A Low Hum of Peril

“Stop! You need to back up!” I yell across the yard to my son who’s straying too close to the neighbor’s kid. He’s supposed to stay 10 feet away at all times, but kids will be kids. They forget. They want to play.

I’m sitting outside on this beautiful Spring day here in Northern Alabama. I’ve been cooped up due to the rain. Though I didn’t let the rain stop me the other day when took a walk, umbrella in hand. I have to get outside sometimes.

I haven’t gotten into my van and driven anywhere in two weeks. I look over at my van and wonder if I’m going to forget how to drive.

The kids are laughing as they talk to the neighbor children. Kids are so adaptable. I don’t know about how other kids are dealing with the Coronavirus and quarantine, but my kids aren’t worried about it. We’ve talked to them about it, though maybe leaving out details. About how people who have died from Coronavirus struggled to breathe, lips turning blue, with a weight on their chest that feels like 50 pounds. I didn’t tell them about how there are so many dead bodies in Madrid, they had to start storing them in an ice skating rink. And I haven’t told them that I’m scared.

The kids play in the afternoon sun. I sit back and listen to my podcast. A neighbor walks by, walking his dog. Another one goes by, on a bike. On the surface in this peaceful neighborhood, everything is fine. But under the surface of life right now is a low hum of peril.

I felt it on Friday the 13th this month, the last time I was out and about. The last day the kids had school. There was a sense of hurry, and “take everything you can grab”.

I hate that we also have a feeling of scarcity now. It’s needless. People don’t need to hoard groceries right now but it’s contributing to the nation’s sense of panic. “If those people are hoarding, we better start hoarding…”and so the cycle continues.

We ordered groceries the other day, and they came two days later. But the poor man delivering our groceries felt guilty that he couldn’t find everything we asked for. He handed us our milk and cereal with gloved hands, muttering that it makes him not want to do his job at all. We told him it wasn’t his fault and thanked him for all he did. Grocery store workers are in the front lines right now, and I admire them. I saw something on twitter the other day that said “grocery store workers didn’t know they had signed up for the draft”. Indeed, they did not!

I carry in our groceries to the kitchen. There’s a lot of things I have to be thankful for right now. I mean first of all, we’re healthy. My kids are doing fine. My husband won’t be losing his job. We aren’t going to starve.

But I can’t be the only one that feels that hum, the feeling of something dangerous lurking. It’s in the people around you, innocent people with smiles on their faces. I can’t be the only one who feels that sense of scarcity. I used to take it for granted that I could get anything at the grocery store whenever I wanted. This is something that is silly, but for my birthday I wanted a yellow cake with chocolate frosting. But there was no chocolate frosting to be found when the man shopped for us so I settled for vanilla. It wasn’t a big deal by any means but it was just one of those reminders that things were different right now. Things are strange and we need to adapt.

But it’s so hard to adapt. This evening I got the news that schools are canceled in Alabama until the end of the year. I knew this was coming, and I believe it’s the right decision…but it really upset me more than I thought it would. Tears sprang to my eyes as it hit me….my kids had no ceremony in their last day of school. They didn’t get to say goodbye to their teachers and friends. They won’t get anyone to sign their yearbook. I was especially sad to think about my 5 year old and his pre-K class. Those are precious times, being in preschool with your friends, eating snacks and taking naps with your nap mat. Bringing your stuffed animal to school on Fridays and learning your letters and numbers.

I remembered that Friday the 13th, when I picked my son up from Pre-K. Usually I would walk him straight back to the van. But for some reason my son was very adamant that he get to play with his friends for a few moments outside in the little patch of grass. So many preschoolers were running around on the grass that afternoon after school, little social butterflies. The parents stood around watching and talking. I’m so glad I let him play with his friends that day.

After getting the news about school closing, I stood next to the stove and cried as I waited for the water to boil for pasta. Why was I so upset about this? But I wasn’t alone. A little later I got emails from the heartbroken teachers who also didn’t get to say goodbye. My sister, who teaches in Virginia where school was also closed, was very sad about the decision. Of course everyone understands why it had to be done, but we all have mixed emotions over it.

I call in my boys for dinner. In they come, with their buzz-cuts and their glasses. Their hair was getting very long, but we didn’t know when we would be able to go to Great Clips again. So last night I took some hair clippers and gave them a hair cut myself. I smile when I think about it, how they all stood around, each watching their brother get his head shaved, laughing and exclaiming how short his hair was now, and how much hair was on the bathroom floor! I put them all in the shower and the bathtub while my husband swept up the hair. The next day they proudly showed off their new hair cuts to their neighbor friends.

I guess that’s the important thing during this strange time we live in. Try to make the best of things and keep making memories. It’s not all bad. With my husband home, and my kids home, we’re getting a lot of family time. And I’m still able to call and text my family and friends. We called and texted before, but for some reason right now I seem to cherish it even more.

People are getting inventive right now. Teachers are using the Zoom app to have meetings with their students. My middle child, who is in karate, also has Zoom meetings with his instructors and watches his karate instructors’ YouTube channel. Grandparents are going on Facetime and Skype to talk to grandkids. Stories are being read over the internet and people can connect again. Pastors are streaming church services over the internet. Just last weekend I was part of a “Quarantine Netflix Movie Night”, where my friends and I watched “Blade Runner” together (on Face Time) while riffing on it. It was so nice to feel like I was with a group of friends again, watching a movie together.

There are a lot of things that we’ve realized about ourselves as a nation since Coronavirus became a threat. We’ve realized that a lot of those meetings at work could have been emails. How much we touch our face. We’ve realized how hard teachers work and how little they are paid. How much we took for granted, such as going to the movies or restaurants. But If there’s one thing I’ve been reminded of since COVID-19 became a household name, it’s that our relationships to other people are so important. When you have to social distance, because it’s a matter of life or death, people with either ignore it, or they will find a creative way to continue to nurture the relationships in their life.

That’s how we’re going to get through this time, by helping each other through it with our words and actions. We may feel helpless sitting at home, and maybe it’s making our anxiety or depression much worse. Or, we may feel overwhelming stress at having to be on the front lines. Either way, we need to continue to encourage each other and lift each other up.

If you don’t mind, I want to share this scripture verse: “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.” – Proverbs 17:17

Anxiety, Social Distancing, and Me

“How’s your anxiety these days?” the doctor asked me.

I sat in the middle of the couch, pondering this question. How was my anxiety right now? It’s not easy to put it into words but I do my best.

“I feel the same as I normally do. I have social anxiety but I make myself go out. I make myself go to the store and to my Bible study group every week. I guess the hardest part is actually getting in the van and leaving.”

The doctor agrees. It is difficult to force yourself to leave the house when you have anxiety, but once you are actually out and about and socializing, it feels easier.

I clutched my phone in my hands. It’s a comfort thing, to actually keep my phone in my hands as much as possible. Especially right now in the psychiatrist’s office.

“Also…” I added, “I’ve been feeling kind of anxious about the state of the world. This whole Coronavirus thing. It just feels…like everything is out of control.”

She nodded and smiled. “I’ve been getting a lot of emails and calls about this. It’s understandable. The world feels chaotic right now.”

What I didn’t say, but what occurred to me later, was that in a way the pandemic gave me an excuse for my anxiety.

I’ve always felt this way. I’ve always felt like I didn’t have an excuse for having an anxiety disorder. I have a good life. I’ve never been through a real traumatic situation. Why am I so prone to panic attacks? It’s been this way since I was a kid.

In a weird way, having a global pandemic happen is making me feel justified for being anxious. This is how I felt on 9/11 actually. Or when we had the threat of the DC Sniper. The chaos in the world is strangely grounding me, reminding me that it’s now appropriate to be anxious. I’m not a freak for being anxiety ridden right now.

Life is complicated but, in a way, it’s simple because we are reminded of what’s really important.

Yet, I can’t deny that times like this still make anxiety worse than usual. It makes me feel mixed up.

The session is soon over, and I leave the doctor’s office. I pass by the people in the waiting room, and make my next appointment. A month from now, as usual.  I wonder how things will be in a month. The hand sanitizer sitting on the counter is almost gone. It’s precious stuff right now.

The date is Friday the 13th. I’m not superstitious but as Michael Scott said, I am a “little Stitious”. There’s  been a strange feeling in the air today. The kids are in school right now but not expected to return until April. My husband tried to get toilet paper last night but there was none to be found.

My phone buzzes.

It’s my husband. “See if you can get toilet paper today. Trump is probably going to declare a National Emergency….so you have an hour. No pressure!” he jokes, and adds a smiling emoji.

Driving past the grocery store, I see that the parking lot is completely full. Same thing at Walmart…no parking spots. It’s the middle of the day and everyone is here getting groceries, and panic buying.

My anxiety kicks in and I decide I can’t make myself go into this zoo. But I do head to Walgreens. Maybe they’ll have toilet paper?

People are throwing cold medicine into their carts, and zooming by me at the drugstore. I find the aisle that normally has toilet paper and of course there is none. I do manage to find some baby wipes. I only get 2 small packs because I don’t want to take too much of something that other parents need more than I do.

After I get home I check Reddit and there are multiple posts of people catching others with shopping carts full of toilet paper. People selling their Toilet paper and hand sanitizer and Clorox wipes for an exorbitant price.

I shake my head. Why is it that in this trying time of history, some people decide to be selfish and greedy? Why does it bring out the worst in some people?

 

As it turns out, Trump did declare a state of national emergency. And the kids will not be going to school until April 6th. Sadly my husband still has to go to work. His workplace didn’t make any real decisions but I shouldn’t be surprised.

Today is Monday the 16th. These past few days feel like 8 weeks. Life felt so different just a few days ago. I’ve been stuck in the house with three kids. Trying to get them to do some educational material online, and trying to have some sense of routine. My husband sighed as he left for work, promising himself that he wouldn’t go near anyone.

And yet I can’t help but feel lucky. We’re safe at home and we’re healthy. We should count ourselves lucky to be bored at home. Life actually isn’t that different than a long long weekend. I feel bad for those people who have to work right now, especially first responders. And people in retail or grocery stores. And those with health issues and the elderly who are more at risk.

We’re lucky.

Yesterday Church was cancelled and the Bible study group is also cancelled. It saddened some of the ladies but I was glad. Not only have I been training my whole life for social distancing due to anxiety, I’m proud to be part of a smart Church family. Some churches didn’t close yesterday and told people to trust in God. Some churches still served communion and drank wine out of the same wine chalice. Not smart.

I just listened to a couple podcasts that are having special “Self-Quarantine” episodes. It’s good that people can still make the best of this situation and laugh. Plus I have a few new books to read, and Khan Academy, and Netflix and Youtube…

I’m feeling a strange combination of calm and anxious right now. I feel lucky yet worried for our family. I feel blessed to have lots of food in the house but deprived of toilet paper. Well, we installed a bidet yesterday. It’s the newest trend of 2020. I imagine the symbol for 2020 will be a shiny bidet. Either that or a roll of toilet paper.

What I’m saying is, we live in strange times. And it’s ok to feel whatever you’re feeling right now. Goodness knows I’m still processing it.

 

And now for a few tips.

Stay safe, wash your hands, don’t hoard, and practice social distancing. Sneeze and cough like a vampire – into your elbow. If you want to support small businesses, see if you can buy gift cards or certificates to use at a later date. Just get take-out. Don’t meet your UPS man at the door, but let him get some distance between you and him before you grab your new bidet at the door.

Some people are asymptomatic. So just because you feel fine, and just because you’re young, doesn’t mean you can’t spread Coronavirus. You need to think about other people who are more prone to getting sick.

As the weather gets warmer, some people believe the virus will be less of a threat. Yet in some countries where it is hot, coronavirus is still spreading. Warmer weather might influence it but it might not.

If you have anxiety like me, try not to read or watch the news so much. I know, easier said than done. Keep practicing self-care. While you’re at the store buying rice and beans, get some ice-cream or chocolate.

And if you’re the praying type, pray for those who are suffering right now with this virus. And the people who aren’t rich enough to stock up on food or take off work. Their kids might rely on the food at school, and now school is out. These are hard times for some people.

 

And finally, if you have anxiety in general and are feeling oddly calm…it’s understandable. Those of us with social anxiety are being told to stay away from people. And those of us with anxiety have a reason to feel anxiety.

But what I want to really remind myself as well as anyone reading this, is that it’s ok to feel anxiety even though you have no reason. There’s nothing to be ashamed of if you have an anxiety disorder.

Too bad it took this whole global pandemic to remind me of that.

Our Baking Project

Baking with children. Not baking with children as ingredients but baking alongside children, I should say. What can be said about it? Well, it’s an adventure. For Christmas I got the boys this book, “Super Simple Baking for Kids” by Charity Matthews. Is it simple? Not the word I would pick. I mean yes, the recipes are easy to follow, but baking alongside children is never simple.

However….

I’m so glad I got them this baking book. There’s something very satisfying about teaching your children a new skill. I’m someone who does all the cooking, and I make dinner every night. I will occasionally bake too. It seems to me that my boys need to learn how to cook and to bake, and they need to know that they don’t need to rely on their significant other to do all of this for them.

Plus at this age (my older two are 10 and 8), they are excited about baking with me. If I wait too long, they might be too old and too cool to learn how their way around the kitchen.

So it is my mission from now on to get them in the kitchen and to watch me do my thang, and to learn. My kids now know how to preheat the oven, grease and dust the cake pan with flour, measure out the ingredients, whisk, and blend with the electric mixer. We have made 2 cakes, a pizza, and cupcakes.

Every weekend for we have tried a new recipe, and together make a new baked good. I thought I’d share these recipes with you. If you have children it might be a nice thing to bake these goodies together.

First recipe: Lemonade Cake.

It was late afternoon on a Friday, January 10th that we attempted our first bake. I had the older boys choose a number between one and 10, and the boy who chose the closest number to mine…you know how it works. Anyway the winner was my oldest, and he chose “Pink Lemonade Cake”.

Wait, you might be saying. You called it “Lemonade Cake”. Yes, and here’s why we didn’t make it pink: No pink food coloring. Simple as that.

INGREDIENTS:

¾ cup butter, plus more for greasing

2 ½ cups of flour, plus more for dusting the pan

1 ½ cups granulated sugar

½ teaspoon salt

2 ½ teaspoons baking powder

4 large eggs

4 lemons, juiced

Zest of 2 lemons

½ cup milk

Yellow food coloring

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and prepare the cake pans with butter and flour.
  2. Mix dry ingredients: flour, sugar, salt and baking powder
  3. Add butter. With the mixer on low speed, mix in the ¾ cup of butter one piece at a time. Increase speed to medium and mix for 1 minute until mixture looks crumbly.
  4. Mix wet ingredients. Whisk together in a separate bowl, eggs, juice of 2 lemons, lemon zest of two lemons, and milk.
  5. Add half the wet ingredients to the dry, and blend with the electric mixer. Add the rest and continue blending.
  6. Add the yellow food coloring.
  7. Pour batter into pans and bake for 25 minutes.

For the frosting:

I used a can of ready made vanilla frosting, but added the juice of 2 lemons. This makes the frosting more of a drizzle, but it’s still good. Also, add yellow food coloring. For some reason, making this cake yellow makes it taste more lemony.

Here’s our cake!

My husband and I really liked it, but the boys weren’t big fans because of the texture of the lemon zest. If your child is big on textures being smooth, this might not be the best one for them.

 

The next weekend it was my 8 year old’s turn to choose a recipe and he went for the old fashioned chocolate cake. This was a very rich cake FYI.

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons of butter for greasing the pans

1 ¾ cups flour, plus a little more for dusting the pans

2 cups granulated sugar

1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

1 ½ teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

2 large eggs

1 cup buttermilk

½ cup oil (we use melted coconut oil)

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup hot water

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and prepare the pans.
  2. Add the dry ingredients. Flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  3. Add wet ingredients to the same bowl: eggs, buttermilk, oil, and vanilla. Beat the mixture for 2 minutes.
  4. Add hot water; stir about 12 times until incorporated.
  5. Add batter to pans and bake for 30 to 35 minutes. Rotate the cakes halfway through baking.
  6. Make frosting. (I didn’t use their recipe, which was melted chocolate chips and yogurt mixed together. I used the chocolate frosting recipe on the back of the Hershey’s Cocoa container.)

Frosting:

Ingredients:

½ cup butter

2/3 cup cocoa

3 cups powdered sugar

1/3 cup milk

1 tsp vanilla extract

  1. Melt butter.
  2. Stir in cocoa.
  3. Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating to spreading consistency.
  4. Stir in vanilla

Here’s how our luscious cake turned out!

All of us liked this one. But like I said, it was very rich. Just take a small piece!

The weekend after that, it was my eldest’s turn to choose and he decided on something savory: Pizza Dough! Clean as you go, there will be a lot of flour.

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups warm water (like bathwater)

2 packages of dry active yeast (4 ½ tsp)

2 tsp granulated sugar

1 tsp garlic salt [we used regular salt]

4 ½ cups flour plus more for kneading.

  1. Bloom the yeast:

Pour warm water into a large mixing bowl. Stir in yeast and sugar, and set aside for 5 minutes.

  1. Add remaining ingredients. Using a whisk, mix in oil and salt. Add the flour, 1 cup at a time, stirring well after each addition.
  2. Let the dough rise. Coat a separate bowl with olive oil and place dough inside. Cover with a clean kitchen towel. Set aside somewhere warm until it doubles in size, for 1 hour.
  3. Knead the dough. Sprinkle a handful of flour onto a clean work surface and place dough on top. Using your hands, knead the dough. Press down with the heel of your hand then fold the dough in half. Press down again, then fold. Keep kneading until the dough is smooth, about 5 minutes. Shape into a ball. Cut in half with a pizza cutter (this recipe makes 2 medium pizzas).
  4. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
  5. Using a rolling pin sprinkled with flour, roll out the pizza into a circle that is ¼ inch thick [I found it easier to do this directly on the pizza pan because I had no idea how to transfer the pizza onto the pan from the work surface].
  6. Brush the pizza with olive oil. Add marinara sauce, cheese and other toppings.
  7. Bake for 10-12 minutes [it turned out a bit underdone for my taste, I would do 15 minutes].
  8. You’re going to want to eat it right away, so don’t burn your mouth! Let it cool a couple minutes.

We ended up making one pepperoni and one pepperoni and mushroom pizza. My eldest and youngest sons really loved it, but my middle son said it was “too floury” and he only took a couple bites. O well! More for the rest of us. Like I mentioned above, it was good yet a bit underdone so I would bake it longer than 12 minutes.

There’s something about homemade pizza that’s so much better than getting a frozen pizza (which is what we normally do, it’s cheaper than ordering pizza). Making the pizza was educational for the kids, as they got to see yeast do its work and dough rise. It was good to make something savory for a change, as much as I like cake. It was a little challenging (working with dough always is), but worth it.

I’ll do one more recipe. My middle child’s turn to choose the following weekend: “Cookies and Cream Cupcakes”!

We made these the day before the Superbowl, so I was happy we were going to be sharing something sweet at our Superbowl party.

INGREDIENTS:

1 package of Oreos

1 ½ cups granulated sugar

½ cup oil (we used coconut)

3 large eggs

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

½ cup sour cream

2 ½ cups all purpose flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 ¼ cups milk

1 can of vanilla frosting

 

  1. Preheat the oven to 350. Line the muffin pans with paper baking cups.
  2. Crush the cookies. Put 30 cookies in a zip-lock bag and using a rolling pin, crush them into small pieces (there should be about 3 cups). Set aside.
  3. Make the batter. In a mixing bowl, combine the sugar, oil, eggs, and vanilla. Beat for 2 minutes. Add the sour cream. Beat for 30 seconds.
  4. Add the dry ingredients. Add the flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix well. While mixing on low speed, gradually add the milk. Increase the speed to medium and beat for 30 seconds.
  5. Add the crushed cookies. Fold 2 cups of crushed cookies into the batter until evening distributed. Set aside the remaining cup for the frosting.
  6. Fill each muffin cup ¾ full. Transfer the pan to the oven, and bake for 20 minutes.
  7. Let cool.
  8. Make the frosting. While the cupcakes cool, mix the remaining cup of cookies into the frosting in a mixing bowl.
  9. When cupcakes are completely cooled, decorate with a dollop of frosting. They say to add an Oreo to the top of each cupcake! But I think that’s overkill. However, I got a picture of one with an Oreo:

 

I think I will stop there. It’s been something to look forward to each weekend, this baking ritual. My kids are all about it!

 

BONUS BAKED GOODS:

On the first Saturday of February, I  had a Cupid’s Tea party and we had a pink heart shaped cake. It was boxed strawberry cake with a can of pink vanilla icing (and sprinkles).

And on the weekend of Valentine’s Day, my husband got us this giant box of donuts:

With that said, we are taking a break from baked goods this weekend (maybe!).

Happily

My husband and I don’t go out on many dates. When you have kids, you accept the fact that your “date nights” are times when you and your spouse get to watch a show on Netflix after the kids go to bed. We do that all the time.

But sometimes it’s important to change it up.

That’s where “Happily” comes in (it used to be called “Date Box”, and my husband and I still refer to it as such).

Every month, we get a nice sized white box in the mail (around $30)– our “at home date in a box”. It’s a surprise each time what the theme will be. There’s always a theme, always an activity, always a song playlist and conversation starters, and sometimes a card game too. Also, there’s always some food item. Examples of food centered boxes: make your own ice cream, make your own sushi, make your own donuts, make your own cake pops, and make your own mixed drinks. Now, because of this, you obviously have to do some prep before the date, such as buying the ingredients that are non-perishable.

This month was actually a prep-free date box, and I thought because today is Valentine’s day and maybe you’re stuck at home with your spouse, you might be thinking of date-night ideas. How about we go through this month’s box so you can get an idea of just one at home date.

This month’s theme is “I love the 80s”! Here is what the box looks like before you open it. I’ve actually reused these boxes, because they are sturdy and have a magnetized lid.

You open the box and you see what your date night is all about with a “Welcome to your Date!” written in big letters. This month is all about nostalgia for not only the 1980s but your own personal memories of your relationship. It looks like we are making a kind of time capsule.

Take off the cardboard covering, and first of all you will find the playlist. Go to spotify to find 80s music for background noise to your date.

On the other side of the card, are some conversation starters.

Next, there is a cool cardboard box that says “You look Good wearing my Future”, whatever that means! And also a tin lunch box time capsule, but we will get to that later.

In the small box, there is a checklist of “Dreams for Us”,  a card to write “The Best Relationship Advice We’ve Ever Received”, a card that looks like a VHS tape and it’s for “the Story of Us: 10 Movies that are Most Meaningful to Our Relationship”, and 2 cards and envelopes to write a note to each other. They also encourage you to add movie ticket stubs and wine corks and other mementos to the time capsule…and then hide the capsule away for the future.

Now we come to the lunch box, which I’m excited about.

Inside we have a real thermos filled with ‘80s candy! A Viewfinder game, and two little Rubik’s cubes. The Viewfinder game is called “Flashback”, with rules inside the box:

Well, that’s this month’s box! My husband and I aren’t going out tonight for Valentine’s Day but we are excited about getting the kids to bed and opening up the date box. It’s perfect for couples that don’t mind staying in.

F-U-N

This is my 200th blog post. I have to admit I didn’t know what to write about at first. I feel like I’ve written about everything. I write about myself, and I write about other people. My ideas, my hobbies, my opinions. Things that I find funny, memes and movies and top ten lists. It’s hard to think of content when my blog is so random. You might not think so but it’s true.

So I thought about what to write about for my 200th blog post, and was coming up with nothing.

Until I thought about my word for the year. My word for 2020 is “Fun”.

It’s not a word that inspires many; it’s not exactly a strong word like “Courage” or “Faith”. But I want this to be my word for this year because I really do want to be less serious and loosen up and discover the fun that life has to offer. I’m sick of always focusing on the what -ifs and worrying.

For one thing, I want to be more friendly and have fun with people. I’ve been slightly reclusive since I moved to Alabama two and a half years ago. I went to MOPS for two seasons and I only made acquaintance friends that I spot at Church and the kids’ school. (And at Church I leave as soon as the service ends; I don’t chat and get to know anyone). We say hi but that’s as far as our relationship goes. I just didn’t open myself up to anyone in MOPS since it was mostly small talk.

But this year I’ve already opened up more by texting one woman in particular; we’ve become walking buddies and have gone on a couple walks this year together. I hosted a Superbowl party on Sunday and had her and her husband and son come over for that.

I’m also going to rejoin the Bible study I was a part of in the Fall, and I invited the ladies who are in the study to a Cupid’s Tea. I don’t really invite people over, and I haven’t hosted a Cupid’s Tea since I moved. But I think it will be fun to host a tea party again, even if few people show up. I also invited some ladies in the neighborhood and a couple others.

Over the past few months I’ve been working my way up to being more social and friendly, and I’m going to keep trying to be a good friend this year. I’m friends with a couple neighbors, and I will try to nurture those relationships.

Something else I tried, just yesterday: start an internet trend! Not sure if it will catch on but hey, at least I tried it. And I had a lot of fun! Here’s the video:

I’m also making fun plans for the summer, even though it’s February. I haven’t been to the beach in over 4 years. This is the year we are going to go. I’ve never seen the Gulf Coast, and now that I live in Alabama it’s just 6 hours away (well, driving with three kids will make it an 8+ hour trip, let’s face it). But I’m excited! I’m looking at bathing suits online. Fun and colorful bathing suits. I might even get on with dinosaur print.

And then I need to have more fun with the kids. The other day I told the kids no more screens, and encouraged them to play loud music in the living room and dance. It was so much fun, because I was the DJ who selected the music on the Sonos player and the kids played and danced around. My husband even started dancing. Maybe before I would have been too tired and just let them play on their tablets so I can sit and veg out for that last hour before bed-time, but instead we made memories. And had fun.

So I’m going to try to be more spontaneous and do things I enjoy doing each day. I’m going to try to keep up writing on this blog, because it’s fun to write in the end, no matter how annoying it can be to have writer’s block. Maybe I’ll buy more makeup and experiment with it. Maybe I’ll dye my hair again. Go to an art museum. Get up early and watch the sunrise, or watch the sunset later in the day. Do more game nights with the family. Maybe my husband and I will try to hike as many new trails as we can instead of always hiking the same two trails. Speaking of which, my husband and I could do with more date nights.

I hope that this year is also more fun for you. I don’t know what you went through in 2019. Was it a difficult year? Luckily it’s in the past. This is a new year with new possibilities. What are your plans for 2020? I hope you have some fun ideas.

White Privilege and Gone with the Wind

There was a land of Cavaliers and Cotton Fields called the Old South…Here in this pretty world Gallantry took its last bow. Here was the last ever to be seen of Knights and their ladies Fair, of Master and Slave…Look for it only in books, for it is no more than a dream remembered. A Civilization gone with the wind…

When I was a preteen, I discovered the book Gone with the Wind.  Once I started reading it, I couldn’t put it down. I marveled at the way these characters were written, how they seemed to jump off the page…. they were so real. I felt at times superior to them and at other times, inferior, especially when it came to Melanie Wilkes. Like many people before me, I read late into the night and let my imagination carry me away, back to the mythical Old South.

The South that is portrayed in Gone with the Wind is not real.

In the real South…the slaves were not content. They were not regarded as “family” to be taken care of, but were possessions. The author Margaret Mitchell was a product of her time. She sat on old Confederate’s knees as a child and listened to stories about “the Old South”. These folks would talk for hours about the battles, the old days, and that old way of life. The Civil War was known as the War of Northern Aggression. No wonder she looked at the Old South through rose colored glasses.

Some people would like to think that we live in a post-racial period in history, but the fact is that racism is still alive and well. For a long time, I didn’t understand what white privilege was or that I had it. I felt that I was given no special privileges in life, especially being a woman. It took time and it took a few conversations with people for me to realize, slowly, that as a white woman I had advantages that people of color didn’t have. I’ve never randomly been pulled over by a police officer. The thought of that never occurred to me. But to many black Americans, it does occur to them. They have to live with that possibility. That’s just one example.

It’s easy to point the fingers at our ancestors who looked at people of color as lesser than. But racism comes in different forms. You see, I also was raised with the mindset of being “Color Blind”. Not seeing a person’s race. Everyone is an individual and the person’s race is unimportant. The problem with this ideology is that it ignores how other people are discriminated against. It’s just a way we ignore racism. Being conscious of a person’s race will bring attention to racial issues. These issues shouldn’t just be on the minds of people of color, but on the minds of white people as well. Also, a person’s race is part of a person’s identity and shouldn’t be erased. Being colorblind, I learned, is like we’re implying there’s something wrong with a person’s color. Plus it always applies to people of color, not white people. Another part of White privilege.

Many people learn what this privilege is, yet they deny that it exists. Perhaps the word “privilege” is the problem for some people here. The term privilege conveys a special right that belongs to a few, not the many. An everyday white person that had to work hard in this life….a poor white person living paycheck to paycheck….they don’t feel they have any privileges. It’s understandable that they don’t believe they have “White Privilege”. But if they had to do their lives over again as a black person, they would see the advantages they have.

Being treated like a human being shouldn’t be a privilege. Some white people can’t understand that being treated like a person is anything special. Sadly, it is a special right that is granted to white people and therefore, it’s a privilege.

We have come a long way from the Antebellum South. I’ve come a long way as a person. But there’s always room to grow. I still appreciate Gone with the Wind, both the novel and the movie. Yet I see it through a different lens. I don’t read it the way I did as a young teenager. This is a good thing. Every time I read Gone with the Wind, I read it differently. I hope all of us who are fond of Margaret Mitchell’s world that she created can re-read the book and come away with different thoughts and feelings than we’re used to. These days, I’m not swept away, but fascinated by this piece of folklore. I see its faults, and I know what’s coming….but if I were to pick that book up today I’d still have a hard time setting it down.

Hang-out Spot

I hear children’s voices upstairs. I hear the familiar voice of my oldest, my middle, and my youngest child…but there is a third voice. It’s their friend. He comes over quite a lot.

I’m really glad too.

I’m glad that my house feels like a place he can come and have fun. I’m also glad that his parents trust me to keep an eye on him. I’m happy my kids have a good friend.

Being the house where kids can come and hang out is great.

  • My kids are making memories.

Some of my best memories are hanging out at my friends’ houses or when they could come to my house. It was so much fun!

  • They are entertaining themselves.

Sometimes it’s easier to have more kids around because then they entertain each other. Last year when I had my 4 year old all day alone while the older two were in school, it was so hard. Trying to keep one child entertained is a full time job, but once the older brothers came home life was actually easier (albeit louder). Same principle with friends coming over. It’s louder but in many ways easier.

  • I know where my kids are located.

At their age, I’m not usually worried about where they are. Sometimes they hang out at other people’s homes. But I know the teenage years are coming….and I’d like to establish  my house as a hangout house. I’d much rather my teens are hanging out here than who knows where.

  • I’m building trust with other parents.

I’m befriending my kids’ friends’ parents in the process of my kids befriending other kids. We can show each other that we can be trusted for when the kids want to hangout, and sometimes, have sleep-overs. (We have only done a couple of sleep-overs but I imagine as the kids get older they will want to do those more often).

  • I have a firsthand glimpse of how my kids interact with other kids.

The kids don’t know I can overhear them. I mean, I’m always present but I’m not hovering. Anyway….so far, I’m quite pleased with how they interact. There’s some roughhousing, and sometimes arguing…but nothing malicious and no cussing yet! So that’s a win.

  • My kids know that I care about their social lives.

I truly care about my kids’ friendships. I think the more they can hang out with their friends, whether here or their friend’s house, the better. It’s why we live in a suburban neighborhood like this. I’d prefer to live out in the woods, but then the kids would have a harder time making friends.

  • I don’t mind feeding people.

Now, this might change as my boys become teenagers….but for now, I don’t mind sharing snacks with my kids’ friends. Honestly it doesn’t happen very much anyway.

  • I don’t care about keeping an immaculate house.

The rug is marked up, the walls have crayon marks, the couch is stained….and it’s ok. I like to keep a semi-clean home, but our house is for living in. I want it to be welcoming and cozy, and I believe I achieved this. This way, I don’t stress over kids coming over.

  • I feel good about being an involved parent.

And I hope to always be involved as my kids grow into teenagers. I’m setting the stage for when my kids are older, and I hope they always like hanging out at home, along with their friends.

 

When you were growing up, did you have your friends over a lot, or did you go over to their house? What’s your opinion on having your kids’ friends over all the time?