I am finding myself oddly relieved that summer is on its way out whilst simultaneously dreading the advent of Fall for, perhaps, the first time in my adult life. I have always loved PSL season, the thrill of premature seasonal decor in the harder-core neighbors yards, (anyone who used to follow me on Instagram knows exactly which neighbors I speak of: At the time of publication, a skeleton biker gang, zombie red riding hood and a big bad werewolf AND 5 dozen fake pumpkins had already been spotted. Also, a single, empty wheelchair waits hauntingly atop their driveway. One can only imagine what mid-September will yield.) and (sob) the return of football season, cut brutally short at its very heart and soul this year with our local governance’s ordinance against outdoor high school sports. Because, you know, if we ban football, those big, goofy, naughty 17 year olds definitely aren’t going to be finding other ways to gather in groups and touch each other.
But I digress.
I did a somewhat maniacal stress-cleaning of the basement this morning, sweeping legos and cat food and spiders and old Doritos (??) alike into trash bags, beads of sweat rolling off my face and hitting the concrete. Joey and I made a run to the thrift store to drop off, somehow, 5 entire bags of donations plus a couple pieces of under-utilized furniture. Don’t ask me how many donation runs I’ve made during the rona season, because I’ll never tell. My endless aspirations to minimalism have only been stoked higher and hotter by days and weeks and months spent in close, close quarters with my beloveds.
After trundling though a line of 14 cars (is anyone else experiencing this? I bet it’s easier to get an indoor table at a nice restaurant these days than a spot in the drop off line at Goodwill) we turned our big white beast of a van back around (hi, hello, we bought a 12 passenger van and now the stereotype is complete) and circled the lot for a parking spot in order to complete what Dave affectionately refers to as the thrift store rental cycle (Donate, browse, buy, repeat). In my defense, it is 97 degrees today here in Denver and by Tuesday it will plummet to 25 (!!!) and I don’t know where any of our sweatshirts or light jackets are lurking, plus I suspect all the lbs we accumulated during lockdown are going to necessitate at least a minor shuffling of the outerwear deck.
Thrilling, thrilling weekend be mine. Last night I spent time in both urgent care with my sister who suffered a nasty charcuterie board injury AND, merely an hour later, was summoned to the ER with one very, very lucky six year old whose brother did not cut her thumb completely off with garden shears while harvesting pumpkins. So much for girls’ night out. This morning we audibly and specifically thanked every single family member’s guardian angel before praying our Saturday morning rosary, because they’re putting in some serious overtime in our house lately.
I’ve been trying to spend more time reading books and less time reading the news – quitting social media has been a great boost, but there are still a few news aggregators I find myself compulsively checking in a residual occupational tic I’ve found hard to break even as my illustrious journalism career lies further and further in the rearview. I’ve been working to disrupt the cycle by carrying my kindle in one dress pocket and my phone in the other so that I actually have a choice rather than defaulting always, always to the phone (also, hi, hello, I’ve been living in a rotating 4 pack of hideous, shapeless bag dresses from walmart made out of – honest to gosh – stretchy headband material, and they are both wonderfully comfortably and deeply, deeply unflattering but there is so very little will left to present oneself to the world these days, you know?
Also, alas, the baby weight.
Every time I find myself with all 4 options in the dirty clothes I vow to return them to the garbage pile of fashion from whence they evolved, but then one comes back to me, hot and stretchy and sagging fresh from the dryer and gosh darn it I just can’t help myself.
I need a What Not to Wear level intervention, but first I need about 7 straight days of uninterrupted sleep and for my kids to go back to school.
We are wonderfully, blessedly, eagerly returning to in person learning at our fine little school, but alas a back to school cold that would have cost us 2 days of absence any other year stretched interminably into a week plus a long weekend “just to make sure” nobody is secretly harboring The Virus, masquerading as a common cold and sans fever, shortness of breath, or chills.
2020 you’ve given us so little to work with.
And yet, we have made improvements, too. Our kids spend more time together than ever before, which includes cage fighting but also much more frequent (read: ever) family rosaries. A wonderfully holy priest counseled a friend early in this whole shitshow: “Forget reading about the news. Let 2020 be the year you look back on one day and say, ‘oh, yes, 2020, I remember what happened that year…that’s the year we began praying the rosary (together/alone/as a family) every day. It’s the year I started going to daily Mass. It’s the year I began starting every day with God’s Word.'”
I think about his words often. I wonder what God’s intention for 2020 is, for me.
Onward to the reading list:
“The Age of Miracles” – guys I read this in a single day, during which time my children ate nothing but granola bars and yogurt. this is the quarantine comfort read WE’VE ALL BEEN LOOKING FOR. (and by comforting I mean, of course, their situation is decidedly worse than ours. Spoiler alert, but at least the earth’s magnetic field is still intact!)
“Discernment of Spirits” – I’ve been meaning to read this for years, and despite the fact that my spiritual director of 10+ years regularly directs Ignatian retreats, it turns out I had a few pretty significant misconceptions about what Ignatian Discernment actually entails. It’s SO good.
“The Day is Now Far Spent” – I know he’s too old, but man I wish Cardinal Sarah would be the next pope. A slow, beautiful, thick read. I’m only halfway through after a month.”
“For Women Only” – Embarrassing title, world rocking content. Cannot recommend highly enough for every married or engaged woman.
“The Family and the New Totalitarianism” – weirdly prophetic from the 90s (but not really, considering it was written by Michael O’Brien). A good gut check that all this craziness didn’t appear overnight, that the foundation has been eroding for some time now. Not all doom and gloom, but definitely a serious sort of read.
“My Lord John” – my last Georgette Heyer (sob); I’ve now plowed through her entire catalogue and she’s dead, so, also, is a part of me.
“Parenting From the Inside Out” – I don’t remember enough about this except to say it was mildly distressing to read about a lot of the traumas I’m re-inflicting on my own children from not having fully processed my own crap.
So instead I’d recommend…”Mindsight” – by the same author, which delves into a lot of the stuff explaining why we are the way we are, including unconscious beliefs/actions, patterns of behavior, inherited baggage, generational trauma, and just really so much interesting stuff. It was not a lighthearted read, but neither is it depressing. Validating is the word I’m looking for.
“The Heart of Perfection” – liked, but didn’t love. Well, I should say I liked the chapters introducing me to new saints very much – Campbell has a way of really humanizing characters who have a way of seeming too aspirational and one-dimensional, which is amazing. I didn’t really connect with her personal sections though, maybe because I’m wandering around in a dirty topknot draped in sleeveless, size XL walmart mumus these days so perfection is not something one might say I am actively striving to attain.
“Boys Adrift” – a must read for all parents of boys. Be warned, you will probably spend $100 dollars on stainless steel water bottles and glass tupperware before you finish the book. My apologies in advance to your budget.