About brijens

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

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.

A Few Ordinary Things I Like: An Alphabet

Last week, before it became unseasonably and delightfully warm, I took a few blustery winter walks. The air was cold, the wind ruddied my cheeks and my ears burned. I felt so alive. Is this a little over-the-top? I mean–I’m talking about a couple late November walks. Most of the time when you hear, “I felt so alive” the speaker is remembering skydiving or mountain climbing–some perilous and exhilarating adventure that reminds a person just how small and tenuous our lives are.

I’m not likely to engage in many extreme activities–never was much of a dare-devil–so maybe that’s why an ordinary walk or two has that affect.  Or maybe it’s the holidays which render me more than a bit sentimental. (I’ve cried more than once listening to the letters written by the late George H.W. Bush.) Why is decency so compelling when coupled with death?

We don’t talk about death very much, do we? Oh sure, we memorialize and re-humanize famous folk. We publicly mourn for those we don’t know, but the truth is we are all dying all the time. (not any time soon, as far as I know and hope) And it might not be a bad idea to remember it.

This is new to me, believe me. For the better part of my life, I tried not to talk (or even think) about death–terrified that mentioning it out loud might give the universe, god, or the goddess a big idea. In fact, for years I practiced a nightly counter-measure.

When I was a child, we prayed every night:

“Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.”

WTF is that? I was terrified. Every time I prayed that prayer out loud with my parents, I had to do a little backstopping with God when they left the room, “And dear God, please don’t let Mom, Dad, Carol, Michael, John, or me die tonight.”

Whew.

Well, now I’m 51 (almost 52). And death is everywhere. I have friends who’ve suffered the tragic loss of a child with an indomitable courage. Every one of my cousins has lost at least one if not both of their parents. My parents have lost all of their siblings and their parents and many friends. My children have lost friends and so have I. We are, all of us, on a high wire all the time. And no, we can’t remember this every moment, or we would just wobble there, suspended in mid-air, too terrified to move.

And yet, (and here I go) life in all its beautiful complexity demands of us an attention that remembers how brief it is. And I think that sort of attention probably begets gratitude in its truest form.

***

This morning, I plucked Encyclopedia of an Ordinary LIfe, by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, from the shelf in my office. There is no book, in my life, that pays homage as well to the ordinary things we all take for granted. And sometimes I need a little reminding. 

Under the heading Returning to Life After Being Dead,Rosenthal writes:

“When I am feeling dreary, annoyed, and generally unimpressed by life, I imagine what it would be like to come back to this world for just a day after having been dead. I imagine how sentimental I would feel about the very things I once found stupid, hateful, or mundane. Oh there’s a light switch! Ihaven’t seen a light switch in so long! I didn’t realize how much Imissed light switches! Oh! Oh! And look–the stairs up to our front porch are still completely cracked! Hello, cracks! Let me get a good look at you. And there’s my neighbor, standing there, fantastically alive, just the same, still punctuating her sentences with you know what I’m saying? Why did that used to bother me? It’s so . . .endearing.”

And I thought, what would it be like to spend December looking at the world in this way? Is this a silly exercise? I don’t know. A part of me thinks, shut up Pollyanna! But the soft, tender side of me says, Go for it.

And I’m going with tender. So for the next couple of weeks, I will post here in an alphabetical order of sorts a few ordinary things I like. And we’ll see what happens. And if you want to join me in the comments, I would love that.

So here we go.

A Few Ordinary Things I Like

A

Angles of Light: The sun filtered through the wall-length window in my kitchen, warming the light blue walls and the cool gray cabinets. The blue sky through a canopy of green leaves. The ripples of shine on yellow Gingko leaves like cold fleck beneath a just bare tree. Clouds quilted with patchy light.

Apples. In particular Honey Crisp apples because crisp is the aspect of the apple most important to me. I used to be partial to Granny Smith–also crisp, but I find that as I age, sweetness has become more important to me. The Granny Smith is a tiny bit too tart, a little too edgy. 

B

Bingo: I don’t get to play very often, but I love it. I went through a bingo faze when I was 28 or 29 and also working on my bachelor’s degree. My daughter, Sydni, who was about three thought the school and the bingo were the same thing when she told a crowd of people proudly, “My mom is going to school for bingo!” (I was perhaps playing a little too much.)

Blustery days: I like the wind. I like the chill on my cheeks. Leaves skittering across the road, trees bending and squeaking. 

Books: Old and musty, new and crisp, broken spines, hard covers and soft covers, words, and lines and sentences, poems and stories and histories. I love holding them in my hands. I love sleeping with them alongside the bed and under the cover. I like the way a book meets you where you are. I like it that I can hate a book one week and adore it a year later. I have hundreds of favorites.

C

Carpet: I don’t have carpet anymore, anywhere in my house, and sometimes I miss it. The reason carpet is gross is exactly the reason I miss it. It hides a multitude of sins. I have two pugs, and if I had a rough beigey carpet, you’d never see huge tufts of dog hair peeking out from beneath the couch.

Okay–that’s it for today. I’ll be back tomorrow or the next day with a few more.

Thanksgiving

On Facebook and Instagram and even on Twitter, people are giving thanks and sharing their gratitude for supremely wonderful lives. Autumn sort of does that to people with its show-offy color–Gingko leaves like flecks of gold leaf under the bare trees while the perfect red and orange and yellow stars of the Sweet Gum create reverse shadows on the wet sidewalks. And then there’s Thanksgiving with all that gratitude built right into the word.

I sound a little snippy don’t I. Sometimes I’m a wee-bit jaded. I roll my eyes at pictures of Gratitude Jars (even though I have one) and gratitude worksheets and lists and pictures. Not because they’re bad, but because sometimes I’m all shriveled up inside like the Grinch, I guess.

Don’t get me wrong–in all honesty, I think it’s a good idea to take a time-out from the constant hustling of 21st century life, to breathe in nice and slowly, get quiet and take stock, to ask the question, “What am I thankful for?”

If we don’t, then how do we know?

Oh sure, some people are just good at gratitude. Born with a grateful-o-meter built in. Often, these folks are highly annoying when you first get to know them. After all, you want to bitch about the tasteless cookies, the long line at the store, the neighbor who hoards unicycles, lawn chairs, and tires in her falling down carport; after all, that’s a lot more fun.

That is until Ms. (or Mr.) Gratitude gets her grateful tentacles under your skin. You realize that she isn’t all Pollyanna Sunshine. That he’s not blowing magic smoke up your ass. And they’re thankful anyway.

You know who I’m talking about–the assholes who make you want to be a better person. I think Brené Brown refers to these folks as wholehearted people. I’m not talking about the sunny-side-up optimists, or the prosperity gospel converts who believe their financial well-being is a manifestation of God’s will and their adherence to positivity and right donations. Nor am I talking about the Secret people who’ll tell you if you believe in abundance, the universe will reward you with abundance. That really is annoying.

(No offense to the Secret people or to the prosperity gospel folks who are, I’m certain, as nice as everyone else. I just worry that your philosophies of abundance are really great for the person doing well. But for the man just diagnosed with cancer or the single mom working two jobs, the belief that your attitude or faith will keep you safe and attract abundance can be a real downer.)  

I’m talking about the hope-filled. Those folks who do the right thing not to gain extra points with the entity that doles out reward, but because it’s good. I’m talking about the weirdos who see life as it truly is, all messy and muddy, bright and beautiful at the same time. Not because they haven’t seen hard times, but because hard times are part of the deal. And they accept life on life’s terms.

You know who you are! 

And in honor of you, the magnificently and unabashedly thankful, I am going to tell my own gratitude/thankfulness story.

Every night, I stand before the mirror in my bathroom and wash my face. I have never figured out how not to get my sleeves wet when I do this, and this is aggravating, but for the most part, washing my face is just another activity I’ve been engaging in nightly for about 38 years (before then I was heavily invested in not washing my face).

However, the other night I noticed an especially soft and supple patch of skin just below my left eye–my favorite eye because it doesn’t droop a bit like old righty. I ran my soapy finger over the smoothness while wondering–why is this skin so honey-caramel-colored and soft? Where did this beautiful skin come from because it sure as shit does not match the rest of my face?

Then I remembered the gruesome injury I incurred when I drunkenly face-planted in my sister’s back yard the night before my daughter was scheduled to take her SAT. I resurfaced my cheek when I tripped, twirled, and arms swinging, slid face-long across the non-skid surface that surrounds my sister’s back yard pool. Micro-dermabrasion via too much red wine and concrete.

Oh, woe was me. My niece, Evie, reminded me, just last night, that the first thing I said was, “I’m hideous.” She’s kind of right. I’m sure it’s the first thing I said when I looked in the mirror my sister-in-law kindly offered. The first thing I really said to my brother-in-law who saw the entire beautiful ballet was, “I’m not getting up.”

My face, for a couple of weeks, was a weepy, scabby, bruised mess. You couldn’t look at me without gasping. I was embarrassed. I felt guilty because Audrey had a big test the next day and no kid likes it when her mother comes home all banged up reeking of wine (even if I was just at my sister’s house). And you know, it’s a small town.

But . . .

no one looked all judgey when I told the story. And more than a few people, shook their heads knowingly and told me a similar story of embarrassment and guilt. Everywhere I went, people were nice. Falling down and scraping the hell out of my face taught me something–falling down doesn’t have to be embarrassing. It’s just human. I’m human.

It was a big lesson, and one I keep learning although thankfully I haven’t fallen on my face in the past couple of years–at least not physically. And the new skin, the soft, smooth, beautiful scar that’s appeared over time; well, that’s a real benefit.

Every time I look in the mirror, that little patch of face reminds me to be thankful for life and its micro-dermabrative properties–a little scuffing up can be a good thing.  

So thank you to my grateful friends who courageously remind us eye rollers that gratitude isn’t for sissies, it’s for the brave. 

On the eve of the midterm elections.

Image

Two elections in the past 18 years didn’t break my heart into a million little pieces. In 2008 and 2012, we elected and re-elected Barack Obama for president. I can’t help but speculate, two years after we elected donald trump, that white people just got scared.  But that sort of lets white people off the hook, doesn’t it. To just say we’re scared. We got scared that a black man was the face of the US.

And now, we’re scared of a group of brown-skinned men, women, and children who are fleeing unsafe conditions in Central America. I’m not going to pretend that I know very much about immigration. I am woefully ignorant of the difficulties migrant families face in their countries of origin or of what they will face when they make it to the US border.

Here’s the thing. While I don’t have all the knowledge I should have–it’s my fault I don’t–about immigration, I don’t watch FOX news. Ever. So I’m not afraid of the migrant families trying to make it to the US for asylum, for a better life, for protection, food, the alleviation of grinding poverty.

In fact, I want to help. I believe that is what we’re called to do. As citizens of the world and as citizens of the United States and as citizens of our states and as citizens of our communities. We’re human, for God’s sake.

I’ve got a LOVE MORE sign in my front yard. And you know what that means to me? That I love those people moving towards the United States. People who understand that our president doesn’t want them and, in fact, is sending troops to the border–and they’re still coming. Because, I suppose, they believe in our better angels. Our better angels, folks.

I live in a small, very Christian, very white community in Southern Illinois. That LOVE MORE sign in my front yard–I see it all over town, and I believe people mean it.

So what’s the problem?

Sanctuary.

It’s the resolution on tomorrow’s ballot here in Richland County. It’s the gun sanctuary resolution:

“Shall Richland County become a sanctuary county for law abiding gun owners to protect them from unconstitutional gun laws passed by the Illinois General Assembly?“

What it means is that if our general assembly passed laws prohibiting in any way our “god-given” gun rights, Richland County would welcome all persecuted gun owners in for safety and protection.

It doesn’t mean a damned thing. A resolution is a piece of paper. Being a gun sanctuary county is just a way of saying, “We Love Our Guns.”

I’m going to be blunt here, I think it’s dumb, but whatever.

I just think it’s ironic, that in Richland County people believe it’s important to protect gun owners while at the same time our president is going out of his way to do the opposite to a group of people who are in great need of sanctuary. Why the hell else would you travel on foot to the US border? N. E. E. D.

Breaks my heart and makes me mad.

***

You see, I want to believe in tomorrow–that people will vote. I want to believe in the so many people who’ve already voted. I want to believe that we can undo some of the horror (yes, horror) implicit in donald trump’s election.

But I’m worried. Because I never, for one minute, thought he would win. It didn’t occur to me that he could win. People were too decent.

I’m worried, friends. I’m worried about tomorrow. I’m worried that too many people of color, too many people without addresses, too many people working minimum wage jobs while trying to secure decent housing, too many people won’t vote–because we’ve made it too hard, because because we’ve made it impossible, because they don’t have the time or don’t believe it matters because it’s never made a difference in their lives.

I’m worried that the voting machines are rigged.

I’m worried that even if Democrats win, the government will step in and invalidate the elections.

I’m worried we won’t win enough seats to make a difference.

I’m worried that so many of the people I love are going to keep voting for lies and cruelty.

It’s been a long, hard journey with my eyes on LOVE MORE. Because that night in 2016 when I realized donald trump was going to be president–well, it destroyed, a little bit, my faith in people.

I’m working to build it back up.

I hope tomorrow helps.

Beginning Again

It’s a beautiful fall day. The leaves are finally turning. Were you wondering, like I was, why the leaves were still green so late into October? I guess it has something to do with the hot dry autumn. But now they’re turning, and the bursts of red and yellow and orange in the tree tops make me glad.

I got to babysit for G this morning.

Housekeeping note: If you are a reader of this blog, you know that in the first couple of years, I gave my children and grandchildren pseudonyms, so as to protect their privacy, but I’m done with all that. Except for the grandchildren who will be referred to by first letter of their names. G is my fifteen-month old granddaughter. L is my three-year old grandson, and B is my 8 year-old granddaughter. 

G and I watched Shrek; ate cheese sticks, raspberries, and bananas; and played peek-a-boo and tickletickletickle. Nothing like spending time with a sticky and giggling baby to help you forget for a minute that the US government is denying the brutal murder of an American citizen by the Saudis and that transgender people exist.

I’ve written a lot about hope on this blog. Mostly because it seems so ridiculous to have any, and yet we seem to have a bottomless capacity for hope. Like the sun and the array of colors across the tree tops, this capacity makes me glad. In spite of all the bullshit and the fact that we also have a seemingly bottomless capacity for cruelty.

Walking home from G’s house, I thought about this blog. I thought about missing two weeks, and how it was likely that I was going to miss this week too because I had nothing to write about, when it struck me. I had to begin again. Shit, I was always beginning again.

But the concept of having to begin again grated.

I didn’t have to begin again. I got to begin again.

I get to begin again.

I have a seemingly bottomless capacity for beginning again.

For now anyway . . .

 *****

A few years ago, my husband was visiting his parents in the assisted living apartment they shared. His mother, who had always been an avid cleaner, was sweeping in the small kitchen while Eric visited with his dad.

Eric said to her, “Mom, why don’t you come sit down with us.”

“I have to get done, Eric,” she said.

“I don’t know, Mom. What comes after done?” Eric said.

It was one of those moments that stick with you. Eric came home and told me the story. He was always trying to get done too. And he couldn’t get over the revelation that when you get done, you’re really done. Life isn’t about getting done.

It’s about beginning again, right.

Living is about beginning, again and again and again.

I’ve been  meditating since January. I’ve tried my entire adult life to start a meditation practice, and just this past January it stuck. Who knows why.

I have a lot to learn, and meditation wants to teach me.

Meditation is about beginning again. It’s not about transcendence–at least not for me. I’m not transcending anything when I sit on the floor for fifteen minutes and try to follow my breath. Instead, I’m getting a nice fifteen or twenty minute lesson on beginning again. Every time my mind wanders, I get to bring it back to my breath.

Every time I put a load of laundry away, I get to begin again because there’s always dirty laundry around here.

Every time I sweep the floor, or make the beds, or mow the yard, I get to begin again because dogs keep shedding, and people keep sleeping, and grass keeps growing.

Every time I finish a blog, I get to begin again because Monday keeps showing up.

I won’t remember this. I never do.

I have a seemingly bottomless capacity for forgetting.

 

 

Where’s the Hope?

A couple of remarkable things happened last week. Yes, I’m talking about the heated, contested, and often disheartening confirmation battle concerning Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh.

A friend of mine suggested that hope is blooming in the midst of this clusterfuck. I wonder. I have to admit, that I felt very little hope on Thursday as I listened to white men explain that they believed “something had happened to Dr. Blasey Ford,” but that there wasn’t enough corroborating evidence to indict Brett Kavanaugh.

It certainly isn’t necessary for me to cover the variety of ways these statements laid bare the republican senators’ craven determination to confirm Kavanaugh. That an indictment isn’t necessary in a  job interview is only one of the ways they sought to cloud the issue at hand which is simply this–he lied.

Last week, as the confirmation battle heated up, I began reading Rebecca Solnit’s new book, Call Them By Their True Names. Solnit writes, “Language can erase, distort, point in the wrong direction, throw out decoys and distractions. It can bury the bodies or uncover them.”

I like to read with a pencil in my hand because I can underline and circle and star words, sentences, or passages that strike me. This is one I circled, underlined, and starred.

Solnit’s assertion about language and the nefarious ways we use it drives a stake into the republican’s and Kavanugh’s attempt to not only side-step, but to confuse the issue.

Kavanuagh lied in a variety of large and small ways. That lying coupled with his outrageous and partisan opening statements and his utter disregard–no, his complete contempt–for the democrat senators on the committee disqualify him for a job of such magnitude.

So where’s that hope?

I’ve been thinking about it a lot. Because I want to find it.

Back in 2004, still smarting from the election that found George W. Bush continuing to occupy the White House (do you remember the scream that canned Howard Dean’s nomination–boy those were the days), I picked up Paul Rogat Loeb’s The Impossible Will Take a Little While. It’s a thick book of essays subtitled, A Citizen’s Guide to Hope in a Time of Fear.

The book includes a short excerpt from a longer work by Václav Havel. Havel’s words are where I found the definition of hope that rings most true. It’s the “hope” I cling to.

Hope . . . is not the same as joy that things are going well, or willingness to invest in enterprises that are obviously headed for early success, but rather, an ability to work for something because it is good, not just because it stands a chance to succeed. The more unpropitious the situation in which we demonstrate hope, the deeper that hope is. Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.

Each time I recopy these words, I’m buoyed by the idea that hope isn’t optimism. I want to remember that. And when I do, I can make out the hope my friend was speaking of.

Dr. Blasey Ford’s testimony epitomizes this sort of hope. She did the right thing, not because it would turn out well, but because it made sense–sense in her worldview of what is right and what is wrong.

Those women who confronted Jeff Flake. They gave their testimony in a public place because it was right that their voices be heard.

The women who blew up Chris Coons’s phone. They stood to gain nothing from sharing, but they shared because information is important.

That’s where I see hope.

Not so much in the necessary bi-partisan maneuverings of Flake and Coons. Sure, they did the right thing, but I’m tired of the optics–two white guys saving the day.

I don’t intend to downplay the importance of their actions. I’m grateful as hell. If nothing else, the FBI investigation offers a slight reprieve.  But, and it’s a big but, there would have been no action without the concerted effort of women determined to be heard.

Not just Dr. Blasey Ford, although her testimony blew me the fuck away. But all the women who’ve been speaking truth to power. Their refusal to shut up is contagious. Their voices rise as I write.

That’s hope.

May the cacophony continue!

Find Ecstasy in Life–An Abecedarian (with a couple omissions)

Weird accounting aside, here I am Monday morning, ass in chair, writing. It’s wet, gray and autumn-ish except for a late-summer lingering mugginess. I’m looking out my window (yep, I am an old-school typist) at the fattest cardinal I have ever seen.

In fact, it doesn’t look like a cardinal at all–sort of pale colored with a bright gray beak and reddish tail feathers. In fact, I probably would have mis-identified if a spectacularly red parent weren’t a few branches above mirroring the small fat bird’s every move. It has to be a fledgling.

The back yard cardinals, hopping from one thin honeysuckle-entwined branch to another in the tangle of burning bushes along the fencerow, remind me on this news-addled Monday morning that there are indeed many things to be thankful for.

Sometimes I forget. Just a quick example:

When a woman comes forward with accusations of sexual assault against a man who is seeking a lifetime appointment on the highest court in our judicial system, accusations that will forever change the course of not only her life, but also the life of her family, and she is vilified and called a liar by the President of the United States, I forget to be thankful.

When I see a group of Republican women on TV discussing the allegations, and one of the women claims that all 17 year old boys act that way, I forget to be thankful.

Some days it takes a lot of reminding.

I’m going to be honest here, sometimes reminding myself that there’s a lot to be thankful for seems like a luxury, an indulgence I can’t afford.  And then I read some Emily Dickinson–Find ecstasy in life–the mere sense of living is enough–and realize that being thankful is not a luxury at all. It’s a necessity.

***

So that’s where I’m headed this Monday morning in this winding and meandering–looking out the window at the still yellow honeysuckle blooming, and the still green grass growing, and one really fat cardinal, and tiny chipmunks, and a single green  pepper plant that refuses to quit–essay.

The world outside the window, just what I can see from my desk, gives me plenty to be thankful for.

An Abecedarian, from where I sit,

Angles of grey light through branches of the white pine trees, and the Breeze ruffling leaves, and my iced Coffee with simple syrup and soy milk, and those tenacious Dandelions refusing to give up, and the squared off Edges of pallets from Sydni’s wedding now a Fence covered with trumpet vines, and the box Garden my dad crafted from treated lumber and filled with Humus and manure and topsoil, and the Honeysuckle I can’t help but love, and even the poison Ivy (well not the poison Ivy, but I need an I), and the Jangle of wind chimes my neighbor brought back from the Philippines, and Kindness and Love and Memory and Notepads with lists and reminders and wishes, and Oscillating fans for their whispery sound and wind, and Pencils and Pens and Paper and Prayers, and the Quizzical turn of a pug dog’s head.

Should I go on?

How about the Red crested feathers of the cardinal, or the air Swollen with cricket and cicada Song?

How about the Ta-wheee of the killdeer, the Usefulness of the garden hoe leaning against the pallet fence, the Whistle of the car wheels against the Wet pavement.

I’m skipping X and Z, but I will say that I’m grateful to, thankful for, and wildly in love with Yellow–Yellow leaves, Yellow mums, the Yellow beach shovel lying atop the dirt pile, and the old Yellow bee swing hanging on the chipped black swing frame we bought and never used.

Listen, I know it’s a bit contrived–this ABC thing–and still I love it. I love the shape it. I love the broad yet constrictive form. I love the exercise of fitting my thoughts into something already created. And doing this particular exercise–giving thanks–forces me to acknowledge how fucking small we and our problems are. The world is so big and so beautiful.

A couple of weeks ago I began my post with a quote from Emily Dickinson. This week, I am going to end with the one that got me started today.

Find ecstasy in life–the mere sense of living is joy enough.

 

A Few Things

Yes, I missed a week–two actually. However, this blog post will count for last week (in a slightly twisted form of blog post accounting I am allowed to use because it’s my blog) if I post this coming weekend too.

It’s slightly difficult to post a blog when you are experiencing fun-filled weekends away from home, unless you are more disciplined than I–and by that I mean disciplined.

That said–lots has happened in the past two weeks.

I traveled:

by train to Chicago and by car to Lexington.

I scarfed down:

a wide variety of sushi (plum sushi is the bomb), Brussel sprouts roasted in butter and brown sugar, wilted kale salad, a huge piece of pizza by a kick-ass fountain, sweet black grapes in a plastic cup by the sickly blue waters of the Chicago River, steak and eggs glazed with a light and earthy pesto, salty, crunchy stove popcorn in the kitchen of a tiny house with good friends, and a hummus/veggie wrap with an illicitly brought-aboard can of sparkling rosé on a evening train ride to Chicago.

I read:

White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk about Racism by Robin DiAngelo. There will be more on this later. IT’s a call to action, and I believe we must take it if we truly want to live in a just society. READ IT and let’s have a conversation about it.

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah, host of The Daily Show. I have been listening to this book for the past several month. I’m not a big audio book person, so I listen mainly when I drive. If you are so inclined, I highly recommend listening as Noah is both funny and earnest. Noah’s story is illuminating and crazy and hopeful and so filled with love it hurts.

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann. This book is hard to read. The evil acted upon the Osage in the 1920s is impossible to understand and terrifying to comprehend. This book and the history it relates will break your heart–it did mine.

Right now I’m reading John Hodgman’s Vacationland: Stories from Painful BeachesYou might remember Hodgman’s billionaire act from The Daily Show. I got the rec from Ann Handley’s newsletter–and I have to tell you, I love it. This book is exactly what I needed after the heavy and necessary reading above. Hodgman is funny–I’m laughing out loud while I read it, smart, questioning, and slyly subversive. Comedy at its best.

So to summarize: I haven’t written because I’ve been traveling, eating, and reading. I’ve also been knitting. I started this new thing that I’m calling #yearofrags. I started it the way I begin most things–with an overabundance of confidence and a plan to do way more than someone with my lack of discipline can accomplish. So what began as an intention to knit a dish rag or wash cloth sort of square a day, has morphed into more achievable plan to knit a dish rag or wash cloth sort of square as often as possible. As of this Monday, I’ve knitted 17 of these rags, and I plan to carry on this task for a year. We’ll see how I do. If you are interested in this endeavor, you can check it out on instagram. I’m bridgettmckinney there and the hashtag is #yearofrags.

 

One more thing–A cool thing that happened.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog post about Loving More and featuring the wonderful signs from the Love More group located in Whiteland, Indiana. And now the Love More signs are all over Olney. It’s pretty cool and the work of a great group called The Unity Project and some other neat folks. Anyway, if you have one, or if you see one, post it on my facebook page, or here under my blog.

 

And with that–I’m off to knit a rag and take a long walk.