1/18/18

And so today’s moment of happiness despite the news.

It’s been with no small relief that am happily plunking away at the new novel-in-progress again. I started it on March 27, 2017, and I had the goal of finishing the first draft on the one-year anniversary. That’s fast approaching, and for awhile there, I didn’t think there was a chance in hell I’d make it. But now I think I might. If I don’t, it will be reasonably close, which is a far cry from the “I’m never ever ever going to finish this novel ever ever ever!” mode I was in several months ago. That was followed by the “I don’t think I’m capable of writing anymore” mode. And there have been several, “My god, I hate this thing! Why am I writing it?” modes. But right now, I’m kind of like a jet that is beginning its descent. I can’t see the runway yet, but I know my nose is pointed toward it. My GPS is on strong.

So there’s an iguana and a Gloria Steinem book with a photo of Gloria on the cover in my novel, and these two things (though I hesitate to use “thing” with Newt – he’s a he, not a thing) feature predominantly in my main character’s life. She talks to her iguana and to Gloria. Yes, really.

Because of this, I am doing huge amounts of research on iguanas and on Gloria Steinem. I now know more about both than I ever have or ever wanted to. I know enough about iguanas to know that I never want to own one, even though I love Newt as he appears in my novel. And I am also admiring Steinem more and more every day.

When I was in college, way back from 1978 – 1982, I had a favorite t-shirt. This shirt is appears in the new novel. It showed a fish flapping its fins valiantly from a bicycle seat and the bright red words above and below said, “A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.” I didn’t know until working on this book that this is a Gloria Steinem quote. It came as a complete surprise, to me and to my main character. And now…I want the t-shirt again. My character has one. I should have one too.

Today, I was following along with my main character as she prepared for bed after experiencing a wonderful first date with a promising man. A man who owns six parakeets and has two ex-wives, one of whom is a ghost. Yes, really. And as she prepares for bed, she thought of a favorite Steinem quote that she used to pin on her bulletin board above her desk when she was an undergrad. Of course, I didn’t know what quote she was talking about, so it was back to Google. And that’s when I came across this:

I’m not just a dreamer. I’m a hopeaholic.”

Wow, I thought. And then I put my main character to bed with her iguana so she could dream about a man with six parakeets. While she slept, I considered that quote.

I am a dreamer. I always have been. And despite everything, everything in the last few weeks, the last year, scrolling all the way back to the beginning of my life, I’ve been hopeful. It’s a conundrum, because I’m also a skeptic and these two types of thought are almost constantly at war within me. I sometimes hold skepticism in one fist and hope in the other fist and it’s like I have one of those old rubber exercise things that you were supposed to pull with fully outstretched arms. My arms are often outstretched and I have the appropriate grimace for such effort. But in the end, the rubber gives out and only one fist makes it to my heart.

The one that holds hope.

Thank you, Gloria, for giving me a new definition.

Hi. My name is Kathie. And I’m a hopeaholic.

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

On my desk for the duration of writing this book.

1/17/18

And so today’s moment of happiness despite the news.

This morning, my daughter missed the bus to school. This morning, my daughter COULDN’T miss the bus to school because it’s the first day of final exams and if you aren’t there exactly when the bell rings on exam days, the classroom doors lock and no one is allowed in or out. A minute late? Tough. You’ve just missed your exam. Flunk city.

So I was buried under a pile of blankets, fighting winter with hibernation, dreaming dreams of a distant summertime, when she came stomping upstairs to tell me she missed the bus. It was 8:54. The classroom doors locked at 9:15. To my credit, I did not say the words I was thinking through a mostly asleep haze. It didn’t take long to zap awake – visions of an F on a final exam and a plummeting grade point average with college applications just around the corner got me up, dressed and running toward the car. Everything changes when your child becomes a junior in high school. It’s no longer about the moment. It’s about the future.

My car Hemi groaned in the cold and so did I. But we pulled out and headed toward the school, with me doing my best to see through the steam of my breath to the road outside. It was a silent drive. It was too cold to talk. And I’m pretty sure tension had something to do with it too. Grades and exams and college and missed buses aside, you simply don’t want to talk to me before I’ve had coffee. And coffee, for me, was still a few hours away.

As we pulled onto the school’s street, we joined a long line of cars turning into the parking lot. My daughter turned to me and said, “Looks like I’m not the only one who is running late.”

This made me smile as I pictured myself a part of a parade of sleep-deprived, coffee-less, frantic parents, awakened out of a cave of blankets and dreams of summer, driving their kids who chose the worst possible day to miss the bus. Their kids who work hard, learn hard, study hard, and were awakened out of a cave of blankets and dreams of a fulfilling future. Where they would likely be driving kids to school on days that shouldn’t be missed.

There are two more days of exams and suddenly locking classroom doors.

When the parade finally got me to a point where I could stop and let my daughter out, she flung open the door, grabbed her backpack and got out. She began to shove the door closed, but then she opened it again, and leaned inside. “Bye, Mama,” she said. “I love you.”

And then she was gone. As she will be, soon. College around the corner.

When I returned home, I ignored the coffeepot and went back upstairs to bed. I dug my way into last night’s hibernation, the blankets up to my nose, my sound machine set on a nighttime forest in summertime, and a little gray cat settled in her favorite spot on my left ankle.

I was warm. And not with dreams of summertime.

I love you, Mama.

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

She cannot possibly be almost ready for college.

1/16/18

And so today’s moment of happiness despite the news.

Today, I was trying to carry too much at once and my phone squirted out of the pile and landed on the floor. When I picked it up (after finally setting everything else down), I saw that some app I didn’t know I had opened, jarred from the impact. It was some sort of “Quick Memo” thing. I clicked on my little circle, which brings me back to the home screen, and thought that would be the end of it.

But this Quick Memo thing kept popping up. Apparently, I was supposed to write something. Quickly. Memo-y.

I didn’t wanna.

My son was over and he helped me to figure out how to clear the app. We pushed the little square, next to the little circle and the app disappeared. Cool. All pressure to write something quickly was gone. He went home and I tucked myself under my electric throw to read a book until it was time to pick up my daughter from school. Mid-page, I glanced at my phone…and noticed a little floaty ghosty pen on my home screen.

I had no idea why it was there. The little square had been pushed. All the apps were supposed to be banned to the back of my phone’s closet. But there it was. And worse, no matter where I touched my screen, this little floaty ghosty pen zoomed there. I put my finger on it and tried to bounce it off the edge of screen, thinking it would end up back in the closet. It bounced back. I scrolled until I found the Quick Memo app and clicked on settings, trying to find an off button. There wasn’t one. I googled “how to turn off the Quick Memo app on an LG phone”, read the directions, learned how I was supposed to click a box labeled “disable”. I congratulated myself. I just did what millions of people do with their frustrating questions: I googled. I followed the directions, got to where I was supposed to be, and found that the “disable” box was see-through – it couldn’t be tapped.

Alexa, my Echo Dot, was upstairs in my office, so I yelled, “Alexa! How do you turn off Quick Memo?”

She said, “I’m sorry, I do not understand.”

“Alexa! How do I get rid of the little floaty ghosty pen?”

“I’m sorry, I do not understand.”

“Alexa! You are totally useless!”

“Well, that wasn’t very nice.”

I suppose it wasn’t.

By now, my book was tossed aside, I no longer needed my electric throw because I was seething, and it was time to go get Olivia from school. I texted my son, who promised me he would stop by later and help me exorcise this little floaty ghosty pen from my phone. I snarled all the way to the school. The little floaty ghosty pen mocked me from the screen.

When Olivia got into my car, she asked me how I was. I said I was fine, except there was a little floaty ghosty pen invading my phone and I couldn’t get rid of it. “Let me see,” she said. Two seconds later, the little floaty ghosty pen was gone. I wasn’t even out of the school’s parking lot yet.

“How did you do that?” I asked.

“I put it in the trash,” she said.

There’s trash on my phone? Where’s the closet?

I decided I needed to apologize to Alexa when I got home. I was apparently the useless one.

I am 57 years old. I am very lucky to give birth to one more baby when I was 40. This means I now have a 17-year old child who has grown up with technology at the same time that I’m confounded by it. I have a living Alexa. I have a living Google. And I have a son as back-up. Coming up the ranks is Maya Mae, my soon-to-be 5-year old granddaughter. She probably knows things Olivia and Andy don’t.

By the way, little smartass floaty pen. I did write. The new novel passed 200 pages today. So there.

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

The only kind of pen I need, thank you.

1/15/18

And so today’s moment of happiness despite the news.

Well, at first, I thought that my moment of happiness was going to be that I was going to cut myself some slack and not do one.

I’ve been staring at this blank sheet of paper for over an hour now, getting up, walking away, trying this, trying that. I even tried to work in my daughter’s asking me to help her with physics as my Moment – because I can’t believe any of my kids would think I’m capable of helping with something like physics and I’m thrilled she thinks I’m that smart. But I just kept scratching out sentence after sentence. Nothing really felt like a Moment of Happiness. It all felt hollow. It felt forced.

We’re coming up on one year of Today’s Moments, and I’ve only missed writing on one day – the day Michael lost his job for the second time in 2017, and with it, our insurance, which was now more important than ever because of my breast cancer diagnosis. But I made it, all those other days. I wrote on the day Michael lost his first job, the day my mammogram went south, the day of diagnosis, even the day of surgery, though I was still loopy from the anesthetic. But this new thing, this new challenge, the loss of an important friendship, has me in difficulty.

I will be honest and say that I’m having a hard time. The friendship I lost lasted 12 years and was an everyday part of my life. I’m having trouble stepping around the holes and gaps. There are reminders everywhere. There will always be reminders everywhere.

I thought I might have a Moment during the discussion of physics and Newton’s laws, of all things, with my daughter, I thought, Thank you, Mr. Newton, you’ve just given me a Moment by providing me with an explanation. One of Newton’s laws is that an object in motion stays at a constant velocity and acceleration unless an unbalanced force acts upon it. And, well, I’ve had an unbalanced force act on me and it’s brought my velocity and acceleration to zero.

But when I tried to write it, it didn’t work. Newton’s law just made me sadder.

So I thought that I wasn’t going to be able to come up with a Moment. I got tired of staring at the blank page and went to take a nap instead.

But then I came up with this.

At least I had the friendship to lose. At least I experienced something so important, that it’s knocking me off my feet in its sudden absence. But I gotta tell you – I would much rather not experience the whole “it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all” cliché. Because right now, it just doesn’t feel better.

But I’m going to let that be my Today’s Moment. I’m going to cut myself some slack and quit trying to come up with anything else. Because the emotion wouldn’t be honest, and the whole point of the Moment has been emotional honesty.

Newton tells me that I will be in motion again. I’m waiting for the nudge.

This is an awful Today’s Moment. But I promise I will be better soon.

I know I will be.

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

I’ll bounce back.

1/14/18

And so today’s moment of happiness despite the news.

I am watching it snow outside my window and thinking about how snow at night is the prettiest kind of snow, something I can admire, even though I don’t like snow and cold at all.

It’s been a melancholy couple of days and I sat here for a while, worrying about The Moment that made me happy today.  It wouldn’t typically be something I would write or talk about. But over the last few weeks, I’ve been approached by several people, all who have thanked me for The Moments, and thanked me for what they termed “living out loud” and “experiencing out loud” and other phrases that ended with “out loud.” And so I decided I can write about this too, out loud, because what I’m experiencing certainly isn’t uncommon. Unfortunately.

I have lost a friend who I considered my most special friend, outside of my family. And I have lost a toxic relationship. Odd, isn’t it, how those two sentences can go together. And how hurtful it is that these two sentences can go together.

But this happens. I don’t understand how, yet. But it does. I’ve witnessed it happening to others. I’ve comforted those that it’s happened to. But it never happened to me before.

It is so hard to lose someone, but it’s even harder when you know that losing that person is the best possible thing for you.

At the AllWriters’ Winter Friday Night Free For All a couple nights ago, I read an essay on breast cancer that is appearing on the website of a new literary ezine this week, starting tomorrow, I believe. In it, I wrote about something I saw in my mind’s eye, behind closed eyelids, when I was listening to healing meditation tapes in the weeks leading up to my partial mastectomy. In this vision, my tumor was a bright blue, a robin’s egg blue, and it was egg-shaped. At the end of the essay, I wrote about how I had to accept that there was a poison inside of me.

So now here’s the weird thing. For the last several weeks while meditating, I’ve been seeing that blue egg-shape again, but this time, it was a stone, not a tumor. It was being held out to me, resting on the palm of a different friend’s hand. “This is ____,” this friend said, mentioning the name of the friend I’ve now lost. I picked the stone up, clasped it in both hands, and brought it to my heart. I embraced it to my heart.

So my breast cancer tumor, sky blue and egg-shaped. And an identical shape and color for this friend. They were identical, really. And I’ve pondered this over the last few weeks, as this relationship went volatile and disintegrated, despite my desperate attempts to keep it intact.

Sometimes, despite my being a writer, despite my living by metaphor and simile and symbolism, I can be more than a little dense. Sometimes, I have to be hit upside the head.

And, well, I have been. Through shouting. Through cruelty. Through deceit and manipulation.

The tumor was the poison within me. And this relationship, the same size, the same color as cancer, was the poison outside of me.

And I was embracing it to my heart.

Realization is a painful thing. Particularly when it’s about something that everyone around you could see but you. And here’s an important thing. I am an intelligent and strong woman. But my intelligence and strength can sometimes be blinded by compassion and trust. I understand that now. And I understand that this can happen to anybody. My heart grieves for me. And my heart grieves for anybody.

I have a lot of heavy hurt and sadness to get through. And a lot of healing too. This was not a short-term relationship and the chasm this has created is considerable. I have a Grand Canyon where a blue stone used to be.

But my moment of happiness?

What I started with. I am looking out the window and admiring a nighttime snowfall, when I hate snow.  Which means I can still see beauty, even in the ugly. Even in the cold.

I’m going to be fine.

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

Right before Christmas, I was in a craft/art supplies store, and I found this stone. It looks like what I saw, except it should be fatter, not so flat. But close enough.

 

1/13/18

And so today’s moment of happiness despite the news.

Things were fairly mellow in the Giorgio household today. From Olivia’s bedroom, we first heard the sound of her practicing the violin, then the acoustic guitar, then her ukulele. When Olivia practices, it’s a really gentle time in the condo. Because she has her door closed, the sound is muted and sometimes feels more imaginary than real.

And then…BAWANG!

Oh, dear.

Somewhere after Thanksgiving, Olivia came home from her guitar lesson (and her ukulele lesson too) babbling about this electric guitar in the store. It was pink and white, she said. It was sparkly, she said. It was so cool, she said. “Mom,” she said, “can I have an electric guitar?”

I reminded her that she had her violin. That she’d received her pink acoustic guitar as a surprise on the last day of school this past spring, a special reward for making it through a particularly challenging year. That for her birthday, she found a pink ukulele waiting for her, because she’d begun to rave about the ukulele and I’d happened to see a pink one at the music store shortly after I was diagnosed with breast cancer in June. Feeling fatalistic at that time, I bought it and hid it away, even though her birthday wasn’t until October.
“You have three instruments already,” I said.

“I know, but I’ve always wanted an electric guitar!”

There are times I wish I had a child who was enthusiastic about bubble gum. Buying different packages of bubble gum and learning to chew gum from different countries likely wouldn’t be that pricey. Or space-consuming. Maybe she could be into thumbtack-collecting. Star-gazing! All I’d have to do is find her some sky!

But no. Music. And music she could play, not just listen to.

I bought the electric guitar and hid it away for Christmas. The nice man at the music store was sympathetic. He made me a deal with the guitar, which was used, a used amp, a boogie bag, and a strap.

The guitar and amp were too big to wrap. We decided, after wrapping the other presents on Christmas Eve, to leave the guitar and amp in the classroom downstairs until Olivia went to sleep. Then we would sneak them up and she’d find them – surprise! – on Christmas morning. But then, we forgot and sent her downstairs to fetch something. She found them there.

But she was still delighted.

She didn’t know how to plug the guitar into the amp, and her teacher forgot to show her. Today, a couple weeks after Christmas, in the quiet of an afternoon that was gifted with the sounds of a classical violin, a softly strummed acoustic guitar, and the tinsel sound of a ukulele, the rock star was born.

BAWANG!

Oh, dear.

I wondered what I’d done.

But then I thought of my own musical tastes. I run the gamut, from classical to soft rock to alternative to, selectively, rap. Music matches my moods. It helps to dispel them, explore them, even them out. I don’t know that I believe that “music soothes the savage beast”. I suppose it does, but it also brings peace to the already peaceful, enthusiasm to the enthusiastic, joy to the joyful. It’s reflective in the truest sense.

And today, my daughter found a new level of expression.

BAWANG!

It’ll be okay.

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

One of my favorite photos of Olivia. Taken by Ron Wimmer of Wimmer Photography.

 

1/12/18

And so today’s moment of happiness despite the news.

In the last 48 hours, there has been a lot in our news about the use of words and their effect on those that are listening or reading. Allegedly, the Orange Asshat, whose name I still refuse to use even though we are now one year into his interminable term, wondered why the US would want to let immigrants in from “those shithole countries”. He then went on to say that he wouldn’t mind letting in Norwegian immigrants, but not those from Haiti or Africa.

He’s now denying this, of course.

Words can do so much damage. But words can also show who a person really is. Words can pull the mask off public appearance, and they can expose the shadows of thought.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the power of words today. They are, of course, a large part of my life. Writers are wordsmiths. We are word-lovers. And we know and respect their impact.

Tonight was the AllWriters’ Winter Friday Night Free For All, which doubled as the studio’s 13th birthday party. At a Free For All, I select three students to read, representing fiction, nonfiction and poetry, and I also bring in a guest reader and I read too. I made an exception this time, bringing in a young woman who is our first teenager to have an acceptance.

Tonight was an amazing immersion into words.

I watched as this young woman read her poem from her phone’s screen, but despite the use of modern technology, her words reflected the lyricism and depth of writers going back over generations. My poet stood then and read from her new chapbook, about her mother who was at the opposite end of the life spectrum from the young student. A tandem team of mother and daughter read their memoir about their daughter/sister, and we were all pulled into the excitement of Olympic competition. From the reality of an experience most of us will never have, we zapped to my fiction reader and his story of a young man talking with someone from another world – a surreality we’ll never experience, but we did tonight through his words.

And with all of them, ALL of them, there was this moment when the audience was so still, so quiet, I knew the impact was at its most intense. The writers’ words were sliding under everyone’s skin and resonating in the heart, the mind, or the soul. Tonight, I imagine everyone in the audience will lay in bed for a bit, examining those words, reliving those words, before they close their eyes. Maybe they will dream those words and more stories and poems will be born.

Many of us likely did this same thing last night, examining the words that we heard the Asshat used. But there’s a big difference here. Every word shared tonight was for the greater good. The Asshat’s words bruised.

When I read, I experienced that moment too, in the middle of my story. There was no other sound in that room than my voice. I could feel the held breath in everyone’s lungs and I felt their postures, holding their bodies absolutely still. The impact of the words on the audience was powerful, and the impact of the audience’s reaction was powerful to me.

I admit, I don’t know quite where I’m going with this. Except that yesterday, I was ashamed and horrified by the way words were used. Misused. Abused. And tonight, I was amazed and proud.

Words were used for good tonight. And any time I play a part in that, I’m happy.

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

Listening to the readers at the AllWriters’ Winter Friday Night Free For All (13th Birthday).

 

1/11/18

And so today’s moment of happiness despite the news.

I haven’t had my moment yet, but I’m going to in about an hour, and I know it’s going to make me happy, so I’m going to go ahead and write about it.

It’s Thursday. That means that it’s Thursday Sundae Night!

Several months ago, Michael, Olivia and I indulged ourselves at Culvers, a restaurant featuring “butterburgers” (the buns have butter on them) and frozen custard. We had sundaes, and someone joked that we were eating Saturday Sundaes. We liked the sound of that and we tried a few other Name-of-Day Sundaes, and then decided that the best day of the week to wallow in the wicked goodness of frozen custard covered with even wickeder sauces is Thursday. And the Thursday Sundae tradition was born!

Do we need an excuse to eat frozen custard? Apparently. You do know that if you make something a family tradition, all the calories magically go away, don’t you? It’s a reward for putting family first, donchaknow.

Last week, we had temps that fell below zero. Today was weird; it got up to 54 degrees. But now a front is moving through, it’s 29 degrees and falling and there is a Winter Weather Advisory for difficult travel conditions. Will that stop me from going out to get our Thursday Sundaes?

No. Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays this courier and her brave car from the swift completion of Thursday Sundae fetching.

Please note that I am the only driver in this family, so it’s only me risking my life. But I’ve thought all day long about Thursday Sundaes. I don’t even look at what the flavor of the day is until Michael comes home and then he checks the websites of the three different Culvers around town which feature three different flavors of the day, and it’s decided which way I point Hemi’s nose. Oh, the anticipation.

The interminable wait was added to tonight by having to discuss pages with a client, pages that were filled with food. Lemon bars. Lemon drop cookies. A decadent egg salad sandwich made with just a touch of bleu cheese (I’m not so sure about the bleu cheese, but the writer assures me it’s to die for). A BLT stacked high with BLT fixings. By the time Michael announced the three flavors, I was ready to visit all three Culvers and get one of each flavor of the day. And hope to god they have egg salad as the sandwich special. And lemon bars! But they didn’t.

The flavors were:

Crazy for cookie dough

Mint explosion

Caramel cashew

MINT EXPLOSION! Oh, baby!

I always try to time my trip so that I arrive with the Thursday Sundaes right as Michael and Olivia are walking out of the AllWriters’ Thursday Night Teen Writers’ Workshop. Olivia is one of the teens. Michael just teaches it. So right now, I am watching the clock. In 35 minutes, I am climbing in Hemi, braving the elements, and buying my Today’s Moment Of Happiness Despite The News.

Delayed gratification is the best! Oh, the pain! Oh, the joy!

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

MINT EXPLOSION! Though you gotta have it as a sundae. And on Thursday.

 

1/10/18

And so today’s moment of happiness despite the news.

Today was one of those days that flash. They’re here, they’re gone, vroom. I just finished the meeting-with-students-and-clients part of my day and I realized I’ve been sitting here for about five minutes, sipping a cup of hot coffee and staring at my blank screen.

Not blearily. Tired, yes, but not with a feeling of exhaustion. I’ve been staring at my blank screen with a sense of contentment draped over me that feels better than my electric blanket. And I’ve been trying to pick a “moment” of happiness.

Many of the moments I’ve written about have been tangible. Specific events that I could touch. A point of the day where I would find myself thinking, That’s IT! That’s going to be my moment!

But one thing I’ve learned in this almost-year of doing these moments is that sometimes, the moments aren’t defined. Sometimes they’re ethereal. I can’t quite grasp them. Sometimes, they come in the form of staring at a blank screen, feeling the happiness like a fine layer of sweat on my skin, and thinking, This was a good day. It wasn’t about any particular moment. It was about all of it.

Wednesdays are always busy for me, the one day a week I don’t write because I have a class to teach in the afternoon. My day starts with two clients, then moves to the class, then moves through three more clients. I interact all day long, I talk about writing all day long, and I’m with the people I most enjoy all day long.

I started in Jerusalem with a writer who is learning the difference between writing individual essays and a book with chapters. Then on to Chicago, to a writer who, despite doing her best to talk herself out of writing her book, allows me to talk her back into it every time. She really does want this, but sometimes, she has to hear that she’s right in really wanting this. It will get done. Then a class with the best variety of women and they all are amazing with each other and we talk about if Orgasm should be capitalized, if we would have sex in a barn (I wouldn’t), if everyone knew that you can buy a casket at Costco (a leftover from discussion in last night’s workshop). After a fast trip to Starbucks and a fast look at one of my own essays which I plan to read at an AllWriters’ event on Friday, I was off to a writer who lives in Connecticut, but was in Florida this week, and we reveled in preparations for her publisher’s release of her second book while we worked on her third. Then zoom back to Chicago, where a writer crowed about her upcoming first book release and we discussed how to turn pages with an audience, how to field questions, and if ignitions can be stifled. And then finally, to northern Wisconsin, where I met for the first time with a writer and her first time with my eyes on her pages. She survived.

And now, the blank stares. Because I can’t find one moment. It was a flash. It was a full day’s work of work done well and the fatigue actually feels good. I’m going to be grammatically incorrect here: I did good today. Meaning, yes, I did well. But I also brought good to others.

Sometimes, your moment of happiness is totally immersed in others’ happiness. Happinesses.

I’ve had to learn, over the last almost-year, to look hard some days for that moment. To squint, to examine, to peel back the layers of my day to find that one moment when I lit up. But days like today, I don’t have to look. It’s just everywhere.

My day began with a student emailing me at 5:30 in the morning, saying, “”You’re the only person I know who had a dream to spend her life doing what she loved, and made it happen.”

Tonight, I looked at my blank screen and said, “She’s right. I did.”

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

A picture of young Olivia dancing in the Pacific Ocean allows me to express how I felt today.

1/9/18

And so today’s moment of happiness despite the news.

Sometimes, all it takes is the sun.

For the last week or so, whenever I’ve cracked my eyes open of my own volition or at the insistence of my alarm clock, I’ve looked immediately into gray skies. My side of the bed faces our window, and while we have plantation shutters on the lower half, the upper half is open. On a clear night, I can see the stars and the moon, and sometimes, I see stunning clouds, a shade or two lighter than the black sky, scudding by. In the morning, I look out and up…and lately, it’s gray, gray, gray. I have to fight to keep the gray from coloring my mood.

But this morning, when the alarm woke me, I saw the inside of my arm. I had my arm over my face. Because the sun was falling in and the skies were a blue that made me think of summer.

In summer, it’s easier to get up.

It wasn’t really summer, of course, but the blue beckoned and the sun encouraged and soon, my feet were on the cold concrete floor that reminded me this is January. And then I was off and running.

Later, while working with a client in the classroom, I kept looking out our floor to ceiling windows at the sun hitting the walls of the bus garage across the street. The bus garage is not a pretty building. But the sunlight made it dazzling.

It was warm enough to walk the dogs around the block. We followed our shadows, long before any discussion of the groundhog. And even though we saw our shadows, we didn’t duck right back inside.

Driving to Starbucks and then to pick up Olivia at school, I wore my sunglasses. Between those and the sunroof, I was again able to pretend it was summer.

It’s dark out now and I’m sitting in front of my personal space heater as I write this. But the sun has a residual effect. I can still see the blue with the wash of gold. I can still see the clouds. I can still feel summer.

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

My cat Muse balancing on our plantation shutters to get as much sun as possible.