Category Archives: Emotions

My Hygge Place

Helen suggested this week’s topic: Hygge. Here’s what she actually said:

It’s a cold, rainy day here and I’m reading an article on hygge (https://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-…n-with-getting-cozy), so we could always write about our personal hygge practices (or a very hygge-like experience we had)

Helen from Canada

Until I used the attic office for my full-time work, I believe I felt hygge as I ascended the steps to the attic space and smelled the mixture of old house, carpet, dusty books, disintegrating slate shingles, baseboard heating and the odor of technology. It was my haven. It was where I escaped from the children and where I met up with friends from around the world in online communities (years before Facebook). It was where I sat on the tiny sofa-bed and read or watched television. It was where I listened to Dan Bern and Kate Bush.

Even before we had the attic refinished, before we bought our first computer, I would sit on a kitchen chair at a desk that Dean brought up for me and write in journals or on sheets of legal pad paper — pour out my thoughts, feelings, emotions. Of course in those days I could only go to the attic in the fall or spring because it was neither heated in the winter nor air conditioned in the summer.

Lately, I’ve gotten the feeling back on weekends when I don’t have to sit at the desk and write reports admonishing website developers for forgetting to add alt text to their images or aria-labels to redundant links. I’ve been cleaning (really really really, cleaning) out my office closet and throwing things away that I don’t need and sorting things I might still need. Blogging about some of the things I threw away, and wondering why I’d kept the others for so long.

I still have a ways to go, and come the fall, when I retire, the office will no longer be my work-space. It can go back to being only my place of hygge.

Side note: I’d hoped the enclosed screened in porch (our Lodge) would become my hygge place, but so far it is not doing it for me.

Note from neighbor

If you recall, at the beginning of the year I decided to make it my year of letting go. In addition to my near Sisyphean task of disposing of unneeded belongings, I also planned on letting go of some unwanted emotions.

Today’s emotion is brought to you through a note my son brought home after helping a friend’s parents move. He parked his car on a street and spent several hours on a thankless and difficult task only to come back to a note on his car scolding him for parking on a public street.

While I understand that the space in front of a house is prime parking for the residents of that home, it is also not a crime to park there unless the neighborhood requires permits and you don’t have that permit (which is the case in our neighborhood — but if you have a permit for the neighborhood you can park anywhere, even if it is not in front of your own house). I also understand that most of the homes in neighborhoods around here have no garages.

This note is probably 3 years old, and I am mostly over it, but when I came across it in my recent purge attempts it made me angry again so therefore I needed to write about and then destroy the note.

Please refrain from parking in front of our house — We have 4 cars/drivers and need the curb area in front of our house — Thanks for understanding the neighborhood courtesy!

2020’s Theme: Letting Go

Just a few minutes ago, while I was waiting for the Instant Pot to do its magic on eight eggs and hard boil them, I noticed that the side of our new kitchen drawers have the manufacturer’s name on them (Medallion) and that made me remember our old kitchen cabinets. When we moved into this house, a friend who helped us move was impressed with the brand of the cabinets (Quaker Maid) and told us that we had some quality kitchen cabinets. Several years later I mentioned that to the uncle of Clare’s friend who we’d hired to paint some rooms in our house. He made some disparaging comment about the brand which implied that they were not all that great. That comment has stuck with me through the years and when I remember it my stomach tightens and I am pretty sure my blood pressure rises.

I thought about how that made me feel, this first day of a new year and new decade and realized that I needed to let it go. To somehow make that comment not bother me any more. It is really silly that it bothered me so much and even sillier that it still does. I mean, this guy was living with his brother and doing side jobs to make a living. His actual home was a double-wide trailer (in Lake Tahoe, but still). Maybe saying that made him feel better about himself. His brother was not much better with the side comments, so maybe it was a family thing. When I spent a week in their double-wide in Tahoe and was asked to share in a rather expensive restaurant bill (which I was happy to do) instead of just paying for the kids and me he remarked that, after all, I was staying in his home, rent free for a few days.

Anyway, I think that this year I will dedicate to letting things go. Memories like the above, things I don’t need/use/wear, and hopefully a few inches around my waist too.

I am not making resolutions, I am not making a list of things I want to learn, I am not going to try to read a book a week and I am not doing a no-buy challenge. I am just going to let some things go.

End of the year wrap-up 2017

2017 has not been a very good year for me. Nothing outrageous has happened. Work’s fine. No one close to me has died ((Well, not counting Leo)). The kids are doing well.

But I have been smoldering all year long and I have been getting angry or hurt about small things. Of course I know why I am angry. I am angry that I don’t feel like I know the country I live in any more. It has become ugly. It is one huge Ugly American.

I’ve fought the ugly American label for so long, but now it doesn’t seem to matter what I do or how I act. I am from the United States, therefore an ugly American. I am from the country that voted a racist, misogynistic, xenophobic reality TV actor as our leader. I live in a country whose leaders are turning back progressive laws. It doesn’t matter that I didn’t vote for this man, it only matters that I have a U. S. passport.

I’ve spent this year eating too much, drinking too much and sleeping too much. Buying too much crap. I have likely been depressed since November 2016. I have let myself “go” in a number of ways and this has got to stop.

That’s why 2018 is going to be the year of hope for me. The year of setting priorities. The year of not being angry anymore.

I still have lots to do, so the Declutter series will continue.

Also, there is a new 365 challenge beginning on January 1. Follow along here.

Declutter 2017: Letter from Julia

When I was going though a box of correspondence from my mom’s house I came across a small, folded note in an unmarked envelope. Now, my mom kept pretty much every piece of correspondence she received, so it was not unusual that she kept this, but it was a surprise to me and made me very uncomfortable because 1) I didn’t know anything about it and 2) it put me in a very bad light.

It took me a while to figure out that the note was from Julia. I thought, at first, that there was someone I’d been unkind to named Pat Knight who I’d completely forgotten, then I realized it was from Julia.

Readers of this blog may recall that I briefly had a roommate from England shortly after I moved out of my mom’s house and it ended badly. She was beautiful, blond, British and outgoing. At the time I felt much inferior to her, appearance-wise. We’d go to a bar and guys would be lining up to meet her. There were times guys seemed to want to get to know me because they wanted to get closer to her. To put it bluntly, I was envious of her looks and ease with men.

I actually looked forward to her returning to the States ((She’d spent a few weeks with us during the summer, then returned to England to get a visa so she could stay longer)) as my roommate before she arrived; and I know we had some fun together. The part about me only allowing her to come back to the States because I owed it to my parents is not right — I may have said it, but that was easier to say than admit that I was jealous of her looks and accent and how guys acted around her. I also was not jealous of the relationship she was growing with my family ((well, I say that now, but perhaps I was. I know I was jealous that my mom talked to Marcia about things that she would not talk to me about)).

I know I was difficult to live with, but at the time I felt as if I were the injured party. I paid the rent and she didn’t always have the cash for her part of the rent. I paid for her medical bills when she went to the doctor because she had no insurance. I did the housekeeping and did our laundry. I definitely resented her for a lot of things and I am sure it showed.

There were other things that I won’t mention here, but both of us were on shaky ground based on societal rules (and U. S. and state laws) of the time.

The part about the letter is probably true. I don’t remember writing it, but I hated how I was acting, I hated the jealousy I was feeling. I’d long felt that there was something wrong with me because I had such a short fuse and would explode at the slightest provocation.

For years afterwards friends and family members would ask me if I’d ever heard from her or knew where she was living. I didn’t until I got in touch with her brother, and then got in touch with her in 2010. This year we became friends on Facebook.

And as I told Julia in an email nearly 8 years ago — she’s why Dean and I are together. Dean and I dated a few times in 1979, but I wanted to date someone else. A year later Dean, who  was a client of the salon where Julia worked, had her for a hair washer. When he heard her talk he asked if she knew me. She said yes and that he should call me. He did and the rest is history.

In which Arthur and Benedict bring me JOY!

As some of you know, my mother died last August, three days after my 60th birthday. She’d been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease a few years before she died, and I suspect she’d had it for even more years before the diagnosis.

I stopped sleeping well about two or three years ago – waking up at night worrying about my mother and feeling guilty that I was not helping out more. After her death, the feelings of guilt stopped, but other worries took their place, so I continued to wake up at night worrying about this or that – work, the election, and other things I don’t want to discuss here.

Whether or not it was the general feeling of anxiety, grief over my mom’s health and death, or a by-product of not sleeping, I must have been in a state of situational depression for some time. Not that I always felt unhappy – but I never felt completely happy and some things that used to interest me didn’t interest me anymore – birds, reading, cooking…

I’d vowed to get back into reading – especially books that interested me. Most of the books we’d read for book group were fine, but only a few really caught my attention and made me want to stay up reading them all night. Two of those books were about men of my general age who for different reasons discovered new things about themselves in the course of the books. One book was The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce and the other was A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman.

Cover of The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper. A man sitting on a sofaAmazon recommends books based on books you buy and in March a book called The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick was recommended and was on sale for $1.99 so I purchased it. It looked like something I would like, but I didn’t start reading it until last week. I liked it immediately and early in the morning on July 11th I was halfway finished with the book. Sitting on our back porch, I put the book down, took a sip of coffee, looked out through the screen at the bird-filled backyard and I felt something I’d not felt in a very long time. I felt JOY! All Caps with an exclamation point and bold font JOY!

It took me by such surprise and I realized that I could not even remember the last time I felt pure JOY! that I began crying. I cried because there were so many times over the past few years that I should have felt this way – when I saw my daughter after a long absence; when my brother married the love of his life; when my son graduated from Oberlin. I cried because I’d wasted so much time on being angry or resentful or guilty or scared or despairing.

Then I wondered where the feeling came from. Coffee? No, I drank it every day. Sitting on the back porch? No, I did that every day too. Hearing birdsong and watching birds? No, again, that was a daily event. The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper? Bingo, it was Arthur Pepper’s search for who his wife was before they met that did the trick, I am sure of it. In fact, I’ve been on a similar search – I’ve been going through items I brought back from my mother’s house and trying to find meaning in them. Why did Mom have them? Where did they come from? Who had them before she did? I think I suddenly realized that even though I’d lost my mother in August (really, years before that) I’d not lost the memories of her and could make more memories because of the items from her house. I mean, I have not even got to the letters and have only touched upon the photographs.

Cover of Rise & Shine Benedict StoneSince that epiphanous Tuesday, I’ve been able to sleep through the night (with a slight hiccup this week because of a work issue) and have been able to deal better with things that would have made me angry, resentful, or despairing before that Tuesday. Maybe I am done with the grief – the grief that I told everyone, including myself, I didn’t feel.

This morning as I sat on the back porch drinking coffee, watching the birds, listening to bird chatter I once again felt JOY! This time, the book I’d just put down was Rise and Shine Benedict Stone, Phaedra Patrick’s second book. Coincidently, I am halfway through it.

So this is not a book review but a too-long, twisty-turny open thank-you letter to Phaedra Patrick who I hope continues to write charming, witty, life-changing novels. And no, I don’t believe we are related but it would be cool if we were.

Pregnancy Shaming

Not long after my son was conceived in May of 1992 I suspected I was pregnant. Sometimes you just know. I peed on a stick to check and when the pregnancy test confirmed I was probably pregnant I told one or two people at work. I waited until the school year was over before I had it confirmed by my ob-gyn. My husband and I talked about it and we agreed that I would take more time off than I did with our daughter. Raising two young children 18 months apart would probably be difficult. We also began talking about selling our house in Alexandria and moving closer to my husband’s job in Bethesda.

In the fall, when I returned to my teaching job and more people discovered that I was pregnant, I was summoned to the principal’s office where she told me she heard that I was pregnant and asked me what my plan was for after the baby was born. I smiled and told her I thought I would be taking a year or two off, expecting her next words to be congratulatory. Instead, she asked me why I didn’t tell her before the end of the school year in the spring. I explained that I was not 100% sure about the pregnancy until after school was over. She said that she knew that I told at least one person and told me that I was irresponsible for letting her place me with the 6th graders who would need more consistency* than 4th or 5th graders would. Then she asked me if the pregnancy was planned. Shocked, I told her that it was planned — very much so, but after the meeting I wished I told her that it was none of her business.

I taught up until winter break that year, then was placed on bedrest for 3 weeks because of early labor. The rest of my time at the school that year was filled with feelings of guilt. I don’t think she ever acknowledged my son’s birth, even after my extended maternity leave was up and because I was unsuccessful finding a teaching job elsewhere I pretty much begged for forgiveness so I could work there again.

When I did return to the school I discovered that one of the women I told about my suspected pregnancy in the spring had been reprimanded by the principal for not telling her.

Even now, nearly 25 years later, when I think about the principal’s words that autumn my gut clenches and instead of remembering my second pregnancy with pure joy, much of what I think about is what the principal said to me and the guilt she made me feel.

Some of you, maybe teachers or principals out there, may think the principal was right but it never occurred to me that my leaving mid-semester could do any harm. Perhaps, if you agree with her, you think it is good that eight years after that conversation, I decided teaching just wasn’t for me.


*I was a special education teacher. Our teaching practice involved a special education teacher supporting a mainstream teacher in a grade level for the year.