Where oh where did our winter go?

I realize this is likely not a popular sentiment, but I feel like I’ve been living in a dystopian nightmare for the last few months. I wake up every morning, walk to the curtains and open Every Single One thinking and hoping and praying and wishing that I’m going to see nothing but white.

And every single day, Every Single Day, I see no such thing.

I worry about this. Constantly. I do try, valiantly, to not worry about it. But more often than not I fall far short of this stated goal.

After the horror of last fall, watching the inexorable march of the Mullen Fire south by southeast, I have little hope for a reprieve this year. Soon I will need to make the requisite pile in the mud room of the items considered nearest and dearest to our collective hearts. The things that we simply could not imagine living without….the “evacuation pile” as it were.

I tell Gracelyn all the time that “everyone has something.” Of course, initially I was referring to the battles that each and every one of us wage. Sometimes those battles are obvious to others, a lot of times they are not. I wanted her to be cognizant of the fact that we may not know what another person is dealing with at any given time.

In a way, “everyone has something” depending on where they live. We don’t have hurricanes here….though, truth be told, this last year has been SO DAMN WINDY that at times it’s felt close to gale force winds. We don’t have tornados…though, truth be told…SO DAMN WINDY and all.

We USUALLY have snow and ice and cold and blizzard like conditions. Usually. But that’s a consequence of being able to live where we live. And we don’t really mind it. We have absolutely perfect winter weather gear. We have two dogs who live for the snow. We’re good.

But we do mind Fire Season. In a humongous, ginormous way do we mind Fire Season. Wildfires are our “something.” Exacerbated by drought and increasing temperatures and THAT DAMN WIND. And there’s not really anything we can do about it. Besides move I guess. But to where exactly? Where doesn’t have extreme weather these days?

I don’t know why this is top of mind tonight. Maybe cause someone told me it snowed in PA this morning as I sat watching the last of the meager amount of white stuff here melt away.

I so very obviously need to reframe the narrative. Instead of cautiously opening each curtain every morning, desperate to see some flakes, perhaps I’ll open them joyously, soaking in the sunshine and blue sky. And the occasional Cassin’s finch or mountain bluebird that drops into view.

I believe our chance at winter has come and gone. It bodes for a scary fire season. I must resign myself to this new normal. And though this is not the way I would have it be, nor how I want it to go…I must accept it as it is and make adjustments.

Blessed be.

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The Wheels of Time (just keep on turnin’, turnin’)

I know that those who have alighted here in the past may have read similar words from me. Sometimes it seems I get stuck in a loop in my cabeza. And sometimes that seems to happen cyclically, seasonally. If you come here in the fall, specifically September and October, I’ll be writing about chilly fall mornings and bright blue September skies. If you’re here in the dead of winter I’m waxing poetic about snowfall and peppermint hot chocolate. If you’re here during election times, I’m banging away at the keyboard, forever acting the political pundit.

I get stuck in ruts. What can I say. But something happened during the last four years and my brain has short-circuited I think. It’s a jumble up there…a dangerous neighborhood that one shouldn’t be in alone. I feel there is so much I need to write, so many words I need to throw down. But at the same time, I can’t seem to form a cogent point. Could be a lot of irons in the fire. Could be a need to clear out the cobwebs. I truly do not know.

I do have the sense of the inexorable march of time. This irks me to no end. It always has and it always will. I know I’m supposed to accept those things I cannot change. But this is something I’ll fight, kicking and screaming, to the end of my days. I do not appreciate how fast everything is going. I do not like feeling as if I can’t catch my breath from running to keep up. I want to draw out each and every moment of each and every precious day. If I could live in slow motion I would. And then I would carve out enough brain space to store each kodachrome slide of all of those precious moments.

I finally finished hanging up pictures and paintings. I completed the photo wall. Not that it matters to anyone but the three of us, since not a single other soul has set foot in our house in the last year. It’s been over a year since we had a friend sitting at the table, enjoying dinner and then coffee and dessert. All of us laughing as Gracelyn entertained us with a magic show. We’ve gone without the Winter Solstice/Birthday Bonfire Extravaganza, Fourth of July festivities, morning get togethers for coffee cake and fresh brewed coffee just cause the cowboy showed up on his horse. (Aengus thought that was pretty dang cool.)

Back to the photo wall. It’s a collage of photos…some professionally taken, most simply snapshots of those precious moments. It’s a small sprinkling of the last 14 years captured in time, preserved on the wall. It’s beautiful and endearing and funny and breathtaking and all in all damn bittersweet. I find myself just standing in front of the wall, staring.

Trying to soak in the contents held within each frame, I also hold myself in tight. I hold in the tears. I hold back the sadness that threatens to overwhelm me. For the lost time. For the lost days, the lost moments. The glimpses of the memories, wispy at the edges of my consciousness—the ones I so desperately try to grasp. They always seem just out of reach.

My head and my heart have a finite amount of space. I remember when Gracelyn was born trying to imprint on my being the exact smell of her, the feel of her smooth forehead when I kissed it. The little sigh/squeal/giggle she made when it was time to nurse or she’d just woken up from her nap. I never wanted to forget those things. I wanted to feel them forever. My heart breaks now when I reach for those memories. They are, as so many others, just out of reach, dancing on the edges of my consciousness.

The only thing permanent in life is impermanence. This vexes me. I would have made a terrible Buddhist.

I imagine I am not alone in feeling melancholy about lost moments. All of us have lived this last year suspended in time. Yet time did not stop. It moved on, as it does. Without us.

What do we do with that? Where do we put this lost year? Do we just ignore it? Pretend it didn’t happen and pick up where we left off in February 2020? Whenever it is that we can pick it all up. And what about our children? All the things they’re missing….no summer camp, no skiing (for us anyway as #ScienceMatters in this household and we will not be venturing out needlessly in the middle of a pandemic of epic proportions), no sleepovers with friends, no hugging grandparents.

Again with the impermanence of life. Irksome.

May you find a modicum of equanimity somewhere in your life space today.

Blessed be.

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A funny thing happened on the way to 2021

Well, more than one funny thing.

And in retrospect, not a lot of 2020 was funny. Nor 2019. Or 2018 or 2017 for that matter. The end of 2016 was depressing as hell, come to think of it.

The dear daughter has been trying to set up her own blog, because at 14 she has become a cornucopia of thoughts, opinions, ideas, words and more words. She needs an outlet for the loquaciousness of her mind. As did I when I started writing here oh so many moons ago. Thus we sit at computers tonight, attempting to figure out how to give her a space to put pen to paper, so to speak.

As the resident IT person (though that is fast being eclipsed by aforementioned 14 year old–a baton I will gladly hand off) it is up to me to figure this out. We’ll see how it ends up. If successful, we’ll send an email notice to let you know where to subscribe.

The girl is amazing at what tumbles out onto the page when she gets started. I am in awe of her literary skills.

All of that being said, as I am helping her set this up, I had a chance to revisit the last year and any and all words I may have communicated myself. However, I am horrified to see that in all of 2020 I wrote three times. I had several guest posts by both daughter and friends, but only three original writings.

I’m truly flabbergasted at my lack of verbiage. I knew my creativity had been stifled by the absolute inane, asinine asininity emanating from the People’s House in the Capitol City. Specifically from the Office with No Corners. One day bled into the next and now, looking back, I am absolutely appalled that the insanity eclipsed my peace of mind for the last four years.

What a long, strange journey it’s been. One I would NOT want to repeat. I’ll take the highs and put them in a pretty box with a pretty ribbon and lock them away in a special place in my heart.

I’ll kick the lows to the curb and Goddess willing not spare another look. Yes, we can learn from our mistakes and prevent history from repeating itself, but I have no desire to relive any part of the last insane, abominable, deplorable years.

I do not know about you, but I simply kept putting one foot in front of the other. I kept moving forward in the hopes that a better day was on the horizon.

I do believe that our better days are yet to come. I do believe that the sun will come out tomorrow, and the next day and the day after that. Sometimes I have to dig deep to get to that belief. Sometimes I have to fake it until I make it so. I know that my spirit needs to soar again. I need to unleash the words from my brain to get some relief.

I tell Gracelyn that we have two choices.

Choice A: we can wallow and muck about and bemoan whatever is happening around us.

Choice B: we can lift up our heads, say “dang it…that’s not what I wanted” and decide to move forward instead–to ask “what am I going to do about it, how can I make the next best, right move?”

For 2021, I’m choosing Choice B. I want to laugh and smile and dance again.

Blessed be.

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The Capitol (Guest post by Gracelyn)

The Capitol had been around for a long time. It held nearly two hundred and thirty years of memories in its marbled halls, and it knew that the Americans believed it held the center of their Nation’s democracy.

In the past years, it had watched as division split the people, as anger and fear and lies had spread through its houses of government, and finally as things had exploded. It had watched, unable to assist, as an angry mob stormed its halls, laying siege to the democracy in its corridors. They desecrated its halls and terrified the Americans who watched.

But now, just a few weeks later, the Capitol, draped in flags and bunting, watched as two new leaders were sworn into office. One of them was a woman, one a man, with words of peace. It watched as a lady with white hair and a red skirt sang the National Anthem; it watched as a black Reverend said the words “We must make friends of our enemies.”

It watched as the man with the peaceful words said, “My whole heart is in it,” and it remembered.

The Capitol remembered a time when a tall, thin man in a stove-pipe hat had stood on its steps and said the exact same thing. The Capitol’s dome had not even been completed then, and now, a hundred and sixty years later, it was proud to hear those words again.

The building watched as a young black woman with a yellow coat and braids in her hair took the podium. When she started to speak, her lyrical voice carried far over the National Mall, echoing against the shining white marble of the Washington Monument and bouncing over the water, past the 400 Pillars of Light, down to the Lincoln Memorial.

The Capitol could hear, even though those on its steps could not, the words of another black orator, another Reverend, echoing back.

They said: “I have a dream.”

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Dear John letter to 2020 (Guest post by Linda)

December 31, 2020

Dear 2020,

When we first met, I have to admit, I was intrigued. You were alluring. Our relationship was much like all relationships when they are new; they show so much promise. Up until I met you, I had been pretty good at manifesting what I wanted. I had so many hopes and dreams for us. In January, I saw a bright future.

But we didn’t exactly get off to a good start, with the Australian fires and all. You clearly wanted to get my attention, and believe me, you did! And all the while I was hoping to put out each fire you were starting, I couldn’t help but notice you were going behind my back, being secretive and unfaithful. I’ve had partners who cheated before, but you, YOU take the cake! You were spreading your virus like an STD, causing many people to get it without even knowing how they were infected! Truthfully, I was suspicious right from the start. By the time I met you, I had already heard about your reputation for spreading a virus and I was apprehensive.

But because I am a romantic, and I like to give people the benefit of the doubt, I overlooked the early telltale signs. Little did I know then that you were creating drama everywhere you went- floods, landslides, cyclones, hurricanes, locust swarms, murder hornets and political strife.

Even though I was hearing rumors about how abusive you had been to other people, I kept giving you the benefit of the doubt. I knew you couldn’t be as bad as they’d said. I knew that if I stayed positive, and looked at the bright side, I could manifest what I wanted. I could bring out the best in you. I knew I could! At least, that’s what I had been told and what I wanted to believe. Even as country after country and state after state was being shut down, I struggled to remain an optimist.

I looked at your better qualities: you wanted us to spend time alone, with no one else. You wanted us to have quiet nights at home, cooking together, not spending money to eat out. You didn’t want our kids to take advantage of us by dropping off the grandkids for babysitting. You didn’t want the little ones bringing their germs to us. You didn’t want me to be out shopping and spending money. I get it. I thought you were just looking out for me and my best interests. I was flattered that you cared that much. You just wanted to do what’s best for the earth you said. That’s why you insisted on the lockdowns.

But then it began to feel a bit invasive and controlling. Like you wanted to be with me ALL day EVERY day. You wanted to tell me who I could see, and when I could shop. You even wanted to be in charge of the schools being open or closed. You wouldn’t let me go to my favorite restaurants. And you prohibited me from seeing my own mom! Like, who does that???

And then the unthinkable happened. You showed the world your darkest side. You stopped hiding your prejudices and hatred, creating protest after protest. You made the truth seem like lies and lies seem like the truth. That’s when I knew we had to go our separate ways. But threatening to leave you only made things worse. You decided you wanted to look good. You wanted to be better than everyone else. So, you made sure the Dow Jones had its biggest drop ever. You took pride in having a record number of claims for unemployment. And having more Covid cases than any other country. Now it was obvious. Your ego had the best of you. The more I spoke of breaking up with you, the more stunts you pulled.

And this was all only after dating for 3 months! JUST 3 MONTHS! Whatever was I thinking?

Being “a bit” codependent, I held on hoping you would change for 9 more LONG months. But now, on December 31 , I say, ENOUGH! I’m breaking up with you 2020! Good riddens.

Now… where’s that Al-Anon phone number?

Pandemically yours,

Linda

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Attention Friends & Family (and all who stumble here unaware):

You may or may not have received notifications of a new website/blog associated with this one (madranchwife.com).

Gracelyn has branched out and can now be featured at:

http://www.thehistoryofwomenssuffrage.com

Her website began as part of her Girl Scout Silver Award. She has now added a “Current Events” page which will feature various and sundry topics. There is a place for you to subscribe to her website/blog for any and all updates. Just enter your email and let magic take its course!

At least we believe this is how it will transpire. Because I have the power of the purse, so to speak, her website is attached to mine. This has been troublesome at times, but there is no way around it for the time-being. Thus, there may continue to be confusion for awhile as to who is exactly posting new content as who, but bear with us. We’ll find a way to make it work.

Do check out her site, if you haven’t already. She set it up all on her own. The only parts I contributed were, as mentioned above, the purse/financial backing (Ha! As if I’m a “financial backer…”) and the role of camerawoman.

It is late. I am tired. I simply do not have the stamina I used to and the bed is beckoning.

Vaya con dios mis amigos/amigas.

These are interesting times indeed. Be safe. Be healthy and for the Goddess’s sake…wear a damn mask.

Blessed be.

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Fire and Ice (Guest Post by Gracelyn)

I have read of people with hearts made of ice.

They shatter, freeze again, and go on.

 

My heart is made of fire;

It burns with every moment,

Every second an inferno.

But some things are too much

For a heart such as mine.

Every moment, every tragedy,

Every second of sorrow,

Freezes out the flames, and

Shatters them, and

 

My heart is made of glass,

And I’m left to pick up the pieces.

My heart is cold;

It is frozen over,

Like the walls of

Brick of sorrow, mortar of tears,

 

And my heart is made of ice.

 

Blessed be to all.  We will survive.  We sleep tonight to wake tomorrow to fight another day.

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The state of everything

I’m sitting on my porch and can see the mountains in the distance. And the sky is blue.  And I don’t smell smoke.  Today is shaping up to be a glorious day.

Thing is–every day can be a glorious day.  Even the ones that begin with smoke heavy in the air and no mountains in the distance.

It’s all in how I frame it. The last several months I’ve had to work hard on being in the moment, on being grateful for what is–not wishing it would be different.  This is, at times it seems, an exercise in futility.

Something is always beckoning for me to be irked by.  Someone is doing something that I feel I must comment on.  Someone said something that I am absolutely positive deserves a stinging response from me.

The truth is so much starker than that.  In reality, there is nothing more important than the breath I take right now.  Right here, right now.  This moment is all I have.  What I choose to spend that moment on will dictate how the next moment unfolds.  The trick for me is realizing this and being able to take a step back, taking that deep, cleansing breath and saying to the Universe: “I am here.  I am present.  Give me what you’ve got.”

Then I can move to the next moment.

Easier said than done.  So much easier said.

I don’t know what it is in my psyche, what was laid down long ago or what has been added to since, but it is truly a daily struggle for me to live peacefully.  To be serene and calm with the world swirling around me.  I wrote to someone that I long for serenity and stability in my world.  After I typed those words I thought how absurd they were.

I am in charge of how serene or stable my world is or can be.  Yes, there is chaos, confusion, despair, injustice dancing all around me.  But I do not need to jump into that miasma.  I can take a step back, take a deep breath and decide for myself and the health of my family how to proceed.

I can plan a path through the uncertainty. There is much to be said for the saying “I am the captain of my own ship.”  The chaos doesn’t dictate to me my actions.  I can choose to pick my way through it, knowing when and where to engage, knowing when to back off.

I’m being intentionally obtuse about said chaos.  There is no one single thing that is irking me, that is causing disruption in my soul.  It is a collection of where we are today as a nation that is creating this unrest inside.  I cannot put words to paper, so to speak, regarding the angst I feel as the angst is multi pronged and threatens to overwhelm me.  To drag me under into that swirling black hole of despair.  I am close to it.  I have been dancing at the edge of it for many months now.

Some days it seems all I can do to take another step.  I hesitate to even type those words.  I live a life of immense privilege.  I have everything I need at this moment to be secure in my survival.  My little family is healthy, safe and sound.  We have what we need–physically.  But emotionally and mentally and spiritually, we are hurting.  We see what is transpiring all around us.  Some people are able to walk through this life without being overcome with emotion at the suffering all around.  They are not bad people.  They are not uncaring or cold or hard.  They are simply able to walk a path for themselves that doesn’t get mired down in misery and despair.  I envy those people.  I have always been highly sensitive to suffering.  Perhaps that explains my career paths.  I am keenly aware of emotional pain of others–both the two-leggeds and the four-leggeds.   I seem to absorb this and internalize it….at which time it wreaks havoc on my own mental health.

I’m in that place now.  A constant stream of emotional pain seems to be bombarding me from all sides.  I find I need to turn it off for my own survival, but at the same time I am forced to keep moving forward into those areas of perceived pain.  I cannot disengage completely as I would like to.

I am not sure if any of my words make any sense.  I just know that sitting here with the cold breeze (fall is surely close) and the blue sky I am aware of the blessings in my life.  I am aware of the need to affirm my gratitude for those blessings.  I am also aware of the absolute necessity of recharging my soul.  Girding myself for the battles to come by taking a step back when I can and learning to be in the moment of peace.

I have this moment.  I will relish it and be grateful for it.

Namaste.  Blessed be.

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Irish Eyes by Gracelyn

Irish Eyes

The Irish are a people so starstruck,

It’s said they always see fairies before their eyes,

And if this is true, as I believe,

It might explain their lovelorn sighs.

 

In that land, far away across the sea,

Where Kings clashed

And tempests raged

And stories are told of other days,

In that land so lush and green

Is held a piece of me.

 

For I can hear her singing,

A song I’m unable to ignore,

And though I’ve never been there,

I long for her distant shore.

 

An American girl too far removed

From her native island,

Although I have no claim to make,

I feel it is my land.

 

I wish I could go there, 

And traverse the land that I admire,

But for now my heart shall evermore

Pine for the shores of Eire.

 

The inhabitants of my native shore

Are cheerful, living on their island.

And when I join my family,

It will be in Ireland.

 

Happy belated St. Patrick’s Day to all.

Blessed be.

 

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Brittle

brit-tle
/’bridl/
adjective
1. hard but liable to break or shatter easily
Synonyms:
breakable, splintery, scatterable, fragile, frail, delicate, frangible, rigid, hard, crisp
Antonyms:
flexible, resilient

I’m brittle.

I’ve just come to this realization.  I didn’t used to be this way.  I used to be flexible and resilient, bending and not breaking.  No wind gusts knocked me down.  The roiling waves of San Francisco Bay and the Farallone Islands didn’t fell me.  I held on to the railing of that boat and swayed and moved with the rhythm of the ocean, while all around me fellow whale-watchers turned green and succumbed to Mother Nature’s assault.

I marched through life, girded for battle against those who told me first I was “too professional, not laughing enough, too stuffy” and then a few short months later “you’re not being professional, you’re not doing it right.”

I’ve been bullied since the 1st grade when a group of classmates held me still, around the corner of the building at recess, while one little boy peed on me.   I fought back by learning cursive during lunch period and doing 5th grade math in the hallway with another fellow student (he wasn’t the urinator).

In 4th grade my nickname became Dogface because I dared to excel in my studies.  I studied harder and continued to get A’s.

In 6th grade, proud of my new zip-up boots that were close to the latest fashion item, I was quickly surrounded on the playground by a group of girls who told me how utterly stupid I looked with my pants rolled up to mimic the knickers they wore, showcasing my new boots.  I kept wearing the boots.

In 7th grade, a girlfriend became jealous of my quarterly leather bookmarks with my name stamped on it, given as reward for straight A’s.  She organized the rest of the group of girlfriends to shun me.  I kept getting those bookmarks.

I could continue on through high school, college, graduate school, veterinary school.

But I’m looking for light and love this morning, not darkness and despair.

There were some very tough times.  Scarier the older I got as the darkness got darker.  But no matter how low I seemed to get, no matter how overwhelming the depression, I never broke.  I swayed.  I bent…sometimes all the way over to touch the ground it seemed.  But I never broke.

I want to teach my daughter resilience.  I want to teach my daughter how to bend and not break.  I want to pass on to her that at the lowest points of your life, it is always better to fight back, to stand tall, to reach for the stars, to ignore the haters, to find the love, to smell the flowers, to cherish the sunsets.

But I’m faltering lately.  The last three and a half years have withered my spirit.  They have dimmed the light.  I fight daily to appreciate those sunsets and the snow-shrouded trees, the cerulean blue skies, the crisp winter mornings.

But I’m still brittle.  Some days I feel I might just snap off a piece or two of me.  And then what?  Do I super-glue it back on? Will that work?  Do I want it to?  There are parts of me that I don’t recognize now.  Parts of me that have become so deeply rooted in me the last three and a half years.  Hate, fear, darkness, despair.

No.  I will not let the Dark Side win. I will be the 1st grader who fought back, the 4th grader who continued on, the 6th grader who didn’t let the bullies win.  And so on and so on and so on.

I have been here before.  Bullies are bullies are bullies.  They are not me.  They do not define me.  We each get to say who we are.  We each make our own story.  The bully in the Office with no corners doesn’t get to make me break.  I have fought for too long and for too many reasons to give in now.

I will be the person standing on the deck of that little boat, swaying with the waves, bending not breaking.

“These are the times that try women’s souls…”

 

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