Moving Mountains

I’m packing up my house. In the time I’ve been keeping this journal of our lives, I’ve written through multiple moves—some happy, some devastating. This one feels different again. Today I packed up my office. This has been a holy space for me, a place where I locked myself in to write The Burning Point in five weeks one winter, where I completed 72 units of law school during a world-wide pandemic, where my kids come to flop in the tattered green chair (that is so comfortable) and tell me what’s on their mind. I was pulling the tacks out of my cork board and putting all the pictures in a box while the Indigo Girls sang Closer to Fine and I just sat down on the carpet in a puddle of tears. Look at these babies. Look at these beautiful faces and theses seasons of life that have come and gone and what good things these people I love have helped me create. So many moments of joy and laughter and happiness in this house. Of course there have been punctuations of sorrow and grief and anger too, but the old adage is true: you remember the good. This beautiful house has been the most stable and loving home of entire remembered life.

While the house has been good to me, Virginia and I are not made for each other. I tried. I really, really did. So did the six people who live here (all of whom were born in the west). I have concluded, after this extensive experiment, that there is a substantive difference between the east and west of the United States. That conclusion further leads to the hard truth that I am western to the marrow of my bones. In my eleven years on the east coast, I have been enchanted by New York City, by Broadway, by losing Bean in Central Park, by seeing fantastic shows. I have loved having the treasures of the Smithsonians at my pleasure any day of any week. I’ve hung out at Monticello and Mount Vernon, and felt uncomfortable at both. I have been surprised at the warm ocean in the Carolinas. I have seen Williamsburg and Gettysburg and been informed at the Battle of Bull Run that it’s actually the Battle of Manassas because only Yankees call it Bull Run and this is Virginia ma’am.

Turns out I’m not only western, but I am a Yankee too.

I won’t weigh in on the South, because I have been informed that the part of Virginia in which I live is not actually the South. It’s a peculiar place. For the folks who love it here, I am so genuinely happy for you! You may have your charming coastal flats, your curling ivy and ancient magnolias, your pervasive green with a heavy white sky, and your gentle ocean with shallow waves and a wide slope into the sea. You can also have your hot fog and mosquitos.

It was hard to make friends here—at least for me. Western openness and friendliness seems to be viewed with wariness. Never in my life did I have a hard time making friends. People in my neighborhood kept to themselves and were not open to more than a polite driveway greeting. I didn’t know what to do with that. Connections and community seem to be founded on family connections, what school you went to, who you know, where your spouse works, what summer camp your kids go to (that was a new thing—you send your kids away all summer?) than on being neighborly with folks. It really is different. Not bad, but different. And it never felt like home.

So I am leaving a very good, very lovely, very charming, and very happy house. We are taking all the kids and all the animals with us, and we are heading to the Rockies. Jon hasn’t been able to stop smiling since we received word that his job will allow the change in locale. We hope that whoever will live in our house next finds it as loving and happy as we did, and I hope they have family nearby that will add laughter and joy to the walls and allow them to feel truly at home. It was a wonderful house for us. But it was not home, and we are ready to go home.

The Mercy of Silence

For years I have wished I had something David wrote before he died. Today I had a powerful reminder that that wish unfulfilled is a mercy.

It’s easy to forget in the fading distance of years what a monster addiction is and what it does to the person you love. You’d think I would never be able to forget, but time does in fact dull the edges. Addiction takes over the mind and body of the person you love—and while the face and shapes are still there as you desperately try to reach them, Addiction is has taken the wheel and is in the driver’s seat. That person will say and do terrible things with the information they have access to in the mind of your loved one—both to you, and to themselves. It’s monstrous.

I was fortunate that in between relapses, when I would tell David about the things he said and did—when I still had hope that maybe this time recovery would stick—he was suitably horrified and ashamed. He had no memory of his words or his actions, and did his best to make amends. But there are things seared into my memories that I will never be able to forget. However briefly though, I was able to see him again. That cycle, as awful as it was, allowed me to see that active Addiction and David were not the same.

I don’t write that to make excuses. The addict is responsible for the harm they cause; I write to try and remind myself of the distinction. The Addict did things David would never do. The addict said things David would never say, and things he did not feel, think, or believe. The Addict was a monster who stole every good thing and a million possible futures not just from me and our children, but ultimately from David.

If he’d written something as he was finally driven off the cliff, it would not have been from David. For the first time, I am grateful for the silent absence tonight.

Peace and mercy to anyone who is familiar with this path. May time soften the edges of your grief, too.

Like a Stone: Greif

And on I read
Until the day was gone
And I sat in regret
Of all the things I’ve done
For all that I’ve blessed
And all that I’ve wronged
In dreams until my death
I will wander on

In your house, I long to be
Room by room, patiently
I’ll wait for you there
Like a stone
I’ll wait for you there

I once read somewhere that when a person loses a limb they may feel phantom pains and sensations where that part of themselves once was. My heart finds it poetic and achey that the mind continues to carve space and precious dendrites and electricity for something that is missing, gone, an echo.

Last week I came across a little query meme asking if you had ten minutes with someone you lost, who would you choose— my breath didn’t even catch before the answer spilled into my hands, but before I could even catch his name, I knew would give every last second of that time to my children. Ten minutes. Ten. Precious. Minutes.

As the years roll on, the time he’s been gone grows longer; our children have known more life without him than they knew with him, and they were barely old enough to know him at all. That truth will stretch on infinitely. They barely remember him except for the stories I tell and the finite pictures (where there will never be more). I talk of him often and easily, but it’s not enough. It was never going to be enough.

And I feel that phantom pain in the part of me he took with him. Parts of me are missing and will be missing forever—there is no getting them back, no magic word or prayer or modern marvel that will restore what is gone. They are parts that no one can see or feel, and that when you look at me don’t even exist anymore. But those missing pieces do exist. They exist as real as anything that ever was in my mind, where precious dendrites and electricity perform a magical and painful alchemy of what once was.

If we’re all stories in the end who is to say what’s real anyway.

Imagining Spring

Over the last three and a half years, I’ve written only a scant two dozen pieces documenting this life. Right now I’m comfortable in my office, cold dark outside the window, warm light bathing my desk. Brandi Carlile is singing to me about saints and sinners and wild horses and she’s always perfect. She also made me think about the gaps in my story, and why I started writing so long ago. Maybe the gaps speak for themselves but if I were reading my grandma’s story, I’d want to know more.

The last few years have deconstructed me in ways that I never could have anticipated or wished for, and yet like most things unwished for, the sharpness also often bears gifts. There have been relationships that have deepened and nurtured, and there have been others that I have quietly let go and others that remain unresolved. There have been surprising, unlikely friendships I never expected, and there have been missed opportunities beyond my control that I won’t be able to recover, and potential experiences I am forced to watch fade with melancholy sadness decorating the edges of my field.

Somehow I picked the worst and hardest possible time and way to go back to school as a returning student, on top of picking one of the harder professions to join. I did it. There are lovely framed papers up and down my office walls, peppered in latin and gold calligraphy. They all say I did something, that I am learned, and licensed, and honored, and that I may represent others before tribunals and courts. It came at great cost.

I’m not meaning to be oblique or cagey. We’re just not all the way through to whatever the new normal is going to be. Along with looking for a good permanent home for my legal work, I am still schooling several of my kids as well as trying to shepherd them through the last few years of their teens and into adulthood and independence. When I write, I am aware now that their stories are not mine to tell—if they ever were. We’ve had talks all along about the things I share in my writing, and they’ve always had a say, but how much can a child actually consent? I hope I threaded the needle and never exploited them in sharing, but it ultimately is up to them to decide if I did or not.

David always told me just to write and not worry about other people, but I don’t think that applies to our kids. But it does mean that now that they are young adults my own transition continues. I have gone from young expectant mother, to harried mom of many littles, to mom of a kid with a disability, to a woman processing divorce and the loss of a spouse, to single welfare mom, to college student mom, to a woman remarried and finding new joy, to step mom, to mom of teens, to law student, to pandemic homeschooling mom, to bar-passing attorney. And I’ve written through it all. Who am I now? I don’t quite know.

I have a second career queued-up and I know what I want to do. But in 2023, I am not the same person I was in 2019 when I started school. There were so many things I was certain of back then, and now I am certain of very little. I suppose every law student goes through a period of disillusionment and cynicism. I understand better why old lawyers tell young people not to go to law school. I would do it again anyway. But I understand.

One of the benefits of this extended time at least a degree removed from the world has been the realization that I deeply love and enjoy the company of my husband and children. I never would have chosen this experience from a grab-bag of choices, but the secret gift held on the spiked cost has been time together. Uninterrupted time. We’ve all had responsibilities for sure—and school took a lot of my time. But there were no carpools, no conflicting schedules, no one had to be anywhere but home. There was time to learn to cook together, to watch shows together, to really listen to and appreciate each other, to have unexpectedly deep conversations around the kitchen counter at 3 a.m. because no one had to be to school in the morning. And we realized that we all deeply like each other. I personally realized that nothing came close to the importance of the people I love.

I am learning—sometimes gracefully, sometimes as an abject mess—to navigate the new ways my family needs me. Jon and I are shifting from the intensity of parenting teen children to letting go and being there in meaningful ways for children transitioning to adulthood. They still need us, but in different ways—they also need us to step back, to watch as they practice the skills and values we hopefully taught them. And Jon and I are able to turn to each other more, as the intensity of parenting lessens. We didn’t have the early years of a marriage without kids, and jumped in together midstream. I don’t know what I expected but its been better than I could have hoped. Jon, just by being who he is, has provided us with a stability and safety we never knew. That in turn has allowed us to process our own experiences and sorrow in healthier ways, which then allowed us to be better people. Jon has likewise been transformed, but his story is not for me to tell. He has his own blog, but it remains his secret.

We also have the patina of the pandemic over our entire lives, and we aren’t done yet, nor have we figured out (and I mean “we” in the collective, as a country and the world) how to process it. Our family has largely returned to basic activities, but as a family we still mask and don’t eat inside restaurants. While Jon’s been to visit his family in Utah a few times and he travels occasionally for work, I haven’t seen my west coast family since before law school.

Oddly, my relationship with my brothers and my mom is better than its been in memory. It’s amazing what therapy can do. Who knew? Historically I seldom write about my mom, and there were/are good reasons for that. It’s been a long and difficult relationship but there have been major (major) breakthroughs and accountability that have allowed me to heal long neglected sorrows. I think this can also be credited to the forced slow down and having time to look at ourselves and what we value a little closer over the pandemic. I hear Lizzo in my head, it’s about damn time.

One of the things I am looking forward to as we return to life is traveling again. It’s part of why I haven’t been in a rush to find just any job—I am looking for one that allows me to have a work/life balance, and that’s not something that’s easy to do as a new lawyer. But I am also not 26. I have a family of six, and working grinding billable hours isn’t something I want to pursue. There is a cost in that choice—public service jobs never pay as well as private practice, but that’s always been a known. I also am not the primary earner, which is a massive privilege I fully recognize and which allows me to look for work I want.

Another iron in the fire is a collective familial desire to return west. Both of our families are anchored in the west, and all of our children were born in the west—as well as both of us. And I still have David with me; I would like to find a resting place for him. The west is home for all of us. For now we are tied to D.C. and we don’t know when that will change, but we have the door open and are starting to look at what may come our way. Being closer to family—especially as both of our parents really start to age—is becoming more and more important. I feel the arc of time more than I used to.

I also want the kids to have opportunities to put down their own roots, to find their own paths and people, and start to craft their own lives and adult educations and aspirations. Everything was paused three years ago, and while we’ve been quiet and slow about it, we have been gently working towards some longterm goals for each of them. I am so proud of all of them and the work they’ve put in, each completely unique in how and what they have focused on and contributed.

In the meantime, I cruise between open job-listing tabs and Zillow, looking for quirky towns with old houses and imagining what spring may bring.

The Sentimentality of Things

Recently I lucked upon a 1903 Craftsman library table at a local secondhand store. It was battered and the table top was damaged but a quick once-over revealed that it was otherwise solid quatersawn oak with mortise and tenon joinery instead of nails or screws. I gleefully paid the $60 price tag without haggling and had Jeff help me shove it in the back of the car.

I snapped a photo of it and texted it to my mom, who spent my youth refinishing antique furniture and whom I knew would appreciate my find. She coached me through the handwork necessary to bring back a 120 year old piece of furniture while honoring its integrity. I didn’t want to modernize it, but rather to gently bring back its beauty to what it would have been. (I admit I am someone who usually (not always) cringes in pain at folks painting and flipping vintage wooden furniture.)

In order to protect the wood, I sanded everything by hand. It took days, and my shoulders ached and my hand had numb spots. Each time I imagined I was done, I would find another little spot where just a bit more sanding would remove the decades of grime. I suspected what was under the near-black layers of buildup on the old stain. but I wasn’t quite prepared. Before sanding, and after:

The whole thing went this way. Deep grime gave way to gorgeous quatersawn flake. (This is usually found on old furniture, where the wood is sawn at an angle to bring out the depth of the growth rings.) The table had build-in bookshelves on each end, and was meant to be floating in a room, where it could be a work table and also hold necessary books and supplies close at hand. Hence, “library table.” Anyway I could go on about the beauty of old furniture crafstmanship, but know this piece is remarkable and I appreciate the hell out of it.

Honestly, a couple of times working on it I caught my breath. It’s just beyond beautiful, and perfectly encapsulates the design and mission/craftsman movement of the very early twentieth century. Natural materials and their simple beauty were embraced and showcased. As a point of fact, those small pyramids on the corners? Those are the tops of the solid oak legs, which continue unbroken through the desk top. The same grain is on the bottoms of the feet.

Now I have a predicament. The piece is sanded, moisturized, stained, oiled, and restored. I have temporarily placed it in my living room while I try and figure out how to rearrange the Jenga-tower that is my home. With two adults working from home, and 3 kids still at home full-time, two of whom are also home-schooling (covid is not over for the immunocompromised) we have had to make use of every corner of our not-large (by American standards for a family of six) home. The dining room has been transformed into Jon’s home office, the front room is the kids’ school space, the boys are doubled up in the basement, the girls have their own space, and I took over the smallest bedroom (9′ x 10′) as my law school classroom and office.

Because my room is so small and because I spend so much time in there, I have carefully curated my setup. Its a good room, but because the space constraints are so tight—even with my tetris skills—the options on arrangement are limited. I use an old console table as my desk that was a gift from my brother-in-law. It’s narrower that a typical desk, it wobbled a bit, and the finish is scarred from years of writing and law school. I do not love it…and yet I discovered this week that I am oddly attached to it.

I have a gloriously restored 120 year old desk that takes my breath away. I spent several hours and generated a lot of chaos and mess rearranging my tiny room in an attempt to make the desk work. It’s hard to fit a 4-foot wide floating desk in a 9-foot wide room and still have functional shelves and space around it. It may be impossible. But in the process of trying, I realized that my working desk has actually become quite sentimental to me, despite my general lack of appreciation for its design. It’s quite functional for the space I have, and besides that, we’ve been through a lot together.

I imagine my working desk feeling bad at being replaced after years of service, and I laugh at my own absurdity. And yet, here I sit, my trusty computer perched upon the scarred and slightly uneven familiar surface as its always been. I once again measure out the room and reimagine all the possible configurations, while the restored library table waits downstairs.

I wonder what I will do.

Winter Solstice

We were in standstill traffic on the mall after spending time at the Smithsonians this afternoon when the president’s motorcade whirred past, headed towards the capital. Bean said, “There goes Joe Biden and Captain Ukraine…” and that about captures it.

If you’re one to observe such things, take a moment tonight to pause in the deep darkness and observe the stillness before the rebirth of the light part of the year. No matter what, the light always returns. It’s a hard lesson to learn; we are instinctively and culturally wary of the darkness. Trust that the light will return means we must know that darkness, have been in dark places, and seen the dawn for ourselves. I leave you the blessing the poet Robert Hunter once wrote, “If your cup is full, may it be again.”

The Light Tipped

I felt the light tip this afternoon, and it took my breath away.

When I am sitting at my desk there is a window to the front yard to my left, and I was puzzling out a legal question—my phone set to “box fan” white noise so I could think without being distracted by the Saturday cadences accompanying a family and their five animals. I was looking up something when a tiny pinpoint of gold light hit the edge of my eye. My fingers were suddenly still.

“There it is…” I thought. I wait for this every year—it’s never exactly the same, but it never fails to show up. It’s one of my favorite moments in time, and many years I am looking for it. I swiveled my chair around to look out the window. Yep. There it is…the light changed. The leaves are still bright green and it’s hot and humid in Virginia with afternoon thunderstorms more often than not—it will be summer for a while yet. But it doesn’t matter. The light tipped.

Behind the still bright-green leaf tips is the sap starting to slow in the rough-barked trunks. The yard bunnies (yes, we have a family of yard bunnies) are getting thicker, and air smells different. As I get older, I appreciate this reliable tiny moment of beauty more and more. Everything changes. And it’s fine…because everything changes.

Graduated. Bar Passed. Now What?

You know, one of the nice things about outliving the age of blogs is that maybe I can write for just me again. I know a few folks still pop by, but I think reader feeds have gone the way of the dinosaur, and it turns out Twitter really did mean what it said with it’s whole “micro-blogging” nonsense.

It’s June 2022 and we are two and half years into the Covid pandemic, and the virus does what they do when they are allowed to proliferate unchecked…they infect, mutate, and reinfect. We are all vaccinated and boosted, but we are nearing the outside window of expected efficacy without news of a new shot or new booster. The public health messaging has been an abysmal disaster, and the takeaway is that everyone is on their own. We are among the handful of folks who still distance and mask. I don’t know what else to do but to keep going.

The world feels pretty scary. Part of me thinks its always been this way, but we simply lacked the immediacy of instant news and streaming information that wasn’t vetted by professionals, and I large part of me believes even when we think we are smart, we really do need experts to help give context and structure. This free-for-all doesn’t seem to be working so great. There is a rising tide of bigotry and animus for folks who are different, and the open white nationalism is alarming to anyone who knows even a little bit of history. I’m not pointing out anything new here—simply acknowledging this is where we are and that it’s frustrating.

It’s a surreal time to be entering a profession steeped in history and precedent and that prides itself on stability and reliance and comity and literal rules. Because, hey folks…things are also not great on this front. Recent Court decisions are radically remaking American law in ways that are destabilizing and in some cases simply make no sense within the established legal theories. “Because that’s how I feel and its my personal belief” has never actually been a supportable legal framework. I’m vacillating on direction—I am still dedicated to policy, protection and advocacy—but the structures around those issues and the existing work are far more nuanced than I knew when I first jumped in the ring.

Many folks graduate from law school with a job offer already in hand. I decided I needed a break. I carried an overload for all of law school, and then I immediately jumped into bar prep–which is normal, but the schedule is much tighter doing it the way I did than the traditional tract. I am learning that burnout is real, and it doesn’t go away with a couple of warm baths and some Brandi Carlile, no matter how good she is.

This time has been shit for absolutely everyone. Of course I decided to go to law school just as a pandemic hit. I have a medically vulnerable partner and I myself have autoimmune issues. Kids with IEPs got dropped in the shift to homeschool and they lost a whole year of academic achievement. Depression and anxiety created a background thrum that only varied but never stopped. Carrying an overload my own ability to be present emotionally was limited, and everyone needed time and care from me once I graduated—including me. When I say “It was hard” I think only people who lived through this will really understand. It’s going to bind us like the events of the depression did to our great-grandparents.

Anyway. I graduated.

I took the bar exam in February, and I found out in May that I passed. That experience probably deserves its own post and maybe now that it’s several months in the past I can examine it. For now, I passed with a sufficient margin to practice in all UBE jurisdictions, which is what I wanted. But I am all for overhauling the entire system. Now I am considered “admittance pending” while I wait for the rest of my process to clear and be sworn in.

My school did hold graduation ceremonies, but they chose to do so inside, and without a mask requirement. That made the event unsafe for our immunocompromised family to attend in-person. I was incredibly sad for a couple of beats. I wanted to see my friends, to celebrate how hard this was with the people who did it with me, to actually walk that dais. My name was cleared to attend via live-stream, and my kids hooded me from home when the dean read my name and honors. Then with Kelsey’s help, Jon and Jeff took pictures of me in the yard.

I’m reaching out to mentors and talking with supervisors at my internships. I had excellent experiences and good connections from my three positions—my first was in policy on capital hill, the second for an appellate organization working in federal courts on disability rights, and the third with the office of chief counsel for the federal government. I received an award for pro-bono work from the state, and multiple honors from my law school. I should be ok, and I am remarkably not anxious about it. Every step of this process felt like I’m doing what I am supposed to do, and I’m going to keep going.

I am also hate-using Linked-In because I have been informed I must. I’m pretty sure even the federal government’s internal OS is less clunky.

In my time resting I was able to take on a few projects that I back-burnered for the last couple years. I redid both Abby and Kelsey’s rooms, and then I tackled all three bathrooms in the house. Fresh paint, new towels and rugs, everyone is happy. Up next is a minor addition to the kitchen. The kitchen in this house may be worse than Linked-In. Without the additions I made it’s not useable—like, there is literally only one lower cabinet, and it’s a corner that you can’t even reach all the way into. A few years ago I built the island and it added desperately needed storage. I’ve always used a shelf unit on the far wall to make up the difference, but I’m going to actually add real cupboards there. I found some really nice used ones on Craigslist from a remodel and it should be a fairly simple project compared to the island. For that I had to reroute the HVAC vent and move some electrical. This is less complicated. I’ll post pics.

More to come as I process and start to dust out the interior rooms…

A Small Announcement

Hey. Hi there. It’s been a while, hasn’t it? Things still suck *waving hands* and we are in the middle of a wave of Omicron covid—which for our family means a hard lockdown again. We’re vaccinated, but I know enough folks who are who have had this, that we don’t really want to risk even a “mild” case where “mild means being sick for a week and possibly having long-term effects—especially given the multiple disabilities in our home. As always I acknowledge our privilege in being able to keep ourselves safe, and I wish my country was doing better in making things safe for everyone. So many things I wish right now…

But this is a post about some sunlight and accomplishment, even amid some pretty thick clouds. First and foremost, documenting for my posterity: I graduated from law school. My last final was in December but I was on tenterhooks until grades posted. It was a hell of a week for me—grades were four (interminable) days late, I was waiting on biopsy results (all clear), and my anxiety meds were lost in transit due to a wild winter storm. I was a lot of fun for those four days, my family will verify. It was a ride.

I did it. Not only did I complete my coursework, but I graduated in the top-ten of my class, and with the best grades I have ever earned. The circumstances for so much of this experience were more difficult than I could have imagined, but it’s done. And do you know what? I’m proud of myself. There were a lot of days I wanted to quit, where it all felt too hard, and I wondered why I picked law instead of something less…demanding and exacting. But I kept thinking of Shel Silverstein’s Melinda Mae and her whale. One tiny bit at a time. And if you just keep going, there you are.

I plan to walk with my cohort in May. Those friends and I have been through it.

I am eyeball deep in studying for the bar exam now. Each day Barbri yells at me to study more, and keeping that little green tracker in the green is shockingly motivating to my annoying-ass type-A anxiety. I have 39 days to go, and I am about 1/3 of the way through the program. There isn’t really a way to convey the volume of things we are supposed to know—it’s another whale, only I have far less time to eat that sucker. Bottoms up, here we go.

Around the house, we are mostly ok-ish. The kids have stepped up and stepped in to take on things while I am swallowed whole by study. If they were younger I would feel guilty, but given that they are now 20, 18 and almost 16, I feel like this is solid practice for living skills. I pay Jeffrey to tutor Bean and Abby in math and computer science, and we’re unschooling on history and English. They’re all bright and creative, and the reports they give me on what they’ve learned are both amusing and incredibly interesting. Meanwhile, Kelsey is halfway through her first semester of college in far-away Utah. Somehow she’s managed to dodge and weave her way to avoiding getting sick and is doing a good job at transitioning to full adulting. I really hope later this spring we can all figure out whatever the new normal is going to be.

Tiberius is turning into a grumpy old man, and Dingus is smarter than all the four-legged and manages to coax the old man into occasional play. We’ve become one of those houses with throw rugs everywhere to keep our senior dog from slipping, and it’s all perfectly fine. He deserves to be a king for however long he’s with us—which we fervently hope is a long time yet.

Jon and I have continued to work from home, though my own work is on hold while I study for the bar. I don’t have a guaranteed position lined up yet but I do have several options presented to me that I am considering. I’ll worry about which is right and what I want to do after the bar exam.

I’m going to avoid the things that are making me a rage-monster right now, but the short list is the erosion of the rule of law in my country, the failure and slow-motion collapse of the public education system (not the teachers faults!), the systemic failure of caring for each other, and don’t even get me started on disability law and advocacy. I promise I will return.

In the meantime, it’s Friday night, and I’m going to go make dinner—cooking during quarantine and law school has become even more of a balm for me, and I have really gotten better and perfected some things I long wanted to learn. I am so happy in the kitchen—even though my cupboard space is so tiny my spices fall on my head when I open them.

I can hear Bean gleefully cackling downstairs while he tells his siblings a Chinese folktale he learned, and Jon is waiting patiently for me to wrap up my week so we can watch PBS cooking shows.

This is where we are today.

I hope you and yours are as well as can be, given *waves hand again* …all this.

Stretched & Fractured

I know I’m not the only one out here not doing so great…

There appears to be two worlds emerging from this chaos. In one circle there are people who have carried on, returned to “normal” (if they ever stopped at all) and are moving through the world as if Covid never happened—even though it’s still killing people. In the other circle there are those of us who took seriously the risk to the vulnerable, took seriously that literally millions of people have died around the world, including over 700,000 in the US. We locked down, we kept our bubbles, we took great care when necessity required we leave our bubble because we knew it wasn’t only ourselves we risked harming.

There are entire dissertations to be written on the multiverse that is the United States right now. That’s way bigger of a bite than I am qualified to take or even attempt to manage. But I see it. I’m stripped of the privilege of believing that people’s better natures would win out. I am stripped of the privilege of thinking “not here, it can’t happen here.” I don’t think I will ever recover the safety and security I once enjoyed. And maybe that’s fine, maybe I needed to lose that.

I can’t attend my church again and sit next to people who blatantly demonstrated their disregard for the lives of the vulnerable, the elderly. Watching folks who claim the same faith I do and then make excuses for letting some people die, for placing their convenience above the right of another person to live. A person doesn’t get over that. A person doesn’t forget that. I think it was Maya Angelou who said “When people show you who they are, believe them.” I understand now, ma’am.

America showed the world that we are so selfish and so foolish that we allowed basic science and public health protocols to become litmus tests of political affiliation, and performative political affiliation was more important than protecting the elderly, the disabled, and eventually, even more important than our own children. Of course it wasn’t all of us. But there were enough that it tipped the scales dangerously and cost so many…so many…lives. And millions of us shrugged, while the rest of us tried to hold ourselves and everything together.

In my own house—in my greater family thank god—there has been care. Everyone in both of our families has taken the last 19 months seriously. All of our parents and siblings and their spouses are vaccinated, collectively more than 30 people, with about a dozen children still too young. That’s been a calming reality for me, that our people have not betrayed their love for one another in favor of pottage. But we live in communities where some are cavalier, and we are not immune from the sickening effects of their stupidity.

Are my words harsh? I don’t know, go to the NICU at your nearest hospital and ask those nurses. Go to the morgue in your county and ask the coroner how they’re doing. I am commanded to mourn with those who mourn, and I have to love everyone as a believer in Jesus, but I don’t have to be perfect at it, and I don’t have to place myself in danger to do so.

Because we chose to take a deadly pandemic seriously, every facet of our lives has been affected. We both work remotely (full acknowledgement of the privilege inherent to do so). Most of our kids school remotely. In about five weeks, I will have completed 73 units of law school remotely. Nothing about it has been easy. There’s been a mental health toll, a physical health toll, an emotional toll. We have not seen our extended families. We have missed holidays and birthdays and anniversaries and births. We watched as other people did these things because they, too, were tired of being alone—and then watched as the damage and casualties resulted. Someone I know attended a funeral in person and was one of 38 people from the funeral to test positive. Jon’s uncle died, and we attended the funeral via zoom. Jon’s been in the ICU too many times pre-Covid to roll those dice now. Nothing is worth that.

Will I get a law school graduation? Maybe. I’m sad about the prospect of not, but I also will not endanger my family or others by satisfying something I want as more important than someone else’s life. I worry about what I have missed in isolation that I would have otherwise learned had covid never happened. But it did, and my law school experience is something the entire legal classes of 20, 21, and 22 are going to carry with us, for better and for worse. I am hoping there is good that can be mined from it—that we can increase accessibility for the disabled, make work and life more balanced, decrease unnecessary commutes, and have a familiarity with technical assistance devices that will allow us to serve clients better. That’s my hope.

I had my second quarantine birthday, and now we all have had two while in isolation. This is one of those things I think its good we didn’t know and couldn’t see when this all started. It would have felt far to heavy to digest. And yet here we are. Abby turned 15, Kelsey and Bean both turned 18, Jeff turned 20, Jon had a 50th. None of the things we wished to do to celebrate those milestones was possible. So we place those hopes and dreams in a box, to be taken out sometimes in the indeterminate future of “when all this is over.”

The next five weeks are going to be hard. My class load isn’t particularly heavy, at least compared with previous semesters, but I am also working 25-30 hours a week on top of full-time school. And homeschooling two kids. And starting bar prep. And it’s a lot. But like everything else, you just keep going. What else are you going to do?

I hope you and yours are well. I hope time brings healing to what currently feels like unbridgeable breaches of collective trust. I hope. But I don’t know anything anymore.