“This world is too big for somebody’s dream to be too wild.”
When I asked if that was something she said often to her patients, she said no, that it just came to her. I said she might just be the next Bren Brown. I asked if I could quote her, and she said, go ahead.
Also, she said that I should not have to compromise my dreams for other peoples’ expectations. Isn’t this the very kind of thing I have been trying to teach myself? Live your own best life. Others can do as they please with theirs.
I have the talent. All I have to do is put in the hard work.
Yet and still, in the back of my head there is that little ugly voice asking, “but do you have the talent?” To that voice, I say, “fuck you, there is only one way to find out.”
All my life, I have heard “you should” from the people around me, from my family, from the very people who should encourage me, accept me and love me unconditionally. “Hey Regina, you know what you should do? Let me tell you.”
I know what I should do; follow my own heart. Fulfill my own dreams. Be me. I don’t mind a bit if you be you, just let me be me.
BE YOUR OWN MAIN CHARACTER
It is astounding to consider how the role you play in family, in other people’s lives can stick with you. It’s so easy to forget that you are the main character in your own life, that other people don’t get to be the protagonist in your story. It’s astounding how that can last a lifetime—allowing yourself to be second to everyone else. And it’s extremely convenient for others when you acquiesce so easily.
As for me, I have no more time to waste. Getting older forces you to finally set things straight with yourself. My therapist is right, this world is oh so big and there is plenty of room for the wildest of dreams. Don’t make yourself small for others. Don’t allow it. Look inside. Do the hard work. Make those dreams reality. Be kind to yourself. Believe in the possibilities of what you hold inside.
“THE MAN WHO DOES NOT READ HAS NO ADVANTAGE OVER THE MAN WHO CANNOT READ.”
There are 26 letters in our alphabet and with them we are able to create worlds! Lives! Experiences! If that doesn’t strike awe in a person, I don’t know what can. Move a letter change the meaning. Rearrange a word and you have made something completely new.
READING AND WRITING
Writers have always been my heroes, my ideal. To be able to do what a writer does is the one thing that inspires me. Really, nothing can compare to creating the perfect phrase, except to string together many amazing sentences in order to tell a story beautifully. I will worship anyone who does that well and I will be happy if I can emulate the same.
The written word has held meaning to me since I can remember. Some of my earliest memories are of my mother reading Alice in Wonderland to me at bedtime. My grandmother had a small alcove just off her living room. One wall was windows with bookshelves beneath, one wall held my great-grandmother’s organ and the opposite wall was floor to ceiling bookshelves. Those shelves overflowed and grew and changed daily. It was organic. Those books were read, not just by my grandmother, but the entire family. Nothing pleased me more than to have a quiet moment alone to explore that little space. That is where I discovered and took for myself books that had been my mother’s when she was a child: The Water Babies; Pollyanna; Lorna Doone among others.
SHARING THE LOVE
When I became a mother, I read the New York Times aloud to my infant along with Pat the Bunny and Goodnight Moon. Therese, her godmother, sent her every Dr. Suess book and later every Harry Potter as they were published. I read these to her at bedtime and later read with her. My proudest mom accomplishment is having raised a reader. We still talk books and share great reads.
I know that reading is not an integral part of everyone’s life, but if you visit our home you will see that it is the main thing. My husband and I read every day. We read a lot. We discuss what we read. We respect one another’s need to read. It’s what we do. Of course, we have other interests.
AN ACCIDENTAL ROLE MODEL
When I was a school librarian, my students thought that’s all I did. It’s good that they thought that. I wanted them to see that reading was as necessary as breathing because to me it is. I hope that, because I was a role model, that many of my former students grew up to live this way too. Reading, after all, teaches us so much. Storytelling is what makes us human. We understand ourselves and the world around us when we read. And it can be awe-invoking. Our world is filled with wonder and books are one way of capturing those amazing wonders. It was never intentional, being a role model, but that’s the best kind there is because it is genuine.
Reading makes me a stronger writer. It can make us all better humans. Spend time reading and, I promise, you will appreciate life a little more.
Earlier this week I began to write about what I dream of doing when it is once again safe to unmask and go out in public. But yesterday the governor of Texas announced an end to the mask mandate and declared that public spaces can return to 100 % occupancy. We aren’t there yet. I wish we were, but this is not a safe measure based on Science. We have not reached herd immunity. Think about it: unmasked at capacity. Sometimes I wonder if people like Greg Abbott want the pandemic to continue. It makes no sense.
As much as I look forward to enjoying many activities outside my home, I will not be comfortable doing so until we get this thing under control. Because of yesterday’s announcement, I will not be going out in public at all unless absolutely necessary and I will be even more diligent about wearing my mask (if that is possible).
While I am pleased that my husband and my parents have received their first shots of the vaccine, I still don’t qualify. Even with the vaccines we know we need to remain cautious. So many pieces need to come together in order for us to resume as before. If the governor thinks this announcement will bring life back to “normal,” he’s wrong. He is only postponing a return to what we once thought of as “normal.”
This makes me especially angry when I think of loved ones working every day in public. So many of my friends are educators who already lacked the appropriate support for staying safe. Now it will be even worse. My sister-in-law is a grocery store cashier where she will still be required to mask but customers will not be made to wear them. The State of Texas is putting its citizens in harm’s way.
Someday, though, I guess it will be later than sooner now, we will get to enjoy the outside world once again. As much as I actually enjoy being at home, there are some things I miss.
AFTER COVID TIMES
After COVID times, I will go to a concert and dance! I will have a big party in our backyard. I will spend hours browsing a good bookshop. I will go to the beach and travel. I will participate in 5K runs and attend writer’s workshops in person. I will sit at a bar with my husband and strike up conversations with strangers. I will go to the movies and order a giant barrel of buttered popcorn. I will hug everyone I see!
Please everyone, keep yourselves safe and healthy and do your part to bring this pandemic to an end. Wearing a mask is an act of kindness. I look forward to seeing smiles again, healthy and bright. Mask up now so we can see your big smile later!
2020 was difficult; everyone says so. A year ago, we were just beginning to hear about a strange virus in China. Only those of us who are avid news junkies had any awareness of it at all. A virus on the other side of the world in a country that is foreign in every sense of the word, held little meaning for most Americans. We had our own problems. Little did we know, our problems were about to snowball in a way we never imagined. We watched as California and Australia burned. American politics were quickly unraveling. Police brutality and race relations brought on protests and violence. We were beginning to see a resurgence of white supremacy movements. We talked of climate change and global warming. We debated immigration issues. We impeached our president (for the first time). As bad as we may have thought things were at the time, in hindsight things were pretty good in comparison. What we had to look forward to was a global pandemic that we as a nation were not prepared for, nor did we handle well at all.
First, it was the quarantined cruise ships. Then there was the nursing home in Washington State that had an outbreak of the COVID-19 virus. It so happens that my daughter lives in Seattle where it all seemed to begin within the United States. She was telling me about the spread there and the need to lockdown. It did not seem real. She kept telling me how serious it was, that it would surely spread across the country and to pay attention.
I had a trip planned to visit my daughter over Spring Break in March. When I canceled my flight at the last minute, friends here in Texas thought I was being overly dramatic. No, I told them, it’s bad and it’s coming our way. Some things you hate to be right about; this was one of those. I was a librarian in a public school, and we did not return after Spring Break.
Instead, we learned how to work and teach from home. Students attended class remotely. This was new for all of us and we figured it out as we went along. We made mistakes. We managed. We learned new and sometimes better ways to do things. We began attending meetings via Zoom and conducting class that way too. We pushed out laptop computers and hot spots to students. The school cafeteria provided curbside meals so students would not go hungry. Students in our district did not return to a brick and mortar school until the fall although teachers came back in May for a few weeks. Many of us believed we should not return to school at all until we could do so safely and confidently.
School districts across Texas, the Texas Education Agency and the governor had different ideas. Get students back in the school buildings at all cost, no matter what. It did not matter that cases were climbing ever higher or that people were dying from the virus. Teachers and students needed to go back. Unrealistic promises were made to do so safely. There was nothing safe about it.
SCHOOL SAFETY DURING COVID
We returned in August. Zoom meetings came to an end. In person staff meetings resumed without following the six -foot separation rule. Mask wearing, although officially compulsory, was in reality, voluntary. A classroom filled with teachers, already weary and the summer not quite over yet, worried together as they tried to figure out the new reality. Just like the nation, the room comprised those who listened to the Science and those who truly believed the virus to be a hoax and those who fell somewhere in between. Some of us in masks sat as far away as possible from the unmasked, yet we still shared the same recirculating air in an old building with an outdated circulation system. We worried. We fumed at the lack of concern our co-workers displayed. We tried to speak up diplomatically. We tried to be firm.
Students quickly learned when they returned, which classes they had to mask up and respect social distancing in and which ones were mask-free. The lack of consistency made any effort toward safety a joke. I became a grumpy librarian, constantly reminding students and teachers both to wear their masks properly, to distance, to use hand sanitizer. The library was no longer a fun, safe space. The anxiety was exhausting.
I lasted one semester in that environment. After much introspection and many conversations with my husband, I decided to take my retirement in December. The day the decision was made, I began to relax.
Understand, I love being a librarian and a teacher. I love sharing my love for reading with students and talking books with them. By the time I made the choice to give it up, so many extra duties were loaded on me that had very little to do with assisting teachers or student interaction and with the dangerous circumstance of a global pandemic on top of it all, the job had lost its purpose. It was time for me to go.
But here’s the thing: when it all started last March, I viewed the pandemic and what was happening particularly in education, to be an opportunity. An opportunity. We were in crisis mode and this was our chance to make an already broken system better. We figured out that while some students struggled with distance learning, others thrived. We were forced to quickly improve much needed technology and other learning tools. Why not create a hybrid system that works where some teachers teach remotely and others in the classroom? Why not take advantage of 21st century technology and teaching methods to enhance learning for all students? Why not improve the quality of life for students, teachers and parents?
Instead, we were told that teachers would have to struggle with simultaneously teaching remote learners with students in the classroom. Nothing was taken off of teachers’ (or students’) plates. There would still be standardized testing that serves little purpose other than lining the pockets of large testing corporations and allowing politicians to pretend they are doing something. Nothing changed. Square pegs are still being forced into round holes.
If my profession would not take advantage of this opportunity for positive change, then I would do so for myself. If the entire world is so dead set on maintaining a mediocre status quo when provided with this gift of a slowed down life, that doesn’t mean I have to follow suit.
I have made changes for myself and it has been oh so good. In the last year I have learned how to live in the moment. I have learned to be at peace. I have learned to truly appreciate the simple things and to spend time with those who really matter.
My lifestyle has transformed into something better. It is becoming more holistic, pure and genuine. Before, I started and ended my day with a nearly one-hour drive. At work, I juggled between librarian, teacher, administrator, bureaucrat and custodian. At home, I crashed in front of the television most days. I struggled to exercise, to write, to spend time with friends and family. I went out to dinner and ran errands. I attended social events with varying degrees of interest. I met obligations to others. I lived the hectic life we all know so well.
When we went into lockdown in March, I stayed home with my husband and dogs. I worked from home. My husband baked sourdough bread (who didn’t?) and I sewed masks (who didn’t?). We stopped dining out or going to beer and wine tastings. We didn’t see friends or family. We slowed down and it was nice! Life became richer. Days were more meaningful. I began to learn how to appreciate the moment. This was a much healthier lifestyle than anything I had ever known, and I wanted to keep it.
MAKING IT WORK
So, I ended my career in education and I have been home almost two months now. While I am looking for some sort of job, my hope is to find something part-time and working remotely from home. In the meantime, I have been afforded the luxury of putting writing first for the first time in my life. I feel whole. I get to be me 100% of the time. I have lost that anxious feeling and I can breathe. My world is smaller. I walk the dogs each morning and then go for a run. I write until lunch. After lunch I work on job hunting chores for a few hours. I do a little housework here and there. I rarely drive anywhere. On the weekends we may socially distance in the backyard with our dearest friends or with my sisters-in-law. Every few weeks or so I make the hour drive to see my parents or take them to a doctors’ appointments. I am in control of my time and my energy for the first time in my life.
I have been able to use this strange time of COVID to improve the way I live. I know how fortunate I am to be able to do this. I am grateful. It’s hard to say if this is permanent, but I like to think so. My heart breaks for those who have suffered hardships during this time, don’t get me wrong. I understand my privilege. At the same time, I see myself as an example of the advantages of a simpler life. COVID isn’t over but I hope for some good to come from it.
Perhaps returning to my blog will create a higher level of commitment, some structure and purpose to my writing. So many ideas and so little time overwhelm me. The thing is, I have much more time than I am willing to admit. I waste it because I simply never know where to begin. I suffer from attention deficit, this I know. Everything interests me, so I constantly become distracted by the proverbial squirrel.
Also, the writing here does not have to be perfect. I must tell myself this or I will never put anything out there at all. So, apologies in advance for imperfections.
My blog, I have decided, can be that place where I write about anything and everything as it flits through my little mind. My list of novels that need to be written, the memoir that I feel a compulsion to write, my opinions and simple observations—all of these can be placed in this junk drawer blog. Weekly or monthly something can be placed here. Eventually, I will reach out to a larger public and see what happens. People will be interested or not. It doesn’t matter a lot if I am writing. Because, if I am writing in this way, I will write what matters to me which is the above-mentioned novels, short stories and memoir. In addition to writing about them, I will write them. One at a time.
Why would any of this matter to anyone else? Well, because I have been through some stuff and I know others suffer in the ways that I have suffered and maybe what I share will be helpful to someone else.
I am going to keep the name. It’s bad luck to change a boat’s name and this is my little ship of life. Besides, My Little Cabin holds a special place in my heart. I lived there during a very important time in my life. That cabin changed me. I am a better for having lived there. I am myself for having spent so much time alone up on that little hill. Place matters. Places are like people; our relationships with them shapes us and the places we love, we love like the way we love the people we love. They fill our hearts. They complete our souls. So, the name stays.
I will write about writing; the importance of reading and books; bookstores; library adventures; dogs; my writing and research journey; drinking; motherhood; running; gardening; kayaking and paddle boarding; nature; kindness; life; book reviews; geography. In other words, anything goes.
My hope is that this will lead to structure, practice and accomplishments.