You Can’t Make This Stuff Up

Quotations from my Facebook posts and blog

The evil witch-ogres of fate have seen fit to cancel my much-anticipated weekend at the beach.

Watching my first episode of “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.” I feel whole again.

HRM named Prince Charles as her successor. Not thrilled.

It just is, but not in a forever way.

I’m wondering how empty this will feel when there is no this anymore.

I just had an MRI. Now I know what a microwaved baked potato feels like.

Life is kicking my butt.

I’m so excited to go to sleep. I feel about bedtime like I used to feel about Kings Dominion when I was a kid.

I get a sticker for going to the gym today.

I am the same height and bra size as Meghan Trainor!

OMG, the news. Could everybody stop shooting everyone else for five minutes?

A slight mishap with the home highlighting kit…

The weather man said tomorrow is going to be a beautiful day. Today was a beautiful day, too, in a rainy kind of way.

I took myself out for a post-date date and drank a margarita the size of my head for medicinal purposes.

He explained that a black hole was an absence of matter, but I don’t understand how something can be nothing.

My smartphone is smarter than I am.

I had a very successful day as a Valentine Ninja at Hallmark today.

We had a good talk about clocks, and his great grandmother, and why things are the way they are.

25 inches of snow you can’t even make a snowman with it. I tried.

I joined a gym and bought some workout clothes. Now I am too tired to work out.

I won Powerball! Technically…I won $4.

I found a video on YouTube on how to pick locks. Just let that sink in.

The eggnog shake from Cookout was worth driving 100 miles.

OMG. At least this one was honest: he put his address as the jail he was in.

It was very satisfying and I worry that I find this kind of thing satisfying.

It’s funny how many guys will say hi to you when you’re wearing boots.

Today was interesting. It started being interesting when my TOASTER BURST INTO FLAMES.

Word of advice: unless you want to turn into a human wet washcloth, don’t watch “Christmas Puppy Suprise” videos on YouTube.

Governor McAuliffe has declared my hair a state of emergency.

I can’t get to my office because the Pope, God bless him, is in town.

Did you ever notice that the important wording on smoke detectors is very small?

He likes Lloyd Dobbler and that is all right with me.

What is it with the bears, lately? Bears, your home is in the woods. You see stoplights, you are in the wrong place. Trees. Look for lots and lots of trees.

The trick is the utlra-fast getaway while they are still stunned.

The good news is that all the tests are fine, the doctors don’t seem too worried, and they brought me a sandwich.

After the first woman President is elected, I don’t know what will happen. Maybe there won’t be any First Ladies anymore. Maybe the time has come to do away with all that.

I’m wearing a new dress at work, and I have to admit, I’m kind of full of myself.

I gotta stop dancing and get back to work now.

If there is one thing I have learned, it’s not to go chasing down a dog, a man, or a job. If you do, they just run. If they want you, they’ll come to you.

But I don’t want to go to work in the morning! I want it to be more weekend!

My son stops and talks to girls like they are made out of chocolate or something.

And then he took off his shirt, and I thought: wow. how much more interesting is this going to get?

I cannot see the Super Moon because it super cloudy. Oh, well.

The thing is, if I wash “10:30 Job Interview” off my hand, I will forget my interview. But if I go to the interview with that on my hand, it will not be a good look. Sigh.

Is it ever a Mercury Retrograde or what? Don’t buy an iPod, whatever you do.

Binge watching TV. Tomorrow I will read an improving book. Tonight is fast food for my brain.

You all know I’m really 15 years old, right?

I made a right turn on red and evidently there was a sign that was visible only by cats that says I could not turn right on red there. So I got a ticket.

No, these are just temporary tattoos. I’m on vacation.

I just had tacos and I’m watching an old Jean Arthur movie. Life is good.

What William can do to some fried Oreos is a spectacle to watch.

Sleeping and job-hunting are at the top of my to-do list. I must cultivate a more interesting life.

Put on a dress and heels, drove to DC, ordered a gin and tonic, and had conversations with grown-ups tonight. What a concept.

Just tried to pick up my mover. I gave him my phone number.  Anyone who can lift stuff that heavy intrigues me.

Can’t believe I am completely trashed on one, single-serving wine bottle. Good thing I am not driving. Or walking.

How can a person be married to you and not know you?

Opposing counsel said I couldn’t have possibly prepared that answer to the motion without legal help. Gosh, I’m blushing!

A man wanted to pay me $1 instead of $2 for a nice pitcher. I looked at him and said you look like a man with a good job.

I got a massage today and if I have to rob banks I am getting one of these every month.

I went to a bar, drank a non-alcoholic beer, and watched the UFC fights tonight. Sometimes you have to do something completely out of character.

I know I have an inner pit bull. I hate to bring her out, but I will if I need to.

I’m going running. I know I can’t run away from it all forever, but I can for half an hour.

Can anyone tell from my forced hilarity and major self-improvement efforts that I just went through a breakup and I feel dead inside?

There is a special place in my heart for my beloved and long-suffering tax accountant.

Wow, Barbara Stanwyck started smoking when she was nine. Dang.

I am trying to get my mojo back. Where can I buy some mojo?

William is objecting to me singing along with the Met’s Carmen today. Well, she needs all the help she can get.

The British are very genteel while having babies (watching Downton Abbey).

Whoever just called and woke William up from his nap is not getting a Christmas card this year.

I have been such a good girl today. I hope I can keep it up.

Dieting is so un-fun. What I could do to a couple of slices of pizza right now borders on the indecent.

A client just paid me in full, in advance. Let us commemorate this day.

The microbes of the flu virus are so small, hundreds of thousands of them can fit on the head of a pin. Geez Louise! Stay away from pins!

In other news, I am having a hard time finding a Santa Hat to fit my ginormous head.

Today is National Cookie Day. It should be a federal holiday, but it is not. You have my permission to play hooky and make cookie.

Thanksgiving: William says he is grateful for Adele. There goes a fourteen-year-old boy for you.

I have no idea what to do with these giblets. In fact, I had to look up “giblets” online.

I have laryngitis. It’s amazing to me how much I can accomplish without talking at all.

I’m trying to write an online dating profile that is short, honest and appealing. I can’t. Can I pay someone to do this? Can I pay them to go on my dates, too?

You’re supposed to move and catch a ball…at the same time. Who does that?

Me: William, what do you know about marijuana? William: It’s a leaf!  Me: That’s right! Just like tobacco! William: And they used to serve it on airplanes!  Me: Um, no.

There are two ginormous deer and a baby deer eating my landlord’s flower garden like a salad bar. And I am letting them.

William asked me some very specific facts-of-life questions tonight. I think I did okay. I just hope he doesn’t ask me to explain the electoral college.

Mad at both boyfriend and ex-husband at the same time. To avoid spontaneous combustion, went shopping, bagged a leopard print dress for $20, and now I will be happy the whole weekend.

William and I were watching Mr. Ed on Hulu, and you know how the episodes are sponsored by commercials? Well the episode was sponsored by Elmer’s Glue. Now, that is just wrong.

I went to lunch in DC and left my cell phone on the hood of my car, where the wipers are. I took 66 home and when I got home my cell phone was still on my car. Wow!

The waitress at Cracker Barrel was so sweet to me and William she made me cry.

I am never leaving this icy hotel room ever. They have biscuits here. Squishy beds. A pool. This is all I need in life. Divide my belongings amongst yourselves.

I am all done with my presentation, which was fun, but I kind of sweated a lot.

I react to personal misfortune with inappropriate amusement. It is how I grieve.

Road-tripping with Mom tomorrow. Imagine two women who really like to talk in a car for eight hours. I should film it. It could be this decade’s “Dinner with Andre.”

Who is ready to start a utopian colony away from all this scary humanity?

You do not want to get a speeding ticket with William in the car. He is in complete sympathy with the police officer.

I miss the baked spaghetti from Joe’s Inn. You know, there are only a few things I think about a lot, and baked spaghetti is right up there, along with road trips, rock concerts, and Disney World.

White pants are coming out today and damn the fashion police.

My son was a big grouchy ball of adolescence this morning. I have never been so happy to see a school bus.

Ooh my red jeggings arrived in the mail. They are comfy, but not for public consumption.

I have made some legendary mistakes in my time, but when William kissed me good night, he said, You are my best friend, Mommy. So I guess I earned my place on the planet, after all.

William got sent home from school, and I yelled at the principal. It’s been one of those days.

There’s a book at the library called “The Smart Woman’s Guide to Plastic Surgery.” Certain that the “The Smart Man’s Guide to Plastic Surgery” would never have been published.

Off to Graves Mountain with William for barbecue, bluegrass, and fresh air.

William is objecting to me singing along with Evanescence.

Pierre came over and wanted to kill Lulamae, the wolf spider in the bathtub. I wouldn’t let him. I gave him some cookies and he went away. Lulamae, 1 and Pierre, well, he’s up some cookies.

Sunday is Spaghetti Night. I live for it.

I have never seen my neighbors unload groceries. What is up with that? I know: they feed off the blood of the living at night.

Being sick has forced me to relax. I’ve tried to enjoy it, but it feels all kinds of wrong.

My hair cutting experiment did not go very well.

William: Was it right for Patrick Henry to say “Give me liberty, or give me death”? Me: I guess it was a little dramatic. William: I guess people were dramatic back then!

William is such a trip. He saw a spider on the wall and he smiled and said softly, “Salutations.” I cannot believe I helped create such a neat person.

Three big garbage bags of beautiful denial are on their way to GoodWilll. I could almost hear my closet sigh with relief.

The details are classified, but let’s just say I did my part for the Department of Defense today, and Moon Pies were involved. That is, I provided the Moon Pies.

William asked me what the lyrics to the song “Slow Ride” mean. I have no idea. I told him maybe it meant Ithey were going on a slow car ride. I don’t think he bought that.

I got my flu shot today and the nurse stabbed me like a shish kebab. I thought she was going to go right through my arm.

It’s breakfast and William wants to talk about death, as in, how can I eat bacon and not be able to kill a pig? Can’t we just talk about Toy Story?

Out of Hot Pockets and cereal. I hope this doesn’t mean I have to cook something. That doesn’t always turn out so well.

No bra fits me. I’m making my own. Out of duct tape.

Did you ever notice that the first letters in the word “diet” spell “die”? As in, I’m going to die if I can’t have french fries?

William just asked me why his middle name is Pierce and I had to admit he is named after Pierce Brosnan because I cannot lie to William.

Me: William P. Brenneman, do you think I’m crazy? William: (serious tone) Yes.   Me: Oh. Do you love me, anyway?  William: Yes.

Okay, feeling normal again. It’s safe to talk to me and I won’t bite your head off, or anything.

Fourteen bags of middle-aged self-delusion on their way to GoodWill.

I showed William how to dunk an Oreo in millk. He asked me, “Is this education?” Yes, it is lad. Yes, it is.

Okay, I just tried this, and it does not work: emptying a tea kettle of boiling water over snow to make it dissipate. I think I hard some snowflakes laughing.

Sick as a dog. Even my eyelashes feel sick.











This car mechanics journey all began when my engine light came on while I was driving. All I knew was that was bad. I thought. Do I need to stop immediately in this lane and get a tow? Can I drive it home? Is it going to blow up?

I mean, these are the thoughts I have because what I know about cars is they have four wheels

So I prayed and drove it home slowly, and out of pure necessity, I had to figure out what was wrong with it instead of just throwing money at it like I used to do when I HAD money.

There is a thing called a car owners manual. I had used it to reset the codes on my radio when I got the battery replaced. And that’s just about it.

Reading through the car manual today for the first time in the fourteen years since I bought the car new, I am aware of the impressive depths of my car maintenance ignorance and it’s toll on my bank account and sanity. And I’m also more uncomfortably aware of just how negligent I have been about my own basic caretaking needs.

Last week, for instance, after the engine light came on, I finally went to the mechanic because I finally had received a paycheck after a jobless Covid year. The car had been vibrating ominously for for months and I shelled out $1200 at Christmas to fix it. It didn’t fix it.

Learning a bit more on YouTube, I had a mechanic replace my spark plugs and clean throttle, fuel injectors etc. $$$ but held off on the $400+ to replace coils just in case coils were still good.

It ran beautifully again. For one week. Now the car is vibrating again.

Looking at YouTube videos for coil help. Coils look a little more easy to replace, not quite so much dexterity involved. Have to buy a 10 mm socket wrench. If I buy a wrench and the coils, it is not going to cost $400 and labor.

Googled manual. Found the manual I have in my car. It occurred to me there might be something about coils in the owner’s manual. Well, there isn’t. But there is A LOT of other information I never bothered to read about. No one told me when I bought the car – read this stuff, cover to cover. I think the dealer was just glad to get me out the showroom when I bought it. I just trusted my dealer to explain things and do the maintenance for a semi-fair price. But now I see that didn’t always happen. And when I comparison shopped for repairs, which never occurred to me to do before, it was evident that some of the repair shops I went to were overcharging at least a little bit. Okay, sometimes a lot. I think it just seemed overwhelming to me before. It’s so scary when the car makes an unfamiliar sound.

I knew my car had fluids because when I get the oil changed, they say they check the fluids. I was a little foggy on what those fluids were, but now I know. I’ve filled the windshield wiper fluid, of course. You know the other two sticks that look like they are meant to be pulled out are not labeled, ha ha. I would occasionally pull them out and look at them, half-hoping they would reveal something with clarity. But, no. I would wonder — is that the oil? How do I know? Is it okay?

Well, duh! it was in the book. The manual shows where all the fluids are, what to look for in levels, and what kind of stuff to put in and how. Like I think for transmission fluid, the engine has to be warm? But I’m not sure so I’m not doing anything to it. I just want to SEE it. Today, I am just exporing. I don’t think I am at filling stage yet. But I might write on it with sharpie “oil.” In case I forget.

And fuses. Did you know cars have fuses and they can blow? I did not know that. There are fuses all over the place. Why does no one tell you these things? Is this common knowledge? So I will look at fuses, now that I know they exist. There are a LOT of them.

I was wondering about my tires because I hydroplaned once and it scared me. Evidently there is a wire on my tires that shows when the tread is low. Huh. And all this time I have been using a penny. Another thing they do not just list on your birth certificate. So I don’t have to just go by what they say. I can check that. I did not know you are supposed to replace the tires in pairs, if you can’t do it in fours. Huh. Never knew.

I did not know that circle in the front bumper was for towing the car. I did not know you should not park over dry grass because the catalytic converter (whatever that is — how do you convert a catalyst, I wonder?) gets hot and it can catch fire. I mean, that would be good information to know! Like at Renn Fest when you are parking in fields in late summer! Geez louise.

There was a page that says how to put the wiper blades in. I have been feeling helpless about wipers for 15 years. And it was in the manual. The last snow storm knocked the wiper rubber part thingy out of my rear wiper. It has been sitting in my front seat. Judging me. Now I can put it back in. 

So, it’s a bright sunny day. I need to buy a socket wrench that is 10 mm and figure out how to use that. You say easy, right? Things that look easy are not always easy. Huh. I bought a caulk gun last year and thought it was easy. I caulked things all over the apt. It was fun. Now the caulk tube is empty and I can’t figure out how to get the old caulk tube out to put a new one in. I have tried and tried with all my strength but it will not budge. Of course, it did not come with directions and the YouTube video did not help. I know I will have to humbly walk into Home Depot and ask them to show me how. 

I did not grow up with a dad or with brothers or male relatives of any description, except my grandfather and we didn’t really talk or do things together. I just sat next to him every Sunday while he smoked and talked to the grown ups. My mom is as clueless as I am about cars. My sister seems to know more than I do but she seems to just pick up information by osmosis. Or maybe she actually takes the trouble to find out and handle things. My two husbands and boyfriends never taught me anything about cars.

Do I sound like I am making excuses? Of course, I am. But there’s more to it.

My mother told me my grandfather confided in her before he died. He said, “I worry about Mary Fletcher. I hope she marries well.”  I know why he said that. I was intelligent but quirky, inattentive and perhaps, overly trusting. People in my life shook their heads a lot. I bumped into walls and doors more than other people. I made my Barbie Dolls fly. I was the last one to learn how to ride a bike and I didn’t tie my shoes until I was 12.

Insecurity wasn’t a big problem for me at first, because, growing up, it was considered feminine and attractive, at least among the people I knew, to seem incapable about mechanical things like tools and cars. My best friend in high school gave me a book called “Ladies Don’t Pump Gas.”  We actually believed this. I used to pay extra to have my gas pumped for me because of this.

My mom used to tell me when I went on a date, “Just pretend you don’t even know how to open a door. And if he doesn’t get it, just stand there silently and expectantly until he opens the door for you.” 

And I did what my mom told me to do. Because if I did that, if I acted more helpless, weaker and dumber than I was, the men in my life would feel smarter, more powerful and more protective, right? Then one of them would marry me, and protect me for the rest of my life from difficult things like home repairs and auto maintenance I didn’t understand. My husband would love me all the more for being a little ditzy. He would lead when we danced. It was all figured out.

I did not learn to drive a car until after I had the baby. I was afraid I would get distracted and kill somebody. And everybody let me think that. They gave me rides. I walked places and took taxi cabs. No one said to me, Mary, you are smart. You can drive a car. Let me show you how to start it. Least of all, either of my two husbands, who also did not “allow” me to have a bank account or credit card. It was like having some kind of weird, extended childhood. I was 34 years old when I got my driver’s license. And I got it then only because I knew if I didn’t learn how to drive, I would never be able to take my baby and leave my abusive husband who didn’t do any of the things I thought husbands and fathers did. He didn’t want me to learn how to drive and he didn’t pay for my lessons. The driving instructor did not know me or my history. He he put me on 66 the first day. I was terrified but I drove. I left my husband a month after I got my license.

To this day, I have to fight my tendency to give up responsibility for my life to others (happy to be in control) or to play dumb in hopes of being liked or loved. My boyfriends or husbands, faced with a problem out of their element, have said  “just go to the mechanic” or “just hire somebody to do your taxes.” And I have. I have hired people to help me. But I have also been afraid. Like I was afraid when the engine light came on. I didn’t know if I was going to “break” my car. I didn’t know if my life was in danger if I drove it, like it would explode or something. That may seem ridiculous to you but if you know NOTHING, then EVERYTHING seems possible. And everything unfamiliar feels scary, at least to me. 

I teach my son, who has a disability, all the things I know. When I teach children, I teach them practical life skills whenever I can squeeze them in. I am patient with them. I feel like there should be a car class for girls or young teens where they are taught compassionately and with the expectation that they can learn how to do these kinds of things. Or like, it should be a Girl Scout badge. Girls should learn how to use socket wrenches and caulk guns and understand what fuses and fluds are and people should think that is important for them to know. Girls and women should feel informed and capable about important things in their lives.

I should not be 56 and not know. 

Every other week, I take care of a 6-year-old girl and help her with her distance learning. But as usual, I get schooled on a regular basis by a kindergarten student.

Because that is what happens to teachers and pseudo-teachers like me. You get schooled because kids are smart, strong, feminist and fearless – without even trying!

She loves cheetahs. There is nothing about cheetahs that she does not know. She has a “colony” of seven stuffed animals and when I mistakenly refer to them as stuffed animals, she corrects me: “Excuse me, but they are real.”

Cheetahs are her world. At first I thought, I should really help her branch out. But she identifies with cheetahs. I asked her to tell me what she loved about cheetahs. She said — they are beautiful and really rare. And they are the fastest animal in the world next to the peregrine falcon.

Hard to argue with that.

I got her this little exercise board from Target. It has 7 exercises we do every day. We put a little sticker on the board for each one we do. We only have to do it for 45 seconds….but the crab walk when you are 56 and not in the best shape, well, that is a long 45 seconds. At least, now I can actually lift my butt. I couldn’t do that last week.

This week, she brought in one of the cheetahs from her “colony” to be our coach. The cheetah “points” with her paw to which exercise we are going to do.

She asks me, “Mrs. Jones? Which one is the hardest one for you to do?” Oh, definitely the crab walk I reply (inwardly wincing). “Okay,” she says, slyly smiling. “Let’s see which one she picks.”

She looks up with a grin after the cheetah has wordlessly made her suggestion. Crab walk! Yesterday, our cheetah personal trainer made us do the crab walk TWICE even though it was just supposed to do it ONCE a day. And we had to cheetah run in place for a hundred seconds and not just 45.

The next one.

“Mrs Jones? What is the SECOND hardest one for you to do?” she innocently asks today. “I guess that would be starfish jumps,” I weakly reply.

And so on, and so on.

The last exercise we do is the one I found the easiest. Panting, I say, “She is one tough coach, that cheetah.”

“She is,” she states gravely. “But she’s only trying to make you stronger.”

Message received, 6-year-old girl. Message received, and thank you.

At a mindfulness retreat I attended last week, I was instructed to write down all the things that came to mind when I thought about 2020.


It made me feel proud, in a way, that I had come through such a tough year unscathed.

I was really good about wearing a mask and staying away from indoor public spaces. Still, I was in the hospital three times! I got very sick early on and I had to go into quarantine. I thought I had the corona virus. My lungs itched and I coughed and coughed. Nothing worked. The medication my doctor gave me to stop coughing didn’t help. I was having asthma attacks non-stop. Thank goodness for the internet. I figured out that the blood pressure medicine I was taking gave me ace inhibitor cough. I stopped the medicine and got better immediately. I felt so lucky! The last time was a heart scare but it turned out that I was okay. I just have weird heart rhythms or something. But I’m healthy; that’s all that matters. I just don’t want to go back in a hospital in 2021!

But then, disaster! my upstairs neighbors messed around with the plumbing. It resulted in a massive water leak. Part of my ceiling had to be removed and there was terrible mold. I had to live in a hotel for more than two months while they took care of the mold during the late summer and fall. But they cleaned the ducts and replaced my carpet. So it wasn’t all bad.

Because I am a substitute teacher, I only worked for one day. The schools were closed most of the year. I went in for one day to help teach a special needs class of three students. I was offered a job before I left. However, the conditions were such that I didn’t really feel protected from infection. Only a couple of weeks later, they sent all the students home, anyway. If I get the vaccine, I will go back to work. Right now, I am just getting by. I know it won’t be this hard forever.

I have had only minimal contact with my son. That has been the hardest part of this year. The last time I saw him was December 13 and it was only for two hours, outdoors. He misses me terribly and I don’t have words for how much I miss him. Yesterday, he told me his father disabled the phone so he couldn’t call me. I can’t fathom that kind of harshness. I am focusing on getting him back with me since that is what he wants…and it is all I want.

So, other than a couple of visits with him, I have been mostly alone this year. The lockdown actually happened on my birthday! I get support over the phone and I talk to my family. Overall, I am doing okay. I really work at it. This is what worked for me this year.

One thing I did early on was color…a lot! I found a book that was written, I think, for tweens. It was called All About Me and it had coloring and journal pages. Like a scrapbook, sort of.

The thing is, completing this book did wonders for my self esteem. I completed a spread about my favorite accomplishments. It reminded me that in better times, I was a capable and creative person and that I can be, again.

I focused on self-care. At first, it felt strange. Now I come up with a calendar of self care things to do each day in the month, such as taking a walk, doing a craft, meditating or doing yoga. Every time I do an activity, I check it off the list. It has helped me feel balanced and serene.

Whenever I feel down, I know to go to my list of self care activities and I am not down for long.

I also wrote on my blogs a lot (the Halloween and Christmas blogs) and that always makes me happy.

I have a little patio with pine trees out front. It is very small but each season, I decorated it by changing the pillows on the chairs and putting out little touches to make it cheerful.

This summer I even put a baby pool out there, since all the pools were closed this summer.

For a change, I put my Christmas tree out there. I can see it through the sliding doors and it frees up space in my living room. I enjoyed the patio so much this year especially when I couldn’t go places because of the pandemic. It was a fun project that kept my spirits up.

As the weather got colder, I went into full “hygge” mode. I wore comfy clothes and warm socks and drank cups of tea and cocoa. I remembered from this book I read about divorce (when I was getting divorced) that one way to deal with not being touched for long periods was to wear soft, cushy clothing and throw blankets that “touch” you back. It really works. I also hung out with this teddy bear (above). When I got really, really lonely, it helped.

I made a lot of comfort food, including German potato pancakes for Hanukkah.

I put string lights up in my bedroom and also in the living room for Christmas. The string lights in my bedroom will probably stay up for a while. I read that string lights can lift your spirits in the winter. They really do!

Something else I love to do is put fireplace videos on my living room TV. My TV is on the small side so with a fire place video on, it is just about the actual size of a fireplace, isn’t that cool? I just love it. I like the background noise. Sometimes, I put up snow or rain scenes.

I was struggling with insomnia because I was so worried about people with the corona virus and all the suffering. Two things helped: prayer and ASMR videos. I get into bed with my Chrome Book my sister gave me. I put in ear beds and turn on a whispery ASMR video. It puts me out in minutes! And it seems to keep me asleep, too.

One thing I knew from years of living alone is that you really have to be your own entertainment director. I also believe in celebrating holidays to the hilt, even if I am alone. So on my birthday, I blow out candles, I watch scary movies on Halloween, I get a little turkey dinner for Thanksgiving, I put up a tree for Christmas and I blow a horn at midnight on New Year’s Eve. I still cry, sometimes, and I always feel lonely around the holidays but if I didn’t do these joyful things, if I didn’t at least go through the motions of celebrating, I know I would feel a lot worse. And I can’t get too sad because I have to be available for my son if he should need me at any time.

I lost 20 lbs and that made me so happy. I gained some back over Christmas but it hasn’t been too bad. I am eating healthier and cooking more. And I am more active. It was hard at first and at the beginning of the pandemic, I watched WAY too much Netflix! I am going on a Netflix diet in 2021!

There is a small church near me that has been closed since March. I walk over to the church parking lot and work out. I just walk and walk around it, with my iPod. It  is bordered by some trees but it is fairly open space, so I feel safe, and almost no one goes over there, so I can take my mask off. Sometimes, I do lunges or wall push ups, jumps and stretches, too. It’s my new happy place. I always feel better if I go outside.

I learned how to sew. That kept me really busy. I made hundreds and hundreds of masks.

I gave away many and I sold some to pay for the fabric and elastic. A high school friend gave me a 60-year old-machine in good shape. It’s loud but it works! There hasn’t been much demand for my masks now, though, since people can buy them online and in stores. So maybe I will learn how to knit instead.

The world has been in so much pain and suffering and it’s hard to feel so helpless to change it. My goals for this new year are to keep taking good care of my self, become physically stronger and more fit, and work on getting more legal access to my son. Hopefully, I can find some kind of work that won’t expose me to people (since I have asthma) until I get the vaccine. I will be the first in line for that! I also want to continue meditating and maybe try yoga. I bought some knitting needles, a crochet hook and some yarn. I have a whole shelf of books to read.

All there is to do now is wait for better days. It should be a cozy and quiet winter.

This week, I attended an online mindfulness retreat. It was wonderful. One of the exercises presented was picking your word for the year. That is something I tend to do on my own as I make my new year’s resolutions. But this exercise was different. The presenter displayed a slide of 31 words. We were instructed to select the word that corresponded to our birthday. She said we could look up the definition of the word or put it on a bulletin board or find other ways to explore it throughout the year.

Mine was “trust.”

I laughed at first because I felt trust was difficult for me. Certainly more difficult than “gratitude,” “joy” or “creativity”!

But I think that was the point. Of all the words, I knew that was an area I needed to work on.

It reminded me of a time many years ago when I had just started graduate business school. There were only six women in the class. The first weekend, they loaded us up on buses for a team-building activity. We arrived in a wooded setting that seemed to be managed by ex-military guys. There were ropes courses and obstacles and walls to be climbed. It was really difficult — like basic training, I imagine. I didn’t have a lot of upper body strength but you needed that to finish the course. And oddly, there was realy no teamwork involved. My teammates did not help me scale the wall when I struggled. Mostly we were just shouted at. Then, he had us gather around and do “trust falls,” you know, when you close your eyes and fall back and your fellow participants are supposed to catch you. That felt so uncomfortable to me because I didn’t know these guys and there had already been some sexist comments on the bus.

But the next activity was more anxiety-inducing. It was the last activity of the day. We were instructed to form a circle and we were all blindfolded. I don’t remember anything else. I can’t remember if we were silent the whole time but there were periods of silence. I felt my chest tighten and began to feel intensely anxious. I slipped my blindfold off and walked to a nearby log to sit and collect myself. Then I walked quietly back to the circle but I didn’t put my blindfold back on. The instructor told everyone to remove their blindfolds. Then he singled me out as an example. He said everyone had done the task except me. He described what I did to the others. He suggested I could not trust my classmates. He talked like something was wrong with me. It was so humiliating.

For many years, I thought, there was something wrong with me. I thought: I can’t trust people.

But tonight, when I looked up the definition of trust, I realized that the “commander” wasn’t asking me to trust him or my classmates. He wasn’t asking me to make an informed decision based on experience and sound judgment. He just wanted my wholesale, unquestioning and immediate obedience, without the support of an explanation of the benefit to me. He was looking for my submission, not my trust. Looking back, I realize my reaction, especially as a woman in that situation, was completely natural and understandable.

Then I realized I had been confusing trust and submission most of my life!

Here is the dictionary definition of trust and submission:

Trust (noun): assured reliance on the character, ability, strength or truth of someone or something

Trust (verb): to rely on the truthfulness or accuracy of something; to place confidence: to hope or expect confidently

Submission: the action of accepting or yielding to a superior force or to the will or authority of another person.

You can submit to someone without believing in them. It is a power dynamic. They are stronger or have more authority, so you decide to yield, probably because you feel intimidated. You may hope it is in your best interests but there is no evidence to support that, in many cases. But trust involves the examination of evidence and discernment. Intimidation does not come into it (trust me…or else! ha ha!). One person has to provide assurance or proof to inspire confidence in the other. Mutual good will. Mutual belief in each other. Without that confidence, which is earned, trust can not exist.

I started thinking about what needed to be involved for trust to occur. I came up with quite a list! This helped me realize something. I don’t have a trust problem, per se. I have a discernment challenge. In past years, when it came to husbands for example, I was not discerning. I had difficulty identifying behavior patterns and then evaluating those patterns as future predictors of behavior. I also lacked judgement in that I made decisions based solely on my emotions. After multiple relationship failures, I lost confidence in my ability to accurately assess character traits and affinity. Knowing I struggled with this, I isolated from people. I felt like I wasn’t capable of avoiding people who hurt me.

In the past, I loved people without trusting them. But although it is possible, I suppose, to love but not trust a person, it does not make for an effective relationship. That wasn’t enough to be happy, I realize now.

The good news is that I have been working really, really hard on discernment when it comes to people. And then I will be able to interact more effectively with people because I will understand how to detect who I may trust, over time.

I understand now that trust is not unconditional or bestowed immediately on meeting someone, especially someone you are attracted to. I thought you were supposed to just trust people until they proved untrustworthy. Nope. There is little benefit to the benefit of the doubt! I don’t have to be automatically mistrustful…but it’s more like a set boundary. The trust level is in neutral before it kicks over to real trust, built over time.

The truth is I kind of really didn’t understand what trusting someone actually involved, because I never sat down and thought about it before. How can you build a relationship on trust if you don’t know what it takes to trust someone in the first place?

My first thoguht was that that trust is based on a need or desire. For example, I can feel compassion for someone. I don’t need anything from the person to feel that. But trust actually grows out of a need or desire for an outcome. For example, say you are interested in being in a relationship. That idea (desire) sounds great to you. You meet someone, you like them and you feel prepared to take the next step: taking the time to see if you trust the person before getting involved, instead of just letting the relationship “happen” to you and taking your chances. Great, if you both want the same thing. But if a relationship wasn’t really important to you, and you liked just living with your cat, then you wouldn’t go around randomly trusting potential relationship partners. There would be no need!

I feel these conditions may also apply to many other situations where trust is an essential ingredient (like trusting a mechanic to fix your car without charging you too much for repairs). Here are some conditions I feel should exist if trust is to occur. I realize now that trusting is quite complex!

Need. You are seeking an outcome that you believe will benefit you (e.g., you want to obtain new brakes for your car at a fair price).

Inability. You cannot achieve this outcome with just your own efforts or resources.

Acceptance. You accept that you cannot achieve the outcome on your own.

Will. You are open to involving another person on a trusted basis to help you achieve the outcome, instead of just abandoning all effort to achieving the outcome.

Autonomy. You are legally permitted to make a decision about involving someone in achievning this particular outcome.

Integrity. You must be a trustworthy person yourself.

Communication skills. You are able to obtain and share information (including nonverbal) about the desired outcome.

Interpersonal skills. You can interact in prosocial ways to achieve the outcome. For example, you amy be willing to be flexible about how the outcome is achieved.

Risk tolerance. The risk of being disappointed or let down by the person is a tolerable level. The stakes of involvement are not irreversible or potentially catastrophic to you.

Availability. There is a person who is able, available and willing to help you achieve the outcome at this time. The person has suitable qualities for the outcome (e.g., age, marital status, temperament, etc.)

Capability. The person has demonstrable skills, resources, knowledge, experience, etc. that would be helpful in acheivng this outcome.

Mutual benefit. The other person also wants the outcome because it benefits him or her in some way.

Affinity. The other person has demonstrated honesty and good will toward you. The person has shown by past patterns of behavior (or reputation) that he or she is not likely to work against you or your outcome.

Observation. You have had sufficient opportunity and the ability to observe the person’s behaviors, character, abilities and/or affinity over time (or you have access to another trust-supporting factor, like references, reviews, etc.)

Discernment. You have the ability to take your observations and/or research and evaluate the person’s character and abilities, with support, if needed, to the extent that you can predict his or her future behaviors with a reasonable degree of supported probability. You have the ability to asssess whether his or her involvement would be beneficial or harmful to you or the desired outcome. You determine whether they are trustworthy, not by omission but by evidence.

Moderated skepticism. You have the ability to moderate lingering doubts to the extent that they do not unduly undermine your combined efforts to achieve the outcome. I think this could be tricky.

Self-confidence. You must have a reasonable, constructive level of confidence in your ability to discern whether to involve this person in achieving the outcome. You can learn discernment skills!

Decision. You have the ability to make the decision to trust this person.

Maintenance. You must be able to continue to observe and evaluate proofs of trustworthiness in a way that protects you and your outcome while not unduly undermining the relationship or efforts toward the outcome. With ample cause, you must be able to maintain trust, increase trust, decrease trust, suspend trust, rebuild trust or end trust, as the situation requires. Since people are imperfect, I can see how this would be one of the hardest parts to do.

As events developed near my 55tth birthday in mid-March, I knew things were getting bad. I cancelled birthday plans and hunkered down.

I had supplies. I  was used to having a stock of supplies because I believe in preparedness. Not a hoard. Enough not to have anxiety about food or soap. It didn’t surprise me to see things run out so quickly…baking powder…soap…bleach…gloves…toilet tissue…paper towels…bottled water. It didn’t surprise me when people fought in the grocery stores. It did surprise me how long it would take for shelves to fill again. The schools closed, the movie theaters closed, the malls closed, the Smithsonian museums closed, the zoo closed.

I predicted civil unrest. I thought it would be about food. I thought there would be more crime. Thank goodness it was not about food. But it was still awful. I didn’t anticipate the level of violence and the hate groups that would emerge. I felt blessed it did not impact me on a personal level other than the trememdous sadness and anxiety I had about it. But no one killed my son.

Sometimes, watching the corona virus was like watching a slow-moving train wreck, if there is such a thing. Political leaders in Latin America publicly declared that they didn’t need masks. Then they got sick. Young people flocked to Florida for spring break. Then they got sick and Florida got sick. People went into the streets for Mardi Gras in New Orleans. Then they got sick and Louisiana got sick. There was a big motorcycle rally. They got sick and the midwest got sick. People had pool parties, birthday parties, church services, weddings. Then they got sick. So much denial.

For nine months, I have been largely on my own. I think I saw my son three times when the infection rates went down for a while.The first time I saw my son, after so long, my ex said do not hug. Masked, we flew into each others arms and he would not let me go. There was something primal about needing to touch each other that our logical minds could not override. Neither of us got sick, fortunately.

I made masks. So many masks. First I hand-sewed them, about 40. Someone gave me an old sewing machine, older than me. I learned how to use it. Then I made many hundreds more. I am not sure how many. I gave away a lot and I sold some. It made me feel useful, while I was alone. I had to order fabric and thread online and it was so expensive and in short supply. I had to get thread sent to me from Canada.

I kept a calendar. I do every year.  On March 2, I wrote “6.” That is how many people in the United States were known to have the corona virus. Italy was being devastated so we knew to be scared. We did not know how scared we would be. We learned what kind of death it would be. Lungs turned to gel. Dying alone. By the end of the month, 2,860 people had died and 163,539 had the corona virus. I remember being on my knees, sobbing and praying for it to stop.

In April, I got really sick. I thought I had the corona virus. I coughed and coughed. Eventually, it was so bad I had to go to the ER. I couldn’t talk without coughing. My back hurt. The doctor sent me home — no fever — and told me to assume I had the corona virus and to quarantine for 2 weeks or until the cough stopped. It turned into 6 weeks. I was on steroids. Then the steroids stopped working. In desperation, I looked up “itchy lungs, dry cough” online. I discovered I had ace inhibitor cough. It was a side effect of a medication I had started. I stopped taking it. I stopped coughing.

I stayed home. The days slipped away. Schools closed. I had no work to do. I watched TV. I made masks. We learned about long-haulers. Some people were recovering and then having strokes. People who had been healthy.

In August, my upstairs neighbor wrecked the pipes (don’t ask) and it started raining in my bathroom. Then the mold developed. I am very allergic to mold. My asthma kicked in. I couldn’t breathe so I tested the mold and moved out. I fought for mold remediation and got it but I had to live in a hotel for two months. And that was scary because the other guests kept taking off their masks. I wouldn’t get in an elevator with anyone. I ended up in the hospital after I fainted at the doctor’s office. My EKGs were not good and I had some kind of heart event in the hospital. They gave me nitro glycerine. They did a test where they put a catheter in my heart, and said my heart looked good and I could go home. It was my third time in the hospital in 2020. I was just grateful not to have the corona virus.

I was back in my home in the fall, where I spent Halloween and Thanksgiving alone. I substitute taught one time for a special needs class of three, was offered a job and declined it. There was no way to stay safe in that setting.

The death toll these days makes me think how wrecked I was — and the country was — on September 11, 2001. So many deaths at once. More deaths than we could process. It was like our souls had been torn open. And now, it is worse than that every day.

I don’t cry most days, now. I just feel numb. I feel like I am in a bad dream and I know it is a dream and I am just waiting to wake up. Some days I get in my car, and all of a sudden, the tears come and then it is a monsoon. It was like that when my son was diagnosed with autism. I would go about my daily life, numb with pain. I would get in my car and I would sob until my bones hurt. Last Saturday, I went into my car just to not be in the apartment for a while. It was raining and I listened to the rain on the roof and Christmas music on the radio and I cried for a long time. Then I looked around and I saw other people in their parked cars — at 1 a.m. in the morning. It made me wonder if this was a thing, now.

The infection rates are breaking records now. Yesterday, the infection rate was 15,474,000 cases and 291, 522 deaths. The director of the CDC said we could see 3,000 deaths a day each day in December and January.

I don’t miss other people except for my son. I have been a lifetime loner. A solitary Thanksgiving or Christmas is nothing new to me. But I desperately want to see William.  And I miss doing the things that sustained my solitary life — going to the Christmas parade, maybe one special dinner out, wandering around Target, looking at the Christmas trees at Merrifield Garden Center, going to a movie.

I want to give gifts to my son tomorow. We will meet in a park. He asked if he could hug me. HIs family travels and go to hockey tournaments, despite all the warnings. He won’t get the virus from me but I may get it from him. I will wear a mask, maybe 2 masks. Face shield, which I am going to rig with extra polypropylene to cover any gaps. I will put a disposable rain poncho over all that and some plastic gloves. And then I will let him hug me and I will pray I don’t get infected.

I went shopping for popsicles. And I noticed something. Popsicles now have one stick. But when I grew up, they had two sticks.

There has to be a reason for that. And there is. The first popsicles came out in the 1920s, a Coney Island treat. They had one stick. The man who invented it was named Epperson and he called them Eppsicles. But his kids kept calling them “Pop’s sicles” and the name stuck. When the Depression, came, the Popsicle had two sticks. This was so two children could share a popsicle for the price of one.

And that is how we did it, my sister and I. The popsicle had a middle indentation. We had to careful to break it just right, down the center — so each of us would obtain our fair half of a popsicle. Half the time they would fall to pieces, and we’d try to catch them with our lips or fingers before they fell to the ground. It was a little difficult and messy but it was part of summer. I can’t remember having a WHOLE popsicle to eat, all to myself. Maybe it happened. But my most clear memory is us splitting popsicles.

Popsicles weren’t the only thing we shared growing up. My family and most families I knew had one phone in the home. It was understood you did not hog the phone. There was no call waiting or voice mail, so if you talked for a long time on the phone, that meant no one else could receive their share of calls.

We also shared one bathroom in my family, all the way through high school. We shared clothes, shampoo, candy bars, sodas and packages of Zingers. Some of our clothes and shoes were hand-me-downs.

Like splitting popsicles, sometimes sharing was difficult and messy. But it had a good side.

Sharing connected people in a common experience and bonded them through fair dealing. It formed the basis for friendships. And it was an education in itself. We learned what “equal” meant and looked like, felt like. We learned how to wait and be patient. We learned how to negotiate for what we wanted, even make trades. We kept our tempers in check. We understood that nobody got everything they wanted. Those were good skills to acquire.

But times have changed and the twin popsicle has gone the way of the rotary phone. There are more single-child families, goods are cheaper and more widely available, and families are more affluent. People don’t have to wait for things; they can be delivered in a day. The children I teach today struggle with sharing, taking turns and waiting far more than we did when we were young, when sharing and waiting were an expected part of childhood. They do not have as many opportunities to develop the abilities to wait, divide, concede, grant, or negotiate. Today everyone has their own phone and phone number, and no one ever thinks about sharing popsicles anymore.

I think we have lost something important, though.

brown tabby cat

Photo by Wojciech Kumpicki on

As I mentioned in my last post, I am cat-sitting Daisy (the cat) for a week. We had a rocky start.

You see, I thought I knew cats. I had cats in my youth. I have petted cats who did not know me. I have fed cats in other households. I thought cat-sitting would be a cinch.

Read the rest of this entry »

peeping gray cat

Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger on

I was so frightened, it took my heart rate two hours to slow down.  I thought I was having a heart attack.

Maybe I’d better start at the beginning.

I’ve always gotten along fairly well with cats. Fairly well, because in my view, cats are four-footed, fur-covered sociopaths with only a few redeeming qualities.

I guess you can tell I’m a dog person.

Read the rest of this entry »

I had a long talk with Mom on her birthday tonight. We laughed about so many things. It’s good to hear her perspective because she grew up in a time when women didn’t have a lot of things we take for granted.

Anyway, I reminded her of one of her favorite memories. She had traveled across the country from Richmond to California on her own, in the early 60s. Not a lot of people have done that, even today.

When she got to San Francisco there was a parade on Gold Street. The street had been painted gold. And she saw Phyllis Diller all dressed up and riding on the back of a baby elephant.

It was one of those “I’ve found my place” moments. I think her San Francisco years were the happiest of her life…and that’s where my sister and I were born a few years later.

Happy Birthday to my incomparable mother.

I got to see William yesterday, Dad in tow. The visits we have are both happy and very difficult because we don’t know when we’ll see each other again. It’s like being so hungry and being given half a sandwich by someone who has just eaten Thanksgiving dinner. It’s not that you don’t want the half sandwich, that you’re not grateful to have it, it just feels so meager.

Sometimes, I think Pierre secretly likes coming over and that is really why he won’t let me see William by myself. Every time he has come over, he falls dead asleep in my big chair. William and I were talking and he was just snoozing away with his head back and mouth open.

William’s big complaint was that his step mother was scolding him and she brought God into it, as in I guess she was saying God wanted him to turn off his iPad or something. She doesn’t get to make God her heavy with William. He asked me if she was right and I said, no, she didn’t have a direct line to God. Boy, did he love that. He laughed and kept repeating it. If anyone is close to the Almighty among us, it would be William but I didn’t tell him that. I just told him to breathe and count to 3 and go to his room when she started getting irritable.

I have to pray for her so damn hard now.

We talked about bones and eyeballs. William wanted to know if anything ate bones (one bug does). He told me he planned to donate his eyes. I did not know he had already planned for organ donation so I was impressed. William is curious about death. I did buy him the book, will the cat eat my eyeballs…it’s written by a mortician. It was a bestseller on Amazon. But I read it and it’s just too grisly. It was interesting but a little TMI. So I’m just using it as source material.

William was vociferously advocating for more visits when his dad finally woke up I played it cool but did suggest at lunch maybe he would allow me back to school meetings and he didn’t say no.

He didn’t say yes, either. Progress? Maybe 2020 will be better.

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