We Can Do Hard Things

This is Happy. If she can do it, we can.

We Can Do Hard Things

In the beginning, I joked. I called it CORONA-cation.

Years ago, we had SWINE-cation with the Swine Flu. The day Superintendent Timothy put Park City School District under quarantine, my principal and I drove to the Governor’s Mansion to watch our eighth-grade student, Skye, receive an award for her essay on bullying.

SWINE-cation came and went.

It did not interrupt learning. It did not cancel prom. It did postpone graduation.

Even though I knew better, I assumed CORONA-cation would be a quick re-set and we would all be back in the classroom, skiing, and in the grocery store in a few weeks.

My first wave of panic, yes – panic– that’s the right word, came in Smith’s on Sixth Avenue in Salt Lake City. Gloved and masked, I heard silence. I paused in the produce to find what was missing – there were no children. No kids asking for this or that. No babies crying. No laughter.

Going to the grocery store every two weeks became daunting. The quiet overwhelmed me. It felt surreal. It was dystopian.

Now, I order groceries online and have them put in the trunk of my white Volkswagen and hope that my eyes twinkle enough to express gratitude while wishing the personal shopper could see my smile under my mask.

Sure, it was 2020: The Year I Actually Was a Stay-at-Home Dog Mom and I made lists, long lists: clean the baseboards; write; practice yoga; organize the pantry; put the Christmas decorations in the garage (well, now Christmas is just a few months away, so they will have to stay put in the closet downstairs); clean my closet – if it hasn’t come out in a year, OUT with it; read; exercise; plant a garden . . .

So many things to do with so little energy.

Teaching took twice the time and provided none of the fun.

As an English teacher, I get to see the rawest and the most real sides of my students in their writing. COVID changed their plans for college as parents were furloughed. COVID changed their schedules. Some became nocturnal gaming until 4 am, sleeping, waking, and doing it all over again. COVID challenged their roles in their families. Some became providers. Some became the parent – parenting their parents and their younger siblings.

Now, however many days, however many weeks later – I lose track – all I know is that I have been in COVID-casual clothes (“pants” without a waist) since Thursday, March 12th. I know this because the last day of school with my students was Friday the 13th – a school spirit day so I “twinned” with my colleague wearing sweatpants and a basketball hoodie.

I’m angry. I try to control things that I can’t.

I’m frustrated. I don’t understand why others won’t control things that they can – wearing a mask in public, washing their hands, writing complete sentences, and using spellcheck.

Instead of my “to-do” list, I shopped at Hell’s Backbone Grill online, of course. I made biscuits and smothered them with apricot preserves. I didn’t gain the COVID-19; I added 10 pounds.

I drank too much. In fact, it was that afternoon cocktail that I looked forward to, that gave me hope—that, I told myself was my reward for figuring out how to deliver curriculum to my students who were separate from me, from each other. That was my reward for answering questions and having writing conferences online. I looked forward to a glass of wine as a break, a stop.

But it didn’t stop. Instead, the lid on my laptop stayed open – just in case – just in case someone needed an answer, clarification, or, just me.

As for reading, I read a little. I consumed Hot Zone, started The Magicians, perused Erosion and listened to Glennon Doyle read Untamed as I drove between Salt Lake City, Park City, and Francis.

Now, from her book, I know, “We can do hard things.”

Last night, I was filled with sadness.

“Please I can’t breathe,” said George Floyd before succumbing to his injuries in Minneapolis. I grieve for Mr. Floyd. I grieve for the families and friends of the more than 100,000 killed by COVID-19. I grieve for students missing out on tradition and moving into a new world. I grieve for what we called normal.

We can do hard things.

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MOMversation about Men and Murder

MOMversation about Men and Murder

or, Why I Should Date Women

29 June 2019

On Saturdays, mom visits Helen at Salon Enchante. Helen is renowned for her skill with thinning gray hair. No one can insert rollers and get someone under a hot vintage bonnet dryer like Helen.

I call it, “the fluff and fold.”

Mom and I have some quality time driving to and from the fluff and fold.

Yesterday, before I had even backed Tiggy, my Volkswagon Tiguan out of mom’s driveway, she started the conversation.

MOM:  I just can’t get that poor girl out of my mind. (I knew she was referring to Mackenzie Lueck, a 23-year-old student at the University of Utah who was murdered earlier in the week.)

ME:  I know. It’s awful.

MOM:  You just can never date men again.

ME:  (Thinking, is this a slippery slope or a hasty generalization?) Should I date women?

MOM:   That’s not funny.

ME:  So, if I was a lesbian and dated women I wouldn’t have to worry about being murdered?

MOM:  You know what I mean.  I hope you never date again.

ME:  That is one of the meanest things you’ve ever said.

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In the School Parking Lot

Today, Monday, after school, my friend, my colleague was strapping her son into their Toyota minivan.

I stopped.

Friend: What are you going to do now?

Me: I’m debating about going to Food Town.

Friend: Don’t do that. Go home. Drink your dinner.

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Another Mom-versation


Driving to mom’s fluff-n-fold.

MOM:  What are you wearing?

ME:  A dress.

MOM:  Does it zip on both sides?

ME:  Yes.

MOM:  So, you have to zip it from the bottom?

ME:  No. I just pull it over my head.

MOM:  Well, what are you wearing under it? You look naked.

ME:  Mom!

MOM:  Well, when you were walking away from me, I could see EVERY bump.

ME:  Mom.  I’m hot.  I wear as little as possible.

MOM: You know what your Nana said.

ME:  Yes. Wearing clothes keeps you cool.

MOM:  Modest light coverings.



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11 Things I Did Not Know about Getting Old

11.  Always order the expensive glass of wine. At 47, I can’t drink more than one without getting a headache.

10.  Arthritis.  It’s a real thing.

9.  Physical therapists are super heroes sans capes.

8.  Acne is still a thing.

7.  Being a size 2 is not still a thing.

6.  Jeans are uncomfortable.

5.  My body has developed an intolerance for things I love like ice cream, potato chips, and cheese.

4.  Staying home is fabulous.

3.  Coffee after 9:00 am keeps me awake.

2.  While my waist gets bigger, my lips get thinner.

1.   Sleeping makes me sweat.

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Can Openers for Old People


Arriving home from school is an adventure. When I press the garage door button, the dogs perk up, rush the laundry room door and bark “hello.”

I back into the garage, shut off the Element and put the garage door down. After collecting my computer bag, lunch tote, and water bottles, I work my way to the door into the house.

The barking quiets, but Houston and Hef scratch on the door telling me to HURRY UP.

I brace myself, bend my knees to make sure the 300 pounds of dog coming at me do not tear my ACL.

After hanging my bags in the laundry room, I wedge myself through the dog gate along with the three big dogs. Then, holding my breath, I creep around the corner wondering what I will find.

Today, I found the gratitude journal I kept in 2014 scattered in the living room and across the snow in the backyard.

Upstairs, I found the rest of the gratitude journal; a book about “transforming my life” that never worked; and, a chewed up can opener.

Looking on Amazon, I found a can opener for “seniors with arthritis.” I’m 47. Do I qualify?

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MOM-versation about G-Ma-ing the Dogs

Booker T. Washington is having a stay-cation at his G-ma’s house.

Growing up, my brother, Jeff, always (and I mean that literally) stayed at my Nana’s house. One night, I planned to sleepover. But, when mom came to tuck me in and leave, I confessed that I was scared. Mom packed me up and let Jeff stay instead.

Booker T. Washington is much braver than me.


After driving G-ma to her fluff-n-fold (hair appointment), Deseret Book and the grocery store, Booker stayed.

Mom called to fill me in on the details.

MOM:  When I give him his M-E-D-S, I put them in his T-R-E-A-T-S. But, I don’t tell him they have his M-E-D-S. I just spell those words.

ME: (Writing it all down so I can blog about it.) Well, that’s probably for the best.

MOM:  Today, he played with his downstairs piggy and learned how to squeak it. He jumps up on the sofa, but won’t jump up on the chair. I’m going to measure to see if they are the same height.

ME: (Thinking, seriously?) I’ve never thought about the height of the furniture.

MOM:  Well, and, he won’t jump up on my bed. He’ll jump down, but he waits for me to pick him up and put him on the bed.

ME:  He won’t want to come home.

MOM: He knows I’ll be careful and put my hand under his backend so his back doesn’t hurt.

The Next Day

MOM: I measured the sofa and the chair. They are both 18″. But, the bed is 21″. Booker did jump up in the chair today, but I’ll still pick him up when we go to bed.

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