May Your Dumpster Fire Burn Bright

Have dumpster fires always been a thing? Prior to 2016, I’d never heard the term. That year’s celebrity deaths, natural disasters, and an election result that made many Americans feel vulnerable simply for existing apparently produced perfect dumpster fire conditions; because it became a vocabulary staple within my social circles. And, four plus years later, it continues to be a term I hear frequently.

I don’t claim to fully understand it. I mean, fire’s generally bad. I get it. But, wouldn’t a fire in a dumpster be a somewhat contained event? Wouldn’t a dumpster fire be preferable to a house fire or a forest fire or an explosion at a refinery? I dunno.

At any rate, back in 2016, we thought things were bad. And they were. Four years after aforementioned election, we can safely say all the tears shed in November of that year were 1000% justified. The answer to the question, “how much damage can one person really do to a country?” has been made quite clear. And, at least in Minnesota, we still mourn Prince. And during the holiday season, I’ve admittedly felt a wee bit melancholy every time George Michael crooned Last Christmas from my spotify account. And seeing Alan Rickman during the annual holiday viewing(s) of Love Actually brought a sad smile to my face. But I remember thinking at the time: we think it’s bad now, but in 2017 we’re going to have a new president who lost the popular vote, and while all these celebrity deaths are sad, they really don’t make a bit of difference in my day to day existence; and I wish people would shut the hell up about how bad this year is.

Since this dialog only took place between me and myself, you’re just going to have to believe me when I tell you it happened. Believe it or not, though, I think we can now safely say that 2016 was the stuff dreams are made of. School was in session-in the actual school buildings. Restaurants were open. We were all living our happy, albeit hyper-scheduled lives and taking like toilet paper and travel for granted.

So, earlier in the year, I attempted to refrain from the oft heard refrain of 2020 is THE WORST. Because I’d heard it before. And vividly remembered the days when I thought George W. Bush was THE WORST. In short, I’ve made enough trips around the sun to be wary of saying we’ve reached rock bottom.

As the year has progressed though, I’ve conceded and taken to declaring things that are shit to be very 2020.

Whatever 2021 is going to bring, it is upon us. I have a lot of feelings. Hope (keep posting those vaccination photos, because I seriously cannot get enough), irritation (how can we possibly be so bad at this), sadness (how many more lasts is my high school senior going to be denied), and longing (to simply be with other people and not worry). I like to think it’s going to be better than 2020, but I know there are no guarantees.

So, Happy New Year? May all your dumpster fires be contained, I guess.

Signature Missing

This subject line. I cannot.

I’m sure whoever created this email to be sent to thousands of people did not have sinister intent, but when this subject line popped up on my phone, I had a brief panic attack. When I realized it was simply another political email in my inbox, I wanted to grab the sender by the short & curlies and twist violently. Best I could do, unfortunately, was click the unsubscribe button.

I’ve been helping Elise with her job related paperwork for her ski instructing position. We’re in the process of having an insurance claim check endorsed by two banks. And we’ve been muddling through the college admissions process with Jerod. Applying. Working on the FAFSA. Helping him dot his i’s and cross the t’s.

So, the possibility that we’d dropped the ball somewhere and missed a signature was plenty good. Of course, my moment of panic was short lived. The world will most definitely keep spinning madly on if I do not sign Joe’s birthday card. And I wish him all the best, but I do not need to sign any damn birthday card for him. And I do not need a subject line saying ‘Signature missing’ in my email to make me feel inadequate, like I’ve fucked something up. So take your signature missing reprimand and kindly stick it. Is it possible I’m a li’l oversensitive these days? Why yes it is, thanks for asking.

It’s been another challenging week. Our governor enacted (or perhaps I should say reenacted) restrictions more like what we dealt with last spring. It’s hard, because restrictions are jarring. But I think the real challenge for most folks with at least those with one or two fibers of compassion within their being is the amount of concern we’re feeling for the front line workers. All front line workers, but for me personally, it’s the photos of health care workers I’m seeing on social media, fully decked out in PPE and begging us to stay home because they are wondering how they can possibly keep putting one foot in front of the other when they are so completely and utterly taxed; those are the ones that rattle me the most. A close second being our educators and administrators who are carrying the weight of their own mental well-being, that of all of their students, and for most of them, that of their own children. To say nothing of meeting the academic standards they’ve been tasked with.

It has dawned on me this week how completely inexperienced I am at dealing with uncertainty. After eight months of this altered lifestyle we’ve adopted, I still feel like I know nothing of the trajectory of this pandemic in the US. And, while we’ve survived the election, I feel like I know nothing of what’s actually going to happen on January 20th. What I really want is a national strategy, with implications for those who don’t get onboard, and for someone to give me an end date. Even if it’s January 2024 (God, please, no), I want to know when we wrap up this chapter. How many pages are left? Are we going to run out of paper on which to write said pages?? I’m tired of questions. I want answers. Answers with certainty, even if they’re not what I want to hear.

As has been the case for my family from the beginning, we are fortunate. We do not have any one big thing that makes this especially hard for us (and, it’s very important to note, we have not had any loved ones become seriously ill or perish… yet). We have not yet missed a graduation or other milestone, had to grieve lost loved ones in isolation, or wondered where our next meal will come from. Like everyone, though, we’ve had our fair share of small things. They are adding up and I’m starting to feel like an avalanche may be in our future. It’s hard to take one day at a time and try now to look ahead.

These are hard days, and my win for the week is that I didn’t actually omit a signature on anything of importance. Praise be, I guess. I’ll take what I can get.

Sending love and light. Be well, my friends.

Nailing Jell-o to a Tree

COVID or no, at the age of 44, I feel like I should be settling into adulthood. Figuring things out. Finding my way.

Friends, it’s not happening for me.

How can there be so many things I don’t know, so many things I can’t understand, so many aspects of my existence I cannot seem to get under my own control when said existence is most likely more than half way over?

And that’s to say nothing of the world around me.

There exists a significant portion of the population who believe an American child’s right to in-person school trumps the well-being of educators and school staff. And, I can only extrapolate, that this same portion of the population believes the only factors in the school equation are teachers and students, and have zero understanding of how a school building actually functions. I’ll let you in on a secret: these buildings can’t function without custodial and administrative staff.

There also exists a formidable bloc of folks who believe scientists and medical personnel are the enemies. This is a thought I’d like to flesh out, but what is there to say? These groups used to be revered, now they are reviled. The about face has come at breakneck speed. We respected medical professionals and scientists, I blinked twice, and all of a sudden they became pariahs.

That previous paragraph might be a bit hyperbolic. To say health care personnel are currently considered pariahs could be using language that is stronger than what the situation calls for. I choose to believe most of society holds the people doing this sacred work in relatively high esteem. BUT (there is ALWYAS a BUT), we as a society have done nothing in the past eight months (or however long it’s been) to lighten their load, to avert a nationwide mess that will fall disproportionally into their laps to clean up. So, do we really hold them in esteem?

I started this post earlier this week, when dealing with an insurance claim check that will be used to replace our roof (hail damage from August). We’re sitting on a sizable check that is made out to Chris Holt, Bell Bank Mortgage, and Chase bank mortgage. I had zero idea how to get the damn thing properly processed and the money into the hands of the contractor. Did I mention I’m 44 years old? I’ve known countless folks who have had roofs replaced and paid for by insurance– they all seemed to know what the hell they were doing. How did I come to be so clueless?? Thankfully, one of the many pillars of my surviving COVID with teenagers support system is an insurance broker, so I now know how to proceed. The more ya know, I guess.

I’m not entirely certain how this post moved from my introspective navel gazing to looking at the world around me with such confusion; but I’m guessing it has something to do with how drastically it feels life has changed in the span of just one week. My kids went to in-person school on Monday. By Tuesday, all high school students had been moved to 100% distance learning. By Friday, the entire district had moved to 100% distance learning, despite earlier plans to keep elementary kids in school until November 30th.

I don’t know why this has felt like such a blindside. It was impossible to not see it coming, so I guess it’s the timeline that’s feeling jarring to me. In March, it felt like it took so, so long for the governor to declare shelter in place and to enact a state-wide mask mandate. For both events, I expected them to happen many many days before they actually did. I guess I thought schools closing this time around would be the same.

And, truthfully, it probably was. But the COVID goggles distort everything. The passage of time, the sequence of events, what’s reasonable and what isn’t– all these things look vastly different than they did eight months ago.

Chris and I have been watching The Queen’s Gambit, set in the 1960’s, on Netflix and been struck by the images from planes in the 1960’s. People weren’t packed in like sardines. Flight attendants served martinis in what appear to be actual martini glasses. The food appears to be edible (though I question whether airplane food was ever edible). Which inevitably got us thinking about air travel before 9/11. Raise your hand if you ever watched a plane take off from a gate when you didn’t have a ticket. Or went to pick up a loved one from the airport and actually watched them walk off the plane. Or packed a full size bottle of shampoo in a carry-on.

Raised Hand / Five Fingers Stock Photo, Picture And Royalty Free Image.  Image 104626809.

It’s an entirely different experience now. And, unless prompted, I never think about the way it used to be. I can’t help but wonder if we’ll look back on similar aspects of pre-COVID life similarly in 20 years. People used to work in office buildings five days a week. A staggering number of meetings were held in person. Elementary classrooms were packed with 30+ students. We drove fossil fuel burning cars for miles and miles and miles each day to get to aforementioned offices and meetings.

I don’t know what life will look like in 20 years. I don’t really even know what life will look like in 20 days, but it seems like it could be pretty bleak. Adulting generally feels overrated. Adulting during a pandemic feels like trying to nail jello to a tree.

These are hard days, and all I can say is that I’m trying my damndest to send love and light to all of you. Be well.

Quote of the week from this guy: I’m off to spend all damn day in front of a computer like a fucking 40 year old. Distance learning SUCKS.

No Complaining on the Yacht

Errr. Maybe a little bit of complaining on the yacht.

First things first, let’s not ever mention you’ve seen this photo.

It’s my kid, seven months away from high school graduation, “visiting” a college. I say “visiting” because there was no talking to faculty, no campus tour, no seeing the inside of any building. He “visited” a few schools last weekend. Better than nothing, but I’m weary of better than nothing. So weary.

It’s homecoming weekend in local hometown. A football game is being played tonight. I don’t know who is able to be in attendance, but I reckon spectators who aren’t parents of players are pretty few and far between. There was no parade. There will be no dance. No nothing. I’m low key excited there has been none of the typical mania around this weekend (buying clothes, booking dinners, planning after-parties, searching bags for contraband items), but I’m sad for my kids. They don’t really care, or at least they don’t say they do, but I think on some level, they kinda care. Especially my senior. Especially when there is no end in sight. A football game is better than nothing, but I’m weary of better than nothing. So weary.

Chris and I were able to take in some live music last week. It was outside, socially distanced, and freezing ass cold. It was really, really nice. But I miss climate controlled shows. Still, it was better than nothing. You know what comes next… So weary.

Hybrid model of school, online worship, watching the Minnesota Loons on the tee-vee instead of from our regular seats, a semblance of a fall soccer season for my sophomore, virtual debate tournaments, I could go on and on and on. We could all go on and on and on about being weary of better than nothing.

A few weeks ago I read a post about the six month point in a crisis. It was helpful, although disconcerting to know that the six month wall would likely last four to six weeks. Still, it ended on a hopeful note:

I suppose this six month wall is what I’m dealing with. Perhaps with a side of stress and hormones. But the word interminable goes through my mind on an hourly basis. I am grateful for so, so much. Primarily the health of my family. But I am weary weary weary. Trying to focus on the miracle and the marvel, but mostly complaining on the yacht.

The Kale Salad Days

I think the best caption for this photo might be simply: RESIGNATION

I started Noom again this week. While I have managed to log a decent amount of exercise during COVID times, I won’t deny I’ve done a lot of eating my feelings. I don’t know if I’ve gained weight, because I’ve avoided the scale like it’s a feverish person with a dry cough and an off-kilter sense of taste and smell.

I’m calling my kale salad resignation because I’m becoming increasingly certain that there is no end in site for this nonsense. And if I don’t at least make an attempt to pull myself together, my ending of COVID-19 will bear a striking resemblance to the end of What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?.

And it’s fine. Kale salad is fine. I don’t hate it. But I’d rather have nachos or enchiladas or pizza or a bacon cheeseburger. I know kale is what’s best for me, though, so I’m eating quite a bit of it these days.

I will reiterate that I have a lot of pandemic days that are just fine, and I’m able to roll with the punches. I don’t write about them, but they exist.

Today, though, has not been one of those days. The reality that summer’s end is imminent is always tough for me. This year’s taking that phenomenon to a whole new level. I cannot see any possibility of the next six weeks going well. Hell, I have trouble seeing any possibility of the next six months going well.

In some fashion or another, we’ve been at this since March. I believe it was March 15th when the governor announced schools would be closing. It’s probably a good thing I didn’t know then how much uncertainty would still exist five months later. Things are uncertain. They will remain that way for an uncertain amount of time. And to what extent I can envision what the future holds, it doesn’t look terribly promising.

I trust tomorrow will be kinder. I’ve been at this long enough to know the dips on the CORONA-coaster don’t last forever. Whoo-boy, though. Today blows.

Kale salad for the foreseeable future.

My attempt to close on a better note– The War and Treaty released a new single today. I may or may not have played it 10 or more times today.