About brijens

I'm a hopeful but often cranky menopausal midwesterner writing about questions without looking for answers.

Fixing Things

I haven’t written here in months. The last time I wrote, the pandemic was beginning, and soon those of us living in Illinois were supposed to be sheltering in place. It seems both so long ago, and like yesterday at the same time.

I’ve been thinking about my long silence, about the pandemic, the end of the trump presidency, new beginnings, new babies, and the reality of near-constant change. Sometimes all this thought is a thunderstorm, rain and hail and skies full of thunder followed by flashes of light and it’s impossible to put any of it into words. I am both gobsmacked and terrified silent.

There’s so much beauty in a storm. The clouds hanging low, heavy, and gray; the heartbeat of rain lashing against the windows.

Last year, we got a new roof. No shingles for us. Sheets of metal. And the crew that installed the roof also fixed our leaky skylight. For the past 20 years, we have lived in a house with water stained and peeling ceilings. No room was excluded from water’s assault on our roof and old sky light.

Over the years, we did patch work. The plumber (we live in a small town where the plumber will do odd jobs) would come and throw tar around the chimney and sky light when we noticed new streaks of water damage. Each time, I’d believe we had it fixed, and I’d paint the ceilings. Sometimes I painted the ceilings without really fixing them, just scraping the peeling paint away and painting over it so the ceiling itself was interesting in a 3D way.

But the roof continued to leak. The ceiling continued to peel. I learned to ignore it mostly. Oh sure, it was difficult when during the middle of a hard rain I’d slip in a puddle of water investigating the tap, tap, tap of rainwater hitting the vinyl floor. Or when I saw a guest’s eyes linger on the giant spot on the living room ceiling where I’d slapped a bunch of plaster on a fault and let it dry like reverse icing all swirly up there.

Then trump won the presidency. And I wanted to fix things–this is something because I have a high tolerance for domestic imperfections. While I’m clean, I’m no maven of home decor or maintenance.

First we remodeled the kitchen. Then we pulled the trigger on the roof, and about a year later, I called a painter and had all the ceilings painted and the walls too. And just last week, we installed a new gas log in our fireplace.

Is it weird that we’ve lived in this house for 22 years, and we’ve never used the fireplace which is by anyone’s account the architectural triumph of our small home.

The fireplace sits in the center of the home. It is open to both the kitchen and the living room. It is a massive Bedford stone edifice. The flue is huge. In fact, when the gas log came to investigate and give us an estimate, he said he’d never seen such a giant fireplace. He didn’t even know if he’d be able to fit it with a log.

He managed.

Now, it’s as if we’re living in a new home. And it’s hot. That fireplace churns out a lot of heat. But still, when it rains or snows (it snowed for the first time this week), I still pad out into the kitchen, stepping gingerly on the dry floor, expecting to slip by the light of the fire.

March 15. Lessons in letting go.

Well, she’s 21. My beautiful, strong, wise daughter Audrey. And stuck at home for at least another week, and quite possibly for the rest of the semester due to the coronavirus. She waited to go away to a university. Did her two years at the local community college, and it was a good decision. To say that she’s a tiny bit sad by this hiccup would be to understate the depths of her disappointment.

She’s pretty cute, isn’t she!

That said, she’s had to deal with more than a little disappointment in her 21 years. She is, in fact, pretty good at the whole disappointment gig as she got a crash course in 2013 when, at 14, she was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes on a cold March Friday. In the hospital, hooked up to an insulin drip, she didn’t cry. In the back of an ambulance as her dad and I waved goodbye before hopping into our van to meet her in St. Louis, she didn’t cry. In the e-room at Children’s Hospital, when I finally made my way back to her, she didn’t cry.

It took her months to cry.

It took me a while too. People wondered why I wasn’t crying or railing at the unfairness of it all. I got lots of advice from well-meaning folks, “Go ahead, feel your feelings. You’ve got to deal with this.” But I couldn’t. I was lucky to have one friend who told me, “You guys are in crisis. You can’t break down now. It’s okay to be on auto-pilot as you get everything figured out. You’ll deal with it when you do.” Indeed.

Sometimes it takes a while.

So today, March 15, is the anniversary of that day when our worlds were turned upside down. And I say “our” but the truth is that Audrey is the one who deals with diabetes (and a worried mother) every day. Yes, I admit to being a teeny tiny pain in her ass during her first few months away from home–texting, emailing, hell, I’ve even resorted to snap chatting when I don’t hear from her.

I’ve never been much good at letting go, so this isn’t a surprise to anyone.

And when I can’t get ahold of one of my kids (equal opportunity for all of them). Well, let’s just say the apple (me) doesn’t fall far from the tree (my own parents). Case in point: many years ago, my sister who was an accomplished teacher with an advanced degree and a good job, had a bad cold. After a long day at work, she snuggled up in her bed after taking some cold medicine. My parents tried to call her. She didn’t answer. They tried to call her again. Again, she didn’t answer. When she kept not answering the phone (these were the dark ages when phones were hooked up to the wall with cords and not everyone had one in their bedroom), my parents called my sister’s co-teacher and asked her to make the trip cross town to check on her. Needless to say my sister was a little peeved. (but loved, right!)

So I might be worse. I blame it on cell phones.

Seriously, the point of this somewhat meandering blog post is that every year I remember the day Audrey was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. But this year instead of reposting the story (as I have done here, and here, and here in case you’re interested) I want to say that from here on out, I’m going to trust that she’s got this. And even if the coronavirus and the president’s poor and inadequate response to the crisis has given me a few more days with her this semester, I’m not gonna forget that my job continues to be letting go.

I promise.

Generosity and Gratitude

Every time I consider writing a blog post or an essay, I feel a little sick. As if I’ve eaten something slightly tainted or took a too-big swallow of soured milk. It’s a hint, just a hint of what could happen if I fail. 

Intellectually, I know that if, as Brené Brown so wonderfully asserts, I am in the arena, I will most definitely fail or get my ass kicked once in a while. I even believe that experiencing failure (hopefully on a somewhat limited basis) is healthy, promotes humility, and teaches us how to do better. Still—it feels like shit especially if you are a teensy bit paralyzed by your longing for perfection.


Lately I’ve been reading Patti Digh’s wonderful Life is a Verb in the mornings before I go to work. About a week ago, I drew a square around this quote:

“Generosity, it turns out, is a way of being in the world, not a way of giving in the world. It has little to do with giving gifts, and everything to do with giving space to others to be who they are.”

I think Patti Digh is right. And I think I’m capable of being generous in the world. But am I capable of giving myself this sort of space? 

That’s what I find out when I write. When I read what I’ve written and cross out the dishonest parts, when I go back in with an open mind and a tender heart I’m offering myself the sort of generosity I wouldn’t think twice of offering to others.

I’ve got to admit, the committee has been a real pain in the ass lately. Every time I sit down to write, they ask, “Why are you writing that?” or “Who cares?” But as a good friend reminded me just today, I can fire the committee and have security escort them from the building. Interesting idea.


Do you get Kelly Corrigan’s newsletter? If you don’t, I highly recommend it. This week, she wrote about gratitude and a pretty cool gratitude practice she has begun. It got me to thinking about my own gratitude practice (I don’t have one). 

Oh sure, I give it a try now and then, usually around Thanksgiving. I make the decision to deliberately incorporate more gratitude into my daily life. I’ve gone the gratitude jar route with an elaborately decorated jar and brightly colored paper strips upon which I write what I’m grateful for. I’ve kept a gratitude journal with colored pencils and pens, and one year I even forced my children to keep their own gratitude journals. You can imagine how that turned out. The entries were less than inspiring. 

Here’s what I think happens when I get started. I get hung up on the big stuff. I write about my long marriage and my six kinda-brilliant, kinda-smart alecky kids and my three tiny-to mid-size grandchildren. I list my toasty warm house which in these post-menopausal days is a tad bit too toasty, plenty of sweatshirts, and a few too many pairs of sneakers. I acknowledge clean water and an abundance of food (popcorn, asparagus, and garlic roasted chicken, not to mention cheesy mashed potatoes), trash pickup and health insurance. Then I sort of fizzle out. 

It’s not that the big stuff isn’t important or that I don’t need to remember those things all the time because I do. I think it’s more that I am reminded of the masses of folks who cannot be grateful for the things I take for granted because they don’t have them. And it shuts me up. Just like the committee who reminds me of how privileged and self-involved I am.

But today, I fired the committee (and security personnel is on the way) because I’m beginning a new gratitude practice.

Gratitude for small and ordinary miracles.

For example—Dark-eyed Juncos flying startled from Redwood in the front yard. The woman in the Buick, who leaned over her front seat and waved maniacally to make sure I saw her as she drove past. Getting my 10,000 Fitbit steps before 1:00 in the afternoon. Iced coffee and a ripe but firm Chiquita banana. Oprah’s Super Soul Conversation with Pema Chodron (yes, I listen to Oprah’s Super Soul Podcast regularly). Sharpie pens, sharp pencils, Blackwing pencil sharpeners, and lined paper that doesn’t bleed through. A friend’s post on FB about a beautiful tree that “let go” all her beechnuts at once. Sticky little hand and mouth prints on the front window and most other surfaces in my house. 

When I start, it’s hard to stop. I’m grateful for wind and headbands and red wine and Ibuprofen. I’m grateful for potato soup and fizzy water, books and reading glasses, slippers and pajama pants and old t-shirts. I’m grateful for memory and words, blankets and lil pillow (a Casper nap pillow that, at 52, I’ve become wildly attached to).  

I could go on and on, and that’s the point. There’s enough to be grateful for right here, right now. 

A blog, or for that matter a life, is no place to worry about perfection.

Beginning Again. Again.

We don’t see things as they are. We see things as we are. ~Anais Nin

It’s a little embarrassing really, but here I am, beginning again.

You see, I’ve been angry.

The awful president who won’t go away. The exhaustive amount of energy I expend wondering if someone I know voted for the man still supports him.

Guns. The exhaustive amount of energy I expend wondering if the gun owners I know still think everyone should have the right to own an assault rifle (because they’re fun, you know).

Healthcare. Do our leaders really believe that people with pre-existing conditions should be unable to afford healthcare?

And I broke my hand this summer. That’s not why I haven’t been writing although it did make it quite difficult to type for about 6 weeks. Walking along the waterfront in Savannah, Georgia on our second night of vacation, I slipped on a slick patch and went down fast on my right hand. No alcohol involved, only excitement, gawking. So much noise, so many restaurants, all the people–I was delighted in that vulnerable, childlike way. Completely open to the sights and sounds and smells and then wham.

“I broke my hand,” I said to Audrey who was next to me, the look in her soft eyes wanting so badly for me to be okay.

After that, and for the next two days, I didn’t want to consider it was broken. We were on vacation. We had trolley tickets and a haunted tour planned for the evening. I’d never been to Savannah, and after Savannah we were on our way to Hilton Head for a week.

But when I finally made it to an urgent care, the x-ray showed a break.

I’m not good at being broken. Well, hell. Who is?

A month ago, I still couldn’t comfortably hold my Elizabeth Warren coffee mug in my right hand. But this morning I can. That’s how healing goes, isn’t it. A little at a time.

A couple of days ago, I reread my last blog post. Each year I post about Audrey’s diagnosis with diabetes, and I read that post, and the waterworks began. Eesh. But here’s something interesting. It wasn’t the story that made me cry. I mean, Audrey is doing great. She’s away at college, studying, working, and rarely available by telephone due to her full, exciting new life (does that sound bitter?). No, I cried because I found myself there.

It was my voice. My cultivated voice. The Bridgett of this blog. The Bridgett who is a little bit more me than I am on a regular day. The Bridgett whose quirks I can tweak for effect. The Bridgett whose mistakes I can magnify. The Bridgett who allows me to publicly figure out who I am and why I’m here and what I want to do with this one “wild and precious life.”

I have been missing her. So I’m giving her a little space here. Because writing is how I process the world. And that Bridgett is the voice that opens my heart just a little bit bigger.

I’ve been meditating with Sam Harris, (it’s an app called Waking up with Sam Harris) and one morning he said beginning is always available to us. Of course, I know this, have known this, have been a practitioner of beginning again for years now. But it bears repeating.

Beginning is available to all of us. Even when we haven’t written on our blogs for 7 months. Even when we miss our own voices so badly that we cry after reading something we wrote months ago.Even when we can’t tear our eyes away from the horror that is our federal government. Even when people we love disagree with us in so many ways and on so many different issues that we can’t begin to comprehend how we live in the same world let alone in the same small town in southeastern Illinois.

I told a friend of mine that I’m tired of being afraid. Afraid of climate change and guns and that we’re just too different. Afraid that I might say or do something that offends my neighbor or worries my friends. But being afraid is part of it. Always has been.

My friend is pretty smart. She didn’t go into all the reasons I shouldn’t be afraid, she just said, “But what’s good is that you aren’t waiting anymore until you aren’t afraid.”

She’s right, of course, because if I waited until I wasn’t afraid, I’d never say another word again. And poor blog Bridgett would be silenced forever.

So here I am, beginning again. Again.

Remembering March 15, 2013

Six years ago this morning I woke with a knot the size of a fist in my stomach. I woke early. I padded through the house to Audrey’s room, where I stood above her and sniffed. The same smell lingered about her–the scent of fingernail polish remover. As if she had doused her face in it, as if she had been swigging it moments before.

She was asleep. I didn’t wake her yet. Like I said, it was early. I waited. Got some sort of breakfast ready for her and her younger brother, Carter. I knew something was wrong. That is what I remember. And it’s what continues to plague me because I can’t remember why I knew then, that morning. I feel like I always knew.

Memory is funny that way. Our minds shift and change in order to make sense of our stories.

I took them to school, Audrey and Carter, and then I came home and googled “breath that smells like fingernail polish remover,” and everything made sudden sense. All the water drinking. All the peeing. Audrey’s newfound love of candy bars and Frosted Flakes and Coke. All her life, all her fourteen years, she’d been salty–preferring mashed potatoes to chocolate pie, popcorn to cookies, chips and salsa to ice cream.

And she’d lost so much weight. She was skin and bones, while eating more than she’d ever eaten in her little life. Her lips were chapped. Her period had stopped, and her sunny disposition had disappeared into fatigue and long naps. Just the day before, she’d come home from school and fallen asleep for three hours.

Type 1Diabetes. How had we missed it? That’s how I felt. How had we missed it. All the drinking and peeing. Everyone knew those symptoms, didn’t they?

Google told me what I, at that very moment, felt like I’d always known. Audrey had diabetes. I called the doctor and stumbled around trying to explain to the nurse, not wanting to seem like one of those internet diagnosticians–still hoping I was wrong–but feeling urgent and wild. Could Audrey get a blood sugar test? Audrey’s pediatrician was out of the office, so she would get back to me.

And I went for a walk. It was warm for March. The sun was out. And maybe I was wrong. I’d always heard that diabetes breath smelled fruity. Audrey definitely didn’t smell fruity. She smelled like fingernail polish remover, but no one else smelled it. I’d embarrassed her many times in the preceding days. “Would you smell her breath?” I asked my cousin Janet who didn’t smell it. “Do you smell anything funny?” I asked my sister, my mom, my husband. They didn’t.

Maybe I was wrong. So I walked. And here’s what I remember. I saw some blackbirds or crows. And I thought to myself–if Audrey has diabetes, I will forever think those birds were an omen.

And I do.

The nurse called and said Dr. Einhorn ordered a blood sugar test. I picked Audrey up from school, took her to the clinic, pretended it wasn’t a big deal, that I just wanted to rule diabetes out. She didn’t even know what diabetes meant, but she was scared. I can still see her sitting beside me in the car–so still–as we drove the six or ten blocks to the lab where they took her blood.

We went to the coffee shop, ordered turkey wraps and ate them as if nothing was different, as if the world wasn’t changing as we chewed, and then I took her back to school. If you read my blog, you know the rest of the story. The doctor’s call. The e-room. The ambulance ride to St. Louis. My husband and I driving too fast, silently terrified. Arriving and finding her alone in a room, attached to IVs ad monitors.

Everything changed that day. And everything stayed the same. Audrey was then and remains today one of the best people I know. She handles her chronic illness with a grace the astonishes me. I can count, on one hand, the times she has complained. It took her about six months after diagnosis to cry. Some people would say she hasn’t grieved all she lost six years ago today, and I would tell them we all grieve differently. And if she hasn’t and needs to some day, we will be here to hold her up.

Two evenings ago, I was stir frying some some chickpeas with broccoli and peppers in a big skillet. Audrey sat at the bar–we were revisiting that day, talking about the weekend we spent in Children’s Hospital, and she said, “I don’t remember it at all,” She paused for a minute, and then she said, “Well, I remember the ambulance ride, and the room, but that’s all.”

I tell the story again and again to remember for her.

Back and Beginning

Cold, rainy, and peevish at the beginning of my walk.

I’ve written here once in 2019. I’m not certain what I’ve been waiting for. Perhaps it’s just another lesson in the possibility of beginning again. It’s always there.

This morning I took a peevish walk. The rain was cold and steady. I carried my unopened umbrella in my right hand, perversely refusing to open it up. Instead allowing the cold rain to pelt against my old blue raincoat stretched tight around my backpack so that I looked, I’m sure, like a bright blue sausage.

I’m so tired of the rain. I long for winter. For the hush and stillness of snow draping the pine trees and blanketing the yards. For the bright crisp air. For the puff of breath dissipating in the cold. For the blood red cardinal against the brilliant and shimmering white.

I like to get bundled up. To wear lined pants tucked into knee-high boots. To layer gloves and mittens, hats and scarves. I like the weight of my coat on my shoulders as I take tiny steps down the ice-covered sidewalk.


Peevish enough that I almost missed world of ice melt in the puddles alongside the road. Peevish enough that I could’ve missed the pine needles. Plumped with water, they created a carpet through the cemetery, and by chance I stepped upon them, and I stopped.

It sounds silly, but I realized I could begin again. Almost home, I could begin this walk again. I could enjoy the steady drip of rain, my bangs damp, my toes cold against the ends of my shoes (why wasn’t I wearing boots?).

I could begin again. And I did.


Yesterday was the 29th anniversary of my marriage to Eric. We are nothing if not a study in beginning again.

29 years ago, I married a man I had known for two months in a hotel room in Owensboro, Kentucky. We were about as ready for marriage as a couple of toddlers. Less ready, perhaps.

I look back with gratitude for the multitude of mistakes we both made because mistakes kept our humanity intact. I’m grateful for the uncertainty because it kept us open and soft because certainty kills the desire to begin again. Certainty hardens hearts and lives as surely as we reach blindly for it.

There were days, weeks, months when the last thing either one of us wanted to do was hold on, but we did. Listen, I know that holding on, hanging on isn’t always the right thing. I have friends who hung on so long their fingernails were coming off and their hands were bloodied. Sometimes letting go is braver and better, for sure.

But I’m grateful for those days when holding on morphed into a long embrace. I’m grateful that we kept beginning again.

After all, beginning is always available.

So here we go.

Begin again.

A Few Ordinary Things: Finishing Up

January 1, 2019. How in the hell did this happen? Aside from the ordinary passage of time which is speeding up.

Prompted by a cousin of mine (Lauren, that’s you), I am going to finish up this list–stream of consciousness-like. So here goes.

Listening and lists and lids. Why lids? Is there anything more satisfying than finding a missing lid?

Mittens. I’ve always been a glove girl, but mittens are so nice, aren’t they. I am beginning to love my fingers all cozy with one another in a nice warm wrap.

Noses and nose rings. Smelling and beauty in the middle of a face. I had my nose pierced years ago when Carter was just a little guy. I came home with the new nose stud, and he cried and said, “Take it out.” I did. A few months ago and years after the first failed attempt, while visiting my friend Katy, I decided to have it redone. So happy!

Black olives, green olives, olives stuffed with garlic or feta cheese. Olives with pits and olives with pimentos and olives warmed on the stove in vinegar and oil.

Pants. I love dresses and I love skirts, but after a few days, I’m always so grateful for my pants.

Quiet. Quick wit. Quarreling with someone smart. Quacking. Yes, I said quacking. I love when kids learn to quack and they quack and quack and quack. When I was a kid, my sister was quite the quacker.

Running. No, I’m not a runner. But there is so much joy in it, isn’t there? Sometimes I am walking alone in the park, and I find myself running. Just for a minute and always with much furtive glancing all around for my running gait is a source of much laughter for my entire family. In fact, when my kids want a good belly laugh, they say, “Mom, would you run?”

I’m partial to soup. Potato soup (I made a big pot for New Year’s Eve). Roasted butternut squash soup. Bean soup. (I should have listed beans under :b:)

And I love toast. I am beginning to feel hungry. Toast is the perfect, simple snack. Tacks and tape for hanging or sticking things.

Time. Isn’t time ordinary and extraordinary all at once.


Underwear–the cotton sort.

Vines. I am aware that vines are a hassle for the backyard gardener, but gosh, a vine in the woods is a beautiful thing. Up trees, connecting trees, covering the ground, pulling everything together.

Winks and winking. I love walking back from communion and seeing someone I truly like wink at me. I feel seen and happy when that happens. As if I’m special and someone noticed it. Singled out for that wink. By the same token, I love to wink and offer that same blink of recognition and happiness to someone else.

I am going to admit, that X stumps me and Z will too. So extras.

Yellow. Just yellow.

A good zinger. I like to receive one, and I love to give one. Mostly to my husband who appreciates a good zinger now and then too.

So there it is. The end of the list or ordinary things. Anyone have time to offer up a few of your own?

PS. hummingbirds.

A Few More Ordinary Things: H-K

I still have 11 days to finish my list.

Hands. I would miss hands. Hands are ordinary and because of that incredible ordinariness, they are quite extraordinary. Without hands I couldn’t hold a pencil or a pen or another hand. I couldn’t type or wash a wine glass or hold a wine glass up to my nose as if I, like other wine enthusiasts, can make out the unique bouquet.

Hugs and holding. In particular, holding. When Carter, who turned 17 last week, was but a tiny fella with hair so blond you could barely see it, he used to hold his arms up, his hands open. He’d say, “Hold you, Mommy.” And I’d scoop him up, delighted by that little voice, tickled by the transposition. It only just occurred to me today, while contemplating this post, that he was right all along. He was holding me.

Humor. Light. Dark. Obscure. Literary. Inappropriate. Corny.

Ice in a mason jar. Ice in a cooler. Ice-covered grass and leaves and bare branches. Ice cracking beneath my feet as I walk.

I’m going to include jeans. I have one pair I love, several pair that are just okay, but I’d wear jeans every day. Except when I’m wearing sweat pants.

A kitchen is a rather ordinary thing, I think. But where better to talk over a cup of tea or a glass of wine. Where better to light a candle and dance with your husband after the kids have gone to bed. Where better to watch the morning sun seep through the wall-length window, rise up the walls, and illuminate a just-beginning day.

More Ordinary Things: E-G

More Ordinary Things

I began this December-long blog a bit lazily. I like lists. I like alphabets. I liked the idea of stretching a blog post throughout the entire busy month. I thought it would save me time.

I was wrong.

Instead, I am hyper attentive as I walk through my days. Asking myself all the time, “Is that something ordinary that I really love? Would I be glad to see that if I came back to life after being dead for a while?” I’ve finally started using the note function on my i-phone (it’s remarkably accurate when I speak into it).

In the beginning, I thought I’d do a letter or two every day. Instead I’ve done four letters in 14 days. And all of a sudden, I am running out of time. But I guess that’s the point, right. We’re running out of time. We’re on the high wire. We’d better pay attention.

More Ordinary Things . . .

Eggs. I love eggs. I love them in the shell and cracked into a skillet their orange yolks fat and bubbling in butter. I love them fried, the yolks barely set, sandwiched between two slices of white bread and mayonnaise, and I love them scrambled and stirred into soft yellow lumps. I love brown and white and beige and blue–those pale blue eggs. And the robin’s egg, cracked open and lying on a wet sidewalk after a surprise summer shower.

Ferns coming up in the spring. And ferns at the greenhouse, so big and lush that I buy one, forgetting how the previous fall, I cut my giant fern back and covered it in the garage, hoping to winter it through–vowing never to buy one again. And there I am, driving home with a fern in my trunk, making excuses, and falling in love all over.

Fingers. Oh baby fingers. So small and fragile you could bite one in two. Tiny fingers grasping a thumb in sleep. How can fingers be that little? 

Fizz. Fizzy water. Fizzy soda. Fizzy wine.

And fumbling things. What a delight to nearly drop something, to catch it, to fumble it again and catch it again. What a feeling of accomplishment, grace, athleticism. I always feel so good when I’ve fumbled and corrected.

Gingko leaves and gray days. Glass. Brown and blue and green and glass bottles. Bottle glass windows. Glass broken on the ground into a mosaic of shards.

Grins. Not smiles. Grins. Sly and knowing and a bit mischievous. Grins.

A Few Ordinary Things I Like: C and D

So I began this blog post on Monday with the grand idea to continue it throughout the Christmas season. To list a few ordinary things I like. A few super-ordinary things that I don’t think about a lot. The idea was to pay attention. The idea was to pay homage to the messy abundance and poverty of our lives.

And then I experienced a vulnerability hangover coupled with the committee’s voices.

Did I really admit I was crying as I watched the news coverage of George H. W. Bush’s life? I’m a democrat, for God’s sake. Did I really believe anyone cared about the ordinary things I like? How frivolous could I be? And sentimental? And naive?

I don’t know if you do this–second guess yourself, your intentions, your focus, the way you breathe or walk or salt your beans. What I’m getting at, I think, is my rather 8th-grade desire to be seen as I want to be seen–fairly hip for a 50 something, politically savvy, generous, genuine, and unsentimental.  The problem is that Bridgett doesn’t quite match up with this Bridgett sitting here at the computer.

This Bridgett isn’t all that cool. She’s ridiculously sentimental. Doesn’t know as much about politics, government, or history as she’d like to. Her ideas about right and wrong are pretty simple and often not all that nuanced. I’ll cop to generosity–I’m pretty generous. But mostly I fall short of that image I’d like to project. 

So what happens is silence. And that brings me full circle. Because I’m determined not to let fear shut me up. I choose bravery–even if that bravery is just putting a few words on the page and being honest and being open to the fact that my truth isn’t necessarily yours. I will fall down. I will make mistakes. But I choose speaking. I choose writing. I choose art.

I’m reading a compelling book of essays by an incredible writer, Ta-Nehisi Coates. The book is We Were Eight Years in Power. It’s a series of pieces written during the Obama years along with commentary as Coates looks back at each essay from this particular place in time. Coates writes about race and humanity and politics and love and writing and art. He gives me hope.

He writes: Art was not an after-school special. Art was not motivational speaking. Art was not sentimental. It had no responsibility to be hopeful or optimistic or make anyone feel better about the world. It must reflect the world in all its brutality and beauty, not in the hopes of changing it but in the mean and selfish desire to not be enrolled in its lie, to not be coopted by the television dreams, to not ignore the great crimes all around us.

Can I write into that tradition, with my sentimental heart? Can I write into that tradition with my lists, with my gratitude, with determination to be grateful? I don’t know, but I’m going to find out. 

So with that in mind, I’m going to finish my list.

A Few More Things

Crunching. The crunch of my feet against brittle fallen leaves. The delicious crackle as the leaves give while I walk over them. The crunch of icy snow clinging to grass. The crisp crunch of popcorn or a folded Lay’s potato chip.

Crabgrass and clover without which I would have no green in my yard.

Mint candles burning on the kitchen counter, windows cold to the touch, a dollop of cottage cheese on almost everything.

Dancing. G’s naked dancing on SnapChat. L’s dance moves. Dancing with my husband when we are both a little drunk on wine or beer and the kids aren’t home.

Doting and daffodils and dandelions tenacious in all sorts of weather, growing up in cracks and in empty lots and in yards sprayed to keep them gone.

Driveway. My driveway.

I use the word ordinary because this list is not a “my favorite things” sort of list. It’s a list of the things I might miss. Most of the things (and by this I mean actual things) I love would never be on this list. Take my car for instance. I love my car. It’s the nicest car Eric and I have ever owned. But I’m sure if I died and came back to life after being gone for a few days or a year, I would not be glad to see my car.

I would, however, be delighted to see my driveway. My driveway was new many years ago when my neighbor Johnny wasn’t dead, but strong and smiling and making inappropriate jokes. And one night when the driveway was still pristine, Eric and I, Johnny and his wife Terri sat on the driveway drinking beers as the bright spring sun waned into evening. At one point, we all lay back and looked up at the sky and laughed.

Driveway, indeed.