Friday, About Damn Time

I just booked a short camping trip in June. Close by. Yearly tradition, though we usually camp around July 4. And we didn’t do it last year because: pandemic. Very excited to be spending some time outdoors. With limited cell phone service. Woo-hoo!

Whenever I’m not thinking about the sheer crappiness of the world or the utter heartlessness of people, I’m actually in a great mood. Like, I’m allowed these moments of joy amidst the morass of …morassness. My family, my friends, my work. My hammock. My back yard. We’re not super rich; we’re pretty regular people. Still: this is privilege.

I’m reading a book, Hood Feminism, by Mikki Kendall. About halfway through, so far some really powerful points made. A few foods for thought:

Sometimes being a good ally is about opening the door for someone instead of insisting that your voice is the only one that matters.

We also need to stop normalizing hate and stop assuming hate speech is harmless, regardless of who it targets or who says it.

We can’t afford to keep pretending mental health issues stop at the boundaries of whiteness. Instead we have to be ready, willing, and able to embrace those for whom mental health is a struggle and to make sure that we aren’t contributing to their trauma under the guise of being helpful.

Even though I’m not Black, I did spend part of my childhood in poverty, and I observed and experienced systemic oppressions without really knowing what they were. And now I want to help so that others don’t have to live some of the experiences I did. If you can, check out this book.

And now, because it’s Friday, let’s throw back to my dazzling review of Rebecca Black’s hit song, “Friday.” Click this link, and … just prepare yourself for some overt tongue-in-cheekiness. Happy Friday, everyone. I’ll check in tomorrow and for the following 85 days, at least. Practice makes better.

Oh, dang. I just thought about posting while camping in June, limited cell phone service and all. Looks like I’ll have to plan ahead.

May Day, Social Media Roundup

My name is May.

May is my favorite month.

I was born in May.

Today is May 1.

I tend to be in a great mood all month long.

And sort of obnoxious.

On Twitter I tweeted:

Did I do it right? Maybe I should be showing more skin? I mean, the shirt is supposed to highlight the irony of the thirst trap this isn’t. But I don’t know if people got that. I barely have over 100 followers, and I lie low not using a ton of hashtags or mentions. So I wonder if the four people who are active saw this post and got it. Probably, they’re pretty smart.

On Twitter and Instagram I also posted these:

Right? More irony, maybe? Because I’m not really trying?

But the following May Day photo was fun, because I got it on the first take. Maybe because I’ve taken jumping selfies before, and I know just when to jump before the snap. Also the angle makes a huge difference. Setting the phone on the ground at a slight angle up seems best for showing the biggest air.

Here’s one of me under the apple tree, with the neighbor’s farm and the mountains in the background. I think we may never move, because the view stuns me every time:

And, finally, to close out May Day, here’s my fair-skinned husband weeding our flower beds. He’s such a great guy, and I’m lucky to celebrate May Day with him. One of dogs keeps watch. The blooms on that tree are ridiculous. Wow.

Happy month of May, everyone!

Spot the Difference

I hung up the hammock today! Felt symbolic.

Not in an overly deep way. The weather is finally warming and keeping relatively steady. And Z really likes the sensation of lying and swaying at the same time. Very soothing.

Both Z and Reilly get the summer off at the end of the school year, and so much relaxing and playing will happen. These summer months are often pleasant.

Got a text the other day from a friend. She and her husband are both fully vaccinated, and she told us as soon as we say the word, they’re game for hanging out.

We are, too.

When people have come over in the past year, they’ve worn masks, and they didn’t stay very long. How will it feel to loiter for hours with friends again? Maskless, even? Will it feel…wrong?

Speaking of, I’m cooking up a post about masks. Not sure if it’ll be indignant or not. Just kidding, I’m pretty sure my thoughts will be carrying some heat.

Anyway: warm weather, friends, so much time in the back yard. Reading, gardening, snoozing.

That’s the hammock.

It’s back up, everyone.

Living Close Enough to Nature

Utah is beautiful in the spring. It’s undeniable. Watching flowers bloom and color return to the world invigorates my soul.

One of our cherry trees has reached full bloom. It’s starting to drop its petals to make way for leaves and fruit. Those petals on the ground almost look like snow. Spring here tends to be temperamental and unpredictable. It could still snow, but the vegetation will keep insisting it’s spring. And I will only agree with that idea.

Our apple tree has started to bud. The fruit won’t show up until the fall, but the flowers right now sure brighten my day.

I built that swing and that bench last spring, as the overwhelming desire to do something with my hands during the pandemic and isolation prompted me to, well, build stuff. We’ve enjoyed sitting and swinging under that apple tree this past year. We’re gonna do a lot more of it.

The view of the neighboring farm always calms my spirit. I mean, look: the big field, the red barn, the (blurry) horse. To think I wouldn’t be living here long-term. Utah has succeeded in changing my mind. So grateful we live here.

COVID-19 Vaccine, Dose 2 Symptoms

I got my second dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine last Thursday night. I ended up feeling a lot of the same symptoms as the first dose, but more intensely.

The aches were a little more pronounced. Thursday night I slept horribly.

Friday I experienced chills, a different experience from the first dose. Took a hot bath. Took a couple of naps with a space heater nearby and under a couple of blankets. As a result of trying to keep my body warm, my Fitbit reported that I burned as many calories as I would on a day of jogging 25-30 minutes on the treadmill. Very interesting.

Even with my Friday naps, I slept really well that night.

Saturday morning, outside of a slightly tender injection site, I felt so much better.

So glad to be on the other side of this.

Two weeks, and I’ll have full immunity.

Cool.

80s Basement Lecture Series

In November 2016 we bought a house. We moved in the next month. The idea of having the space to host events or parties crossed my mind. Our basement looked like hasn’t been updated since the 1980s, and this is where we set up the TV for movies and games. In February 2017 we started a quarterly lecture series, and we would hold each lecture in our 80s basement living room. We’d invite people over, we’d eat treats, and speakers would be our friends.

2017

18 February – Satire, by Reilly Ryan

Reilly started of our series with a fun discussion about satire. He provided a few written and video examples; he talked about his thesis, which discussed whether a show like Family Guy (compared to the Simpsons) was satire. (I actually blogged about this lecture here.)

20 May – Poison Control Center, by Amber Johnson

Amber is Reilly’s older sister. She talked about the Utah Poison Control Center, where she works. She provided pointers on keeping our homes safe and what to do in the event of a poisoning. Since this lecture she has been promoted to Director of the UPCC, which now also doubles at the Utah Coronavirus Hotline.

19 August – Horror, by Jonathan Smith

Jon knows a lot about horror movies. He spoke to us about horror films and the commentary they provide about family. We watched a few excerpts from classic scary movies and analyzed them.

11 November – Introduction to Fan Studies, by Melissa Beattie (Skype)

Melissa, a professor, talked to us about the ins and outs of being a fan. We talked about fanfic. She mentioned a lot of pop references and talked about fan events and culture such as Comic Con, as well as the history and basics of fan theory.

2018

17 February – Bali and Gamelan, by Gavin Ryan

Gavin is one of Reilly’s brothers. He presented a lecture about Bali music and culture, and he brought some Gamelan instruments for a performance.

26 May – Immunohistochemistry and Libraries, by May Ryan

I talked about the app that I maintain for work. I also talked about the importance of libraries.

25 August – Semiotics and Tarot, by Bridgette Tuckfield (Skype)

We learned about tarot cards! The history and meanings behind signs. A very cool discussion.

10 November – Nigerian Literature, by Kylie McQuarrie

Kylie presented the work of several African authors, and how important they are in context of war and oppression.

2019

23 February – COLD Podcast, by Dave Cawley

Our biggest crowd. Dave had released his true crime podcast just a couple of months before. We were lucky to have booked him before all the other speaking engagements came along. For us, he told the Susan Powell story and gave background on all the footage and other artifacts that enrich this story.

4 May – Fur Foxen concert and Q&A

My hairstylist happens to play cello and sing in a band. We invited them to give a really nice, chill concert and answer some questions about their process.

24 August – Highway Typefaces, by Marjorie Smith

Very fun lecture about the history of highway typefaces, which includes some surprising drama. Everyone probably now notices the details of freeway signs now.

23 November – Visual Effects, by Ryan Sonderegger

Ryan talked about some of the technical aspects of his work. We discussed some of his more well-known projects. Very fascinating.

2020

22 February – Cheese, by Joseph Peterson

We sampled so many cheeses! Some were awesome; some required an acquired taste. We paired cheeses with crackers and breads and fruits. It’s always fun to discuss food.

We didn’t miss a quarter for three years. All of these lectures were amazing. We learned about so many really interesting things. We gained a deeper understanding of social issues and other cultures. This was also a chance/excuse to get like-minded friends to gather in a safe space, a tiny blue dot in the middle of our obnoxiously red county. We aired our grievances and frustrations with the political climate. (We closed on our house just before the 2016 election.) We loved being able to hang out with such wonderful people.

Lectures went right up to the cusp of pre-pandemic and pandemic times. We haven’t even held a lecture since then. Not even online, though I’ve toyed with the idea. But we’ve all been dealing with isolation and anxiety and everything else that came with the pandemic. We’ve been depressed and cabin-fevered; wanting to break out into society and wanting to keep the blankets over our heads at the same time. These have been difficult times. But with vaccines becoming more accessible and as more people get vaccinated, we’ll be able to gather safely soon. Hopefully.

I miss those guys.

Our Anniversary

Disclaimer: I’m grieving and have more feelings than I know what to do with. Writing is one way to sort through them. Not sure if they’ll make sense, but here they are.

Carla passed away on June 1, which happens to be Reilly’s and my wedding anniversary. We had plans to go out to eat. And attend a concert his brother’s band were giving at his parents’ home in Payson. Carla had other plans. As we were driving home that evening, Reilly promised next year would be better. I told him it was really nice of his mom to let us spend it sending her off.

Remembering her on our anniversary makes it fuller, deeper? more complete? Not sure what words belong here, except that it’s more. We might start a tradition of visiting her gravesite every June 1 to celebrate her. If it weren’t for her (and Reilly’s dad), circumstances would have been different, and I wouldn’t have met Reilly.

Carla was always really sweet, really friendly. Sincere, genuine. She always put others before herself. Even in her final hours I felt she was making sure we’d be ok. The best human–daughter, wife, mother, friend–she could be until her very last mortal breath. She continues to be her best self.

It’s an honor to celebrate my marriage, to share this joy Carla gave me in Reilly, by giving thanks to her every June 1.

Smoke and Reflection

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On my way to work this morning I came upon this view. Smoke from neighboring states’ wildfires has drifted into our mountain range and somewhat obscures the view. This haze has lingered for days, or has it been weeks? It reminds me of a roadtrip I took through the Great Smoky Mountains, where fog cloaked the peaks, not smoke. The mist was beautiful and mysterious but also inspired meditation. As the day warmed the fog eventually lifted. Here, the smoke continues to cling—a sticky, choking cloud. These Uintas should trade names with the range back East, because of all the literal smoke.

People talk of rising above the haze, finding clarity, a better view. People find a way to ascend—hike, horse, plane—or they hope for this veil to lift.

To see. To see, and to breathe.

The path isn’t clear all the time. The religious rely on their faith to nurture what they cannot see into knowledge; the spiritual also have a form of faith that guides them. The rest of humankind also believes in the goodness of others and desires improvement in themselves, but without any post-life motivation or incentive.

This is overly simplified: there are more than these three groups of people in the world, and there are definitely overlaps between these groups. Lives and attitudes and philosophies are so different. I accept this.

How do I assess the meaning in my life? What is my why?

Do I contemplate my purpose because of the smoke, or because of what the smoke obscures? Because I know the mountains are there, does this sustain my hope for better things? Does this motivate me to rise above the current smog?

What if I didn’t know what was hiding in the smoke, would my plan of action be to wait until it clears?

Sometimes I wonder if I’m being faithful, or just naïve.

Desuppression

Seven hours of sleep, and the alarm sounds.

Seven hours of sound sleep. I could keep sleeping.

I press snooze.

Anticipating the snooze alarm.

I do not keep sleeping.

Waiting.

I could sleep like this every night.

Coughing gets in my way. It feels like a month of coughing, my abs punching my lungs to expel air at random times, at inconsistent forces. Attempting to tame a lingering tickle in my throat.

Coughing annoys, distracts. Steals sleep. I feel the tickle right now.

Breathing has been shallow lately in this past month. This morning I exhale deeply, and my ribs tighten. Sometimes the spaces between the ribs cramp. Like I have been running and I get a stitch in my side, but I cannot run through the pain until it subsides.

I am not running. I just lie here. Not sleeping.

But the cramps. Am I out of oxygen? Has it been so long since inflating my lungs through deep, meditative breaths? Have my ribs forgotten how to expand, to compensate for my body’s deficit in breathable air?

What is breathable?

Winter sits on the air, spits in it. Sometimes she brings snow and wind and chilled rains and replaces the air.

Winter is heavy and often merciless and stingy, not only with the air but also the sunlight.

I realize more than one cause facilitates my suffocation.

This early in the morning headlights slide across closed blinds: One thousand one, one thousand two. I try breathing again, and it still hurts.

Darkness penetrates the room. Darkness is space, but it does not expand. It constricts. I cannot breathe the space, but it breathes into me, occupying too much of my lungs. The pressure also surrounds me from the outside, hugging my ribs tight.

Darkness leaves just enough air in my lungs to cough. Cold medicine suppresses the cough, helps me sleep.

Now, if only I could breathe more than a teaspoon at a time without pain.

Yet when my child and my husband cough, all I want to do is absorb their coughs. They need to be cough-free more than I.

Ten minutes later. The snooze alarm sounds. I turn it off and sit up. I could keep sleeping. I could keep overthinking this cough. I slip out of bed and begin getting ready for the day, grateful at least to be breathing, albeit heavy, dirty winter air.

Grateful for the full night’s sleep.

————-

Disclaimer: Obviously I’m rusty with writing, but bear with me. I should be doing this more often and finding my voice. Beneath the coughs. Fingers crossed.

Letter to Baby Girl: 37 Weeks

Dear Baby Girl,

I’ve been waiting to use the words “at term” with you, but when I browse the internet, some sites say 37 weeks is full term, some sites say you’re early term. I’ll just say you’re in the term range, which is nothing but awesomeness.

“Term”inology is so confusing.

That was supposed to be something called a joke. Meant to be funny, meant to provoke an association that’s supposed to make you laugh. You may recognize it as a pun and roll your eyes because puns are on the lower end of the humor spectrum. Or you may really love puns and laugh. Or you may stifle your laughter because you realize I was just telling the joke for attention. How I already yearn for your attention.

Well, 37 weeks is just three weeks away from your due date. How did nine months turn into three weeks? How have we spent nearly three-fourths of a year together already?

I have officially begun maternity leave. I’m very excited to focus on spending at least the next few months getting to know you: feeding, sleeping, physical features, facial expressions. I imagine myself watching you in all my waking moments.

At last week’s appointment, the doctor informed us of two situations where we would go to the hospital: if I have contractions that are five minutes apart that last for an hour, or if my water breaks. Now, I have these events called Braxton-Hicks contractions. You probably feel them. My tummy gets really hard for varying amounts of time. I usually walk around for a few seconds, or if I’m trying to sleep, I change positions to make my tummy relax. I also try to stay hydrated.

I have only seen water breaking on television or movies, and I get the impression of a busted floodgate. But I’ve heard that it doesn’t always happen that way. I guess you’ll let me know, regardless.

My body has not yet shown these signs that you are ready to enter this world. You move around and stretch, but you seem rather cozy still.

You get the hiccups a lot, at least once a day. Again, there’s information on the internet that worries me about your hiccups, and there are sites that say they’re normal and preparatory for some of the functions you’ll have once you’re born, like breathing air.

Oh, I feel the need to apologize. Easter this year isn’t until the end of April, but the Easter candy is on full display at all the stores, and I want to eat all of it. We picked up some of those Reeses peanut butter eggs and a bag of jelly beans. We put the peanut butter eggs in the pantry on a high shelf, so: out of sight, out of mind. But I put the jelly beans in a jar on the kitchen table, and I have been eating from that jar all weekend. Granted, it’s only one or two at a time, but that easily turns into at least a dozen a day. So, I’m sorry if you’re experiencing a little more sugar than usual. At least I get to wonder if you have a favorite flavor. I personally like the citrusy ones.

Everyone’s asking if we have picked a name for you yet. I tell everyone the same thing: we have a list that we’re narrowing down. But I guess I’ll say that the names we have narrowed down your father and I agree on. They’re all great and could fit you  perfectly. In our process, we have tried to pick names that would minimize teasing from other kids. More classic but not too common; strong and not overly trendy. More traditional spellings. We like how curious and excited people are to know your name, and we know how hard it is to be patient when they’re so excited, but people could chill out. Just a smidgeon.

We have another appointment today. These weekly visits only emphasize how quickly you’ll be here! Your father and I will ask questions and listen to your heartbeat. The doctor will measure and assess. We’re waiting for him to update us on some of your recent developments, and even if he orders an ultrasound, we hope everything continues to be okay.

Sweet child, we love that you’re in the term range; we think it’s great that you can come at any moment. We love the happiness you have already brought into our lives.

We’ll see you soon.

Love, Mom