~thankful thursday~ surreal chamomile

On pi day, I started typing some gratitude, right in the middle of a month, and with no deadlines or expectations to polish or publish attached. It has quickly developed into a sanity-saving, not-restricted-to-gratitude, self-integrating tool that I am relying on heavily for self-care purposes. I’ve mostly experienced mental health struggles in my life as depression, but it turns out I’m not immune to anxiety, either. But it also turns out, writing helps me with both; just simply putting my day down in words helps me gauge how quickly normal has slipped away, helps me keep my one unbroken line intact and whole, defragmented through the insertion of mile-markers from the menial and mundane to the major and monumental. I’m excerpting from my obscenely verbose word document from the first week or so, in a moment when I’m feeling less raw and more ready to share. It’s still messy, and long, and best enjoyed with tea.

~Timeline~

Thursday 3-12 Normal workday with everyone wondering what is going to happen. We go to swim lesson, we go to karate, we get the email from the superintendent that schools will close Monday the 16th, that the next day, Friday the 13th, will be the last day of school.

Friday is a whirlwind workday. A grad student from BC (let’s call her Tink) I have been working with extensively has to leave and go back to Canada. Immediately. The next day. The email from her university is worded politely, but in Canadian, it pretty much says get your butt back in the country. We hastily grab a raspberry rose cider at bier one when we finish our work at 6pm.

Saturday 3-14 Last farmer’s market, wore gloves, explained new protocols to each customer. The observation that people maintain social distance while shopping but not while standing in line. Trying to sound confident while answering questions about where we will be next week, saying, “it’s really out of our hands how this week will unfold. Keep checking the farm website.” The observation that humans dislike uncertainty. The NBA is shut down. USA banned travel to Europe for 30 days. After market I went to the lab for a few hours to load Tink’s egg respiration plate. Missed St. patty’s day festivities at camp boss’s but felt that was probably good in an effort to begin social distancing.

~3-14-2020 gratitude~

Kitties in boxes, fires in woodstoves, heated shirts from husbands. Exhaustion from work that feels worthwhile – feeding the people and saving the Arctic. Tiny fish egg bubbles that I see in my dreams. Hot bath. Echinacea and elderberry and sage. Piles of carrots to juice and potatoes to fry tomorrow morning. Obscure mathematical holidays to share with my son. Rich’s apocalypse Costco purchase of a tower of cashews. Three trout lilies blooming already. A week of sun, and a little rain. Seeds tucked into seedling pots underneath an old skylight.

~timeline~

Sunday night 3-15 the NOAA guidance read in supremely vague language that we should all be teleworking… to the extent possible… unless our lab experiments and field work were deemed mission-critical and essential…. like a pinball I could fall into any category at all. Guidance-free guidance. Relief at the thought of school lunches being provided to kids in our county, both via pickup and bus delivery. And not just lunch, but breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Also relieved talking to my mom, that the Rew household is taking things seriously and sanitizing the house, staying home. Hard not to run worst case scenarios but talking was good.

~3-15-20 gratitude~

Tink. I’m going to miss her and hope she comes back soon! We had some things in common, as well as the things she had in common with my 25-year-old Master’s student self. I found myself wanting to help her avoid pitfalls that caused me to stumble, like forgetting to prioritize my mental health. I kept telling her to hydrate, encouraging her to sit down to eat. She shared about her perfectionism-flavored undergrad studies, striving for all As. I know someone who did that. It can cause a tendency towards thinking one should be able to handle anything, shouldn’t need help, should be better than this. Grateful for the conversations and side-by-side work we got to do together. Grateful I am better at 41 than I was at 25 about recognizing that I am not taking this class for a grade.

~meme of the day~

“Nation’s nerds wake up in utopia where everyone stays inside, sports are canceled, social interaction forbidden.”

~timeline~

Monday 3-16 Conspiracy theories, reminders to check your constitutional rights, plans for homeschooling, plans for home cooking, lots of arguing about what social distancing means, and most of all, toilet paper and other panic purchasing. Showed up to work hoping a plan would formulate throughout the day for how we were scaling back experiments and what measures we would take to correctly carry out social distancing. Left work with no plan, no measures in place. Made my own plans and brought home everything I could think of that would enable me to tackle some telework; backed up files, copied data, gathered notebooks. VSA (vitality supported agriculture boxes) invented and implemented by the farm literally overnight. Restaurant closures ordered.

~meme of the day~

Had a great laugh at all the memes concerning GenX’s ability to survive a pandemic being inevitably better than other generations; specially equipped with experience in being left home alone, to self-entertain and play board games against ourselves, to pick up a book or watch reruns and sit there. “Smells like middle aged spirit.” “I can live on spaghettios and pop tarts for weeks if I have to.” “And when the real push comes, those shoplifting skills we learned early on will really kick in, we actually know how to fight and we are used to living on food that starts off as powder.” Talkin’ ‘bout my generation… grateful for laughter.

~timeline~

Tuesday 3-17 I also appreciated the memes replacing homeschool plans with corrected versions involving all-day screen time, memes replacing meal plans with corrected versions involving many successive “meals” of stress-eating. Started feeling real anxiety about previously planned visit from Rich’s family. Superintendent announces schools closed until April 28th – four days after closing them for two weeks, tacking on four more weeks. Finally cried that night.

~3-17 to 3-19-20 gratitude~

As I’ve been peering into the shadows of chaos and unknowns, upheavals and differences of opinion, these last few days it dawned on me what might pair nicely with my militant social distancing campaign: gratitude (also nachos, thanks to Rich’s valiant Costco trip on Saturday). We left off last November with the monarch butterflies encrusting the bark of trees to sleep for the winter. In February, the butterflies woke up and started heading North. Now it’s March, and the maps of their sightings across the southern U.S. are a good distraction from other maps sprinkled with colored dots that one may be looking at lately. How do they know which way is north? Do they remember how they got there? Even if they do, they will soon breed a generation of offspring who will travel to a place they’ve no reason to know how to get to.  They face a lot of unknowns on their journey, too.

I feel about as flimsy as a butterfly’s wings right now, not nearly up to this journey. I wouldn’t have guessed I’d be such a lightning rod for the energy all around me, it’s like I have antennae that are efficiently collecting it all – the gruesome, terrible whole of everyone’s collective nightmare that we may be living soon and are already imagining. Tuesday night I finally let some of it out on my husband’s shoulder. And while I’m usually one to speak my mind, I wouldn’t have guessed I’d be speaking up quite so much. I have three jobs and none of them are fully shut down; with the farm job, it makes sense to me that people need to eat and the farm has food – it does no one good to let it go to waste. The science jobs are a little different – but scientists have trouble with being left to self-define words like “essential.” I do have one thing going for me: the clarity that I’ll be able to live with being the loud mouth and then being wrong about this; my conscience won’t let me live with being the other kind of wrong and finding out too late I was not doing enough. I desperately hope I am wrong, please let me be wrong.

Please. My mom, autoimmune/cancer survivor, a ridiculous number of surgeries and a round of radiation just last year. Please. My dad is over 75. Please. Outlaw mom. Please. Oklahoma parents heading for 90. Please. The list gets long, their faces popping into mind on a loop, all the loved ones for whom I am so grateful, but the soundtrack right now is only one word, repeated: please.

Time for some balance, some gratitude, some thank you. Scientists figured out that the butterflies gauge direction by using the sun’s position in the sky in relation to the horizon, but they have to integrate this data with the internal knowledge they have of the time of day. Listening to the rhythm of their own clock. Trusting this instinct, as well as their observations of the world around them. Making the best choice they can given the circumstances. So today I’m grateful I’m able to listen to my internal knowing.

I have so much to be grateful for, and it makes it all so clear to me how much I therefore have to lose.

Like the butterflies, I will try to keep my eye on the sunlight and follow the compass of my inner knowing.

~timeline~

Wednesday 3-18 Extreme intensity on social media, people exhorting others to check their rights, people begging others to keep the health care workers in mind and stay the f*ck at home. So many insecurities, so many chips on shoulders out on parade. In retaliation against the shadows, a lot of posts attempting to share some good news and inspiration. Redoubled meal planning and homeschool lesson planning, new ways of distributing homegrown goods, volunteering to help others in need, restaurant takeout options to support local businesses. Free virtual museum, zoo, aquarium tours, concerts. Wellington the penguin tours the Shedd Aquarium since it is closed to visitors, to everyone’s delight. More tears, frustration with work and mental exhaustion. Realizing my muscles are tied in knots, my breathing is shallow. The idea of a visit is causing me to feel panic. Realizing I feel safer having Quinn stay at his Dad’s house instead of coming home Friday, but feeling depressed at this thought. I have been practicing with google hangouts this week and the highlight of my day was by far my hangout lunch chat with Lauren.

Thursday 3-19 Awake at 3am becoming more resolved in my need to control the only factors I could so I could accept the ones I had no way of controlling; leaning towards keeping Quinn at a safe distance, isolated at his Dad’s, isolation being a skill that I know his dad truly possesses and this is the first time that attribute has ever been positive.

In the morning Rich and I cleared the air on all of the stress that was getting between us. He said I didn’t have to hold the world on my shoulders (obviously he is still getting to know me, because I most certainly do), and doesn’t want me being a martyr… funny, in my mind I could just picture both my brothers breaking out into song, as we Rews have a special song about martyrs.

Quinn and I had our first space phone call to discuss him staying put, and Quinn is thankfully old enough to understand.

Quinn would have been leaving for Italy tomorrow. The wave is cresting there. Watched video of an Italian artist, son of a doctor, telling what it is really like in Italy right now, with footage of at least twenty caskets lined up at one local church in his region.

3-19 evening. I just made a list of things to do with Quinn together in google hangouts. I am at three different jobs right now, where varying levels of precautions are slowly being taken, and Rich is going to work daily as well. I am also teleworking as much as I can but being in and out of the world and then coming home to my lonely thirteen-year-old feels like the wrong choice when he has a safer option.

~gratitude 3-19~

These space age phone calls might just save me. I’m also attending a virtual baby shower this weekend.

Gratitude for the good man I married. He gave me a special broom as well as a ring when we got engaged, and we have been diligent with the metaphor of keeping the space between us swept and clean.

Grateful for emotional awareness, so I can tell instantly when a decision makes me feel relief, or dread. I am grateful to be officially teleworking with the blessing of both supervisors, as of this evening. So many decisions that felt so hefty today. And a much lighter feeling this evening. But tired. Like thin wings that have flown a bit far for one day and need to rest.

Elderberry bourbon smash gratitude.

~timeline~

Friday 3-20-20 Woke up to the news that Kenny Rogers died. This is my first day of full telework. I am keeping busy and a good dynamic is flowing; I am writing procedures (they’re photo heavy, in case anyone is wondering) for D who is being a champ and taking on all my hands-on duties in the lab. Attended my second virtual lab meeting.

As the day went on, I started feeling one million times better than I have in the past 48 hours. It’s been a tough week. Pandemics are no joke. My decision has been made, and Quinn is staying at coparent’s and my heart is a little sore right now, despite also feeling relieved.

Our governor is calling for medical gear donations; links for people to start sewing fabric barrier masks to donate for health care workers as they start running short of N95s. Depoe bay set up a trailer testing site. Not sure anyone had been testing in this area at all yet. “No positive cases” may mean no tests have been run. Perhaps some have been sent to the state lab, whose capacity is only a few hundred a day, but my guess is those few hundred have been dedicated to the hot spot of Portland. Out of curiosity, I took a look at the CDC protocol for PCR testing for COVID-19 and it’s totally in my wheelhouse. With just a few virus-specific supplies, I could run it off the document with the reagents and equipment at my lab. I can see a reality where personnel/labs could need to be diverted for this type of task. It’s mixing like oil and water with my other reality where the vibe is so much more chill than what’s going on inside my head.

But I also escalated to the ultra-cautious end of the spectrum in just a few days, last Friday I went out for a drink with Tink. It has been a big whirlwind of changes and sequentially dialing back, and the choices I made last Friday seem idiotic to me now, but that’s just perspective and I keep joking 2020 will be the year of hindsight.

On our mailbox date, I received my photo prints; all the 5 by 7 nature shots I had ordered a few weeks ago to hang up in my office at work. Just when I was feeling more inspired to take up a more permanent residence there.

~3-20-20 gratitude~

Sunshine is flooding my new office at Quinn’s desk (with nature photos). I’m sitting here in between procedure writing tasks and soaking it in, finishing my coffee until my nettle-lavender tea cools. Nettle leaves and lavender flowers I have in jars, saved in years past, in addition to lots of other food stores I feel so lucky to have put aside over time. Right now lavender and nettle feels like the perfect mix of calm and strength to see me through the pandemic panic attacks.

Today’s noon google hangout with Quinn featured his two guinea pigs, who I never normally see. On breaks, I’ve been visiting the trout lilies and more of them are blooming; so grateful for my backyard bayou.

There is so much to be grateful for and I think when this is all over maybe everyone will have a better grasp of that concept. But I also have to remember that I can picture very clearly what my son looked like hooked up to a ventilator as a baby and not everyone has that ingrained in their mind. I don’t wish it on my worst enemy. I wish it didn’t take people dying before our eyes to make that perspective shift happen, and my heart is very fearful for a lot of people. I have to keep reframing that into gratitude for the gift of these people in my life to begin with, otherwise I start forgetting to breathe again.

My kiddo, I am so grateful for him. He has taken in stride all the disappointments of this pandemic, beginning with his Italy trip being postponed, and now the extension of time away from me.

On the bright side, nature is taking back Venice, as dolphins and water fowl return to the now clear blue water of the canals. And although we’re sad about being apart we’re staying positive and focusing on how this free time can be a gift. Quinn is making himself up a study schedule with drums, karate, duolingo (for Italian), algebra, maybe some chemistry or ecosystem dynamics for science, computer programming, etc. Our noon hangouts will be so helpful. He texted me last night to ask me if scheduling a game night hangout for 6-7 on Fridays would be okay, in addition to our noon meeting. So tonight we played Taboo in hangouts. Oddly enough, one of the cards I held up to the camera for Quinn, that he had to get me to say, was “martyr.” Then he talked me through solving his 2×2 Rubik’s cube after I scrambled it. He blew me away with how he could visualize and articulate what I needed to do and then tell me how to orient and twist the cube to solve it again. It worked!

~meme of the day~

“Your quarantine nickname is how you feel right now plus the last thing you ate from the cupboard.”

Yours in gratitude, Surreal chamomile.

~rainbow mondays~ or whatever day it is

~rainbow mondays~

a splash of color on monday morning

a photo study documenting the colors of the spectrum: the balance points between light reflected and light absorbed

~rainbow mondays~trout lilies and tutus

Rich brought me home this rainbow!

Quinn wrapped up his birthday reading by rainbow candlelight.

Gray, but with rainbow edges if you look closely; my recent days have been spent staring through a microscope at the miracle of life, specifically, arctic cod embryos at 24 hours post-fertilization. Anyone else see a butterfly?

red hot! my lumberjack.

 

~rainbow mondays~

a splash of color on monday morning

a photo study documenting the colors of the spectrum: the balance points between light reflected and light absorbed

~a month in the life of a lifelong learner~ enigma

~9-23 through 10-23-19~

One Saturday in October Quinn was invited to a d and d sleepover party at the house of Legolas. The fellowship seems to be going strong, and I am so pleased he has these friendships. I know friends can be a very challenging area in middle school, and especially with poppies, but it is one area I just don’t feel I need to worry about him. These kids want to play d and d together!!! Soon they’ll be wearing trench coats! Legolas got a whole bunch of dice so they can each use a set of one color (Quinn chose green).

I listened to Quinn read sections of the latest Trials of Apollo (Rick Riordan) out loud – hilarious as usual. He pronounced the cat’s name (Aristophanes) as ah-RIST-o-fanes. I countered, “Air-ist-OPH-an-eez,” but he would have none of it. Then Tarquinius superbus, an emperor the characters were trying to defeat, instead of superb-us (picturing someone grandiose) was pronounced super-bus (it’s big and yellow and full of school children). I got him laughing but he would keep reading it the same way. He also came across a couple of words he didn’t know. “Ella the harpy was an enigma wrapped in red feathers, wrapped in a linen shift. Mama, what’s an enigma?” And Apollo talked about he and Meg being “sympatico” about some topic. I had him look them both up in the IRL dictionary from the shelf in the living room.

Meanwhile, he spent the week with me getting caught up on work he missed from skipping school on the Friday of the climate strike. He ran into one issue with a class where he hadn’t realized he had been expected to be taking notes each day, and here it was week three. He had to problem-solve that, which took a few days, and he was only just getting started on that when he went back to his dad that Friday, but got all his other assignments done. There were several for social studies like a map of Rome – Rich was incredulous again, “he procrastinated that?” and current event summary, which I helped him not take too seriously and just get-it-done, a health assignment or two, something from language arts, studying for math test, and getting his math notebook all caught up as well.

He problem solved the math notebook on his own, having figured out where in the online textbook the notes were coming from, he knew he could just copy them from there. He made plans to stay more on top of that now that he knew how long it took to catch up from a whole unit with seven sections. He had taken some notes during class on some of the sections, and a few not at all. He needed to make them very neat and the perfectionism is still a big hurdle, but he can also talk about that, and this awareness is an ability to take one step back from it and therefore be just a teensy bit less likely to succumb. His attitude for all of this homework was just so good. On the following Thursday night he told me, “I would like to participate in the climate strike again, but I really don’t think I can afford to take tomorrow off.” He is being very pragmatic and level-headed. For math note taking, we talked about strategies for staying on top of it in class. I asked him what it looked like for him during class- was it hard to split his attention between teacher and notes, etc. He said he thinks it’s hard for him to switch back from group work to individual notetaking work- once the group work is activated it stays activated. So we talked about picturing a switch and being able to activate the notebook work again and what does the switch look like. He could describe his image and what it would do and how it would help him in the long run to take most of the notes in class instead of having to copy them over after school. Again, his dawning awareness felt like such a huge step in the right direction.

The next Saturday, Quinn got up early to ride with Rich for firewood. They came to market when they were done and surprised me. They hugged me a lot then went together for pastries.

It was nacho night!

map of Rome!

I was forced to play Risk, and of course Quinn took over the world. He put an app called my singing monsters on his phone (he asks me permission and also knows I have to electronically approve the app based on the phone family link thing, and he seems good with that arrangement. I tell him I trust him to let me know if something seems off or there are inappropriate ads.) This app is cute, each monster you add to your collection does one type of music and then they all do their thing together and make songs. You can also add your own music, so Quinn googled the sheet music for his current jam, the White Stripes’ Seven Nation Army and got the monsters to play it. That night I overheard him in the shower singing the Beatles song do you want to know a secret, which seems like it is on our local radio station a lot. Ooooooh is one of the major lyrics. I remember being a sponge for radio song lyrics at his age.

Sunday morning after pancakes, he hadn’t tackled homework yet so he got his social studies current event homework done quickly so he could play my singing monsters some more. Then he got his math homework done quickly after lunch for more video game time. He’s getting more efficient for sure.

I worked on the Haunted House that day, and I’m still not sure why slicing into a salt dough brain, spray painting creepy skulls onto plastic tablecloths, and developing a menu for a haunted cafeteria was so satisfying, but I  strangely enjoyed myself. When I got home, we had dinner on the earlier side and Quinn asked me to play his new game he was creating. It was a build-your-own Jurassic park game, and I managed to accumulate 8 triceratopses in a forest enclosure on a piece of graph paper that evening.

Quinn had a rough day at school on “committed cubs day” during which those students who have all their work done/turned in/graded/passed get to take off the last hour of the school day. He worked really hard to finish things, but couldn’t get the follow up signatures with the teachers done in time. He went in that day feeling hopeful, and got in the car at the end of the day looking defeated. I just let him tell me about it and validated his disappointment, and then when we got home I copied the white stripes album with seven nation army into his computer and he played it on repeat for about an hour. He felt better. I made sure to point that out to him. Music makes us feel better!

I told him I was sorry that this reward for some kids can feel like a punishment to others like him. I told him he didn’t do anything wrong and I was proud of him working hard. I also told him I think he has a chance to try again and that the first one of the year (it happens every six week term) was bound to be harder for him because he takes a little longer to get the procedures (aka executive functions) dialed in with each teacher, whereas other kids might not have as much trouble with that. In this case, he had handed in health current event assignment #1 one day late, but the health teacher does not accept current events late at all (Quinn hadn’t caught that detail at first), so Quinn got a fail on that; the teacher was still willing to sign off that he did it, because he DID do it, but he didn’t get to follow up with him so he was lacking that one last signature on his form. He had really hustled to get the math caught up, so he was a disappointed kiddo.

I was glad this happened for Quinn while he was with me so I could help him deescalate his emotions, rather than make the school the enemy and encourage Quinn to quit trying. I want to encourage him that even when things are hard it is worth trying, and that the trying is what shows his character, and that we can do hard things. It felt kind of like one of those moments the Asperger’s parenting books talked about: if your kid can’t deal with adversity, you need to let them come up against some small adversities incrementally so they can get to a point of being more able to deal with life’s unpredictability and difficulty. I am never one to arbitrarily put stumbling blocks in his path, or make his life hard intentionally, but when those things arise organically and he has to come up against hard things, I’m for it. I’m for him learning he can handle the disappointment, I’m for him figuring out how to bounce back from it, learning how resilient he can be.

Quinn was a zombie both Friday and Saturday nights for the opening weekend of the Haunted House fundraiser for marching band. He was awesome. The previous set of marching band uniforms are amazingly creepy. they looked SO cool behind their screen under black light in the haunted band room… Quinn loved all the details – stuff you may not even see when you are a customer touring the house, but the “band concert today” poster in the band room has some sheet music attached to it… only when you looked closely could you see it was music for the itsy bitsy spider. His band teacher is arachnophobic, and one day she told the class the two sources of material for the haunted band room were that “the only excuse for missing a concert is that you’re dead” (hence the zombies still making it to the concert- they are undead). And number two, the legend of spider mouse… a spider she found in her band room one day that was so huge she thought it was a mouse. She had the principal come and remove it from the room for her. So fake spiders (and itsy bitsy spider music) were featured heavily in the band room.

It was pretty amazing taking all the money from all the people who wanted to go in our haunted house. I mean I DIDN’T WANT TO GO IN IT. I did go through one night with Rich, and Quinn went through it with a few of the band kids, all in their zombie garb.

He had a hard time with makeup removal and I was no help. Thank goodness another mom passed on some removal wipes and the awesome tip of using coconut oil.

We kept playing his Jurassic park role play game. He really developed all the details to an impressive level. In addition, it encouraged him to work on his spelling, because he wanted to spell each dinosaur name correctly so he kept consulting his dino book. Words like field and other “ie”s and research have given him trouble so we also made a list of spelling words to continue to work on.

Seventh grade parental relationship with the gradebook: checking my motive for looking, and then not looking if it isn’t necessary. He is now looking at it as needed, and is doing well with recognizing what he needs to do about his work. He had mostly As and Bs and I think a C in health class.

His homework waited until one Sunday because he was busy being a zombie all weekend. Sunday morning I had him draw up a schedule for his day, and he alternated hour-long “HW” sessions with half hour “break” sessions, in which we played dinosaurs. He also helped me bake zucchini-blueberry muffins after dinner. He told me stories about school, such as the fun warm-up in social studies where they have to rename objects using words other than what they’re normally called. The first example was his phrase for trees “wood plants” that he had used on me in a game of Taboo, but the best example was “Magical knowledge pianos,” as one kid renamed chromebooks.

minecraft monday with cousins!

The one math teacher at the middle school who he hasn’t had yet is the one going on his Italy trip in March, and she subbed for his math class one day. She is known to be very enthusiastic about math (I think Q will really like her on the trip and they will bond about rubik’s cubes and mathy nerdy things).  He was at the back of the room with his hand raised to answer her question about what to do with x3. Other guesses were “square root?? Divide?”  But Quinn knew: “cube root!”

He is an enigma, wrapped in a flannel dinosaur sheet, wrapped in a Grammy quilt, wrapped in a mama pokemon rainbow star quilt, wrapped in a fuzzy owl blanket, which he sorts into four separate piles in his sleep.

He finished off the month doing dishes, “because I am already good at vacuuming the car, but I need to get better at washing dishes” in work trade for the Lego set I had bought him at the grocery store. The Jurassic world Dilophosaurus set, of course.

 

lucky thirteen

I sent this photo to my bff a few weeks ago on a Friday afternoon when Quinn came home to me after his week at his Dad’s:

Her response was, “wtf. Did he become an adult in a week?”

Straight to the point, exactly what I was thinking. She always does that.

When I was pregnant with Quinn I had the requisite pregnancy dreams, but I could never see my baby’s appearance, no facial features at all. Just one time, in one single dream, I saw him clearly, face, hair, posture, but as a teen, maybe sixteen, not a baby or even a young child. And this person standing in front of me looking me almost squarely in the eye is becoming exactly the boy I saw in my dream.

It’s a Fibonacci birthday for Quinn! The next time he has one of those, he’ll be turning 21! Eek! Time feels like it moves along like a Fibonacci sequence, spiraling ever more quickly, in bigger bites each year. It does feel like he was 1 for a while, then 2, then 3, then started jumping from 5 to 8 to 13, soon he’ll be 21 and before I know it he’ll be 34!

This spiral I printed on Quinn’s birthday card represents the Fibonacci sequence up to 13, and I have talked before about how I love the idea of spirals as a metaphor for watching my child develop, and the way we are both now able to look back together on his younger years from our positions higher up our spiral staircases, a feeling I couldn’t have anticipated when I was having a baby, or when he was little. I couldn’t picture coming home from our w pancake’s first birthday party yesterday, pulling out the baby book to show Quinn photos of his own first birthday, and listening to him make comparisons between his one-year-old self and his little niece.

Prime numbers are just cool. When he has his next prime birthday, I imagine he will look exactly like the teen of my pregnancy dream. How crazy to think seventeen is such a short few years ahead of us.

Thirteen is the smallest emirp, any prime number that is also a prime when its digits are reversed (31).

Thirteen is also a Wilson prime, and there are not very many of those! A Wilson prime is a prime number p such that p2 divides (p − 1)! + 1.  I checked the math on this: 132 is 169; 12! +  1 =  (12x11x10x9x8x7x6x5x4x3x2x1) +1 = 479,001,601; and 479,001,601 divided by 169 is 2,834,329. It divides evenly! The only known Wilson primes are 5, 13, and 563, so Quinn’s next Wilson prime birthday is way off in the fourth dimension!

Though a year contains twelve solar months, part of the thirteenth lunar month is also included in one year. A baker’s dozen tide cycles to enjoy!

Thirteen is cleaning his room independently, having a passport, opening a checking account, getting a debit card, taking ownership of his google account, having an A in Algebra, reminding me not to buy anything “too dorky” when I went to buy some paper party plates at the dollar store. It’s sitting here writing this blog post while some new teenagers sing Take on Me and fling themselves around the trampoline, then carry out a Dungeons and Dragons campaign, emptying bowls of snacks while one of them strums my guitar. Imagine thinking 13 is unlucky. In Italy, where Quinn is heading soon, fare tredici (translated literally, to do 13) is to hit the jackpot! Any way you calculate it, 13 feels incredibly lucky to this mama! Happy birthday, mighty Quinn!

~rainbow mondays~ embryonic

~rainbow mondays~

a splash of color on monday morning

a photo study documenting the colors of the spectrum: the balance points between light reflected and light absorbed

uncle dan

My godfather, Dan Weber, passed away on February 3rd. He was an amazing man, and leaves behind a prosperous legacy. His five children and many grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and more distant relatives like me, all celebrate his life this weekend. His wife Judy, my godmother, is surrounded by family and I send my heart to her as well.

Aunt Judy described him as her rock, and I know all of us are picturing a few specific rocks when we hear that metaphor used to symbolize his strength of character, his stable assuredness. Our summer family vacations all revolved around Upper Saranac Lake in the Adirondack mountains of upstate New York, where Weber point is a landmark we all know well. This slab of bedrock angling up out of the lake at the tippy end of Pork Bay where our family properties and cabins were concentrated, was encrusted with lichens, visited by loons and beavers, forested with paper birches and conifers, and in August, sprinkled with fresh wild blueberries. Another rock a short hike from Aunt Margie and Uncle George’s cabin Benchmark on Fish Creek is known simply as “Big Rock”, another pilgrimage destination for all cousins looking for adventure. Though his point comes to mind first, his presence was more reminiscent of the Big Rock variety of rocks – proud and solid and upright, casting a towering reflection across the surface of the lake. From up high on Big Rock, the view was expansive; likewise Uncle Dan’s sights were always set on greatness, always focused on the big picture. His obituary captures this magnitude in describing his stature in the wider world, but Aunt Judy’s words best capture his foundational bearing in the family.

A tiny species of wildflower, a bleeding heart, grew on Big Rock. I noticed it one summer when I was in high school and made an effort to check for its blooms each year thereafter upon visiting Big Rock. Up on the side of this massive bedrock heaved and carved into being by the gargantuan processes of plate tectonics and glacier retreat, this impossibly small blossom could be easily missed, and reflecting back, I imagine it was missed by most. Its delicate root system could easily have been wiped clean off the face of the rock by ice and snow, but it persisted. Its life there depended upon the elements, the fanciful flights of birds depositing its seeds from somewhere else, a root tendril grasping a crack in the rock. Not built to withstand the type of geologic processes that formed and weathered a boulder, and yet born to stand up to the test of time by living and dying in ephemeral cycles, able to receive a small component of its nutrition from the minerals in the rock itself, but mostly relying on the reliability of rain, the certainty of sunlight, and an ability to go dormant and disappear in winter, for meeting its needs.

(borrowed this lovely photo of the probable flower species, Dicentra eximia)

Whenever I saw Uncle Dan, he called me his Pretty Girl. “How’s my Pretty Girl?” he’d ask, and I’d blush and tell him I was fine, give him a hug. I was an unnoticeable flower in the presence of a towering boulder. His attention, his affectionate “Pretty Girl,” was like sun and water on the tiny flower. He managed to make each of us in the bouquet of children feel like we mattered.

His philosophy was that anyone could achieve success if they put their mind to it. A wildflower could become discouraged and find her self-worth diminished by such a philosophy, looking up at all the tall trees growing off a large boulder, while she struggled to take root in a negligible amount of soil in a tiny crack on a rock. The flower could wonder whether this philosophy was just for other entities who already started off large, those with muscle to throw around, whether maybe success wasn’t intended for pretty girls at all. Yet it is easy to feel warm towards his optimism about the American dream and anyone’s potential to achieve it, even while I acknowledge my own belief that the amount of opportunity available to a flower or a pebble or a beetle is not the same as that available to a giant rock, to achieve boulder greatness. His belief was in the inherent goodness of all, the essential sameness in all of us, with which I can and do resonate, and while privilege plays a role in actual outcomes and successes, there is always reason to dream big and believe in ourselves. My own view embraces different versions of success than just the boulder variety, and I have come to feel it is good and right for me to belong among the wildflowers in a world that tends to value rocks.

We are all busy digging through photos of him, patriarch of the Weber clan. I can tell you that none of my photos of him, mostly from when I was first let loose with a camera in high school, are of his business successes or his wealth or status in society. What they show is the way I remember him, the things I loved about him: up at the lake, up a ladder with a hammer in his hand, or waist-deep in water, if he was building a dock instead of a cabin; with a baby on his lap having a bottle, or with a kid on his lap getting bounced or told a story; sitting around a table telling a story to a wider audience, over coffee and danish.

Then there are the memories not pictured. I remember him stoking the fire in the conical red wood stove, while Aunt Judy worked the red handle to pump fresh water for one of the kids to stir kool-aid into, the screen door slamming behind whoever had just returned from the outhouse, the sliding door out front simultaneously shuttling in the rest of the kids, out of breath from running up the pine-needle covered trail and the flight of stairs up from a morning of fishing for sunnies and perch off the dock, one or two of us with a smaller toddling cousin on our hip. I remember kids lined up along the ladder to the loft of the A-frame, before the A-frame transformed into a spacious chalet to hold the ever-expanding Weber family with running water and flush toilets. I remember his blazing grin and the sparkle in his eyes, his methodical way of telling a story, his voice soothing (the same way I feel about my Dad’s) but in a Long Island accent. I remember being his Pretty Girl.

This little bleeding heart is going to miss him.

~rainbow mondays~ middle earth

~rainbow mondays~

a splash of color on monday morning

a photo study documenting the colors of the spectrum: the balance points between light reflected and light absorbed

sanctuary

About ten days into 2020, I started meditating for ten minutes a day. Our routine is to get up before 5:00, I start coffee and get breakfast and lunch prep to a point where I can leave it for ten minutes, and then head downstairs to sit on my ass and focus on my breathing. One thing I have noticed in recent years is that whole days of my life go by in which I barely sit down at all, and this past fall I received a warning message from the universe about that. After several days of excruciating leg pain in the evenings, I decided to start sitting down at least a little bit during each day, whether I had time to or not. Thankfully, the pain passed and I haven’t been receiving any more big messages like that, but I heard it. I decided 2020 has some built-in requirements for me. It is not so much a list of goals as a list of bare minimums; a quart of tea a day, a beach trip per month, a nap every time I need it, ten minutes of sitting on my butt daily. In 2020, I shall strive for nothing but mediocrity. I do have a few modest goals: to grow more flowers for butterflies and a few purple vegetables in my back yard.

I’ve been seeing a lot of eagles so far in 2020, and some of them have even been sitting down. I’ve been hearing a lot of owls, and at least one has been sitting itself down in the wedding trees, leaving behind the things it doesn’t need.

When I go sit down to meditate, it is an enforced ten minutes of sit time, right smack at the beginning of my day. On weeks when Quinn is home, I may not actually sit for even five minutes on a given morning, but now I do, it’s for sure. I also hardly ever “do nothing” and this is a must, as we all know from Winnie the Pooh. So now I do ten minutes of “nothing” to start the day, which feels like one thousand times more nothing than I had been doing. Already I have worked hard to achieve mediocrity in my meditation practice (I am not taking this class for a grade – thinking it was something you had to be good at kept me from attempting it). I went from sitting up with good posture in the middle of the bed to sitting with my back slouch-reclining on the headboard, my lap under the covers. I sit with my palms facing upward, like a butterfly unfolding its wings, open to receiving whatever is coming my way from the universe, which turns out to be my cat. Bart has been joining my meditation so the gift I receive daily is two handfuls of fluff, the gift of nineteen pounds of warm weight anchoring me in place, keeping me seated.

The feeling of warmth flooding my frontal cortex when it is ever so briefly not just keeping from overthinking, but avoiding thinking altogether seems a logical extension of cultivating a gratitude practice, another way of keeping a part of my heart set aside as a sanctuary for the butterflies of summer.

~black and white wednesday~ that’s a wrap