Debate Night Finale

This time, you feed your tween at the kitchen table, not in his bedroom, perhaps because it is the last ‘debate’, hopefully the last time a thug will have the opportunity to one-on-one malign a better man in front of America, because after January the thug will be traveling to jail, or preferably one of the very cages he’s confined all those children to for the last 4 years.

Perhaps you want your tween to hear some of the ‘debate’—although he’s pretty obsessed with his Nintentdo Switch game and stuffing his mouth with cheese tortellini and you don’t invite him to join you on the couch.

And you’re pretty sure you don’t invite him to join you on the couch because you don’t want him damaged by the lying thug. And yet you also want him to hear the lying thug because you don’t want him to be damaged by the lying thug.

You plop on the couch and cocoon in your blanket with no appetite and glare at the TV in the family room which is also part of the kitchen and within sight of the kitchen table and your blissfully eating/playing tween—your fingers white knuckled around a bottle of sparkling water.

You turn up the TV’s volume.

The ‘debate’ begins just as your spouse arrives.

WHERE’S THE FLY! you yell, gesticulating at the TV and your spouse high-fives the tween and sets his briefcase on a barstool and helps himself to dinner, joins you on the couch, kisses your cheek before his first bite of tortellini and tells you:

Everything’s going to be all right.

He is reminding you of your self-proclaimed mantra you’ve been self-proclaiming since the magic-making fly appeared on the fake VP’s head.

Everything’s going to be all right.

WHY AREN’T THEY MUTING HIM! you shout and your husband suggests to the tween that he take his dinner upstairs.

Your tween lingers by his parents before bolting.

Crazy, your tween says.

Right? his dad concurs.

Everything’s going to be all right, you mumble.

What’s that, Mom? your tween asks.

EVERYTHING’S GOING TO BE ALL RIGHT!

Your tween knows the current times are unprecedented. He distance learns. He wears a mask when walking the dogs around the neighborhood. He sees his friends on Discord or FaceTiming while Robloxing. He reminds his mother to wash her hands when returning from Trader Joe’s, which makes her dab tears of gratefulness from her eyes once her hands are dry.

Can’t wait until I can vote, your tween says and galumphs upstairs.

You share a tender glance with your husband because it was yesterday that the tween was a tow-headed toddler and next month he’ll graduate into teenage status and voting will be an option for him the next time you blink your eyes and suddenly you and your spouse are holding hands.

Sometimes, you see Alec Baldwin doing his impression of the fake president doing an impression of himself. You wince when Joe does. Your eyes, too, pop with wonderment at the dumpster-fire depths your country has reached. When Joe glances at the audience, you presume he is sharing an OMG UNREAL, RIGHT? moment with his wife.

cocooning blanket

But this time, you practice not panicking. There is simply no more time to panic. Early voting has reached record breaking heights. You have voted. It is time to pull up your big girl pants, knock off shouting anything except GO JOE and simply support your country. When you feel your BP rise, you vibe Joe your mantra.

Everything’s going to be all right, you vibe to the next President of the United States.

You scream-cheer with the rest of America when Joe gives his concluding message. When Jill Biden appears in her tropical print dress with matching mask and glides swiftly by the thug and that lady that doesn’t like to touch him, you cheer louder and keep on when Jill wraps her husband in her arms.  

Pretty sure Emma Thompson will play Jill in the movie.

Yours in everything will be all right,

PB

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A Voter’s Tale

Sunday morning, after obsessively researching my local candidates and measures, filling in my mail-in ballot, packing it in its envelope, I turned the envelope over, moistened the seal with a sponge, pressed the seal home, grabbed a pen and:

SIGNED ON THE ADDRESS LINE.

😢

Despite the gigantic RED X indicating where my signature belonged, I signed on the:

Address

Line

I felt like Shelly Long in THE SHINING when she’s running around the hotel waving the knife inexpertly, sobbing as she witnesses fresh horrors around every creepy corner.

I grilled my spouse: WILL THIS RUIN MY VOTE!

He couldn’t say.

I Googled SIGNING MAIL-IN BALLOT ON ADDRESS LINE–only to find I’m the only person in America’s history of mail-in ballot voting to have done such a thing.

I went to lavote.net and ordered a new mail-in ballot, worrying that if the new ballot didn’t arrive in time I would have to go to the polls and use a:

voting machine.

So I’m one of those who mix up their lefts and rights. I can get you there, if I’m driving. If I tell you how to get there? Even if I’m driving? You will go right instead of left and we will arrive in foreign lands.

If I have to use a voting machine? Terrified I will swerve right instead of left.

!!!

By Tuesday, my new ballot had not arrived and my Shelly Long THE SHINING face had taken over 24/7. It finally dawned on Shelly to call lavote.net, which is what I should have done in the first place.

“Cross off your signature in the address line,” the voter-lady instructed. “Initial the cross-off. Then,” she continued calmly, “put in your address, and most importantly,” she said, “sign the line following the big RED X.”

“I ordered another ballot,” I wailed. “If it comes, am I screwed? HAVE I MESSED UP MY CHANCE TO VOTE!”

“You get another ballot in the mail? Rip it up, honey,” the voter-lady said. “That way they won’t come and take you away in metal handcuffs.”

And she laughed. I don’t know for how long. My mind was stuck on metal handcuffs. Metal. I would have said silver handcuffs, or just handcuffs, but she said metal handcuffs. Fascinating.

“Everything’s okay, honey,” the voter-lady said eventually. “Go vote. Hopefully your official ballot box won’t get set on fire. But if that happens,” she laughed, “just give us a call.”

Don’t be me. Don’t miss the GIANT RED X on your mail-in voting ballot. I know you won’t? But:

Don’t.

Yours in keeping voting simple,

PB

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Debate: Part 2 (Fly Edition)

That you feel total confidence about the evening’s outcome irks you because you know from experience (parties, weddings, Masterpiece Theatre, vacations thwarted by pandemics) that 100% confidence only invites disaster.

You zoom to the grocery store for comfort-food ingredients and, once home, pile beans, chunks of purple onion and olives on top of tortilla chips in your favorite inherited baking dish, empty packets of grated cheese over everything, declare nachos and shove the dish in the oven. You wipe your brow with a Queen’s Jubilee tea towel and devour the sour cream you purchased, spooning it into your mouth with your fingers while declaring to air everything wrong with the world.

And then you grab a napkin and try pulling yourself together.

When you appear in your tween’s bedroom doorway with a cheerful Ta Da, he barely acknowledges you, deep, deep in his video game, mumbles over there as though you feed him dinner in his room with his beloved video games every night, though this is only the 2nd time in his lifetime you’ve allowed him to eat dinner while playing video games, and you’re a little stung, but also burdened by the 100% confidence that can only lead to disaster, so you forgive your tween and leave his plate of food on a pillow shaped like a storm trooper’s head and you rush downstairs and plop on the couch and activate your BP cuff and it begins.

Again.

But this time:

  1. You don’t pace the downstairs for the duration of the debate
  2. You fling your BP cuff to the couch cushions with a wild laugh
  3. You clap and cheer like a kid might for Wonder Woman, your bare feet up on the ottoman you share with a small white dog annoyed by your vocals.  

True: You wish her words annihilated the pale ghoul 1 plexiglass barrier away from giving her a deadly virus–but you 100% do not feel the same panic and outrage as when watching the spluttering orange ghoul last week.

And then: The Moment.

THE moment you will never forget, for the rest of your odd little life.

The moment you will explain, tomorrow, ad nauseum to your tween.

The moment you will share with your sisters, soul sisters, sisters of sisters of sisters of strangers, and the Travelocity operator refusing to give you your vacation refund.

The moment you will pass down to your grandkids, should you be fortunate enough to live long enough to meet them (you are an older mom, after all), with strict suggestions they pass the moment down to their children and so on, in writing, perhaps, maybe your own writing, or theirs, whatever works, etc, ad nauseum.  

The utterly unbleachable moment.

This moment: sends you into body-paralyzing wonder.

Of all the indoor evening venues, of all the exquisitely timed, random, perfect timings that have occurred in history (fill in the blanks), of all the pale ghouls in all the troubled worldyou–and entire populations–watched 1 fly land on 1 particular grease-haloed head of Covid-suffering hair–right as the hair’s owner lied, to billions.

Your husband returns home to find you cocooned in the 2 minutes and few seconds it takes for the fly to regale the planet. Your husband drops his briefcase to the tile and stares at the TV, muttering: Close your mouth, babe, before you swallow a fly.

Your husband helps himself to nachos, joins you on the couch, your face Francois Truffaut’s in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, when he steps forward to greet the alien. My God, you whisper, your hand gliding to your cell phone and the second the fly departs the debate, you’re on Twitter. You scroll quickly, discovering the fly already has several Twitter accounts. Twitter explodes with the same awe you experienced and suddenly it’s difficult to respond when you hear voices calling your name.

Around midnight, you surface.

Your house is quiet.

Your small white dog snores.

And there is peace, my darling, in your particular portion of nation roiled.

You climb the stairs to bed, your pets following.

The next morning?

Your ballot arrives.

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BP 148/80 (VOTE EDITION)

You make dinner early for your small, by American family standards, family–a guy, your tween-guy you would die for, and you–except you shove your dinner portion into the freezer.

And hurry upstairs.

HERE! you declare with a carny-smile and bowlful of crockpot BBQ chicken that’s been the source of your home’s major fragrance for the last few hours and he, your tween-guy you would die for, tears his eyes from his computer screen, cries WHAT THE HECK as he takes the bowl, knowing something’s up because you have forbidden him from ever eating meals in his bedroom while playing a video game. His delight in this taboo you are encouraging him to violate, that he believes you are, for this moment, a ‘cool mom’, activates your colossal, juicy-love heart. You place your hand on your chest as though about to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. You blow him a kiss. Twiddle fingers with a reassuring nod he acknowledges with skepticism and a dash of suspicion, but accepts.

You rush downstairs.

You grab your blood pressure cuff from the butler’s pantry’s secret drawer, plop on the couch and turn on the TV, wondering if your face looks as desperate as you feel: A heady-lead inner-devastation, a fast-encroaching, dismally lit Dadaist wasteland, aging you.

But then a water-logged-orange enters your living room, and another form that looks and acts human strides elegantly to a podium. You respond to this form’s wave to the camera with a hopeful wave of your own, as ready as you’ll ever be.

And the birth of a nation begins.

Immediately you realize stillness is not an option and begin pacing the downstairs of your home, listening to the TV.

You are pacing when your other guy arrives. You gesture at his dinner on the counter and he gets it, knows the survival of your small family depends on your pacing and you’re grateful he knows this—but then it is obvious he can stay seated on the couch as he eats. Can, in fact, eat. Benignly. And well. As though eating while watching a cooking show. Or maybe Bugs Bunny.

Your BP cuff tightens on your wrist.

You are outside, on the back patio, silent-screaming at the hummingbird feeder and indigenous growth on the hill behind your fence rising into a star-pinged horizon and of course that’s when it happens: The bloated orange admits to committing a heinous crime and you miss it.

Oh! No! You!

Your guy yells. You rush inside and he explains the horror as you grab your phone and look it up on social media and it’s there, the clip is already there (!!!), people amazing you, how their fingers have mutated into the quickness of little fish evading the homemade nets of evil children.

You watch the clip and pump the BP cuff. You can’t breathe: An entire country blocks your lungs. Air cannot slip by Florida’s iron thrust, the gritty-gritty mass of Texas, or your own red hot state, California.

NO, you say, elongating the word like they do in the movies, scaring your guy: He spits out a mouthful of BBQ chicken and you throw a roll of paper towels at him, perhaps an attempt at emphasizing irony.

From here on out you never pace out of sight/earshot of the TV, which is now the size of the TV screen the woman in Attack of the 50 Foot Woman purchased for her personal viewing before she was exterminated.

Your tween-guy you would die for galumphs downstairs and asks what the heck is going on and you let your other guy explain as explaining anything comes easier to him than you and you’re grateful—if you open your mouth you will regurgitate red ribbons from every Greek tragedy, or worse: You will regurgitate Medea, whole.

You pace for your tween-guy you would die for. You pace for Greta. George. Breonna. You pace for your parakeets and your organic face cream. You pace for the planet—including that lady exposed on social media for ripping down a facemask display in Target in her weird, shrieky style…Or maybe not her.

And when it’s over and your tween-guy is back upstairs, brushing his teeth, locating his PJ’s, you grip your other guy’s hands and he pulls you onto the couch as he tells you that he knows and you tell him you know he knows and that you know you know he knows that you know how he feels, too.

You hold hands and watch aftermath on the TV. You’ve not held hands like this in some time. You both experience a reupholstered (the pricy kind) wonder. And when your guy suggests you breathe, you give it a shot.

And even though the birth of a country is cruel, tampered with, never over, and even though there’s a rattle in your throat and your arteries might explode, air fills your lungs.

You breathe.

Your country lets you.

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Learning In The Time Of Covid (Coursera Wesleyan U edition)

My book-recs arrive from: author-friends; writers I heart on social media; my 3 sisters/avid-readers; always Claire’s recs on WORD BY WORD. Thank you, Claire. You suggest so many writing worlds that shouldn’t, ever, be missed.

In this basically word-of-mouth vein, I learned of Wesleyan University’s Coursera. You can enroll in courses free for 7 days, after that you are charged $49/month and may unsubscribe at any time.

I enrolled in a creative writing course taught by Amity Gaige.

And now I have a writing assignment due–shortly.

So Amity Gaige is a writer who also happens to be an excellent teacher. This is apparent in the first minutes of her course. She is well-spoken, clear, a confident speaker, interested in her subject and interesting to listen to. We are lucky to have her as a teacher, you and I. Especially when that teacher has you reading DH Lawrence for an assignment.

When was the last time you read DH Lawrence? It’s been quite a while for me and I appreciated every second of ‘Odour Of Chrysanthemums’. I don’t remember ever reading it in college. Such a pleasure to savor and ruminate on a short story masterpiece.

A book rec from me: ‘Sea Wife’, by Amity Gaige. Pretty much all of my booky friends and definitely my sisters and my 2 soul sisters have read or are reading. My husband also read it and we’ve had some great discussions about the married main characters. Don’t miss it.

Yours in positive recs,

PB

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Heat

IMG_2102I don’t know about your environs, but ours will be blessed with consecutive days of triple digit heat, again, later this week.

It’s helpful for my psyche and staving off writer’s block to remember that last year at this time our A/C went out (hence the small army of standing fans in the garage). We are still vaguely scarred from that experience, worried our current A/C unit will fail us in summer mountain swelter—however:

My husband is still employed

We are able to contribute to fire/hurricane/shooting victims

Distance learning is working for the tween

I have the ability to powerwalk…

There’s always a new recipe to tackle with gritted-teeth-joy

Rachel Cargle on Instagram

this_girl_is_a_squirrel on Instagram

Historian Heather Cox Richardson on Facebook

November is coming

Yours in bracing for heat,

PB

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School Days 2020

Bring your pet to school day for my son’s English class.

It is this mother’s opinion that my tween’s middle school is rockin’ this distance learning business.

#englishteachersrule

pet to school day

 

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Doubt (Pub Cheese Edition)

I ferried my laptop to the kitchen table and brought up my novel-in-progress. A poppy-orange dawn filtered through window blinds and the coffeemaker hiccupped sighs and I relished being the only human in our house awake, tapping the pg dn key, feeling so smart for carving out private-time, feeling: cocky, the excessive type an Olympian experiences before failing epically at her best, most treasured event in front of millions and millions of critical eyes.

falling

I came to ninja-crawling across tile towards the sectional. As the morning progressed, I jerked my chin at those hailing me as they passed through the family room to: nuke chocolate chip pancakes, play the piano, joyfully powerwalk. Eventually, my husband pried the TV remote from my fingers and switched the channel from the yeti documentary that no one will ever watch with me, even when I beg (you’ve got to see the yeti scalp, please), to hockey and my husband must have asked if he could change the channel, he would never not ask, nevertheless I was distressed when hockey interrupted the young National Geographic explorer entering the Tibetan temple resembling a She-shed and approached, fingers stretched, the yeti scalp. My husband flopped next to me and began sports-clapping-shouting at the TV so passionately, he righted my dire slump on the sectional.

yeti

“I WANT SCALP!”

After a while, hockey sucked the vivre out of my spouse and he shuffled, aged, to the breakfast bar and his own lurking PC. I watched him pull up his works-in-progress and it was then that I cracked, because: meddling with his writing tugged my husband’s lips into a smile so honest, it was concrete, sun-blessed, glittering confidence.

I can’t write, I blurted and there were tears and snot and pointless gestures. It’s over, I said. My writing is undercooked halibut. Chardonnay-free, sugar-free. No dairy.  My writing isn’t even Akmak–worse, not Fritos. My writing is so skinny, it has completely disappeared.

Fritos

My husband’s smile dissolved into a sympathetic moue. I heard the clack of the freezer making ice. An inherited clock chimed the wrong hour. By the fireplace, our elderly lab snored on the hearth, dreaming deeply.

But is your writing pub cheese.

Excuse me?

I believe it is.

Wut?

My husband slid his PC aside, leaned his elbows on the breakfast bar.

So here’s the thing, he said. I’ve devoured pub cheese for 15 years, bypassing crackers, digging in with a spoon. I am rich and whole and satisfied and better when I eat a tub of pub cheese. I’ve eaten award winning pub cheese and I’ve eaten simpler, horseradish-less pub cheese, but it’s all good. Every tub. 15 years of delicious tubfuls, babe. I’m a f***ing pub cheese expert.

My husband laughed. Our tween loped by with a contented cat in his arms. Thundering up the stairs, our tween laughed, too.

 

16, I muttered. 18, if you count dating.

Exactly.

Pub cheese. Really?

Let’s watch the yeti scalp.

My husband flopped down on the sectional and hooked an arm through mine.

And we did, we watched the entire documentary, beginning to end.

pubcheese

 

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It Happens

 

 

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Mask America

A couple of days ago I shopped the web for masks, something I swore I wouldn’t do way back in March, right after my son’s school switched to online education, after I’d purchased non-medical grade masks for my family, and before ads for decorative masks dominated my social media feeds, ads I knew were coming, but hoped wouldn’t, was deeply in denial about, but deep down knew were on their way like John Snow’s WINTER and here we (still) are: masks, masks, masks.

I dread a masked person stopping me in my local Albertsons, commenting: OMG I luuuuv your mask! Where did you get it?

IMG_1951

Foyer masks

I don’t want wearing/buying masks to become a norm.

I want this pandemic to be beaten down, like it’s been beaten down in other countries I’m banned from visiting.

Context: The family member who had the most power and influence over me my whole life until last summer, died, in part, from a lifelong addiction to denial, due, I’m convinced, to NPD–Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

Blood relative.

Big, huge I KNOW WINTER AND WINTER IS BEAUTIFUL IT’S A VERY VERY BEAUTIFUL WINTER AND IT IS NEVER COMING NEVER type of influence.

My whole life.

I purchased bandanna patterned masks on Zulily, had them sent to my little sister, an aesthetician in Iowa. I ordered extra masks for my tween and spouse. I ordered a mask patterned in a dragonfly for me, and have bookmarked a mask featuring Biden’s sunglasses and the American flag. This December, masks will be included with Christmas presents mailed to family.

Yours in fu****g safety,

PB

 

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100% True Horror (Bad Dolls Edition)

Last night it was my turn to choose a movie. As my husband practiced the guitar (his Covid-19 learn-something-new goal) on our front porch, delighting dog-walking neighbors, the last of the day’s sun blessing his face, I spent 45 minutes surfing for a movie I haven’t seen before and my heart crisped because now that I’ve basically watched everything since #stayhome began, all that’s left is the 1 genre I just can’t: horror.

Specifically: horror based on real events.

For me, based on is code for: 100% true.

100% true horror, for me, triggers: the ‘Ringu’-scream-face.

And expletives.

My jambalaya of movie horror don’ts: Amityville. Exorcist/Omen (they might as well be 100% true). Paranormal(s). An American Haunting. Bigfoot, serial killers, schizophrenic roommates. Clowns w/no morals. Piranha (lakes to bathtubs). Creepy groundcover. And Spielberg—can: Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Can’t: Poltergeist. Can: ET. Can’t: Jaws and Jaws sequels (the horror here being the horrifyingly awful quality of Jaws 2, etc.—hence: the ‘Ringu’-scream-face).

As my husband strummed the guitar and I surfed 100% true horror, I happened across a particularly vicious short horror film. Despite my jaw twitching with warning (the Ringu-scream-face!), I pressed select and watched.

My perversity will be the end of me.

A doll lives in a display case in the basement of a Victorian-ish house in Key West, FL and if you visit the doll, which has already killed multiple people, and don’t ask the doll if you can take its picture, but just take the picture and then fly home, vacation over, you will have such horrendous bad luck you will write to the doll (I guess someone reads letters addressed to the doll to the doll) and apologize for not asking the doll’s permission to take its picture and you promise in your letter never to photograph it again without asking permission and you might even have to praise the doll for best results, that part isn’t so clear, but if your letter of apology to the doll is worded in some right way, the doll will decide your run of bad luck is at an end and you may carry on living your life free of sadistic influence.

The ‘Ringu’-scream-face activated, I sprawled on the couch agonizing over who or what gave the Key West doll such power. So unfair! Why not give the power to Gloria Steinem or George Clooney or RBG? At least they’d turn the bad luck on Trump or Putin or Bolsonaro, perhaps transport them to Papillon’s island without a shade umbrella, or a Key West basement. With that doll. Forever.

I’ve been to Key West. Toured Hemingway’s house and the dark watering hole that is Capt Tony’s, lunched at Louie’s Backyard, enjoyed the breeze from Cuba while sitting on that low white wall, snorkeled? I was so impressed by Key West I tucked it away in my ‘possible other life’ file.

But after seeing a 100% true horror film on a toddler-sized doll with the power to not like you so much you become desperate, I don’t want to return to Key West. Never again will I see those cats perform tricks at sunset on Mallory Square. The entire time I’m applauding the cats I’ll be thinking about the doll. Terrible! Also, did the doll give its permission for the movie to be made? It’s the f**king star of the f**king film, so did it approve the f**king release? I guess the f**king  filmmakers f**king survived. Or did they? Never mind. I don’t want to f**king know.

I called my husband to the couch and surrendered the remote. He chose ‘The Lighthouse’ and within minutes lighthouses were ruined for us forever as the lead actors grappled with imagery you simply can’t unsee–yet I was already so traumatized by the Key West doll I hardly noticed the constant muck and murdered seabirds and rubbery mermaid and leaky tentacles. Instead, I worried the Key West doll would know I was thinking about it without its permission and come after me with its evil airwaves and I thought how unfortunate that would be as we’ve only recently moved into our un-haunted dreamhouse and I’m a busy #stayhome #staysafe mom tending a small zoo of rescued animals + 1 hormones-wracked tween forced into distance learning and I just don’t have time for bad luck and 100% true horror, not really, and I was going to ask my husband to pause ‘The (f***ing) Lighthouse’ and tell him I was pretty sure I was experiencing an anxiety attack, but I clammed up until our walk the next morning.

We studied crows guarding a nest built on the bars of a pylon dominating a grassy hill. The view from the nest would take a human’s breath away–green valley, mauve smudge of a distant mountain range, unarguably beautiful world. Vertigo dipped my brain as I imagined being in the nest, looking out.

I plopped in the dirt and shared my anxiety with my husband.

“Why am I so freaked about a doll?” I moaned, transferring earthworms from the trail to chaparral-cover.

“Unprecedented uncertain times,” my husband began.

“Yeah, yeah…”

“Tween would love the Mallory Square cats.”

What else is he COVID-19 learning, I wondered, remembering that in over a week I have not: played the piano, read a novel in the bath, sent telepathic love notes to the quail family visiting our patio each morning, forced the tween to play chess with me, napped with our cats, Zoomed a soul sister, downed vitamin D, or revised my writing.

100% true.

A couple approached with several leashed, vocal dachsunds.

“No lizards!” owners commanded their dogs. “Stay away from the lizards!”

My husband hauled me up. We slipped our masks into place, powered on.

Yours in positive metaphors,

PB

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Black Lives Matter

6/5/2020

Last Wednesday rumors circulated via my Next Door app and local FB community pages that Valencia was going to be overrun by thugs from nearby Palmdale intent on looting our stores, destroying our mall, and terrorizing neighborhoods. No one posting had a legitimate source of information, but everyone posting seemed to know a local police official confirming the thugs thing. The rumors insisted thugs had organized buses for transport from Palmdale to Santa Clarita/Valencia. The rumors insisted our hotels were filling up as the thugs made reservations to I guess retire to the local Hilton after trashing our city and order room service. When a lone Next Door subscriber posted he had called the hotels and was told they were not, in fact, remotely near capacity, he was shouted down by other Next Door users with fun bits like, for example: I have a gun!

Finally, on Wednesday, the City of Santa Clarita announced a peaceful protest would be taking place at noon Thursday and a citywide curfew was set for Thursday evening. The announcement inflamed Next Door-ers etc. to again post about their gun ownership, their pity for our poor beleaguered local police forced to deal with out of town thugs, their insistence that ALL LIVES MATTER and mostly their posts were on repeat regarding preparing for riots and fires and destruction and suddenly I felt like I had moved into a paranoid, racist community.

Thursday’s peaceful protest: peaceful.

Except that someone left a ‘suspicious device’ near the protestors. I still don’t know who left the device or what the device was, but Next Door and FB users have the answer: Antifa.

Thursday’s peaceful protest: peaceful.

Thursday’s peaceful protest was SO peaceful that late Thursday afternoon Santa Clarita/Valencia residents were informed our curfew would be lifted COMPLETELY. 

tdogsLast night, my little family and I stayed outside until 9pm social distancing with neighbors, all of us agreeing under a gorgeous full moon that all lives matter when BLACK LIVES MATTER, that peaceful protests are effective, all of us grateful change is here thanks to peaceful protestors in our community, our country and around the world, all of us grateful more change is coming.

Peace.

PB

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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

IMG_1280

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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