Turning 40 during Quarantine

I turned 40 this week.

The time leading up to this age has been a really hard time while I have been changing jobs. I found a workplace I loved because the culture was great, and I loved all the people I worked with. But the work itself became too much for me in the stage of life I’m in right now.

So many times, I haven’t been sure what is next. Finally I decided to apply to graduate school. I have wanted to do that so many times, but I would have had to do an online program. My local university just got a program that is right up my alley. I applied, and now I can’t wait to hear back.

I’ve been so sad that the entire world is a big unparty right now. I had planned to have a dance party in my back yard to celebrate this year, and now it is postponed.

I’ve been hiking with only my Quarantine Crew to console myself.

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My daughter has started taking dramatic black and white selfies and making them the wallpaper of my phone. I pretend to be annoyed with her hijacking, but actually I love the little surprise every time.
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She is named after her great-grandma – my dad’s mom. Grandma just passed away shortly after all the things shut down for the pandemic. I had to watch my grandma’s graveside service on my cousin’s Youtube stream. That was hard, but I look forward to a celebration and memorial of her life in the future.

For the last few years, every time I saw her I tried to take a selfie with her, because you just don’t know how long you will have your grandmas. This is the last one from when she came down to visit almost exactly a year ago. She has the most beautiful smile, and when I saw this picture it made me sad and happy at the same time. She lived a great life, and I will feel lucky if I can be in some ways like her.

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Somehow 40 makes me feel a little more like a grown up. I’m a little more satisfied with my choice to go to school and change my work situation. I hope that this satisfaction is the harbinger of more self confidence and comfort in my own skin to come.

On my birthday, the quarantine crew and I went to Snow Canyon State Park. We had the place to ourselves. We hiked a little, then went and sat in the sand. I laid down with my bare feet in the sand and fell asleep for a brief few minutes while my kids played happily all around me. Not even promising a tasty dinner could get the boys to leave easily. We got curbside pickup sushi and pizza on the way home.

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My dear husband also made a secret Facebook group and had a bunch of our friends come and write me happy birthday messages on my driveway. There were poems, pictures, and many kind greetings. I loved it. At the end of the day, I looked at all of it and just about cried. I think I have been at the edge of tears, or in tears so many times over the last weeks about the virus situation that I’m getting better at holding them back. Or maybe I’m cried out? Anyway, it was full emotional joy. I loved it. Too bad every day of quarantine can’t be my birthday, huh?

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Coping Strategies

So this whole virus thing seems pretty serious. I am realizing that as an introvert I am very well equipped to deal with lots of staying home and isolation. Still, I’m slowing from the former frenetic pace of life, and it’s an adjustment. I thought I’d share a few of my coping strategies that are working so far.

Read All the Memes

First of all, thank you Internet. You have not disappointed in the meme department during this crisis. Every day there is something new making me chuckle.
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My husband’s favorite: “Whoever said one person can’t change the world never ate an undercooked bat.”

Quilt all the Quilts

My sewing room is full of UFO’s, which are also known as UnFinished Objects. I have already finished two, and look forward to finishing more. Check out Jenny Sews for the details in coming days.

Walk

I often go on 20 minute walks during normal times, but right now I can go for longer walks, and they help lift my mental mood significantly.

Watch All the Jane Austen and Period Dramas 

So far I have watched

Pride and Prejudice 1995 BBC version

Sense and Sensibility 2008 BBC version

Emma – Gwyneth Paltrow Version 1996

Mansfield Park 1999 Romance Drama

Wives & Daughters (Elizabeth Gaskell Miniseries)

North & South (Elizabeth Gaskell Miniseries)

And I plan to watch more as opportunities arise. I have wanted to sit down and watch these movies forever, and I never make time for that. Thank you quarantine!

Whatever Else Suits My Fancy

I’ve sewn a mask out of cute fabric for me to wear while grocery shopping. A man in line at Walmart today told me I should sell them.

I made a loaf of sourdough bread that took about four days to finish due to bad planning and timing on my part, but it tasted delicious.

We recently had our kitchen wood floor sanded down and re-finished, which made me want to deep clean our fridge. I did that, and it’s very satisfying.

I’m listening to and reading a couple of different books, and trying recipes out of one of them.

I think I’m reaching a point now where I’m settling into a more restful pace of movie watching, walking, and general survival with the homeschool responsibilities. My emotions range from calm to hopeful to despairing to optimistic, and a whole mixed bag of many more.  I think the one thing that helps me the most is to just remember that this is something affecting the entire world at the same time. How crazy for us to share a global experience like this! I hope it helps us all be a little more compassionate and understanding of one another.

 

 

You Hesitated

What have I been up to? I ask myself that every day right now. What am I going to do with my life? I don’t just ask the big question, What Am I Going to Do with my Life, but every day, I ask myself what I am going to do with my hours. I am going through a career change, and at the same time, I am a busy stay at home mom.

A few weeks ago we went to the Valley of Fire with some friends. My kids have been watching Avatar, the Last Airbender, and it mentions meditating. So my youngest two stopped and sat down, yogi style, with their hands together. I asked the five year old what he was doing. “I’m hesitating,” he said.IMG-7089

I feel like his answer summed up my current life.  I’m hesitating. I just had to leave a workplace I loved for the sake of my health. This left me feeling like a giant failure. Now I would like to find something with a lower stress level that still challenges me, and the pain of losing a job I loved makes me hesitate before jumping into something new.

I have started talking to myself about finding “meaningful work outside of the home.”  But when I listen to myself talk that way, I start to wonder, Can I make my work at home more meaningful, and quit cracking a whip on myself so hard to succeed elsewhere? I honestly don’t know that I can. Since I was a little girl and heard my kindergarten teacher say that it was possible for the first female president of the United States to be elected in my lifetime, my ambition has been kindled to do something great.

Do I have it in me to re-define what I think is great?  Isn’t it great to have healthy relationships with my spouse and children? Can that be great enough? Can I find a low stress work environment that provides me with an outlet from the exhaustion of full time caregiving, but that doesn’t leave me having a hard time managing my RA? If I ask myself one more question, will I go mad?

In the meantime, I’m taking a portraiture class. Art is another form of hesitation.  I stop my busy week for five hours every Thursday to learn from a master portrait painter. I have a lot of positive self talk, there.  I’m new at this. I have a lot to learn, and growth is a good thing. If it were easy, everyone would do it.

Below is my first attempt at a color pastel portrait. I’m working on my second right now, but I accidentally chose the wrong paper color, so I’m a little worried it’s doomed. Still, I’m new at this. I have a lot to learn. Growth is a good thing.

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One thing I like about art is that, like quilting, when you are done investing your time and effort, you have something to show for it. However, the product is not my favorite thing. The product brings up my worries and inadequacies.  My favorite thing about art is how, in an effort to focus on the subject at hand, all of my other worries sort of melt away. Trying to make art is a form of mindfulness, and in a way, a meditation.

 

A Simple New Years Resolution

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A couple of years ago I resolved on something life-changing. I am so happy I did it. I can’t remember if it was January, but I do remember that it took me a long time to truly change a life long habit.  I was at the Dollar Store the other day, and the cashier expressed his surprise when I pulled out my reusable shopping bags.

“Are you from California?” he asked.

“No,” I said. “I just trained myself to use these. It was really hard to go against the way I was raised,” I joked.

Joking aside, it took more persistence than I expected to change the habit. A couple of things made it possible, so I wanted to share a few of them.

Forgiveness

First I decided that I would take the approach I learned about from a stop smoking program. It said, “If at first you don’t succeed, quit. Quit again.”  I discovered it’s easier for me to do something hard if I allow myself to fail at it over and over before I succeed.  When I started, I left my shopping bags in the back of my car, and I don’t know how many times I walked into the store without them.  I finally figured out that if I mentally associated the produce bags as my warning marker, that helped me cue “plastic bag avoidance.” Since I usually go to the produce section first, I felt less stupid going back out to my car because I hadn’t filled my cart by the time I remembered.  I don’t know how many times I had to make myself turn around and go back out to the car, but after a series of those walks I finally remembered to get the reusable bags before going into the store.

Bags I Liked

I have a dear long-time friend who totally gets me, and one Christmas she gave me several small re-usable IKEA bags, like THESE.*  I loved them instantly. They folded up so small, and they fit right in my purse.  Purse carrying women are really at an advantage in this resolution. (That doesn’t mean men can’t make it happen, of course.) Since those first few bags I have also bought a few more to add to my stash. They are very sturdy, and I haven’t had to throw any of them away yet. I even bought a bunch of sets of constellation ones on Amazon* to do a giveaway for  marketing at my work. The bags were a hit, and we had more entrants than usual in our drawing.

Before I resolved to avoid using single use shopping bags, I used to throw grocery sacks full of wadded up used bags away on a regular basis. I hated doing this every time. Since my efforts to use only reusable bags, I have run out of plastic bags a couple of times. My family is still working on avoiding single use bags, and sometimes I end up forgetting my purse.  Still, Forgiveness, right? Better to try than to do nothing.

External Motivation

Do you ever read the news and just want to give up? I have been reading about the devastation in Australia currently, and the koala situation alone is enough to make me want to take a week off of reading the newsnot because it doesn’t matter, but because I can’t handle it.  Whenever I think about these environmental problems, I ask myself, Can I really do anything about that? I can’t fly to Australia. I’m not a trained firefighter. I can donate money to organizations who can do something, but donation is limited by my need to feed and shelter myself and my children.

When I avoid using plastic bags, I feel like I am DOING something.  At the grocery store today they gave me a 5 cent credit for each bag I used. That incentive would not motivate my five year old to pick up his dirty clothes off of the floor. When I use and reuse my bags, the benefit is intangible. I feel good. I may not be doing everything. But I am doing something. It is very small, but it’s better than nothing.

* These are not affiliate links. I just LOVE reusable shopping bags and want everyone to get some and use them and feel the joy with me.

Motor Bikes

IMG-5095As I was writing our family Christmas letter this year, I remembered back to the cruise we went on in May. We have been married for 15 years, and celebrated a little early because the cruises were cheaper then than our anniversary in the mid summer.

We ate so much food. I bought a journal in Belize to write detailed descriptions of the food to help me remember its beauty and bounty. My favorite thing was having waffles with blueberry compote and Nutella for breakfast the few days after I discovered this option. Every time we stopped at a port, we went on an excursion, and on our last excursion we decided to try those motorized bikesit seemed like a good idea after all of that Nutella for breakfast.

I like biking a lot, and though I lack skill, I make up for that in enthusiasm.  We got off of our cruise ship, took our Mexican taxi van, and stood in a group with the others who had signed up for the bike ride as well while we had a safety briefing.  Our guide showed us how to use the bikes, and then said we could try a little loop before getting on the road. I volunteered to go first because I was so excited. I had never tried a bike which had motors inside of the bars to help me along before.

I confidently jumped on, and pedaled straight toward the orange cone we were supposed to ride around. Since it was my first try, and since I was so enthusiastic, I took the turn a little too quickly, and gracefully slid my bike out from under me, landing flat on my face and scratching my knee.  It was a great learning experience.  For the whole rest of the bike ride I used the proper amount of caution, and no one else in my group fell off of their bikes.

It just went to prove that wise old adage that if you can’t serve as a good example, you’ll just have to be a terrible warning.

Oh Vanity

 

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I have a sister who has a talent for looking fabulous. She always has some gorgeously textured cream colored sweater, and a matching bag and shoes that go with that sweater. The whole ensemble will also  complement her complexion. She buys a lot of clothes, and many of her cast offs come to me.

A few months ago, she gave me the sunglasses pictured above. They have a hint of Art Deco style, which is one of my favorites as I love natural and dramatic styles. I have really enjoyed them. Normally I just use sunglasses for their practical purpose, and don’t think much about how they look, but these are different. When I wear them, I feel a little bit like a movie star.

The other day I was walking out of the dining area on campus, and as I stepped into the sunshine I congratulated myself on my beautiful glamorous sunglasses. I liked my outfit that day, too.  I had a brief moment of anticipation that I was going to look so smooth as I took my fancy glasses off of the top of my head and placed them gracefully on my face, covering it in large rounds of sophistication.  Unfortunately, as I began to lift them off of my head, they got caught in my hair, and I was still unceremoniously yanking, half way down the stairs. At last they came off, and I shoved them on my face.

Three women were walking toward me from the library. I didn’t know if they had seen the fall of my hubris. I smiled at them warmly, so that at least they would know I am kind hearted if not chic. Then I picked a hair off of my face that had got stuck in the glasses.  So much for my vanity. I guess glamour is not my destiny. I’m still going to wear those glasses though. They really keep the sun off of my face.

The Feeding of Children

I am lucky to currently have a flexible schedule. This means that most nights I fix dinner for my family.

Tonight, as I was busily stirring this and checking that, my five  year old came in demanding a peanut butter sandwich.

“No. I’m not going to make you a peanut butter sandwich right now,” I said, proud of myself for my firm boundaries.

“What, are you just going to not get me anything until I die?” he retorted.

That escalated quickly.

The Delicate Arch and Other Adventures

2D7F94AD-4E58-45CD-BE91-66E1BB16999FLast month I did not post, and that’s because it was hectic. Earlier in the year I had asked my sister if she wanted to go to Moab with me and see Arches National Park, and she said she would get back to me. She never did, so I thought we weren’t going. Then a couple of weeks before the weekend I had mentioned she checked in to make sure we were still going. I immediately reserved hotel rooms for us, and contacted one of our favorite cousins who lives there so we could visit her.

We drove the long and lonely road to Moab late Friday night, and Saturday morning we got up and dragged our eight children up the steep hike to see the Delicate Arch.  I knew it would be beautiful, but I didn’t know it would be a profound spiritual experience. When I saw it, I couldn’t speak for a few moments. I almost cried, and that’s not just because I had hiked 1.5 steep miles with a five year old past a hundred and a half chances to fall to his death.  The stark beauty of the arch just took my breath away. I had seen it in photos many times, but to see it in real life was to be transported by its grandeur.

I had breathed the fresh air, felt the sandy stone hard under my feet. The sun warmed me just enough in the chilly fall morning. It was majestical.

We had lunch at the Devil’s Garden, and then went down to the double arch area for the kids to play in the afternoon. We had dinner with my cousin, and I put the kids to bed at 9 pm in the hotel room. The next morning the sunrise wasn’t until 7:45, so I got up at 6:30, dragged my son into the car with me, and left to photograph it. sunrisearchessunrisearches2

I’ll bet I took a hundred photos. The stillness of the park in the dark morning really spoke to me. Cars still drove past, but it just felt more intimate. It was a long drive home after that much loveliness.

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Happy Autumn

I have to say Happy Autumn and not Happy Fall because the word fall makes me think of falling. Then I think of elderly people, and how terrible falling is for them. Then I think, what kind of sick person says, “Happy Fall?”

Then I think, All kinds of nice people say that every year in September. And I get stuck in a loop, laughing and rolling my eyes at myself. So Happy Autumn everyone. I feel like that’s clear enough, and none of us have to worry that I’m poking fun at their stability issues.

My daughter got after me today for not putting out the fall decorations. She made this cute one here:

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She gets this art out when the weather turns chilly, and I love it. I love that she made it. I love that she gets it out. Why should I go to all that trouble when she is making my life so much better by doing it? I am much older than she is.  If I climbed the stepladder in the storage room⁠ it could get precarious.  You and I both know how older people deal with falls.

You might also notice the Mexican table runner. One of the reasons I have had less time to write was that I was watching four cute nieces and nephews while their parents, my sister and her husband, went to Mexico for their anniversary. She brought that runner back for us because my sister is pretty much always thinking of others.

We had so much fun with the children, and here is some evidence:

IMG_6203All of my nieces and nephews are very bright, of course, and one nephew in particular is incredible at origami. He totally made this awesome little thing. I don’t know what it was. I like to think it is an elephant, trunk raised in the air, ready to trumpet. I do know that it would take me an inordinate amount of time to concoct such a thing. That boy pumped out loads of super cool paper stuff while they were here.

Their grandma came to help, and she cooked tons of food, including incredible tamales.  She also did many, many loads of laundry. I came to the conclusion that what every mom really needs is an extra mom in the house.

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