I’m Not Crying, You’re Crying.

10 weeks ago, when quarantine started, I thought I would get so much done. I had reduced hours at work and wasn’t able to be with my family and friends, and there would be time for everything: reading, writing, housework. I would post in my blog and take classes and get that kitchen floor scrubbed. And then it happened. Or more to the point it didn’t happen. I sat around at night weary from the listless days. I binged for hours on Netflix and Hulu and even Youtube. I snacked because I needed comfort food to get me through this trying time. There were no blog posts and even the homework from classes I took to stay motivated was left undone. My house projects just sat there because it didn’t matter anyway, who was coming into my house? No one. I did the bare minimum, dishes and laundry and shopping trips for my mom and my dad, spending much more on groceries than usual because I had to be sure we had enough food to forego extraneous grocery store trips.

10 weeks ago, I had my last normal weekend. It was the weekend before St. Paddy’s Day. The band played a double header. First they played a surprise birthday party for a friend in the afternoon. Then we knew the wave was about to hit us, and that we may be taking a chance, but we went ahead with the gig at The Western Ranch. Eric loaded in all of his own gear (no easy feat for a drummer) so that contact would be minimal. Somehow we knew this would be the last weekend we would be eating out, and sitting with each other, and listening to live music. When we all said goodbye that evening, it was really hard.

It’s been a long 10 weeks but I have made it through relatively unscathed. I was able to keep working, albeit at reduced hours. It’s been kinda exciting actually, getting ready to open our doors again to an entirely redesigned bookstore. I can say this because the younger stronger members of our staff have been doing all the hard labor! My parents live locally, so I have been able to see them at a distance and make sure they have whatever they need to be more comfortable during their own quarantine. I have been able to wave hello to friends when dropping off or picking things up. My life hasn’t really been disrupted, but I am sad about cancelled vacations and parties that have also been cancelled for everyone else.

I miss the hugs. And the gatherings. And live music. But I hesitate to say I miss my freedom. I think that is a loaded word right now and the truth is that I do have freedom. And I choose to wear my mask and limit my errands. And make do with what I have without shopping for things I may not need. Those who talk about having their freedoms taken away perplex me. How is wearing a mask to keep people safe different from wearing a seat belt to keep safe? Why is it someone’s constitutional right to have a haircut or a manicure? I am as shaggy and gray as everyone else. But that means we are all in the same boat. Yes, I am speaking from a place of privilege because I have a paycheck coming in and am able to pay my bills. I get that. I know there is a lot of suffering out there, people not getting paid and losing their small businesses. But I just can’t seem to equate that with the loss of life we have suffered in this country, 100,000+ to date. And I can’t ignore the stories out of the hospitals and COVID units, people unable to breathe and in great pain.

For 10 weeks I have pushed down my sadness and despair. I have used food and alcohol and Netflix to distract me from my feelings. Then today I saw a car parade from a local elementary school staff on Facebook. One of many that have been posted during the COVID crisis. I don’t know why this one struck me. But as I watched the video made by that birthday friend I haven’t seen since my last normal day, seeing car after decorated car drive by her house, hearing her say, “I have to go get my glasses, I just can’t stop crying,” I started to sob. Crying for all the schoolkids that couldn’t go to school and see their friends and teachers,  those juniors and seniors who now have to reimagine what their futures will look like, those families that cannot see and hug each other, those people who lost loved ones to this illness and those who will continue to suffer as we go along in June and July, people suffering for the poor decisions made by others. All I can hope for is that those that I love stay safe and healthy. And that we can find a vaccine so then the world can be safe and healthy. I’m not crying, you’re crying.

Photo credit: selfie taken of my mask by my mom, Carole Horan. It was made from material left over from a dress she made me when I was just a wee one.

I’ve Never Been To Spain, But I’ve Been To Barcelona (New York)

We pulled the car off on the side of the road and waited for a few more to pass, then I jumped in front of the road sign that read ‘Napoli’. “Hurry up! There are more coming!” I yelled as Diego tried to snap a pic with my phone. Before we got back on the road I consulted the map. “So where to next? If we go toward the lake we will hit Sunset Beach by 3.”

Did you know there are over 100 cities and towns in New York State named after famous places? Diego and I set out to visit all of them a couple of years ago. It started out innocently enough. We were driving around one day and somehow got on the topic of how many places in Upstate New York were named after other places and we decided we had to check them out for ourselves. In an earlier blog I wrote about how this kid had me on a whirlwind 24 hour tour of New Jersey so we could visit his two favorite restaurants, Cheeburger Cheeburger and Quaker Steak and Lube (the locations in our area had shut down, so he was jonesin’.)

https://imwiththebandwives.com/2015/09/03/jersey-shore-and-more/

So, we went old school and bought a New York State road atlas, started plotting out prospective trips by highlighting all the names we recognized, then began plotting them all on grids by geographic location The harder part was finding time to do all this exploring, with Diego still in high school, and, well, retail.

But we found a sliver of time and we set out Easter Sunday with a basket full of jelly beans and peeps and chocolate bunnies, towards the farthermost western part of the state, Buffalo. We got to the New York-Pennsylvania border of the Thruway and exited to head south, and came across Dunkirk. I didn’t even realize it should be on the list but Diego mentioned the famous WWII battle and how the movie had just come out. So there it was, our first checkmark. We hit several others places before ending up in Jamestown, birthplace of Lucille Ball (Diego claims not to know who she was, but he also says that about the Beatles so I just don’t know.) Most of the towns were shut down because of the holiday, which was too bad because there were some great BBQ places we might have enjoyed. We drove through Barcelona, Salamanca (where a college roommate spent a semester), Westfield (Massachusetts, where I worked for two years after grad school), Portland, Panama, Ashville, Sunset Beach (North Carolina, where I used to go on spring break with Diego’s family years ago), Napoli, and Cuba.

Then there was our trip on Veteran’s Day weekend. By this time Diego had turned 16 and had his permit so I let him drive for the whole trip, though all sorts of terrain: highway, dirt roads full of potholes, country routes, and city streets. It was only a day trip but we still managed to get to several places: Mexico, Texas, Phoenix, Peru, Memphis, Jordan, Belgium, Liverpool, Palermo, and of course Syracuse. We also took a detour to Rainbow Shores, a hotel where my dad and I lived one summer while I was in college, in an apartment over the laundry room. It’s right on Lake Ontario, with the most gorgeous vista every single morning, rain or shine. He indulged me while we walked around the abandoned grounds and I showed him the apartment where we lived, and the cabins where we vacationed during subsequent summers.

Future trip plans got derailed as Diego’s permit became a driver’s license and high school shenanigans became more fun than road trips with Aunt Buddy.  So as you may have guessed, we have not hit all the places, or even the top 100.  We hit 21 during 2017. 2018 was a wash and now next week the kid is leaving for college. At dinner tonight we talked about taking a day trip sometime this fall where we can hit some of the places in the Eastern part of the state, near where he is attending school. We will be lucky if we hit another 10. The good news is that he and I love to spend time together and don’t mind driving for hours as long as there’s a hotel with good cable at the end of the day, and perhaps a fun restaurant. He’s already trying to figure out how to fit another Quaker Steak and Lube visit in.

The Kids Are Alright

As I was leaving work the other night a car honked and drove towards me, a hand waving furiously out of the passenger side window, then Marissa stuck her head out. She jumped out of the car and gave me a big hug, with Paige right behind. We stood in the parking lot and caught up for a few minutes, telling each other little snippets of our lives. It was a moment of bliss, one that I have experienced many times.

Training and teaching and mentoring have been some of the happiest times in my work life. It is bittersweet when I have to say goodbye as employees leave and fly off into the world.  When I was in grad school I had a group of RAs (resident assistants) who came to me for advice, support, and friendship. Here’s a pic of some of The Dogs Of War, who I am still in touch with today, continuing to share advice, support,and friendship (and the occasional abuse, they were good at that too). During grad school, then my positions as a hall director and assistant director of Residential Life, there were six different staffs full of wonderful souls who were in my life and taught me lessons, each one of them full of personality and angst and questions. Sometimes I miss those days.

 

 

And Barnes & Noble gave me the chance to do it again. For 24 years now (I know, right?) many youngsters have been sent out into the world to do great things after spending time with me learning the sometimes hard lessons of the working world. For some of them it was their first professional position and there are always things you never expect to learn about. Last week my sweet friend Alice who is now a licensed therapist after many years of hard work told me she is opening her own counseling practice. At one time in my life that was my dream, and my heart almost burst with love and admiration for her! And for every Alice and Marissa and Paige there is a Paul and Mike and John. My life is so rich because of each of them, And for those who ask why I am still at Barnes & Noble after so many years, that is why I do it folks!

My Writing Declaration of Independence

My talent and this blog have been lying dormant for some time now. As always, there is no excuse. I have been letting life wash over me instead of controlling the flow. I say I want to have a writing practice, and produce work, and I know many ways it can be done. Motivation and inspiration comes in many forms. Today it comes from my dear friend and writing mentor, who after years of teaching about writing practices has created one for herself and it has been transformative. I want to be just like her.

How not to have a regular writing practice: Continue reading “My Writing Declaration of Independence”

Abundance

My parents had faith in a God that would always provide, even when neither was working. No reason to assume I would ever go hungry. $50 bucks a week feeding 10 to 12 people. 7 kids getting free lunch at school, breakfast if they left early. Government cheese, big cans of peanut butter. Always an extra person at the table. Even when we didn’t know when the next meal was coming from, there was food.

The chest freezer was full whenever uncle Denny sold us a cow, emptier other times when it was hardly worth the electricity to run.  Someone had chickens used as placebos in experiments, dead and beheaded but not plucked. After boiling them so the feathers could be plucked easier, the kitchen smelled foul for weeks. Going into the freezer to get dinner items I had a pain in in my stomach while hanging at the waist to dig through frozen chunks of bloody beef to find corn or fish sticks. But I had a secret. The fun-sized Nestle crunch bars we received because they were burned in production. I would sneak whenever I could get away from the kids to grab handfuls. My earliest bingeing behavior. I never went hungry.

I Wanna Rock!

This past weekend the latest inductees were welcomed into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Some of the Band Wives and guys took a road trip to Cleveland to hit up the RRHOF and margarita flights (at Nueva Modern Mexican and Tequila Bar)!

Inspired by my hours immersed in rock history, here are some great performances from my favorite inductees!

Stop Draggin My Heart Around by Stevie Nicks (inducted 2019) featuring Tom Petty (inducted with The Heartbreakers in 2002)

I’ll kick it off with a song from the class of 2019, the first woman to be inducted twice, the first time with her group Fleetwood Mac. As luck would have it it also includes one of my other faves, Tom Petty! Continue reading “I Wanna Rock!”

Snow Day

Snow day! And what did I end up doing?? Poring through old high school yearbooks, having reconnected with an old friend from a high school play on Facebook and feeling nostalgic. We never used to close the bookstore, but in this day and age of fiscal responsibility we have to weigh the sales with the payroll and the safety of our staff, so with the text “We are closing. Enjoy the day!”, I was gifted a day off. The entire day was looming in front of me and there was so much I could be doing, behind in my writing and blog posting, reading, guitar practice, and housecleaning. So instead there I was, with three bound volumes of Talons (we were the Fowler Falcons) to flip through.

Continue reading “Snow Day”

Who Stole My Thunder?

There’s no picture of me in my huntress costume from my high school musical, but if you want to know what I looked like, just think Wilma Flintstone’s dress in a green jungle print (and with bigger boobs, it was way before my surgery).  “Who Stole My Thunder?” was an original musical about Roman mythology penned by my tenth grade English teacher. I reconnected with the guy who played Neptune, God of the Sea, last night on Facebook and it got me thinking about it.

It’s been 40 years so the storyline is a little fuzzy but it was something about how someone steals someone else’s thunderbolt, the gods get angry, and wackiness ensues.

Continue reading “Who Stole My Thunder?”

550 Words

Dear Linda, thank you for bringing me into this group of women with a common goal of writing 550 words every day. What a great video conference! Now that I have ‘met’ most of them I realize that you curated this group with great care (and I am guessing a bit of trepidation about exactly what kind of monster you were creating). Such different personalities with raw talent and commitment to generating work, great or otherwise (I know that sometimes I am just typing until I see the word count in the corner go past the requisite 550 words). And when we get together online like we did tonight everyone is so kind and supportive – oh, hold on. I need to get another beer – and I have to change seasons, the Sunfish is gone and now it’s Sam Adams Cold Snap. At least I’m not driving, right Alice?

Continue reading “550 Words”

Send In The Clown

Jim. A 92 year old man who lived a full and blessed life. I spent a couple of hours today listening to the stories of how he lived and my heart was full, and breaking. Full because it was evident that he touched so many lives, and breaking because my friend was mourning the passing of his Pop. The priest gave a wonderful homily about sunrises and sunsets and birth and death and about Jim going home. No matter what your thoughts about religion and life and the afterlife, it was a wonderful celebration. From the a cappella opening song “How Can I Keep From Singing”, chosen because Jim spent a lot of time his last couple of years singing out at the home, often at the top of his lungs, to the moving eulogy given by his son John, whose stories captured his essence perfectly.

Continue reading “Send In The Clown”