Sunday, February 25, 2024

Like-minded Friends

I got an email from the urban farm I donate to. An exclusive invitation to a potluck for a "small portion of their dedicated supporters." This is not a fundraiser, it said. We want to spend time with you and like-minded friends. Our only ask is that you bring a dish to share. 

Immediately, I was skeptical. How did I make the cut? I don't give this farm a ton of money. I'm not one of their volunteers. I wasn't born yesterday! (I assume they sent this email to everyone on their donation list and only want to make it seem like it's an exclusive thing.) And were they really not asking for money? Everyone is asking for money. I ignored the email. 

A few weeks went by, and I got a reminder that I hadn't responded, and they'd love to see me at the potluck. I can't stress enough how suspicious I am as a person. But also, I am very curious. I replied that I would attend.

In the meantime I got a phone call from a friend who reads this blog. She said, did you send out an email asking for money? 

No, I said. She read the email to me. It came from Substack and basically said something along the lines of Act now to upgrade your subscription to PAID and get exclusive content! 

I don't have any exclusive content, I said. (I'm not knocking Substack. They're hosting my blog for free. I guess they want to make some money off it. But I wish they'd asked me first before sending out that email. I don't think of my blog as a money-making venture.) It's just this. Me, writing once a week, whatever thoughts are pinballing around in my head, 

how the world is broken and how the world is beautiful. And sometimes there's a recipe or a dog or a book review or interesting interactions I have at the library or tips and tricks about writing or gardening or how does it feel to have a goat jump on your back and what the hell is going on with the weather. (For the record it snowed two inches yesterday and tomorrow it's supposed to be 60 degrees.)

The potluck with the farm people was fun. I brought my husband along, and my potluck dish: Coconut Lentils over Rice with Roasted Sweet Potatoes. This is a recipe that my daughter-in-law shared with me, and it was a crowd favorite, nearly all of it gobbled up despite the abundant, delicious competition.  

While we ate, my husband and I chatted with the other dedicated supporters, who all wanted to know how we were friends of the farm, and I got to tell them the story of the farm's zoom cooking class I'd stumbled onto in 2020 and how it was one of the highlights of my year and even now it makes me laugh and yearn (momentarily) for that scary time, a perfect example of beauty in our broken world. 

After dinner, I was gearing up for the fundraising pitch, but it never came. Instead, the farm people set out dessert and we all chatted a bit more before saying our goodbyes. The next day I filled out an application to volunteer. It's a farm! I love gardening! Why am I not out there helping them plant vegetables? 

And then I ate the very small bit of leftover coconut lentils, sprinkled with fresh cilantro picked from the farm. If you’d like to know more about this lovely place (not to make a donation, but just to see all of the amazing things they’re up to lately), see here.

If you're a reader of my blog, thank you! We've all got a million things competing for our attention and the fact that you're here, reading my words, whether you've popped in for today or are a regular subscriber, I am grateful for the connection. No requests for money ever, but if you're so inclined, feel free to share with a like-minded friend. 

Sunday, February 18, 2024

Notes on Brokenness

My husband is remodeling our kitchen, and yesterday he came to the part where you have to take the tile backsplash off the wall, and I thought, Hey, I can do this part. Give me the hammer. Maybe I have some latent aggression that needed to be released, because I enjoyed smashing the backsplash tile to bits. 

Outside there was snow on the ground and everything was muffled. Not just from the snow but from the noise cancelling headphones I was wearing. Smashing tile is loud. It is also hard work. 

Some of the tile came down with barely any effort. One tap and it split right off. But most sections took time. Strategic placement of the screwdriver-like tool I was using, angling it carefully along a crack, and then giving the hammer a nice solid whack. Sometimes I gave it too strong of a whack and broke the wall underneath. 

Which seemed like a problem, but my husband said, no. It can be fixed. With my husband, anything can be fixed. This is no small thing. And I say this as a person who once believed that I was irreversibly broken. I thought I hid it pretty well. But there were cracks. I thought I hid those pretty well too. Here is something I learned: 

No one is irreversibly broken. And if you want to fix something, it can be fixed. 

The old tile is gone. The smashed bits already hauled off with the trash. There is no going back now. My husband is scrolling through YouTube videos on how to repair walls. I'm searching for new backsplash ideas and bookmarking the ones I like. 

There are so many beautiful possibilities. Why didn't we take care of this years ago? Here is something I am learning:

It is never too late.


Sunday, February 11, 2024

This Kind of Happiness

The mourning dove couple is back in their old nest on the porch. Drinking my coffee this morning, I hear them cooing and immediately feel happy--spring is here!!--before worrying that this is way too early for mourning doves, and spring should not be here. It's barely mid-February. 

You said the same thing last year, my husband tells me. I go back to check my journal, and sure enough, he's right. Sort of. It was the end of February when the mourning dove couple returned to their nest. I feel slightly less worried now. If we are all hurtling toward some cataclysmic climate change cliff, is it wrong to be grateful that it also comes with cooing mourning doves and a few sunny warm days in February?

I read the news and despair. I stop reading the news and feel guilty. Shouldn't I know what's going on? A friend stops over spur of the moment and we walk around my neighborhood, marveling at how lovely the weather is. After she leaves, I am restless. I try to write some more in the book I'm writing. I try to read some more in the book I'm reading. I give up on both and take another walk, this time with the dog. 

She trots along with her tail wagging, pausing every now and then to wriggle on her back in the grass. She loves spring. I don't have the heart to tell her it's winter. At the toddler story time, a little girl shows up early with her dad. She couldn't wait for this, the dad tells me. She's been talking about it all week. 

Me too, I say, and I laugh because I realize I actually mean it. 

The little girl whispers something to her father and he nods and says, She wants to know if you're going to do the Wheels on the Bus song. 

We sure are! I say, and the little girl squeals and claps her hands. Later, when the room fills up with kids and their grown-ups, we all squeal and clap our hands. 

How are we blessed with this kind of happiness, the kind that delights in silly songs and wriggles on its back in the sun? How did we ever lose it? 

How do we remember and hold on?

Sunday, February 4, 2024

10 Things I Learned from Doing the Toddler Story-time at the Library

1. It is a full-blown workout. This is not the sit quietly on the floor with your legs crossed kind of story-time. This is singing at the top of your lungs with hand motions, rolling, bouncing, hopping, rocking in a pretend boat and driving a pretend car. When it's over, we are all ready for naptime. 

2. It's a big bummer when the bubble machine breaks, but the toddlers get over the disappointment fast, happy to wave the brightly colored gauzy scarves I've passed out and/or shake the rattly egg-shaped shakers. 

3. Everyone likes being greeted by the sheep puppet. Even the shyest kids, the ones hiding behind their grown-up's legs. One glimpse of the sheep puppet and they're timidly toddling over to boop the puppet's nose. 

4. Boop by Bea Birdsong is a good book to read to two-year-olds. Boop, if you don't know it, is a story (and I use the word story generously here) about a dog and his nose and how it's everyone's job to give the nose a little boop-y tap. The story builds with other comically drawn dogs all wanting their noses to be booped and ends with the directive to boop your own nose. 

5. I was nervous before I did this story-time, thinking about other teaching and public speaking experiences I've had (a lot), but realizing that my experience with the toddler set is zero. Unless, you count my own kids, but that was so long ago, can I even remember it? 

6. I can.

7. When you're speaking to any audience, it's good to scan the crowd, pause here and there to look someone in the eye, smile. This works with toddlers too. It helps if you're sitting on the floor with them. It helps if you've got a sheep puppet on your hand. 

8. The songs will stick in your head for days. (For a fun example of this, try: "Driving in My Car." You've been warned.)

9. There is a lot of planning involved in story-time. Choosing a book that can hold a small child's attention, the music and rhymes and particular fingerplays. The set up. The take down. The sanitizing of toys, which all inevitably went straight into someone's mouth. But I like this kind of planning. And I don't mind the clean up. 

Gathering up scarves and eggs, I have a flashback of my young mother self, picking cheerios off the carpet and sanitizing the teething rings, the weird quiet in the house after the kids have been put to bed, knowing the noisy busy day will start again tomorrow, with the crying, the giggling, the whining, the kisses. How never-ending those days were and then, one day they ended and are gone forever-- 

10.  until you sign up to do the toddler story-time at the library.