taking a (virtual) knee

Once again, the heavy weight of the world feels like it is impeding my ability to speak out, at least here in this space where I tend towards lightness. I have been quiet because the lightness I would ordinarily post feels frivolous in contrast to the overwhelming importance of current events. But having a choice about whether to stay silent in these times is a mark of my privilege. My voice is not impeded by anything or anyone but my own self and my own fears. So I will speak out.

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Black Lives Matter.

The post title is in homage to Colin Kaepernick, who gained notoriety and blacklisting from the NFL for his powerful protest of police brutality and racial injustice, by kneeling during the national anthem in 2017. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the expression “take a knee,” it refers to the act of kneeling in respect, and is an act made to show solidarity for someone injured on the playing field. I’ve been moved in recent weeks to see that more and more white people now appear better able to hear the meaning of that silent and powerful protest.

It has been amazing to see the many thousands of protests that have been held across this country, in big cities and small towns, in support of Black lives. For the record, I support the protests that have been going on in recent weeks in response the recent horrible murders by police of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and many other Black lives senselessly lost to violence. These are but the most recent in the long and brutal history of this country, where enforcement of the law is deeply unequal and shaped by pervasive white supremacy. I continue to grieve for the stolen life of Tamir Rice, who was only 12 when he was killed by police. And for so, so many others whose names I still must learn. Each person loved and valued. Each person’s loss deeply felt by family and friends. Each life cut short, each well of boundless potential senselessly drained.

There is always more to be done to fight for a more just society, so writing this small bit here feels too small. But I’m convinced that it is far worse to say nothing. I will strive to speak out more, do more, amplify more Black voices, and give more to organizations who are fighting the fight.

Today, in honor of Juneteenth, I have set up a recurring monthly donation to the Movement for Black Lives mobilization fund. The Movement for Black Lives:
 

The Movement for Black Lives (M4BL) formed in December of 2014, was created as a space for Black organizations across the country to debate and discuss the current political conditions, develop shared assessments of what political interventions were necessary in order to achieve key policy, cultural and political wins, convene organizational leadership in order to debate and co-create a shared movement wide strategy. Under the fundamental idea that we can achieve more together than we can separately.

hoping, expecting, waiting

I sometimes say that I can tell that I’m an optimist because I’m so often disappointed.

Back in mid March, our governor announced that all schools in Massachusetts would be closed for three weeks. Our district had already announced a closure for two weeks, and the additional week seemed prudent. Massachusetts was just starting to see a steep rise in Covid cases. A couple of weeks later, the governor announced that the statewide school closures were being extended to May 4th. Again, this seemed wise.

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As the weeks went by, statewide cases and deaths continued to rise alarmingly. It was clear that Massachusetts was being hit hard, climbing up to number 3 for confirmed cases in the US, and third also in terms of cases by population density. It seemed unlikely that schools would be reopening in May. With many states already having announced school closures for the rest of the year, I didn’t really expect that our schools would reopen. My head knew that things looked bad. The writing was on the wall, and my head could read it just fine.

And yet it turned out that there was, apparently, still a teeny, tiny barely perceptible fiber of hope embedded in my heart, as it were. Some part of me thought that maybe, just maybe, the kids could return to school by June for the last few weeks. Maybe they could have a brief reunion with friends and teachers. Maybe my eighth grade daughter could have at least some modified fragment of the send off from middle school before leaving for high school.

I really only realized that this hope had been there when it was announced, two weeks ago, that schools would not be reopening this school year.

I expected it. I really did. I just hoped for something different.

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It got me thinking, as I’ve done before, about the distinction between hope and expect. In Portuguese, the same verb, esperar, can mean either to hope or to expect. The two concepts share a root, grounded in thoughts of the future. And yet one branches out to mean what our head believes will happen, and the other what our heart wants to happen.

Interestingly, esperar also means to wait. And now the days pass into weeks into months, and we must wait to know what to expect. We wait for testing to become more widely available. We wait for a vaccine to be discovered.  We wait, expectantly, hopefully, for signs that we have turned the corner.

Espero. I hope. Espero. I expect. Espero. I wait.

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I’m including photos of early spring leaf buds from my recent walks. I find buds to be so hopeful, with their potential bundled up and gradually unfurling. 

grieving the big, small and in between

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My family has been fortunate so far in these stressful times. We have a comfortable home and abundant amenities, and live in a place where we can enjoy being outside. We are able to both stay home and keep working at our jobs, and the kids have access to at least some version of schooling. We are healthy and safe. I am grateful every day for our good fortune.

But there has still been loss, of things big and small.

Today was to have been a day for celebrating the life of my aunt, one of my late father’s siblings, who passed away in early March. My family in the midwest had barely scheduled the memorial when it was postponed indefinitely due to the pandemic. My aunt was in her 90s, and her life was full and long. But I still grieve her loss, and the loss of the connection with my father’s family.

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Life being complicated, today would also have been an important chorus concert for my daughter, one that she had auditioned for in early February. Of course, I could not have attended both the concert and the memorial for my aunt. I barely had time to agonize over this before the complications compounded, and effectively made my own decisions easier.

These are only two of the disrupted plans in my life and household. March and April had plenty more. Many I let go with a shrug. A few I was happy to relinquish. A few others, though, have taken a lot more processing. (And maybe a bit of packing them up to process later.)

I chose these photos to go with this post because I’m not sure I want to post photos of my aunt at this time. But looking back at the handful of photos I have of her from decades past, I noted that she was wearing yellow in two of them taken over 10 years apart. So the daffodils are for her. The daffodils have also been cheering me, and encouraging me with their resilience in the temperamental New England spring weather. The bounced back remarkably well after a snow storm.

May showers

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAToday was the first day of May. Somehow April both flew by and felt interminable. As usual, I struggle to find time to do all the things I’ve committed to doing, and haven’t carved out much time for the creative projects I’ve wanted to do. The days go by in a blur of meetings and cooking and work projects and reading the news and talking with family and friends.

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I still take photos many days, in particular when I’m out walking the dog. This afternoon after most of a day of rain, (and a bunch of meetings) the sun came out. I went outside to see if there was a rainbow. There was only a very faint rainbow above, but the yard was full of color and light. The late afternoon sun lit up the flowers and new leaves, and water drops sparkled everywhere.

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I took a few photos with my phone, but then decided to go inside to get my real camera. (It can be hard to get the iPhone to focus on a tiny drop of water or leaf.)

Somehow this feels like a good way to start the month. A bit of sharp focus in a blur of days.

 

 

wfh: Peep chaos edition

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I’ve been wanting to make a Peep diorama for years. I remember making a diorama (of the Peepless variety) for a 6th grade school project, and I really enjoyed the process. (Wish I photos of that–it was of a scene from a Nancy Drew book.) Anyhow, I may possibly not have made another diorama since then.

A few weeks ago, I decided this was the year. And I had the idea I wanted to go with. I may have told a few people that my biggest fear* was that someone would beat me to the punch with the idea. (*Not actually my biggest fear.) And I’ve been working on it here and there for about the 3 full weeks. (I ordered the Peeps on Amazon, since I wasn’t sure we’d be able to go out to get them.)

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It was really quite therapeutic to work on the little details. I made these bunny slippers one morning while everyone else was still sleeping.
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I made the portraits on the wall by photographing the “family” in front of a landscape painting.
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An early stage of the diorama. This box appeared to be an excellent size for a Peep desk.
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The coffee cup was one of the final details. I just made it this afternoon. You can sort of make out the cookies (made from felt) and the colored pencils (made from toothpicks.)
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The curtains are made from some old torn pajama pants. Rather fitting, I guess.
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I was also quite pleased with the armchair, which I made from cardboard, foam, and fabric from some long-departed corduroy pants.
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I couldn’t  quite capture the whole scene from one angle.
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Yes, I did walk around the house taking photos of peeps in different locations for the zoom meeting.
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I was rather inordinately pleased with my grocery bag, amazon box and laundry basket.

One of the things that also pleases me about this project is that is was almost entirely made from materials we had around the house. The only new items were the Peeps. There are a few items that were small toys, but most of the things I made from materials from our recycling and scrap fabric.

Ceci n’est pas une peep.

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Ceci n’est pas une peep.

Or, perhaps, the Treachery of Marshmallows. (After Magritte’s Treachery of Images, in case you don’t recognize it.) ceci-nest-pas-une-peep

A few years ago I had a sudden inspiration to create this image, by posing a Peep on a piece of card stock, and writing with a brown Sharpie.  A few weeks ago (though it also feels like years), in a fit of stress-induced work avoidance, I decided to revive and revamp the design. I cleaned it up a bit to make it into an image I could put on a t-shirt in time for Peep season.

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In case you need more surrealist t-shirts in your life, too, you can find it on TeePublic. (I ordered one for myself, and it came at least a week ago. But I haven’t washed it yet, and almost forgot about it. What with life taking on its own surreal quality.)

Puttin’ on the Pants

i-put-on-pants3-01Pants have been in the news again lately, but I’m sad to report that it’s more a lack of pants that is trending. With large percentages of the population staying home, pants have been down. Or at least the wearing and sales of pants.

I, for one, will not be party to this ongoing pantslessness. For a start, I still walk my dog every morning. So I get up and put on my pants. And, yes, I think I should get a ribbon for that.

Whether or not you yourself are currently wearing pants, we all deserve at least somewhat of a virtual pants party. Or in this case, a pants-themed musical extravaganza from the crooners of yore.

Put on your on your Blue Velvet Pants, and dial back your radios a few decades to enjoy these stylish pants standards by the Rat Pack and other mid-century songsters.

    • Puttin’ on the pants
You won’t see the well to do
Up and down Park Avenue
They’re staying home
Hardly getting out of bed
  • I left my pants in San Francisco
  • Under the Britches of Paris
  • La vie en pantalons
    • Strangers in the Pants
Strangers in the pants,
Exchanging glances
looking for romance,
What were the chances
    • Moonpants

Well, it’s a marvelous night for some moonpants
With the lycra surrounding your thighs
A fantabulous night to make no plans
‘Neath the cover of quarantine skies

  • I’ve got you under my pants
  • I Almost Lost My Pants
  • Ain’t That A Kick In The Pants
  • Smoke gets in your pants

This has been a Pants Radio production, and the product of a slightly unravelling psyche. For more pants music classics, check out: Saving all my pants for you, 80s pants party, and the magic of Santa’s pants.

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This post is dedicated to the memory of my dear friend, who should have been celebrating a birthday today. Among the many ways she enriched my life, she taught me to appreciate the humor in the word pants. She’s been gone over 10 years, but I still miss her. Rest in pants, sweet friend.

Totally Accurate March 2020 calendar

I know I’m not alone in feeling like this has been a long, looooong month.

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“Experts say we may be as little as two days away from finally leaving the March Age. The next epoch is provisionally being called “April,” and is also expected to last 5-10 million years.” (From @OutAndAbouter)

Supposedly March has 31 days, but I’m pretty sure that can’t be right. So I decided to make a more accurate version of the March calendar than the one that’s hanging on my wall.

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You know what they say about March: in like a lion, out like a scene from Silence of the Lambs.

Historically, April has been one day shorter than March. All bets are off as to whether that will be the case this year.

adjusting to the new normal

It’s strange to realize that it was less than 2 weeks ago that the fallout from the Covid-19 really hit my state. I’d been watching it like storm clouds in the distance, but the storm was already here before we saw it.

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Clouds over a parking lot a little over 2 weeks ago, when I was still casually running errands.
Yesterday, our governor announced that Massachusetts schools would not resume until at least early May, an extension of several weeks from the first statewide pronouncement. Many people (including me) are expecting that school likely won’t be back in session (at least physically) for the rest of the school year. Our school district, like many others, is working out a new system of remote learning. Both kids have been having assignments, and occasional virtual meetings with their teachers.
The kids and I started having our music lessons remotely this week. Both kids and I take violin lessons, both kids take piano lessons, and Phoebe started learning the guitar in the fall. I’m glad that our teachers are able to keep up their work.
These days I have even more (remote) meetings than ever, as I’m involved with multiple research and teaching projects. Plus I’ve started some volunteer work with a project to encourage green energy in my community. I’m busy with various commitments to each of the projects between meetings. I’ve been getting a bit more work done this week than last, but I continue to be distracted by the news. (I know I’m not alone.) Sometimes it feels odd to be pushing forward with projects when so much is uncertain about the coming months, but at the same time, it’s good to feel like work goes on.
I spend time talking with friends and family members every day, by phone, zoom or FaceTime. I’m having trouble finding time to check in with all the people I care about. (I owe responses to several texts, emails and at least one voice mail.)
I’m still walking the dog every day, and I’m grateful for the motivation to get up and get dressed early every morning. Plus I get to see the neighborhood. The dog is a bit uncertain about having the whole family home all day every day. His previous routine of napping on the couch for 5 hours after the walk is often disrupted by others using the couch. He’s a dog who shows his love through enthusiastic greetings, but he also likes to have his space. He’s definitely not a snuggler.
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The dog in one of his alternate lairs when his favorite spot on the couch is occupied.
I drove for the first time yesterday in almost two weeks, to pick up a share of produce I got through at CSA. (Someone I know arranged for  a farm to deliver shares to her home in a neighboring town. We were able to get fresh produce and avoid being in a store, or within 6 feet of any other people.) I asked the kids if they wanted to come with me, even though they’d stay in the car. They both joined me, and it felt like a fun excursion. It’s so odd to think that my previous life involved me driving almost every day.
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Carrots from the CSA farm share. Purple on the outside,  and surprisingly yellow/orange on the inside.
I have so many ideas for posts as well as creative projects I want to do, but the hours seem to evaporate most days. So instead of getting creative here, I’m just documenting. Because I know that this new normal is likely to change again.
And speaking of normal, my temperature has managed to stay basically normal the last couple of days. The low-grade fever went on so long that I was having doubts that the thermometer was working.
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View from an afternoon walk.