End of Spring Family Time

“Kindness eases change.
Love quiets fear.”
—Octavia E. Butler

“Wars of nations are fought to change maps. But wars of poverty are fought to map change.”
—Muhammad Ali

“I don’t want to see stores looted or even buildings burn but African Americans have been living in a burning building for many years, choking on the smoke as the flames burn closer and closer. Racism in America is like dust in the air. It seems invisible - even if you’re choking on it - until you let the sun in. Then you see it’s everywhere.”
—Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (NBA Hall of Famer)

Concerning emaciated North Atlantic right whales:
“When you see the calves three months [after they’re born], they’re half the size of their mother. You can’t believe she can actually survive nursing this meatball that’s swimming next to her. And that’s when you realize that they’re already pushing themselves to their limits.”
—Fredrik Christiansen (Marine ecophysiologist; National Geographic Explorer)

“Are we the same people, I wonder, when all our surroundings, associations, and acquaintances are changed?”
—Gertrude Bell

——

Dear Family,

Sometimes I actually manage to keep my mouth shut. For a while, anyway, and as long as you don’t live with me. I have been spending some time appreciating those who have been articulately opening their mouths (media excerpts to follow in a future update), and I have spent some time feeling Very Angry in the privacy of my own home. I’ve also spent much of the past few weeks orchestrating my family’s Escape from the desert heat (more on that later).

I have been mostly hoping for silver linings to the ginormous pandemic shadow, such as increased discussion of our terrible public health “system,” our collectively awful public “health,” our insane political and economic system, and our panic-prone collective and individual risk assessment skills. I have truly been hoping for a wholesale survey of the planetary and human health Situation.

I have not seen this happening hardly at all, so mostly I remain a tormentedly hopeful and crotchety cynic.

But maybe recent social protests are actually a silver lining? I hope so. I hope they are not just a flash in the pan followed by back-to-insanity-as-usual. Maybe we can cultivate a collective awareness of the shameful and systemic racial inequality on which our country was built…and just maybe these legislative and business systems (possibly even someday our food and health and environmental stewardship systems too!) can become healthier, happier, more equitable, and less power-hungry.

I like to think this is possible!

——

Jeffisms:

Jeff says funny and nice things all the time, but possibly because he is over the age of five, I do not seem to do a very good job of capturing his quotes. Jeff has been lately working very hard at Keeping Us Fiscally Solvent, and in addition he has been exceptionally brave while enduring the worst allergy season of his entire life. So much for the Desert Cure…but he has been enjoying the weather. And…

“I’ve just come up with a great band name: Sonic Büm. Get it? Get it??”

“You know what bothers me? When I sit down to take a shit and the label on my underpants says ‘Amazon.’ It’s a sign of the end times.”

——

Ivy and Jem, wishing to coin a term for plants like junipers, which are not exactly a tree but not exactly a bush, decided that “They’re trebishes! Right in between.“

—-

Ivyisms:

Ivy is a busy lady, growing her vocabulary as fast as her string-bean self. She is constantly finding wonder in small rocks and sticks and families of teddy bears, and works hard at such tasks as copying names of each family member onto a toilet paper roll with brown marker. She has recently learned to ride the awesome fat-tire mountain bike with hand brakes which we bought second-hand for Eliza back in Moab, and these fabulous wheels cause her to beg Jeff to take her on daily bike rides. She and Eliza have been playing nearly non-stop for the past three months, and I have felt extremely grateful to have a large family during this crazy lockdown…

In the car: my legs are getting fizzy - like seltzer! They do not want to be in the car any more.

My tummy is too full of laughs! And energy.

Ben: “Ivy, want to do origami with me?”
Ivy, playing with legos: “Okay, just a minute - I’m in the middle of making a WORLD!”

Eliza, I want to be your pet orange! That can walk, talk, and has arms.

I can’t find it! An’ I looked to the tippy bottom of my bin!

I made sure to ride my bike to the tippy side of the road.

If you comb your hair with wet water, it shines!

My friend snake is SO gymnastic! She ZIPS and she can even fly!

——

Jemmerisms:

Jem spent this school year becoming increasingly interested in math, and his pre-algebra has improved as quickly as his performance of “Für Elise” on the piano. He’s been doing a bit of classical guitar, which he likes better than rock’n’roll, and this spring he and his sisters collaborated on various desert gardening endeavors, culminating in a lunch during which we happily consumed the most delicious and freshest fried potatoes ever. (In addition to the potato harvest, we also feasted on tidbits of radishes, dill, and rosemary, and also a few onion tops.) Jem enjoyed his own Kim’s Class, during which he learned to use some CAD software to create a modular sculpture (eventually laser-cut in cardboard and also acrylic), and he also created some small toys which will be 3-D printed. Jem also read a bunch of books this spring, and did a lot of riding-around on the kick scooter.

——

Bennerisms:

Ben does not like when I take his photo these days, nor does he necessarily want me writing about him, now that he is sixteen and his voice has gone from soprano to nearly-bass. His latest passions have included card manipulation, memorization techniques and mathematical wizardry, playing his favorite movie themes on the piano, and joining the ranks of the Smart Phone Initiated. He will gladly text you if you give him your number. Ben is at that point in a young person’s life when he wants to figure out lots of things, and he’s been slightly thwarted in his attempts due to lockdowns etc. He won’t be attending NBTSC this year since it’s canceled, and he was greatly looking forward to it. Job options for 16-year-olds are…shall we say…Not Real Available at this point in time. He thinks, when he’s older, that maybe he could pursue a career that involves working with young children, because he prides himself on being a not-scary teenager when little ones are around.

——

In addition to enjoying my parents’ visit, I have been busy scheming and thinking and working to distract myself with Good Activities For My Brain. Jeff and I decided to consign our enormous and never-will-be-affordably-towable-by-us fifth wheel, which we hope will sell during this camping season. Once it sells, we intend to find a new iteration of our Camper Lifestyle that can be towed by our van, and which also contains many more beds than our camper-prior-to-the-fifth wheel.

And then, using the debatable logic that Life is Short and Joshua Tree is Way Too Crazy Hot For Humans, In My Opinion, during the summer months…we decided to spend some of our savings on a summer Getaway To the Mountains. We had originally intended to head north to visit Jake and Page and the any-day-now new baby…and to bring Ben to camp…and to camp in tents for a month. When it became clear that these, along with just about every other plan that anybody had for this summer, were canceled, I spent some weeks planning and searching for affordable rentals in the mountains of New Mexico.

I am blessedly grateful to be in a cooler place, and here my sometimes-intense frustrations about Public Health Reactions, Lockdowns, and COVID are at least fairly anonymous. Plus, we can spend time outside in the middle of the day without actively “bakin’ like a chicken in the oven!” as Ivy said when the temps reached 100f+ in JT a few weeks ago.

Here is a link to the photo album into which we will continually add photos of our summer adventures, as they occur: https://photos.google.com/share/AF1QipMlf5h1NpJahTgUZzl9khDRcXguxXCshT_b...

Jeff and I celebrated our nineteenth wedding anniversary this month! It’s incredible that it has been so many years since the rainy June day during which the central NJ clouds parted to allow the sun to shine down on our Really Fun Wedding (just before it started raining again - pouring, actually - right after everyone had gone home). It seems like a lifetime ago, and yet some things haven’t changed: I am so lucky to be married to the love of my life, through all the unexpected Things that life strews along our path…

We are really really really hoping that Jeff still has a job at the end of this month, but if he is forced to hunt for a new one, at least here we will be comfortable during the job search. (Also, remember the aforementioned camper we are consigning? It being gone means that Jeff’s office has become one of the bedrooms in our two-bedroom house…plus we are back down to one bathroom for six people…and all of us living and working together in 875 square feet for three solid months of heatstroke I mean summer…just wasn’t feeling like a great idea.)

I am additionally distracting myself from the aforementioned Public Health and Politics Frustrations by brainstorming some Entrepreneurial Plans. See, in upcoming decades I would like to figure out ways to earn money that are both interesting and also family oriented, plus do not make me feel like a total ethical sell-out. Plus, it would be nice to figure out a way for Jeff to retire someday despite our definitive lack of Enough Retirement Savings. I am possibly biased and/or delusional, but it really seems like running an RV Park/campground could fit the bill on all counts. So I have been spending some time obtaining RV Park business listings, trying to understand what makes a successful business/investment, and learning to write a business plan. Because really: what’s bad about helping people spend time in nature with family and friends? It feels like a business that I could be politically aligned with. :)

At the very least, I figure that I’ll keep following this idea until it either peters out (again), or yields Possibilities. One of the many interesting side benefits I see is that we’d have room for all our family and friends to visit!

——

I hope that you and your family are well, and I would love to hear what’s on your mind during these crazy times. I am inspired by slivers of hopeful tenacity and passion that I see amidst the crazyness and uncertainty all around, and - this is totally related - for your awesomeness. The human casualties of this lockdown sadden me, along with the lack of contact we have had with each other, and friends and neighbors everywhere. So, I am grateful for the inadequate yet exceptionally strengthening presence you have in my life via The Magic of The Internet!

xoxoxo
Love,
Sara