Hello darkness, my old friend

We had the first frost of the fall last night. My husband insisted it would happen though my weather app denied it, so I tossed a fleece blanket over my flower pots on the back deck in a show of pessimism or optimism, I’m not sure which. And sure enough, I woke up to a frosting of frost on the roof of the garage (which is just on the other side of my deck).

So, welcome to fall in Minnesota. The weather had already changed—it’s an abrupt seasonal shift here–and it’s been breezy and cooler and quite a delight, actually. The leaves are beginning to change and drop. The days are shorter already.

Not today.

I’ve been spending my time working a lot—it’s Christmas in the retail world already, so we’re already putting in 40+ hours a week. The last six weeks of the year I’ll be working six days a week. (Today is my day off and I woke up thinking about how sad I am that I have to go back to work tomorrow. Then I’ll only have one day off in a stretch of nine days.)

When I have a moment to think, I think about my kids and try to untangle their various problems in my mind. It’s such a helpful exercise to worry about adult children who are experiencing life. I want them to be carefree and have happy, easy lives, but then I remember that life is difficult. And I can’t do anything about it.

That doesn’t mean I can stop fretting, even when I order myself to stop fretting. Instead I turn inward and blame myself and try to follow the tangles back to when the kids were little and I was shaping their little hearts and minds and obviously screwing up, even though I meant to be perfect.

I meant to do everything exactly right so that everything would turn out perfect!

It’s my fault! Everything that goes wrong is clearly my fault. This is what they call Logic, kids.

So my angst drove me to my computer where I could tap out these words and hopefully leave with a lighter heart. It’s so easy to dwell on the darkness, to invite in the gloom. I can feel it creeping into my insides.

I know a few things. I know I did my best. I know that pain is on the path we all travel. I know that everything will be okay in the end. And if it’s not okay, it’s not the end. (I just looked up that quote and John Lennon said it which reminds me of the time I looked up an author who’d written a book titled, “How Not to Look Old” only to find out that she died when she was 58. Who cares if you look young if you’re dead?)

Well, anyway, there you go. Afternoon musings from someone who is not dead and who needs to embrace the moment and also, kill the mouse that has taken up residence in the garage.

I blame the mucus

I was reviewing a situation and thought I’d just check my Gmail account for proof of something that happened in 2001. I searched my account and found nothing before 2004. I was immediately horrified and frantic, wondering what happened to my older emails.

This was at the Mall of America

I spent a solid half hour, maybe more, trying to figure out the problem.

Well, here’s the problem. Gmail wasn’t launched until April 1, 2004. I started my account on April 24, 2004. So, there were no missing emails.

I can barely remember life before Gmail, so it was a shock to realize that I had no Gmail proof of a situation from 2002.

I spent some time updating a blog post from 2009 that weirdly enough, gets traffic to this day. I don’t really understand that, but I did think it was time to spiff it up a little since it’s still getting visitors. Otherwise, today has been a quiet Sunday, anchored by laundry and coughing. I skipped church so I could cough at home instead of the back row of the sanctuary.

It’s frustrating how often I’ve been sick this year. I had a stretch of two months, give or take a week, without illness, then last Tuesday I was taking a break at work when I realized my throat felt weird. “Am I getting sick?” I thought.

Yes. The answer was yes.

My day off for the week was Wednesday and I literally slept twelve hours Tuesday night, waking up at noon. I walked a paltry 1,400 steps the entire day. Then Thursday I went back to work, still sick but we are so understaffed and busy right now that I just didn’t have the luxury of staying home.

I worked yesterday, too, and have just today off before going back for a five day stretch. We are entering the busiest time of year and it’s been like shoveling in a snowstorm. In a way, it’s fun, like it’s fun to not drown, the adrenaline of survival surging through your body.

Anyway.

Sometimes I think I’m a little depressed here in Minnesota. Is it Minnesota? Or is it me? Have I accomplished everything I will ever accomplish in my life? Is this it? Am I on a downhill slide? Have I become truly invisible and irrelevant? Now, don’t Grandma Moses me. I know, I know. It’s never too late but I am just feeling the blues.

Nothing to look forward to . . . no future goals to accomplish . . . no daydreaming of bigger things to come. I am not going to become anything other than what I am right now. I guess?

I mean, this is where I practice contentment, right? Where I take joy in the small things and express gratitude for the raindrops and the zinnias and the cat curled in my lap . . . but I can’t help but wonder (in silence, God forbid I talk about this out loud like a crazy person) . . . is this it? Am I done? Are the next thirty years just a rehashing of the Good Old Days as those around me roll their eyes?

The biggest question is . . . should I really have let my stylist put in low-lights? I like myself better blonde but maybe it’s time to just accept that the sun will never naturally highlight my hair again. And why is it so incredibly difficult to find a great stylist when you move?

Also, I tried to find a good profile picture and spent way too much time looking at older photographs of myself and why doesn’t anyone ever take flattering photos of me? Or am I just ugly? And if I am, why do I even care? My insides are not ugly. (Or are they?) Have I ever actually liked my hair?

And have I failed? Did I fall short of my potential? Was a horrible mother? Did I let my husband down? And why, oh why, do I have such a weird resume’ and career? Am I going backwards?

What is going on, exactly?

And then I think, oh yeah.

I always feel depressed when I’m sick. Maybe I should just table this soul-search until mucus stops clogging my respiratory system.

On the downhill slide

Welcome to summer in Minnesota where it might be a hundred humid degrees or maybe just a breezy sixty-five. Or we might have thunderstorms that dump seven inches of rain at a time. It’s fun. I am keenly aware that the days are getting shorter and in a blink we’ll be back in the deep freeze, so I am trying to appreciate the green leaves and frantic pace at which nature grows and reproduces here. (I’m looking at you, weeds and mosquitoes.)

My daughter considered moving here for a year and so I looked around and imagined my office in the mudroom and a bedroom in this small space but plans changed. I’m still going to move my office though it will cost me privacy because then this room can be a bedroom for guests–and as it turns out, kids who don’t want to move to Minnesota will still want to visit more than you expect.

*

I ended up being sick for a solid six weeks and then my sore throat vanished. I am grateful to feel better but now my right hip is wonky. It’s always something, am I right?

At work we are overwhelmed with merchandise for the upcoming seasons. We are gearing up for the busy shopping season but I do wonder how things will be in light of inflation. (Here in Minnesota we are paying $4.55 a gallon for gas–when I moved here two years ago, I paid $1.67, no kidding.) I still like my job even though it sometimes involves climbing fifteen foot ladders and having shoplifters yell at me.

My husband’s going to Texas this week to relax and visit family. His dad is ninety-two years old so we remind ourselves that each visit might be the last.

Life is a vapor.

I need immunity

I took my cat, Pup, to the vet today to have Pup’s wonky eye examined. The vet determined that it is most likely a viral infection and so now I have to drip eye-drops into the cat’s eye four times a day. That will be fun in a sort of scratch your skin off sort of way.

I woke up with a sore throat and a cough which is remarkable only because I just recovered from an ear and sinus infection (and horribly sore throat) last week after a ten-day course of antibiotics. WHY AM I SICK AGAIN?

This is not Pup. This is Fox and he is obsessed with straws.

Let’s go back in time. (To my birthday in January when I had a cold? No. To the end of March when I had a cold? No.) Let’s go back in time to April 22 when I flew to San Diego on a jet plane.

I flew to San Diego on April 22 to meet my daughter and attend my son’s senior recital at San Diego State University. I used miles to get a cheap(er) flight on Alaska Airlines and thus, I had a layover in Seattle. I didn’t mind the thought of two hours in an airport because I like airports. I like to read and watch people and I enjoy forced idleness.

When I disembarked from the plane, I noted that the airport seemed very busy. I located the gate for my outgoing flight and again, wondered at the crowds. There were people lining up at customer service desks and so I quickly searched the Internet and learned that President Biden had been in Seattle and due to some kind of security issue, his flight from Sea-Tac was delayed for two hours earlier in the afternoon and consequently, hundreds of flights were delayed–and cancelled. Thousands of people milled about, like a Disneyland queue without the magic.

Soon, the airport walkways were crowded with people and every seat was full. People were sprawled on the floors and we were all in each other’s personal spaces, unable to avoid hearing every conversation and breathing everybody’s air.

Fortunately, my flight was only delayed and not canceled (as was my daughter’s flight from Portland to San Diego) and we met up at the baggage claim in San Diego at 10:45 PM. By the time we rented a car and arrived at our friend’s home, it was 12:15 AM.

The senior recital was the next day. My son did an amazing job.

The next day, Sunday, I woke up with scratchy throat which I initially blamed on dehydration. But I was ill.

My daughter and I meandered up the the freeway, then the coastline, to Anaheim where we checked into our hotel and returned the rental car to the nearby airport. We took a taxi back to Downtown Disney, then wandered around before going back to our hotel.

Monday we conquered California Adventure, walking 25,000 steps and absorbing all the theme park goodness. We walked back to our hotel so I could nap and then returned to the park until it closed.

Tuesday was devoted to Disneyland. We walked 28,000 steps and had the best time, despite my having a cold and a sore throat. I kind of ignored it.

Wednesday, we Uber-ed to the airport and flew to Portland. My ears became totally blocked and my throat was so sore I could barely swallow. I advised my mom and sister of my illness because I had planned to visit them but they said to come anyway, so Thursday, we drove to the beach to see my mom and sister.

I felt so sick. Such a terribly sore throat and a really bad headache. That night, I began to wonder if I had COVID (again), so we left early the next afternoon and I got tested at a pharmacy but it was negative.

I flew home Sunday, still as sick as can be and Tuesday, managed to see a doctor who diagnosed me with a sinus infection and ear infection (my first ever). I just finished the course of antibiotics on Saturday and now . . . sick again.


In other news, the grass has finally turned green here in Minnesota and the leaves are beginning to grow. It was a very long and cold winter. Last week, we had crazy weather and I had to hide in a classroom at work with all the customers when the tornado sirens blared. That same night found me in my basement when the sirens went off again.

Rivers are flooded and the lake levels are high because we’ve had so much rain.


Now, I’m off to my own eye appointment and then to work.

The end.

Golden dresses and broken skulls (just another day at work)

Yesterday at work, a woman asked me if we had any variegated floss suitable for crocheting butterfly magnets. I showed her what we had, but she wanted only two colors involved, not several. Then she told me how she once took a whole year to crochet a golden Barbie-doll dress, using metallic thread and beads. I said I hoped someone appreciated all that work and she said, “No, I have no daughters or grand-daughters! And I hate dolls!”

My boss walked by about that time, then stood aside a ways, waiting for me to finish with the customer so he could talk to me. But the customer wasn’t finished. No! She opened her smart-phone and scrolled until she finally found a photo of the doll in its golden dress.

Then before I knew it, she was showing me a photo of a someone’s bloody skull stapled together, explaining that her husband fell on black ice at work on his first week at the job. (He is 75 years old, she told me.) Then she smiled, displaying her way-too-white teeth and finally, I was able to scoot away. I do like to think that I provided excellent customer service to that lady, though.

People are funny, aren’t they?

Earlier in the day, I heard a chattering child coming near, so I turned in time to see her walking alongside the cart being pushed by her mother. A baby sat in the cart’s seat. A small boy was holding onto the cart near the wheels, being dragged along along on his stomach. Oh, those days, I remember them well. You’re just trying to browse in a store but you literally have to drag your kids along with you.

Twenty-four

Twenty-four years ago today, an Amish woman forced me into her assistant’s boxy van for a ride on snowy country roads. I was clad in my purple plaid flannel nightgown with a coat hastily thrown over it.. At one point, a sheriff pulled the van over, inquiring why it was doddering along the county highway at low speed. The details were lost to me in the midst of a contraction, for the van ride had its desired effect. My labor kick-started into gear. Who needs pitocin anyway?

I begged to go home, desperate to climb back into the hot birthing tub set up in my bedroom. (Not that the baby came right away after that ride, but the midwives were assured that he was indeed, on the way.)

I labored for a solid forty-three hours, most of it slow and steady. My Amish midwife was six months pregnant herself, a petite woman with strong hands and a quiet manner. Her assistant, the “English” (non-Amish) midwife with a long braid down her back, brought along her own three month old baby and one of her teenagers to help watch the baby. My baby was in no hurry but finally, he appeared at almost eleven that night, twenty-four years ago.

Strange how a birthday really belongs to two people–the one who gave birth and the one who was born. So today, on our shared day, I cobbled together a little celebration. I bought balloons and my husband bought birthday cards. I wrapped a gift and trekked into town to buy the requested ice cream cake. I stopped by Red Lobster to ask how long the wait would be at 6 PM since they don’t take reservations. And then the manager made a reservation for me, telling me, “Shhh, don’t tell.” (Last year we had to wait over an hour.) I blew up balloons and now we wait for the birthday boy to return from work so we can have celebratory cheddar biscuits and seafood.

Not long ago, I was thinking that my daughter has only known me as a woman older than thirty-eight. By the time she verbal enough to sass me, I was already forty-one years old. As I realized during the wild years, it’s all fun and games to have a baby when you are thirty-eight, but having a fifteen year old when you are fifty-three years old is a calamity. (If you have a certain type of fifteen year old.)

(My son was not that type of fifteen year old. He was a delight his whole life–and still is–and I mean that wholeheartedly.)

Anyway, what I was thinking a few weeks back is that I will quite likely not know my younger children as fifty-seven year olds. (I am fifty-seven now. I am stunned by this turn of events. Am I old?)

When my youngest son is fifty-seven, I will be ninety.

When my daughter is fifty-seven, I will be ninety-five.

I hope I’m alive to see what kind of fifty-seven year olds they will be. How will their lives have turned out? Will I be a grandmother?

Will they do the math and realize that when I was fifty-seven, they thought I was both old and immortal? I never gave a second thought to my parents’ mortality until my dad had the gall to die when he was only forty-seven.

I was twenty-four then.

And so it goes. Turn around and find yourself back where you began.

The old has gone . . . the new is here

I slept in this morning and then drove to St. Cloud on streets that were mostly dry and clear. The temperature when I got into my car hovered around minus twenty degrees (Fahrenheit, that’s about minus 29 degrees Celsius). I was on a quest to buy ground beef from Costco so we could have hamburgers for lunch but Costco failed me for there was no ground beef at all.

Instead, I bought stuff for sandwiches and even went the extra mile and (oven)-fried bacon for them.

The rest of my day has been devoted a little decluttering (“do I need this book? how about these shoes?”) and organizing and laundry. My daughter flew home to Portland yesterday by way of Salt Lake City and then Seattle. She was originally scheduled to go on Thursday, January 30, but the flight was canceled due to weather (?) and COVID (?) and who knows what else.

Nailed it!

While here, she slept in my office as usual but it’s such a narrow room that the queen-size air mattress filled the entire floor and I hadn’t had enough time to really spiff up the room before she came (it’s my office and tends to collect flotsam and jetsam as the tides of life come and go). Anyway, it was kind of a disaster with her enormous suitcase barely fitting into the room with the air mattress.

Normally, she uses a twin size mattress but the one we had would gradually lose air so I purchased a new one that, alas, had no built-in inflator. We discovered that the first night she was here, so queen-size mattress in a twin–size room it was.

Anyway, she’s gone and it was time to reclaim my space. I took the opportunity to eliminate a few books and shoes and then cleared some surfaces. Why does that always take so long?

That’s about all for now. I am going to go do nothing for the rest of the day.

Well, nothing along with some more laundry. (I bet I have talked about laundry more than any single topic on this blog. Ha ha.)

Happy New Year!

Winter Wonderland

I drove home last night in the snow at 10 PM after a 14-hour shift. The freeway was almost deserted–I saw one vehicle way behind me in my rear-view mirror but it took miles and miles to catch up with me. In the meantime, I drove alone on the snow-covered road with no idea where the lines were. The reflectors on each side of the road gave me some idea that I was on the right track. The snow came down steadily. It wasn’t even that deep but deep enough to obscure the roadway.

When the vehicle finally passed me, it left me in a cloud of snow, blind.

A few minutes later, a semi-truck barreled up behind me and passed me, blowing an even bigger cloud of snow. I was just exiting and slowed to a crawl because I could not tell for sure where the road was.

(Last year’s snow!)

So, that was fun. (Today after church, I came home and immediately started shoveling the driveway. I mean, do I know how to have fun or what?)

I spent my afternoon today sitting on my office floor wrapping Christmas gifts. It would have been easier to stand at the kitchen island, but I needed privacy. Plus, I didn’t want to move my operation to another room. So, the floor it was.

I’m not exactly ready for Christmas, but I’m on my way. I have to be strategic and careful because I’m working so many hours. (Sixty-eight next week? Or was that last week? Or both? I’m not sure but I’m doing little else these days besides working.)

It looks like we’ll have a white Christmas after all. I was starting to wonder.

To those three of you still reading after all these years (!), hope you’re enjoying the holiday season.

Shaken

Four years ago today, I was laid off from a job I’d held for eleven years, give or take a few weeks. Long before Zoom meetings became popular and working from home became a curse/blessing to countless families, I worked from home. Back then, few of us had the luxury of logging onto our computers while wearing pajamas and starting our day’s tasks.

Anyway, those were the good old days, the ones in which I could keep up with my laundry and start a dinner every night while at “work.”

Then, the dream job came to an end and I scrambled to find another job. I settled on becoming a police dispatcher and after a five month process, secured the job. It was very exciting to go to work out of my house after working from home most of my adult life. Three months later, it was less exciting to be told that while they all liked me, they thought I would be better suited to working in Police Records. (Yes, it hurt my feelings and it was humiliating.)

Listen. Working in Police Records sounds less fancy and true, it pays a lot less, but as it turns out, I really liked the job. I dare say I excelled in working in Police Records, as a matter of fact. I found it terribly interesting (reading crime reports, for instance) and occasionally boring (processing traffic citations). Working with actual other human beings in an office environment was a nice change, too.

And since I never became a trained dispatcher, I never had to work overnights, so there’s that.

But I only worked at the police department for a little more than two years because life has a way of shaking up even the most carefully planned life.

I thought of a snow globe when I pictured what happened to our lives but really, a snow globe is the wrong illustration because in the snow globe, the people stay cemented in place while the snow swirls around them. We did stay in place while the storm swirled around us but eventually, the cement failed us and we shook loose and floated and generally looked at each other in surprise while we waited to land.

Four years. In those four years, I lost a job, started a new job (I’d hope it would be a career), then my husband lost a job and started a new job, so he moved to Minnesota almost a year before I did (along with two of our kids–that’s right, we also emptied half our nest) . . . my dog died, my mom moved out of our home to a new place in Oregon, so I helped her pack and move and unpack, we sold a house, bought a house, moved (I personally packed every box and unpacked every box) . . . and then, when I finally got here, I dropped a ten pound weight on my foot. We waited twenty-six days for the moving truck to get here and then, I got a new job and started working the week after our stuff got here. I am currently working 65 hours a week during the holiday season.

[Oh, also, there was a world-wide pandemic that affected everyone everywhere, but did not cause me to miss a single day of work because I was an “essential” employee. So, no lounging around at home while collecting sweet, sweet unemployment checks with added federal benefits.]

I’m just saying, a lot can happen in four years.

Looking back causes me to shake my head in disbelief. If you told 2017 Mel that her life would be shaken (not stirred) in such a vicious manner, she would have 1) denied the possibility; 2) worried and; 3) cried. Maybe she would have run. Who knows?

But I had no idea at the time, so I just took it one day after the next.

I’m grateful that I can’t see four years into the future because all I want now is for things to just simmer down and stay the same for awhile. (Forever? Let’s not tempt fate.)

Happy Four Year Job Loss Anniversary to me!

Fa-la-la-la-huh?

Well, what do you know? It’s autumn in Minnesota. The few remaining leaves are hidden under a thin frosting of snow. My neighbors are extraordinarily diligent about raking and mowing up the leaves, so last weekend the neighborhood was alive with the sound of mowers and chainsaws. I did my part toiling with a new rake in my front yard, scraping up the horse chestnuts that are so glossy and beautiful but such a mess to clean up. If you don’t remove them, they’ll sprout into new trees as I discovered last spring.

I’ve been promoted at work and that means this Saturday will be my last Saturday off until January. I’ll be working six days a week, upwards of 50 hours. (I don’t think we’re permitted to work more than 55 hours a week.) Anyway, it’s been an absolute madhouse there. Someone told me I ought to look for a different job, but the truth is that I like the frantic pace and the sequence of the work itself. Sure, I’d like to have more time at home to putter around and create but this season of life is about squirreling provisions for the future and staying physically active.

And it turns out that I really do like this line of work. I thought I did–I had a short-term job in retail a million years about but the pay was terrible then–and I was right.

I fondly think of the days gone by when I was writing every day. Will I ever get to those days again? Will my life loop back around to a familiar landscape?

Time will tell.

But in the meantime, it’s time to get to work.