My achy breaky heart: Slice of Life 27/31 #SOL20

This morning, my 9-year-old had his first-ever online meet up with his class. The kids were so excited to see each other that some were literally bouncing out of their seats. Several brought pets which led to others leaving the room to go get their pets. Dogs, cats, guinea pigs and even a hamster all played brief outsized roles. I stayed until my son waved me out of the room, but I wasn’t focused on the guest appearances. Instead, I watched his teacher’s face, transfixed by the genuine delight and caring that crossed it as he saw each little person show up on the screen. For one moment his eyes glistened, then he took a deep breath before he continued. My heart ached for him.

*********

This afternoon our 18-year-old exchange student went home to the Netherlands. During his short stay with us, he met a young woman and, in the way of teenagers, they fell head over heels for one another. Because pandemics apparently hold no sway over passion, they struggled to stay apart. Ok, truth: they didn’t stay apart. So this week our family and her family decided to break social isolation and let the two of them be together for four final days. Yes, we took a risk, but seeing them together at our house for the past two days made my heart swell. I had nearly forgotten about that overwhelming, all-consuming love that makes the rest of the world fall away from you. They were almost glued together at our house and were completely devastated when we dropped him at the nearly empty airport. Their hearts are broken for now, and my heart aches with mirrored emotion, aware that I know more than they do and that the knowledge isn’t always sweet.

***********

Today is my husband’s birthday. He woke up and made *us* scones because that is who he is. Later, while he was dropping the teens at the airport, the kids and I tried to secretly bake him a cake. Because I had a call scheduled with some of my own students, my boys proceeded on their own. When I finished the call, I found the kitchen and the kids fairly covered in butter and flour. Unable to find a mixer and unwilling to interrupt my call, the children had tried to cream the butter and sugar with a wooden spoon, then added the flour without adding any liquid ingredients. When I showed them how to read the whole recipe first, their faces fell: “Do you think it will still taste ok?”

“Oh yes,” I assured them, “if you have good ingredients, the results are almost always pretty good.”

Before I could stop them, they dumped all the buttermilk in at once, adding to the existing kitchen chaos. I started to laugh, my heart aching with happiness at their excitement.

***********

After the cake-baking, I insisted that we go for a walk. This was not a popular decision. Still, the kids have been inside for two days and it was finally sunny and veering towards warm. I was relentless. I forced them outside.

On our walk, my younger son complained and complained of a bellyache but offered little information and no solutions. Eventually, I lost my temper and yelled at him. Not long after that, he ran behind a metal bin and everything came out of him. I had to use my disinfecting wipes to clean him up. Afterward, he held my hand and snuggled close as we walked home, and he didn’t say anything about my inappropriate anger. My heart broke a little at his ungrudging forgiveness.

*************

Today my heart has ached all day long.

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Amplify their voices – Slice of Life 26/31 #SOL20

Sat, Feb 29 – EdCamp

A group of educators sits in a crowded, uneven circle in a university classroom, talking about equity and inclusion in education. The only teacher wearing hijab speaks up: “I get stuck because I’m NOT the white educator, and I don’t want people thinking I’m trying to push an agenda… I get emotional thinking about it… I don’t know how to navigate that.”

Wed, March 25 – Zoom meeting

A group of educators gathers online to talk about racial equity detours and how to avoid them. Near the end of the hour, the only black male teacher speaks up. He talks about “not being afraid of my blackness” and says, “I would never, ever, EVER think about doing a black history show at my school because if I do it, I know what it’s going to be and I feel uncomfortable making my white colleagues feel uneasy.”

Thu, March 26 – Google Hangout

A group of educators meets online to discuss the memoir From the Ashes.  The author, Jesse Thistle, joins us and says that, although he is terrified to speak in public, “I force myself to do it because people are listening, and I remember a time when no one was listening at all.”

I listen. I realize that I have been unaware of the ways in which we – I – have not listened to these voices. My stomach hurts as I acknowledge how much I have been part of silencing. I did not understand hijab as a choice. I saw full expression of black culture as threatening. I believed racist, colonialist lies about Indigenous people. The people who said these things are not older than I am; they do not live in other places. They are my peers, and I have been complicit in ignoring their voices. This is hard for me to think about; it is hard for me to write. I am writing it because I must own these truths. I must look at my attitudes for what they were; I must understand so that I can change. I have overlooked, ignored and even hurt the very people whose voices I thought I valued.

I am listening. People I respect and admire are saying that their voices are not being heard, that the skin they are in dilutes their ability to speak their truth to others.

I am using my privilege, my platform here, such as it is, to amplify their voices. People of colour in my community are not speaking their full truths because it makes us – it makes ME – uneasy.

Listen to them – please, listen. Let us all work to dismantle a system that forces people of colour to muffle their voices.

If you are a person of colour and you feel misrepresented by this post, please let me know. I am doing my best to listen.

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The little things: Slice of Life 25/31 #SOL20

Today did not go the way I expected it to although, now that I’ve written that phrase, I suppose I could say that about pretty much any day of the last two weeks, which is when COVID-19 reared its ugly head in this part of the world. And, if I’m being even more honest, daily chaos of some sort or another has featured in my life for nearly 12 years (hello, children), and probably for longer than that (hello, teaching). Still, since we’re in middle of a global pandemic, I’m totally going to blame the virus rather than my life choices. After all, pandemics need to be good for *something*.

At any rate, I woke up today ready to write this blog – clearly I did not, in fact, finish it this morning because it is now decidedly evening and here I am. And, worse, none of my “hangouts” worked, my children were stir crazy (we baked brownies and polished silver, among other things – yes, you read that right. We polished silver. I cannot explain this. We don’t even *use* silver. I honestly didn’t even know we *had* silver. But there you go.) Still, I had a plan, dang-nabbit, and involved pictures. I’m plowing ahead.

Yesterday, Molly over at Nix the Comfort Zone joined Leigh Anne’s Self Care Spring Fling. Leigh Anne invited us to share our three best self-care ideas. Molly’s second was “Focus–At least for a little bit every day, take the time to slow down and focus” then added, “For me, both writing and photography help.”

If you want to see some beautiful nature photography (and read some excellent poetry, too), Molly’s blog is a great place to hang out. I find the pictures inspiring or calming or just what I need, and recently her inspiration has slipped over into my walks. My walking has increased because of COVID-19 (remember a few days ago when I didn’t even want to name it? Take that, you nasty virus! I can say your name!); I am often nearly desperate to get out of my house. With the walking has come noticing, and with noticing, photography (from my cell phone – don’t get too excited). The photographs, in turn, have enticed my children to come walk and notice. This is a cycle I highly recommend.

We have taken to looking for small unexpectedly beautiful things or big things with details we might have overlooked before. One boy likes close-ups and shapes; the other likes the way colours go together or how things look from a distance. We try to look at both natural and manmade things. We pass my phone between us, sharing each delight with the others. Every walk reveals things we’ve never noticed before, no matter how many times we have previously walked that way.

Our neighbourhood is quiet these days, and we have plenty of time to pause, notice, reflect. Our walks meander. Our focus, however, seems to have sharpened. It turns out that our everyday is brimming with wonder. Who knew?

 

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Up: Slice of Life 24/31 #SOL20

Thomas has been asking to watch Up for the better part of a week. For reasons he cannot explain – but which he assures us are not merely to torture his brother – Eric has been saying no. Because we are trying to establish some sort of family togetherness or, at a minimum, some basic negotiation skills, we’ve been choosing films that “everyone” wants to watch. Thomas says that means Eric usually “wins;” even I have to admit that Eric’s sheer stubbornness means we watch quite a few of his choices.

Last night, Eric relented. Surprised, Andre and I relented, too. It was a little too late to start, and no one believed that the boys would “go straight to bed” without at least a bit of a read aloud. Work from home has started in earnest and we really had too much to do: Andre needed to clean the kitchen; I needed to create a lesson. “Fine,” we conceded, “you can watch the first 45 minutes while we work. Then it’s straight to bed!” The boys agreed happily.

But then we only have Disney+ on the upstairs tv, and they wanted to watch in the living room. The Amazon dongle wasn’t working for reasons we couldn’t quite fathom. I’d been doing IT support for the boys all day long and was near the end of my tether. Andre offered his phone, assuring us that he could live without it for 45 minutes, but somehow I was on the hook for remembering another password and Andre chose the wrong HDMI port. Thomas kept trying to help; Andre kept saying no; Eric refused to take part. By the time we got everything set up, we were all four on the couch in the living room, but no one was particularly settled.

When the movie finally started I looked at Andre and said, “Stay for the first part. I know how much you love it.” The opening montage, ten minutes that shows Ellie and Carl’s whole life together, engulfs us, and by the end we are holding hands and Andre is crying – he always does. The boys snuggle closer, not quite understanding, but not quite not understanding, either. Our battered old brown leather couch, pushed too close to the television, surrounded by our life in semi-unpacked boxes, holds our family in its embrace, and no one gets up. We just watch. Together. We laugh and talk, colours animating our faces, love animating our faces: a whole life in one short montage.

 

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The early train: Slice of Life 23/31 #SOL20

This morning, I woke knowing what day it was. My mother-in-law had posted this message to remember her son, my brother-in-law, D’Arcy:

12 years ago today, my son boarded what I have come to think of as “the early train”.  You know the train – the one we all inevitably, eventually board.  To those of you who have recently, or are about to, undergo a loss that stuns and overwhelms you:  I can’t tell you how, or why, or when, but for me the time came when thoughts of my son turned from searing hand-on-the-stove kind of pain to a flooding of tenderness with the embrace of the deepest love I have ever known.  I suspect that time will come for most of you. It won’t come quickly, though you might feel it in brief waves, early on. Hang in, hang on, reach out. 

Year after year, I am touched by how she expresses herself on this day. She shares freely what is often hidden and, though I know she will scoff, I feel that her sharing has become wisdom. She will say it is simply what it is – we don’t get much choice in situations like this. He is not here; we are. We must continue to live.

Today, I am sharing a poem. It makes me quake in my boots because I am *always* nervous about poetry – and obviously this is one I just wrote this morning, so now I’m sharing a draft! That said, I am inspired by the way fellow bloggers Not The Whole Story or Reflections on the Teche or Nix the Comfort Zone express themselves in poetry (not every day, but often). And an old friend suggested that poetry is a good way to deal with uncertainty.

I can’t quite explain why all of this came together for me in this way, but there it is. And, I want to be clear: the death in the middle is not my child but my brother-in-law. We miss him every day.

Untitled for now

My first son came slowly.
He hesitated, reluctant to be rushed.
“Push,” the midwife urged me, “you’re going to have to push.”
Wait wait wait
I was focused, determined
Pushing, pushing, pushing
Against the waves, with the waves of urgent pain
My world for as long as I could remember
My world forever
My world for mere moments
Receded then returned as
A flooding of tenderness, as the deepest love I will ever know.

Today, the snow falls lightly
White white white
A thin covering over the gray, dirty snow we wish away.
For a few minutes, a few hours, forever
The world is purified.
We remember the beauty of Winter
While we long for a Spring we imagine, beautiful.
And Spring will come
Messy, muddy, melting until the rotted remnants of life
Revealed as death under the dirty snow.
Spring will wake
Wet, insistent, unrelenting with its green promises.
Spring will force us to accept the hope
Concealed by this thin white cover .

Twelve years ago today we woke to a changed world
Because twelve years ago today he did not wake.
No fresh snow covered the gray.
Spring’s muddy mess pushed forward, pushed forward
And he did not.
That year we fought hope forever, for mere moments.
Yet Spring came, unrelenting.

My second son came quickly
His will to be in the world overwhelming.
“I’m pushing,” I cried, though I had just sent the midwife for medicine.
Now now now
Animal, insistent
Pushing, pushing, pushing
Against the waves, with the waves of urgent pain.
My world for as long as I could remember
My world forever
My world for mere moments
Receded then returned as
A flooding of tenderness, the deepest love I will ever know.

Today, the snow falls lightly
A reminder that last week, last month, last year
We played in this cold, wet miracle.
Tomorrow, the rain will come.
We will revel in the messiness of Spring,
The searing pain of the memories transformed
To a flooding of tenderness,
The deepest love we will ever know.

The pain is really the briefest sense of undertow as we play in the waves of his presence.

 

And here is the poem my mother-in-law wrote this poem a few days after D’Arcy’s death:

The Early Train

some are travelling northbound
their cheeks flushing pink with the cold
some are travelling sideways
moving west or moving east
some lose tickets, miss the gate
either way, theirs is to wait
and some    are bound for the early train
one      has taken the early train

copyright © mls March 29 2008

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Precision: Slice of Life 22/31 #SOL20

Days before we all became aware of COVID19 and started practicing social distancing, we moved back into our house after nine months of renovations. While the world has changed so much so rapidly that I could almost swear we moved home months ago, we’ve actually been home for less than two weeks. And our builders only finished up two days ago – or maybe three? I honestly cannot remember.

The last thing the builders finished was the basement, and the renovations meant that we lost some of our attic storage space. Taken together, this means that we have not been able to unpack nearly as much as we would have liked to because we really needed the basement space for a) things that used to live in the basement and b) everything else. Mostly, we’ve been moving boxes to new temporary homes, cursing a lot, and swearing that we are just going to donate everything that’s still in a box so that we don’t have to make another decision. Things are so bad that I might have even taken that last step if only any of the charities were open.

Our house is still complete chaos.

While I am very, very far from a neatnik and can tolerate a fair amount of mess, I have realized over the last few years (ok, truth: after having children) that there is a level of clutter beyond which I get pretty stressed out. We have been there for weeks. No matter what I clean or move, when I turn around, more awaits me. Boxes are everywhere, taunting me, daring me to open them, their unknown contents laughing evilly, waiting for me to despair. My senses are tuned too highly: every noise bothers me, every touch sets my skin to alert (yes, I’m rashy); my tastebuds, oddly, dull & I sneeze often. Many days, I hide in our bedroom to avoid the onslaught. Sometimes I have trouble breathing.

Andre, however, is largely unphased. He spends hours in the basement moving things from the front to the back, from the floor to the shelves with dogged determination. He is calm, careful and confident, knowing that all of this will eventually be sorted out. He finds a happy medium between motion and perfection. He just keeps working, even when I try to pick a fight. He is measured where I am not.

This afternoon, trying to calm my senses, I steal a quiet moment in the sundrenched space of the new kitchen. I sip my tea, concentrate on reading, on writing, on breathing. At the other end of the room, hidden behind the kitchen island, Andre and our younger son begin a project. Andre tells him about the proverb “measure twice cut once.” They practice cutting; they roll something out. Oh! They are making a peel & stick chalkboard calendar for our family schedule. I overhear them measuring and measuring again. “Ok,” says Andre, “We need to cut at 24 and 7/8 inches.”

I am incredulous. 24 and 7/8″? Seriously? At this very moment in our house I cannot reliably find my bathrobe. Our kitchen things appear to have multiplied while in storage. Our younger son’s room is literally knee-deep in stuffed animals; the 18-year-old exchange student is on hour four of a “socially distanced” walk with his girlfriend (so let’s just acknowledge that there is no distance left there, thus undoing all of our work); I think my older child may have been playing video games for 48 hours straight; there are boxes in every single room of our home and, oh, yes we are in the middle of a global pandemic and my husband – a man I married on purpose – is cutting something with a 9-year-old so that it measures exactly 24 and 7/8 inches?

I start to chuckle deep in my belly. I feel a smile threatening to become a full laugh and press my lips together, hard, to stop it. My eyes crinkle as the smile fills my cheeks. Of course he is. In a world filled with chaos, Andre figures you might as well get the measurements right. When they get that calendar on the wall, it will fit perfectly, and it will stay there for years, I bet.

Suddenly, I can breathe a little more easily. Might as well finish up this post and then, I think I can tackle some of those boxes again. I’ll leave Andre to finish up in here. He’s got this under control.

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Abide: Slice of Life 21/31 #SOL20

I am struggling.

I am struggling to find something to write about. This is ridiculous because there is a very obvious thing to write about. But I am petulant and angry and frightened and I don’t WANT to write about it. Yet not writing about it seems unfathomable. Everything – everything – is touched by the thing I don’t want to write about. It is Voldemort in disease form: that which must not be named.

I am struggling to do the work for the course I am taking. Ten days ago I was interested, but now writing about assessment & evaluation in English courses feels ridiculous. I usually dive deep into research and learning, eager to improve my practice and my students’ experiences. Now it seems silly. Who cares how we assess listening when I cannot even see my students? Who cares about grades when we need to be reading the world?

I am struggling because we don’t yet have direction from our school board about how we are going to proceed Monday when our March Break ends. I mean, we know we are not going back for at least the next two weeks, but what then? Online learning? For how long? In what form? I miss my students (which is odd because it was technically March break). I want to give them some sense of stability, some sense that we are learning and moving together. 

I am struggling because so much of my family lives in the US and I live in Canada. And these two countries are not responding to the thing I do not want to write about in the same way. And I am frightened for the people I love. 

I am struggling because my parents are not reacting to this in the way that I wish they would. I want them to stay home, stay safe, stop working, have others do their shopping for them. I want them to understand that *they* are in the high-risk category. They want to make their own decisions, to weigh the risks themselves. I am struggling to remember that I am the child, not the parent. I am struggling to accept that we will all make our own decisions.

I am struggling because I am making choices for my own children and the child of another family who is staying with us this semester. I have just told the 18-year-old that he cannot go stay with his girlfriend. I have told the 9-year-old and the 11-year-old that they cannot play with their friends. I have told them all that they must take walks, find projects to keep busy, stop complaining. I have told them that they must follow rules that I used to tell them they could challenge. 

I am struggling to be kind to myself. To eat well and to exercise enough. To recognize that I am overwhelmed. I am struggling to focus. I am struggling to find the happy medium between acceptance and fear. 

Online, an old colleague used the word “abide.” The word felt calm and solid. I wanted a touchstone, so I looked it up. Bear with me here:

Definition of abide (Merriam-Webster)
transitive verb
1a: to bear patiently : TOLERATE
b: to endure without yielding : WITHSTAND
2: to wait for : AWAIT
3: to accept without objection
intransitive verb
1: to remain stable or fixed in a state
2: to continue in a place : SOJOURN

Calm and solid, yes, but not easy, this word, this abide. At first I thought that abide was nearly the opposite of struggle – and I am struggling. I despaired a little: I cannot abide. Then I realized that, in fact, the opposite of to abide is to give up, to quit, to leave. One can struggle and still abide. I can struggle and still abide. 

I want to write about moments and memories; pleasures and problems; issues and ideas. I have all of these things to write about. For today, however, I will abide. For today, I will acknowledge that, for me, to abide I will have to struggle. 

And I am struggling.

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On futons, spiders & memories: Slice of Life 20/31 #SOL20

Today we managed to get the futon frame out of the basement and into the guest room. Our “guest” is our exchange student from the Netherlands. His dad was an exchange student with my family when I was in high school. Given the current state of the world, this exchange is a *little* different than anyone was anticipating. The current state of our house isn’t making things any easier. Luckily, Pieter is very good natured and has not complained about sleeping on a futon mattress on the floor for a few nights. Unluckily, the futon frame – once we found it and got it upstairs – was very dusty and home to more than a few spiders. Pieter and Andre cleaned it up and put it together and then, over dinner, I regaled them with a spider story from possibly the craziest overseas trip I ever led – the time another teacher and I took ten students to Cameroon. 

After dinner and bedtime, I dug up the email I sent from that day, about twenty years ago. Here is a slightly edited letter from my past self to the parents who trusted me (age 20-something – aka *not old enough*) to take their children to Africa for a few weeks. Just re-reading it makes me gasp and smile. (The editing is that I removed the kids’ names, though I doubt any of them would care. We were two chaperones, ten kids from our school in the US, plus five from the local Cameroonian high school.)

Why hello there.  Did you miss us? Have you been sitting at home wondering what in the world your children have been doing?  Well, they are all alive and well and they are not bored.  Let me tell you about it…

As I recall, I left you at the end of the day Saturday – we’d been to the village and the lava flow.  Sunday morning we woke up bright and early and continued our exciting experiences of Cameroonian roads as we headed up to Bimbie, a town not far from Limbe. Our first order of business was hiking the Bimbie Nature Trail which runs through an old growth lowland rainforest – the only one left between Limbe and Douala. We split into two groups and made our way into the dark, humid interior. We walked by fig trees that have adapted to place their fruit on the ground so animals can get it more easily; we saw ebony trees and smelled their wonderfully aromatic flowers – and learned that you can eat the berries inside the flowers, though I found them bitter; we slopped through a mangrove and thanked the heavens once again for hiking boots that the mud couldn’t suck off our feet (though it tried); we saw a tree whose heartwood rots out leaving space for all sorts of creatures, including hundreds of bats; we even saw a four or five hundred year old tree. The hike was lovely and quite a success.

Upon our return to the road, we realized that the car that had been left for us was not big enough for everyone to get back to Camp Saker, the camp where we were staying in the rainforest.  So a LOT of people crowded into the first car, and the other half of us walked. Eventually, the car came back for the rest of us and we all got to the camp, sweaty but happy.

After lunch, we headed back into the forest with researchers from the Botanic Gardens and we learned how to do a wildlife transect to study a forest.  One student got to use the Global Positioning System (super-technology in the middle of the forest) and the rest of us served as recorders, measurers, tapers and spotters. We spotted lizards, caterpillars and birds’ nests as well as lots of crab holes, but we didn’t see much large wildlife because, in addition to the fact that we were crashing through the forest with about 20 people, these forests have been hunted to the point that almost no large wildlife is left.  Sad, but true. A few sweaty hours after we started our transect, we made our way back to the road and then back to camp.

We spent the early evening at the little beach near our camp. The Cameroonian boys all played soccer on the beach and some of our students joined in. Stella, our cook, was supposed to be making us dinner but, unbeknownst to us, our driver accepted a private deal and was, as a result, several hours late. So Stella was stuck in town, and couldn’t get to us. We realized something was wrong as we got hungrier and hungrier, but we really weren’t sure how to cook for 17 in a camp in the middle of the forest with only rudimentary cooking supplies. When I explained to the kids that we didn’t know what was going on, one of the Cameroonian girls stepped up and promptly took over, cooking a delicious bean stew over an open fire in an outdoor kitchen while I made rice (over a gas stove in an indoor kitchen). Let me just say how seriously impressed I was with her ability to take over and cook. Just as we began to serve, Stella arrived with soda (the height of luxury), and even she was impressed that we’d managed a delicious dinner on our own.

After dinner, some of the students organized a coconut feast (the guides had shown them how to get coconut milk on the morning hike). A few kids gathered the coconuts; everyone worked on opening them; one boy even used his baseball skills to throw coconuts at rocks until they burst.  We all loved the fresh coconut meat, which the kids observed tastes nothing like what you get in the grocery store.

Just before bed, I had to get help from my co-chaperone because a GIANT spider had taken up residence on the ceiling over my bed – not quite as big as my hand, but nearly…  I just couldn’t bring myself to sleep underneath it. He chased the enormous thing about until it gave up and dropped directly into my hiking boot – not my ideal outcome. As you can imagine, this made it very difficult for me to put my boots on the next morning. We decided to keep the spider incident quiet because we didn’t want to tell the kids and “creep them out” (many things “creep people out” around here), but then we learned of the lizard in the boys’ toilet and the various critters in the girls’ room, so we shouldn’t have worried. The night was also stiflingly hot, and Camp Saker doesn’t have air-conditioning – or even fans – so we all had a restless night and people looked a little worse for the wear Monday morning.

Today we are having a symposium (which I am late for as I type, so I’m about to sign off) and this afternoon will be spent at the beach with a beach barbecue for dinner. Tomorrow we have an optional hike to Bomona waterfall. It’s optional because it involves starting at 5 am and a 2 hour uphill hike – but the falls are supposed to be beautiful. As soon as the hike is over, we head to Yaounde. Thursday morning we will meet with the American Ambassador and show him our work painting the education center (which the embassy helped fund) at the Zoo and then we go to Douala. All of this is to say that I will probably email tonight, but after that I can make no guarantees. In addition, please limit your emails to your children to a line or two tonight as I won’t be able to get them the actual text, and this is probably the last time you should e-mail.

Hope all is well in DC and that you are out from under the snow.  More information as I can write.

Amanda

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Piano: Slice of Life 19/31 #SOL20

Today we decided we had to move the piano. We had to move the piano in order to set up the work area and plug in the computer. We have to plug in the computer because sometime soon we are going to have to start working from home. This week is our March Break, so everyone has been off; next week, reality will hit. We’re going to need that computer.

Unfortunately, the piano was here:

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You can totally see the piano, right? Just back there under the blanket. I mean, no problem at all.

Obviously, I hid upstairs while Andre tried to clear enough space to get it out. I got a lot done upstairs.

Eventually the path was clear and it was time. We tried to slip sliders under the piano’s feet so that it wouldn’t gouge the hardwood floors. Only it turns out that the piano has wheels. Great! Wheels! We maneuvered it away from the wall. Um… it was still leaving marks on the floor. Time to use the sliders after all.

“The backside is heavier. Let me just lift it up and then you can slide it in really quick.”
Groan, gasp, quick intake of breath.
“It’s ok, try again. It’ll fit, but that angle’s not going to work.”
We started to giggle. We are terrible.

After all our work, the piano rolled off the sliders during our first good push/pull. Now what? We looked around… carpet remnants! After another slightly naughty conversation and an awful lot of lifting and sliding, we got the piano’s wheels onto two carpet remnants. Now all we needed to do was slide it down the hallway and into the dining room.

Actually, let me amend that slightly: we needed to slide the heavy piano on two random pieces of carpet down a narrow, freshly painted hallway without marring the newly refinished hardwood floor.

Our 11-year-old, lured by the siren song of his parents struggling, came to perch on the stairs and watch.

With our first heave, the piano slid right off one of the pieces of carpet. Undaunted, we pressed our now-laughing child observer into action: his job was to squat between his father’s legs and keep the carpet roughly in place. Andre pulled; I pushed.

“3…2…1… GO!” Down the hallway we went, inches at a time, over the treacherous air intake grate, past the door frame, narrowly missing the bit of wall that juts out for no discernable reason.

“DAD! Your bum is in my face!” We ignored Thomas and pressed on.

Hours (ok, minutes) later, we were in the dining room and near-ish to the piano’s final resting space. We paused. Only one challenge remained: get it into the corner.

We pushed one side back, Thomas vigilantly ensuring the carpet remained in place. Then the next. Then the first side… the second… there! It was in. Now to remove the carpet. We held the middle and one side and tilted the piano a tiny bit and… voila! The carpet came out. The second side was even easier.

We stood back to admire our handiwork. Thomas cocked his head to one side and said, “You know, I’m not sure it really goes in this room.” Then he laughed like a maniac and ran down the hallway and up the stairs.

That piano is staying where it is.

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Reframe: Slice of Life 18/31 #SOL20

 

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Yesterday was *not* a good day. I felt a little better after I wrote it all down, but I was still all akimbo. And then, friends. After I posted, one of my friends sent me this message:

Renovations are horrible at the best of times!!! Adding the stress of this situation, not seeing a loved one etc etc is really easy to miss the accomplishments you achieved today! You were out w your kids, I saw you!, you journeyed, you spoke with friends, you showed your kids that a change of scenery and asking friends for help is real…i could go on. We are so tough on ourselves:( decrease your to do list to 2-3 max items per day and if you need a tea break we can have a social distance one together at the park!

I felt seen. I could begin to see what she saw when we walked by her family and waved. Her message buoyed me and, as I went to bed, I felt myself begin to be able to reframe – not to deny my worries, but also to see the other side of them. So today, a list.

Yesterday, reframed:

  1. We now know that both our fire alarm and our carbon monoxide detectors work (extremely well).
  2. Some of the guys on our construction team have partners whose work is tenuous or who have already been laid off; the guys working here still have a steady income.
  3. They are really good at their job & continue to renovate in a way that is both safe (because there’s a lot of crazy in our 120-year-old home) and beautiful.
  4. We have friends who let us use their house no questions asked – even if we have to scale a fence and break in to do it. They’ve even suggested that we continue to use it until they get home – and their cat will be overjoyed to see us regularly.
  5. The boys and I got out of the house several times. We even went to the local bakery – which is open & running with careful social distancing – and chatted with the workers who know us so well that they remember our account number. And the running tab means we don’t even have to use cash!
  6. When the noise was too much, I was able to take a long walk and talk to friends.
  7. My mother is safe at home – and has a safe home and people around her who love her and will take care of her, even if she lives alone. My sister – whose children’s school was cancelled until the end of the year – has lots of support and is starting a new routine. And her boys love to read.
  8. Andre let our exchange student drive on the way to see his girlfriend. He was *delighted* – even if we do own a minivan.
  9. We have tons of time to cook right now, but we ordered dinner from the restaurant where we held our rehearsal dinner 13 years ago – it’s Sri Lankan and delicious. They were so happy to see Andre that they gave him some of the food they’d had to put in their freezer. Our local businesses need our support.
  10. This moment in time is nerve-wracking – like watching a vase fall to the floor in slow motion: it’s not cracked yet, but we know what’s coming. Still, when I had a bad day, I was reminded of the strength of my extended community. And I have food and a (not *quite* complete) home. I am lucky because one good night’s sleep & the support of my friends and family allow me both the space to be upset and the space to reframe.

Ok, Wednesday: I’m ready for you!

 

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