Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Life and Stress

 I took all 3 kids to the dentist last Friday. What an ordeal. One kid has 3 cavities. One kid has 1 cavity. One kid is cavity-free. 

Work has been very stressful. Life has been very stressful. I’ve been so anxious (mainly about work, but the anxiety spills over to every-day stuff, too) I can’t even read! (How crazy is that – usually, reading is the best escape and stress-management tool I have). I haven’t been exercising. I’ve barely been outside in the last week. I have a hard time falling asleep.

Life is sometimes like walking through the swamp. I get one foot out, the other one sinks in. I’ve been so very busy with work projects on tight deadlines, I’ve had 0 time or energy to spend on the non-work stuff. Garden is overgrown with weeds. Some of the kids have been slacking off with school and music lessons. 

I need some pep-talk (my dad is great for those! He always says the right thing with just the right amount of humor and encouragement). I need some time to decompress and go on a solo hike. I need to finally be able to sit down and read.

Dear reader, is there a time when you put your own needs before everything else? I am afraid if I don’t do it right now, I’m going to end up having a huge meltdown a few days down the road….

Monday, May 10, 2021

Civilization is an Illusion but Rhubarb is Real

 I started reading Kate Quinn’s “The Rose Code” a couple of days ago. So far – I’m loving it.

“Civilization isn’t an illusion.”

“Oh, it is. The horrors are real. This” – waving a hand – “is all gossamer.”

Terrifying, but true.


In other news. The birds that build a nest in a light fixture above our garage have hatchlings. Our garden, while overgrown with weeds, has lettuce, kale and a few radishes. The peas are a mess – they refuse to grow up the bamboo sticks (I set those up at regular intervals because, surely, the peas would wind their way up the sticks, isn't that what peas do?) and I’m going to have to figure out something else… or just let them be a tangled mess.

Kids (well, older daughter, mostly) baked a chocolate cake for Mother’s Day and it was absolutely delicious.

The girls and I peeled and diced a Huge Amount of rhubarb. Honestly, I don’t know how many pounds that turned out to be – we probably had about 20 or 30 big fat stalks (from the store, not home-grown, although I would love to plant some rhubarb). Some of that is now frozen and some is awaiting its turn to go into scones or pie.

Dear reader – do you like rhubarb? What do you do with it?

Friday, May 7, 2021

Dreams and Well-Forgotten Reality

 It is interesting, how dreams are rooted in reality. A few weeks ago, I had a fantastic dream about our whole family travelling to Ussuriysk (a town in the Far East of Russia). It was sunny, warm, and beautiful there. We wondered through the streets (I was half-amused, half-sad that I didn’t recognize anything). We went to a local historical museum. Kids made friends with a couple of local kids who spoke excellent English (and I told their parents how impressed I was that their kids had no accent at all!).

In the meantime, we learned that our hotel reservation has fallen through and we had nowhere to sleep. The family our kids made friends with invited us to stay with them. Turned out, they were super-wealthy and had a big great mansion (somehow it was important in my dream that they were either Georgian or Armenian). Plenty of space for everyone! Still, there were some odd frictions among the adults, so eventually I was able to find a small motel where our family could stay for a few nights (the toilets and showers were awful and the owner of the motel kept hiking up the price; I was getting rather angry about that).

At one point, I realized that I didn’t bring any presents for my old teacher, who still lived at the same army base not too far from Ussuriysk. How could I go visit her empty-handed? I kept worrying and agonizing about it.


I was telling my kids about this dream, laughing about how it was so totally random, and then it struck me that it wasn’t random at all. There were overlaps with real-life events.

When J and I travelled in Italy back in 2001, out hotel reservation fell through and we had to scramble at the last moment and ended up in Hotel Positano – in a rather unpleasant little room (two mattresses on the floor and a shared bathroom).

And here’s another connection. When my family moved to the Far East from Latvia in 1986, we flew into the airport near Vladivostok, then took a bus to Ussuriysk. It was a very long trip – the flight from Moscow to Vladivostok was 8.5 hours, and the bus ride was probably close to 3.5 or 4 hours. We arrived in Ussuriysk late at night, and there wasn’t an easy way to get to the military base from there at that hour. We found a hotel and walked in, suitcases and all. Unfortunately, there were no rooms available. I remember my mom trying to convince the lady who worked at the front desk – that we had no place to go, that we would have to spend the night in the streets, that they had a young child (I was 8 and usually I hated it when my parents referred to me as the “baby”, but at that point I was too tired to care).

The woman agreed to help us. There was a “luxury” room reserved for some general, who wasn’t going to show up until a day later. She let us have it for the night. 

That room was fancy – I don’t remember it all that well, but I remember thinking “Wow!!! Fancy!!!!” There was just one bed, but it was a giant bed – the biggest bed I’d ever seen. All three of us could fit on it with plenty of space left over.

The next morning, my parents decided to take a cab to the army base. When we gave the address to the driver, he looked like he was about to kick us out. I suppose human decency won over, and he drove us to the end of the world. The paved road ended a little ways after we left Ussuriysk. The taxi driver continued on the narrow dirt road (I can only imagine the cursing that must have been going through his head). When we got to the gates of the army base, it looked like there was nothing beyond – just trees. I remember wondering if we were going to live in the middle of a forest. The taxi turned around, a cloud of dust behind it, and went back to Ussuriysk, with its paved roads and luxury hotel suites.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Update: Stressed and Tired

It's been a rough couple of weeks. I feel completely spent.

My father had prostate surgery last week - everything went as well as could be expected. He is recovering. The good news: no sign of cancer in the lymph nodes. The bad news: he is very frustrated that the recovery is so slow. Mom looks exhausted. She has her own health issues, but everything has been put on hold until dad is better.

Work has been one emergency after another. We've had one project after another with very tight deadlines. "Stressful" is an understatement.

Also, I've been feeling so extremely tired. Like I can barely move. Maybe it's a combination of work+life stress. Maybe its the tamoxifen I'm taking (preventative for high-risk breast cancer). Maybe it's the thyroid.

Somehow, I need to keep going. Somehow, I need to muster the energy to make lunches, help kids with schoolwork, do household chores...

Among all this daily struggle, our family did manage some good times. Last weekend, I took the kids to the Farmers Market (1st time in 2 years - last year everything was canceled because of the pandemic). We got some vegetables and baked treats. We went to a nearby park, where we ate the treats and the kids hunted frogs and turtles in the pond. 

It was so nice... It felt so special do be doing this things that were once so ordinary. Going to farmers market with kids, walking around town, buying things... And by the way, those carrots we got from our favorite farmer - they were amazingly sweet and delicious. 

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Books, movies, outdoors

 The kids and I finished the read-aloud of "The Whiz Mob and the Grenadine Kid" by Colin Meloy.

It took a while, but I am glad we stuck with it.

There was a complete pivot about 2/3 into the book that I absolutely did not expect... it changed everything and made the last few days of reading super-fun (because we all wanted to know how things worked out for Charlie).

Yesterday, we started "The Hired Girl" by Laura Schlitz - loving it so far. 


We have a pretty extensive list of movies to work through. The "Return of the King" (LoTR) is finally ready for pick up at the library, so we'll be watching that this weekend. (Kids really liked "Fellowship" and "Two Towers" that we watched over the spring break, so I expect this is going to be a hit.)

My husband is not into fantasy or sci-fi, but he loves comedy, so we'll be watching "Spaceballs" sometime soon.

C requested "The Secret Garden" - will put it on hold at the library.

In the plans: Spirited Away, The Roman Holiday, and some Wallace and Gromit cartoons.


Kids have been feeding geese every day. We ran out of bread, so they've been using cheerios. Apparently, the geese are also very fond of granola bars. No chicks yet - mama goose is still sitting on the eggs.

Girls have been playing "elves" in the back yard, which involves making complicated potions out of grass and flowers, using C's chemistry set. 

Stuff is blooming and new things are coming up in our garden. We really need to clean up the weeds (no one wants to do it!), but even when messy and overgrown with weeds, it's pretty awesome to be able to pick kale and lettuce for salad!!!

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Random Musings on a Tuesday

I am attending a virtual conference. On the plus side: I don’t have to travel anywhere! No airplanes, cars, or hotels. I don’t have to figure out optimal childcare during my absence. 

On the minus side: no travel, no hotel, no break from family :)

Also, reconnecting or meeting new people in a virtual setting – not as much fun.

In other news. The kids are in the final stretch of the (all-virtual) school year. Our son has officially started his last marking period (he has done pretty well so far, even with all the YouTube distractions). Our 5th grader is going to start middle school next year. We scheduled the Bar Mitzvah date for E. Time marches on, pandemic or no pandemic.

Speaking of the pandemic… community transmission is pretty bad in our region right now. We are considering going back to virtual piano lessons for the girls. They’ve been having masked, social distanced, one-on-one lessons at their teacher’s house since February, but daily case numbers were much lower at the time. 

Kids’ school district has scheduled standardized testing in May – and kids have to take the tests in person, over a period of days. Maybe, things will get better by then. Or there is an “opt out” alternative but we will have to let the school know ASAP… 

Honestly, I just feel so frustrated. It feels like any decision (about music lessons, standardized testing, kid sports) I make, it will turn out to be the wrong one…

Monday, April 12, 2021


 Yesterday, we found ourselves at a super-spreader event - or at least what could very well turn out to be a viral super-spreader event.

For over a year now, we have been so careful about staying home, avoiding anything even remotely risky, and staying away from people. And then yesterday, we found ourselves in a huge crowd of people. We did our best to social-distance. We all wore masks. But... I have a bad feeling that we are all going to get sick.

Cases are up in our area, and a week after spring break, there is likely to be another spike coming up.

You could ask: what were you thinking? How could you be so irresponsible?

Well... we certainly didn't expect there to be a crowd of people... In retrospect, there were things we could have done better. We could have left. But for many complicated reasons, we stayed. I felt I had to be near our youngest, which was about the most crowded spot possible.

So, yes, a collection of small not-great choices ended up endangering our whole family. We've been super-safe and felt we've been doing a great job... and then we just kind of dropped the ball. 

The weirdest thing is this. While I was there, among dozens of people, I did not feel particularly unsafe. It wasn't until we got home that I started to realize how risky our behavior has actually been. 

Not much we can do now. Just wait and see how things progress over the the next 2 weeks.