Morning Essentials

6:28a.m. 2 minutes until I need to fill the dogs’ bowls with food, walk them, walk myself for 2.43 miles, feed the tween (I like doing this), review his academic schedule from Google Classroom (Just make a list! But Mom. MAKE A LIST!!!), feed

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I leave the laundry folding to the cat.

the cats, feed my husband (I like doing this), shower, spend 10 mins choosing a virtual background for a Zoom meeting, attend meeting, feed humans elevenses (meh), take vitamins, have them count as breakfast, sit, write.

don’tturnonthenews don’tturnonthenews don’tturnonthenews

Time’s up!

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Mother’s Day 2020

I’ve been having too much fun creating Instagram stories (@pbrippey1), hence the little video below, but then again it is the time of quarantine, so why not? Also, hunting for butterfly gifs is so much better for my blood pressure than watching the news. 2 mile walk with my husband this morning, gifts of Almond Joy candy bars, a set of uber wind chimes, and my son gave me a list: Top 10 Favorite Moments With Mom. I was thrilled taking him to our science museum for the first time made the cut (although he was only 2 and I doubt remembers that excursion–plenty of visits since then, though). Greeting him every morning with a hug and a kiss won a ranking, too–so basically my work is done.
Yours in bliss-gifs and a happy day,
PB

 

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Spring Heralds

“If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.”
― Anne Bradstreet

Poppy

 

Pot of Poetry

 

 

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Poem for the Last Day of April

And just like that, poetry month is at an end, but Tracy K. Smith will still send us a poem each weekday via The Slowdown, or we can visit the site and listen to her read and perhaps we’ll springboard into: self-discovery/creative ideas/positive ways of coping during quarantine.

I aIMG_1033m working on my French pronunciation thanks to Babbel-in-the-time-of-COVID19, so: Au revoir, April! I’ve enjoyed your showers and blooms and watching wild birds go spring-crazy and get very, very loud on our back patio–especially Quail Family Robinson.

Au revoir! Next year I hope to be outdoors with you instead of gazing at you through my windows with a stressful smile. But I won’t slam the door behind you, April, because hopefully I’ve outgrown door-slamming and have excelled at, hopefully, patience, humility, parenting, partnering, poetry and love, a quarantine-inspired-acceleration of excelling, I guess, from experiencing your rains and sunbursts from inside my house. And from a lot of Netflix.

April? Merci! My sunglasses are standing by for May–um, or July.

Yours in blooms and fresh moons,

PB.

Star Talk

red planet why
do i give
so much
gamma gamma gamma
throb
in this town’s
gritty smolder, eyes
(crude) smithied rings
pupils (holes)
orbit
O fire-
whelk,
doomed speck—
when you wink
surely i

disappear

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Spring Clean (April Edition)

Despite being homebound for over a month, a month’s worth of house cleaning occurred on 1 sunny April day, a spontaneous, madly executed group effort by myself, my husband and our tween, as though houseguests were arriving, when really we only expected UPS with our cases of Cool Blue Gatorade, sparkling water, and a bag of assorted cat toys. We dusted books and desks, even tops of cabinets, refreshed litter boxes. I vacuumed the couch, hauling the machine’s noisy, square base onto the fabric, then the ottoman, offending the mixed-poodle, then the cushions of the skyblue chairs in the sitting room, offending all cats. We wiped down bathrooms and the kitchen (ignoring, though, what lies beneath the stove’s burner gridwork—another day, another day, we promised), folded laundry piled on the guestroom bed, watered plants, froze to exclaim over several quail swiftly crossing the patio, passed around bottles of Gatorade when delivered, and right before finishing, remembered to turn on cleaning music (“Alexa, play Yo-Yo Ma!”). And when the house gleamed, we rewarded ourselves with our favorite meals, ordered from 2 different restaurants–and a movie, Independence Day, a flick we thought our tween would enjoy because of action and aliens. Wrong. After devouring his dinner, our son dubbed the movie so trash and fled upstairs to his video games while my husband and I delved deep into Ozark. Near midnight, I reached down to pick up the poodle-mix. In the process of swinging him from floor to bed, I felt my back stretch as though being pulled apart like a hair tie by a thumb and forefinger.

My husband helped me into bed, fed me Advil, even though they say NO ADVIL in the time of COVID-19 (“That’s only if you have the virus,” my husband corrected me. “No,” he said when I started to protest. “No.”). He dabbed my tears with the freshly laundered duvet before turning off the light.

I couldn’t walk the next morning. Plus, my lower right molar throbbed and an ache hung behind my eyes, competing with my back’s complaints. I was fast falling apart. Once again, I brought up the virus. “The headache, my toothache, and now I’ve taken Advil,” I wIMG_1115ailed as my husband slid open the windows and a warm spring breeze entered the room, bringing birdsong from goldfinches and mourning doves and that hawk’s authoritative cry as it circled the park behind our house. My husband locked his fingers on my chin, turned my head to the windows. I saw the lush park, the small hill the coyotes howl from at night, the greeny mountains of the Angeles National Forest in the distance, the hawk’s tireless loops.

I shut up and visited with the view while my spouse made breakfast. The tween appeared, wrapped in a fuzzy blanket, blinking sleepily. He lay down next to me and we visited with the view together until my husband announced via the bedroom’s Echo Dot that breakfast was served.

“I’ll bring it to you,” the tween said, not a trace of the usual tweeny-moodiness in his voice. He patted my arm. “It’s probably because you vacuumed the furniture,” he said as he lope-walked from the room, the fuzzy blanket a train one of the cats chased.

I pulled a thermometer from the bedside table’s drawer and took my temperature, then my blood pressure with one of those nifty wrist binding machines, marveling over my son’s sweet pats on my arm—precious, priceless, forever.

All was f***ing well.

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Did I Or Didn’t I

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Bosch

UPDATE: Coupled with new findings this week in Santa Clara County, where the medical examiner confirmed that California had the earliest deaths from COVID-19 — on Feb. 6 and Feb. 17 — the new information suggests a national epidemic was underway far earlier than stay-at-home orders were put in place and testing was available.
LA Times–4/23/20

From rain last week to 93 degrees this week, projected into next week so that I think we’ll be igniting the A/C today if the ceiling fans don’t cut it and this feels weird in April but then again we usually ignite the A/C for the annual February heatwave which never happened this year, the virus happened instead and I’m pretty sure I had COVID19, or some variation if that’s possible, 2nd weekend of Feb, flat on my back in bed, felt like constantly pending cold combined with full on fever, aches, world-at-an-end feelings, couldn’t read books or focus on anything but Kindle screen and Bosch, Bosch, Bosch, so many effing seasons–and after fever left, like at least 2 nights after fever, just starting to feel better when hit at 3am with stabbing stomach pains lasting several hours and weird coming-and-going pain in lungs so that I asked husband if I was dying and then all of it gone, in time for lockdown/smackdown. This before COVID19 permeating news. So if I had COVID19, which I’ll never know because: testing, it seems you can get it in stages? PS. Everything I experienced a fellow PTA Mom I worked at the school with on Wednesdays experienced at exact same time–exact same dire stuff. We are grateful whatever it was didn’t manifest into something we needed to be hospitalized for. So very sorry for any families/people suffering.

Stay well.
PB

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April Poem

I post this poem every spring. From my chapbook Nightmares With Moons (Pudding House Press). Happy Stay-At-Home-Wednesday.

Full Flower Moon

May (mostly), the petticoat swirl of rising
pink meadow, petite showers, buds. I say:
rose, peony, phlox. And I say: petal-
shorn, plucked, blown until only the head
remains, 1 pale sticky oval crushed by u-
niverse so formidable it upgrades the dead
into blossoming. Old flower-face–you! Cruel
palette-eye! Where, where is your color?
I say: dearest, warmest, sugar-phlox fairy.
Dare I say: more. It’s May (mostly). I am
showered and sweet beneath puckered
moonlight, stem right behind an ear. Thigh-
deep in meadow, I must know: are you dressed?
Staunch, seasonal gloom cut? Dancy, gleamy
bluefires broken through? Show me. The moon
requires it. I confess: May. More. I confess
this kiss: a peony, phlox, a peony, phlox,
a peony, phlox, the rose.

PB Rippey

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Easter Sunday

Wishing you a poetic day.

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Never Forget (Fav Coffee Mug Edition)

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Yours in coping,
PB

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Learning in the Time of Covid

Like you, I knew on Friday March whatever it was that on the following Monday schools would close. Closure wasn’t formally announced yet, but schools had already shut down in other states and I could tell our district was eager to cancel as well–they didn’t come out and say it, but I could tell: much beating parents over the head with ‘contagious’ warnings (I appreciated them) and simply watching the news–China, France, Italy,
Spain–duh, duh, duh. And as every parent knows, schools are ripe for contagion. Duh. So over whatever that weekend was before schools closed, I prepared for homeschooling. I was THAT mom, gathering a myriad of websites, making a weekday Covid schedule, transitioning piano lessons to FaceTime piano lessons, ordering a young person’s introduction to art set, ordering crafts and models and books and 6th grade math workbooks and, sure enough, on Monday, March whatever it was, schools closed.

IMG_0600But then I startled myself. Our first day of quarantine, I told my Tween it was a holiday. We lounged in pj’s, drank hot chocolate, walked the dogs leisurely, and then my son played online games while FaceTiming his buddies: a lot. When my husband returned home (still at work for another week), I ordered him into the shower for office decontamination purposes, and then the 3 of us had the first of what have become regular family dinners, previously tricky things to coordinate due to my son’s piles of nightly homework and my husband’s unpredictable work schedule.

Bottom line: I did not become crack-the-whip Quarantine Mom. I became: this is a super weird time so let’s not make it weirder by pretending it’s not weird by forcing my kid toIMG_0596 follow a schedule that makes no sense because there’s a virus out there that’s killing people and my kid is aware, aware, aware that people are dying, that his cousin is an ER Dr. on the front lines, that his auntie is at risk, that this is a weird and dangerous time.

Now that it’s April whatever it is and my husband is working from home and our school district has come up with an actual academic plan that involves my kid’s 6th grade teachers, we follow a strict(er) schedule. The academic work is completed. Chores. Exercise.

But then my son is free until family dinner. This free time makes him happy, pulls him out of adolescent lows. Mornings, he rises, showers, and gets to work without complaint. And then whoops and laughs and shouts gleefully with the gang.

We are mostly calm in this new weird way of living. We are communicating better than before quarantining because we have time to really hear each other. We are holding hands at the dining table and announcing what we’re grateful for before we eat. Every single dinner is family dinner.

IMG_0849And when Mom is on the couch cocooning in her king size white fuzzy blanket, sipping hot chocolate from her favorite mug emblazoned in: LIFE IS TOUGH, MY DARLING, BUT SO ARE YOU, she is waved at, not judged, as she binges on Star Trek or West World or MSNBC or that really bad Finnish crime drama with the bandy legged detective and sloppy dubbing.

Pardon my grammar, but: we’re good.

I hope you are, too.

Yours in practicing fresh, calm ways of living during these scary-screams times,
PB

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The New Living

I didn’t blog at all in March. Instead, I read blogs:
Claire, Word By Word
The Bloggess

Poetry:
The Slowdown with Tracy K. Smith (as you already know, you can subscribe to receive a poem a day)

Books:
Love Warrior, Glennon Doyle (I’m always late to the party)
This is the Story of a Happy Marriage, Ann Patchett
The Wonder of Boys, Michael Gurian (aways late to the…)
The Good Son, Michael Gurian

I’ve posted on Instagram, especially since figuring out the Story feature:
@pbrippey1

SCBWI is airing author or agent or editor sessions:
SCBWI.org

I help my son with his new distance learning schedule–I help him by staying downstairs with him as he works on his computer at the dining room table, just present in case he needs help, or just to let him know he’s quarantining, but not alone. I play the piano maybe, cook, read (I like it when he sees Mom reading–hope my enjoyment of books rubs off on him more than it has to date). His dad and I try not to check our phones when around our son. We try to present other options to social media, like: having a conversation about how not to freak out about  the virus, or the pros and cons of adopting a great dane, for instance. Family dinner is every night now. We walk the dogs, fortunate to live in an area conducive to social distancing when out of the house and on foot. We see very few people, but when spying approaching figures, either we cross the street, or they do, with a friendly wave, freeing up the sidewalk.

I’ve driven my car once in 3 weeks, to Whole Foods. I wore a mask and rubber gloves. I stripped off the gloves after loading groceries into the car, tossed them in the recycling bin inside WF. IMG_0704

Well, we do what we can.

Most of all, we are getting to know each other again on a level deeper than DO THIS DO THAT WE’RE LATE EAT EAT EAT EAT TIME FOR BED

I am grateful for this reconnection and I am so, so open to it, excited, even, for the delving chats and laughs and listening to our son speak his mind and eventually, especially during our dinners, his Tween feelings.

Precious stuff.

Yours in health,
PB

 

 

 

 

 

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SCBWI WRITERS DAY 2020

UPDATE: EVENT CANCELED (but you probably already know this)
Stay safe, self-quarantine as much as you can, take deep breaths, don’t watch too much news, CALM is a great meditation app, hydrate, catch up on reading the tower of books on your nightstand, enjoy your homebound kids, work out (kitchen counter pushups, etc.), have chess matches and play other games (although I put my foot down at Monopoly), eat well (even if it’s astronaut food), check on your neighbors, stay well. Cheers to the world.
PB

Los Angeles SCBWI 2020 Writers Day.  My favorite local SCBWI event.

Skirball: home of the Noah’s Ark exhibit I took my son to when he was a toddler to probably 6 years old. The Skirball is a Los Angeles gem. Just ask my son.

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“STOP, MOM! YOU CAN’T PUT THIS ON FACEBOOK!”

Or not.

He’s 12 now, vexed by baby pictures and my tales of his baby excursions. I’m not allowed to show him baby pictures, wave goodbye to him (much less shout: GO FUTURE OF AMERICA!) when I drop him off at school, am allowed to barely kiss him goodnight. However, for the past 3 days I’ve been sick and received many hugs and consoling pats on the arm from: my baby. Maybe all the more reason to return, with him, in a lovely reminiscing sort of way, to the Noah’s Ark exhibition–which is still going strong as of this writing.

So: I’m going to this SCBWI event. Are you? Last year? Cornelia Funke (my son’s favorite author)! This year? Speakers and agents and workshops I’m totally down with as I follow 2020 resolutions towards getting what I want.

My son would be mortified if he knew his mom wrote down with. Think I’ll say down with tonight, though, when I serve him Taco Tuesday fare. “Dude, I am down with that tac!”, for instance.

Or not.

Yours in good writing, positive parenting, and hoping to see deer grazing the foothills surrounding the Skirball in March,

PB

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AUSTRALIA BURNS

Please: Pay. Attention.

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Winter Busy

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My son and a friend discuss their creation.

As the countdown to 2020 begins, I wonder how it is I forgot how busy the holiday season is. VERY busy. We’ve: been to Santa Barbara and back, hosted relatives and their little dogs, hosted a Christmas party, followed a vital cooking schedule, joined neighbors in Hanukkah celebrations, fought off sickness, played in the snow, just finished cleaning the guest room in preparation for more guests. The best part, besides being with family, has been Christmas in our new home. It’s the first year my son has had a stocking actually hung on a fireplace with care—-pee-in-your-pants excitement for this family–in addition to snow so close to home, closer than driving to any museum in Los Angeles. Who knew? Not us! We’ll take it.

Wishing you and the world a positive 2020 and extra, extra joy.

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Elizabeth Lake, CA 2/28/20

 

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STARTING NOW

I mean, why wait?

W.R.I.T.I.N.G.

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Happy Rainsgiving

‘Tis the season to remember how to get cozy and not because the A/C is running. At least–I hope ’tis…

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Happy Thanksgiving Holiday

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Poem

Flawbag

There is the girl, woman
this 3:02p.m., midway
on twinkling crosswalk.
Her voice thumps her hip,
tucked in a dropped-
bottom bag working
on its 5th shoulder
strap. Walk-lope:
she doesn’t like
you, though it is doubtful
she could translate mild
complaint. Heel-to-curb,
she continues. Sorry: worn
heel. Same curb.
(wornheelsamecurb)

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O First Pages (Retreat Edition)

IMG_8997The last event of the SCBWI Working Writer’s retreat consisted of 3 minutes allotted to each attendee to read aloud their first page of a manuscript. Professional critique was squeezed into that 3 minutes from a panel comprised of 4 agents/editors. All conference-goers were in attendance. We all heard what we all wrote. Y’all.

I. Heard. A lot. Of first pages. Bless all writers, O Muse(s)–bless their creativity, whim, persistence, inventive ideas, bravery: standing before a roomful of writers and critiquers, NOT fleeing when some in the ‘audience’ shout (so loudly that I put my hands over my ears): I CAN’T HEAR YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

What I noticed about the panel’s critiques:

First pages that were concise, action-packed and character driven were the most well received, i.e. (literally): “Yes, I would continue reading if this came across my desk”.

Also noticed: I disagreed almost every time the panel’s conclusion was a unanimous: “No, I would not continue reading if this came across my desk”.

Whoever made Gripping First Pages the new criteria for getting a manuscript read by industry professionals must be the same person who pushed HDTV into the norm: Laser beam vs. magic (lack thereof). 

I don’t believe love of story has been flattened by Mario Kart et al. And my son loves Mario Kart. He also loves Cornelia Funke.IMG_9149

Listen: You know in the movie Always when Holly Hunter sleep-talks her shopping list? That’s what I sound like whenever I leave this particular retreat–or, honestly, any SCBWI event. JK Rowling. Rebecca Stead. Gary Schmidt. Joan Aiken. E. Nesbit...

My comfort loop. Carrying on even when I stop for a comforting Chipotle chicken burrito. Sour cream, guacamole, Cornelia Funke, E. Nesbit, extra chips, Philip Pullman…

It’s about story. It will ALWAYS be about story.

Yours in enlightening retreats,

PB

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O JOKE! (Popsicle Stick Edition)

And here is a popsicle stick I recently uncovered. In all my many now-I’m-older-than-absolutely-everyone-even-Paul-Rudd years, I had no idea such joke sticks existed. Very nice! As long as it’s just a joke and not a fortune. 🙂

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Retreat!

Retreat1Heading to the SCBWI Working Writers Retreat tomorrow. This will be my second time attending this annual event. The workshops are small and focused. I learn tons about my work (my middle grade novels) and it’s a joy to read what others are writing. Plus, there’s a pond–although it was dry the last time I was there. And there are plenty of tranquil paths to meander and benches to sit on, although if it’s anything like the last retreat I’ll be revising feverishly in my room between workshops. The retreat comes with a printer, but the printer can get quite popular, so I’ve found a Kinko’s less than a mile away. Must remember to pack my memory stick. On the way to Kinko’s is a Starbucks. And a Gelson’s. Yes, I mapped out the wilds of Tarzana, just in case…

Yours in helpful retreats (and two nights without 3 cats and a small dog at my feet as I sleep),

PB

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Now Reading

Her latest Gamache installment has come along at the perfect time. Because after a death in the family, what better reading than a crime thriller as I deal with a myriad of petty family crimes in the wake of tragedy? Thank you for this (ironic?) escape, Ms. Penny.

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Whoa, Bess!

I continue to navigate ‘ancient’ family history in the wake of my mother’s passing.

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Hendry’s Beach, UCSB (my alma mater) a distant point.

And I look forward to sharing strictly family revelations over beachwalks. Because the beach fixes everything. Ha! That simple.

For me.

More often than not…

Yours in Ted Talks, kindness, stopping the Amazon from burning, and healthy personal resolutions,

PB

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Death Poem

Orphan

We are the children.
Cream to curse. In-

structed:

here ya go, go, here ya, here ya go, go, go

fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck

Did you say that? Well. I

did. Finally: where were you

when we died, our doll-

lips devoted to icons
we had no business

form-
ing?

 

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Washing My Inheritance

My then soon-to-be-husband stated (3rd date, my Echo Park, Los Angeles apartment with the spectacular view I couldn’t afford without working 2 jobs, the last apartment I ever lived in alone): You have a lot of rocks.

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I recommend the stacking method. So very Big Sur.

My Echo Park patio hosted rocks of all sizes, the largest, most impressive rocks inside–flanking the clawed-legs of my inherited piano, the clawed feet of my inherited bed (smashing my toes as I made for my inherited desk before the bedroom window and that spectacular view). Some rocks I placed around the inherited toaster oven, or the inherited tea kettle’s counter-spot, some decorated the back of the pink toilet and many were clustered on the apartment’s 2 windowsills. My favorite rock, Ms. Mesa, the rock with presence in any light, I kept next to my keyboard and desktop monitor (laptops weren’t a normal invention yet), where I could place a lit candle on Ms. Mesa’s mesa (often).

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Ms. Mesa. I believe she likes her indoor palm frond forever kowtowing.

I inherited my rocks from my great aunt and uncle, retired Lockheed engineers living in a modest ranch house with a dazzling view of ocean spreading from Laguna Beach. Summers? They took my sisters and I on moonlit grunion runs, taught us the names of planets and stars, sipped 5 o’ clock martinis in patio chairs as they watched us hurl ourselves down the home’s backyard hill of cushy iceplant, cheered when we rolled to the vegetable garden below.

Our great-relatives patio was bordered in countless rocks. when our aunt and uncle died,  the rocks were a way for my sisters and I to remember our elders. Also their ashtrays from Ireland. But mostly the rocks. I loaded up (and will always wish I’d loaded more).

Last May, my personal little family moved. Our new digs are larger, prettier, and more fun. Most inherited rocks made the moving-cut–although we left a half-dozen or so behind–those by the rosemary and agave bushes, for instance, so seemingly ‘at home’ (I hope the new owners think so, too). There were still plenty of rocks to transport. What the hell is in here? my husband said, hefting a cardboard box into the moving van. Oh, he said, when I gave him a look. Of course, he said.

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Only and best use for an Irish, inherited ashtray in a non-smoking house.

3 months after moving in, we’re still moving in. Many rocks remain in baskets, boxes, piled on the BBQ’s warming dish area.

What? I asked my husband when he returned from work last night. I was scrubbing rocks in our sink. Oh, nothing, he said and helped me dry.

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All clean.

 

 

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Death & Reckonings

I’m told change can’t arrive without grief.

‘Change’ was my middle name when I was a child. I begged for change. It fueled my drive for: self-preservation, better school grades, to hunt for goals my parents lectured me were good goals, before they both completely fell apart.

‘You’ve always known more than me,’ my mother said to her 4 girls. By then, we were all in our 20’s, except for the youngest, who was maybe 18, maybe. ‘I rely on you for advice,’ she told us.

She didn’t mean it.

I wish she had.

Peace.

mom6

Mother of 4, Oxford, England: 1971-ish

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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