2021, so far

Hello lovely friends,

After a nonchalant reference to my absence from your inbox, today’s note begins with a list of topics I have imagined writing about over the past three months:

  • Completed list from December’s calendar/thankfulness project
  • 2020 review, 2021 intentions or something of that nature
  • Political hijinx, insurgencies, inaugurations, etc.
  • Breaking through my bathroom door with a sledgehammer
  • How the kids learned that sex is a real thing
  • What I’ve been doing lately, artiste updates
  • Covid one-year review
  • Legally driving
  • Black holes
  • Tidying, again
  • My 45th birthday
  • What am I doing here?

We’ll move through these one at a time.

Advent calendar. Graphic representation of completed project (top of each cell = what we were thankful for, bottom = what we gave):

I’ll be sharing more about this project in the late summer so anyone wanting to play along can do so for 2021. It was a beautiful way to conclude a difficult year and I hope to make it part of how I think about and share light in the world for the rest of my life. If you want to see and read the full list of what we were thankful for and what we shared with others, you can find it here. If you missed (or forgot) what this project was all about, that’s here.

2020 review. It was a sad year and a lonely year. It was a hard year and a scary year. Also I was very fortunate in 2020. I came out of the year knowing myself better than I did when it began.

2021 intentions. Keep going.
 
Political hijinx. I live 7 miles from the US Capitol (the building) and 3 miles from the Pentagon. There was a lot of helicopter traffic in January. Now there is less.

Hammer time. It was the weekend before the Inauguration, with all of Washington D.C. and its environs holding our breath for a potential second insurrection. The streets were eerily quiet, the news feeds were awash with speculation. The children were nestled all snug in their beds while helicopter rotors spun over their heads. Otis the dog ate a fungus or drank some giardia or swallowed a massive pine cone. This resulted in everyone in the house being certain that he was on the verge of death. He just stood there, facing the wall, moaning, or lying down after we had lowered him, moaning, with his bulging eyes staring at me like he expected me to know what to do. Then behaving like nothing was wrong when we took him to the vet for several x-rays and some pricey injections. (He once vomited an intact half of a grapefruit-sized spiked silicone chew toy. And then, about two months later, vomited the other half. So what I’m saying is that I shouldn’t have been surprised. But we really did think he probably wasn’t going to make it.)

That Sunday I “woke” (suggests sleep happened, but really morning came and I was) on the couch (for the second night) next to the still crying dog who couldn’t quite get up on his own. Drank some coffee. Followed the dog in the yard hoping he would poop so I could search for clues (he did, I did). It being a holiday weekend, what festive delight might we cook for breakfast? I mixed some biscuit dough, Sam cut out the rounds, Dave cooked the bacon. Breakfast almost ready, Dave announced he would “pop into the lou.” I scrambled the eggs, poured them into the pan with butter and some bacon fat when Maggie entered the kitchen, mildly flustered, to tell me that Dave was locked in the bathroom, could I please go upstairs. 

About an hour later, I’m holding something akin to a sledgehammer and breaking down the bathroom door while my son holds up the phone so that my brother and his wife can offer encouragement (e.g., “hit that door like someone’s coming for your kids!”) and advise on the best way to strike a 90-year-old solid wood door so that somehow the lock gives (yes, we tried other options first). Arm shaking (and still sore), feeling quite pleased with myself, we went downstairs and had our breakfast of cold eggs and cold biscuits and cold bacon. And then the kids flipped through the newspaper looking at photos of the events of January 6th, laughing at the bust of George Washington in the MAGA hat. Later that evening they pretended to be rioters dodging tear gas.

The Talk. I went to retrieve the children from school last week. Hopping into the car, my child asked if I knew of a video game called “The Sins.” No, I answered, feigning only casual curiosity, what is it like? 

Well, in the game you get a girlfriend or a boyfriend and you both take off your clothes and you lie down on a bed and rub your privates together.

In an incredulous tone, like I can’t believe what I’m hearing, I respond: So you are telling me there is a video game where you take your clothes off and lie down on a bed with someone and rub your privates together? (We are all laughing as I say this, but I’m kind of hoping this response will evade any further direct questioning at this somewhat inconvenient time.) We drive past a house that is being torn down. We pause for a moment to watch one wall crumble to the ground. The child continues: And kiss at the same time and kind of wriggle all around. Mom, what is sexing? Is it a real thing?

I’m not prepared, I never bought that book my friend recommended. I tried to open another book to a page I thought would elicit curiosity but that didn’t work. Now I’m stuck.

It’s a real thing, I say whereupon both children erupt in laughter.

Are you saying that people actually lie down without their clothes on and rub their privates together? Yes, I say from the front seat, merging into traffic.

Yes, people really do that.

I steered the conversation to dogs and birds and biology, mechanics, those topics seeming easier to cover while changing lanes and given the difficulty of eye contact. They pulled it back to specifics, my specifics, there were many questions, there was horror, there was laughing. I tried to navigate their understanding of ‘inappropriate’ and its relationship to ‘not good.’ I tried to balance “people do it because it is nice” with the idea that “it’s nice… but…” But what? It’s complicated? It was a tricky line to walk from the front seat of a Jetta Sportwagen. There’s more to share, I’ve written it down, but I’ll need to wait several years and get their permission first.

Artiste updates. In my 100 Rejections Project I’m up to 19 submissions and 18 rejections. I think the one submission that hasn’t been rejected is because the publication went under during Covid. 

I’ve mentioned in the past that I work as a freelance editor, but I haven’t shared the kinds of things I working on. Some of what I edit is this and in 2020 I started editing projects for other artistes including two books. I’ve also been doing more copywriting and ghostwriting and I had three pieces published in Forbes (But since it’s ghostwriting, I’ll have to keep those to myself, I think that’s the rule).

I am gaining fame across the internet on sites such as the gorgeous 118els.com and my friend Nick’s blog, Intrinsic:

Jennifer is a fellow Magpie (that’s my weekly creative’s group), but I would have loved this book even if I didn’t know her personally.  She is a fascinating human being: she has lunched with the Queen of Bhutan and had a rare katydid named after her, but her book, which is basically her blog from 2016-2018, is filled with the down-to-earth struggles of a mother of two young children, though that’s not what it’s primarily about.  I found myself nodding along and laughing out loud, sharing passages out loud with Lindsey (who also laughed out loud), and recognizing my own struggles.  Struggles like “How do I, as a thinking person, reconcile the need for festivity, fun, and fitting in, with the obvious waste of one-time-use glow sticks and halloween-themed tablecloths?” and  “Am I an egomaniac for wanting to share my thoughts with the world?”  I loved it, and I’m certain that you will, too.

I have posted my first ‘public’ song on Soundcloud. It’s not a new song but I have made some real progress in terms of accompanying myself on the piano and figuring out how to record a song from home.

One of the best parts of my 2020 was that I somewhat inadvertently met/joined/built a group of folks who also make a lot of different kinds of things (like me!) and that community of creative souls has been a gift. I helped to build an online gallery where we could see our work sitting together. Here’s a little bit about the group and the gallery. In addition to the song above, I have a poem and a short story in the current show. It feels amazing to have my work out in the world alongside this group of fellow artistes.

Covid 1-year review. My kids are in school today and they have been there, in person, for almost 50 days of the past year. My husband is upstairs in our bedroom where he has worked every weekday since one year ago. He used to travel for work sometimes. His ‘office’ is the only room in the house with both heat and a functionally closing door. My office is downstairs where the kids have been for the other 315+ days of the year. When a plumber came to our house, Otis the dog was blown away: people other than us can be in here? Maggie has remote piano lessons, remote dance. Sam hasn’t played soccer in a year. He just draws hundreds of pictures like this:

On Monday, the kids had in-person school and Dave had a random day off of work. We spent the first half of the day delivering broken appliances to the electronic waste recycling center, eating at a restaurant for the first time in a year (we were outside, they did not have heaters, and it was prohibitively cold), and ordering a new puzzle. It is not hyperbole to say that the day had the distinct feel of a vacation. Both of my parents have now had their first vaccine dose. One of my cousins tested positive this week. Several close friends have lost family members. I will never take hugging for granted again.

Legally driving. I have a legal drivers license again after 17 months of driving without one. I was told (source undisclosed) that you had a year after expiration to get a new license. There was sort of a grace period is what I thought. That was before Covid and the DMV closed and I did try, on occasion, to call or get an appointment, but it was tricky and I was not persistent. So I was pulled over for an expired emissions inspection sticker (I guess I thought we were still in the phase of letting those things slide) and luckily was not given a Class 2 misdemeanor or 6 months of jail time. And now I have both a legal license (7 years to go!) and all other necessary/relevant stickers/paperwork.

Black holes. Did you read about the galaxy that is missing it’s black hole? They aren’t sure where it is and also they think it might be hungry? I just don’t want you to be caught unawares, but hopefully nothing will happen with that until April or later.

Tidying again. Didn’t I do this already? Yes, but I never finished. Stuffed (one woman’s quest to reimagine our relationship to the material world, my next book) is still underway and I’m really loving how it is shaping up, what I’m learning. I think it is possible that it will be finished by the end of the year. If I publish it myself, like I did with the last book, it may even be available in book form by December.

My 45th birthday. In October, my kids having been home from school since March, the election days away and Covid numbers climbing again, I was eating cookies as a coping mechanism. Thus, on the day of my 45th birthday I was constipated and had painful hemorrhoids. Just days before my birthday I had pulled my hair into a ponytail, picked up a pair of scissors, and – clip – instant haircut. That morning I found the largest, stiffest, most wire-like chin hair I have ever seen on my person. I received a rejection letter for some poetry I had submitted and then I found the chin hair. And then I found a gray hair on my head, very long and markedly curly (quite distinct from the hair of my youth which is/was straight and fine) so I had visions of myself as an aged person with gray, curly nether hair all over my head. With the precision of a drunk surgeon I plucked both hairs from my head/face. I bought myself a new toothbrush (online, of course). Dave and the kids gave me a hoodie sweatshirt (the one I’m wearing now). In the evening, Dave prepared my favorite cocktail for me (bourbon plus a hint of amaretto with frozen strawberries instead of ice) and I sat outside and ate cheese and crackers. I made myself a chocolate soufflé. What made it a great birthday? I don’t know. But I know that it was.

Conclusion/summary. So there you have it. Many but not all of the things that I’ve had in my mind to write to you about over the past few months. I’m sorry to send so many words all at once rather than a more brief note monthly. Reading all of these words I wonder, why do you do this? Does it have value? Why are you putting these thoughts and details of your life on the internet? Who cares? How does it help?

Beats me. I know that I’m wanting and willing to help and I have a feeling that being real and talking about the quotidian, and not only the Big and Important questions, has value. We live our lives in these small matters, if they are small matters, and sometimes we live in a story that they should be a certain way that they aren’t and won’t be.

I know I’ve shared this quote before, but it seems as good a way to sign off as any other that I can think of:

May the accumulated wealth of our spirit continue to grow among us, so that each of us may enter, and be revived by, a vitality beyond his or her solitary powers.

Lewis Hyde, The Gift

With love to you all,

Jennifer


Hi! Thanks for reading! I’ve also written a book! (The Rise and Fall of Jenny Goodguts). You can learn more about my current work, including The Stuffed Project, or subscribe to the blog to get new posts directly in your inbox.

One thought on “2021, so far

  1. There are far too many amazing things wrapped into this post to connect on. Always, always love a glimpse into the thoughts swirling in your mind. Now, to research that black hole and listen to your song on repeat.

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