How’s it going, everyone?

I’ve had a rough couple weeks. For whatever reason, I’ve felt emotionally raw, like my fortitude is running thin and I’m extra susceptible to every little negative vibe and thought. I think I’m coming out of it, but man, down spells really do take it out of a person. To those who live under the relentless cloud of depression, my heart goes out.

Celebrating… that I’ve finally finished this book. It was super good, but it sure wasn’t easy to read. Alcoholism is a true beast. Do I recommend the book? Yes. . . maybe. It certainly is incredibly well-written, but it may have been part of the reason I’ve been in a funk.

Obsessively hitting refresh… on the CaringBridge page of our friends whose nineteen-year-old son has been, quite terrifyingly suddenly, diagnosed with a brain tumor. These friends are not close close friends, but we have enough parallel big life experiences (several years in Central America, church, school, children of similar ages, etc), that their pain hits a nerve. I’ve had trouble sleeping for thinking about them. The heartbreak is incomprehensible. This is also part of the reason I’ve been feeling so down, I think.

Wondering… why we don’t make tamales more often? We had them for my daughter’s birthday meal and they are so easy to make, and cheap, and soooo delicious and the whole family eats themselves silly on them, so why not make them on a regular basis? 

Luxuriating… in my partially renovated bedroom. The first couple steps — tearing out the closet and repainting the whole room — have been completed and the extra space and light and brightness are just wonderful. But I’m kinda worried, too, because since it’s so nice and all right now, maybe my husband will lose steam and forgo steps three, four, and five?

Lecturing… my younger son about the dangers of listening to NPR 24/7. A couple hours a day is fine, I say, but there is such a thing as too much news. It’s an industry, feeding you highly curated material — material that sells — and you are the consumer. Limits and boundaries, my boy. Leave some space for your own thoughts, ‘kay?

Delighting… over all the leftover grocery money at the end of the month. Having two less mouths to feed really does make a difference.

Eating… stale popcorn. It’s leftover from our Sunday movie night (we also had piña coladas and apples) and still surprisingly good. We are such popcorn freaks. I ordered fifty pounds from a place in PA and am now wondering if I should’ve gotten a hundred.

Listening… to the tinny sounds of my kids’ choir zoom call, the first rehearsal of the season. My kids had stopped participating because of Covid, but this semester, with the promise of outdoor rehearsals and concerts (and only two of the rehearsals over zoom), they’ve both decided to rejoin. And I am so glad, for the structure and instruction, the outside involvement, and the music, but most of all for what this means: the end of Covid is in sight, GLORY BE.

Relishing… the fact that I went on a run this morning after thinking that I couldn’t because it was raining, After stomping around the house for a bit, sighing mightily, repeatedly opening the door to stare at the rain clouds and to gauge the speed and density of the falling droplets, and after playing the weather radar over and over, I finally decided that it wasn’t raining that hard, and that the radar’s solid mass of rainclouds was probably a fabrication (because I am a weather expert), and fled the house. And you know what?!! It didn’t rain!!! Maybe I’ll take up poker next. 

Considering… overalls. We got a pair for my daughter for her birthday and she looks so stinkin’ cute in them that now I’m thinking I might want some for myself. But don’t they make it difficult to go to the bathroom?

Remembering… that my husband had said that, since there’s probably going to be a seed shortage this year, I should pick up seeds when I go into town this morning. Oops. Tomorrow, I guess?

Realizing… that my younger son should probably be eating five meals a day. He’s basically a human version of a late-summer weed — obnoxious, enormous, persistent, and always in the way — and while he doesn’t say much about food, I’m beginning to notice that he’s randomly tucking into enormous bowls of granola or fixing himself yet another sandwich. I bet if I handed him a plate of real food every couple hours — a bowl of soup, say, or whatever leftovers are knocking about the fridge — he’d put it away, no problem.

Rolling my eyes… over the dumb dogs. They’re fine when they’re outside by themselves, but as soon as one of the kids goes out, Coco and Danny Boy start whaling on each other. I’m guessing it’s a possessiveness thing? Not sure how to fix it, though. Any dog whisperers out there?

Itching… to get my Covid vaccine. I’m just so done with this stupid pandemic. I want to read lips and hug people and go to church and sit down with friends around a table inside and wear lipstick and be normal. Now that the end — or some version of an end — is in sight, I almost can’t bear it anymore.


photo credit: my older daughter (back when she was training her brother to take over her job at the barn)

This same time, years previous: perfect pita, old-fashioned molasses cream sandwich cookies, Friday mishmash, the Chicoj coffee cooperative, leap year baby, take two, red raspberry rhubarb pie.


  • Greta Kreider

    Jennifer, your ponderings make me think of how to invite more women into a grieving ceremony. It’s good balm for the soul to make grieving an intentional individual and shared experience. I got to experience to women’s circles of grief this year. One was part of an herbal class from Sacred Plant Traditions in Charlottesville and one with a local group. This time of year I know that I always get a dip into melancholy and anger because winter has got to end but spring isn’t here yet and may never come! emailing you more…

  • MAC

    Regarding overalls. There are those lovely little pee-like-a-guy tools (PStyle, Freshette, Tinkle Bell, etc.) you can use with overalls. I use one of those when hiking. Much nicer than being stuck in brambles with pants around the ankles.

    Can you tell I’m doing my monthly blogroll browse? 🙂

    • Greta Kreider

      Those pee-like-a-guy things work well for my mom who doesn’t have the leg muscles to squat and get up while out in the woods! I have to tell a funny story about them. My folks went to Switzer damn with us and mom took one along and apparently used it. She forgot it in our van, in the back by the extra motor oil and oil funnel. My husband found it later when my parents happened to be at our house. He didn’t know what it was but being a brass musician, he saw that it could be played like a trumpet to he gave it a toot! We all wondered what in the world the noise was and doubled over laughing when we saw what he was playing!

      • Greta Kreider

        dam, not damn (but damn feels better right now, for all the reasons you mentioned) I think the surgery for the family you mentioned is all day today?

  • Becky R.

    I just received my second shot of the Pfizer vaccine, and I cannot tell you what a relief it is. I know I am not totally protected, but I am protected about as much as anyone can be, and I can _ stop thinking about it _!! I am 70, so that is why I have been able to get it. I hope you will be able to get yours soon, Jennifer.
    I think we all have so much to grieve about these days, and like illnesses, there are no minor losses if they are YOURS. The only antidote that I have found is to keep struggling to practice gratitude. There are so many people suffering, and many are so much worse off than I am.
    Popcorn! My favorite snack, and the healthiest one there is, so I indulge whenever I can. I need to find a good place online to buy it in bulk.
    Overalls, jumpsuits, all those one piece things are the devil’s work as far as I am concerned. I don’t want to undress every time I need to pee.
    I hope you feel more hopeful soon. I have a terrible time with depression in the winter, and spring is right around the corner, so maybe both of us will be more joyful soon.
    Tamales? Easy? I must be missing something.

  • Elva

    I started wearing overalls two years ago, and I LOVE them. What I like best is that they keep my lower back very warm, which is very important here in Upstate NY. Yes, it can be annoying to pee, but they are still worth it. I have NEVER had a strap fall into the toilet!!
    The dog problem is puzzling to me. They are not just wrestling, but actually fighting? I would suggest having your kids exercise them more and maybe working on some obedience training to give their energy a new outlet. I wish you very good luck!!

    • Jennifer Jo

      The dogs are well-exercised, and Coco has had a fair amount of training (obedience classes, agility, etc), and yes, they’re really fighting, except it’s one notch down from to-the-death — we can generally step in without fear of being mauled. It’s actually sort of ironic: the dogs’ relationship kinda mirrors their owners’… (wry laugh)

  • Susan

    Thank you as always for your wise and thoughtful words that articulate what so many others might be feeling (or not realized they were feeling). Yes, yes and yes to pretty much everything from loving tamales to having a 13-year old son who is always lurking about the kitchen trying to find something to eat.

    This is a a highly-adapted tamale recipe originally from Bon Appetit, but we make a quadruple batch every Christmas for a big tamale batch (and freeze a bunch!). The recipe is blasphemous to my Guatemalan and Dominican friends, but we love it. My kids do all the rolling, so it’s a bit of a production, but not that hard (especially if you’re only doing one batch). The tamales are soft and tender and slightly sweet (I only use half the sugar called for).

  • Thrift at Home

    I know the family you are worrying about and I feel the same way. I hate it. I am not resigned.

    I love the look of overalls but I like easy peeing better and I recall how easily a strap gets in the toilet, too, grosssss. I gave up 1-piece swimming suits, too.

    I thought tamales were NOT easy?? Like, a big mess and production? Are you going to do a post on why they are so easy? I really adore tamales and make tamale pie to get a fix because real tamales are a mess (right?) and not easy to find around here.

    My son is eating like your son. Except that all my son wants is junk food. He used to eat anything and now he is so selective that I’m not very nice when he’s laying on the kitchen floor again wailing about healthy food. Humph. Popcorn is my answer to everything, but now that he has braces, he can only eat the tiny ladyfinger “hulless” popcorn. The girls are very vocal about preferring the big popcorn, so they end up popping 2 different kinds (eye roll).

    Obviously I love this post and your musings. As soon as stupid covid is under control, I am coming for a visit, k? Or you come here. xoxox

  • Carolyn Yoder

    I’ve also found the last weeks more difficult. I feel deeply fatigued. I think we’re holding so much individual and collective grief. I just finished the novel, The House at the Edge of Night by Catherine Banner, set on a small Italian island. There’s a scene after WWII where an old midwife everyone knows dies and the people’s “grief knows no bounds, Her departure afforded the islanders a shelter beneath which to mourn all those other more terrible losses.” The whole island turns out for her funeral . “Father Ignazio watched them weep and understood that they wept not for Gesuina, but for everything that was changing, everything that was gone. Sometimes grief needed a focus, an object—this the old priest knew. “

    • Greta Kreider

      Carolyn, that book sounds wonderful-in an authentic way not heartwarming/feel good way! After knowing and having midwives myself and watching the series on Netflix, midwives also were often the first and only ones present with people to grieve all kinds of things in their lives that never had public ceremonies (not conceiving, a health condition that becomes known along with a pregnancy, miscarriages and stillbirths and deformaties and disabitlities…so many things they were sacred witnesses to). I just absolutely love that the focus of grief for the whole entire town was the loss of an old midwife!! That was really wise of the author.

  • Laurie Lasala-Tuttle

    I hear you, so over covid! Also waiting for the vaccine here in southern California! What company did you buy your popcorn from? We also love it. Thanks for continuing to write, I’d be depressed too with what you shared.

    • Jennifer Jo

      We actually order our popcorn from an Old Order pretzel factory that had some bags of popcorn on the counter when we stopped in one day — crazy, right?! We tell them how much we want and then they (a farmer in their community? I’m not actually sure who…) grow it for us. It’s the best popcorn we’ve ever had, not counting my dad’s homegrown stuff.

      • Kris Shank Zehr

        I often get organic popcorn from Frankferd Farms, but we also really like Green Acres Popcorn grown locally in Dayton. Their corn is non-GMO and they have several varieties which pop well for us and are very tasty. I’m not sure whether they do custom orders for private individuals, but they have a website and welcome inquiries. I always pop a huge amount on Sunday evenings, enough to store a gallon bucket for each of us to have as leftover during the week. (Plastic gallon buckets with tight lids from holding peanut butter from Frankferd.)

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