Acknowledging Fear and Modeling Courage

Posted on September 13, 2020

The girls went back to school this week. Wednesday, they woke quickly, one even before her alarm. The energy of getting ready to leave was familiar, welcome even, but it also crackled with anxiety. We took turns asking questions and spontaneously saying, “I love you.” Still, we’d agreed as a family to give it a go, and the girls were ready. Avery is a freshman this year, and Briar was excited to have her at the high school. They walked in together, masks on, and plans to manage what the day might bring.

Two high school girls walk away from the camera toward a brick school building. The sky overhead is blue.

We had about 45 minutes to burn before it was time to drop Finley at the middle school. We drove to a nearby coffee shop and ordered drinks and breakfast. We sat together outside.

“Are you nervous?” I asked her.

She giggled and moved her legs, “I have caterpillars. I mean butterflies. Ha! I have like super-strong butterflies.”

I looked at her face and tried to read it. She was joyous and nervous. Her hair has grown, and her face has changed. The leggings and graphic tees of last year are gone. She is lovely.

She caught me studying her face. I laughed, “I have them too!” She turned inward, and I let her. We each drifted off on thoughts of our own until she said, “We better go. I don’t want to be late.”

We waited outside the school as she walked in, and I snapped a picture. “You ok, mama?” Sean asked softly.

“No. But it’s ok, she is.”

 

A student walks across a school crosswalk, a woman's reflection is shown in the side mirror of a truck, she is taking a photo of the student.

Sean and I drove home without talking much. We walked into the house, and the dogs greeted us with barks. The cats circled our legs. We settled into our office in the dining room—the animals following at our heels.

“Feels weird without them here,” Sean said.

It did feel weird—six months of being in the house together, over like that. I struggled to concentrate. My mind wasn’t going to where they were or what they were doing. It was going to tomorrow, November, and next year. Parenting has taught me a hundred times over that there are things out of my control, but somehow my spirit or stubbornness keeps that fact from sticking. I was thinking about the future and how little I can control. More than ever, it will be perspective and determination that influence our lives.

These last few weeks have been loaded with anticipation—school, COVID, lobbying for a puppy, planning my campaign, discussing the November election. The girls look to one another for ideas and opinions, sometimes leaning into one another’s perspective, other times forming their own slightly different take on something. It is glorious to watch, and it’s pushing me to make sure that I create the space for identities outside of being my daughter or being their mom.

The decision to run for Queensbury Town Board was one that we made as a family. I’ve been in the position as an appointee since the end of June. We installed a landline, and everyone knows that if it rings, it’s time to be serious, “Hello, this is the Magee residence. How may I help you?” The girls came up with the script on their own and used it every call. Sometimes it’s telemarketers, but they treat them each as if they were a constituent with a concern.

I didn’t know what to expect of the position, so I operated as I would with family or work, taking my time to listen and assess. Stepping up to the responsibilities has been easy. I have felt the potential of having an impact and after years of finding my voice, this feels like a logical next step. Campaigning? That’s something else.

I’ll confess that knocking on doors is intimidating. I want to be good enough, I want to have the right answers, I want them to support me. It emphatically presses my insecurity buttons. Then, of course, there is a competitive side. I don’t want to lose.

A few nights ago we ventured out to knock on doors. I had a stack of palm cards, Finley pedaled a bike with a wagon attached, inside she’d assembled about 20 signs. We spent about 2 hours walking through the neighborhood. I would knock or ring the bell and then step back. I was wearing a mask, beneath it I smiled. Some people didn’t answer the door, others said no to a sign. Then there were the people who wanted to talk. I spent 20 minutes with 4 different houses—listening, explaining, commiserating, and laughing. Through it all, FIn and Sean were with me. Avery and Briar want to come next time. We are all moving through our fears and excitement bravely.


A woman walks down a residential street as her daughter rides a bike beside her. The sun is setting ahead of them and a white dog can be seen following them.

 

The other night we received word of 2 confirmed COVID cases at the elementary school. My competitors’ signs are popping up throughout my ward. There are pitches to do for work and more neighborhoods to canvas. The girls are starting an Etsy shop. It is a time of uncertainty, but also new beginnings.

 

Thank you for being with me all these years, and for caring about the girls. What are you up to? Have you seen this about voting from my friend Asha Dornfest? Are you interested in helping people vote? You can find out more about my campaign here. I have shirts, pins, and yard signs if you are interested please let me know. I’ll post the Etsy shop when it’s live.

 

Not so silent

Posted on June 12, 2020

Hello old friends.

Time has been moving in slow-motion with a finger not my own holding down the fast forward button. I can’t keep up and the days never end fast enough. Pip died. The vet asked me after 4 visits, “Do you think it’s time?”

I shattered, the only thing that remained whole were my arms. I looked at Pip, tiny in the yellow blanket. I dangled in the massive space between wanting his pain to end and owning the words, “It’s time.” I pulled him to me and looked at Sean and the vet.

His body felt like nothing, weightless, the blanket sticking to my arms. We were standing in the parking lot, hidden from view of the other masked people there with their creatures. The parking lot backs up to a field, it was filled with birds and the sky overhead was a perfect blue. The sun was hot an unfamiliar and my skin pricked with sweat. I hadn’t been outside or in public in months, the last two nights I’d slept in the dark basement with Pip. He looked up at me.

I squinted my eyes, wiped the tears into the blanket. Murmured his name and then said, “Yes.”

A woman and three teenage girls sit in a circle around a sick tabby cat.

I have not wanted to do or say much since. I have not been here, but I have been working—on my business, on my marriage, on my parenting, on my role in the world. I don’t want my silence here to be interpreted as not participating in what is happening in our country.

Our country is a racist as Pippin is dead.

Anything less than acknowledging that Black Lives Matter is unacceptable to me.

Denying transwomen inclusion is unacceptable to me.

I have been expanding who I follow, amplify, buy from, and support. Get over to Black Vibe Tribe and support a young, black woman who is doing amazing things. She started the company at 14, she is now 17. Her merchandise is beautifully designed and the garments are of the highest quality. Finley is currently learning who Sojourner, Shirley, Daisy, Harriet, Assata, and Septima are.

A black teacher with the names Sojourner, Shirley, Daisy, Harriet, Assata, and Septima with resist spelled out.

 

Our company posted signs.

A building with a #BLM sign in the window.

Photo Credit: Small Town Street Life https://www.smalltownstreetlife.com

 

We’ll be offering to match donations that people make to organizations that support the Black or LGBTQIA+ communities up to $2,000. We will use the blog at Trampoline to highlight these organizations.

 

Double Your Donation

 

I submitted my name for consideration for a vacant seat on the Queensbury Town Board.

We walked as a family during the local Black Lives Matter march.

I’m not done. I never will be. Grief continues, but so does hope.

Please be a part of hope, change, and shattering the silence.

Can I bake the mailman cookies?

Posted on May 14, 2020

We have left cookies in the mailbox for our mailman. We say mailman because he is indeed a man. His name is Bill. Finley has a keen understanding of the extra lengths he goes to to take care of us. Since moving to this a few years ago, she has noticed that Bill often drives down our long driveway to leave things on our stoop.

“Can I bake the mailman cookies?” she asked the other day.

 

“I don’t know if that is the best idea,” I said.

 

“Too big a mess,” she asked.

 

I laughed. “No, it’s more about the fact that people are super worried about germs and he may not want to eat food that we give him.” She nodded dramatically and made a sound of understanding.

 

“I think maybe a gift card would be better,” I said.

 

“Great! I just got three for my birthday. I’ll give him one!” She ran away and I googled “gifts for mail carriers.” I found a site that said carriers cannot accept gift valued over more than $20. After she breathlessly handed me a gift card, we went online and purchased a $20 gift card to be safe.

 

Shows a handwritten letter with a $25 gift card for the mailman

The letter says:

Dear Bill, 

If you don’t already know the person that has been writing you thank you letters and baking you treats is me, Finley. I’m the baby of the family. I want to thank you for doing all of the things that you’ve been doing during this time. You go all around town giving people mail when you could be safe at home. And even though you clearly know we have a mailbox you go down the driveway just to put it on our doorstep.

Sincerely, 

Finley Magee 🙂

P.S. If you’re not Bill. I’m sorry. Please give this to Bill and tell me your name and I will make you something too.

I was going to bake you something, but with everything going on I decided a gift card would be best. 

 

Finley taped the envelope to our stoop and sure enough, Bill drove down the driveway, delivered a stack of mail held together with a rubber band, and knelt down to pick up the envelope addressed to him. Two days later there was a letter waiting in the mailbox for Finley.

A handwritten note from the mailman thanking Finley for her thoughtfulness.

It read:

 

Finley,

Thank you for the gift card and kind words. Your thoughtfulness of others is a great character in a person.

Your kindness is truly appreciated and heartfelt.

Bill

the mailman

 

A friend once wrote that I could write about a trip to the mailbox and make people cry. Funny the power and tenderness wrapped up in mail and the care it represents.

 

 

Letting it out

Posted on April 12, 2020

The world around me tumbles and crashes, the instinct I’ve been able to rely on for anticipating shifts is quiet. I can go back decades tracing the echoes of my complaints that I don’t have a skill. I’ve ached for an output capable of measurement. The voice in my ear has been relentless and unforgiving for so long. How strange that in this immersion into a life that is impenetrable for intuition, I am unexpectedly confident in my gift.
I’ve known things on a cellular level about relationships. My way through has been knowing things were going to happen with people before they occurred. I have given my heart and gut a steady voice, and they have never let me down. Sequestered at home with no boundaries or schedule for what I do, my signals are shorting out. Mom, wife, business owner, partner, tutor, cook, neighbor, daughter, sister, self. My extroversion has flipped, and I resist interaction beyond our home. I thought the boundaries of before were a struggle, lessons, schedules, assignments, deadlines, this watercolor reproduction of life is disorienting.

Yet I miss nothing from before. Maybe this is a death cycle, composting who and how I was before. I remember a professor introducing me to the word fecundity. Fecund. It has an almost profane sound about it. Spiteful, a bit of, “Oh yeah? Try me.” I love it. I never imagined that it could be about the spirit, but in these hours, that are days but feel like months, and sometimes more, there is a fecundity swelling. Amid loss and catastrophe, I feel the pangs of starting.

Seriously though, how are you?

Posted on March 31, 2020

We are in the third week of all five of us being home. The animals are bewildered, delighted, and exhausted. We’ve severely cramped their napping schedule. Sean and I are finding a rhythm. It’s inconsistent and unpredictable because we can’t forecast which of us will have an emotional dip. When we fall into the darkness, the other rallies and takes the lead on managing the schedule. The girls have been unbelievable. They tackle their school work, follow a loose daily plan, and actually hang out with one another.

They haven’t had a miraculous turn around on excitement about changing the cat litter or doing the dishes, but I think I was bracing for way more fighting and complaining. Ha! The fretting is way more likely to come from Sean and me as we binge-watch the what-ifs in our heads. All the things the experts say are right—set a routine, talk about the items you want to accomplish, don’t eat straight from the bag. Actually, maybe that’s just me.

It’s Tuesday, which means last night we watched The Voice as a family. The novelty of staying up late has worn off, and the girls peeled off to bed before the second hour of the show had ended. Hanging out with us has not become old, so we’ll be doing family game night. It’s pretty funny because we are right on the line—Briar is nearly sixteen, and Finley is on the very tail end of eleven. We have erred a bit on the side of mature games when certain cards come up; we decide to pass or we learn a new phrase. (awkward laugh)

Talking about the quarantine is fair game—will such and such get canceled? Probably. Do you think we’ll go back to school? I’m not sure. Are you guys scared? A little bit, yes.

I’ve stopped judging myself about what time we eat, how long I am at the computer, how energetic or lethargic I am feeling. I remember on What Not to Wear they used to say, “Dress the body that you have.” Right now I am focused on living the life that we have. It feels unfamiliar and oppressive, but also like a tremendous blessing.

We have electricity, the tools we need for work, and school, and we have one another. Hugs in the kitchen, Minecraft marathons on a big sister’s bed, animals to play hide and seek with, and this big online community to turn to for comfort advice, and friendship.

Here’s a piece of homework Finley did for her beloved chorus teacher. The assignment was to share a song that was helping students get through the quarantine.

 

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