Tag Archives: Coping

Looking ahead

I’m tired, but I think I’m finally ready for the new semester.

Last fall was rough. Rather than go into all the details, I’ll sum up the low points:

  1. Thanks to ineptitude on the part of some folks in Santa Fe, I didn’t find out what classes I would be teaching until a week before school started — whereupon I learned I would have seven preps, including two I’d never taught before.
  2. Remote learning was a virtual hellscape of buggy software, lost passwords, and tech access issues that persisted much farther into the semester than they should have.
  3. We returned to in-person learning for about a month, from early October to early November, before somebody in our building caught COVID-19 and managed to share it with me. I realize how fortunate I was to have only a “mild” case, but it was still unpleasant, and the brain fog and fatigue lingered long enough to make the last month of my first semester of grad school unnecessarily difficult. I still managed to pull out a 4.0 GPA, but it was a near thing, and it wouldn’t have been if I’d been healthy.
  4. Being sick and exhausted and busy with grad school meant I didn’t keep up with housework the way I normally would.

By the time I got to the end of the semester, I was exhausted and frustrated and overwhelmed. Last week, I took the bull by the horns and did myself three favors: I cleaned, decluttered, and reorganized my kitchen and office during a three-day period beginning Christmas Eve; I got on the FlyLady website and started re-establishing the habits that I’d learned there 20 years ago and hadn’t needed in several years; and I started a new bullet journal using a cheap dot-grid journal I found at the dollar store last fall but hadn’t had time to set up.

Tonight, I have a shiny sink, a set of lesson plans (and most of the ancillary materials) ready to go in Google Classroom — which I spent several hours taking self-paced classes to learn over break — and a glass of sangria in hand. This is the calm before the storm of another semester, but the point here is that it’s calm, if only for a few more hours. That’s something I haven’t experienced in a while, and I’ll savor it while I can.

Emily

Folk Thursday: The Fallow Way

It’s been a bit since I posted anything for Folk Thursday. With a little more time on my hands than usual, this seems as good a time as any to do it.

In “The Fallow Way,” Judy Collins’ lyrics speak to the value of stillness and solitude — two commodities many of us have in abundance at the moment.

I found myself thinking of this song Tuesday as I was standing in the lobby of the Roadrunner Lodge, minding the desk while the owner was busy with a teleconference. Here in Tucumcari, the winter is quiet, but this time of year, we start to see the snowbirds stopping in on their way east from Arizona, and the first few tourists begin wandering up and down Tucumcari Boulevard, cameras in hand. Every spring, I look forward to watching Route 66 come back to life, a bright blossom with petals made of neon and chrome. Continue reading Folk Thursday: The Fallow Way

Look for the helpers

Ron and I went to see A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood when it came to Tucumcari a few weeks ago. If you haven’t seen it yet, it’s well worth the $3 to watch it on Amazon Prime while you’re practicing social distancing.

As the coronavirus scare unfolds, I find myself wondering how Fred Rogers would handle it. What would a coronavirus-themed episode of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood look like? What would Mr. Rogers tell his young viewers? What would Lady Aberlin say to reassure Daniel the Striped Tiger? How would King Friday address his subjects in the Neighborhood of Make-Believe?

In an interview many years ago, Mr. Rogers mentioned that when he was a child, and something sad or frightening happened, his mother would say, “Look for the helpers.”

I don’t have Mr. Rogers’ gentle, soft-spoken demeanor or a set of puppets I can use to reassure you. But I do have some training in looking for the good in every situation, and while I’m a bit rusty at it, I still remember how to look for the helpers.

With that in mind, here are some hopeful signs amid the deluge of bad news:

There are plenty of helpers out there. Keep looking for them.

Emily

‘Til the storm passes by

The world is losing its mind over the coronavirus.

In big cities where people live, work, and socialize in close physical proximity to each other, that probably makes sense.

Here in Tucumcari, where we aren’t in each other’s faces all the time, very little has changed — which also makes sense.

School is out statewide for at least the next three weeks. A lot of churches have canceled services. I assume the bars and restaurants are all complying with the governor’s order to modify their seating arrangements. But otherwise, things are pretty normal.

The grocery store is still well-stocked. The hardware store still had plenty of dust masks when I needed one for the flooring project I’m working on. Nobody has treated me like Typhoid Mary this week, despite an ill-timed cold that turned into laryngitis just as the governor’s emergency order came down.

I am concerned, of course. I have friends in high-risk groups. My community’s economy depends, in part, on tourism. I’m not impressed with the contradictory messages coming out of the White House. But I am heartened by the common sense I see around me. People are being reasonably careful, but they aren’t letting fear get the better of them.

As I think about it, being in Tucumcari in the midst of this unprecedented disruption feels rather like being in Red Fork during a tornado.

In Red Fork, if a tornado warning went into effect, nobody panicked. Everybody just grabbed a beer and stood on their front porches to watch the storm. They weren’t stupid. They knew when it was time to go inside. But they also knew that worrying has never changed the trajectory of a storm, and they’d been through enough storms to know that this one, like all the others, would pass, and when it had, they would simply get up the next morning, survey the damage, and start cleaning up the mess.

Rural New Mexico hasn’t been through anything like this. But people here are pretty self-sufficient, and they know that if all hell is going to break loose, panicking won’t dissuade it. So they watch the storm, and they wait, and they know that when it passes, it will be time to start cleaning up the mess.

There’s something reassuring in that.

Emily

 

Sunday Self-Care: Making the beds

As I mentioned several weeks ago, I don’t stop gardening in the winter. Time spent working in the sunshine is a necessity if I’m to keep seasonal depression at bay, and winter is an ideal time to work on a garden’s infrastructure. My focus this year has been adding raised beds. I had six last year, and my goal is to have a dozen by planting time this year — a task that should be accomplished easily enough, as we generally buy one every paycheck, and we’re still five checks away from Planting Day.

I think the bird's-nest concept takes up too much room to work in the garden itself, but it'll be cute around a raised bed in the front yard later on.
I think that bird’s-nest concept takes up too much room to work in the garden proper, but it’ll be cute around a flowerbed in the front yard later on.

I’ve been filling the beds with compostable materials, peat moss, and finished compost. A third of a bale of peat on the bottom provides filler as well as drainage and aeration, and three bags of compost on top will just about fill up the bed, for a total cost of about $8 per bed.

I can’t say enough good things about these beds, which are just plain old 36-inch fire rings. They run between $30 and $45 apiece, depending on where you buy them and whether you catch a sale, and they’re lightweight, easy to position (just roll them where you want them), and make planting and weeding very easy. I installed them out of necessity — the juglones from the neighbors’ black walnut and pecan trees have rendered the soil in my backyard worthless for growing most vegetables — but they’ve proven so advantageous in so many directions, I’m not sure I’d go back to traditional rows even if I had the option.

As you can see in the picture, I’ve also started mulching with cedar shavings in between beds. They look neat, discourage pests, and smell nice when I walk over them.

Emily

P.S.: The tin cans you see in one of the rings in the top picture are leftovers from last year’s plantings. Besides being a good way to start seeds, the cans help protect young plants from marauding squirrels, which love to dig through my raised beds in search of nuts. My tomato plants wouldn’t have survived without them last year.

Scaling back

Late Saturday night, I realized I’d spent nearly 10 straight hours doing blog-related stuff and STILL didn’t have a whole week’s worth of posts filed, and I ended up so tired and frustrated, it literally made me sick. It occurred to me that I’ve taken something I started for fun and made it stressful. That’s really screwed-up.

My New Year’s resolution was to do less, live more, and hopefully spend less time battling the stress-related health problems that plagued me for most of 2016. To that end, I’m making some changes around here:

Vegetarian Friday. When I started this feature in 2014, my goal was to try one new vegetarian recipe every week for a year in an effort to incorporate more plant-based meals into our diet. Posting them was a way to keep myself honest. Three years later, a good 80 percent of the meals I cook are vegetarian, probably a fourth are vegan, and I’ve learned a lot about staging food photos. The most important thing I’ve learned is that I don’t like staging food photos. I see no point in doing something I don’t like if I’m not being paid for it, especially if other people are better at it. With that in mind, if you enjoyed Vegetarian Friday, I would encourage you to visit Oh She Glows and Minimalist Baker. If I dream up something really exceptional, I’ll still share it like I always have, but it’s probably not going to be a weekly occurrence.

Eco-Saturday. I’m not getting rid of this, but I’m changing it. Like Vegetarian Friday, Eco-Saturday was supposed to run for a year. Three years later, I’ve gone about as far as I can where I am, so I’m going to focus more on reviews, recommendations, links, and daydreams about things I’d like to do someday. If there’s anything you’d like me to cover, feel free to suggest it in the comments.

Make-It Monday and Tiny Tuesday. You’ll get one or the other each week, but probably not both, because they overlap a lot, and separating them out is starting to feel forced.

I hope that doesn’t disappoint anybody too terribly. At this point, trying to do too much is easily my worst habit, and I’m trying very hard to break it. Bear with me; down time is still an alien concept for me, and self-care isn’t really one of my strengths.

Emily

Sunday Self-Care: Unplug

I promised myself I’d unplug from social media after the election, because the campaign had me so tense, it literally made my face hurt, and there’s a limit to how much valerian tea I’m willing to drink in the name of sanity.

Then the election turned out to be such a trainwreck that I couldn’t stop looking at it, and I spent several days bouncing insensitive jerks from my life and commiserating with like-minded people who are as concerned about their black, Latino, Muslim, Jewish, LGBTQ, and other non-cishet-male-WASP friends as I am.

On Friday, I unplugged for several hours while we spent the afternoon and evening in Southern Illinois, listening to Leonard Cohen on the car stereo, wandering through the Rainmaker garden in Makanda, sampling hyperlocal food and drinks at Scratch, driving along the Strip in Carbondale, and hanging out in my parents’ living room, where Dad offered some consolation in the form of references to long-ago presidents who’d risen above their questionable personal histories to become competent leaders.

On Saturday, I slept in late, spent time with the dogs, did a little housecleaning, and composed a handwritten note to Hillary Clinton, who I am fairly sure feels quite a bit worse than I do this week. I prefabbed a couple of blog entries. I played “Imagine” on the piano. I tuned my guitars and played folk-revival covers until my fingers were numb. I had a bowl of green-chile cheese grits for dinner. And then I lit a piece of charcoal, laid a pinon chip on top, and spent the balance of the evening with Miss Shirley in Coldwater, where she poured me a strong cup of Irish coffee, shook her head at my stress, and set me to work transcribing her story to take my mind off things as the wind wailed across Sangre Mesa.

I may not bother logging into social media again for a good long while. It’s peaceful here at the Tumbleweed, and I’d much rather sit here at Miss Shirley’s kitchen table, gazing into her otherworldly eyes and listening to her spellbinding stories, than waste my time fussing over a world I can’t control at all.

Emily

No recipe today.

I don’t have a Vegetarian Friday recipe for you this week, because frankly, I’ve felt like crap since Tuesday and didn’t eat much for a couple of days. Remember a few weeks ago, when my Eco-Saturday entry was about making your own TV dinners? Weeks like this are why I do it. I fed Ron one of those prefabbed meals on Wednesday because my stomach was touchy from staying up too late and my head was congested from too many tears and I just didn’t feel like cooking anything, much less eating it. I was grateful to have that tray of capellini ready to go; it kept Ron from having to go out for lunch, which would have cost us a day of our debt-retirement effort. (Related: We are now $809 from paying off that dead Subaru so we can get it out of our driveway and move on with our lives.)

We had toasted ravioli yesterday, which came out of a bag in the freezer. The ravioli wasn’t vegetarian, but the convenience of having it on hand reminded me that I haven’t done an entry on stocking the pantry and freezer for tough days. If I don’t come up with a good new recipe between now and next Friday, I might work up a list and some instructions for you. When I was vegging full-time, the hardest part was planning far enough ahead to keep from falling off the wagon when my schedule got hectic. Now that I’ve been cooking most of my meals at home for a year and a half, I could probably make the transition without a major effort. Maybe I will one day.

I need to write something about the loss of Leonard Cohen — which was a sucker-punch I didn’t need after leaning on “Anthem” and “Hallelujah” for two days while I tried to digest Tuesday’s election results and figure out the best way forward — and I’m working up a piece about Hillary Clinton and her influence on my life, but first I’m going to treat myself to an afternoon in Makanda, because I need it.

Emily

Sunday Self-Care: It’s a beautiful day

I never liked Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood when I was little. I think it’s because I learned to read so early that by the time I was old enough to watch the show, I’d already outgrown it.

In fact, while most people my age talk about how soothing he was, how good he made them feel about themselves, or how much he helped assuage their fears about this or that, my earliest and most persistent memory of Fred Rogers involves a roughly 4-year-old me becoming irrationally angry about the fact I could make a much better construction-paper fish than the weird, angular shape he cut out and tried to pass off as a fish for some project he was doing on the show. I have vivid memories of shouting to my mom with barely suppressed rage: “I can do a better job than that, and I’M ONLY FOUR! He’s a grown man, getting paid for this, and that’s the best he can do?”

Mom gently explained that other little kids weren’t as coordinated as I was, and Mr. Rogers was screwing up his paper fish on purpose to make them feel better about their own work.

I was apoplectic.

“He’s a grownup, and he’s wasting paper ON PURPOSE?!!!?”

Preschoolers, as you may have surmised, possess neither a particularly nuanced worldview nor a great appreciation for the value of differentiated instruction.

I didn’t have much respect for Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood in 1979, but 37 years later, I think I’m ready to move there.

Nobody in Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood is afraid of immigrants. Nobody in Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood is making fun of people with disabilities. Nobody in Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood is fat-shaming anybody or gossiping about anybody else’s sex life. And there jolly well isn’t any wall keeping anybody out of Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood, because everybody there understands that other people are SPECIAL JUST THE WAY THEY ARE.

A couple of weeks ago, a Twitter conversation prompted me to wonder: How much better off would we all be if we spent more time listening to Mr. Rogers and less time listening to people who prey on our insecurities and encourage our worst instincts? I decided an experiment was in order, so for the last couple of weeks, I’ve been watching old episodes of the show on YouTube and paying attention to the message.

I was too old for Mr. Rogers when I was little. But in my 40s, I’ve come to the conclusion that a daily trip to that peaceful, accepting neighborhood might be just what I need as I search for an antidote to the anger, frustration, and disappointment I battle every time someone tries to defend a sexist dogwhistle, a xenophobic policy proposal, or any of the other myriad forms of bigotry that have shown themselves during this election cycle.

Won’t you be my neighbor?

Emily