On blooming (and not)

On this Labor Day weekend, I feel so full from the past week I don’t even know how to start. It was my first in my new job at a new school, and I have so many thoughts/feelings about:

Work

Burnout

Community

Culture

Teaching

Trauma

Growth

(And that’s just about what’s going on in my personal world. What a dumpster-fire of a week it’s been in the world at large! Haven’t begun to process all of that yet.)

One day this week I was scrolling a social media channel and I saw a photo full of now-former colleagues. They were doing something fun together, and I felt this tight little feeling in my chest. Not because I missed them or wished I’d been included, but because I felt so relieved to be out of the place I’ve been and sad/weird about feeling relieved. They are not terrible people, and it is not a terrible place. But, now that I don’t have to work there any more, I can finally fully admit to myself how much it just wasn’t my place. Their community and its culture isn’t mine.

And that’s OK. It’s good to know.

I have spent the last 12 years trying desperately to fit into a place that simply wasn’t my place, and…oh my god what that did to me. There are people in that place I treasure, and going there was the right move when I made it. It gave me things I needed, and I did some good work there, and I learned so much. I’m deeply grateful for the learning and for the people who kept me afloat, but the lightness I feel now that I am in a place that fits, preparing to do work that fits, in conditions that feel manageable? I don’t have words to convey it.

After one week in my new/old place/community/culture, I feel more belonging than I did in 12 years in the one I just left–which has blown open truths I had never fully admitted to myself. I used to joke/not-joke to new hires in my former district that after ___ years, I still felt like a newbie. What that meant was: This is a tight community, and I still feel like an outsider. While I was known and had those I grew close to, I also always felt a wall with many people. Not a thick one, but an impenetrable one. Most (though not all) of those I grew close to were on my side of it. The wall was a thing we sometimes talked about. No one was ever unkind or disrespectful to me, but I rarely felt the kind of ease that comes with knowing you are fully accepted. That you will be given grace for your foibles and fumbles. That you will be understood. That you can be your full, real self and others will be theirs with you and you’ll still like and respect each other. While I had pockets of people with whom I did feel that kind of ease and knowing, I never had it in a general sense. In many situations, part of me was always on guard. (And, I’m sure, others never felt that kind of acceptance from me.)

It is exhausting to spend so much of your life in a stance of vigilance, especially when you are in denial about why.

I kept thinking the problem–that work took such a toll on me–was in what I was doing. I thought if only I did something different (held different boundaries, communicated in different ways, set different priorities, worked in different buildings, took a different position, etc. ad nauseum), I could make it better. I tried so many different ways to be OK there.

After years of failing to make things better, I began to think that the problem was within me: Maybe I was just too old and tired. Maybe I’d just been doing this work too long. Maybe my time had passed. Maybe I no longer had what it takes to be good at this. I never thought I was the best at what I do, but I always felt competent and that I had valuable contributions to make. I lost that confidence.

Eventually, I also lost interest in things I had once found compelling. I didn’t want to read or learn about new ideas or practices in education. I cared, but only in an abstract sort of way. I more fully understood my child who once said about school: “I want to want to do it, but I don’t.” I stopped keeping up, and then felt like I was falling behind and becoming more irrelevant by the day. It all made me so weary, and all I wanted to do was stay home and nest. I knew that I was suffering from burnout, and I knew systemic issues were at play, but it still felt like the root of the problem was something within me, and that it wouldn’t/couldn’t be better anywhere else–because I’d still be wherever I went.

Then came the pandemic.

While many things about the pandemic shutdown of schools was hard, I also felt a tremendous easing. It was such a relief to spend my days in a place I felt freer. The uncomfortable parts of my job that remained became easier to tolerate. I had fewer migraines and began sleeping better. Even in the midst of trauma (after trauma after trauma), I was healthier and…happier? (Yes, happier. Which brings to mind the time I looked forward to major surgery for the break that staying in the hospital would provide, but I’ll save that story for another time.) I even started to feel a little better about my ability to contribute, and better able to see which failings were mine (I am older and don’t have the physical stamina I once had) and which belonged to a broken system. I could no longer deny how toxic many things about my work situation had become for me, and when we returned to school buildings last spring the idea of returning to my job(s) in the fall became untenable.

Of course, likely the only reason I was able to come out of denial was that I had options; last January I became eligible for full retirement, and I’m no longer supporting my children financially. I’m sure the reason I didn’t allow myself to fully feel and see the truth of the situation earlier was that I needed it to be OK for me to be there. For a variety of reasons, changing districts to do library or instructional coaching work presented different sets of dilemmas that did not feel better than the ones I had. Returning to the demands of full-time English teaching (the only subject I can teach) would have been no more manageable than what I was doing, even in the best-fitting community, because of the unmanageable work load. But leaving the salary and benefits I earned was also not an option; I was supporting children as well as myself. I told myself what I had to in order to be OK-enough to stay.

What I am understanding this week is that there was likely nothing I could have done to make it better. It just wasn’t my right place or right work or right workload.

The most amazing thing to me (in this time full of amazement) is how different I feel to be doing something I’ve done for so long. This back to school season feels nothing like the 31 others I’ve lived. The return to school each year has always been a time marked by dread. While each year (except the last) always contained things I looked forward to and was excited about, there was also always sadness and resignation. It meant returning to imbalance and exhaustion and ethical compromise–all of which stemmed from simply never having enough time to do all that needed doing. Important parts of me that opened during the summer months shut down when I returned to school. This year, in spite of all that is unknown and likely to be challenging, I feel only light, happy, and open. I cannot remember a time in my life that I have felt as down-to-the-bone good as I do right now.

I feel that way because I’m returning to work that is a better fit for me. I feel that way because it is my choice to do this work; I didn’t feel trapped by economic need. I feel that way because I will have a manageable work load that gives me enough time to take care of my personal and family needs, as well as time for things I simply want to do. I feel this way because I get to do work that aligns with my values and that I know I can do well.

Think of what a difference it could make to our children if all their teachers felt light, happy, and open as they return to school! Think of what a difference it could make to our world if everybody felt light, happy, and open about their work, able to do the kind that is a good fit for them, in places where they feel safe and accepted and able to be the best version of themselves. These insights I’m gaining about community, belonging, competence, choice, and meaning will definitely inform my practices with students this year as I facilitate their work of learning, as well as choices I continue to make about where and how to work, live, and be.

This post is already too long for a deep-dive into a critique of work in a world driven by capitalism (that others are doing so much better than I could, anyway), but on this Labor Day weekend, I am full of ideas and wishes and longings for how work could be different for all of us, and what that could mean for our planet and societies. I am so grateful for new colleagues who feel like my people and who have welcomed me into their community. I can’t wait to work beside them and to learn from and with them. I wish they were not going to have to carry the kind of weight that I did for so many years, but I know that most of them will. I’m wishing that all of them and all of you and everyone I know could work in the way I now get to, so that we might all bloom where we’re planted–because blooming isn’t just a matter of your attitude or desire or effort. (Just ask my raspberries.) It’s about having the conditions you need to live, grow, and thrive.

“Bloom Where You’re Planted” by Ian Varley is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Maybe you can go home again?

About 20 years ago, I saw a notice in a work newsletter that a committee was forming to create a new kind of school. The idea was for several local school districts to combine resources to create advanced tech-based programs of study that none could afford to offer on their own. Core academic skills would be embedded into the context of non-academic fields, tying learning in English and science to topics students would (presumably) be highly interested in.

Well, I got myself on that committee as fast as I could. I’d been teaching English Language Arts (ELA) for a bit more than a decade then, long enough to have learned that I was not cut out to be a traditional English teacher. I loved the idea of connecting my curriculum to current, meaningful topics for students. I eventually became a member of the school’s design team, and when our public charter school opened in 2003, another teacher and I were the English department. I soon found my true home and true people working in the IT, digital media, and engineering/manufacturing programs. Teaching there was fun, creative, challenging, and rewarding. Our students attended their home high schools half-time, and our school half-time. We were small, and students traveled through their day with us in program-area cohorts, taking all of their classes with the same people. It made for tight communities and close relationships. It felt almost like family. The first few years, I thought I’d never leave and would be there for the rest of my career.

Then life happened. I got divorced and the demands of single-parenting and full-time English teaching toppled a balance I’d barely been maintaining before the divorce. The Great Recession hit, and in order to absorb devastating budget cuts the school administration decided to separate English from program areas in order to make bigger English classes that combined cohorts. This would mean going back to teaching a more traditional English curriculum. The idea of going back to traditional teaching, with an increased workload, crushed me. I left the place I loved and had helped create to take a completely different kind of job (coaching teachers) and pursue a long-deferred dream to be a teacher-librarian. Painful as it was, I knew I was not going to live out my career in that place and retire from it.

And I didn’t.

This spring, I officially retired from my career in education, but as I’ve been telling people all summer it has never felt like retirement. “It feels more like I quit,” I’d say. I just couldn’t do what I’d been doing any more. Every article I’ve read about people leaving their jobs because of what the pandemic revealed to them about work and its impacts has resonated for me. I had no real sense of closure or ending; I felt more like a person escaping from a burning ship: I had to jump off to save myself. I felt enormously fortunate to have that choice, but it didn’t feel good, leaving like that. Ending like that. I didn’t like it, but the alternatives felt impossible. Until now.

An opportunity has come up to return to that school I helped create more than 20 years ago, and I’ve taken it. I’ll be teaching two English classes, every-other-day, in the mornings. With only two classes, I’m confident that I’ll be able to take care of prep and grading in the afternoons, leaving two or three other days of the week free for other things. Instead of serving 10 entire schools in two different roles that often had me feeling isolated, conflicted, disconnected, and ineffective, I’ll belong to one school, one community, providing direct service to students. Instead of performing a role that felt increasingly at odds with my values, I will get to do work that aligns with them.

All through the spring and summer I kept seeing different kinds of jobs that felt almost-right. I started to apply for some, but I never completed any applications. At one point I told myself that I wasn’t going to take any job for a year, so that I could fully detach from how I’d lived in order to allow space for wildly new directions to appear. And then this opportunity appeared, and it felt completely right, immediately. So much so that I felt a little wary about it, as I tend to be about things that seem too good to be true. I took three days to think/feel and had multiple, long conversations with some of my most trusted people before committing. And now I am all in.

It has all felt a little magical. I tend to be skeptical of most things, and I have looked askance at the current fascination with manifesting, but… It feels like that is what has happened. Right before the pandemic hit us, Kari wrote something about wanting to stop blaming others for her unhappiness and it struck something deep within me. I was so tired of being unhappy and so tired of feeling powerless in my unhappiness. I hate toxic positivity and any solutions to personal problems that don’t consider systemic causes of them, but I sat myself down and made a mental list of all the things that weren’t working for me and asked myself what I could do to change them, by myself. I quickly realized I would have to do two things: Be open to what I started calling “radical lifestyle change” and tell myself and those close to me the truth of what I wanted (and didn’t), despite fear of my truths and of others’ responses to them. Sometimes it was scary and it was never easy, but when I remember my life two years ago and then look at what it is today, it feels like a damn miracle. (But to be clear: It’s not. I could not be where I am without systemic structures and advantages that have allowed me to make the choices I have, primarily the one that is allowing me to both draw retirement income and return to work.)

You guys: At the core of my life is a healthy, loving, committed relationship. We are creating a home that feels just right for how we live and want to live. I have time to nurture my health and relationships. I have time for creative work outside my for-pay work and to learn how to live in more congruence with my values. And now I get to go back to school, doing the kind of teaching I’ve missed for more than a decade, in the place I loved more than any other I’ve worked. I know it won’t be the place I left, and it’s going to be hard (Covid alone assures that), probably in many ways, but I am so excited to finally be tackling what feels like the right kinds of hard in this very hard time. To be starting a new chapter. To revise the ending of my story.

Washing the dishes

“It’s too late to reverse the damage done to the Earth’s climate. It’s not too late to change course right away to prevent things from getting far worse.

That’s the scientific consensus presented this morning to world leaders by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. It’s the most complete synthesis of climate science available, based on a review of thousands of research papers assessing how the combustion of coal, oil and gas has altered the Earth’s climate and with it, human destiny.” “The Morning,” The New York Times, August 9, 2021

The dishwasher broke sometime back in late June, when we were so busybusybusy with everything. Over the 4th of July we did some half-hearted appliance shopping, but all options seemed to lead us down a path that would require kitchen renovation and we weren’t ready to go there. We talked about trying some repairs, but that was half-hearted, too. After a few weeks we bought a drying rack–just a small one, it would be good for the things we handwash once the appliance is fixed or a new one is bought. Toward the end of July I suggested that we could use the empty dishwasher as a drying rack for big things. I was joking, mostly, but I know I put a serving bowl in there. It’s probably still there. I’ve gotten used to washing the dishes by hand.

I remember my family’s first dishwasher. My dad bought it for my mom as a birthday gift. You had to roll it over to the sink and connect a hose to the faucet. I remember before that, my dad once setting up a plan in which I would do the dishes and be paid for it. There was a chart. I loved the idea for about a week, and then I stopped doing the dishes. I had choices like that. I became used to having choices like that. I assumed I’d always have them. I couldn’t imagine a reason I wouldn’t.

More than a decade ago, not long into single-motherhood, I got to spend a week in residency at Soapstone, a retreat for women writers on the Oregon coast. For a week I got to live by myself in a beautiful cabin in the forest and do nothing but eat, sleep, walk, and write. And do dishes, of course. A significant part of the Soapstone mission was stewardship of the property on which the writers’ cabins were located; I remember a sign encouraging us to use the dishwasher. It said that it was better for the land than handwashing, which felt counter-intuitive. It said it was better to run a half-full load than to use the water required to wash by hand. Sometimes I washed by hand, anyway, when I wanted just one cup or a particular bowl.

The first house I owned did not have a dishwasher. I bought it with my first husband. We were trying so hard to be adults, but we really had no business being married or owning a home. He was working as a lab tech in a research hospital and studying for the MCATs. I was in my first year of teaching. We were both floundering, in different, separate ways, which is to say: we were in our mid-20s. The sink was often filled with dirty dishes.

Last week I broke 3 glasses, two bowls, and a plate. My husband had stacked the drying rack with too many things, and when I removed a plate the balance of it all shifted and I could not stop the falling. I tried, but I realized almost instantly that there was nothing I could do to stop the shattering. The floor was covered in crystalline shards. It had a kind of beauty to it, and I was a little awed at the sheer amount of damage and at how quickly it happened. I’ve never seen so much broken glass in a kitchen. The bowls and plate are from a vintage set, Franciscan earthenware; they are lovely, but fragile: We’ve now broken at least 7 pieces this summer. We recently bought plates from Target for everyday use. They are not lovely, but they will do the job and I will not feel that I’m losing a tiny piece of history each time something breaks. Our glasses are from Ikea. “I guess I’m glad we got those cheap ones from Ikea,” I remarked to my husband, reflecting on the carnage. This week I wonder if, instead of buying cheap things that we can easily lose, we should buy only precious ones. Would we be more careful if we didn’t have the idea that there’s always more we can afford?

It’s a bit amazing to me now, that my first husband and I were able to buy the home we did, 31 years ago. It’s in a neighborhood that young couples like the one we were then could never think of buying in now. We moved to Portland from Seattle just so that we could buy a house; renting felt like throwing money away, but Seattle had already become unaffordable. Or so we thought. We wanted to live close-in to the city. We wanted an older home with character. We couldn’t have those things in Seattle, but we could in Portland. We left the place that had given us each other to move to one that we thought could give us more. “We can always move back,” we told ourselves. It took us more than 9 months to remove the wallpaper in the living room and paint it. It took 27 for our marriage to end. I have wanted to move back for decades, but I am still here. We had no idea what we were doing.

Washing the dishes recently, I realized I’ve come to like washing the dishes by hand. Something about the soap and warm water, the ritual of it. While the chicken finished baking in the oven, I washed all the things I’d used to prepare it. I’m learning to do this, to wash as I go, in small batches. I like the small, neat stacks on the bamboo dish rack, the cups that fit perfectly on the bottom shelf. I’ve realized we don’t need as many dishes as I once thought. We wash so frequently that we don’t run out of them in the cupboard.

My Soapstone experience was transformative, but not in the way its founders and board hoped it would be. For an entire week, I did nothing but write. I had no children to feed or bathe or stimulate or soothe, no papers to grade, no partner to answer to or tend. I had only to feed myself and write, and by the end of the week I understood in new, deep ways why I was having such a hard time getting anything written. I concluded that writing was something I was going to put on a shelf. I could always come back to it later, I told myself.

I remember being so frustrated by the stacks of dirty dishes in the sink of that first house. I tried to wash things as I used them, but my husband did not. He preferred to let them pile up and wash a big stack at once. He was reading Thich Nhat Hanh, and I remember him telling me something once about being mindful, and how washing dishes was an opportunity to practice mindfulness. I remember wishing he would practice it more. I remember my mind then feeling like a Habitrail, full of thoughts scurrying along plastic tubes and spinning a metal wheel in a mad dash to nowhere. I did not care about mindfulness. I just wanted someone to wash the damn dishes so I could go grade the stacks of essays piled up in my school bag.

I need to say this about my first husband: I was terrible to him, and he did not deserve it. I could tell you the reasons why I cheated on him, all the ways in which I was broken that I now understand and did not then, but none of that matters. I was wrong, and I did damage, and although I can understand why I did what I did and can feel for my younger self the kind of love one has for a child who hasn’t understood the impacts of their choices–I can never fully absolve myself for what I did. I was not a child. I broke something others loved and that I loved, and there was nothing beautiful in it. I would give so many things to be able to go back and choose differently. Do differently.

I remember, after my twins were born, needing to wash the breast pump paraphernalia by hand; the plastic couldn’t go in the dishwasher. I remember my second husband, my children’s father, telling me that he didn’t like me leaving them on the counter to dry. He was afraid they would make his first son, a teen-ager, feel uncomfortable, because, you know…. I remember looking at him blankly, dumbly, numb from sleep deprivation and soreness and constant physical need. I remember looking at him and saying nothing and blinking very slowly, a thing I did with him when I felt overwhelmed. It wasn’t something I did consciously or deliberately; it took me a good long while to even realize it was something I did. I remember him, later, telling me how much he hated it when I blinked slowly. Sometimes things break silently, or so quietly you don’t realize they’re breaking until it’s too late.

“Can we have an agreement to dry the dinner plates immediately, and not put them on the drying rack?” I ask, after the night of shattering. My husband concurs, and that night we wash the dishes together, placing small items on the rack and drying the larger ones immediately.

Sometime in the midst of the first year of the pandemic, I began to feel that home is my holy place. I wondered if I can find something I’m looking for if I devote myself to it. I wrote on my blog that I want to “become a grown-up in ways that I previously have not.” A full-blown book I wanted to write took shape in my mind. I remembered my first husband and his ideas about mindfulness when washing dishes. I reached out to ask him which of Thich Nhat Hahn’s books he would recommend as a starting place, and he replied kindly and gracefully. (We have found our way to a place where such a thing is possible, a miracle I never expected and probably don’t deserve.) He spoke again about dishwashing. “If you find yourself washing the dishes, and you’re thinking about anything else, then pause until you are experiencing everything in the moment. It’s like sitting under a freeway in your mind. Like cars, thoughts will pass through. But if you’re present you won’t get in and go for a ride.” I think of this months later, after the night of broken dishes, when I am cleaning up from a meal, and I want to focus on the washing–the warmth of the water running over my hands, the viscous texture of the soap, the beauty of the pattern on the worn plate–but all I can think about is how this life I’ve lived is so beautiful and fragile I sometimes feel my heart will shatter from it.

***

This is mostly a rough, first draft. I don’t like to share rough, first drafts, but that’s all I’ve got this week. This week was full–of heat, smoke, and dire news (climate, Covid). We went north to visit my parents, so we escaped Portland’s 100+ temps, but it was smoky and still too-warm, even there. I got to have a lovely visit with an old friend and her parents. I had good, long conversations with my parents. My brother looks well. While we were away, the glass top of our patio table shattered. My son, our house-sitter, has no idea what happened. Neither do I; could it have been the heat? Who knows. Some of my patio plants appear to be dead, but the dog is still alive. I take what I can get, grateful for it.

Mid-summer snapshots from home

We spend every day of the week working to get Cane’s house ready for sale: scrubbing, sanding, painting, polishing, digging, planting, spreading, trimming, hauling, carrying, loving the life we’ve had and the one we have and the one we’re building all day long until we’re so spent we can’t love that way any more.

For breakfast I take my favorite stoneware bowl into the backyard and fill the bottom of it with blueberries. The ones dessicated in the heat dome still cling to their bushes, but all around them are dusk-blue bulbs of sweet bombs that will explode when I bite them. Every single time I taste them I am grateful for the owners before us who planted them, for gifts from people I’ve never known.

Neighborhood boys spend hours in the street, shooting baskets, propelling scooters, laughing and shouting and sometimes crying (the littlest one, mostly). The neighbor across the street puts out a “children playing” sign, though none of the children playing are hers, and I love that as much as their shy smiles when I wave as I drive by to go work on the other house.

The lavender I planted two summers ago has quadrupled in size, and all day every day the bees work it like a factory. The trumpet vine’s blousy instruments blare bright red, a siren song for the neighborhood hummingbirds. The patio is a full, busy place and I try, repeatedly, to capture the wonder of it with my camera, but I fail every time. I’ll have to be satisfied with snapshots of memory.

Friday afternoon I reward myself for painting the tediously twirled iron porch railings by filling the planter boxes Cane built a few days earlier. We choose a stippled coleus, dusty Daisy Millers, red begonias, potato vines, and Sweet Alyssum so sweet it feels a little wrong to stuff them in around the edges of those edgier plants but I do.

Our neighbors two doors down have been fixing up their house all through the pandemic: new windows, new siding, new plants, new paint. They are a young family, and it made me happy to watch their progress until I saw a For Sale sign go up this week. I thought of the boys who will no longer play in our street, and then of our own labor on Cane’s house. “Why do we wait until we’re getting rid of a house to do all the things to it that would help us enjoy it more while we have it?” I ask. “Next summer,” he answers, “let’s pretend we’re moving and do all the things we put off doing.”

We paint all the floors and have to stay off of them for three days. There’s plenty to do in the yard, but I have to keep hydrated to keep migraine at bay and now there’s no bathroom I can access to relieve my bladder gone weak from childbearing and aging. We drive to an antique mall and use theirs, then walk through as if we’re there to shop, in our paint-spattered clothes and dusty shoes. We spy a quilt we weren’t looking for that will look perfect in the bedroom we’re staging. It’s new, but made from vintage fabric, with hand-stitching. It feels like a metaphor for us and we buy it, happy at the idea of incorporating it into our home later, and I feel less guilty about coming there only to use the bathroom and pleased at the gift of serendipity my bladder has given us.

We go to the neighbor’s open house and realize they’ve flipped it, that their labor was never about making their home nice for themselves. Not really. Everything old has been stripped away, replaced by vinyl floors, white cabinets, new appliances, subway tile, white paint in every room. We see the ghosts of features that still live in our house, built the same year as theirs. From the backyard, we see our bedroom window across the fence tops. Later, I stand in the bedroom window and for the first time in three years really see their backyard, the side of their garage. Later, I appreciate even more than I usually do the things that make our house home: the old oak floors, the worn brick fireplace, the floor tiles from different eras, the blue I painted the laundry room walls, the kitchen cabinets installed before I was born, with their large doors that extend to the ceiling. We talk about how it makes us love our home more, somehow, having seen that other one that’s supposed to be what everyone wants now.

We drive to my childhood refuge, Bellingham, where my grandparents lived and I spent summer weeks when weeks felt more like months than days. My last grandmother died just over three years ago, and I haven’t seen her beloved house since it was sold to a young family who’d been renting a house in her neighborhood because it was the only one they wanted to live in until a house came on the market that they could buy. I wonder how it will feel, to see it and know I can’t go in, but then there we are and I see the front door wide open, a pair of chairs on the front porch, and a badminton net in the front yard, and I remember how happy it made my grandmother when families with “young people” moved to her block. I remember my grandparents sitting in folding chairs on that porch more than 40 years ago, drinking coffee and reading the newspaper and waving to me as I rode laps around the blocks on my bike, and in that moment on the street, knowing all I could take away with me now was a photo, all felt as right in the world as it once did when I pedaled around the corner and saw them sitting there, a touchstone I could return to again and again, even as my bike ventured further and further away from their home.

But seriously

I missed my self-imposed Sunday posting deadline because we’ve been working non-stop to prep Cane’s house for sale, and then we took the weekend off to visit family five hours away. It was the first time to see any of them since Christmas 2019 (or earlier), and it was 10 hours of driving for about 5 wonderful hours of sitting together on a patio, eating and drinking and laughing and story-telling. And quizzing:

“So, what are you going to do now that you’re retired?”

“Do you think you’ll write now?”

“Are you looking for jobs?”

“How are you going to spend your time?”

I threw out non-comital answers I need to better hone: shrugs, “not sures,” “not burning to write anything,” “going to see how it goes.” I need to work on these responses because they don’t seem to stop these questions I’ve been fielding for weeks, which is what I’d like them to do. Finally, after the third or fourth time one cousin asked me some version of the “what are you going to do?” question, I tried a new response:

“I’m going to just be.”

Uncomfortable (for me) silence, that I rushed to fill with inanity. “I’m going to reach a higher spiritual plane,” I added, clearly self-mocking. (We are not a clan who says such things seriously.)

More silence. Finally, my cousin’s wife said, “No, but seriously: What are you going to do? You have to do something.”

And I felt something rise in me. Something hot and bothered and frustrated.

“Why?” I asked. “What if I don’t?” What I was thinking–and might have said some version of, but I’m not sure, because I was feeling all kinds of flustered–was: Do I have to do to have worth? Do I have to do for my life to have meaning? Do I have to do to be a good person?

To be clear: No one there was suggesting that I must do any particular thing to have worth. (Unconditional love and acceptance is the thing I appreciate most about my family.) My frustration was the culmination of weeks’ worth of such questions, as well as my own stuff around doing and achieving and worthiness. If anything, their questions were likely driven by how I have lived my whole life. Perhaps it was difficult for them to imagine me just being because it’s so antithetical to how I’ve always lived.

“You came out of the womb busy,” my mom once told me. “It was like you just had so many things to get done.”

Those of us around the patio were a collection of Boomers and Gen-Xers, with a handful of Zoomers running in and out of our scene. We have all been doing/working for most of our lives, since we were kids picking berries for pennies on the pound. One of my cousins is now raising her grandchildren; she’s been parenting non-stop for almost 50 years! While having a career. (Two of them, actually.)

Earlier in the conversation, there had been some castigation of our children’s generation, of some of their ideas and ways of being. Some of their questions and demands regarding work and life.

“They just don’t know what they don’t know,” someone said, and others concurred. I’ve said or thought this about others in various situations, and it can be true that not knowing what you don’t know is a significant problem. But it is not a problem reserved for the young.

“That’s probably true,” I said, “but is it possible that there are things we don’t know that we don’t know, that they do?”

Another silence.

All of us grew up in a family, in a social class, in an era when kids were supposed to do what they were told. (We often didn’t, but I never questioned that we should.) We were told that if we worked hard and acted right, life would fall into place. (And for all of us there that day, we mostly did and it mostly has.) We were working-class white kids growing up in a remote state where college tuition could be paid as we went, and housing and healthcare were affordable. I entered a profession that I knew would never make me wealthy, but would provide for my lifetime needs. When my children first began pushing back at some of my expectations and advice and world view, it frustrated and worried me. As I listened (to them and others), though, I came to understand that many things are not the same for our kids as it was for us. Our state is not the same. The world is not the same. As I have worked to see from others’ perspectives, I’ve been surprised by all that I didn’t know I didn’t know–by all I hadn’t considered or questioned. In the past five years I’ve wondered deeply about ideas I once took as universal givens or unchangeable truth. Like, for example, that our worth is tied to the value of our work. Or that education is the playing field leveler. Or that if we just work hard and act right, things will fall into place.

On the drive back home, we listened to Nice White Parents, a podcast series about all the ways in which white parents have undermined efforts to provide equal educational opportunities to black and brown children, sometimes with the best of intentions. As the series moved into the years that my career and parenting spanned, I felt such a weight in the pit of my stomach. I saw myself at various ages and stages in so many of those interviewed. I understood, in new ways, how unseeing I’ve sometimes been and how futile so many of my own efforts were and how toxic the system in which I worked has been not only to black and brown students, but to all of us who have lived within it. This was not new understanding; the series just added some layers to what I’ve already learned, reprising pain that comes from realizing how much you didn’t know that you didn’t know about things at the core of your life and identity.

What am I going to do now, knowing what I now do?

In my year-end reflection at work, I was asked to describe where I am in my equity journey, another question I found difficult to answer. The best I could come up with, finally, was this:

I’m at a rest stop, people-watching. I’m noticing who they are and how they seem. I’m still on the road, thinking about where I’ve been, planning where I want to go, building some reserves in order to keep moving.

This is where I am in general. This is what I am doing, am going to do. Action is not always our best option; if we find ourselves lost in the wilderness, the best thing we can do is stop. In recent years I have come to feel not only lost, but also exhausted. I am bone-weary from so many years of running hard uphill. Decades ago, a mentor counseled me that a career is a marathon, not a sprint. I was less than ten years in, and frustrated with colleagues who did not seem to want to grow and change at the pace I wanted all of us to.

“Some people are where you are,” he said, “charging forward. But others are in a place where they need to walk, or maybe even to step off the path and rest before they can get back to the run.” He paused.

“All of these places are OK,” he said. “I’ve learned to respect where people are.”

At the time, I wasn’t so sure, and I never really did learn how to pace myself. (Perhaps my circumstances didn’t allow it?) But, knowing what I know now, I agree with him: All of these places are OK, not only for our careers but for our lives as a whole, and as I’ve struggled to find easy, concise ways to explain where I am and what I’m doing that won’t bring pleasant social activities to a standstill, John Donne’s words have come to mind more than once:

“They also serve who only stand and wait.”

Seriously.

Dessication

This spring I had two important projects to accomplish, which can be summarized in one short compound sentence: I got married, and I retired. Six words, but so many more conversations, decisions, and small actions. Forms to complete and checks to write and stamps to find and feelings to feel.

So many feelings.

And, of course, all those things all had to fit around, among, and between all the regular parts of life: toilets to scrub and groceries to buy and jobs to go to and bills to pay and clothes to wash and plants to water. I told myself that once I got to the end of the school year, it would all settle down. There would be time to see friends and sleep a bit more and exercise and make good food and write again.

You already know that’s not how it’s gone, don’t you? (It never does, does it?)

Work keeps hanging on. (Almost done, but still not quite.) We have Cane’s house to ready and stage for an August 1 listing date, and we are remaking my house into ours. I have an unplanned-for trip to see my daughter. And then the heat dome hit us.

As with all the calamities that have pummeled us over the past year or so (pandemic, toxic air, freakish ice storm), I am more fortunate than many. Still, it got to me.

It got to me in the form of nearly crying over my dessicated fruit bushes, and immediately feeling like a shit person because–unlike others living less than a mile from me–I was not trying to survive 115 degree temperatures in a tent pitched on a grassy median that divides a neighborhood from a freeway on-ramp. I live in an air-conditioned house. I do not need the fruit for physical survival. I can drive or walk to a grocery store and buy everything I need and want.

But (of course, of course!) it’s not about the fruit and I know that. (You do, too, don’t you?) The fruit is just a symbol, a metaphor.

The fruit is an undeniable, concrete representation of what’s happening.

Friday night my friend V. came to visit. We were once colleagues, and then colleague-friends, and now just friends. (“You need to stop saying ‘retiring,'” she admonished. “You are retired. You did it. It’s past-tense, baby!”) For three years she has been working and living in London while her husband remained here in Oregon, but she’s returned to the US and they are moving to a mid-west state, where their family lives, and where they moved here from. We are both busy and exhausted from the project of reinventing our lives, and it was the only chance we had to see each other before our paths diverge in a more permanent way.

We talked for nearly 5 hours, not realizing how much time had passed until the sky began to turn dark. We noted how much we love talking with each other.

“When are we going to see each other again?” I asked, knowing she has nothing to bring her to Oregon any more, feeling not unlike the way I felt when I saw my desolated raspberries. V. pushed and supported me through a critical juncture, and while the actual overlap of our lives might end up being a relative blip in terms of time, ours will always be one of my most important friendships.

“I don’t know,” she admitted. (We are both old enough to know how life goes. We know that promises made at these kinds of endings can be hard to keep.) We talked about the possibility of meeting in places we’d like to travel to: Italy, Hawaii, Japan. It could happen, I suppose. Anything can. But because anything can I know it’s possible that we might never see each other again.

After V. left, I went out the patio to gather up plates and glasses. The patio lights had turned on while we were saying our good-byes. Oh, I thought. I wish she’d gotten to see them. They were so pretty in the dark.

The next morning I got out the sprinklers to water the blueberry bushes. I thought I’d have a whole summer of berries from them, the way I did last year. Last week I bought a carton from the produce market, thinking they’d likely the be last one I’d have to purchase this year. I thought about childhood summers, where an 85 degree day was a scorcher, and about all the people who filled those days and are now gone from my life forever. I thought about time, and how events of the past year have distorted all my previous sense of it. Or maybe it’s just getting older, and having so many layers of memories that the earlier ones are getting soft as the mildewy pages of an old book.

For the first time since the heat broke, I really examined my blueberry bushes and could see that while my yield will be smaller this year, there will still be some. Among the shriveled husks of some are the plump bodies of others, already ripening and darkening. The morning after I say good-bye to my friend, I focus on those, on feeding them, understanding that I’m always going to want more of everything I love.

Strawberry season

In the rush of the last week of school, I never make it to the local produce market to get a batch of Hood strawberries for freezing. Hoods are my favorite, sweet beyond sweet, and they are only available for a few weeks in June. We had a few pints this year, but I never got a flat because I was too busy to process them.

The day before I’m supposed to leave for a visit to my parents, I finally make it in. “Strawberry season is almost over,” a handmade sign tells me. “Get them before they’re done.” The Hoods are gone; only Shuksans remain. They aren’t as sweet as Hoods, but they still burst with a kind of flavor I never taste in the pale, uniform, almost-grotesquely large strawberries I see in the grocery store. I buy a flat.

I freeze half the berries, slicing off their tops and placing each on a parchment-lined cookie sheet that I put in the freezer, imagining them brightening a bowl of November granola. The other half I toss into a glass bowl and throw in the car the next morning to take with me as a belated Father’s Day gift.

My son and I head north, his first visit with his grandparents since Christmas, 2019–before Covid, before his discharge from the military. So much has changed.

We have a wonderfully unremarkable visit. We eat lunches out. We watch old movies at night. We sit on the deck and talk. My son and his grandfather go golfing. My mom and I go shopping for an outfit for her to wear to my dad’s high school reunion later in the summer.

After shopping, we get a slice of pizza from a sidewalk window and take it to a table near the beach. It is a perfect day; 76 and sunny, with a hint of breeze.

We reminisce about our visits to town when my children were children, when our time in each shop was limited and every outing included a visit to a now long-closed toy store.

“Remember when we used to talk about how one day we’d have enough time to stay as long as we wanted in the shops?” I ask her. She smiles and nods. “And now it’s that day, and we sit here and talk about missing those days.”

“Yeah,” she says.

We miss the children my children once were, those beings we’ll never get to spend another afternoon with, but This is nice, too, I think. I loved the earlier times–the earlier us–but I love this time, too, even as it contains longing. You’re going to miss this someday, too, I tell myself, and now the moment contains a different kind of longing.

“I guess we never get to have everything we want all at once,” I say.

“That’s for sure,” she answers.

The next day, I convince her that we should make shortcakes for the strawberries. “I think they have some good ones we can buy at the fancy grocery store,” she says, but I talk her into making them from scratch. I’ve been reading Alice Waters’s latest book, and my head is full of her thoughts about the value of making and eating food together.

We spend an afternoon slicing strawberries and sifting flour and cutting dough and whipping cream and talking about the kids and our summer plans and our memories and how these strawberries look and taste like those we remember from decades ago. “I love their ‘ugliness,'” I say. “I’d rather have this kind any day.”

We have to improvise on some ingredients and we aren’t quite sure when the biscuits are done. The idea of cooking from scratch is more romantic than our reality, but I’m still glad we didn’t get the store-bought ones.

“They’ll be fine,” my mother says.

When the kitchen is finally clean and the biscuits are cooling on the counter, we realize our backs are tired and our feet are sore. It feels lovely to sit in chairs out on the deck in the afternoon breeze and sip a cold drink.

My son is napping on the couch. I remember how I treasured afternoon nap time when he was a toddler. My dad joins my mom and me, and as we talk shadows move over us. We shift our chairs to stay in the sun.

Later, after dinner, we eat our strawberry shortcake. The biscuits are somehow both a little dry and a little undercooked in the center, but I love the treat anyway. “Oh, this is good,” I say.

“Well, it’s all right,” my mom says. “The strawberries and cream are, anyway,” she adds.

The next morning, as we’re getting ready to leave, I hear my dad tell my mom that this was sure a great visit. He turned 80 this year, and since the pandemic he and I have begun talking about things that are inevitable. The conversations are both hard and surprisingly easy. It feels better to turn toward than away, to love in honesty rather than denial.

As we say our good-byes, I promise a return in August. In July I’m taking a trip to visit my daughter living on another continent. It was a last-minute decision, the upcoming trip. The timing isn’t great, but when is it ever? We don’t know when she will be able to come back, and if I don’t go this summer it might be another year until I can see her. Sometimes my longing for her hits me like a sneaker wave.

We return to a city bracing for heat like none we’ve ever seen.

In waning daylight, I water everything in the garden, pondering survival and sweating through my shirt. The raspberries look faded and small. Raspberries have always been a July fruit, but this year we’ve been eating them since mid-June. I miss my grandmother, thinking of the day I helped her make raspberry jam and how satisfying it was to write 7/7/77 on each lid. I remember my grandpa driving us out to a farm to pick up the berries, his arm flung across the back of the Buick’s bench front seat. None of us imagined that some of the jam we were going to make that day would be with us longer than he would.

The next morning I get up early to get groceries before untenable heat takes over the day. I hope I might get one more flat of strawberries, but at the produce market there are none. The case is now filled with blueberries. Oh well, I think. It was great while it lasted. I’m glad I got some. There’s always next year.

I know, even as I think the last thought, that it’s more hope than certainty, and I wonder how much of what makes the berries precious is knowing that I can only have them for a fleeting season.

Oh, hey there. It’s me again…

When I went on hiatus (March 14), I mentioned some projects I needed to focus on this spring.

Project #1:

I got married.

We still aren’t quite living in the same house all the time, but we’ve made good progress toward that. We should get there by the fall–which is when we need to, because of…

Project #2:

I retired from education.

It’s been a good, long run (31.5 years). (This newspaper article is from the mid-90’s. That’s a typical class size now.) It doesn’t feel at all the way I thought it would. There’s so much to say about both projects, I can’t really say anything. Not yet, anyway.

I’m open to doing other work, and the universe keeps putting job openings in my path that are enticing, but I haven’t applied for any. I’m making myself take a real break from employment first. I got my first job at 15, and other than the first few weeks of my freshman year of college, I’ve never been without one since. Even when I was on bedrest with my twins, I still did freelance editing gigs.

It all feels weird and uncomfortable and sad and strange and exciting. Sort of like being a teen-ager, but with a whole lot more insight and knowledge–about time, love, and myself.

I think I’m ready to start writing here again. Words have been knocking at the door of my head for a little while now, and I think there’s enough space cleared that I can begin to let them in.

At the end of my last post, I left you with an image of my so-late-to-bud vine I almost feared it was dead:

Here’s how it looked just a week ago:

Everything blooms when it’s meant to, given the right conditions.

Just popping in with a quick note…

This week, I was sent a video to watch for work. I was extremely busy, as I have been for weeks now. I clicked the link, a task in a long list I had in front of me for the day, not knowing what it was going to be about.

Halfway through the opening montage of images–visual clips that triggered memories of all we’ve lived through in the last year (schools closing, hospitals overrun, masks, protests over masks and police violence, wildfires, the election, the insurrections of January 6, the ice storm)–I started shaking. Then I started crying. I cried through the whole video. I cried after the video stopped. I rewatched it just now to see if it would have the same impact, and I’m typing these words with tears running down my face.

I was astonished by my reaction. If you had asked me, in the last few weeks, how I am doing, I would have told you that I am fine. Just fine. Busy, but with lots of good things. I might have told you that the pandemic was feeling strangely like something in the past, even as I know it’s still happening. Sure, I’m still wearing masks when I venture out, but I’m venturing out more and more. I’ve been vaccinated. I’ve been back in school buildings. Next week, I have to get up and get dressed and be at work by a specific time because students will be returning to physical school. The events of the past year have been taking on a dream-like quality. Everything is starting to feel and look “normal” again, and the reality of a year ago, or even four months ago, feels unreal. Was it really that bad? I’ve thought.

Once I calmed down, I did a little Googling about responses to trauma, which got me thinking about numbness and my emotional state the past few weeks. When our governor announced, on the heels of the ice storm that had closed schools again, that all schools in our state would be required to re-open on the governor’s schedule, despite any plans we might have been making/implementing, I first felt overwhelmed with anger and anxiety–my typical responses to loss of control–but that quickly changed to what felt like calm. “It is what it is,” I said, and turned myself to tasks at hand, determined to think only about those things over which I do have control.

I also stopped writing here, which felt like relief. It was relief. I did not think it had anything to do with that last blow following on the heels of a torrent of them in February. I thought it was just about wanting to focus on different things for awhile. I’ve been spending my weekend mornings in practical, necessary tasks. And if not necessary, enjoyable–taking walks, puttering in the yard, planning upcoming happy events. I haven’t missed writing at all. I also stopped most interactions on social media, which I haven’t missed at all, either. I enjoy a quick scroll through Instagram (which I’ve curated to be a happy place), but when I’ve gone on Facebook I’ve felt none of the old pull. I remember a time when I wanted to be there, but lately that’s felt unreal in the way the early days of the pandemic have been feeling unreal: I know I had the feelings I had at one point, but I have none of them now, and it’s hard to understand in any sense but an intellectual one why I ever had them. I took it off my phone and feel no desire to put it back.

It had never occurred to me, until I watched the video and reflected upon its impact, that what I’ve been (not) feeling is another variation on impacts of the past year’s events. I thought I was moving on. Instead, I was just getting through.

What I know of grieving is that we have to feel all the feelings to move through it to some better place. Not back to the old place, but a better place than the one our losses have us currently in. I hated how I felt watching that video. I don’t have the capacity, right now, to feel those feelings. I have a lot of things to get through in the next 7 weeks. The morning I watched the video the first time, I didn’t get as much done as I would have if I hadn’t.

Still, there is this: This morning, for the first time since I wrote my last post, I felt like writing. Not this post; I worked on an essay I abandoned more than a year ago. And it felt good, which made me want to write to you, here.

I might have to think more deeply about what really needs getting done by June. In the meantime, what I want to say today is, I hope you’re all doing OK. It helped me to realize that I haven’t been as OK as I thought, and I wondered if sharing my experience might be helpful to you in some way. I’m understanding in a new way that coming out of this pandemic is going to be a process, and likely a long one. At least for some of us.

Two springs ago I planted a vine in my backyard. Last spring, in the early weeks of the shutdown, I was afraid it hadn’t survived the winter. Weeks after everything else had shown signs of coming back to life, the vine was still a network of bare branches clinging to the fence that supports it. I’ve had the same wonderings this spring. As my willow burst into pink buds and my blousy tulips opened wide, the vine showed not even the signs of buds, and I worried a bit. I reminded myself of what I know to be true: It did this last year, and it was alive, even though it didn’t seem to be. But this week, it gave me this:

That’s enough to go on, for now.

I’m still on haitus (or going back on it), but you can think of me as being like the vine, getting ready to bloom again when I’m good and ready. We’re all on our own timelines, and that’s OK.

Goodbye to you, February

Well, how about that February, huh?

Seems like more than a few of us have had ourselves quite a month. Sometimes, when I’m feeling a little overwhelmed or worn out, I like to go back through my camera roll to see what sense it can give me of a time. Often, it helps me see that my feeling about a time isn’t the whole picture of it. Because I often take photos of what delights me, it can be an exercise in reminding myself of the small moments that don’t (but probably should) carry as much weight as some of the larger ones.

Oh, bollocks!

(I’ve been listening to Tana French audiobooks for a few months now, and there are some Irish words seeping into my thoughts.)

Look at me up there in that last full paragraph, sounding so wise and grounded. Cue the montage of lovely little life vignettes: flowers on the table, a stack of good books, snow sparkling under the rising sun. Oh, I meant every word as each came through my fingers (and I could easily create such a montage), but re-reading them as a whole I could feel my whole being rise up in resistance to such facile positivity–which is probably evidence of how easily inspirational Insta quotes can seep into a person if she’s not careful.

Attaining peace and contentment is not necessarily about finding delight, or about making sure you put every little thing on some balance scale, so that a multitude of small good things somehow mitigate or outweigh a fewer number of heavier bad things.

To wit:

Box of Valentine sugar cookies.
These are my daughter’s favorite cookies. I buy them only for her. I took a photo because she’s in Sweden and it costs a bajillion dollars to send her anything but these made me think of her and brought back good memories, and sending a photo is free.
Close-up of the head of an old dog who is lying down, wrapped in a blanket, with tongue lolling.
I have about a bajillion versions of this shot in my camera roll. I am not sure why I feel so compelled to capture this waning animal, with her spotty bald ears and lolling tongue. But I do.
Parking location sign at the Oregon Convention Center
I think one of the best uses of my phone’s camera is taking shots to help me remember where I parked the car. I took this on the day I got my first dose of Covid vaccine. (This is my only documentation of this momentous event because I skipped the selfie area, where, apparently, a person could take vaccination selfies to post on social media, if she wasn’t so exhausted from being freaked out/awed by the whole experience, conflicted about being prioritized over more vulnerable people, and disconcerted by the idea of a selfie station in this context that she had to get home asap to take a nap.)
An off-center photo of a hospital bed, with a call device and a paper plate with saltine crackers.
I have no memory of taking this photo or any idea about why I would. It’s from the morning I had a colonoscopy. If I were a braver blogger, I’d share the screen shot of sanitary pads I sent Cane earlier that day. Although it seemed impossible, after 12 hours of miserable prep, that anything more could exit my colon against my will, I’d asked him please pick some up for me because I didn’t trust that I could get from home to the hospital without incident, and he didn’t know what to get. (My fear was justified, btw. TMI?)
Screenshot from The Weather Channel showing two days of snow in the forecast, followed by rain and above-freezing temperatures.
Do you see freezing rain in that forecast? Nope, neither do I.
Budding branches coated with a thin layer of ice.
Freezing rain, Day 1
Grocery store with long line of people waiting to check out.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
Willow tree branches encased in heavy ice.
Freezing rain, Day 3
Dog resting on human's leg, with travel bags at her feet.
Daisy and I arriving at our home away from home (Cane’s house).
Dog resting head on human's lap, which also holds a laptop computer.
Working from (Cane’s) home, day 3 of no power.
Mural painted on side of wall with fierce looking wolves, Germanic lettering, some reading: Unity Is Strength
Seen on a walk. Graffiti defacing the mural reads: Kill All Nazis. What the hell is this mural and why is it in my city and what does its presence in this neighborhood mean?
Monthly bill statement from PGE power company.
Day 6 of no power. Hahahahahaha!
Church sign with words "trying to give up the idea that my worth is bound to my productivity"
Stopped to take this to accompany a still unfinished blog post. Gotta love the layers in that. Also, this church’s signs might get me to try church again. (That’s a houseless person’s motorhome in the background.)
Crowded garage with man on a ladder looking pensively out the window
Taking measurements for a building permit application so we can turn this garage into living space. Part of some big plans in the works.
Stack of children's books with severely frayed/damaged covers
Some books I pulled from one of the school libraries I serve in my job.
Power lineman working to restore power
After 8 days of no power, 7 phone calls, and 3 incorrectly cleared tickets this was such a welcome sight. Still 1 more day before heat will be restored.
Bedroom strewn with clothing and other items.
My son is no longer an active duty Marine. Helping him unload his car, I remembered the stage of my own life when I could (and frequently did) pack everything I owned into a sedan.

As I chose these images (no more than one for any day) and wrote my captions, I couldn’t help thinking of those optical illusions where what you see is presumed to be some kind of test of your mindset:

Optical illusion with illustration that can be seen as either a young woman or an old one.
Is this a young woman or an old one?

Was my month full of absence, disease, displacement, disruption, broken systems, and uncertainty? Or was it full of family, community, safety nets, solutions, possibility, and love?

Yes.

What’s helped me get through this challenging month (season, year) is rejecting singular narratives–which means resisting not just one-sided, all-or-nothing ideas about our lives as a whole, but also about any discrete parts of our lives. The glass of any experience is neither half-full nor half-empty; it is always both empty and full. In every single image from my month are aspects of abundance and deprivation, sorrow and joy, hope and fear. All of those, all together, in every one.

The longer I live, the more it seems to me that the best way to fully feel the good things is to fully acknowledge the hard within them. To see and own and maybe even embrace the mess that is always part of the beautiful in our lives.

Sure and it’s grand, innit?

View of snow-covered driveway through a bedroom window. Trees covered with ice and icicles hanging from roof.

PS–Just for funsies: https://youtu.be/_50-gOeBilc

But also this, which is even better: https://youtu.be/YfmNsesuw0w