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Unless you’ve been meditating in the desert for weeks like Jared Leto, you know that we are in the middle of a worldwide pandemic. How long will this last? No one knows, but we can make it better by doing what is recommended: staying away from people as much as possible and washing our hands. It seems trivial to some, but my dear friend in Italy has seen just how bad this is. She and her family are fine, thank God, but so many are not. There are hundreds of deaths every day in places where there used to be such joy. I watch video from Rome, Florence, and Venice and remember how full of life those cities were when I visited just five years ago. The streets are empty, the obituaries are many. This is serious business, folks.

I don’t think I really have to explain the term “social distancing” since the entire world is doing it. If you’re not right now, you should be so we can get rid of this stupid virus and hug people again. I don’t know about you, but I miss hugging my friends. I hug Marty, obviously, but he does not want to be hugged all the time. Hugging Youngest Child is like trying to hug a rock right right now and he makes funny noises when I do. It will be good to hug other people again. Someday.

Like everyone else, we’re trying to find things to fill all of the extra time at home. Of course, there are always things that should be done, but aren’t pleasant. I’m forcing myself to do some of that. Things like scrubbing the kitchen cabinets. Or individually dusting all of the books in a bookshelf and then moving the bookshelf to clean the years of dust bunnies behind and underneath. I know, I know, I’m enjoying myself way too much, but it has to be done. Sigh. Sidenote: I hate cleaning. I keep a (mostly) clean house because, well, I don’t want to live in a dirty house and I love it when the house is clean, but I actually hate the process. I used to think I was a domestic person, but I’ve come to realize that I’m not. My mantra is, “Someday, I will hire a maid.”

Youngest Child has also decided that we are going to work out this entire time and that my running and sit-ups aren’t enough, oh, no. In the spirit of Jillian Michaels, he has added push-ups to my routine, six sets of an increasing number every night with a minute rest in between each set. Last night, I made it to six sets of seven. I hurt now. Marty wryly watches me struggle from the couch as the six-foot-tall teenager says that it’s good for us, that we’re going to be “ripped” this summer. Tonight, I’ll be up to six sets of eight. I don’t like push-ups.

Marty and I are also teaching remotely from home, which has been an interesting experience. We have apps that we can use to help us assign work and the students are familiar with the apps, but getting all 100+ of them to go online and do the assigned work is some of the problem. Most are, and they’re doing a great job, but some have limited internet access, even though the school lent out laptops to those who needed one. There are also others who are choosing to not do anything. We are grading their assignments, but at this point, the grades don’t count. The behavior management part of this has been FABULOUS, though. I haven’t written anyone up of kicked them out of my class in a week, although I did turn off a kid’s camera on Zoom yesterday for flipping everyone off. I was not shocked at who did the flipping off, either. It’ll be interesting to see where this all goes in the coming weeks.

There is no theatre right now. That’s something I’m super sad about, as are many people that I know. My cast and I were at least able to perform one weekend of The Glass Menagerie with wonderful reviews before we got shut down and there’s still a possibility that we could have one more performance to record, with no audience, and a cast photo once things settle down. Other theatres around here didn’t even get to open their March shows at all. Many are postponed until at least May or are cancelled outright. And that really, really sucks. I don’t want to get too deeply into that because I’m still having a hard time dealing with it. I know that there are many others in the same boat, but that doesn’t make it any easier. In the meantime, I’m still going over my lines every day, just in case.

With no theatre, I’m trying to focus back on writing, which is a good thing. I’m very close to finishing my sequel to Traveler (which is, by the way, available on Amazon. Hint hint.) and I have have a couple of other projects going as well.

I’m also focusing more on meditation. I’m very much in a learning frame of mind with metaphysical things and this has been a great time to explore, really be quiet, and let it happen. More on that later.

There’s time to read for fun again. I have a long way to go before I catch up to where Marty is, but I’ll try. I have about five books that I’m reading simultaneously at the moment.

Oh! I’m also planning my garden. I’m making a Shakespeare garden, kind of a big deal, with plants that Shakespeare references in his works. There will be a lot of new landscaping and I ordered a bunch of seeds that should be here any time now. I’ll post before and after pictures when things actually begin growing. Marty is scared.

So, what are you doing during this time? Drop a message in the comments or give this post a like. I’d love to hear from you. Reading comments gives me an excuse to not clean the basement.

Stay safe, everyone.

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I am a restless person, prone to periods of longing for where I want my life to be in several ways. I’ve had a particular goal for a long time, moving to London, making my living as a writer, and though I try to be patient, the reality is that it will be several more years, at least, before I can move Marty and myself to London. Unless I win the Mega Millions, in which case, we’re in London the next day. Like, the very next day. Gone.

I worry, though, that once I achieve my dream, I will continue to be restless, wanting something else. Marty calls me a gypsy, like my father, applied in many ways. I would love to think that London and writing would keep me content forever, but I worry about fending off that feeling even what I get what I desire. Will I ever be happy where I am?

I think about my one of my sister-cousins (see earlier posts for reference) when she was a baby. She screamed all the time. She had to be moving: bounced, in a stroller, dancing around the room, whatever. Movement was the key. UNTIL… she could crawl. Once she could get around by herself, independently, she was a different baby. She wanted to be able to get herself around, that was all. That’s what I hope happens to me, I just get to where I’m supposed to be and I’ll be fine. I hate the idea of struggling my entire life.

My question to my readers is this: Is there something that you strove for for a long time and when you got it, you were finally satisfied or were you still restless? Tell me in the comments. You’re awesome, I want you to know that.

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I’m sitting in Boston Logan Airport, having gotten here in plenty of time for my flight, and so I thought I’d write a little about what I’ve done the past two days. It actually started back in November when I planned my trip. For those that don’t know, my husband and I are genealogy nerds. We’re totally into ancestry.com, dusty old papers, and everything that goes with it. My Great-Aunt Kay sparked my interest in our family genealogy when I was a teenager and I’ve been hooked ever since.

I’ve known about my Salem relatives for a while and we did visit Salem as a family (4 out of the 5 of us) in 2018, but I really wanted to go by myself and spend some time in libraries and in the town looking to see what else I could find out. We don’t have school this week and I had a Delta gift card burning a hole in my pocket, so I booked a tiny room at a hotel in the middle of town and very impatiently waited for the next two-and-a-half months to pass, as evidenced by my frequent Facebook posts.

I won’t give a running commentary about my trip, I know it is much more exciting to me than to others, but there really is a lot of cool stuff in Salem and in the surrounding areas. Such as:

  • Figuring out a good MBTA route. I LOVE putting routes together and when they work, it’s even better. To get to Salem, I took a plane to Boston, the commuter train to a bus depot in Revere, and then a bus into Salem proper. Today, I did the reverse to get back. Everything connected just the way it was supposed to and I’m just waiting on the plane. BTW, Delta is awesome.

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    Catching a train

  • The bus is a great place to get to know real people.
  • I love how the Hawthorne Hotel took my request for a not actively haunted room seriously, even if the room was a little haunted anyway. It was okay. We (the ghost and I) had an understanding. I was, however, on the floor where the haunted room was supposed to be but I never saw anything.
  • The Salem Public Library is so cool, especially the reference staff! Check it out if you are ever in town.Image may contain: night and outdoor
  • I had a psychic, who had no knowledge of me, tell me that I am supposed to write books and to quit screwing around and get to it. Feeling personally attacked, but she’s right. As soon as Menagerie is done.
  • I talked with some super-nice people. A lot of them had accents. Delightful.
  • Like any city, Salem has its delinquents. There are roving bands of foul-mouthed teenage skateboarders that you just need to avoid. No biggie.
  • The PEM Reading Room (aka The Phillips Library) is a fantastic resource.
  • The architecture. I love New England style houses and buildings and because I took the bus and commuter rail, I got to see a lot of them. True, some of the newer stuff there is that ugly, generic, cheap, box store look that we have here, but not in the downtown areas. They either keep the original buildings or build new to match the rest. I love the way that a lot of the old buildings are re-purposed and not just torn down. It looks and feels so much better.
  • If you go to Salem, you simply must try a little restaurant called Bella Verona. It’s very tiny, so they’re probably crowded in the summer, so call for a reservation. The food and service are wonderful Another great place is the Flying Saucer Pizza Company.

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    Bella Verona

  • I got to hear a steady stream of a one-sided conversation in Chinese in my ear for about 15 minutes straight this morning. You guessed it… on the bus.
  • The history! Omg, Salem is a treasure box of history and not just about the with trials. It’s maritime history is extensive, one of my own grandfathers was a sea captain there. Everywhere you go, there are buildings more than two hundred years old. I love it so much.
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    The Judge Corwin House, aka The Witch House

    Isn’t it funny how you connect with some places and not with others? There’s no question here: Salem is in my soul now. I plan to return many times.

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I’m so excited to be a guest blogger on http://www.mothersrest.com this week! Click to read my post as well as all of the other great posts on MothersRest, hosted by Ginny Olson. https://www.mothersrest.com/be-good-humans/ I hope to host her here some day soon!

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Besides being a mom of three boys, I’m also a middle school teacher. And while I am of the persuasion that kids are precious and still learning and all of that, they can also be incredibly and deliberately cruel to one another. I hear it every day: taunts about weight, skin color, ancestry, hair, financial status. You name it, a middle school student has heard it either directed to them or to someone else. It’s really disturbing, sometimes, to hear what kids can say to each other. Girls are routinely called whores or bitches, boys are called pussies or girls as insults. Even eight- and nine-year-olds say these things. My school is a 4-8 and it still shocks me to hear a tiny 8-year-old tell another one to “shut the f- up.” This is even with all of the anti-bullying programs out there. By the way, this isn’t exclusive to my school, I’ve heard this my entire teaching career, including while subbing, at many different schools.

How we as adults deal with this behavior is really important. The thing is, a lot of times, when a child is subjected to these kinds of insults, adults either tell them to just ignore it or they turn the responsibility on the kid who was the target of the mean comment or action. They’re told to suck it up, “be a man” if they’re a boy (I absolutely DESPISE that term) instead of properly dealing with the situation. This sends the wrong message. I’ve heard boys say absolutely vile things to girls and when I’m confronting the boy, the girl will tell me that it’s okay, not wanting me to do something about it. The boy learns that he can get away with it and the girl learns to just let it happen. This teaches kids to not only expect but to tolerate verbal abuse, to accept it as a normal part of growing up when we should be teaching them to not say those things at all.

I’ve never been okay with that. When my boys would deliberately say or do something hurtful to one another, all most kids do, I tried my best to get them to understand exactly what they were doing, how words, especially, can hurt and for a very long time. I remember a lot of things said to me as a kid (as I’ve mentioned before, I was kind of an odd child by society standards) and I still feel a twinge of pain when I think of them. I wanted them to know that what they say in the heat of the moment can cut deeply. I wanted them to think before they spoke, to make a choice about what to do before repeating what someone else is passing around, and to put themselves in another’s position. Did it always work out in the real world? Honestly, I don’t know because I wasn’t with them 24/7 while they were at school or activities, but I do know that that kind of thing wasn’t tolerated in our house. I hope they remembered what we taught and what we tried to show them, even to this day.

I try to do the same thing when I hear students say these things. I pull them aside, if I can, one-on-one, and talk to them about what they said. Why did they say that? Do they even know what those words mean? Would they say that in front of their parents? (In some cases, the answer to that question is a heartbreaking, “Yes”.) What if someone said that to them? To their mother, father, siblings? In other words, I try to not only hold them accountable for their actions, but to do it in a way to make them think about why and to help them understand that there are consequences for their actions. Their brains are still growing and kids do dumb things when their bodies are changing and the hormones are flowing but that doesn’t mean that we can’t plant the seeds of being kind. It also means that we shouldn’t just dismiss it as “kids being kids” or, even worse, “boys being boys”. Shudder. And don’t be fooled, girls can be just as abusive, especially to each other, unfortunately.

Where do they learn it? It’s very simple. Us. The adults in their lives, either in their own homes or in the media, especially social media. Have you ever read the comments section? It’s a freaking scary place. Kids are left to roam online, unmonitored, uncensored, exposed to every racist, sexist, misogynistic thought out there. They are exposed to racism, porn of all kinds, not to mention incels and extremists. The internet is not a babysitter, but a lot of parents treat it that way. You don’t think your kid has seen anything? Don’t fool yourself. They’ve seen and heard more than you know. Even with the protections we took, our kids still managed to stumble on some crazy stuff. This is a scary time to be a parent.

What to do about it? Talk to your children. Learn about what’s going on their lives, who their friends are. Know where they’re going, not only physically, but online. Hold them accountable for their actions, teach them consequences without berating them and be consistent. Above all else, teach them to be kind and to treat others with respect in any situation and not just by telling them, by demonstrating it yourself. Treat others with kindness and respect and make sure your children see you do it, even if the waiter/waitress/customer service rep seems to be having a bad day and gets something wrong or the food is late. Don’t make disparaging remarks about women, men, other races or religions. Change your behavior if necessary and talk to your kids about it. Showing your kids that you can change is incredibly powerful. Be a good example.

Parenting is really difficult sometimes and most of us do the best we can, but we can always learn and grow. Parents are the most important example and influence in their child’s life. They imitate us, whether they realize it or not. The culture won’t change until we do.

Let’s raise kids to be good humans.

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We’re close to the Christmas season, particularly since Thanksgiving is so late. Despite my policy of taking one holiday at a time, I’m starting to think about Christmas-y stuff right about now. Of course, the decorations won’t come out for another week yet, but I’ve already started shopping in an attempt to get everything bought and wrapped by the day before Christmas Eve. The number of times this has happened in the past? Zero, but I do try every year.

All of this has stirred up some of my best memories. My grandparents, both sets, always made Christmas fun and special.

At Grandma and Grandpa Ballantyne’s house, we always celebrated on Christmas Eve with all of the aunts, uncles, and cousins. It was crowded and loud and I sometimes retreated to the back bedroom or the bathroom for a few minutes of quiet, but after I recharged, I couldn’t wait to join the fun again. Grandma made dinner and then all of us kids had to wait for what seemed like hours for the adults to stop talking while we eyed the mounds of presents. They always threatened to make us wait until after dessert, which, of course, was pure torture. Grandma’s tree always had mounds of tinsel spread throughout and I thought it looked lovely, like in a fairy tale, gifts heaped in piles spreading out from the trunk. Grandma loved giving; there were gifts for everyone. She always over-shopped, so we got tons of gifts, which my mother would grumble about for days afterward. I still have the non-Barbie doll with brown hair (like me!) that I got when I was three years old from “Santa” there. After presents, there was the chocolate eclair dessert that my great-grandma made, which was fabulous. We kids would play with our gifts and as the sugar crash began to happen, we were carted home to await Christmas morning.

At Grandma Ruth and Grandpa Nick’s house, it was a slightly calmer affair with fewer people, my brothers and I were the only kids for a long time, but wonderful, nonetheless. For several years, Grandpa would be waiting at the door for us with the old video camera rolling with actual film and no sound. There was dinner on Christmas Day and sometimes we had presents before dinner rather than after. I don’t remember a pattern. Before we opened presents, though, we had to put Baby Jesus in the manger because it was his birthday. (Side note: I know it’s not his real birthday. Just wanted to clear that up.) Christmas seemed holy and beautiful at their house, the emphasis placed on the religious meaning of Christmas and it felt special. I loved the smell of Grandma Ruth’s kitchen, she was an amazing cook. We always had ham with pineapple on top. I called ham “bugs” for the longest time. I have no idea why, so don’t ask. I was an odd child. There were always Christmas cookies with the sprinkles and cinnamon dots in the shapes of bells, Santas, Christmas trees, and reindeer. I have those cookie cutters now and I use them every year. Later, we sometimes played Uno or Go Fish with my aunt and uncle or I curled up in the old green rocking chair and read all the stories in Grandma’s Liguarian magazines until it was time to sleepily go home, where our other presents were waiting. I loved Christmas there.

Were we privileged at Christmas? Yes, we definitely were. Our gifts weren’t expensive, but the grandparents put a lot of thought into them and I always felt loved. The memories of being at their houses for Christmas are some of the best I have and as an adult, I can appreciate how much effort they put into making it wonderful for us. I hope my boys look back on Christmas with the same amount of mushy nostalgia as I do.

What is your favorite Christmas or other holiday memory? Share it in the comments, I’d love to hear from you.

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Marty and I attended a wedding for two of my theatre friends yesterday. What’s really cool is that I was in the show with both of them when they met and have been able to see their relationship begin and flourish, leading to the beautiful ceremony and reception yesterday. They are a magical couple and deserve all of the happiness in the world.

As I listened to them recite their vows that they wrote themselves and watched them try to hold back their happy tears, I held my own tears back and thought of my wedding day, almost twenty-three years ago now. I was so young and so unprepared for what marriage really takes, but at that moment, I didn’t care. I was excited and in love and I thought it would be all sunshine and rainbows. After all, we hadn’t even had a fight yet, at least not a real one. Boy, have I learned a lot since then!

I love my marriage but it has definitely not always been easy. Money woes, communication issues, being parents of three young boys, unemployment, HOUSE ISSUES (omg, this house…), a miscarriage, and my depression issues, meant that things were broken sometimes and forced us to think about what was really important and to work it out. We had to learn to be honest with each other about our feelings and truly listen to each other. For someone like me who was always “fine” (I wasn’t), this was extremely difficult. But, do you know what? Doing the hard work was worth it, especially when it would have been so easy to just walk away, but we didn’t want that. We’ve grown so much as a couple and a team over the last few years. I can honestly say that my husband is my best friend and that I am happy in our marriage. I recognize that that’s not true for a lot of people. I’m so happy and fortunate that I’m married to someone who doesn’t want to always be right (except during Jeopardy), he wants to work with me toward our goals as a couple and my individual goals, just like I want to work with him. He loves and accepts me, weirdness and all. We learned together. That’s what marriage is about.

Would I tell my young bride-self this if I could? Maybe, but she probably wouldn’t listen, silly, headstrong thing that she was. Experience is a good teacher and going through what we have, I really appreciate us now.

I thought about all of this yesterday during the wedding and reception. I squeezed Marty’s hand, more than once, and made him dance as much as I could. In my mind, not only was I celebrating the beautiful union between my friends, but also between us.

Feeling so very thankful with a full heart today.

 

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