may 9, 2020—walking in the woods

Weird day today. Not bad, just weird. But aren’t they all some variation on weird lately, even the good ones? 4 months and some odd days alcohol free for me; today is the first day I was hit with very strong cravings that I just couldn’t shake.

This morning, my two sisters and I, along with a baker’s dozen or so others, got together for a Zoom celebration for an acquaintance’s college graduation, an amazing story in its own right—I don’t know this this young woman well; she’s the first recipient of a scholarship my siblings and I set up in memory of our beloved mom who died just after Christmas in 2018; in the 80’s, our mom was a single parent and poet, in her 30s, hardscrabbling her way through her BA and MA at the same university; by a series of serendipitous events, thirty years later, the scholarship recipient is also a single mom in her 30s who’s also endured mindboggling hardships, an emerging poet *and* weird coinkydink, hails from our hometown—if one didn’t believe in divine intervention, one might suspect the scholarship dealio was rigged…

Anyhow, I was honored to be invited to this gathering this morning, to watch the pre-recorded commencement ceremony, part of which included my gifted friend’s commencement speech. At 9 am, most of the attendees were already celebrating with mimosas and bloody marys, laughing and toasting the guest of honor with laughter and joy. I didn’t know anyone except my friend and my sissies, and suddenly, I felt conspicuously like the odd woman out, as I toasted the new graduate with my lame plain black coffee, startled by my visceral reaction…

I’ve invested enough skin in this game to recognize that this kind of discomfort will show up again and again in my life—a call to grow, as Victoria Valli calls it—and I need to just stay with it and work through it, unsettling as it can be…but I’m also still green enough to think, “Fuck it. I’m a grown-ass woman. Why didn’t I grab a bottle of prosecco and some OJ, and join the party like a real woman…I could call it a data point and move on…” As the morning celebration continued, most of it us talking about nothing and everything; it really was a joyous occasion; though the cravings never really subsided, I held on tight as the waves carried me along. About an hour into the gathering, a woman drinking mimosas cracked open another bottle of bubbly, the group cheered her on. Laughing and bantering back, she filled her glass, all bubbly this time, no OJ…

Toward the end of the gathering, I noticed the bubbly woman was no longer bubbly or engaging with the group the way she had been at the beginning of the event. She was listless, withdrawn, looking off-camera, her eyes flitting from one unseen thing to the next, her smile now tightened into a flat line. I didn’t think much about it, a fleeting notice is all, but it struck me deeper than I was aware of at the time…

After the event was over, the cravings were still front and center in my brain, so with a big bottle of water, I tossed (not literally) my dog in my ol’ Jeep and headed out to a state park just beyond edges of the metro area where I live, and we hiked for a good couple hours. In that time, I breathed in deep cool spring air, exhaled long and warm. I felt the rough ground underfoot, hugged a tree or two (have you ever, literally, hugged a tree? I swear to God, you will feel its strong spirit move through you when you do), listened to bird chatter and wind song and smiled back at the occasional fellow hiker.

As I walked, I asked myself, “Okay. As much as I know that alcohol doesn’t do any of the things I used to think it did for me, clearly, there’s something about today that struck a sour chord. What’s up?” I walked myself through a process that Annie Grace calls the ACT (Awareness, Clarity, Turnaround, inspired by Byron Katie and others): obviously, I still associate celebrations with alcohol. Being so new to the alcohol-free world, and smack-dab in the middle of a fucking pandemic, too—we can’t forget this very critical element—it didn’t feel quite like any other celebrations, since we were all sitting in our living rooms, all dressy on top, pjs beneath, so maybe that’s why it ambushed me. I realized that I had yet to be in a celebratory setting, until today. Of course old feelings would come flooding back in, because all of my life, alcohol always went along merrily with a celebration. Always. Even as a young kid, I remember relatives’ booze-soaked weddings and other gatherings—everyone laughing and dancing and having the time of their lives, it seemed to this kid (we were whisked away for bed before the fights and the DUIs and such ensued). I couldn’t wait for this to eventually become my life as an adult…I recalled my own college graduation, some of it, anyway. Photos of the time reveal a young face already leaking signs: puffy cheeks, glassy eyes, a vacancy in my smile. But I still recall the times as mostly fun, surrounded by friends I loved, proud of my accomplishment, an electric mix of fear and excitement for what lay ahead…

Today, as my feet pressed into a blanket of flattened prairie grass and my hands slid against rough bark, I acknowledged that, until I collect a few more AF celebrations in my brain, it will defer to the deeply grooved, familiar path. I thought about the bubbly woman, and suddenly I knew why she affected my subconscious so powerfully. She was too familiar, like an out of body experience with someone else’s body, watching her morph from cheery and joyful, to withdrawn, disengaged, disappearing expression…

I know this is conjecture, I can’t know anything for certain except what I observed, still, I imagined how the rest of her day might have played out, based on my own experiences. That she continued to drink after the zoom session ended. That she got into a ridiculous argument with her mom, or a sister, or someone—maybe the asshole cable company phone technician, that she wouldn’t remember. That she eventually passed out in the early afternoon, waking hours later as the sun was sliding down the horizon groggy, in rumpled clothes, sticky make-up still on her face, sour, pasty mouth. That she didn’t get anything done she’d wanted to get done for the day; maybe she’d eat crummy junk food, or she’d be too nauseous to eat at all. The rumble of voices that would begin: “How can you get so out of control at 10 am?! In front of all those people? Do you think you’re in college again? God, you’re a grown ass woman, for fuck’s sake. This day wasn’t even about you, but without even trying, you went and made it about you. Again…” I know I’m transposing here, using “she” instead of “me,” because I still want to defer this to other things. How may celebrations have I attended in my history, that ended on a variation of this theme? Hell, how many times have I decided to open a bottle of wine or prosecco, or an IPA or pour a tall gin and tonic on the first warm day of summer, or because I don’t have to work the next day, or because a friend called, or… too many to count.

My mind then wanders over to the territory of envy: that my friend has a beautiful, powerful network of friends in her life, who have surrounded and supported her on her journey, bubbly woman included. They’re all clearly very close, and have been rock solid anchors for each other through various waves of life. How my own journey of the past several years has been so different—that after my husband died, I imploded and cut myself off from everyone, except the bare minimum. My mom, my sisters, a very few select friends. That this self-imposed isolation became a driving source of my own drinking—an unbearable loneliness unwittingly made more unbearable by drinking.

Life is a delicate balance of so many things that are always shifting and reshaping and sliding and settling, things  known and unknown, seen and unseen. It’s a beautifully tragic shapeshifter, incomprehensible and infuriatingly simple at the same time. I know this today, because I am not drinking. Even in the middle of a fucking pandemic, I feel my life shifting from disconnect to connected, from running to staying. From imploding to expanding, like the stand of aspen bowing in the wind, we are stronger and more tender than we appear.

If I had given into my cravings today, I would have taken the simple path that only leads to the incomprehensible. I would have missed walking soooo close to the geese and their fuzzy little tennis ball goslings sliding into a pond in the reedy wetlands, I would have missed the stand of aspens glowing raw and green as I am, and the tiny anemone, a deceptively delicate spring wildflower, defiantly push tiny pink faces through deep layers of winter detritus. I would have missed hugging a tree and feeling spirit move through me…I wouldn’t have known that I can, authentically, celebrate a friend’s spectacular accomplishment, without alcohol. I wouldn’t have known that I could offer grace and empathy, rather than judgment, toward a woman I don’t know. And get more from the day than I could have imagined.

please, don’t ever give up. xo

may 3, 2020—lucky man

My husband was a lucky man. Even with smart phone reminders, I still manage to not remember birthdays or anniversaries or hallmark holidays, so I never got bent out of shape on the rare occasion that he’d forget. He’d say something like, “Oh shit, I’m so sorry—I forgot our anniversary!” and I’d say something like, “Huh? It was our anniversary?”
Which is probably why I don’t get too bent out of shape on the anniversary of Bob’s death (“Bob who?” I tease my sister when she mentions it; she’s always mortified, I think I’m hilarious and so does Bob. My mom just rolls her eyes and says, “oh that old joke again…”). Of course, I always remember the day, though the pale green halo around trees this time of year, more than a date, reminds me. Yes, there’s a cascade of feelings to be felt and memories to remember, but it’s not a day that throws me off kilter with a particular dread or sorrow—not any more than any other day might.
The day he died, May 3, 2011, was achingly beautiful, a day much like ones we’ve had lately: the sun was slowly sliding down the sky, dragging reluctant shadows with it, washing the world with a golden-pink glow that photographers call sweet light. In a long-ago life, the kind of day that would entice him to sling a camera bag over his shoulder and slip into the woods or a tall grass prairie, and capture luminous trees, pasque flowers, bloodroot, sunsets burning through big bluestem. If he were lucky, he might find a pair of great horned owlets huddled together on a low branch, or a fresh fawn curled tight beneath a pine.
Today, I can look back at that day, and say it was a perfect day for Bob to take leave; nine years ago, however, I would have said it was anything but perfect. I was gutted, by the nineteen months that lead up to that day. Nine years ago, I stared out the patio doors into our wooded backyard, aglow in sweet light, bewildered, that something so exquisite could exist at the same time my husband was dying. My grieving mind couldn’t reconcile the incongruence—that breathtaking beauty and breathtaking sorrow could coexist peacefully, equally, at the same time, in the same space. Nothing in my world had prepared me for the intensity of this truth. For a long time after, horror would overshadow beauty.
Three days after Bob died, I hastily assembled a celebration of life service, at the same reception hall that, a year earlier, my youngest sister had been married. To the casual observer, the scene might have looked like a celebration—hundreds of people milling about in good clothes, a curious blend of Elvis, Steve Vai, Lucinda Williams, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Bob Mould, Mozart, Weird Al wove through the murmuring bodies. A long table set with an impressive spread of what? I don’t know—sandwiches, salads, expansive trays of fruit and vegetables, likely. In the center of the table, I do know, was a bouquet of Tootsie Pops.
You wouldn’t have been able to pick out the widow in the crowd; I stood in the middle of the room in shiny red stilettos, the ones Bob called “fuck me pumps;” a Mardi Gras-worthy flower print dress of crushed satin and black lace hung from my body, an eruption of watercolor splashes of red and pink and orange. I didn’t feel like I was celebrating my husband’s life, as the dress might have implied; I felt like an implosion, all that was left was fragments of color, the edges burned black; the dress was both evidence and a feeble attempt to defy the repelling label, widow, that now clung to me. At least that’s how I remember it.
No one took pictures of the day, as far as I know, and for that, I’m grateful. I’d rather not have hard evidence of the hollow woman I was, trapped in the snare of the second receiving line of the day, an endless assault of hugs and condolences—no one told me there’d be goddamned receiving lines at a funeral…I wanted to writhe from the arms that held me. I wanted to run and lock myself in the bathroom, or better yet, keep running. I wanted the day to be over. I hated the dress and the shoes and the reason I was wearing them. I hated what my world had suddenly become, and there wasn’t anything that any of the hundreds of people could do or say that could change this, no matter how hard they hugged or what they said. But that didn’t stop them from trying. All I could do was stand there and take it.
A woman stepped in front of me and grabbed both my hands. Before I could speak, she began gushing exuberantly, as though at a wedding, “Oh, Jen! Think of this as a time to reinvent your life—how lucky you are! We all wish we could have a chance at a re-do like this!”
My body instantly seized with fury that was quickly deadened by a new, lead-heavy lag-time. I stared at this woman, who stood next to her very alive husband, shaking my head slowly. My husband was just here—less than three days ago—now he’s gone. The skewed landscape I was standing in was familiar but unrecognizable, the conversations I was having in plain English were incomprehensible. I stammered, “No, that’s not right—” but I didn’t have the right words to counter hers.
Of course, this woman was right, but she was also so very wrong. Sure, if given the chance, we’d all love a redo at life, if—that “if” is the condition most would insist on—we’re given a say in the matter. A forced reinvention is not what I’d call lucky—not then, not now. If I’d been in a better frame of mind, I might have told this woman to take her lucky redo and fuck off. Lucky for her, I wasn’t, so I didn’t.
But her words had staying power in my mind. Over the years, I often wondered why hers, more than anyone’s, struck me so viscerally that day. Even deeply grieving, I knew that she, like everyone at the service, only wanted to help ease the pain of my loss, but I also knew, at the time, no such words existed. Deep in the heart of a great loss, there simply are no magic incantations or switches to flip or wands to wave that can suddenly make everything better. As much as we’d desperately wish it otherwise, it’s not the way things work—the timing of her message couldn’t have been more off. Maybe three years after Bob’s death, I’d have eased into that enviable shift in perspective, from gutted to #blessed!, but three days after? That expectation is impossible, if not outright cruel to suggest, even for the most put-together of us.
Sometimes, I fantasized about tracking that woman down, so I could tell her face-to-face, in vivid detail, what this lucky re-do has looked like for me. Sometimes I’d fantasize that everyone I knew would be forced to go through something like this, so they’d know, first-hand, how hard a lucky re-do actually is. Maybe it would stop people from saying insensitive things at funerals, and instead simply say, “I’m sorry.” Maybe it would help people be better prepared to face their own lucky redo, if and when it shows up in their own life.
My lucky redo involved losing not just my husband, but a career and a business, our life savings, our house, one of our dogs, most of our friends, a lot of my hair, and definitely all of my mind, and it required that I somehow salvage a life—that “new normal!” everyone’s so smitten with—out the few scraps that remained. Like one of those cooking shows, where chefs are given strange and random ingredients, and are supposed to create something not just aesthetically appealing but palatable, from an incomprehensible mess. I didn’t want new, I wanted my old life back.
My redo involved trauma and an eventual diagnosis of PTSD, a condition I thought was reserved for combat vets and survivors of violence. Who knew caregivers (and others) are susceptible, as well? I resisted therapy for a long time, and instead, coped by drinking—to quell the nightmares that kept me from sleeping, to blur the sharp edges of grotesque memories of Bob’s illness that filled my days, to quiet the incessant rage I had for Bob’s medical team, to lessen the shame over losing our house, to mute the incessant, internal critics that told me again and again that if I had done things differently, my husband wouldn’t have suffered so terribly, or that I should be doing a better job at this re-do that’s taking way too long—why wasn’t I happily remarried and nestled into a new life by now? Why do I have to do everything the hard way—I could stay in this haunted house, I could go back to doing hair, but nooooooo—instead, I’m wasting so much time and money going to grad school and monkeying around with a new career that probably won’t make me any money, and cutting off friendships and moving more times than I can easily track anymore. I’ve made so many mistakes at reinventing it’s not even funny, but sometimes it struck me as exactly that, not just funny but downright ludicrous—that anyone would wish for this chance that I’m blowing at every turn. “Lucky” isn’t the first word that comes to mind when I think about these past nine years. “Shit show” is more like it.
Fast forward to nine years after Bob’s death. I’m beginning my fifth month, alcohol free (I could say “sober” or “recovering” or whatever, but I don’t, which is another essay for another time). When I stopped drinking in January, my life was pretty ho-hum (which is a big part of why I decided to stop—not because of an epic, rock-bottom crash and burn, but because I felt like I was slowly decaying, from the inside, out). I didn’t just quit; I’ve done and continue to do a shit-ton of ‘behind the scenes’ work to get here—again, another essay for another time…toward the end of my first AF 30 days, I wondered how I would handle a crisis without alcohol—not that I was looking to stir up drama to find out, just wondering is all. Didn’t see that fucking pandemic looming on the horizon, that’s for sure. But here we are, and here I am, four months free of the substance that stunted my growth for a very long time. I’m not saying my life is all puppies and rainbows over here in AF Land, in the middle of a pandemic—let’s be real, things are pretty scary. I’m alone, in unemployment limbo, I have no idea what I’m going to do with my life going forward—I can’t even go back to doing hair if I wanted to—these uncertain times are the stuff that makes us want to crawl out of our skin. But instead of running to squelch the discomfort with a bottle of wine, I am learning to sit with it, let it burn over me, the way lightning strikes a prairie, burning old growth that chokes, to make breathing space for new. Allowing horror and beauty to exist in the same space.
For the first time in my life, I can look at the past nine years and see beyond the darkened edges, and find flashes of color—big patches, even—evidence that not everything I’ve done has been a complete failure, as I’d believed for so long. “Holy shit—I did all of that?” Instead of being awash in shame or embarrassment at how long everything’s taken, or what I did to cope, I recognize, with truth and grace, that alcohol did exactly what I needed it to do for me during a time of searing, relentless pain—it anesthetized me. Until it didn’t. But frankly, I don’t know if I could have withstood the ordeal otherwise. We do the best we can, with what we have at the time…once we know different, we can start to do different.
Today, nine years after Bob’s death, I still don’t know that I’d define what I’ve gone through as lucky, or blessed or anything, really. I’m okay without confining it to a label, and instead, just sitting with it, on a day that is so much like the day that he died, and revel in the mystery and magic.

April 29 2020—pandemic parade

It’s not every day you get to have your birthday smack-dab in the middle of a #&%*ing pandemic (I’m taking this time of isolation and reflection, btw, to not just clean my living space but my mouth, too, and let’s be real. It’s not fucking easy. And my home hasn’t seen much improvement, either). But anyhow, that’s what happened to my dear, oldest niece, Amanda, whose 33rd birthday was yesterday, and I’m sure she thought that her special day would blur, undistinguished, into any other ho-hum day of late, given the current state of the world. I’m also sure she probably forgot who she’s related to, given she hasn’t seen any of us in at least few months…

We are happy to report that even smack dab in the middle of a #$@*ing pandemic, Hildebrandts are always up for a party, even if it has to be drive-by parade style. (and I’m still over here, trying to do the math—how the $#%* can Amanda be 33, when I’M still 33…)


april 28, 2020—your table awaits, madame

I live next door to my cousin, Erin, and her lovely family in Minneapolis. Last fall, I moved into the apartment where her mom, my beloved Auntie Pattycakes, lived, until her death almost exactly a year ago, just a few short months after her only sister, my own beloved mom, took leave of this earth. Little did I expect, when I moved, just how essential being close to family would come to be.

Every now and then, I’ll get a text from Erin, something to the effect of, “hey, we’re having tortellini soup tonight, want me to bring some over?” to which I’ll reply, “hey, yes, please!” because one less night of cooking for one is, well, one less night cooking for one, which is a welcomed reprieve when you’ve been cooking for one not only while quarantined, but for a good nine years now, which gets to be a drag when you have no one to blame when the cauliflower goes to mush or for the mess in the kitchen, so maybe you opt for cereal or popcorn more that you care to admit.

Erin’ll alert me via text when she’s dropped the goods off in my entryway; lately, when I open the door, I’m met with the comforting aroma of disinfectant before I smell the soup, because those conscientious neighbors of mine take the shelter at home protocols seriously, which is more than we can say about a certain arrogant, willfully ignorant VP who visited the Mayo today.

So, last night was one of those nights. Erin’s text comes in: “Hey, we’re making ribs on the grill tonight, want some?” My answer is the same as always” “yes please!” thinking she’ll wander over with a carefully sanitized container at some point. Then I get a phone call from her daughter, Elise, who tells me in that endearingly nonsensical way that only a 9-year-old can execute, something about tables and ten feet and food and such, and from our convo, I come to the conclusion that they’re setting up a ten foot buffet-style table and I’m to bring my own tupperware to pack my own food. Cool, I thought, works for me.

Image may contain: one or more people, people sitting and outdoorBandana across my face and tupperware in hand, I wander up the drive and turn the corner to their backyard, scanning the setting for the buffet. Instead, I see a small card table set up, draped in black, topped with a candle and plate of ribs. I’m confused—surely they’re not expecting company?
“Hey Jen!” the whole family—Erin, Kurt and their two kids, Quinn and Elise—already seated, joyfully greets me from their table, a good ten feet away, “Your table is ready, complete with your very own tub of Clorox wipes!” I stand, dumfounded, taking in the scene, with probably the biggest, dumbest smile on my face and maybe a hint of a tear at the corner of one eye. I gratefully take my place at the table set for one. In spite of feeling like the only kid at the kid’s table on Thanksgiving, I couldn’t have felt more connected in such a disconnected time, here at my neighbor-cousin’s impromptu backyard gathering. And that is how we stay sane, safe, and connected—by being Image may contain: one or more people and fireinventive, not dismissive.

And just wear the #$%# mask, okay? Whether or not you’re the VP of the US. Whether you’re in a hospital or any public place. Not just for yourself, or the love of God even, but for your fellow humans. xo

april 26, 2020—southern MN drive by

We’re all doing what we must these days (except huffing Lysol, right?), to help flatten a silent, deadly threat that’s creeping across the globe. Still, I hope we never get to the point where donning a mask before heading outside becomes as reflexive as grabbing for the keys. I hope we never get to a point where spacing ourselves six feet apart from loved ones becomes more intuitive than gravitating toward one another. I hope we never get to a point where flinching and darting across the street is a more acceptable social grace than smiling and saying hi as we pass on the sidewalk.

I am dangerously close to exhausting my sad supply of hand sanitizer, and if there’s any to be found in the Twin Cities, no one’s letting on (or maybe I was just longing for an reason to break out of the city limits for a day…). Recently, my sister, Gretchen, scored a gallon from Drummers Garden Center in Mankato and offered to split her bounty. Since Gov. Walz’s shelter-in-place order allows leaving one’s home for “necessary supplies” “pleasure driving,” “outdoor activities” and “essential intrastate travel,” a drive down to St. Peter to acquire the goods seems to fit for each of those edicts. My plan: cruise to St. Peter, get the goods, cruise back home.

But, typical me, I never stick to a plan—I tend to wander far and away and back again, and today, in spite of tight restrictions, was no different. First stop: Gretchen’s, where we stand too far apart in the parking lot; Rocco strains at his leash, I release my grip and he tears across the lot, nearly knocking Gretchen over with his over exuberant greeting. Out of the back of my ol’ Jeep, I fill spray bottles with 80% ethyl alcohol that smells like tequila gone bad (which is either redundant or an oxymoron depending on your thoughts about tequila), thinking this is another scenario that I hope to never repeat. I toss Gretch a few handmade masks to give to her apt. building handyman a kind, funny man, nearing, if not already in his 80s, who shovels snow from her patio and plucks litter from the parking lot, and fixes doorknobs that fall off and light switches that don’t switch, and doesn’t watch much news—he’d asked Gretchen the other day, with great concern, what’s the deal with this virus and should he be worried and what should he be doing, which broke my heart. The least I could do is offer a couple of masks to help ease his worry. I try calling Jill and Kurt, to pay them a quick visit while I’m in town, but neither answer.

Instead of turning back toward Mpls, I get a wild hair to swing into Mankato, where I am graced by the blessed sight of Joe and his dad, Jesse, who come out to the front step of Joe’s apartment building to say ‘hi.’ Joe’s dad, likely the sweetest man on the planet today, was diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor just as the pandemic shit hit the fan; by a divine grace of something that no one will ever be able to explain but we fully, reverently acknowledge, Joe was able to bring his dad, who lives near Madison, WI, to Mankato to be with Joe for home hospice care. Other than bare-bones hospice staff, and brief, scarce outdoor visits from much farther than 6 feet away, they are robbed of so much that should be part of Jesse’s care and Joe’s support right now…still, they’re managing hospice with a side of pandemic with grace and wisdom, quiet times and humor, lots and lots of movies and home cooked meals …I hand over another couple of homemade masks and a goodie bag of treats from the co-op; after a too-short visit and a reluctant good bye, I buzz over to my brother Mikey’s, on the other end of town, where I catch him coming out of the garage, about to tackle some lawn work.

It takes more than a few minutes to catch up with Mikey (he and Kim have a big blended family so there’s a lot to catch up on, and Mikey’s a talker and a joker, so much like our dad in that way, he always has a great story or three to tell), still, our time goes too fast. I finally let Mikey get back to his yard, then suddenly realize I’ve been so busy being elated at seeing everyone in person, I’d forgotten to take photos to document our visits. I snap a few of Mikey, then quickly back-track back to Joe’s, for a couple pics of him and his dad, before heading back toward home.

In the meantime, Jill learns of my appearance in southern MN and wants to take a social-distancing walk. She, Gretchen, Rocco and I converge on a corner in St. Peter, then meander the small city, taking note of green buds, tulips and crocus that have burst open, the aroma of magnolia laced with grilled brats and burgers fills the air. Everything about this scene—my sisters and me walking and talking and laughing and taking photos—feels normal, but everything feels more than slightly off-kilter, too, and I hope the off-kilter part is another thing that we never have to get used to. We keep our walk short, and at the end, perform a traditional Hildebrandt good-bye that’s as long as the spaces between us, before Jill takes off for her home. I walk Gretchen back to her place, and after more goodbyes, finally slide into the Jeep, to head back to Minneapolis.

As I leave St. Peter, I swing by my brother, Kurt’s house on the edge of town, hoping to catch them at home (where else would they be?). My niece, Katy, emerges from the house and breaks into a big smile when she sees me pull into the drive. Her brother, Shea, appears, another big smile, Kurt and Teresa, also smiling, appear soon after; they’re in the middle of a big landscaping project—why hire out help when the kids are around possibly forever, Teresa says. They fill me in on their vision for the gardens, that Noah’s back up in Mpls, that Teresa’s picked up a new pastime—quarantine hair cutting. One more too-quick visit, another quick photo op, another lump-in-my-throat farewell, before I finally climb back into my Jeep and point it toward Minneapolis, for real this time.

april 24, 2020—tree hugging in the city

If it weren’t for my dog and our daily trips to a dog park or a local state park (only on weekdays—weekends, the parks turn into a horrifying Disneyland), I’m not sure I’d ever leave my home. I head to the woods to take a break from the laptop and triggering news, to allow the muscles that tighten around my eyes to release, to feel a carpet of pine needles under my feet, wrap my arms around bark, to hear rushing of wind through branches, and bird songs in my ears. To feel something other than uncertainty and fear.

But more often than not, Rocco and I walk in the city (mornings and after dark are best times—who knew a city could be so quiet?), around our neighborhood, taking care of business before I get down to business, or to puncture holes in the monotony of solitary confinement, or to squeeze the last of the day before slipping off to sleep. This morning, we meander over to the playground of Whittier International Elementary, a few blocks from our home. We walk past its small wading pool that will likely stay empty all summer, through the playground draped in warning signs that dangle in the cool, early morning breeze, along the abandoned basket ball court. We end up at an expansive baseball park at the far end of the park, that takes up at least a quarter of the giant city block. Later today, probably even within the hour, the ballpark will be dotted with others and their dogs, others and their children, the basket ball courts shuffling with urban ballers, offering a space to burn off the energy surplus that accumulates rapidly within four walls of confinement, to connect from a distance (though my judgy social distance eye has noted there’s a lot of room for interpretation…), to breathe outside air, crowded as it gets.

Early enough in the morning, though (even back in a time when school was in session), the playground is forgotten land. Early in the morning, it is a soft, expansive place bathed in morning sunshine, draped in long shadows, with lots of room to breath.

Because we’re now living in a lawless land, I look around carefully, make sure no one else is in the park (I’m a conscientious lawbreaker), then unclip Rocco from his leash. We run across the ball field with reckless abandon, zig-zagging and quick stopping from one end to the other. I pick up a long stick and fling it across the field, it sails end over end, Rocco tears after it. The stick barely lands before he pounces, ripping it apart with his jaws. We repeat this a few times with other sticks, until I notice a man on a bicycle in dark, dusty clothes, a large bulky backpack strapped to his back. He looks like a tortoise on wheels, as he slowly winds his way down the sidewalk to a bench at the edge of the playground. I quickly clip Rocco back to his leash as the man dismounts his bike, props it up against the bench. He slides the pack from his shoulders and places it on the bench. We wander around the greening lawn, Rocco sniffs around bushes, lifts a leg here and there, as I glance occasionally toward the man, losing sight of him momentarily, until my eyes readjust.

He is standing next to a pine tree, one arm arm wrapped around the trunk, as though it’s a loved one. His brown face is turned toward the sun, the only part of his body illuminated by light, his eyes are closed. I catch my breath, and look down at the ground, a lump grows in my throat and tears well in my eyes, and I can’t help but feel I’m witnessing something holy. We stand like that for only a few moments, sharing this morning space, he hugging his tree, my eyes cast down, slowly walking my dog around the edges of the school building. When I look up again, the man is back on his bike, pedaling away in the opposite direction. I pull the bandana around my neck, up over my face and cry into the fabric, on my walk home.

april 20, 2020—field notes: grocery shopping in the time of coronavirus

I pull into the quasi-empty parking lot mid-afternoon. Still too full for my comfort, at least it’s not log-jammed like every grocery store, uber-Target and co-op in the tri-county area was over the weekend, and unless I want tuna and dry raisin bran for dinner (“you’ve had worse…” my inner poor-kid survivalist tries to reason), suck it up, buttercup. Get in, get out, get yer ass home.

I’ve memorized my list and strategically mapped my route through the store. I double, triple, quadruple check my purse for the world’s tiniest bottle of hand sanitizer—the only one I own—along with a handful of Handi-Wipes, that I’m rationing like beans in the depression, thanks to the assholes who wiped out the world’s supply back in March, along with rubbing alcohol and Clorox wipes. I use my meager bottle and wipes for just such outings; the overwhelming urge to rub my eyes never seems to happen except when I’m in a grocery store these days. I slide a doubled-up, filterized bandana over the lower half of my face and check my purse one last time to make sure the hand sanitizer didn’t mysteriously leap out when I wasn’t looking. I take a deep breath, slip out of my ol’ Jeep, scurry across the lot and into the store.

I glance around for wipes to clean off a cart. A young man in a company-issue polo shirt stands guard with a spray bottle and paper towels, wiping down of every last inch of every last cart that’s returned. Nice touch. The sharpness of my breathing softens a bit. Tape covers the quarter slots, umbilical-cord keys that used to link the carts together dangle without purpose from cart handles. Another nice touch—one less thing to have to touch. I thank the young man from behind my mask, take a freshly-wiped cart and slip through the automatic doors.

Goddammit. They’ve rearranged the entire store since I was last in, maybe a couple months ago. Instead of beelining, I wander aimlessly, dodging other shoppers like they have a disease or something, haphazardly crossing back and forth through the store (shit-ton of boxed mac and cheese, I notice, no quinoa anywhere), haphazardly ticking items off my list. I hyper-tune in to shoppers committing various acts of social distancing violations. My breathing intensifies again. 

I stand in front of the refrigerator case, scanning the rows for eggs, when I feel an unsettling sensation of energy behind me. I turn to find an unmasked shopper practically breathing down my neck as he reaches around for a tub of yogurt. Over my bandana, I glare and hiss, “Excuse me—” He doesn’t notice. Or care. He snags his yogurt and meanders on. A young woman cavalierly weaves her maskless way through the aisles, pushing others’ shopping carts out of the way with her own filthy mitts to get at what she needs. Another’s arm and mine reach for the same bag of spinach. Hands recoil at lightning speed, bodies pull back as our eyes meet. I think we’re both smiling, but it’s hard to know for certain when half of our expression is covered in handmade masks. “Go ahead,” she gestures. I grab a bag, wave a quick thank-you at her, and continue.

An older gentleman sneezes, not into the crook of his arm, but aerosol-blasts his microbes right into the store’s atmosphere for God and everyone to breathe. I spin around and head down another aisle. My heart is flopping against my sternum, frantically trying to leap its way out of my mouth, breath comes in shallow gulps, a slight headache begins thudding at the base of my skull. If I despised grocery shopping before, now, it’s a literal exercise in agony. I read the news, I listen to my governor’s press conferences, I know what’s going on. 

I snag the last few items on my list—dog treats, coffee, cereal (I rediscovered the versatility of cereal—cheap, effortless, every-meal food—though a minor win that hardly offsets the growing list of transgressions flaring up around me). In spite of not working for over a month and not knowing when I’ll go back, I decide that this kind of stress calls for an unessential not on my list: emergency ice cream. Salted caramel to the rescue.

I didn’t see any six-foot spaced x’s on the floor at the checkouts as other grocery stores have done (that’s not to say they weren’t there, I was too distressed to notice), but the store has the stretch-limousine-version of grocery carts, which help keep shoppers appropriately spaced. Still, I stand another couple feet behind the shopper in front of me. The man behind me does not extend the same courtesy to me. Usually, I’m ridiculously Minnesota Nice! in the grocery store and at least smile at the person behind me should we meet eyes, sometimes even chit-chat a bit. I can’t help it, it’s my Dad in me. Today, I keep my back turned and seethe as his cart creeps closer and closer to the backs of my ankles. Swear to god, if that thing touches me…

The masked checkout clerk sits behind a shield of plexiglass that’s usually seen in casinos and sketchy convenience stores. Another new protocol in place. After ringing up my items, she slides my cart out of the way, I slide it to a long counter and quickly bag my things up, dropping apples on the floor in my frenzied packing, which sets loose a string of expletives that would have made even my father, King of the Foulmouthed, cringe. I loop all the bags all over my body like some kind of strange peddler, awkwardly steer the cart back out to the Keeper of Carts with one hand, and waddle out to the Jeep with my wares—god forbid would I make another trip back in to return the cart. 

My body practically implodes as I heave a sigh of relief once I’m safely ensconced in my car. I dig out the tiny bottle of sanitizer, splootch some on my hands and scrub them together furiously, taking several long, deep breaths as my blood pressure settles down, before heading back home, where I don’t think I’ll leave, ever. I can totally live off tuna and raisin bran, I think. I wonder how agreeable my landlords would be to a couple of chickens, a field of quinoa and spinach in my yard. 

A friend summed up my experience wisely—no one’s winning here. You’re an asshole if you don’t wear a mask, you’re an asshole for judging other’s maskless existence. If I hear the phrase “new normal” one more time, I swear…There’s not a goddamned thing normal about any of this. If and when this virus is ever chased out of town, mental health workers (and hairdressers) will be our new front line.

april 14, 2020—not a hugger

6A161F56-4058-44A6-A64F-3E54C93E761EFor someone who’s not a hugger by nature (who truthfully, kinda inwardly flinches when someone boldly announces “I’m a hugger!”), one of the things I miss most right now is hugging the people I love most…I’m remembering a time when I could hug those people with unabashed abandon, and in spite of the shitstorm swirling around us, I believe in a day where we will be able to hug again. I mean, if we want to.

I spent Sunday alone (was it a holiday or something?), which is how I spend every day in isolation, one day smearing (now, there’s a funny word, smear, that used to only be used behind the word “pap,” but here I am, getting all resourceful in a pandemic, finding a new use for it!) into the next. Not that it’s much different than PP (pre-pandemic—I’m also getting good at making up acronyms!), but there’s a big difference between being an introvert by nature and being forced into isolation, which is completely unnatural even for a non-hugging introvert; to say there will be significant fallout to this unnatural state is the understatement of the moment, given the way shit changes every second of every minute of every hour of every day.

I rearranged my living space (again), made a handful of t-shirt masks, scratched out 3ECA1E85-1206-4FA6-ACE4-CC6AAE8A058Asome strange, sloppy writing, about which Joe and I discussed the other night—he believes the most important art is happening now—the raw, clunky shit plunking out of keyboards or slapping onto a canvas, sometimes running uncontrollably like diarrhea, other times thick and sludgy, barely moving, if at all— who has time to edit when it’s old news by the second revision? I can agree; my writing (and drinking) career began in earnest, in the middle of a personal shit show, when every hour of every day brought new, more horrific news than the last…I’m observing so many strange parallels between that myopic experience and this pandemic one…still, I know that for many people, their creative process and a whole lotta other shit has come to a grinding halt, and I’m no expert, but I’d say that one is as common response to crisis as the other. Brené Brown talks a awful lot about this phenomenon of our reactions in crisis—some become hyper-mobilizing, others sort of implode, many of us do both on an unpredictable rotation…check her work out, if you aren’t already familiar.

The sooner we recognize that for all the funny memes going around about “The ‘Rona” and over-eating and bad hair and other trials and tribulations of self-isolating, this experience is fucking all of us up to some degree or another, the better off we’ll be in the long run. Thanks or no-thanks to social media, we can observe the multitude of responses (that change with the breeze), and I can’t help but feel some sort of strange, I don’t quite know what the word is—comfort? vindication? camaraderie? compassion and grace? fear? knowing now, that what I went through with Bob was completely fucked up, and the only, right response to witnessing something so fucked up, is to end up fucked up, for a while, maybe forever…dear John Prine was a masterstoryteller of this phenomenon…when the shitstorm finally passes, mental health workers and hairdressers will be the new front line.

I sit helpless and heartbroken because I can’t do anything for Joe and his dad, Jesse, during their sacred time in hospice; the divine way that things played out for them to be together is breathtaking, but the backdrop in which it’s happening is cruel and unusual punishment—no one can visit, hospice services have been whittled to bare essentials…one of endless secondary and tertiary effects of this virus. Thank god for Skype, FaceTime, Zoom and other video chat/meeting apps that are getting record use in this time. If we can’t hug, at least we can connect with each other in all our uninhibited, “I frankly don’t give a shit anymore—what you see is what you get” video chat glory. I’ve sent and received more real olde tyme mail these past few weeks than I’ve had in the past few decades, though I do wonder about my neighbor downstairs who gets at least 3 Amazon Prime deliveries a day. Not judging, just wondering, is all.

Spending Easter Sunday alone wasn’t all bad. I’ve got a good eight years under my belt—I think of it as a residency in grief— I’m an expert at entertaining myself, which is kind of the hilarious irony about this mess—just when I finally figured out that eight years of self-imposed exile wasn’t doing my mental health any favors and I decided to quit drinking and really get to work on some shit I’ve been neglecting for quite some time, a pandemic comes roaring across the country and shreds my newfound “I need to build community!” proclamation. Who was it that said life is what happens when you make other plans…

I was motivated to clean and rearrange by the brilliantly eclectic Spotify playlists created by genius Mix Mistress Nasty G-Spot (that’s Gretchen Hildebrandt, to the tragically unhip—I don’t think even she’s aware of her new crisis-inspired DJ handle). She created two lists—one of socially distant appropriate titles, the other of isolation no-no’s, like Exile’s Kiss you All Over and The Ramones’ You Sound Like You’re Sick. I laughed out loud as each song outdid the last: Georgia Satellites’ Keep Your Hands to Yourself, the Divinyls’ I Touch Myself, Motley Crue’s Don’t Go Away Mad (Just Go Away), Tony Orlando and Dawn’s Knock Three Times, Pink Floyd’s Comfortably Numb—curiously, almost prophetically, the 80s has an abundance of pandemic-relevant material. Leave it to Generation X…one of our new pastimes is calling or texting each other with new songs to add to her lists. Find and follow Gretchen on Spotify for a big hug from her, in the form of pure music joy for these hard times.

IMG_2348Yesterday afternoon, Jill R. Hildebrandt and I met halfway-ish, in Jordan; she had some Easter treats she wanted to give me, I had some t-shirt masks for her and Gretchen. We parked in the lot of the Holiday station off 169, six spots away from each other. Like a strange deal going down in broad daylight, the exchange was made: I tossed two bags of sanitized face masks out my window at her, she crept out of her car, placed her goods, bound up in a plastic shopping bag, on the pavement between us, then scurried back; I hustled out to retrieve then retreat. She held up the Ziplocks and whipped out a bottle of spray disinfectant and hosed the suckers down. We waved and snapped pictures of each other, choking up and laughing at the same time. How fucked up is everything about this, I think (a thought that plays on repeat throughout my days). We exchanged a few more words, waved and blew kisses through windows, before taking off in different directions. If you’ve been a recipient of a spee-dee delivery from this sister of mine (or a dee-lux version—a personal tap dance performance), consider it a big hug from her.

My sibs and I were able to gather for a video call on Sunday, which basically consisted of two hours of nonstop Hildebrandt kids being kids again. Our parents would have been so proud…

Someone recently said to me that she’s ready for thing to return to normal again. I’m not a scientist or economist, psychologist or historian, but I don’t think that’s gonna happen, that we’ll go back to how things were, but it’s also kind of a sanctimonious, asshole thing for me to say. In spite of what I think or what I’ve gone through, who am I to say that things will never, ever return to the way things used to be? All I have is my own experience to go by. Still, there’s evidence all around us: people are returning to their natural hair color (I just read that in eight weeks, thanks to covid-19, 80% of the world’s blondes will be extinct…look it up if you don’t believe me…), we are being forced to let go of old habits and pastimes, and discovering that they no longer serve us, if they ever did…skies ovetr cities that were tinged sepia are clearing, wildlife is returning to their habitats, people are connecting with each other in wildly creative, unprecedented ways…that’s not to say that there’s not some scary awful shit going down—there is, there’s too much to say about that, that’s why I sometimes can’t stop these posts —still, if by “going back to normal” means going back to a broken system, that those other glorious things suddenly go back to not happening again, then I’d have to say I’m kind of a proponent for rewriting the script…

I believe that when all of this is said and done, the world will be divided into two camps—huggers-bordering-on-gropers and those who run screaming when someone gets within six feet…don’t be surprised when we’re finally released from house arrest if this anti-hugger comes up to you and hugs your livin’ guts out. Stranger things have happened.

april 7, 2020—catch you later, John Prine…

Pink SuperUltraAngelFromMontgomery moonTook Rocco out tonight for our last walk of the evening, kept scanning the skies for the mythical pink moon. We walked for blocks, but it was nowhere to be seen. Strange… eventually, we turned the last corner toward home, when a glowing orb shimmering through night branches snagged my attention. “There it is!” I thought, and held up my phone to take a picture. At the same time, a text from Joe flashed on the screen.

“Aw shit…John Prine gone.”

I snapped a blurry pic as my eyes blurred with tears. Aw, shit, indeed… Even if you don’t believe in such things, you can’t help but think, “Whew…the largest and brightest moon of the year and a millions of pair of eyes resting on it, is one helluva celestial exit, Mr. Prine…” Rest in peace. xo

april 5, 2020—sunday morning confessional

It is Sunday, right? Once a Catholic, always a Catholic, though this one is of the fallen variety….). Long and rambly alert: this is long and rambly.
This morning was the first morning in 96 days that I woke up and thought, “wow. It’s quite possible that the only thing keeping me from heading down to the liquor store today for a bottle or two of wine today is fear of exposing myself to a fucking virus, and today that might be the only thing holding me together, and it feels pretty flimsy, at best.”
Until today, being AFAF has felt like a real-live superpower, and I’ve been singing my anthem loud and proud, “I recognize know, too well, what alcohol does to me, especially in crisis, and I don’t ever want to do that to myself again—” and blah, blah, blah… Today, I am quietly humming the same lyrics to a new/old melody—”I recognize, too well, what alcohol does to me, especially in a crisis,” and today, I’d love nothing more than to numb this fucking nightmare shitshow that’s burning down around us, to dam up the never-ending current of terror, isolation, fear of the unknown that now dictates our lives in various, infinite verses. Mine is: I have no job, no income, I’m alone, I haven’t physically touched anyone—not even a goddamned elbow bump—in over three weeks, my dog wondering when I’ll leave so he can finally get some sleep again, my modest savings is fast shriveling up before my eyes, and no one knows when this nightmare is going to end…”—that’s been coursing on repeat through my veins for the past few days.
I want to get in my trusty ol’ Jeep and drive to where most of my loved ones live, about an hour and a half from me—and perform a one-car parade past everyone’s house, to see them in-person (not on a goddamned screen), wave and honk the horn from afar, then turn around and come back home. But then, I start thinking, will seeing them in person but not be able to touch them break my heart even more than simply being alone? And what about the logistics and wisdom of that seemingly innocent act? where will I go to the bathroom? what if my car breaks down or I get into an accident (this would be the day for either or both to happen, the way the gods have been acting like moody, unpredictable sons-of-bitches lately)? what if I put a tow truck driver or first responders in jeopardy (I feel fine, but…)? what if I breathe in the virus through my Jeep vents? what if I breathe out the virus through the vents? What if, what if, what if…
I’m a fellow in the Loft Literary Center’s Mentor Series writing program here in Mpls, and like the rest of the world, we’ve resorted to online meetings; for yesterday’s session, our visiting author-mentor is a magical woman,Junauda Petrus, “a writer, pleasure activist, filmmaker and performance artist, born on Dakota land of Black-Caribbean descent. Her work centers around wildness, queerness, Black-diasporic-futurism, ancestral healing, sweetness, shimmer and liberation.” She is absolutely all that, and a sweet bag of stockpiled chips to boot. Yesterday, we were given a writing prompt where we were to riff off a few ideas she’d tossed out and string them into a poem, a short essay, story or just some loose, strung-out thoughts, whatever. I started writing a fairy-tale like story, as though I were talking to a child about things I was missing: “and there was a time in the world where children went into an actual school building with their friends to learn, and we went into restaurants and sat right next to each other as we ate, and went over to friends’ homes for parties, we hugged and held hands with our loved ones, and sat at their bedside as they lay dying, and walked right past strangers without darting across the street and our faces were not covered in makeshift masks—sometimes, our shoulders even brushed against one another…”
I started crying and couldn’t stop—this isn’t a fairy tale, it’s goddamned reality—and I couldn’t participate in the rest of the meeting. I kept my laptop camera and mic off and just cried and wrote. After the online class, I continued to write, and the hopeless story began turning into one of, I don’t know, not hope, really, but something else kind of like it, but different, because there was something very familiar about it.
Junauda, and everyone around me, is helping me lean into the magic and mystery and opportunity for profound metamorphosis in our fucked up “new normal” (a phrase which I’ve loathed since about 2011), which continually reminds me of another fucked up reality I lived through, which incidentally happened around 2011 (give and take a few years) and survived. Not in the way I’d hoped I would survive, and you bet, if given another chance, I’d change everything I did back then, but still, I survived, in spite of a whole bunch of what I’d call monumental fuck-ups. Last night, before bed, I wrote a message to Junauda, to tell her how much her generous, magical presence in my life means to me, and she wrote back immediately, offering me a welcomed lifeline when I felt I was drowning. And I was once again reminded, it’s that simple, how it works—you reach out for help, someone tosses you a line from their stash. Someone else reaches out, you toss them what you have, and together, in this way, we weave a net to continually catch and release each other, and we get through this shit show, one line at a time.
I recognize the familiarity of these overwhelming feelings: when my husband was diagnosed with cancer in 2009, our lives were upended for nearly two years, without reprieve. While more myopic than pandemic, there are so many eerie similarities—his oncologist was the medical equivalent to certain “world leaders” (sorry, not sorry for making this political, but truth is, every. damn. thing. is political) who spoke arrogantly, definitively of a cure, yet everything he did to my husband resulted in something more horrible than what had just happened, every day living in crawling-out-of-our-skin fear of the unknown—what godawful thing would happen next? When will this end? And then he died. My husband, not the oncologist, unfortunately (yes, I still harbor some unmetabolized resentment about that particular shit show that will probably stain me till I die—I’m 100% certain it’s impossible to scrub ourselves 100% pure again, but I’m finally okay with the stains—I earned ’em). Suffice to say, I numbed, big-time, during those months, and continued to numb, to varying degrees, for years after his death…as I sat and wrote yesterday, I shook loose other memories, reshaped a few thoughts, and was reminded that in the heart of that particular shit show, I did some really hard, astonishing, dare I say brave and wonderful things, fueled by pure love, in spite of things we’ve never done before, that we miscategorize mistakes, that have an uncanny ability to rise to the surface and obliterate the love and other good stuff we’ve done.
I’m reading story after story of others’ “fall from grace” in light of this godforsaken shitshow, and want you all to know I am humbled and reverenced by your brave admissions, by your openness and willingness to reach out, with honesty and vulnerability. And by so many others’ generosity and wisdom, who reach back, to help hold you when you are faltering, and it’s a miraculous thing to witness and be part of…sometimes we gotta do what we gotta do, to get through the hard things, and right now, this pandemic thing? It’s 100% fucking hard, and we will all need help, at some time or other. Desperately.
Today, I am going to do all I can right now to ride this tidal wave of emotion and physical discomfort, and honor it as a necessary part of this whatever we’re calling it. I’ll be honest, I sometimes, dramatically roll my eyes when I say journey or process, or whatever precious euphemism we’re calling this FUCKING PANDEMIC. Whatever we are doing to get through this nightmare are stunning acts of courage; we are all doing badass things that we never, ever, ever thought in a million years we would be doing, and we all really suck at doing it, let’s be honest. BECAUSE NO ONE HAS EVER BEEN IN A CRIPPLING PANDEMIC BEFORE, OKAY? And it really, really sucks that we have to reach out in bizarre, foreign ways, but that’s just the way it’s gotta be for a while.
I had same-but-different kind of support when my husband was sick, and while I didn’t do things in a picture-perfect way (what the fuck even is “picture perfect?” anyhow, I ask/demand now), I did it in the best way I knew how to do at the time, and for that experience and the support I received then, often from the most unexpected sources, I’m beyond grateful, grace-filled and honored for that phase of my life, because it’s helping guide me now, and to say I’m shocked as hell about it isn’t an overstatement.
I’ll be honest—I get sad and frankly, more than a little pissed at whatever construct/system has led us to believe that being fully human is somehow failing—really?? I call bullshit on that line of thinking. How can a human possibly fail at being human? You simply cannot, that’s how. And why do you have to start over and begin counting from Day 1 again?? You don’t, that’s the truth. Jesus, let’s change the narrative, shall we? that is where our superpower lies. Let’s stop keeping score and stop using words like failing, or losing, or falling—as though being AF is some kind of competitive sporting event—and just keep on taking care of one another, one line at a time. Keep on being human. I don’t think of anyone here as failing or letting us down, or falling off anything—we are all doing the very best we can in a really fucked up situation in which no one has ever been before. in spite of all the rules being scrambled on us at warp speed, I’m still of the belief that whatever gets you through the night, is all right, is all right…We have no official shit-show blueprint or guidebook to follow, but we do have each other. We’re learning from and teaching each other, reaching out and holding up (sometimes both at the same time, while on a zoom meeting and homeschooling, or fetching a damn hotdog for the demanding dog, or whatever. Which is all a pretty damned big deal, when you stop to think about it. xo!