CH. ONE

Sit down, get comfortable. Have I got a story for you.

I suppose it begins last Sunday, when a lady was told unequivocally that she was being laid off from the job she adores (and which supports her family). In some ways, you could say it began when she moved back from Southern Appalachia two years ago, but really, it all started with the election of a certain individual just after Halloween 2016.

Let me be clear, this has little to do with anything of that sort of nature, it is merely noted as a reference in time. And to provide a bit of context. A setting, if you will.

So. After years of working in a supporting role at a particular school with a particular pedagogy in a particular place that is just north of Mexico, it suddenly became urgent that this lady find full-time employment or, at the very least, a pay increase from the pennies she’d been making for half a decade.

After all, since the new administrator came in, all new hires were making $15 per hour which was almost 25% more than she was earning at the time.

Did I mention this lady had three kids? PENNIES.

The request for a pay increase was scoffed at, naturally, so the lady decided to inquire as to other positions that might possibly be available. There was a subject in need of teaching, but the material was not at all this lady’s area of expertise. Despite this small detail, because this lady loves to learn (and loves to teach!), she decided to give herself a crash-course in biodynamics and go for it.

The long and short of this part of the story is that no, the lady was not hired for this job. But she was hired for two others, at two different schools with the same particular pedagogy. So she picked the town that sounded most appealing (read: least cold), packed up two of her three children, and drove eight states east.

What happened with the third child, you ask? Well. The lady really did love this particular school with a particular pedagogy in a particular place that is just north of Mexico, and so did her kids. The oldest one was headed into his last year with a class he’d been with since he was young enough to show his age with his fingers, and there wasn’t a great option for him in this other town where the rest of the family was headed. So another family – who had already departed from this particular school with the particular pedagogy, but who really loved the lady’s oldest son – offered him room and board for the year so he could finish with his class.

The lady had never once questioned this decision, even during the long snowy months when she did not see (or speak to very often because three hours is a lot more of a time difference than one might realize) her firstborn baby, until that last paragraph. Oof.

Where were we? Oh, yes. In the mountains.

Turns out, the lady really enjoyed working at this other school. She even liked the town, though it was much colder (and muddier) than she prefers. Seriously. So much mud. Full disclosure, the mud was the youngest child’s favorite part, and absolutely everybody loved the fireflies.

There was even a somewhat attractive option for high school for the oldest child. In the most serendipitous of exchanges, it was discovered that the current headmaster of a college preparatory school in this town had been the assistant headmaster at a different college preparatory school in a different town, and had once written a college recommendation for the lady – who’d been a student of his nearly two decades prior.

But, the son was waitlisted due to the high number of students remaining from the middle school. And also because, you know, private school is expenisve and the lady’s work has always been in service of a particular pedagogy. She wasn’t going to work at this school and therefore would not receive tuition remission, and financial aid would have still been quite a stretch. Another option was explored, and it wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t perfect.

And that is when a job became available at the particular school with the particular pedagogy in a particular town just north of Mexico. And not just any job. A dream job. The kind of job that is perfect for a lady who wants nothing more than to share her love of creating things with others.

You don’t have to wonder because I will tell you, yes. The lady did apply for that job. And then she waited.

And waited.

And waited some more. Which is what you’re going to have to do now because it’s getting late and mama’s tired.

THE MEDICINE I NEED

One of the most consistent memories I have of my Baba is of her sitting at her kitchen table, painting her nails. She would keep her naturally long nails well manicured, the polish ever shiny and free of chips. She rotated between the same few muted shades of rose, coral, or cream, and there was always the faintest aroma of acetone as you approached that side of the table.

My Baba is my dad’s mom, and largely responsible for seeing me through my teen years when my father’s wife had decided that I was far more than she’d care to deal with. My Baba lived alone in a sprawling California ranch style home in the equestrian neighborhoods of the Burbank hills, and an entire wing of her house had naturally evolved into my retreat space. A few years later, I’d live there with my young husband and our brand new baby. But long before I nested there in my days of early motherhood, in the late 90s that wing was my safe place.

She was my safe place.

I’d gotten in the habit of taking myself for monthly pedicures and had grown accustomed to having polish on my toes. When all the salons were ordered to close, I sighed and started attempting at-home pedicures. They’re neither easy nor relaxing, but the result is more or less the same.

On a random trip to Target a few weeks back, I decided that I’d select a new shade of nail polish. I always limit my browsing to the small section dedicated to the slightly-less-toxic brands of polish, and quickly spotted the Olive & June display.

Obviously, I’m familiar. I mean, I am from LA, duh, but I hadn’t realized the products were available in store. I immediately grabbed a pretty light blue, and recognized it to be one of the original Olive & June shades, which is named after a girl from my high school soccer team who’s gone on to become a successful lifestyle influencer. Sold!

Back home, I painted my toes, loved the color, and proceeded to read all about the company, its founder, and its philosophy, which is mostly about manicures.

I work with my hands, so keeping polish on my fingers has never really been high on my list of priorities, but I do like my nails to look well maintained. Olive & June has developed an entire system for at-home manicures, including a tool to help assist non-dominant hands with painting. It’s actually pretty brilliant.

Thinking it’d be a fun summer project for Jade and I – learning to give ourselves high-quality manicures – I bought a tool kit and a few shades of polish. As a reward for finishing my reports last night, I gave myself what I’m sure will be the first of many manicures.

There is a lot of room for improvement, and after years of caring for them incorrectly, my cuticles aren’t in the best of shape. However, I’m super inspired to keep up this habit. Especially since the entire time I was painting my nails, I was thinking about my Baba.

Tomorrow, Jade comes back from her dad’s house and we’ve got plans to practice painting our nails. Even though the polish we’re using hardly smells at all compared to the noxious stuff my Baba used, I can only hope it’s an odor my daughter associates with peace.

TO RELEASE ME FROM THE LONGEST AFTERNOON

I finished writing my end-of-year reports, submitting them just in the nick of time. I am so gld to officially be finished with the 2019-20 school year. GOOD RIDDANCE.

Yesterday, my oldest child, my first baby, the person that has affected my life more than any other, celebrated his seventeenth solar return. That kid. He’s incredible, and being his mama is the greatest honor. Obviously I will be his mother for always, as he will forever be my son, but I am painfully aware of how fleeting my time with him is, how quickly he’ll be off to the next chapter of his extraordinary life.

We had an intimate gathering at the beach, just his nuclear family and the two friends he calls his very best, and we each bestowed upon him our wishes. It was humble and somewhat impromptu, and as we made our way around the small circle we’d formed offering our hopes for his bright future, Emet looked at me and said, “This is super cool, mom, thank you.”

An instant, frozen in my memory for as long as I shall live. You’re welcome, Emet. I love you so.

But oh, to have those reports behind me is a different kind of celebration, a release of the weightiest weight. Now that they’re out of the way, I’m hoping to be flooded with inspiration. At the very least, there is space in my brain and that is always a great place to start.

WISHING THE RELFECTION WOULD TELL ME SOMETHING

When you’re content, write it down.

I read those words yesterday and my mind has been racing ever since. I often struggle to find any words at all when I am caught up in a series of unfortunate events, yet when the stars are aligned and I am in that elusive flow state, words pour from my fingertips faster than I can think.

Sometimes, in the very darkest of seasons, I turn to writing as a kind of centering practice, because clearly I associate writing with a certain brand of homeostasis. Somewhere in the desperate searching for a sensible sentence or two, I manage to find even the most narrow pathway back to myself.

It is when I’m faced with what I suppose to be ordinary challenges, or perhaps slightly out-of-the-ordinary-but-not-altogether-dismal circumstances that I struggle the most to put words together. Also, when I’m lazy.

I think this particular dry spell is a combination of the two, compounded by the variable of summer break. And end-of-year reports, ahem.

Reading, on the other hand. I just can’t get enough at the moment. I picked up a memoir from our local library, a collection of essays about coming of age alongside technology, written by the gal from whom I lived across the hall Freshman year at NYU. And now, her wit and knack for constructing a clever turn of phrase is preserved within a volume of her own making. Magic.

The moral of this phenomenal piece of nonsense is that when writing feels difficult, I have a choice to either work through it or wait. By constantly choosing to wait, I am also choosing for writing to not be my work.

Time to make a different choice.

FROM SEA TO SHINING SEA

I’m born and bred in Southern California, but I have lived all over this wild country. I spent two years in the Northeast, living in New York City. I spent 373 extremely long days living in Portland, Oregon and I promise I will never again reside in the Pacific Northwest. I recently spent eleven glorious months in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, and while Southern Appalachia might just be my favorite region in all the land, I just can’t seem to quit San Diego.

My point is this. Our country is sprawling and every bit as diverse in population as in landscape. We are capable of being a truly great nation where real liberty, equality, and fraternity exist as fundamental values espoused by and for everyone. We aren’t there yet, but we can be.

I have always always been proud to be a Californian. One day, I hope to claim the same kind of pride in being an American.

JUST MAYBE, LIKE A UKULELE

Once upon a time, when he was in college, my little brother declared that he would be running for Student Body President of his university, SDSU.

His last name is Boden, and always one to attempt a witty word construction, I suggested that his campaign slogan should be “I’m Votin’ Boden.” I was half joking at the time, and I’m fairly certain the suggestion was offered in the form of a singsong chant.

I’m votin’ who?

I’m votin’ Boden!

I’m votin’ who who?

I’m votin’ Boden!

Long story short: that became his slogan and, despite a minor scandal involving the twitter page I helped him create, he did ultimately win the election.

Today, that very same little brother has announced his campaign to run for San Clemente City Council, check out his website here. And if you scroll all the way to the bottom, you might notice a familiar phrase.

I’M VOTIN’ BODEN. (I mean, if I were I registered voter in San Clemente, that is.)

RIDIN’ THE RANGE ONCE MORE

I broke a sustained and intentional sweat two days in a row for the first time since the gym closed back in March and I already feel more like myself than I have in weeks. I got just about as good as one could get at staying home all day every day but at no point during quarantine did I maintain a consistent workout schedule.

Which is to say that I am feeling it, and it feels good. My muscles are sore and my body aches with the kind of fatigue that results exclusively from physical exertion. I’m definitely gonna sleep well tonight.

And then I’m gonna wake up early and go back to the gym.

WANNA BE STARTIN’ SOMETHING

I love July for many reasons, and not just because it’s the month of both my birthday and my oldest child’s birthday, but because it marks the midpoint of the year. For a gal who celebrates half-birthdays, you’d better believe I celebrate Semi-New Year’s Day.

Like any other bona fide nostalgic goal-setter, I have volumes of lists and journals and notes-to-self. Milestones like the start of the second half of the year provide the perfect opportunity to reflect upon the goals I set at the first half of the year and adjust accordingly.

Honestly, given that more than half of the last six months have been spent in quarantine, not much has changed either by way of what I want to achieve, or what I’ve achieved thus far.

Except for my home, which came together unexpectedly and with outstanding success, I can’t say that I’ve made much progress beyond very first steps. In some instances, like with my fitness, I have had setbacks. In others, I haven’t really even gotten started.

Which makes today exciting for me, because I could either be bummed that I wasted six months not doing much of anything or I could be stoked that I have six whole months to get stuff done.

It’s worth mentioning that I don’t really think I spent six months doing nothing. In fact, this season of sheltering in place with my sweet family has deepened and expanded and lightened my heart, my faith in something greater than myself confirmed through the tiny everyday miracles I’ve been privileged to witness with ever increasing regularity.

The work of these past few months is perhaps not measured by external factors like this many miles ran or these many garments sewn. The things I have achieved aren’t visible or perceptible or marketable, but undoubtedly everything I do henceforth will be somehow fortified by the strengths and perspective I have cultivated through the experience of raising children through a global pandemic.

Other than celebrating two birthdays, by the end of this month I hope to finally launch something I’ve been thinking about for an embarrassingly long time. I also hope to make it to the gym every day, and to use up the large stash of avocado stones in my freezer by dyeing enough yarn to knit myself a sweater. Yes, I have every intention of making this the month where the narrative changes from the passive to the active voice.

DON’T LET YOUR MIND RETIRE

I should be writing reports since the first drafts are due for editing tomorrow, so obviously I’m here instead, ready to ramble on about nothing in particular which is an awfully good way to sum up the last two weeks in general.

A whole lot of nothing in particular.

Yesterday, I climbed out of bed before anyone else as I usually do and I was SHOCKED to find it already half past eight! I proceeded to spend most of the day finishing my second novel of the month, the afternoon punctuated by a leisurely trip to the Costco with my best girl. Come bedtime, I had started another novel. Three in one month, a record.

Like every other family, we are evaluating our summer now that all previous plans have been cancelled. Ironically, this would have been the most scheduled summer we’ve ever had. And while it’s unfortunate that some of the fun things (Emet vacationing in Positano! Jade spending a week at sleepaway camp! Roux going to a local day camp for the first time!) aren’t happening, being at home together without agenda has been unexpectedly refreshing.

As a person with a wandering mind who’s so rarely afforded the opportunity to indulge in such a luxury as aimless pondering, I may as well be at an all-inclusive resort for the world of good this respite is doing me. On the eve of the midpoint of the year, it’s not a bad way to be.

Truly, I can hardly believe six months of 2020 have expired, and the vast majority of them in quarantine. Admittedly, we are ever so slowly easing our way back out into the world. By this, I mean a kid (or two) will occasionally join me on an errand. Last week, we learned that our beloved zoo had reopened so the little one and I visited three times in as many days. Rumor has it that tomorrow my gym will reopen, which is the place I have missed most during the closures. Apparently, cases of the virus are on the rise here in San Diego, but unless formally restricted, I plan to be one of the first members back in for a workout.

I came pretty darn close to accomplishing all of the little goals I set for myself at the beginning of the month. I might not have made even a single stitch of progress on my sweater, but I did read more than I planned to, and made an entire quilt that wasn’t even on my list to begin with.

Granting myself permission to unwind a bit, offering myself grace and space and acceptance, these are skills upon which I have greatly improved. I am certain its the kind of thing that comes with age, especially as I witness my own children simmer in the same kind of self-criticism I remember so clearly from my own adolescence.

Something else I remember: as a teenager, I almost always waited until the very last possible second to address any and all writing assignments and it seems as though that is a habit I’ve yet to outgrow.

GOES TO MY HEAD LIKE BRANDY

It’s coming on 10 PM and I’ve been suddenly struck with a most blustery second wind, which is fine by me since the earlier part of the day was a little choppy.

For starters, I didn’t charge my phone while I slept last night, meaning I was operating with red-level battery from the very beginning. Considering today was meant to be captured in photographs for my Project 26, it was a less than ideal way to kick off the day.

Nevertheless, errands were run, tasks completed, and one wild Huckleberry kept his mama plenty busy right up until just a few minutes ago when he was finally tucked under the covers, albeit a full two hours past his bedtime.

It’s not often I have actual energy to channel at this hour. While there are plenty of productive things I could be doing (writing reports, ahem), I’m heading straight for some much needed self-pampering.

Summer, am I right?