Tags: deep thoughts

Carousel 2019

Human Networks

Monday, March 23, 2020

I've been thinking a lot about human connection and the way that this current crisis has caused us all to lean into the virtual space in a way we never quite have before. Despite the ever-present phones in our hands, we have always had the option of speaking face to face. Being in the same space. Promising to get together for coffee -- even at times when we knew it would never happen.

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Otakon 2016


Nearly a year ago, I got the worst news that I could imagine getting: learning that my mom had died suddenly, just before Thanksgiving. I spent weeks walking around in a daze, barely able to sleep or eat, wondering what I could have done and if anything could have been done to change what happened. Over the past year, I've come to grips with a truth both difficult and comforting. You can not change the past, only move forward.

As difficult, as heart-wrenching as it was some days to put on my clothes, go about my daily activities, and take care of all the estate business that had to be done, I did it, believing I would heal, acting normal in the belief that one day, I would feel normal again. I'm happy to report that, most days, I feel very normal, indeed. While my mom is always on my mind, I am beginning to be able to remember her without bursting into tears. Sometimes, I even laugh.

The point is, as my husband, Mike, reminded me tonight, no matter what, we all still have each other. Don't forget that. Don't stop working for the things that matter to you.

In the past year, my family and I did things we never would have thought possible. We dealt with the heartache and disarray of my mother's estate, including my sister working tirelessly to rehouse dozens of cats. Both my sister and I have moved into better school districts for our children. My brother is an active role model for his two amazing children, one of whom just won a Veterans Day essay contest. My husband discovered long-lost family, and my recent genealogical sleuthing has provided facts to back up some of our most intriguing family stories. My son has joined Cub Scouts and is striving actively to live out its principles: to be helpful at all times, to be friendly, courteous and kind.

At my deepest emotional nadir last year, I never could have predicted where I would be this year. I only knew where I wanted to be.

Let hope flourish. Let us move on with dignity and determination. Let's all believe in and work for a brighter day.
KFP 2015

Letting Go

I grew up in a house filled with books. My parents, when they built the extension on the house before moving in, requested an entire wall of built-in shelves, which were always filled to overflowing. I had my own over-full bookcase in my room, as did my brother and sister. When we went through my Mom's estate, we discovered she'd added even more shelves, in every single room. It didn't quite look like a library, but it was obviously the home of a book lover.

Yet, despite how much Mom read, I don't remember her picking up books a second or a third time. Rather, I was the one who would often pull down her books on children's literature to look up lurid nursery rhymes and half-forgotten dark Grim Brothers tales. Except the the often-used cookbook shelf, most of them simply gathered dust. For decades. And then she adopted dozens of cats, and all those books became unusable.

I guess going through the experience has taught me a lot, and my thoughts on what I'm willing to get rid of have changed. Now that we are moving to a new apartment -- in a better school district -- we need to serious pare down our possessions. Aside from the poetry books and writing manuals that I often reference -- and my collections of comedy-related biographies and vampire books -- I am saying good-bye to a good number of books now that I might otherwise have wanted to keep. Even the shelves of books "to read later" are being sorted, as I have to admit that, much as I may have once intended to read "Women Who Run with the Wolves" and be a good feminist, or read the half dozen Bruce Sterling books someone gave me and be a good cyberpunk, I never actually feel like picking them up.

My final test when on the fence was the same thing I do in bookstores: open the book to a page and read. If what I see doesn't excite me enough to want to know more, it went in the donation box.

As we were going through things at our Mom's house, my sister kept reminding me, "Memories aren't in things; they're in us." It made it easier to part with objects that would have been destined to clutter up our homes the same way they had cluttered up hers.
Alice trippy

"Dandelions" by Vivian Starr

While going through things at my mother's house, I discovered this piece she'd written for a women's spirituality group in about 1988. It was untitled, but I call it "Dandelions." She made several copies of it, so I know she was proud of it. If I'd discovered it before the memorial service, I would have read it there, because I think it's the message she'd love to share now with everyone who loves her.

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Burton's Alice

Being Mindful

On my birthday Tuesday, in the mailbox I found a pink cushioned envelope, which I could tell before I opened it was the perfect size to contain a book or two. Inside, I found two: "Peace Is Every Step" by Thich Nhat Hahn and "Soap" by Francis Ponge. Opening the card, I recognized the back-slanted, uneven handwriting immediately: my brother. He explained that the well-worn books were not just used but had been favorites of his for years, moving with him through many life changes. But now, he said, he felt it was time to pass them on to me, caught up in my busy days of parenting a young child and working from home (never as productively, it seems, as I should).

He is right: I needed these books. I have begun with "Peace is Every Step," and even just a few pages into it, I can tell it is just what my soul cries out to hear. Those who are mothers will not be shocked to hear that I do most of my reading these days in the bathroom, the one (usually) quiet place in my home. The book is divided into manageable nougats, perfect to read a few minutes at a time.

The simple lesson I have gained so far is to live mindfully, which means to be alive in the moment: to pay attention to what is going on around you. I practiced this while walking to the bus stop to pick KFP up after kindergarten today. The slight breeze was delicious after yesterday's rain. A fat ginger cat lounged leisurely in a patch of sun. Birds twittered, and I smiled.

It reminded me of a habit that KFP and I have. We buy a candy bar every time we go to the natural food store: dark chocolate and mint. After we pay for our items, we sit on a bench outside. I hand him a square and snap off a square for myself. We eat our chocolate, nibble by nibble, enjoying the sun on our arms, the hum of traffic from the highway, and each other's company.

That chocolate is always the most delicious thing I eat all week long.

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