Find the Good Where You Can, Even a Grocery Store Parking Lot

Asthma has really put a crimp in my schedule this week.  My little one’s minor cough morphed into an asthma event on Sunday and five days (and counting) of missed school.  He vacillates between being a sad little muffin and a jumping bunny on steroids, because, well, he is on steroids.

My capacity to leave the house has been quite limited.  Doctor visits, school obligations, and the grocery story have pretty much been my only “Get Out of Jail Free” cards since Monday morning.  Life becomes a bit simpler when you don’t really leave the house much.

I learned how to bake sourdough bread (and, lordy, am I going to write the hell out of the metaphors of learning how to bake bread) and did a lot of laundry (lather, rinse, make bed, vomit, lather, rinse, repeat).  My little one has been sleeping with me all week, the husband banished to the guest room, so I have been settling in by 8 or earlier every night.  Everything has slowed down.

There is a liberation to that, the slowing down.  Sometimes I feel like life is so busy and just a series of jumping from fire to fire, water buckets sloshing all the way.  Other times I feel like a pinball in a machine, not in any kind of control over my trajectory, just bouncing off of the hard metal objects around me.  DING!  DING!  DING!

It’s exhausting.

But still, despite the benefits of slowing down, like, say, warm sourdough smeared with butter, I have occasionally felt a wee bit, well, cooped up.  An energetic five year old can be a lot for this old broad to manage, but an energetic five year old on steroids who vomits when he can’t stop coughing is next level.

Twice I got out to the grocery store, which is not a lot for me, as I tend to shop for what we eat in the next day or two.  I go to the store while the kids are at school because dragging kids through mundane errands tends to cue their outrage.  It’s easier and more pleasant that way.  But there was no dragging a coughing, vomiting boy into a grocery store.  Nope.  So, there was not a lot of grocery store happening.

But on Tuesday morning at sunrise and Thursday evening at sunset, both times my husband was at home to take over kid duty, I ran out to the market to pick up a few groceries and some sanity.  And in those off hours, in those moments of the sun rising and setting, I looked up and saw two beautiful cloud filled skies.  And both times I was struck enough to pull out my camera phone and try to capture the beauty above me.

I don’t know if I was successful, as it’s hard to capture the beauty of a gorgeous skyscape on a camera phone, but I captured it well enough that as I was driving home yesterday, with the sky already changed and growing darker, I remembered the sunrise a couple of days earlier in a different grocery story parking lot I had also tried to capture.

Sunrise at the Mariano’s, 3.5.19
Sunset at the Jewel, 3.7.19

Seeing those two parking lot horizons reminded me of those days during my daughter’s cancer treatment when a solitary trip to the  store felt like winning the lottery.  The mundane is not a given.  The ordinary is extraordinary when you are living through sorrow and fear.

Asthma is not like cancer.  Thank goodness.  My son’s illness, while tense and scary at times, is pretty well managed through medicine and care that we have access to when needed.  Those are very good things and I feel lucky for them.

There was enough of a familiarity last night, the sunset behind me, the sense of liberation around me, that I remembered what cancer has taught me  — nothing is promised, nothing is forever, nothing is certain.  Grab what is good when you can.  Notice those sunsets and sunrises.  Look up.  Eat the bread, with the butter.  Take the picture.  Try to capture what you can.  Breathe it in, breathe it all in.


That Time My Turkey Platter Made Me Cry

We hosted Thanksgiving for 22 last week.  It was lovely and joyous and, yes, a wee bit frantic.  I didn’t get out of my pajamas on Friday.  It is a gift to be able to host so many people you love in your home, serve them food, and celebrate family, but I am slow on the recovery from all the love and joy and leftovers.  Adulting is hard work, yo.

Yesterday I was putting away our turkey platter and got to thinking.  The platter was something we had registered for during our engagement, in 2001.  Before children, before parent loss, before home ownership, before cancer.  In 2017, it is easy to romanticize that life was easier then, simpler, certainly more innocent.

In 2001, I would have been a young woman, with a fiance and a career.  I had defined ideas about what my life would look like.  My future was bright and full of possibilities.  Registering for a turkey platter was a commitment to that future.  It was a nod to the life my partner and I hoped to create together, and, if all went according to plan, it would involve hosting big and boisterous holiday dinners.

The platter we chose was chic and classic, I thought, clean and elegant.  Off white in color, rectangular, its only flair being a refined beading along the edge.  Large enough to hold a turkey the size of a young child.  It was porcelain, so more delicate than it looked, but still sturdy.

When you’re young and in love, registering for your wedding gifts is a nod to the life you hope to have and what you want that life to look like.  Looking back, I think I absolutely did want a life that was chic and elegant, clean and classic.  Stylish.  Those things were important to me at the time.  Turns out what I got was sturdy.  My life is sturdy.  And that ain’t so bad.

My sturdy platter, cracked, discolored, old, but still able to serve a boat load of turkey.
My sturdy platter, cracked, discolored, old, but still able to serve a boat load of turkey.

My porcelain platter is now full of cracks and stains.  It is discolored and looks worn.  No one would confuse it for being chic and clean anymore.  Nope.  It’s serviceable.  And sturdier than its fragile finish.  It is the shiny glaze that has cracked, but not the ceramic underneath.  One could argue it has grown into its elegance.


That’s what I was thinking about as I reached to put it away yesterday afternoon.  The life my husband and I have created is a lot like this old platter of ours.  The years have worn on us.  Each loss, each passing year is a new crack in our finish.  The love we have for one another and the people we have lost have seeped into those cracks, visible, changing what we are, part of our DNA.

But here we are, almost seventeen years later, just like our turkey platter — serviceable and sturdy.  We have exactly what it is we had hoped for, and yet it looks different than what we had imagined.  Those big holiday dinners for friends and family that were but a twinkle in our young eyes, are now our reality.  We’re not fancy, we’re not chic or refined, but we hold love and we serve love to one another and to those in our orbit.

It’s so grand.  And so lovely.  And, yes, it makes me weep out of gratitude.

Finding Everything I Need in My Sock Drawer: A Story About Seeing the Moments That Sustain Us

It happened this morning.  I was at the sink doing dishes, my older son was being too attentive to one screen or another and my younger son was whining at me, asking for help making puppets.  He wanted to make puppets.  Now.  He needed help, of course, but couldn’t he see me busy at the sink doing last night’s dinner pans?  Nope.  Puppets.  Now.  Right now.

I encouraged him to ask his brother.  He did.  That didn’t go too well, as that screen wasn’t going to watch itself.  The little one was back in the kitchen after a squawk with his brother, still needing that help to make those puppets.  A craft project.  Pffft.  Not my forte, even on my best days.  Okay, kiddo, today’s your lucky day.  Puppets it is!

Improvisation is a mother’s best friend, so I sacrificed a pair of my white anklets I wear when I exercise to use as sock puppets.  HA HA HA!  Yeah, that one was an easy sacrifice.  Exercise, even on my best days, is also not my forte.  I fished out a selection of Sharpies and slipped those socks over my son’s eager hands, showing him how to move his fingers up and down to mimic talking.  He took to it immediately.

We made a little girl with pink curls and a green bow.  She had bright blue eyes and red, red lips that matched her polka dotted blouse.  Her puppet companion was a snake with a long, hissing tongue.  He was hungry.  My boy was delighted.  D-lighted.  Knowing exactly what he needed, he requested help setting up his pop up tent, an Amazon impulse buy a couple of years ago that has been worth its weight in gold.  “I want to make a puppet show for my brother!”

I left my boys, happily engaged now, to return to the kitchen sink.  There were giggles and guffaws wafting back from the front room.  What in the Sam Hill was I doing scrubbing pans when I could be watching the wonder of a four year old putting on his very first puppet show for an audience of one?  Priorities realigned, I walked back to my boys, but not before grabbing my phone to snap a shot.  I sensed this was one of those moments that demanded documentation.

A boy, a tent, his puppets, and a brother.
A boy, a tent, his puppets, and a brother.

I was right.  And so, so glad both that I saw it and that I captured it.  The snake was hungry and threatening to eat the green-bowed girl in one big bite.  Oh no!  “SQUEEEEE!,” she shouted, not wanting to perish in the thin grave of a mean old snake.  The girl fought back and defeated that snake.  “You won’t eat me today, snake!  I am strong!”  Crisis averted, safety restored, sock puppets FTW on a rainy Saturday morning.

The beauty of this moment between these two boys, almost five years between them, happy and laughing, performing and sharing.  Brothering.  Swoon.  This bit of perfection will sustain me for days.  The moment wasn’t about me, but Lordy, it was for me.  And dang if I didn’t need it.

Life is so, so hard these days.  Between hunting trophy elephants and adult men dating teen girls and allies behaving badly, I am too often at the end of my rope.  It is these moments that will sustain me.  I need them.  Badly.  Right now.  Just like my little one needed that puppet.  It’s time to pay more attention to the moments — not only looking for them, but nurturing them, encouraging them, recognizing them.