I have much to be excited about as I look around. I have my garden which I planted alongside my daughter who I got to spend time with for ten weeks during quarantine. Sorry for the reason, but so thankful for the time with her. The garden should provide plenty of healthy, fresh produce for me and my family if we have a good season. I need it too since having my two adult children live under the same roof again depleted our rations of canned tomato sauce and salsa a little more than twice as much if it had been just Mark and I. But it made me smile each and every time they opened a jar of our homegrown goodness and raved about how good it taste.
I’m excited to work in the garden and be outside with the sun shining and even if it’s not. After a number of months being cooped up inside because the weather was too miserable to enjoy being outside for any given time, I’m not too picky about when is a good time to spend out in the garden. Just as long as there aren’t too many bugs and it’s not too hot. My garden has fantastic sunlight so I have to pick and choose my hours which tend to be early in the morning and after 5pm.
I’m excited about the new chickens we have now! Khaleesi, Gertrude, Ethel and Lucy have joined our homestead. It’s always a thrill to walk into the hen house and see the daily deposit of freshly laid eggs. Which in turn has made us excited about breakfast and any recipe that has eggs in it. I get excited now to do the weeding since the hens love the dandelions and eat them right up, it no longer feels like weeding and more like harvesting. I know human enjoy eating dandelion leaves in salads and making tea or wine but until now they were just weeds. So I’m excited about that – it goes for all weeds pretty much too. Plus the chickens are so much fun to watch they make me excited to just come out to the yard and sit and watch.
Finally I am excited about the flowers which are beginning to bloom and I know will blooming throughout the summer and into the fall. I have a short season up here on the mountain, so I am grateful for the time we are given and excited to see it all unfold.
It can be difficult to get excited about the future when we are dealing with so many unknowns. But it’s in times like these where you need to take a deep breath, take a step back and look for the good things, they don’t have to be big things, just small positives. It’s easy to see the negative, especially when you are looking for it. When you are looking for it – that it all you will see. It’s harder to look for the positives, the good things – not matter how big or small they may be. But once you start to look for the positives, I thik they become easier to see.
My daughter just called, she returned to her home today and has safely arrived. She has been here with me at my house for the last two months. About 10 weeks ago she sustained a concussion which considering the quarantine, we thought it better for her to be home on the mountain. It was already difficult enough to get food for someone who could deal with masking up and possibly having to wait in lines outside the store because they only allow a certain amount of people in the supermarket. Plus all the anxiety that the quarantine initially caused made it an easy decision to bring her home. She needed to be in a dark room and completely shut down which she had not been able to do on her own in her curtainless house. It’s just that at the time we were all in a bit of denial as to how long this lockdown could actually be and what it ultimately would mean for all of us in the near term and medium term, let alone the long term.
I am anxious about her returning to her home two hours away. She’s anxious but excited. Thankfully she has her dog, Blue to keep her company. In a few weeks, she will be called back to work at the retail store that she had started about a month before the quarantine. There will be retraining and work to be done to change the store for the new norm. It will be good for her to see her co-workers again. Soon after that they will reopen the doors to the public. She’ll be exposed to people, strangers – something that I never considered the way I do right now before this pandemic: the total amount of people we come across in our normal daily lives. At this point in my life, I don’t come see a lot of people on a daily basis anymore. But that was my choice and it had nothing to do with the pandemic, more to do with the fact that I prefer dogs (and now chickens) to most people.
I was born and raised in New York City and lived there the first quarter of my life before easing myself out of the crowded city. When I think about the number of people that I used to see on a daily basis – in my building, on the bus and subway, at work, after work, hanging with my friends in crowded bars and clubs…The crowds I’ve been in at Grateful Dead shows…hugging everybody.
But leaving all that was my choice. But for my kids, they don’t get as much of a choice right now and this experience will change their future choices most likely. I love New York City but I just couldn’t live there anymore. and had left New York City before 9/11 but lived within commuting distance at the time. Although relieved not to be in the city on that tragic day, I remember thinking that ultimately I would need to move further away someday.
I am grateful for the time we have spent together these last eight weeks. Eight more weeks of waking up under the same roof together, being able to give my little girl a hug when the feeling struck. Fumbling around working together in the garden, watching our TV shows, making cookies together or playing a game together. Time I never imagined being alloted. Now I don’t know exactly when I will see her. She has a lot to do in getting back to where she lives, settling back in and into some sort of new routine in the place she has chosen to call home. There is one less in the pack at home now, two actually including Blue of course, her faithful mini Aussie companion.
It wasn’t easy the first time she left the nest and after such a long visit under these stressful conditions, it hasn’t gotten any easier. I just take comfort in knowing that she knows she has a place here at our home on the mountain where she and Blue are always welcome for however long — or short they want to stay.
So we are getting chickens today! We have been thinking about raising chickens for a little while now. Our house came with a chicken coop/goat shed which we have been using as a garden shed these last four years.
About three weeks ago a good friend of ours, Dennis told us he was getting 12 chickens and wanted to know if we’d want four of them. “Absolutely!“ came out of my mouth quicker than my brain registered what I was saying. “Great, I have to go pick them up sometime mid-May.” Two days ago we ALL found out mid-May actually meant Mother’s Day weekend, including Dennis who is still has to build his entire coop for the 8 chickens he’s holding on to!
When Mark told me the chickens were coming this weekend, my mind instantly flashed to the I Love Lucy episode when Lucy and Ricky had moved out to Connecticut and became chicken farmers. I remember Lucy and Ethel running around with all those hundreds of baby chicks. Luckily, I’m only starting off with four chickens.
Luckily, three days ago we started to clean our garden shed out. I needed to get the Tower Gardens (aeroponic systems) set up anyway and the shed needed to be completely emptied out. Mark is ‘spatial man’ so the goat shed is now the garden shed and the Tower Gardens will have to find a new home for winter. Right this second, they are being snowed on as we are having an unseasonal snowstorm that has dumped about three inches so far.
Thankfully yesterday was a beautiful day to work outside. The temperatures were cool at first but once you got working, vests and jackets were shed. I was so impressed with my daughter, Samantha yesterday. She’s such a good worker and since she’s been recovering from a concussion she sustained three months ago now, it was even better that she had no symptoms reappear. Fingers crossed, since it’s been a rollercoaster.
Sam helped Mark with constructing the outdoor chicken run. We have dogs so I wanted to make sure that the chickens have their own area to hangout during the day where they will be safe from our dogs and other predators like hawks. The chicken coop was already positioned inside our already chain link fenced area which should help keep them safer as well. Eventually, I’ll gate off the side yard so they can free-range a little more but be safe from the dogs.
Since Dennis first mentioned the chickens, I have been all over Pinterest, joined every chicken raising group on Facebook and Instagram so that I can educate myself on what exactly is needed to raise chickens. A poop board was something I quickly saw was highly recommended to have. Chickens shit a lot and that poop is awesome to add to our garden compost. I knew I would have to deal with this, so I built a poop board for the roost. I’m learning all sorts of new vocabulary in this endeavor. Roost, poop board, layers… Thankfully I found a guide to help me get up to speed.
Everything we used to build the coop with the exception of the two post holders and the chicken wire was lumber we had here at Marleywood. That’s what we named our little piece of paradise here on the mountain four years ago when we move up here. It’s also the name of our company that we named after our dog, Marley.
I’m excited and nervous at the same time about getting the chickens. We’ll be receiving four Rhode Island Reds which from my limited reading I understand to be a good breed of layers and should expect 150-250 eggs per year each hen! Plus we aren’t getting chicks, Dennis said they’d be laying eggs in a couple of weeks, so they’re not babies. But from what I understand their not hens yet, since hens officially are over a year old. So I’m not really sure what their called – pullets I think, since that’s the term for a chicken under 1 years old.
I know I have a lot to learn and I’m excited about it! Who thought at the age of 55 years old I’d be entering this new world?! I know my 3 siblings are all probably shaking their heads. Our Nana grew up on a chicken farm in Georgia; her spirit is probably laughing right now. I just hope my ancestors passed a little of their chicken farming blood down to me. And if anybody reading this has any advice, I’m open to hearing about your experiences and what you’ve learned about the do’s and don’ts of raising chickens. I’m going to need all the help I can get.
May 6th every year is Nurses Day. I’m sure many people may not realize this, as nurses get overlooked all too much. Nurses are critical in the day-to-day care of patients worldwide. Nursing can be a rewarding job. Although when it comes down to it, it’s a dirty job and a dangerous job. That has become all too apparent during the COVID-19 pandemic.
My Nana was a nurse and I wish that I had asked her why she became a nurse. I always assumed that she saw it as her ticket off the chicken farm in Macon, Georgia and way to New York City. Since being in quarantine I started to wonder what her family might have gone through during the Spanish Flu in 1918. She would have been around 9 years old during that time living on the farm with her two younger sisters and her parents. I’ve begun to wonder if it had anything to do with her decision.
Today we salute nurses everywhere! I hope that nurses are recognized for the warriors they truly are on a daily basis. I believed this before the pandemic and I just hope more people are aware of have important they are in the overall system of healthcare, in this country and every country.
There are lots of cards that can be found nowadays that thank nurses for all they do. I sell Nurses Day cards in my zazzle shop Greetings by Xine, in case anyone ever needs a Nurses Day card.
I’ve been part of team in many different capacities. Whether it was as a member of a sports team or as a member of a team working on a group project in school or work, I learned some of the most valuable life lessons working as a team.
In sports, I was on a team as a player and as a coach, each very different experiences which I learned valuable lessons. The most incredible part for me was watching young athletes learn and develop their skills and watch the confidence build inside them. I coached girls’ lacrosse for six years when my daughter was in elementary school and they were some of the most rewarding days of my life. I loved working with those kids and watching them grow not only in the sport but as individuals too. I think that exposing children to being on some sort of team is important. It teaches them how to work together which is a valuable life lesson. It doesn’t have to be a sports team either since there are many opportunities in school where you have to work on a group project for academic classes.
Being on a team teaches people crucial skills about cooperating, communicating, and connecting with other people. It doesn’t matter whether its a two-person team or a team with 22 people or more, members of the team have to be able to listen to one another, be willing to be open to new ideas or ways to accomplish the team’s common goal. There’s a beauty in watching people work together, whether it’s on the athletic fields or the workplace.
This stands in stark contrast to the teams of politicians which is our government. That’s not pretty to watch at all. Our government should be run more like a team, all working towards one common goal. Instead they act more like they are on opposite teams rather than on the same team, failing to listen to each other, or the American people. Perhaps if they were able to cooperate better with one another, communicate better with each other and check their egos at the door (a good place to start would be to stop calling themselves leaders when they are actually our representatives); they’d be able to connect better with each other and get things done.
Currently, sports teams across the world on every level are on the sidelines quietly waiting as the world’s attention is turned towards the teams of medical professionals fighting the virus which has paralyzed our world. These are the teams that on a daily basis work together to save lives. They did before the outbreak and they will continue to afterwards.
It’s too bad it took a pandemic for the world to pay attention to these all too important teams. These are the teams that are performing acts of heroism every single day to no particular fanfare other than from those families they may have touched individually. If I was still living in New York City or Boston, I would be one the people who every night at 7pm – raise up their windows and applaud and cheer for the heroic teams of today, the teams of medical professionals who are the front lines of this battle. These are the teams that I admire the most in today’s world. These are the teams that we should all be so thankful for their tenacity in working towards accomplishing their one common goal – to save lives. To save our lives and the ones we love.
The streets of every major city in the evenings are usually bustling with life. People filling the sidewalks on their way home, stopping for drinks with a friend or colleague, grabbing groceries on the way home to cook that night. Buses and taxis used to be filled with passengers slowly making their way through the trafficked arteries of every city. You could hear the heartbeat of the every city – loud and clear.
But now there is an invisible threat that has set upon everyone of us around the world. A virus that has separated and isolated us from one another. The rural areas are quieter than they once were. Towns and villages equally reticent now. But the most noticeable are the silent streets of cities like Athens, Barcelona, Rome, Paris, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York. Never before and hopefully never again we will witness these eerie scenes of emptiness devoid of life.
We sat 12 feet apart having our coffee together this morning in the workshop where he’s in quarantine. I looked out the window as he fetched his phone from the music studio where I dragged a bed into last week. He wants to tell me about an article he had read earlier. Usually these conversations would be had next to each other in bed with my head on his chest and our legs entwined. We were unavoidably separated last week – he was home now – thank God.
The grass looked frosty, I thought as I brought the mug up for another sip. I was already on my second cup of the day and it was only 6:45am. The driveway would be slick when he and Marley head down to open the gate later. Icicles had formed overnight on the bird feeders. I thought the rain sounded more solid than liquid last night as I fell asleep listening to the tink, tink, tink on the window.
Dear grandchildren, You are not even glimmers in your parents’ eyes yet; however, I’m sure you are there somewhere. I’m an optimist, although I think some of our family members would laugh that I think so.
I’m sure it’s very difficult for your parents right now as we are weeks into the COVID-19 pandemic. I hope your generation won’t ever have to live through one. They are scary and overwhelming – even for the grown ups. Who sometimes don’t always act so grown up in trying times like these. However, history has a way of repeating itself, so sit up and pay attention and read your history and learn from it! Just be careful of your sources , there is so much disinformation out there, at least right now in this moment in time.
There are a few things I would like you all to keep in mind going forward and share with my eventual great grandchildren and so forth.
Life is hard and can be unfair at times. You do your best.
Listen to people when they are talking to you. Listening is a valuable skill and do not think about what you’re going to say next while they are talking – that’s not listening! and it’s rude! That includes “multitasking” while listening to someone, like checking your email or playing a game while someone is talking to you. Don’t be rude.
If you still have cell phones -turn them off at home and pay attention to your family – cook together, play games. Your parents have me playing Hangman during our quarantine and it’s really fun!
People can be stupid, even intelligent people.
Learn how to weld, sew, cook and fix things with your own hands.
Read for enjoyment and read to learn.
Be a good friend and treat them the same way you want them to treat you. If they don’t treat you the same way you treat them – they aren’t worth your time.Move on.
Be polite, use your manners.
Be kind but be vigilant in life. Unfortunately, not all people are good and have kind hearts. Some people are evil and have bad intentions which brings me to my next point.
Always trust your gut. Your mind and your heart can send you mixed signals and sometimes lead us in the wrong direction. But your gut is usually spot on.
Keep a well stocked pantry and freezer at all times. You never know when there may be a storm or in our case pandemic that keeps you inside for long periods of time and can’t get to the store the way you used to. Which brings me to my next point…
Know how to grow your own food. it doesn’t have to be all of it. But the more you grow on your own the less you’re dependant on the food chain. I learned a long time ago when I was a research analyst how vulnerable our food chain is. I have the highest respect for our nation’s farmers. They are No.1 in my book but if more people grew some of their own food, it would be some much better and safer in my opinion. It’s simple and easy to do. You don’t need a lot of space even. I should know that’s what I decided to do after covering all those agribusiness stocks when I worked as a research analyst. I’ve been teaching people how to start growing their own food for 8 years now with your Great Opa. We have enjoyed working together in all the gardens, teaching people of all ages how to start their gardens and maintain them. Your Great Opa likes to call us Garden Coaches. I hope you are not all living in the city, however I’m sure one or two of you have been enticed by the big city life. If you are you should still grow some of your own greens. You can use a Tower Garden with lights – it takes up no room at all and I’m sure by your generation they will have so many more designs.
Family is so important. which brings me to
13. Cherish your family but know that sometimes you may find yourself in situations where you may have to get tough and even possibly walk away forever from a family member. There’s a fine line and again this is where your heart can lead you astray and why I you need to pay attention to #10.
I grew up in the city. I was born and raised there and my heart breaks for the 517 New Yorkers in the 5 boroughs who have lost their lives so far and their families. Some whole families have been lost to this invisible threat and worldwide today so far 652,079 cases with 30,313 deaths with 121,117 cases here in the United States with 2010 deaths thus far. I won’t continue with all the details but suffice it to say I don’t believe the worst is over yet. Time will tell as it does so well. I assume by your generation you will be dealing with another new viral threat which is also why I thought I should pass along these pearls of wisdom.
I used to think it was Charles Darwin that said “it is not the strongest of the species that survives, It is the one that is most adaptable to change.” As it turns out a business professor named Leon C. Megginson who was interpreting Darwin’s work, “On the Origin of Species”. A perfect example of how the internet can repeated repeat inaccuracies and falsities. Check and recheck. Don’t be part of the problem. Regardless, I believe you should remember the lesson the words teach us. The ones who survive are the ones who are able to adapt.
14. Things change – that’s part of life and it can be a good part of life. But sometimes it can be not so good either. You make do with what you have and I’m not just talking about material goods – like the ones I mentioned earlier in your hopefully well stocked pantry. No, I mean you have to accept that life will constantly put hurdles in your way. Personally, professionally, or in our case globally. Whatever the scale. You must be flexible and adapt to the the new landscape before you. You may have to bob and weave a few times as the initial changes are being made and worked out, but remain flexible. Your life will depend on it.
15. Take care of your health -it’s really the key to having a good life. Stay active but be safe. Don’t take it for granted. You don’t know everything – this is especially important if you are between the ages of 16 to 25, maybe 30 for the boys. You’re bodies are also not invincible and anything you do in your younger years, you most likely will feel in your older years. That is unless medicine has advanced so much as to be able to regenerate our deteriorated and torn apart areas of our bodies.So stay in good health. That includes your mental health which is why I also recommended #18 and 19 also. People have a way of taking things like their health for granted. People unfortunately have a way of also taking other people for granted which isn’t good. That would be #16 – don’t take friends and family for granted.
17. Be your own best friend first that way you can be a good friend to others. Learn how to spend time with yourself , be able to entertain yourself.
18. Keep learning new things no matter your age. Whether it be learning how to paint or speak a new language. Just open your mind and keep learning.
19. Spend time in the woods with the trees and the rocks. They have been around much longer than us and will remain long after we are all gone. Feel them, touch them, smell them. Listen to the wind in the leaves. Meditate out there. Hopefully the mountain house will still be in the family for you to enjoy. If I hope you have a place for from a city that’s heavily populated. Which brings me to my next point.
20. Always have options. It’s best to give yourself has many options to choose from in this life. Sometimes our options are limited but plan properly (#21) and don’t procrastinate (#22).
21. Take care of the land and the environment around you. Our generation has struggled with this – my prayers are by your generation we will have done a better job of figuring things out. Particularly given our collective timeout we are all on. Live sustainably and don’t be wasteful. Compost your food scraps and use them in your garden.
Currently it’s like Mother Nature has put the world on a collective time-out. I used to put your parents on a time-out when they were little and misbehaved. Covid-19 was first prominent in China in December but I read one report that said the first report could have been as early as November 17th. As more and more people get sick, entire countries have had to shut down businesses with orders to Stay At Home. Many people are able to work from home but many are not. It’s a scary time for people.
On the flip side the canals in Venice have cleared in the weeks since they have had to stop the commercial boating traffic that used to congest the Grand Canal on a daily basis. China’s air is cleaner too according to satellite imagery. So as the Earth heals, the humans continue to sicken. The invisible threat weaving its way through societies across the world. Unfortunately many thousands have died and we have no idea when we will turn a corner.
Unfortunately, some people don’t listen as well as others and some people have unknowingly spread the virus. That’s why I repeat #2 Listen and also why I mentioned #4 some people are stupid.
22. Open your heart to a dog (or cat – although I’m not a cat person at all) but to each their own. Having a fur friend to take care of helps you live a better life. A dog is always happy to see you when you come home from a hard day and that can make a world of difference to your mental health. Let animals into your world – dog, cat, rabbit, goat, pig, horse, bird. Pets can teach us so many different things about ourselves and life in general.
23. Always be honest. It’s crucially important for you to be honest. First and foremost always be honest with yourself. It may sound like a ridiculously simple concept but there are so many people who swim in the waters of denial.
24. Have friends and meet new people – all the while keeping a vigilant eye.
25. Open your heart to another and love. Find someone whom you can share your life with – the good and the bad. It’s easier when you have someone to help take the weight when it gets too heavy. Find someone who makes you a better version of who you already are. Someone who compliments you and I don’t mean your ego, but there is that too on occasion.
Well that’s all I have for you right now. Remember the lessons in this letter. Live them. They should serve you well.
All my eternal love, Your Yaya Xine
p.s. No. 26 Travel when you can- but do so safely. We have so much we can all learn from one another and from other cultures. But be aware when we travel that we can spread disease. So my final lesson I leave you with No. 27 practice safe hygiene. It can and will save your life and the lives of others.
Well you really have us frightened now with this invisible virus. You have a funny way of working though, don’t you? Teaching us lessons in your special way. I’ve learned a lot from you over the years. How you like to throw curveballs just because you think I can handle them. How at any given moment, life as I knew it can be all over. In the blink of an eye everything changed. How not to take you for granted. But even recognizing that isn’t enough for you.
Obviously, lately, we’ve been misbehaving in some way and you’ve decided we all need a time out. I don’t blame you and sort of completely agree that we collectively may have needed a time out. But do so many people have to die?
You have a way of lulling us with your calm water with invisible currents that drag us out to class 5 rapids without paddles and life jackets. Banging us against every rock and sharp edge. And just when we get into some calm waters – a whirlpool sucking us down into it.
But don’t forget, Life, you have toughened me quite a bit and I’ve learned from the lessons you taught me. So I’ll stay here in my house, stay away from others and wait for our collective time out to end.
I hope that we can be together on our upcoming anniversary. It will be 9 years. I’m sorry I couldn’t say yes to him five years ago when he asked. I told him I’d love him forever, just never ask me to get married. But he did. I said yes because I truly do want to marry him but– he knows I can’t.
It’s because I never wanted to get divorced again. I didn’t want it the first time – even though I asked for it. I knew by then it was over and the only thing to do. We had been friends then, my ex and I, not wanting the bitter divorces we saw around us. We had two kids to raise, albeit now from separate homes. It didn’t matter in the long run though as the rancor rose up between us anyway.
Life is difficult to navigate on one’s own. It can be scary, so very scary. I miss his laughter, the songs he fills the house with and the aromas that waffed from the kitchen when he cooks. It’s only been 5 days but it will be at least another two weeks before we can be reunited. The pandemic – the virus making its way through society. We got seperated – everyday family challenges tearing us apart. Figuratively and literally. We were supposed to be together – safe on our mountain like we have been living for the last four years. We weren’t supposed to be apart right now.
When we said goodbye, I knew there could be a chance that was the last time I would feel his touch, smell his scent. I pray not. I pray everyday that he remains healthy. This invisible killer amongst us and he is so far away right now. Out in the Petri dish. I’ll make it through by myself but I hope he is able to come back to me, to come back to our home. Our story isn’t over.