Category Archives: Places & Experiences

Neoprene and environmental racism – FaceBook group reaction #1

Yesterday I posted a question on an open water swimming FaceBook site about leads on ethically and environmentally sourced swimming wetsuits, adding a link on environmental racism around neoprene factories. Within an hour I got a message saying the post had been removed because the piste (sic) was about how wetsuits are racist and they felt it was inappropriate.

A real knee jerk reaction, based on what? Fear that I would enter into some kind of social justice tirade on a swimming forum? Tribal loyalty to the neoprene tradition, effects be damned? Anti Black racism issue fear or fatigue? I was surprised and thought it was really strange, as everywhere else there is so much openness to see and connect the dots on how Western society is racist. It touches conversations where it was hidden, and thank heaven so many Black writers, speakers, comics, artists, friends and acquaintances are speaking and being heard more. May it continue, and not just be “trending now”.

And for the question itself, what kind of moderator can’t see the sense in looking for a product that isn’t directly tied to illness and injustice? Wearing something made from a known carcinogen, even if only at the manufacturing level not a concern?

I looked for a way to respond to the moderator. Didn’t seem to be one, and I was reluctant to put my response out there for all when the issue, I hoped was with this person; I also didn’t want a public call out to be my first conversation on the page. I wondered if perhaps I would be blocked if I continued in that vein, and the pros and cons of making a stand.

After some thought–not a lot, I reposted the question without the link, and soon had some good suggestions. Others saw the value in a more “green” suit.

I now I feel I should have pushed back more, at least appealed to site members somewhat to look into the issue for themselves, and use the opportunity to spread the conversation about anti-Black racism, what is known as Cancer Alley seems to be a prime example. I have not given up hope that it’s possible to get through the moderator’s fears to allow at least a conversation. When I looked again at my second post I realized it was pretty whitewashed, no mention at all for my social-ethical reasons for wanting to avoid neoprene. I will take another stab at it, and if I do get blocked, that site isn’t local for me anyway, and I did find one connected with my own waterways. It will be interesting to see what may come up when I bring up the topic three, or if others have already done so.


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Fine young folks around home, and projects

My twenty-one-year-old daughter landed a job via her boyfriend as a ski lift operator at Copper Mountain this year.  All was going well, and she was enjoying the chance to improve as a skier, when an infection of suspected Covid-19 hit about twenty in staff quarters, including my daughter’s roommate. This was about the same time as things were heating up here in Washington State, with our ski hills and otehr tourist faciliities shutting down preventatively, schools readying to do the same, and social distancing being encouraged. Copper Mountain closed and was keeping everyone quarantined, with pay and meal delivery. But testing revealed it was the flu after all, so my daughter and her boyfriend (I’ll call him Corey, not his real name) were able to catch a flight home.

They, and we, are fine–no flu, and it’s nice having them around. For one thing, since I have a secure state job, I’m able to have my daughter pitch in with stuff around the house for her room and board, and also hire Corey and his best friend, call him Jack, to do some outdoor building projects I’ve had in mind for years. The guys happen to be studying engineering and skilled with tools, as well as to love working as a team. I basically told them what I wanted done–the roof and floor of my tool shed replaced, showed them where the tools and scrap lumber was, and away they went. Pretty soon I realized the potential there and the project became a tool shed to chicken house conversion, with a three-bay rat-resistant compost system to follow. I might even have them remove the unused garage style door on back of the house after that, and replace it with a regular wall and window.

They are hard workers, and weren’t really doing it for the pay, my daughter told me–they just love to work together on stuff like that, she said. Of course, I will pay them, the market now being flooded with unemployed people of all ages. My other daughter and her boyfriend have also been added to my casual labor pool, doing the landscaping and spring cleanup when they have the time.

Outdoor projects, at least, are still feasible in the current shut down. I have used materials lying around, and can have others delivered if needed or track them down in the community. We’re keeping our pool of people contacts low, and I’ll be clarifying with the young people that we need to keep it that way and not hang out with others right now, to keep infection risk low. None of us is high risk, but we all have older friends and relations.

The evening after the shed project commenced, as we were sitting around trying to figure out next steps, we got to talking about this and that. Corey and Jack turned out to have a real breadth of knowledge and interests. They showed themselves to be intelligent, well read, thoughtful, and very interesting to talk with–just about every idea I brought up, they had read/thought about; they knew works of literature and philosophy, could talk politics, religion, history, and science; in the course of the evening we all got some leads from one another for further learning.

This evening I shared with Corey the compost bins plans, as well as a book I brought home from my school (getting some things before they disinfect and lock up completely for a month or two) called The Toilet Papers on how to build human waste composting systems. That’s something I’ve wanted to try too (see this post, as well as this and this), and Corey was interested as an engineer and builder as well as on principle, so maybe it could happen sooner rather than later after all (possibly through a permit process). Which would integrate well with another idea that occurred to me as I was discussing with a friend the latest toilet paper shortages: to challenge my at-home students to create homemade toilet paper from some kind of fiber they have at home, preferably one that occurs in the local ecosystem.


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Spam report

According to the algorithms behind daily email I receive, I am vulnerable to marketing for the following:

  • security doorbells
  • erection medications
  • women’s erotic zone tips
  • prostate support
  • drones
  • blood pressure monitors
  • diabetes cures
  • weight loss products
  • internet and WiFi boosters
  • vehicle trackers
  • connections to hot, sexy babes
  • tinnitus cures
  • (naturally) Coronovirus protection

To a lesser extent I get emails advertising:

  • nail fungus treatments
  • jobs in tech
  • specialized pillows
  • snoring products

Apparently the deluge into one of my email addresses, which I have not experienced in the prior decades of owning it, is connected to taking over my late husband’s email accounts in the same domain. The junk mail started suddenly last year, thirty or so emails daily, all clearly junk, and from randomly varying email addresses.

Fortunately I am relatively impervious to the temptations presented by these appeals to a target they believe is a heterosexual male and in his late fifties. Even if I am starting to wonder about the hissing in my ears when it’s quiet.

In contrast, my Instagram account is presenting ads that are more to my taste: shoes that cure bunions, natural fiber cat caves, comfortable, cute clothing, trays for growing microgreens, dog scratch proofing, reusable bags that keep vegetables fresh. Still, I try not to feast my eyes too long on any colorful, gyrating image, lest in doing so I give myself away. If truly interested in a product I do online research from a different device (clearing cookies regularly). The bunion shoes, alas, are reported to be ineffective.

I get that companies need to advertise, and use tech to target likely consumers. I also like the idea of supporting folks who produce equality, useful products, but only if I really need them or think they will  truly enhance my life or enable me to contribute greater things to my community. But even something that initially excites my interest, unfortunately for the sellers, rarely remains in my mind at that height, as I take my sweet time to gather information and weigh pros and cons, meanwhile getting distracted by the more important or urgent matters of daily living. Even what may appear to others to be an impulse purchase, such as the GoPro Hero 8 video camera I ordered yesterday, or the $20K crawl space encapsulation system installation I scheduled for May, is usually the result of months or years-long internal reflection, culminating in sudden action once I am sure. On my mind, not yet forgotten, are the possibility of a shorty wetsuit, a kayak (I already bought two paddles second hand), a pair of pear or plum trees, a mountain bike (mine died a few years ago), and a used camper van. The last is a long shot, but fun to contemplate. I may instead hire a few young adults to build me a yurt in the back yard, for a make work project and a place for my adult children to hang out between rental homes.

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Posted by on March 18, 2020 in Economics, Places & Experiences


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Moving toward creativity, one snow day at a time

That was an entire garlic clove I just ate, and it could have been too much, but it’s baked down to a musky, comforting zing. A sip of cool water, a bite of cheesy crust, and I keep on typing, going back to correct thumb-fingered type-o’s every third word. The zing is still there on the left side of my tongue. And the slight headache I had when I woke up, too warm from piling on blankets to get through the subfreezing nights that came after the snow fell. The temperature rose last night and soon there would be dripping and slush for ice and muffled silence.

School will be on again tomorrow, I am sure. One day before a long weekend and following three snow cancellations, it will be an adjustment. Fortunately, Fridays are building cool stuff for fun and learning, this time from spaghetti and marshmallows, so nothing too heady and theoretical to deal with.

The bay was bluegreen, with rich, barely translucent waves rolling slantwise toward the shore and splashing up the concrete steps down to the tiny cove by the trail. I took a short video to post online. A king tide, a passerby told me. Snow, a shrubby windswept pine, wild rose bush tipped with dried rosehips, and the marvelous bluegreen sea, which changes color depending on the angle at which I gaze out over it. Marvelous.

Mt usual coffee shop is close. Yes, the cost benefit would not balance on a day like this, when passersby need all wheel drive or yak trax to make it there. I am disappointed, as I am a summer, snow day, and weekend regular now. Only one of the baristas greets me with friendly recognition that is more than professional customer service, but that is enough. I’m the type of person who prefers to have preserve a degree of anonymity, though never invisibility.

When I return today, I’ll tackle the next layer of my creative pile. Yesterday I washed all the fabric scraps and sections, musty from long storage, and they are looking hopeful in their fresh, folded stacks. Then I fixed three pairs of jeans, hemmed a pair of dress pants, restored the elastic waistband on a pair of sweats, resized a pillowcase and mended a glove.

More clearing away for creativity. Ideas are floating around my head, but I still need to warm up with more mundane, tactile tasks, so today it will be finishing my daughter’s equestrian-themed quilt. A gift I started eight years ago and which now has bittersweet associations, as her riding came to a halt over financial and logistical burnout on my part and a desire to have a less focused and goal-oriented lifestyle on hers. The elimination of this activity from the budget has been a relief, but the extra free time has had its negative repercussions–my daughter is no longer the blue ribbon 4-H leader and mentor but is muddling through a rather messy stage of individuation that involves vocally asserting her desire to have nothing to do with a mom who never did anything for her ever, as well as becoming know to law enforcement. If I give her the quilt these days, it could end up anywhere.

After that, I have an idea for a few fun gifts for my sweetheart–useful things with some character, and something from our story so far together that will bring a smile. I’m also exploring the possibility of making a lot of strong cotton grocery totes, some plain and some with words and/or images, for gifts and possible to add to my stock to sell one day . A Bernie for President one, perhaps, and maybe one with a half-baked Trump quote. Another with a favorite poem.

For a break from sitting at the sewing machine, I might pick up some rolls of insulation and install them under the floor in the crawl space, or maybe figure out how to set up my garage space as a shop creative space now that my daughter has moved out. I have a kind of idea that if I set it up nice, I can invite her over to do some woodworking of her own. She always was handy with the tools, and creative.


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Clearing away for creativity

My sweetheart is down in his shop making Christmas presents for his kids as I sit writing on his pink velour couch in the front room, overlooking a beautiful valley, foothills, mountains view listening to Radio Paradise.The band sander buzzes periodically through the floor boards as I sip coffee from the mug with the rabbit orgy motif.

Our encouragement and inspiration of one another in being creative is a good thing, among many, about this relationship. We breakfasted on yesterday’s restaurant omelettes and strong coffee, discussing the possibilities of the day. How to display the cool shaped dwarf cherry tree we cut down last week because it was crowding other plants and sending up shoots yards away—upside down suspended from a tree, or bolted to a pole upright? Covered with what color of lights? Green to go with the Green Globe of Happiness lamp in the front yard? Lit up with a laser to look like a flying saucer? Fixed or spinning in the wind?

After a trip upstairs I come down with a new song idea, with the refrain “it ain’t no fair that nobody likes my facial hair,” and how to make a sort of back and forth between a guy and a woman celebrating and bemoaning the productivity of the facial follicles, including the ones that send stiff little curls right into the nostrils if not kept in check, he reports. To make it clear that those ones are outside my experience. Then we talk about developing a simple device to absorb the sound of a coffee grinder and look good on the counter. After he finishes making a series of bottle-opening kitchen mallets of laminated maple and walnut, and I finish off a quilt that’s been in progress for over a decade.

Some of this part of life is more ordinary, just clearing away debris, some individually and some together. Making way for the creativity and productivity by getting rid of stuff that had value at one time, but, unboxed and visited in a new time, not always still a compatible old friend. Relationships ended or changed, no longer needing physical storage space. Dump and donation runs, Craigslist postings, requests for pickup or for permission to disposed of. All part of life’s rhythm, and best done ASAP rather than passed on to the next generation to complicate their lives. As we consider the value others will discover in this or that blanket, chair, bag of craft materials or backpack, it’s good to know all is not lost.



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Getting ready for the first date in the second half of life: a study in unrealistic expectations

I wanted to give it all, almost–my personal email, my blog URL, a good view of my shapely enough figure. The written exchanges were so… right, so warm and yet appropriate, intelligent with no posturing, appreciative with no flattery. In his reticence, I read alluring self-restraint. In his simple sentences I read deep thought and care about using words in the most frugal and powerful way. An unleashed ability to be passionate. In his serious expression and seeming reluctance to smile in the few photos he posted, I read authenticity–who can criticize someone who has not trained themselves to grin at a camera, who can only manage an “Ah shucks, okay I’ll try half smile? I appreciated his regular, but not too frequent, replies, and how he referenced the content of my messages intelligently and sometimes connected them with his own thoughts and experiences. In his references to heartbreak I read tenderness, a willing to be vulnerable, even be hurt, and I admired his courage to try again. I placed his personal rule of not letting online dating interfere with his lifestyle at the forefront of my mind. And it start to gather dust.

I thrilled at his allusion to having considered mooring his boat in my area, of having applied for positions here in the past. I drew him out. I encouraged him to meet. Yes, I agreed; this was hard, but one had to give it a chance. Yes, one could have one’s expectations disappointed, find that one person felt differently than the other, not sense the necessary chemistry. But what else was there to do? audentis Fortuna iuvat and all that.

He suggested a dockside dive in a half way town, said he had a boat project to work on, nothing too ambitious. I was jittery, excited, excitable. I refrained from frothing over to my kids, who supported me in my online dating venture, but for whom this was too new, and they’d rather not have the play-by-play. But my oldest daughter was patient with my need to bubble over a little, and said she’d help me pick out my outfit. She cautioned against red, and said that a plaid shirt, even a cute one worn with a skirt, looked like dressing down.

I had been checking online several times a day, feeling that rush of dopamine, knowing it was foolish to allow myself to get worked up, but at the same time savoring this long-dormant feeling. And why not? My friend Pink Poet texted, “Do you feel sixteen again?” She let me tell all, said it was welcome alternative drama to the tension of her current marriage situation. I told her that for some reason I was more drawn to this guy that to either of the others with whom I’d arranged meetups–the tall, bearded Hispanic romance writer, or the curly gray-haired designer-sculptor who made me laugh, let loose my wry sense of humor, and ended every message with “Whoo-hoo!”

The day of the early dinner date dawned. I puttered around all morning, avoided digging in the garden to keep my fingernails clean, repainted my toenails, put the laundry through and worried that my sweater wouldn’t be dry in time. I skipped my morning exercise so as to have more energy later, especially since I hadn’t slept well the night before. I picked berries to pull out for a surprise dessert. Distractedly scrolled through the matches of the day online, sent some “currently following some other leads, which is enough for now, but thanks for reaching out, and good luck with your search” messages. I wondered whether I should have purchased a shorter membership after all.

The time to head south drew near. I dressed, tidied my hair, chose a slightly form-fitting black sleeveless top and striped rose colored linen pants one might throw on after a day in the sun. I thought of my daughter’s claim that pants with a pattern made anyone’s butt look good.

My mind continued to spin–images, feelings, imaginings seemingly unstoppable. I cautioned myself, tried to maintain some kind of realism. It was expectations that disappointed, after all, not reality. Though I felt attractive enough, I remembered that my efforts to get a good selfie at times made me think of Silvia Plath’s “hideous fish.” I reminded myself to smile fully, not nervously covering my teeth, an old habit I picked up as a teen when I was insecure about them. I decided on my first few words: “It’s the real person, finally” or something, a hand clasp, like a friend rather than a colleague. I imagined the locking of eyes, the wordless reaching out of hands, a kind of recognition. I packed a travel toothbrush and clean underwear, because who knew? gushed my hormones.

As I pulled out of my driveway, I saw a jar of sweet peas on the roadside stand my son and I had set up. Suddenly my eyes filled with tears. It felt like the beginning of the breaking of my bond with my longtime husband, now gone almost a year.



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A conversation between two deaf men

One guy says to another guy in a coffee shop, a few tables away: “I’m looking for hearing aids from Thailand.”

“What’s that?”

“Hearing aids from Thailand.”


“But they’re all imported from Europe.”


“Europe. And they’re eighty dollars.”

“How much?”

“Eighty dollars. And you have trouble finding parts.”

“Trouble with what?”

“Getting parts.”

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Posted by on June 24, 2019 in Places & Experiences



The sympathy of not really belonging

I am part of a small team within our small staff, just three people, working on getting to know the Common Core math standards, focusing on 6th grade and up. We call it our Math PLC, Professional Learning Community, and meet most weeks, with a few gaps for other things that come up and general staff meetings. I am sort of leader, being the high school math teacher, so I bring guiding documents and suggest options for how we proceed, but we really all work together and I respect and depend on each person for their perspective, experience, and skills. For example, I am ideas and vision oriented but also wanting to analyze a lot of information before making decisions, another member is relationship oriented, super encouraging and also hilarious, and a third member is action oriented and good at laying out the pieces visually so we can organize the parts and move forward.

So far we’ve chosen what we’re calling Priority Standards, being the ones we guarantee to teach and assess with an aim to get all student to meet these standards. These are about a third of the ones laid out in the big CCSS documentation, but it’s recognized that it’s impossible thoroughly teach and track progress in every standard every year. Also and since the standards are broad and overlap from year to year and even across each other, as long as we align the strands up through the different level and catch the stages where certain ones are emphasized, in the big picture we try to cover them all. It’s also true that only certain things can be captured in standards language or be assessed in any standardized way; this does not mean they are the most important or can comprise a full curriculum.

This last meeting was completely different. We didn’t really do anything about math standards, but we made a deeper connection that felt pretty profound. We just talked. About one eprson’s relationship with her grandpa, about spirituality and religion, and about feeling, all three of us in different ways appreciative of but also disconnected and critical of the culture of our local community. I was like, one person said, My two team members had always lived here, but said the place sometimes drove them nuts and they’d never really feel they fit in. Yet at the same time, they knew it was imporant to stick around and be a part of the community, especially as teachers.

I’ve written before about how I don’t feel I fit into the community, doubt sometimes even whether I can even make an impact because I’m so at odds with the dominant culture, even though on the surface I seem like I have a lot of similar background. From a rural dairy area, raised in the Church, large family, homeschooled my kids. But that’s where the similarity ends. I feel like they both said they do so often, like I’m always having to bite my tongue.

There are two sides (at least) to this tongue biting–one being the effort to avoid unnecessary argument, alienation, or openness to misinterpretation when views are worlds apart, or at least toning it down so as to have a chance to slowly influence as well as show respect. The other is the restraint of criticism of the community and culture, and certainly individuals, to those on the fringes or outside, and avoiding a holier-than-them attitude.

None of us put out any specifics about what that culture was that grated, but we all knew. And about the rich and valuable parts too. No need to say, but it was special to feel more connected to one another in that moment, and it was an important team building session.

Personality-wise, the three of us are very different–it’s kind of magical that we can still feel so in sympathy as a team that has come together, as well as individuals who in some way are outsiders. Brings home in a greater way what community means.


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How can we say what’s real, with so much going on under the surface?

I have about 38 posts partially written, stuck somewhere in every one, either because they were too ambitious and require much more deep thinking and hard wordsmithing than I can manage lately, or because they are very out of date. I have not been showing up daily, as wanted, to put words together t o craft at least some kind of post. Discipline is important, yes, but I regularly find I purposely rebel against routine, including this one. It is a regular thing, these purposeful bouts of neglect of a practice I find so enriching for me and for which I can see some possible usefulness out there in the world, if I can improve my craft and develop a sense of a proper focus for my writing voice.

My idea is to double-rebel; that is, when I feel like breaking with the regularity of writing, I’ll recognize that as a habit bred from the same thoughtless laziness that makes me as eat the same breakfast every day or drive the same route to work, frequent the same coffee shop or avoid social situations. Thus I will feel that by maintaining a habit I am being a disruptor, which is more exciting, and out of my comfort zone.

Yes, that’s all really dumb and immature, but at least now I’m writing a little instead of watching two or three episodes of The Crown like I did last night. I was utterly exhausted, wanting to go to bed at 8 pm, exhausted for unknown reasons. I just lay on my quilt, partially propped up with unadjusted pillow, unable to move even to pull over and turn on my laptop and be passively entertained. I wondered if it was just my lack of leafy greens, excessive coffee, and failure to work out for the past two weeks. That habit was getting established, felt mighty fine, and I let that falter too, staying in my classroom a few hours after I should have to get through more paperwork.

As I felt the heavy inertness of my body, I also wondered if it was carrying the burden of some grief stage anniversary. Or if I was feeling May teaching burnt out, frustration from coming home to a mess in the kitchen I did not make, or just fighting a virus.

I did drag myself to the gym today after work, mindlessly warmed up on the treadmill, made the circuit of machines and did a few free weights, and it started to feel very good. It doesn’t feel so awkward going on my own now that I know what to expect–the machines, the low key 4 pm clientele, but the pool was full of kids and a water exercise group so I didn’t get the swim I’d hoped to end with. I was planning to suspend my membership for the next three months, but it turns out I can’t on my deal, and I’m kind of glad that this might make me get here more often, even if I do have more work in the yard to keep me fit.

I don’t want to have a countdown attitude about May and June. I want to fill the hours with well planning lessons and even up my game to work for a higher level of student engagement and success even while the weather calls us all outside and the three fans in my windowless room can’t keep it from heating to uncomfortable levels by the afternoon. I’m trying out a new Chemistry resource and a new online math curriculum we’ll be piloting this year, and collaborating with two colleagues to pin down priority standards for math which we’ll work on aligning K through 12th grade. I’m getting to new levels of understanding of best practices in teaching science (though still a long ways to go on the quality of my instruction), moving toward more student ownership of learning, getting to lead on my team more, all kinds of exciting things going on.

Plus, there was this student I was starting not to like, and really, to get pissed off at, most days. Well, actually two, and sometimes three. That’s never a good direction, and I needed to talk it out with colleagues, and even my daughter, to work on improving my attitude. I think I’m making progress. As I told my daughter yesterday, if I can convey that I actually like, in some genuine way, a student who is passively or actively resisting my leadership and/or their own better instincts, I think there is a lot of hope for something good to happen. Even if that hope is deferred for years. I want the most “difficult” students, when they realize down the road what they want to do with their lives and start to be more mature and responsible, to remember being liked. I want to provide a balance of sort of a parental style to pushing, requiring, disciplinary consequences, with a releasing into their own unique life, a recognition of their free agency to make their own choices, and an acknowledgement that the school machine is just a thing, and you can’t let it get you down. It’s a thing, and it has its uses, but it’s not the real thing, baby.



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May celebrations with my kids

Last week was my older daughter’s twenty-first birthday.The night before, her younger sister and (also underage) roommates treated her to a late night, and were there to accompany her to the local grocery store just after midnight to pick up a bottle of wine on her own newly legal ID. My daughter had explained beforehand that they’d be doing this, answered my objections that she’d thrown off her sleep schedule by asserting that it was just what was done. The next day she admitted that after midnight she’d just wanted to go to sleep and had to be urged to the store, that the feeling of hangover the next morning (being usually a light drinker) probably wasn’t worth it.

This is the daughter that always takes the time to make others’ special days feel special–she’s at our home now leading a team of siblings though cleaning chores and making a special lunch for me of potato skins and coconut cream pie for Mother’s Day. She jokes that she’s the “mom” of the bunch. Was in that role while living with her sister and roommates as well (she moved back home and started looking for a different set of housemates, the emotional work being too heavy and thankless).

Likewise she needs to feel special on her special day, and so we planned, checking in with her about her preferences, a special birthday dinner a few days after her actual birthday when we all could make it. She and her sister went camping, and would arrive for the special dinner.

We had a blast. Dance music blasting, everyone helping with this or that, flowers, helium birthday balloon (and helium-infused vocalizations), playing with the dog and cat (who wrestling with abandon, being about the same size), and my daughter’s favorite chicken, rice, asparagus and chocolate cream roll cake, topped off with some cider, champagne, and grape juice soda. Everyone hoping and trying for their best spirits and good will, hoping no one would bring up resentments, be insensitive or unkind, or get moody or selfish. Laughing with and not much at one another.

Another get together today for Mother’s Day. First without their dad. Makes them feel extra thankful, over a layer of melancholy. What will we do for Father’s Day next month?