end of september musings

by christie shumate mcelwee

Fall has finally arrived to our section of the Midwest/Northish South/Smackdab in the Middleish. I’ve bought mums, baked a few pies, and brought out a few decorations. I even brought home a seasonal candle I only light when I practice yoga because its strong scent allows me to enter a pumpkin spice zen state. I have a lot going on in my messy mind these days. So much that it is affecting my sleep, but I’m working on fixing that (no phone scrolling after 8:00 pm, news and social media apps off phone, nightly chamomile tea, and nothing election related is allowed to enter my brain as I slip into bed. I’ve only had this routine for a few nights, but I think it’s working. I’ll keep you posted.)

What else fills my head these days?

  1. As an American and one who has taken a few US Constitution tests, I have always been in awe of the peaceful transfer of power on Inauguration Day. One president steps down and another takes on the title. No violence. No coup. But to have this one declare the election “illegitimate” before it has even begun makes my stomach churn like the witches of Macbeth’s cauldron. My vote is not cheating. It is not fake. My vote is my voice. It is my super power.
  2. I’ve paid my fair share of taxes since I first donned the red polyester uniform at Monical’s Pizza back in 1976, and I’m proud of it. Yes, I was rather shocked when I saw my first paycheck, and yes, I grumble when we fill out our yearly returns, but I also know taxes go toward important public institutions such as infrastructure, schools, police, firefighters, Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. Does the tax system need reforming? Yes. Do funds need to be rerouted? Probably. If we only cut taxes and don’t come up with definitive ways to supplement that money will systems collapse? Most definitely. All of us, especially the president of the united states, should pay equitable taxes on income, property, and assets.
  3. Still hanging onto hope. Focusing on words like decency, compassion, honesty, sacrifice, empathy, and kindness. Strong words. Upstanding characteristics. Attributes I look for in people…my people.
  4. I’m starting to come up with a post-Covid bucket list. Things like a cross-country road trip, singing along to musicals at The Fox, seeing our favorite comedians live, attending concerts, having people over for dinner, setting a crowded holiday table, and, of course, hugging. There will be lots of hugging. What is on your list?
  5. I will continue to look for joy, search for wonder, and wallow in gratitude despite the insanity that swirls around us. I see kind people doing their best to walk the bumpy walk. I smile through my mask and say a quiet thank you for their grace. I admire anyone who sees hope as an act of defiance.

“Hope is a gift you don’t have to surrender, a power you don’t have to throw away. And though hope can be an act of defiance, defiance isn’t enough reason to hope. But there are good reasons.” ~Rebecca Solnit

This Mary Engelbreit postcard on my desk reminds me every day that hope does spring eternal, even for this little mermaid.

The first day of September musings

(September 1, 2020)

by Christie Shumate McElwee

I don’t know about you all, but six months into this debacle, I’ve hit a wall. I can’t sleep. I can’t think. I have trouble concentrating on much of anything. Yesterday my friend Marcia sent me a link to an article that helped me define how I’ve been feeling. It discussed an ancient Greek word that encapsulates these days for many of us. The word is “acedia,” defined as “a seizing up or freezing of feelings; spiritual or mental sloth; a lack of care.” Medieval monks cloistered in monasteries often experienced “acedia.” They suffered a sense of listlessness, sighing at their lonely existence, not knowing what to do next. Does this sound familiar? It’s not depression or laziness. It’s acedia, and sometimes it is reassuring to have a name for our emotions. When Marcia forwarded me this yesterday, I was at my desk staring at a blank page. It was almost as though she knew I needed help. It’s the universe (and a good friend) holding out a hand.

I think all of us are grappling with some form of acedia right now. We are stuck in an anxiety-riddled mire, constantly worrying about the impact of the virus, our political climate, hurricanes, fires, racial injustice, voting, our “leader’s” unhinged Twitter rants, the openings of schools, keeping our families safe, and not forgetting a mask when venturing out. No wonder we feel stranded, wishing we had a soccer ball companion named Wilson who would listen to our endless strings of worry beads.

How do I sit with my own acedia?

Place purple mums on my front porch.

Text dear friends my fears and hopes and deepest desires.

Rearrange my office.

Bake an apple pie.

Write cards to my grandchildren.

Read. Read. Read.

Read fiction. Read nonfiction. Read poetry.

Read. Read. Read.

Nap when I can.

Take my mom out to lunch.

Brew good coffee.

Practice yoga.

Listen to music. Always music.

Buy stamps.

Limit time on social media and the news.

Stay out of the comments. Nothing good ever comes from reading the comments. Nothing.

Reach out to our kids. Grateful when they reach out to us.

Venture out from my cloistered life.

Bask in the cooler days.

Hang onto hope.

Look for magic.

Send big messy everlasting love out to the universe.

“The very least you can do in your life is figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope. Not admire it from a distance but live right in it, under its roof.” ~ Barbara Kingsolver

“Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” ~Roald Dahl

“You can only go with loves in this life.” ~Ray Bradbury

And…because I’m still an English teacher in my heart….

Stillman, Jessica. “The Ancient Greeks Had a Word for the Specific Kind of Bad You’re Feeling Right Now.” Inc. 31 August 2020.

cece’s 19 thursday musings

by cece (my grandma name)

Day WTF

(A few are political, so if you don’t want to read or believe my sassy liberal views, move on.)

  1. I see online all the wonderful bread being made. It all looks so delicious I can almost smell it! Last week I baked a loaf of banana bread. Does that count?
  2. Please do not share conspiracy theories of body counts in urban areas. It is sad and sick and just not right. These “bodies” are people’s friends and family members. Say a silent prayer and step away from the propaganda.
  3. I miss hugs. I really miss hugs.
  4. I ration myself to just a few news articles a day that deal with our government’s total ineptitude of dealing with this crisis. My sanity can only take so much stupidity.
  5. Support mail-in voting. Widespread voter fraud is a myth. Yes, I love going to the polls to vote, but I shouldn’t have to risk my life to do it. Any type of voter suppression is morally repugnant. There. I said it.
  6. All the calories we are consuming during the quarantine don’t count, right?
  7. And the same goes for all the booze, yes?
  8. I went to our neighborhood market this afternoon, and it took half an hour for my heart rate to come down after I returned and wiped down everything. Again. I miss our weekly trips to the grocery store when Rock would push the cart while I’d dance down Dierberg’s aisles finding everything on the list. Dierberg’s has the best music, I’m just saying.
  9. Overnight, how did we all become hypochondriacs, agoraphobics, and Howard Hughes? Damn.
  10. Please do NOT gather in a church this Sunday. God will hear your off key version of “Christ the Lord is Risen Today” during your online worship. Me? I’m going to rewatch Jesus Christ Superstar with John Legend. Hosanna, baby.
  11. According to the numbers and models, social distancing is working. Stay home, if you can. If you are an essential worker, stay safe. If you are venturing out to the stores or picking up food, follow the rules. Also, stop gathering in large groups. STOP. IT.
  12. I am trying to donate to a charity or order takeout or delivery from a local establishment at least once a week. What are you doing?
  13. Once again, it’s okay to feel sad. There are no rules for how to behave in a global pandemic. 
  14. I really really miss my lunches out with friends. 
  15. When I found out I wouldn’t be meeting my ESL students in person again this semester, I cried.
  16. If you will be missing graduations, proms, and end of the school year celebrations, I am truly sorry. My heart hurts for you.
  17. If you are having financial troubles, I am wrapping you all in my fierce warrior goddess energy. Stay strong, my loves.
  18. Spring is still on its way. No virus will stop spring.
  19. Listen to good music. Enjoy the quiet. Love one another.

You can cut all the flowers but you cannot keep spring from coming.

Pablo Neruda

CeCe’s Musings: The 13th Day

by Christie Shumate McElwee

CeCe’s Musings: A Resurrection of My First Blog Title

Random thoughts on Day 13 of social distancing, social isolation, quarantining, helping to flatten the damn curve, living moment to moment, still trying to figure out Zoom, and drinking all the wine.

  1. A sunny day makes all the difference. Rain…not so much.
  2. Coffee and wine have saved my life.
  3. After reading Stephen King’s The Stand, I’ve decided real news is scarier. Take that, King of Horror.
  4. Have I mentioned wine?
  5. Sitting on my porch swing yesterday, I had lovely conversations with two of our neighbors. Finally after three years of living here, I learned one of them is a physician’s assistant and the other has three cats. Still don’t remember one of their names, but we have time. Lots of time.
  6. Videos of penguins walking around zoos are everything.
  7. Grateful I like who I’m sequestered with during this time. Ever so grateful.
  8. Trevor Noah’s sofa, Jimmy Fallon’s daughters.
  9. Have I mentioned sun?
  10. Pondering cleaning out the freezer and under the sink. Pondering does not equal doing. I’m just saying…
  11. Sitting with the blues when they come over me. Giving myself permission to be sad, stay in my pjs, and watch endless episodes of Gilmore Girls.
  12. Grateful for my soul sister girlfriends. Our text threads has been both sincerely vulnerable and freaking hilarious. 
  13. Why can’t we all have FaceTime? Why can’t our phones just get along?
  14. Walking outside is weird as we all do that crazy “don’t you get near me” dance.
  15. Construction of a new house is still going on across the street, and I’ve discovered I don’t mind all of the noise. The constant hammering calms me. And the workers seem to be social distancing in the midst of the build. Kudos, boys. Kudos.
  16. I had cereal this morning. I haven’t had a bowl of cereal in ages and it was delicious. Yup, that’s my life right now: expounding the delights of cereal.
  17. Rationing toilet paper is literally a pain in the ass, and I am not one to aimlessly use that word “literally.”
  18. Trying not to go down the internet rabbit hole. Emphasizing “trying.” Not totally successful yet.
  19. Who else is recharging their phones at least once or twice a day? Asking for a friend.
  20. I am finding strength every day in the simple things: a former student helping out my mom, hearing my husband’s voice as he works from our basement, talking with my sons, and trading Lysoled (it is now officially an adjective) puzzles with a neighbor. 
  21. Never never never forget to love.

“The world is violent and mercurial – it will have its way with you. We are saved only by love – love for each other and the love that we pour into the art we feel compelled to share: being a parent; being a writer; being a painter; being a friend. We live in a perpetually burning building, and what we must save from it, all the time, is love.” – Tennessee Williams, who was born on this day, March 26, 1911.