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Thursday, October 29, 2020

How to Tell You've got a 'Tween

Hurricane Zeta made landfall at our house late last night. We live inland, so the catastrophe here wasn’t as devastating as the folks who live right on the coast, but our yard is dense with trees. We have centuries old hardwoods mixed with Georgia Pines, and that combination mixed with rain and forty-mile per-hour winds is almost a guaranteed power outage.

This morning when I woke at seven am, to the sounds of muffled voices and flashlights beaming through the dark house, I realized that once again we were out of power. I am a fairly organic girl and there are many luxuries I can temporarily live without: water, electricity, current weather alerts, but not being able to have my morning coffee? Now that’s a little rough. I have to admit that my morning pick-me-up is definitely on the high-needs essential list. 

I sat up in bed, rubbing my eyes as I remembered that I ordered a two-hundred-and-fifty-watt mini portable generator on Amazon Prime Day a few weeks ago! I tripped over a pair of shoes before I was able to locate my glasses as I reached instead for the flashlight on my phone. I made my way over to the electric outlet I had it plugged the generator into and sat it proudly on the counter. In real life, the object was much smaller than it appeared online, but what the heck. I was ready to try out my new emergency survival toy. 

 The cords behind the coffee pot were all tangled but after fishing around for a few seconds I was able to unplug the cord and stick it into the socket of the generator and flip the switch to “on.” I could already imagine the caffeine flowing through my veins and before I even got the coffee filter out, Senia Mae came around the corner and spotted the generator. “We have a generator?” she said with excitement. I stood there proudly, feeling like I was taking care of my family like any wilderness prepared Mama would. “Can we plug in the wi-fi?” 

 “What?” I spat back at her. “I was going to use this for things that are necessary… like a cup of coffee or for plugging our phones in when they go dead.”

 “Netflix is kind of necessary,” Senia Mae said and I realized that gone were the days of us sitting in bed, snuggled up to each other shoulder to shoulder, while reading her favorite story. She was now a tween who had been sucked into the black hole of the internet. Who was I to say what was necessary and what should be considered “essential?”

 Of course, our needs were going to differ, and in general she’s a really good kid, sensitive and empathetic. Not this morning. Suddenly she’s all into her Hanna Montana-ish shows. So after the coffee brewed we found the cord for the router and plugged it into the generator. Now everyone is happy, I’m sitting on the porch watching the wet leaves blow, drinking my coffee as my daughter sits on the couch with her iPad. In a bit I’ll pry the device out of her hands and we’ll go take a walk on the dirt road to assess the damage. There will probably be some resistance on her end, but I’m not going to waste all of our limited electricity on wi-fi. I’ve given each of us just enough of our fix so we don’t get forced into detox!

Friday, May 8, 2020

How I Almost Flashed the UPS Guy

Twelve years ago, when Kim and I were still in the planning phase of having a baby, I imagined our volleyball court sized front yard, then mostly hardened patches of red clay with a few sparse clumps of weeds, as a grassy area for our future child to play. After years of sodding, seeding, and now even hydro-seeding, we actually have a plush little patch of green that, even with my best efforts, still gets overrun with weeds.

Fast forward a little over a decade. We are in week seven of social distancing and solitary confinement, which may as well be house arrest, trying to slow the spread of the pandemic Coronavirus. For a month and a half we have been assisting the public school teachers with home schooling our ten-year-old daughter, now in the fourth grade, as she longs to be with her friends and we long for life to get back to normal. The tight confinement has caused us all to re-evaluate our appreciation of togetherness and become acutely aware of just how much togetherness causes us to go stir crazy and argue more than normal.

Two Saturdays ago, Kim and I dropped Senia Mae off at Grammy and Grampy's house for a little social distancing of our own. We all needed some time apart and some fresh perspectives. I needed a change of scenery and a break from my new normal which included two things: binge watching Netflix and rebuilding the rotten side deck with Trex decking. Before we pulled out of their driveway we had the top down on the convertible and Randy Travis swooned and crooned with his velvety voice bellowing out over the open road. As we cruised up 441, the wind blew through our hair, secretly cleansing our hearts and minds of this Corona craziness.

We didn't do a whole lot of talking during the drive, but being together in a more invigorating environment seemed to remind us of what we actually liked about each other. It was almost like hitting the refresh button on our relationship, an innate form of marriage counseling when nothing else was a viable option during the crisis.

Today, after what feels like many weeks later, Senia Mae is finally done with her online schooling. They are allowing the students to finish the year early if they have completed all of their assignments and Kim rewarded our daughter with a new set of Legos for receiving all A's. Senia Mae begged me to help her put together bags three and four of the Lego set, and although I had several things to do on my task list, I felt I hadn't spent much quality time with her lately besides nagging her to get schoolwork done. I plunked down at the dining room table toting my reading glasses and a hot cup of coffee, ready and rearing to go.

After an hour or so of me picking the microscopic pieces out of the pile and her doing the fun part of putting it together, she was deeply engaged in assembling a glow in the dark claw bridge. I quietly pushed my chair away from the table and snuck outside to look over the new patio set I ordered myself as a prize for finally finishing up the deck.
There it was: two curved chairs with pull out ottomans set apart by a cute little accent table. I made my way over to the edge of the deck and heard Senia Mae hollering after me. "Mama," she said in her mock you're in trouble voice, "We're not done building Legos!" I sighed in defeat.

"Senia Mae, that set is gi-normous," I pleaded. "It has over fourteen hundred pieces. We don't need to complete the whole thing in one sitting." I turned around and fluffed the throw pillows, placed them nicely on the two curved backs, then dusted the topsoil off the scarlet begonia before sitting it in near the back of the glass- topped accent table. I just wanted one minute to pull out the ottoman and test out the comfort of the chair. We had been stuck in the house all morning. I leaned back in the chair, stretching out my legs and adjusting the pillow so it supported the right spot, then closed my eyes as I basked in the morning sun.

We were fortunate to live in a private, wood-lined yard where we were somewhat hidden from the neighbors. The warm rays felt so good that I pulled off my top and laid there in just my pants and bra, letting the sun's radiance soak into my into my ghostly white midriff, turning my face to the sky and enjoying the wonderful gift I was receiving. Nowadays I felt a little too lumpy to sport a bikini with confidence, so my abdomen rarely saw the light of day. My assistant always said that toasted cheese is better than white cheese when referring to cellulite. Today I was toasting it up, letting my skin absorb as much vitamin D as possible.

Senia Mae then found her soccer ball hiding under the deck and began kicking it around the front yard which, over the years, has become the home to multiple obstacle courses, multi faceted dog training arenas, and lately a micro soccer field. A moment later I joined her in the grass, punting the ball back and forth as the sun warmed my bare skin. The feeling was so fabulous and freeing. Just then I realized that my dream from years ago had come to fruition.

Here we were, my daughter and I, playing ball in the grass just like I had envisioned before she was born. My heart soared with a primal sort of happiness, like all was right in the world. The dogs lounged lazily on the walkway as we laughed, playing around like a couple of kids, free and light in the open air. It felt like a scene from a movie, utterly perfect in that moment.

Then something changed. The dogs tore up the hill barking furiously. Senia Mae panicked and yelled, "Mama, it's the UPS guy! Get your shirt back on!" I pivoted around and grabbed my long sleeved shirt, throwing it on with such fury that the tag was in the front, the vee neck facing the back. We waited to hear the sound of tires crushing the gravel or squeaky brakes and shocks bouncing down the dirt road. Nothing.

Eventually the dogs came back down to the house and we realized it was a false alarm. It must have been a twig or a falling acorn that ruined what felt to me like a once in a lifetime precious moment. Before I knew it we were back in the house putting more Legos together. Part of me wanted to go back outside and re-create what we had just experienced before the bark invasion and the flashing UPS guy panic, but it was too late. I decided to just enjoy our time together however we spent it because it is impossible to recreate the past. It is also impossible to predict the future... but when it actually happens... wow. There are no appropriate words.

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Everybody's Changing and I Don't Feel the Same

The dinging of my phone woke me from my only deep sleep I was getting that night. I shifted in bed feeling the pulling ache in my hips. The tightness in my shoulders reminded me of my age and questioning why I thought those acrobatic moves earlier, trying to tighten the lag on the Edison lights from the twelve foot light post in my driveway, were a smart idea.

Who's sending me a text message this late? I thought to myself. If it's after 11 p.m. I automatically shift into mom mode and assume someone must be dead or severely injured. It was my niece Savannah.

Savannah:
Are you guys free to go to home depot around 2 tomorrow?
I am selling my electric piano on let it go and am meeting someone I don't know in public.
Don't want to be alone just in case

Me:
Yes, that's fine.

To be honest I was thrilled to have an excuse to escape the Shelter in Place order. I mean I want to be a good citizen and keep COVID-19 at bay but, being forced to stay at home is rough. The weather has been sunny and 80 degrees, meeting Savannah would be the perfect reason to take a joyride in my Mini convertible. What better way to ward off a nasty virus than immune boosting sunlight and fresh air?

The next day I looked at my watch just as we had crossed the third task off our "We've got time now that we're stuck at home" chore list. It was time for me to meet Savannah. I was glad she was being smart and having someone else present for the transaction.

I circled the parking lot twice and didn't see Savannah's blue Nissan, which was really fine because the longer this took the longer my freedom. Then decided I should be a responsible aunt and text her.

Me:
Where you at?

Savannah:
Oh I just pulled in to the back of parking lot by car wash. I see you driving towards me... lol.

Savannah had her window down as I pulled in opposite her so our driver's doors were facing each other. "Thanks for meeting me,"
she said.

"No problem. It feels good to be getting out of the house and it is very responsible of you to have someone else here. Are they here yet?"

"No. He said he should be here in a couple of minutes." Within a minute a white Toyota Camry pulled up to us. "Are you Savannah?" the man, probably in his mid-forties shouted out the window at me. I shook my head no and pointed to the left where Savannah was stepping out of her car.

He was buying the piano for his son who was probably fourteen or so. They had brought an extension cord and an adapter that turned the cigarette lighter into an outlet so they could make sure the piano worked. Before we knew it Savannah and John (the dad) had the electric piano set up, they had wiped the whole thing down with Clorox wipes, and the son just sat down and began playing.

I was leaning against the light post, watching this boys fingers move so beautifully across the keys, right here in the middle of a once busy but now that we're on restrictions no so busy parking lot.

"How great is this?" I asked. "That we can't be within six feet of each other because of this crazy virus, but we can stand here in the sunshine and enjoy a lovely concert in the parking lot." The boy laughed and continued to play the Coldplay song he was hammering out.

"You know if you put out a tip jar I bet every person walking into that store would start throwing money at you. You could probably pay for this piano." I smiled and continued to watch him, they way he was so comfortable on the bench, his playing seemingly effortless.

"Do you take any requests?" He laughed again.

"I'm just learning," he said.

"There's a song that came out around the same time Coldplay came out...probably fifteen years ago, by a band named Keane. The song is Everything's Changing and I don't Feel the Same. It's got a real cool piano riff and come to think of it... that might be the most appropriate song amidst all of this COVID craziness."

I'm not really sure if he understood what I was saying. The fact that we're so isolated from each other that the way we connect is by playing an electric piano in a parking lot is... strange. Everything's Changing and I Don't Feel the Same. How appropriate. Everything is changing but some things that don't have to change is our humanness or our need for connection in whatever way we can get it, especially during this stressful time.

So I would like to thank my niece Savannah for getting me out and I would like to thank that young boy for playing such wonderful music in the middle of a parking lot and letting me enjoy something so simple while allowing me to forget, just for a moment, what a crazy world we live in.

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Snowy Days, Great Memories

Snow days in Georgia are rare, so when we actually get one, we try to make sure we appreciate Mother Nature to her fullest. It always humors me when I realize that we've had next to no lake activity for months but as soon as it starts snowing we're just drawn to the water: hot tub, lake, whatever.

Years ago, before we got our foam dock floats replaced, our covered steel dock would often sink in the snow. Kim and I would have to scramble, quickly hopping in the paddle boat and kayak to tap the heavy weight off the roof in hopes of getting it on top of the water again. Today we are just appreciating the beauty of winter.

This morning we all sat in the hot tub with our coffees. Senia Mae, of course, made a snowball and started eating it. After a few tasty morsels she turned to me and said, "Wanna bite?" And in a moment of un-adultness I said yes.

Instantly I remembered that cold, crunchy flavor of real snow... gritty, a little dirty, but unbelievably a flavor that brought me back to my childhood in Massachusetts where winters always meant hours outside building igloos, sledding, and yes... eating snow.

The taste sent me into a time warp when I, too, was ten and the most scrumptious meals were in the form of snowballs and icicles. What were your best snow day memories? Send me your your winter snow day pictures. I'd love to see them.