A belated Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day in the U.S. was Sunday, but for me, it’s going to be today — because Abby comes home from college and I’ll have both kids under one roof again. And that’s my favorite. I know that we’re getting to the end of the line as far as frequency of this happening, so I just enjoy it and see it for the gift that it is.

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Where on earth has the time gone?

The words are telling me to share this Mother’s Day story: Abby was two months shy of 3 the first Mother’s Day she really understood what was going on. She had a terrific gift for language even then, and loved to talk. Eric and Abby had a whole day of surprises for me, one of which was to go to the town next door and do a bit of shopping. The entire trip, Eric kept saying to Abby, “Aren’t we lucky to have Mama? Don’t we love Mama so much? Happy Mother’s Day, Mama!” For her part, Abby would just beam at Eric and say, “I love YOU, Daddy!” and wish him a happy Father’s Day. Each time, Eric would look sheepishly at me — he was trying SO HARD — and it would make me laugh.

He never did get her to wish me a happy Mother’s Day.

Fast forward to July or August. Abby is now 3, and she’s running through the sprinkler with a banana-flavored popsicle. During one of her breaks, she looks up at me and says, “I love you, Mama. Happy Mother’s Day!” And I was like, wow, do I have a story for your father tonight when he gets home.

One of my best stories. And one of my most memorable Mother’s Days.

*

When the girls were younger, I’d get the day off and they’d do all the chores I’d normally complete on a Sunday. It was heaven. I’d read on the deck and the girls would run out and give me periodic updates on any catastrophes going on (like when they used powdered sugar instead of flour in a cake they were making). My gift was generally a new book to download to my Kindle. Perfect.

This Mother’s Day was a little different: Writing on the deck in the morning, a family barbecue at my mother-in-law’s that included my parents in the afternoon, basketball practice for Johanna in the evening. And that’s okay. I’m on the cusp of a big life change — Abby moving back today, my 95-year-old grandmother moving to town on Tuesday, and then the realities of my widowed mother-in-law — and I’ve decided that instead of trying to plan my way through it, to just let it come.

I’ll have three very darling people added to the fabric of my days. That just means more adventures.

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Plan B is the new Plan A

Aaaaaaand the self-destructive streak continues!

My phone is telling me my screen time was up 62 percent last week, and I’m sort of shocked it wasn’t higher. Work has been a trial, and I’ve slipped back into my come home, veg on the screen routine. I gave up social media for Lent, but I downloaded a couple new mindless games for the sole purpose of wasting time. Johanna showed me how to put my phone on airplane mode so I can play the thrilling adventures of Block Games without having to deal with periodic ads. That game seriously gives me anxiety (it’s like Tetris, kinda), but I can’t stop playing.

Because I am an idiot.

Look, I’ve done the reading and the research, and I’m actually not an idiot — or, I’m smart enough to know that I’m dumb, I guess. I know that after a stressful day at work, I should take a walk or a hot shower or do some yoga or grab a book. I’ve got my spring cleaning list going and know the mental lift it gives me to see sparkling light switches and decluttered cabinets.

And even at work, I know that if I take a walk break after I finish my first cup of coffee, that makes the rest of the day better. I know that if I take a lunch break instead of eating at my desk, it helps me mentally get to the end of the day. That if I turn off my email notifications, I will be able to concentrate on the task at hand.

And I am willfully choosing not to do ANY OF THAT.

I’ve kind of had it with self reflection. I’m tired of weekly goals. Unrealistic work expectations are bringing me down. (What, three and a half people can’t do the work of seven? WHAT IS THIS CRAZY TALK?)

But, for better or for worse, that’s my personality: Take too much on, like to work towards something tangible, want to be a better person, get by through sheer force of will — until my will fails and then it’s me, the couch and my phone. And freaking Block Games.

This week, I am looking forward to taking Friday off — we’re going to spend Easter with Abby and are making a long weekend out of it. I’m looking forward to the FlyLady’s “bathroom and one other room” focus because my one other room is going to be getting Abby’s ready for summer vacation, which for her starts in May. I’m looking forward to Eric’s meal planning extravaganza and the new meals he’s making that meet my dietary restrictions. I am looking forward to warmer temperatures even though it will still be cloudy and a bit rainy.

My gut is telling me not to undertake any new personal focuses or plans or whatnots, to just let this week play out the way it’s gonna play out. To give myself a break with all that. But my brain is telling me I need to figure out how I’m going to do that ahead of time so I have a better chance of success. HA HA HA. The internal war that is Trisha, my friends!

Um … so I have no idea what’s going to go down after it’s all said and done. Will my brain or my gut win?

I don’t know that this is much of a post, but here we are. Maybe I’ll have it together by the time next week rolls around.

March books (no joke)

Let’s start off on a tangent: How is it that February, the shortest month on the calendar, took 57 years to get through, but March was like 87 seconds? Time is a mystery, my friends.

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Photo by James Tarbotton on Unsplash. Incidentally, this is TOTALLY my life and how I read all the time! 😉

Anyway! March was a good month on the book front. Maybe a little TOO good — my eLibrary account really came through in the past couple of weeks and I have five titles lined up at the moment. Fun fact: If you keep your Kindle on airplane mode, they can check the books back in, but they can’t technically erase them from your device. I know, that’s totally cheating, but I promise I’m cheating with a pure heart. Uh, assuming that’s possible, I guess.

Here’s what I read, in order even:

The Personality Brokers: The Strange History of Myers-Briggs and the Birth of Personality Testing by Merve Emre. (Before you have to ask, I’m an INFJ — introvert, intuitive, feeling, judging. They say it’s the rarest of all personality types, but I assume they say that to everyone to make us all feel like we’re special unicorns.) Well, Emre isn’t joking — it IS a strange history and it’s kind of amazing that the women who created it, a mother-daughter team, had it in them to be so persistent in getting the thing published. Emre is a skeptic on the personality testing front, and I appreciated that, actually — I felt like it gave her the ability to step back from the hype. One thing I hadn’t realized until I read the book is that according to Briggs and Myers, your personality is set the day you are born and it never changes. That seems weird to me, but whatever. Anyway, it was an interesting read and good to learn that the test is loosely based on Jung’s theories but is in no way scientific. I found that comforting somehow.

Is Everyone Hanging Out without Me? by Mindy Kaling. After the craziness of Emre’s book, this book was a fantastic pallet cleanser: It’s hilarious and a quick read. I’m probably the last person on earth to read it as it came out in 2011, but anyway, I recommend this one if you need a laugh.

About a Boy by Nick Hornsby. How did I JUST read this book? I haven’t seen the movie, either. It was just so sweet and funny and great. It’s like the book equivalent of a fancy donut. Recommend!

An American Marriage by Tavari Jones. I suppose it was about time for me to read something more difficult after two fun-fests. This is a great book — well written and made me think about what I take for granted being a middle aged white woman married to the same man for 23 years. There were parts that were hard to take because it was difficult to accept the injustice of it all — for Roy, wrongly accused and imprisoned, and Celestial, who has to navigate life with her husband locked away. It’s not what either of them had expected, and the outcome isn’t, either. Recommend.

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo. I think this might have been an Abby recommendation. One of those sci-fi/fantasy stories with magic and a gang of kids out on an adventure. I really enjoyed it and am looking forward to reading the sequel.

What’s on my list:

After about four months of waiting, Educated by Tara Westover has finally come my way via the eLibrary. I’ve heard a lot of good things about this book and am looking forward to reading it.

I’ve also got The Friend by Sigrid Nunez and The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin lined up. I’m currently reading The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater, but it’s the fourth in a series and, while all accounts point to this one being a stand-alone (whatever that means), I’ll probably end up reading the entire series just for something to do. More sci-fi/fantasy/kids on a magical adventure. I don’t mind.

Your turn: Whatcha reading?

Paper vs. digital

We’re going to go a different direction with today’s post — and ironically, I’m going to use a digital platform to talk about paper.

I’ve never actually thought much about paper vs. digital formats, I guess because my life naturally involves both. I started blogging on my 39th birthday as a way to deal with having the 40s in my sights, but even before that, most of my working life has revolved around what I produce on a desktop computer screen.

Eric and I got our first home computer in 2001 — Abby was around 2 — and I immediately took to it. I am a fast typer (had to be: English major, history minor, there were a lot of papers going on in my college days) and I enjoyed being able to toss out my thoughts quickly and cleanly. Word docs look so organized!

I have also been an avid journal keeper for … most … of my life. I started at around 10 years old (I was also writing stories in earnest when I was 6, much to the delight of my first grade teacher, who just knew I’d have a writing career. I guess she was sort of right) and kept them religiously until I was 25 or so. Then I just got busy. When the girls were born, I kept journals of the funny things they said while simultaneously writing about how overwhelming young children are. (I’m so happy with my older kids, I can’t even tell you.) And I’d go through phases where I’d keep a personal journal — mostly that was anxiety control, and the thought of rereading any of it isn’t something I’m up for at the present time. I’m in such a better head space now.

All of THAT is just to say that I like and use both formats, the paper and the digital, and I can see the benefits both bring to my life: Sometimes writing longhand is therapeutic; sometimes I want to write quickly and get it all out.

My blogs have served as a bit of a journal from the get-go, and I never really thought about the possibility that any of what I’ve written would ever go away. Until I read “Raiders of the Lost Web” (HERE) about how the internet isn’t exactly forever.

My favorite parts of that article, written by Adrienne LaFrance:

Digital information itself has all kinds of advantages. It can be read by machines, sorted and analyzed in massive quantities, and disseminated instantaneously. “Except when it goes, it really goes,” said Jason Scott, an archivist and historian for the Internet Archive. “It’s gone gone. A piece of paper can burn and you can still kind of get something from it. With a hard drive or a URL, when it’s gone, there is just zero recourse.”

And, later:

“There are now no passive means of preserving digital information,” said Abby Rumsey, a writer and digital historian. In other words, if you want to save something online, you have to decide to save it. Ephemerality is built into the very architecture of the web, which was intended to be a messaging system, not a library.

She concludes:

But the thing unsaid, the fact that unravels even an optimist’s belief in what the web can be, is that the ancient library was eventually destroyed. Not by technology or a lack of it, but by people. Saving something and preventing its destruction are not entirely the same thing.

Huh.

I don’t know that I need to save everything I’ve ever written online right this second and for evermore, but I do like the idea of my grandkids, if I ever end up with any, being able to read my stuff. It’s vanity, of course, thinking that they’ll care or that I have anything to contribute in any possible way, but whatever, I still want that option. So maybe I’ll pursue some sort of paper version of my favorite posts someday.

Because my mother would totally read it even if my own grandkids never materialize. WORTH IT.

It’s interesting to me that right now, my Simple Year co-bloggers and I are working on an anthology that will take a digital media platform and translate it to paper. (Or maybe still digital format, since I wouldn’t mind seeing it available for eReaders.) So I know the process I’d have to undertake to get an anthology of my own work going for those future maybe grandkids. What ticks me off a bit is that had I just written this stuff down in a notebook and not gotten sucked into the idea that digital is better / anyone besides myself would want to read what I’ve written, I wouldn’t have to do anything else besides hand it over at the appropriate time. Um, not that I’m going to stop blogging. VANITY.

And there’s no way I’m transcribing any of those entries in longhand, I can tell you that right now. Plus my handwriting at this point is terrible because all I do is type.

I guess it’s a bit of a war with my minimalism, too, now that I think about it. Of course I’d prefer to write online — nothing physical to have laying around the house. But I also have three paper journals going at the moment: A planner, a bullet journal for daily brain dumps and notes, and a quote book. I like being able to play with these, make them pretty or just scribble. They are whatever I say they are, with no one to please but myself.

And damn! I love journals! I love that paper aspect and how I can go back and read whatever it is I thought important enough to write down without having to scroll through a bunch of screens. There’s a sense of possibility with paper that I don’t get from a blank Word doc. (Word docs symbolize work.)

I have no idea where I’m going with this now that I’ve come to the end of this post. But I like how this aspect of my life is coming to the forefront … that I read an article about the vastness yet limitations of the internet around the time I’m translating my experiences with my zero waste year to paper via the computer screen.

Well, I don’t have a lot of hobbies.

Um, thoughts, feelings, ideas?

What we have here …

… Is a failure to communicate.

**UPDATED**

On Sunday afternoon, we welcomed two middle school Japanese girls to the Walker household. They will be with us until Friday morning. They have limited English and we have zero Japanese. Thank you, Google Translate! But it’s hard to adequately make someone feel at home when you don’t speak the language. Mostly I’m just afraid they’re going to starve under my watch.

So far, we’ve learned that neither have pets. I rushed into their bedroom after I heard a scream, and there was Pearl, hiding under the bed. (“Good call,” said Eric on the screaming. Pearl isn’t all that friendly.) “Do you have pets?” I asked, and they looked at each other, then shook their heads. Well, we got through that conversation, at least.

Basically, we’ve got the two shyest kids in their group, and they’re staying with three introverts. Um, and we’ve never hosted international students before. I feel like I’m lacking in certain skills that are necessary to succeed in this thing, but nevertheless, here we go. What could happen?

Will update as the week goes on … Tips appreciated!

Update, March 21: Tonight is our last night with the girls. We weren’t able to do as much with them as I’d have liked because their schedule was packed with activities, but we shared meals (gringo tacos, hamburgers and tater tots, and spaghetti and garlic bread — the hamburgers were the biggest hit) and an episode of “Survivor” (I do wonder what they thought of that). We showed them around the yard (they took photos of the mountain and the cats). I learned that bagels and cream cheese is a hit and that peanut butter is too.

I’ve learned that there is only so much Google Translate can do, but you can get pretty far with mime.

We’ve got the quietest two of the group, which is awesome because we are also quiet. But it would have been handy to have Abby around; she’s our cruise director and would have had us all whipped into shape. The girls like to hang out in their room with the door closed and unless we invite them to watch TV with us, they seem content to be by themselves. As an introvert, I understand the tendency and want to allow them that space. As a host, I hope that I’m not failing them somehow by not insisting they be with us every waking moment.

Even so, I’ve been gratified to see them get more and more comfortable here as the days go on.

I think that, were we able to communicate better, this would be so much easier. At the same time, I’m glad that we have been able to host these darling girls — they’re such sweeties — and give them a taste of American life. And maybe it’s good that the introverts got the introverts?

That’s what I’m telling myself, anyway. 🙂

And hey: They got to see a professional basketball game, go skiing, go shopping in the city, go shopping in our tourist trap of a town, visit sister city sites of importance, have a cooking lesson at the best restaurant in town and visit Johanna’s school. I’ve got a greater appreciation of our sister city program and the people who chaperone the many activities. It’s really cool to be a part of that.

We’d host again is what I’m saying. But wow, I’m taking all the naps this weekend.

Thoughts on Lent and kindness

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Photo by Sandrachile . on Unsplash.

What does a minimalist liberal devout Catholic who can’t eat anything anyway give up for Lent?

That actually sounds like the start of a bad joke, now that I think about it, and yet, that’s my life. Eh, it could be worse.

The answer: Social media sites (Instagram and Twitter; I have to be on Facebook for my job, but I only look at the newspaper’s page, not my personal account. And I am keeping Snapchat because it’s Abby’s primary communication method) and a game (Hay Day. I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I’ve been playing that since Johanna was in second grade; my farm looks amazing). I spend a lot of time online after work just messing around. It’s a habit that I’ve been looking to break. I’ve given up a lot of sites, but I can’t seem to shake them all. The threat of eternal damnation is just the thing I need to make it stick.

I’ve also given up the non-dairy, no sugar “ice cream bar” that I’ve become attached to because … I don’t need one every night, that’s a lot of packaging waste, and that’s the only thing I could think of that would be truly a bummer. I look forward to that bar!

Anyway, Lent officially started March 6 with Ash Wednesday, and so far I’ve finished two books. I guess you could say my social media fast is working.

*

I am on Austin Kleon’s newsletter list, and I enjoy the posts he puts up. He’s a thoughtful, creative type that I’d like to have coffee with. All of that is just to say that I found his “You’ve got to be kind” post (HERE) on March 9 a breath of fresh air.

I am a judgmental type. This helps me in numerous ways: I am able to sense and defuse situations before they become awkward or heated, I can read people easily when we’re face to face, and I can make quick decisions that I’m able to stick to.

But I can also be unkind. Instead of giving people the benefit of the doubt, I shove them in a box, label them (usually “idiot”) and move on. I mean, sometimes they deserve it. (Thinking of you, driver who pulls out in front of me and goes 10 miles under the speed limit. There’s no one behind me, why not just let me pass? IDIOT.) But mostly, they do not.

Without going into too much detail, my mother shared with me last year an experience that made her see people differently: Sure, they just pulled out in front of her and are going under the speed limit, but maybe they’ve had a stressful day. They just cut in line at the grocery store, but maybe it’s because they’re preoccupied thinking of something that’s life and death. She resolved to be more patient — a kindness.

We don’t know the burdens other people are carrying. And while we are the stars of our own lives, we are merely extras in everyone else’s. This is something I have been trying to remember and act on. I have limited success on a daily basis, usually because I make a judgement against someone and then remember I’ve resolved not to. (Also, why are all my judgments negatives? I suck, you guys.)

Anyway, I copied two quotes from Kleon’s article above into my journal that I’d like to share because … well, they got me thinking that maybe I’m looking at Lent all wrong:

“Kindness” covers all of my political beliefs. No need to spell them out. I believe that if, at the end of it all, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do. To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try. I didn’t always know this, and am happy I lived long enough to find it out.

— Roger Ebert

There are two ways to think about kindness. You can think about it as a fixed trait: either you have it or you don’t. Or you could think of kindness as a muscle. In some people, that muscle is naturally stronger than in others, but it can grow stronger in everyone with exercise.

— Emily Esfahani Smith

What’s more beneficial in the long run: Opting to be kind or opting to give up a fake ice cream bar? (This is also mentioned in Kleon’s post — he’s linked a video by a Jesuit who talks about being kind for Lent. I don’t want you to be under the pretense that I’ve come up with an original thought here. No, I’m reporting on what I’ve learned!)

I’m too … Catholic … and it’s too ingrained in me that you give something up that’s concrete. (We’re also asked to be charitable and pray. It’s not just about abstaining from what we’re attached to.) But I really, really love the idea of working on my kindness muscle this Lenten season.

I just have to remember BEFORE I am unkind. Wow, that’s hard.

P.S. Our priest mentioned in a sermon that we could also give up someone who we’re too attached to, and I looked at Eric and was like, well, looks like you’ve got to go. He’s still here, so … I guess that one’s not on.

TW, minimalist

I was at the dentist sort of accidentally on Thursday (my appointment got moved up a few days) and minding my own business in the chair (after having to come clean to a new hygienist that I don’t floss AND always throw a fit when it’s time for x-rays because gag; she said she already knew that because it’s in my file), when my dentist breezed in and was like, as a way of introduction to this new woman, “Did Trish tell you she’s a minimalist?”

And I was like, well, I can’t actually respond to that because, you know, mouth stuff going on.

I was also kind of like, oh yeah. Yeah, I am a minimalist, huh?

Minimalism isn’t something I have to work towards or think about anymore. It just is how I live my life. I don’t need a lot of stuff to be happy. Actually, I think I could make a good argument that I am happier without stuff than I ever was with it. I don’t miss what I’ve given away and I certainly don’t miss what I don’t bring home.

I feel like the minimalism movement has really come to the forefront in the last few years, which mainstreams it a bit. But it’s still kind of weird to some people, I guess. Or maybe “weird” isn’t the right word. “Different,” perhaps.

(Um, I don’t see this current trend of purging and organizing items as true minimalism, incidentally, although I’m cool with everyone doing what they need to do. Nothing wrong with getting rid of what you don’t need.)

Anyway, I had a minimalist/zero waste win on the way out of the dentist office: The hygienist asked me if I wanted a toothbrush and floss, instead of just putting it into a bag and ignoring my refusals like the last one did. (Awkward.) I said no, and that was that. Although she did tell me that not flossing was “not ideal” and encouraged me to look for some kind of natural alternative, even if that “was more to throw away.”

I’m not sure what all is in my file, but I have never felt so understood.

P.S. Yeah, I know I need to floss. It’s more that it’s, like, 10 whole minutes a week that I don’t want to spend, actually, then a zero waste stance, to be honest.