The Climb

I am at the top of the seven-mile climb and have already paused my watch, have my phone in hand and am ready to record the view, vastly different from yesterday’s downhill meandering. At that exact moment, my oldest calls me from 1200 miles away, tears caught in her throat before she can fully say hello.

There I stand, at the top of the bike path as cyclists whiz past, waving, acknowledging, or ignoring my very private conversation, completely unaware of the pain that crosses the miles.

I just wanted a picture. A moment to myself. That ever-satisfactory moment of redemption only a cyclist can truly appreciate. Because unlike hiking up to the top of a mountain where the downhill return can be just as challenging, unlike the easy ride of a chairlift to a blustery peak followed by a set of skis pointed downhill, there is a deep-rooted satisfaction in your quads building, your breath running out, your energy sapped, your pedals pushing, that will soon be released into a rush of downhill glory once you have reached the top of that hill.

 

I have made the climb, and now I must make the talk. It isn’t easy. It never is. Not when they’re two days old and won’t wake up or won’t stop crying, not when they’re two years old and won’t listen, not when they’re twelve and won’t do anything with you anymore, not when they’re seventeen and still need your advice no matter how far they’ve flown.

And so I stop. I listen. I console. I advise. I calm her.

And I click into my pedals and head back down the other end of this glorious hill for the glorious downhill home, the view, the path, the beating sun, the other cyclists, the climb behind me.

Knowing that there will be another path to take tomorrow. Another strenuous climb or an easy meandering jaunt. Knowing that she may call, that my boy may cry, that my youngest might resent me for always forgetting her, my middle child will likely toss her snarkiness my way, that there will be a million more incidents like the call I just took at the top of that hill.

Knowing that I can still have my moment because this, THIS is my moment. Being their mom. Whether I’m pedaling up or clicking back in for the thrill-ride down, they are with me.

They are part of the climb, the downhill, the wind blowing at my back or in my face, the muscles I build and the pain and joy and exhilaration and love that is cycling.

They are this picture from the top of every hill, blue and perfect, clouds waiting. Life.

They are my life.

 

Coronatine, Day Thirty-six (10×10)

I’ve made it to the final day of gratitude! The ten last bits of gratitude for the Coronatine.

  1. Always love a bike ride. We wore the new masks my friend made, even though I’ll admit they weren’t wholly necessary because I planned a route that did not involve crowds (I have avoided the Cherry Creek path like the plague, pun intended).
  2. We stopped at a local cafe. Of course, it wasn’t the same. We couldn’t sit down, we couldn’t have a nice brunch, but we could still get some lattes and support a local business and tip the server with a 50% tip.
  3. While we were riding, we saw the Thunderbirds fly right over us on 12th Avenue!
  4. I spent a lot of time this morning reviewing our budget. I rarely do, and in fact don’t really deal with our money because Bruce is a money master. But I think it might be possible, if we are very careful, to live on my salary (which they’re already threatening might be frozen soon) and our savings for a year, so hopefully, that will give the economy enough time to recover and Bruce to be able to find work.
  5. Speaking of that salary, I am SO GRATEFUL that I just got a raise on March 1 because of my National Board Certification. What a difference that will make!
  6. I reorganized the garage, the hall closet, and the basement storage room to make more space for stocking up on supplies while we still have two paychecks. It really is nice to have time to do this without the craziness of working so many hours, especially since Bruce was going to be laid off anyway before the quarantine was put in place.
  7. I really do work at an amazing place with extremely dedicated teachers and students. Our school’s weekly news show has continued during this crazy time, and this week included an in-depth interview with an NFL player who graduated from South in 2004. He couldn’t stop talking about how influential his teachers were and how his experiences traveling to New York on a student trip and participating in the musical made high school so special. It’s so nice to hear that and to know how important schools are in the lives of students.
  8. My counselor colleague helped me (through a Facebook post) avoid paying the AP exam fees for the four AP exams for Izzy and Mythili! I really hope that this virus will help everyone realize what a scam standardized tests are. I’m so over the College Board and AP. It’s a bait and switch, most colleges won’t give you credit, and most students can’t get the score they need anyway. So I’m hopeful that all of these tests will become less important in the future.
  9. In cleaning out the garage, I found the tent stakes I’ve been meaning to put in the tent bag, and since a neighbor girl needed to earn a Girl Scout badge by setting up a tent and didn’t have her own, the tent was already out! I have been trying to get those stakes into that stake bag for three years, and it took coronavirus to make it happen!
  10. Let’s hope we can camp this summer, or at least go on hikes. Let’s just keep hoping that something is gonna give, soon. Testing, isolation, whatever it takes. Because we gotta make this work for our world. We just gotta.

Coronatine, Day Thirty-two (10×6)

More than a month. We’re more than a month into this. Here goes day six of ten things I’m thankful for during this daily hell.

  1. Despite my husband being an essential worker, it seems that all of us are still healthy. Of course, it’s possible that we have it and are asymptomatic, but hopefully, that’s not the case.
  2. My mom made us these great masks. I’m grateful to have my parents still here, still healthy, still ready to help when needed. Even though we can’t hug, we can still see each other, and I can’t wait for the day when we can all get together and have a family dinner.  Grandparents are so essential to childhood, and my mother has spent endless hours teaching my girls to sew, draw, and paint. I can’t wait for her to have that time with them again.
  3. Speaking of masks, my first friend in Denver has been making hundreds to give away. She is a massage therapist, so her business has shut down. Now she’s using her healing hands to help the world. I first met her when I was eleven years old, where I moved to a very diverse and crowded Merrill Middle School after a very sheltered upbringing in an upstate New York town of 300 people. She was sitting behind me in math class, and when we compared our schedules, we realized we had every class together, including G/T, and became immediate friends. Just like that. I knew she was a golden soul, and she’s still shining her light in the world.
  4. Light (again). We had two FREEZING, snowy days, but of course, the Denver sun has returned, and isn’t it perfect?
  5. It is refreshing to see how many corporations are now working for the greater good. Distilleries making hand sanitizer. Sports equipment companies making PPE. We live in a capitalistic world, but at least it can help when we need help.
  6. Speaking of corporations and bringing a little more hope, NPR reports today that two of the biggest pharmaceutical competitors are working together to develop a vaccine. I feel that this is just another sign that the world will change after this is over. Companies, led by HUMANS, will realize that the common good is more important than the common dollar.
  7. And… maybe this quarantine is working? Though there were more deaths today, the hospital bed use is flattening. So people CAN collectively come together for the greater good. Hopefully they’ll remember in November!
  8. And now for a personal news report: Izzy asked me for advice about two essays she was writing today. My fiercely-independent 17-year-old hasn’t asked about homework since middle school, so this was a Coronatine-homeschooling-groundbreaking moment.
  9. With “homeschooling” comes so much extra time for art. For listening to music. For crying over our favorite songs and books and movies. And for my middle Mythili to create for me, with Avett Brothers lyrics, this beautiful picture on Procreate (through the iPad) that I cannot WAIT to one day print. I gave her the lines from the song and she created an image that is so me in every way with that beautiful full moon over us all.
  10. I almost even feel like a good mother! And according to one of my students who graduated almost four years ago, I am! Out of the blue, he wrote me a beautiful, detailed letter of gratitude. This is a student who’d seen two wars in his life, in Iraq and Syria, and worked tirelessly to finish high school in fewer than four years, finishing just as he was turning twenty-one. This is the student who sat in my room every morning, every lunch period, but would never eat; he would only study. (I hated how he wouldn’t eat, and often said so, and he mentioned this in the letter: “The things I faced before when I came to America are very hard and almost no one can survive if they live it.  The transition to life in America developed gradually, once we accustomed to the norms and culture everything started becoming easy.”) He writes to me now about how much I influenced his life, about what a great mother and teacher I am, about how much I encouraged him. And of course, being the selfless human that he is, he wants to help translate for my Newcomers, has already spent time translating for the Red Cross.

How lucky am I, thirty-two days into this hell? How lucky are we?

This actually wasn’t that hard to write after all. Be grateful.

Coronatine, Day Twenty-nine (10×3)

Here we go. It’s a Saturday, so it’s automatically easier for me to write this because my husband is at home. All you all out there who get tired of your spouse’s company, I’m sorry. I never get tired of mine.

Ten things for today that I am grateful for during the quarantine.

  1. Setting up the sprinklers. In our first house, we had a sprinkler system, and it was nothing but a nightmare. It was old, needed thousands of dollars of work on a regular basis, once burst in November and flooded our basement… I could go on. We change up our yard constantly, and not having a sprinkler system gives us the flexibility to do so. In Denver, with its endless sun, sprinklers are necessary to have greenery, and it’s a sign of spring.
  2. I have a second job. It’s mostly a curse, but I start a new class tomorrow, and I am grateful for that. I’m grateful that I’ve been doing online teaching for eleven years, and I have a pretty good idea of how it works, now that I’ve been thrust into it full time. The University of Phoenix doesn’t pay much, but in the year leading up to and the year in Spain, I had back-to-back courses, and it was literally the deciding factor in us being able to live there or not when I made virtually NO money with what the Spanish government offered. So… I keep on keeping on with this job. Sometimes it’s just a vacation fund, but right now it’s going to save our asses, again, with paying actual bills.
  3. Speaking of online learning… Screencastify is pretty much an awesome Chrome extension that I’d never heard of and now love. I have tried Flipgrid as well, but it sucks in comparison. I love being able to record videos on Screencastify that show both my face and the screen so that students know just where to click. Google has it figured out.
  4. Riona decided to get creative with the pancakes this morning, and Mythili joined in. I have a couple of little artists in these two.
  5. Egg coloring. We are not a religious family, so Easter is really just a celebration of spring. This is an extremely rare activity that ALL children agreed to do together, so as the parent of four teenagers, I call this a parenting win! And it is so nice out today that we were able to do it outside! Fabian, of course, had no idea what I was talking about, and he was mildly intrigued by this strange celebration.
  6. Riona wanted to mail art supplies to one friend and deliver some to another, so we fit in a bike ride. Everything is always better with a bike ride.
  7. The peas are coming up! I was a bit wary, but I’m happy to see them fighting the good fight.
  8. Riona finally started doing her piano lesson through FaceTime, and it has instantly motivated her to practice more! We’re trying to enjoy these last couple of months of piano lessons, because it’s something that will be unattainable soon…
  9. Speaking of artists, it’s so heartwarming to see all the artists coming together online to sing Hamilton songs or Carole King songs or have online choirs, dance routines, museum exhibits, etc…. We can’t officially call them essential workers, but art literally makes life worth living. And what do we all turn to when we are trapped at home? TV shows, movies, music, books, visual arts.
  10. Light. Pure sunlight. This is why I live in Denver and nowhere else. But in my bedroom, I’ve suffered for 4.5 years with very little light because we stupidly bought this massive king-sized bed before moving into the house. We’d been together for eighteen years and had never had a king-sized bed, so we were so excited to get it delivered the day we moved in that we didn’t take time to measure. And it has covered half of this south-facing window for the entire occupation of the Dream House. Bruce suggested cutting it down and placing the slate tiles onto the other part, admitting he didn’t have the tools to do so… But today, as we were folding laundry, he pointed out that we could just remove it. And, voila, boy-who-lives-with-us-and-can-carry-it-out-with-him, that headboard is gone! And there is SO MUCH LIGHT. My “home office” is brighter, my room is brighter, and goddamn it if my life isn’t lighter!

This is why I really don’t mind having my husband at home. He makes my quarantine so much more tolerable.

Coronatine, Day Twenty-seven (10×1)

I’ve been bitching a lot (and crying a lot), so here goes: ten good things about quarantine for ten days straight.

No promises. But I will try.

  1. I actually love being alone. The older I get, the more introverted I feel. I have very few actual friends anyway (the blessing and curse of being overly opinionated), and see them infrequently, which is fine with me. So the social distancing aspect is not challenging for me at all.
  2. Dinner. Isn’t it every working mom’s nightmare to be running between work and children’s activities and trying to do laundry and trying to grade papers and trying to keep a clean house… and trying to come up with a dinner idea every night? Well, now that I’m home all the time, I can set out meat early in the day (see yesterday’s post, haha) and pull up recipes well before noon. I can easily fit in a meal plan without feeling pressured or rushed.
  3. My garden. You are about to be overloaded with images of flowers and vegetables. Raised beds. Compost piles. Green grass growing. Perfect pink crabapple and redbuds blooming. Weed-pulling. The two hundred plants that fill my yard and take hundreds of hours of work to truly care for… hundreds of hours that I now actually have at a time of the school year that is normally jam-packed with so many activities that I can barely breathe. Well, now I can breathe.
  4. My dog. Sleeps on my legs and keeps me up half the night, cuddles right up against wherever I’m sitting and takes naps throughout the day. Jumps into my lap for extra cuddles and when he fears I might be considering going back to work. Never says no to me when I want to take him on walk number eighty-six. Trots happily beside me, leash or no leash. Has no idea why none of us ever leave anymore, but couldn’t be happier. There is no purer love than a puppy’s love.
  5. Not having to pack a lunch. Just feeling hungry at whatever random time, combining various leftovers from the fridge and never having to lug the Tupperware, the lunch bag, the silverware, the cloth napkin back and forth and forth and back.
  6. The mute and no camera features during virtual meetings which occur 90% less frequently than the endlessly wasteful meetings I normally sit through. I just want my thoughts, not my face, on the screen. It’s quite magical to have that sense of privacy, to be able to listen without being watched to see what my reaction might be.
  7. Casual Friday every. Fucking. Day. I think my comfy clothes alone could make this time actually magical.
  8. Never having to deal with silencing and unsilencing my phone. So simple, so redeeming.
  9. Seeing my children blossom in different ways (when they’re not driving me crazy). Riona building up her YouTube Channel, taking on art challenges, endlessly chatting with friends on FaceTime, getting all her schoolwork done with zero nagging and her handy checklist when I can’t ever get her to do homework on a normal day, giving me hugs, helping me when I ask for help, and being her ever-sweet self. Mythili taking walks or bike rides with me, never commenting on the length or the speed, working on her digital and painted artwork for hours or days, piecing together puzzles, easily managing her homework. Izzy creating coffee drinks to share with everyone, garnering followers with her quick TikTok videos, working on her badminton skills and perfecting how to curl her hair (often letting me braid it just like when she was a little girl). Fabian never once complaining, helping around the house before ever being asked, pulling a too-heavy compost bin off me with the strength of an ox, building a weight with a bar and some chopped old logs, getting his schoolwork done before the rest of the class meets on Google Meets each day at 1pm.
  10. I am so damn lucky to live in Denver. In a city with a thousand days of sun. With easygoing neighborhoods and walking-distance parks. With snow today, gone tomorrow. With a liberal governor and mayor who offer support for all people, broken-not-broken, immigrant or citizen, homeless or homed. With a network of streets that you could spend your life meandering through and never get lost. With my beautiful school across the street from the greatest park ever known. With bike lanes and bike paths everywhere. With everything I need to feel safe in this nightmare of unsafety.