A Bloody Mess

I don’t want to write a poem tonight. I want to bury my hands in these tomatoes, torn from the garden before the Polar Vortex stole my summer, before we ruined the Earth, before I ruined my daughter’s life. My daughter who, two years ago, proudly backpacked twenty-one miles in three days with me, never once saying it was too steep, her legs were too sore, that I was too much. My daughter who won’t even talk to me now and told me on our last camping trip that she only brought Vans, wouldn’t do a hike with me, and hates camping.

Instead I chop the last carrots, mince the onions and garlic, boil the water so the tomatoes will shed their thin skins and slip through my hands into the pot like the bloody mess that they are. The bloody mess that I am.

Now her sour mouth that she so frequents in our house has moved to the online classroom in bitter words towards teachers she barely knows, and just like everything, of course it’s my fault.

It’s my fault that I cuss out Trump and Republicans and incompetency with guttural indifference every chance I get.

That I share my opinions too blatantly with everyone I know, hence why I have so few friends.

That my girls think they can say anything they want to anyone they want and not regret it.

That I can grow a garden but not be strong enough or patient enough to save it when the time comes, when the weather report comes in and I leave half the green tomatoes on the vine, give up on the remaining zucchini, its parched flowers sucking up the snowflakes like lifeblood, half of the basil dripping from the kitchen basket, waiting to die.

Isn’t that what we are all doing, as Hemingway loathingly loved to tell us? Waiting to die?

I wish she could be in my arms again, mimicking everything her older sister said, taking two pieces of anything–sticks or pasta or dolls–and creating endless stories with characters as varied as the high school she now attends. I wish she could be my Spain girl who translated everything for Daddy by month two, who made a friend on day one, who was the only one who wanted to learn all about the Roman coliseum on a date day with me in our small city.

I wish she could be herself, not this hollow version of herself whom I fear I’ve created, carved out, destroyed.

And I wish she would come out of her room and eat her favorite meal, pasta with my hard-earned, homemade sauce, just the way my Italian grandmother used to make it with the cut-up carrots to sweeten the acidity, to tone down the bitter taste, to remember why fresh is best.

But it’s a snowy September, I don’t have a poem, and all I can do is say goodbye to my gardens.

They’ve grown up. And they hate the snow.

Coronatine, Day Thirty-four (10×8)

So grateful for:

  1. My pup in my lap. Even though he got a new bed. He’s very warm on a cold day.
  2. We played cards last night for Mythili’s “Yes Day.” She managed to explain Egyptian Rat Slap to me in a way I could easily explain it to Fabian, and everyone had a good time with it coming down to a contest between Mythili and Fabian!
  3. Being able to make French toast and eggs with strawberries on a Thursday morning.
  4. I was so happy to deliver food again today for one of my Newcomer families.
  5. The Facebook page #aworldofhearts. This page is so inspiring, and our heart picture (V for Vittetoe and Victory over Virus!) is, well, heartwarming every time I’m walking home.
  6. My orchid is fully bloomed. Bruce got this for me for my birthday three years ago, and it’s fully bloomed for this year’s Coronatine birthday.
  7. Streaming services. It’s not just Netflix, but Amazon Prime, Apple Music, and Pandora. I use the music ones more than the video ones. I love being able to listen to whatever music I choose, commercial-free, all day and night.
  8. My dog loves the snow, and he was pretty grumpy when I got him all shaved and it started to get cold. Today he finally felt confident enough to really play in the snow, and he had a blast! Muey3gWUR86%vEq3gC0jQg
  9. My move streak. Not including today, I’ve managed a 207-day streak. I’m hoping to make it to a year just like David Sedaris!
  10. After two days of using the district-created lesson plans, I am very pleased and will continue to use them. Each one leads to great questions for the kids to practice in our daily video chat.

Coronatine, Day Thirty-three (10×7)

I can do four more days of gratitude, right? Because I am getting anxious to return to my usual bitching.

  1. This Little Free Library. I was walking the dog in my neighborhood and saw this! Hilarious! And it’s at the house of a woman in my book club.
  2. To go along with the toilet paper theme, a trip to Costco led to the longest line of my life, but first: toilet paper. Toilet paper displayed where one usually puts hot tubs or tents or magical camping pads or the latest in cruise trips… Toilet paper that has won its place in Coronatine history. Toilet paper crammed down every last aisle till we couldn’t possibly think that we ever hoarded it, that it would ever disappear, that we were hopeless.
  3. I know I wrote about masks yesterday, but my mom made me a couple more, and this one matches my jacket! And it’s actually kind of cool to see the fashionista masks appearing in the stores these days (see video, where you can also witness the endlessly long line)!
  4. This is something disturbingly new, and as a high school teacher with three kids in high school at the moment, it’s so important: March was the first month since 2002 that we haven’t had a school shooting! I guess it just took a pandemic to tone down gun violence…
  5. Howling at the moon at 8pm! Denver’s trending with this, a way to thank healthcare workers for the major sacrifices they’re making, and I couldn’t be happier to go out and ring my cowbell and rile up my dog every night.
  6. While I haven’t loved the snow after seeing that it killed my rhubarb, Denver is just not a rainy city, and I have loved seeing how green the grass is getting after the recent storm. More snow tomorrow means more green grass. More green grass just makes spring feel sweet.
  7. I got an email from the SPED team at school saying they haven’t been able to contact the family of a recently-arrived student of mine who is hard of hearing, and they’re trying to get an IEP going. Well, I was able to share my Google Meet link, my former student from Iraq also logged in,  her brother logged in, and the hearing coordinator logged in… There was a lot of translation and chaos, as always during these meetings with sixteen teenagers on the line, but we got our message across! People are really doing their best to help our students out, and I have been truly impressed with the efforts put forth by our school district. And I am still so grateful for my former student who was willing to help me out!
  8. Speaking of the school district, after I have failed at having the kids use Flipgrid AND ESL Library online, I finally decided to use one of the lessons that my school district made for the Newcomers today, and it was SO much better! It was a Google Doc, much easier for them to follow, and they even took the time to make an audio recording. I think DPS has really come around to support students through this crisis in many ways, not only with lessons like this, but having multiple device distributions, connecting students to free or low-cost internet, and consistently providing breakfast and lunch every day. I really am proud to work here (even though my “here” is at home at the moment).
  9. I do hate Zoom meetings, but I reluctantly logged on tonight and (mostly) actively participated in our book club! It really was good to “see” everyone, to talk about the book, and to share our Coronatine stories. Plus we got to see some pets and kids, and that always makes it more fun. And I had a good laugh with my book club friend who had the Little Free Library with the TP!
  10. The girls all got to chat with their grandparents today while dropping off some meds. So nice to have Izzy as a driver. AND they told me that they really did follow the rules and stayed on the porch. It’ll never be the same as a real visit, but at least it’s something!

Coronatine, Day Thirty-one (10×5)

Not gonna lie, this is getting harder day by day. But here are today’s ten things I love about you, Coronatine.

  1. Snow. Say what you will about snow in April, but just listen to this video. All you will hear is… the soft sound of snow and some birds. No traffic. The world is so quiet right now, as if it needed a rest.
  2. With a quiet world in quarantine, it is nice to see reports of how much air pollution has decreased throughout the world. Being able to see the Himalayas. The air quality in Chinese cities improving. Even NYC has much clearer air. Maybe this quarantine will give us an idea of how much we really should cut back; that we can survive on much less and still have a good life. And we can actually try to save the Earth we have been destroying for so long.
  3. Fabian has not been very motivated to learn English or to watch the videos online. But he finally came upstairs and sat with me for an hour, reading a whole passage in English about Ramadan, answering questions, and really understood a lot. It was a major breakthrough, and I hope we can continue this every day.
  4. Even though they bitterly argued with me yesterday about having to do so, all the girls did get up at 8:30 today as I asked. I want to have some semblance of a routine, and sleeping till noon is not working for our family.
  5. Speaking of the girls, I allowed Izzy to take Riona to the pet store to get things from the pet store for her new cat, and Izzy took her to Chik-Fil-A as well. They both agreed to wear the masks (finally!) though I need to encourage Izzy to wear hers the right way.
  6. A friend of mine suggested a Yes Day for each kid to choose something that everyone in the family has to participate in. I met with the kids yesterday, and they agreed. So we’re having our first event tonight, organized by Riona: Monopoly!
  7. My Newcomers have consistently logged into my office hours every day. Almost every student. They love seeing each other’s faces, talking over each other, and just being their crazy selves. My paras have also both been logging on, and I review each day’s work and they help translate. It takes a village!
  8. Bruce didn’t have to work today since he works this Saturday, so he’s making meatloaf tonight, everyone’s favorite!
  9. Social media. Say what you will… but can you imagine being stuck in quarantine during the 80s? With nothing on TV, no internet, and no one to communicate with? Social media allows an escape, but it also allows a connection. I use it for news updates more than anything else (I probably read 20 articles a day from news agencies I follow or that my friends post), I connect with others (even got a phone call from someone I haven’t talked to in ten years based on something I’d posted!), and I think it can add a personal relevance to what is happening. For example, one of my high school friends lives in Queens, so she is at the epicenter of the NYC nightmare right now. It’s good to hear her first-person account. My college roommate lives in Wisconsin and experienced having her ballot not counted in that primary fiasco. Another high school friend lives in Canada and verified the tweet about actually applying for and receiving help, within two days, from the government.  Social media allows you to see the human connection behind the news stories. And… I love the memories feature on Facebook. Since I post every day, I have memories going 10 years back. I love seeing pics of my girls and me on a farm in the Netherlands, skiing, riding bikes, or even a regular old Monday when we made waffle sandwiches! And my girls would feel even lonelier without their social media connections. As much as we hate it, this is a time to be grateful for it.
  10. To go hand in hand with social media, just being able to connect with the world in unique way and to EXPOSE EVERYONE who is not helping us get out of this horrible situation… I think it’s a good thing. Social media has led to an increased awareness of all different types of people in the world, and has allowed people to read more firsthand accounts of their experiences with world events, and I do think change WILL HAPPEN once this is over. So, number ten for today comes back to hope. We just have to have hope.

Coronatine, Day Thirty (10×4)

Well, we’ve officially made it through what feels like the longest month of our lives. I’m trying really hard here to keep up the positivity!

Ten things I love about you, Coronatine:

  1. This begonia. Pets are nice, but plants are constant. I have for years made brownies for my colleagues. After years of this, not knowing much else about me, one of my former colleagues gave me a tiny cutoff from her great aunt’s fifty-year-old elephant-ear begonia. I put it in a pot and it grew into this magnificent masterpiece. It sometimes produces flowers in the spring, but it doesn’t even need to because its red-green leaves are so perfect as they are. It adds constant comfort to any window, and bends toward the light as if reaching for God. If ever there were a perfect plant, this begonia is it.
  2. Speaking of brownies and all things baked… It may be superficial of me, but this KitchenAid stand-up mixer is pure heaven. I don’t know how anyone could live without one. I did for a year and it about broke me. This is more than a mixer: it’s one of the final gifts from my late mother-in-law. It’s a maker of birthday brownies. Of meringues by my youngest. For years, Bruce made bread every week and pizza twice a month. It’ll beat up eight eggs, a pound of chocolate, and two sticks of butter for the best ganache you ever tasted, all without you having to do work to froth those eggs till they’re shiny. It mixes up ingredients and produces love.
  3. We may not be able to travel this year, but we still have our memories. I used to collect postcards when I was younger, but after I married Bruce, he suggested we start collecting magnets from all the places we visited. We’re just getting started, twenty-two years later. 🙂
  4. My patio/outdoor space. While it’s snowing today, I’m just so grateful to have such a perfect patio that is in the shade of giant trees for the majority of the day. And we added a new string of lights this year to make the perfect ambience for those warm summer nights.
  5. What else fits on this patio? A fire pit. Maybe we won’t be able to go camping this summer, but we can still roast marshmallows.
  6. And behind that firepit? Siblings. Quarantine is kind of a lonely hell. And they may not always get along, but for at least part of every day, they do. Look how cute they are, sitting together on the swing like three little girls, not three young women.
  7. Cats. They’re not as good as dogs, but they’re pretty and quirky and have already mostly destroyed this catnip my friend brought! And they tend to be better at “posing” for pictures, much more than the dog!
  8. Speaking of cats, we’re getting another cat. No, my life is NOT crazy enough with four kids, two cats and a dog, thank you very much. And right now, pets need to be adopted, and Riona doesn’t have her own cat, so… In twelve days, we’re adopting this sweet little thing.
  9. My morning walk. Every day at dawn or just after, just me and the pup and this park and its endlessly changing bridge views. A moment to listen to an audiobook, to begin my collection of steps for the day, a way to get going. And oh, his face. Today the view has spring snow.
  10. Riona will still smile for pics and made all of our Easter findings into deviled eggs. Nothing really beats deviled eggs, even if we can’t have the traditional Easter meal with Grandma and Grandpa.