for each and every small light this time of year. The sunset that sometimes coincides with the end of my work day, the weekend sun glancing off kitten fur. And the metaphorical kind, blinking like fireflies from all you lovely light bringing friends. Two hundred and ten gratitude posts later, I remain ever grateful for you all coming along for the ride.

~thankful thursday~ feathered and furry friends

 

~30 days of gratitude~ day 18

11/18/22

I am grateful for a moment with the ocean at sunset and the trust of a tall, lanky friend to watch it with.

 

~30 days of gratitude~ day 19

11/19/22

I am grateful for a winter squash kind of day.

 

 

~30 days of gratitude~ day 20

11/20/22

I am grateful for unexpectedly calm seas, spontaneous dates, and laughter.

 

 

~30 days of gratitude~ day 21

11/21/22

Grateful again, for all the same things. But repetition isn’t so bad.

 

 

 

~30 days of gratitude~ day 22

11/22/22

Grateful for ten years and eleven months of loving Rich. I’m grateful he is and has always been the kind of man who, when he sees a feral kitten, does not see a throwaway, but a treasured furball; who, when he received not just me but all my baggage, did not return me to the pound, but embraced me and blended me into his loving family. It’s never going to stop being surprising, and I’m always going to be grateful for his love.

 

~30 days of gratitude~ day 23

11/23/22

Today I am grateful for Lemony Snicket-inspired emails from my son that made me laugh. And Lisa kitty in the ham box. And nachos.

 

~30 days of gratitude~ day 24

11/24/22

I am grateful that a small panther named Lookout was available to demonstrate another thing I was grateful to spend most of my day doing: lounging in the sun. I procrastinated my pie-baking and spent the middle of my first day of vacation writing outside, my favorite. Grateful for the sunshine time and as always, Grandma’s never-fail pie crust. And kittens.

~thankful thursday~ soft walls

Thursday… ish?

 

~30 days of gratitude~ day 11

11/11/22

I am grateful to be feeding a bottomless boy and playing endless rounds of Tiny Epic Quest this evening. As Quinn has slowly reintegrated into life at the dragon house, I stood in Fred Meyer one recent day contemplating the gummi vitamins. The ones in the cupboard from when he was in seventh grade and the pandemic began that led him to shelter in place at his dad’s for over two years were kids’ multivitamins, now hardened with neglect and past their expiration date. On the grocery store shelf, I looked back and forth between kids’ and men’s. Kids’. Men’s. I put the men’s gummi multivitamins in my shopping cart. Grateful for vitamins, and the boy-man sleeping under my roof tonight.

 

~30 days of gratitude~ day 12

11/12/22

I am grateful for sunshine again. The dwindling of the busy market season allows me to work a little on Saturday to earn my produce, then go home and nap. Then walk in the woods with the kittens (I guess feral kittens love to be taken for walks) taking backlit photos of vine maple leaves to wake up from my nap again. A newt saunters by with a wave. A stand of tiny mushrooms sprouting from a pinecone catches a sunbeam. I go back inside and I am grateful to get to watch Quinn, also sunlit, eat systematically around the flaky pastry crust edge of the Danish I brought home for him, then the gooey cream cheese center, then lick his fingers.

 

 

~30 days of gratitude~ day 13

11/13/22

I am grateful for a phone call with Mom today. Another big 2022 gratitude is that I finally got to visit Mom and Dad in January and June, and I’m looking forward to another visit in January. And then June (when I graduate) and then having them come out and visit us in Oregon again. I am so grateful for my parents and for their love.

 

~30 days of gratitude~ day 14

11/14/22

I’m grateful that even when a day in the middle of November is a blur between the hours of still dark and dark again, sometimes it’s a very pretty blur.

 

~30 days of gratitude~ day 15

11/15/22

As I spend each November being grateful, I tend to take a closer look at gratitude.

Every October, I know that by mid-November some gratitude momentum will build. But every November 1st is daunting. There is something about October that whittles me down. Only because I know the benefits do I intentionally sit down each November 1st and begin again.

Sometimes I judge my gratitude posts because they are tainted with ungrateful sentiments (say, about a difficult coparent or a bad hiring process) and think, my gratitude isn’t pure. And then I think, if I strain out any negative feeling, I’m not being very real.

I can both have a terrible day and express gratitude. It’s not that gratitude wins, or that it erases death or taxes or my archnemesis coparent. It doesn’t resolve my inlaws’ complicated estate-trust-thingie and it doesn’t end war or defeat the patriarchy.

What gratitude does do, is it lights a little warming fire in my soul while the shitstorm howls and sleets and ices over the part of the world I can’t control, just outside. I have soft walls and the wind can knock me over sometimes, but I prop my shelter up and keep rebuilding my little fire. Imperfections, scars, holes are all illuminated. But so are textures, colors. I notice the way the sunset makes the tent walls glow orange, noticing that the night is long, but the sun does rise again each morning. I keep turning toward it, and it keeps being there to greet me. Grateful for gratitude, year six.

 

 

~30 days of gratitude~ day 16

11/16/22

I am grateful for salted caramel rum gelato.

 

~30 days of gratitude~ day 17

11/17/22

I am grateful to be married to such a hardworking person who works overtime hours for large chunks of the year. I am also grateful that he leaves work promptly at 4:30 for date night, because priorities. Also, the sunrise over the bay when I arrived at work this morning was easy to be grateful for.

~thankful thursday~ celebrating bigger

~30 days of gratitude~ day 4

11/4/22

I have felt grateful quite a bit in 2022. One thing that happened to me this year is I got hired to a permanent position doing what I’ve been doing for decades, contract to contract, grant to grant, lab to lab, with some lapses. Biologists do this all the time, but it’s a horrific system, and should be phased out, and I’m not shy about holding this opinion. It would be difficult to overstate the amount of relief brought on by this development, after all these years. Even the tiny auto loan I took out ten years ago to buy my 2002 Dodge Neon required payments that stretched, at that time, beyond the end of my one-year job contract. And a one-year contract is a good one, often the best there is. And sometimes they get renewed, like that one did, that year, so I paid off the Neon after all.

Side note: I’m grateful for my little Neon, with its little second engine that could, that I still drive to my job, which is now a permanent job I can keep until I’m done with all the car payments I may ever want to make.

I like fish, and I’m grateful to get to work with them, and I like the people who work on the fish with me. I’m grateful to be needed and valued enough for my skills that a whole job, with benefits, was bestowed on me.

 

~30 days of gratitude~ day 5

11/5/22

I’m so grateful for all the congrats on the job, wow, thanks everyone! To follow on gratitude for my job, another big thing happened in 2022 that I am also super grateful for. Rich and I closed on our house that we’ve been hoping to buy since we moved into it six years ago. A strong sense of providence and a heaping scoop of divine glitter sparkles pervaded the timing of the job-house combination. See my previous post about payments that extend past the end of contract durations if you want to understand why. Two mortgage payments in, and a lot more to go, these two big adulting milestones feel like they just had to go hand in hand.

I have not made Facebook posts or told many people about these huge life events in real time (July for the job, September for the house) and I know now that I was falling into the silence-will-protect-me trap. I have feared that knowledge of my successes would lead my coparent to strike out, but either these new developments made it to him despite having kept my celebrations small, or here’s an idea, maybe it’s not me or anything I have control over that makes him play dirty.

So I am celebrating now. I am so grateful to have a home with a wood stove that my husband has been keeping warm through the last few weeks as the weather got chilly. I am grateful for the well-insulated walls and the sturdy roof and the quirky backsplash and the big front window. I am grateful for our good well and our septic tank and our driveway covered in a blanket of needles. I am grateful for comfy spots to snuggle our kitties and my borrowed fairy dog. I am grateful for the acre and a quarter sloping gently to the slough-bayou, with giant beautiful redwood, port orford and western red cedar, hemlock, and spruce trees lining the trail we have walked into being and Rich has maintained with his power tools for our daily walks. I am grateful for a couple of redwood trees in particular, the wedding trees we stood in front of when we said our vows five years ago, and so grateful we don’t have to move away from them.

 

 

~30 days of gratitude~ day 6

11/6/22

I’m grateful for a day full of real and satisfying work of filling our pantry. I have been attending the fill-your-pantry market since its early days, back when Rew was still my last name, before I even met Rich. When they can’t find my pre-order filed under “H” I know to ask them to look under “R”. When I was a kid eating meat and potatoes on the farm, Dad would exasperate me by telling me the name of the cow I was eating. I usually made a big scene and stomped away from the table, but I have come around to appreciate that close knowledge of where our food came from. I did not ask the nice farm family today the names of the cow, chickens, and pig we will be eating this winter, but I am sure they knew. They also radiated gratitude for our purchase, for supporting their farm, and said it was fine to haul our chickens, sausage, and roasts out to our car in their cooler and bring it back in when we were done.

I am also grateful for a new four-gallon bucket of honey because there is something so wealthy about all that gold.

I forgot my camera, but luckily I always have an abundance of local food photos up my sleeve.

P.S. Happy nacho day!

 

 

~30 days of gratitude~ day 7

11/7/22

As I try not to be devastated that the sun is down when I leave work, I am grateful to get a very nifty glimpse of the moon while driving home. The top half was obscured under a periwinkle dusk cloud, which made the moon look like a big whale eye (not the first time I’ve seen whales in the sky). I didn’t capture that image but when I got home I watched it rise up through the trees and then went inside where there was soup in the crock pot.

 

~30 days of gratitude~ day 8

11/8/22

Today I’m grateful I got to leave work on time before dark, and that it wasn’t raining, or even very windy, and I stopped by the beach. I’m grateful I thought of it this morning, so I had my camera with me. I’m grateful I arrived in time for sunset, and that sunset was quirky and unique. I’m grateful I started my day by turning in my final thirty-page creative writing packet of my third semester of the MFA program I’ve been semi-secretly enrolled in. Twelve thirty-page packets since last June means I’m about to be a thesis student. I’m grateful to be quitting this business of staying small and keeping it all under wraps. Also grateful for my vote and to all who vote for women not to have to stay small.

 

~30 days of gratitude~ day 9

11/9/22

I’m grateful for an ordinary day of hard work, kitties and woodstove fires, husband hugs, and nachos. (And falling asleep in my chair before posting a gratitude post, apparently!)

 

~30 days of gratitude~ day 10

11/10/22

Today I’m grateful for sunshine.

 

~thankful thursday~ feral kitten pirate ship

A few days after Thursday but here we go! Year six of daily facebook gratitude posts compiled for my non-social-media peeps here on the blog.

 

~30 days of gratitude~ day 1

11/1/22

It is November. We made it here, again. I am grateful, just for that. If you are new here, I’m about to post every day of this month about something I am grateful for, in which we learn one reason I’m not on twitter (hint: not enough page space). Before I get too far into this, I want to say that if my past five years of gratitude posts have ever made you feel feelings you don’t want to feel, especially involving words like “should”, please visit the three dots at the upper right of this post where there is an option to “Snooze Mary Beth for 30 days” which is the perfect amount of time since I’ll snooze myself in exactly 30 days for the other eleven months. No hard feelings, I promise. This whole thing is about taking care of ourselves and that’s one great way.

I am grateful for the friends who encourage me to continue making gratitude posts each November. Some of these friends have shared that they, too, get SAD and struggle with the lengthening darkness. Making it to another November means we made it through another winter, and we can make it through this one, too. And speaking of mental health, I am especially grateful today for one friend who has made it to today, having survived a year of harrowing health adventures. This friend is also the Therapist Extraordinaire of my lifetime, who taught me: my first commitment is to myself. If you know, you know (lucky you, too).

T.E. was on my mind this morning when I emailed Lauren (so grateful for her every day), something about my son’s father to the effect of, “I’m so pissed that he is doing this right now. It’s bleeping day one of gratitude, bleeping bleeper.” Therapist Extraordinaire walked me up out of some of worst troughs of despair with my nightmare on coparenting street. He unfolded me from the contortions I was performing to try to achieve the insta-worthy separation and said I was allowed to pursue happiness instead.

One thing T.E. taught me years ago, a lesson I am still working on, is, “my silence will not protect me.” Lauren told me this morning, “you’ve held your breath and your voice for years afraid of being attacked only for this.” And it’s true. My silence doesn’t keep him from reaching and grasping for new ways to take from me.

When there are a small number of people in the world out there who know the whole backstory and still want to be my friend, it dampens each new atrocity into a buzzing mosquito. It siphons the survival surge out of my blood and reminds me I don’t need to fight or flee. Not anymore.

Some of you are friends and relatives of my coparent and I don’t want that to make anyone uncomfortable. He is nice to other people, just not to me. I can be around people who love him. One of the people I love most, my son, counts him among the people he loves most. I’ve never asked anyone to take sides. Reminder that the three dots/snooze option is available to all. Me holding silence for others’ comfort is not one of the available options.

I am grateful for good therapy. I am grateful for lessons that reverberate with new relevance after all these years. And I’m so thankful for the person behind the lessons.

 

 

~30 days of gratitude~ day 2

11/2/22

Today I am grateful for all the sweet comments, messages, and encouragement on yesterday’s post. I want to reply to each one but that may be a weekend gig, so please just know each and every one made me smile and feel grateful for each and every one of you. I am grateful the sun came out today. I am also grateful for nachos tonight, for their supreme ease and deliciousness for tired people, and I’m not taking this class for a grade so it’s okay if I use nachos again in four days on their official holiday.

 

 

~30 days of gratitude~ day 3

11/3/22

I am grateful for date night. When Rich got home from work, the pack of kittens who have come to live in our yard scampered up to the driveway to greet him, then ran away again toward their food bowl, then zoomed all around him while he poured their kibble. I am grateful for these kittens. And I am grateful for my husband who is the most indulgent kitty daddy. They do not just have a food bowl, oh no. He has built them a pirate ship structure out of pallets and a tarp. He has added boxes and kitty beds so the kittens can nestle in the lengthening cold darkness. They are attuned to the sound of his truck and they run up and down around his work boots in anticipation of his feedings. We hovered for a few last minutes of daylight and gave some attention to Fluffy who is experimenting with getting petted, and then we were off on our date night.

And he got us the yummy chicken tenders for an appetizer and asked me all about my day. And we ate the shepherd’s pie with the cheese and hot sauce because it’s cold outside and that’s when we crave it. And then he got us dessert, because this is the way he cares for not just his kittens but also his wife.

banner day

This kind human is a sophomore. He spent our labor day hike dispersing dandelion seeds because, “every living thing deserves a chance to grow.” I made a wish on each seed, in similar words, but my wishes were all about him.

Also, today we sign closing papers to buy the dragon house. A long-held dream comes true.

 

Honorable mentions:

I am halfway through semester three of my program, and still loving every 4am writing session. On a sunny day back in January, I typed one of my essays on Great Grandma Rew’s typewriter and submitted it to a zine called Selkie, and I recently received word that they’ve published it! I will share how to get copies when they become available. My first published essay, hurray! In a zine named for mythical females who zip in and out of sea-suits to live in both realms, on the theme of “disobedience.” Sounds about right!

I started my permanent job in July. I’ve filled out what could be the last round of new hire paperwork, for the last set of changing benefits, and the waves of relief are still washing over me, and I expect that will keep going for some time. Three pay periods in, I went to Kodiak, Alaska, for field work. A new place to fall in love with. (They have otters there!!!)


rock greenling


penpoint gunnel


giant Pacific octopus



humpback!


uh-oh


Salmon for breakfast, and second breakfast.

Sending love to all the mama bears out there with cubs snuggled close and the otter mamas with their pups swimming off and away.

tidepool immersion ~ not far off

killer whale week

It’s been a big week.

This week I got my start date for my new job (July 5th), I finished my second semester—my first half—of my MFA program, and I saw killer whales in Yaquina Bay!

 

I managed to take a few terrible photos, and some rather poor videos, which I will cherish forever and always. How I love them. I spent an entire thirty-page submission writing about them during first semester, so it seemed fitting they would come help me celebrate the day I reached the halfway point! I tried to clip many frames of blurry, empty water, and skip to the pertinent parts, but apologize for causing anyone seasickness with my shaky cinematography.

 

This one is longer and retains more shakiness, but also shows an eye patch a time or two, which was completely awesome to see. I was fairly close. You can’t hear it in the video over the wind, but from where I was standing, I could hear their exhales each time they surfaced!

After work, I grabbed my camera and husband for a bay road drive date and he got to see a couple of them, too.

 

All of which is to say, a lot is going on behind the scenes, but I’m still here, and I still write things.

herring

Here is my poem about the welcoming party for the herring who came to spawn in Yaquina Bay on Quinn’s birthday:

western grebe

western gull

hooded merganser

harbor seal

great blue heron

bufflehead

black brant

double-crested cormorant

California sea lion