Here and There

We’re two and a half weeks into our current routine. On weekday mornings Beth works and North attends online classes or does homework, depending on the day of the week. Beth takes them to school in time for lunch where they hang out in the theater room with friends or attend improv club, again depending on the day of the week. Then Beth returns home to work some more and picks North up after they’ve finished their afternoon classes and takes them to Columbia, where they attend their afterschool therapy program.  While North is there, Beth works in the Howard County public library, as she doesn’t have an office in the coworking space anymore. Then she brings North back home. They usually roll in around 7:15, which means we’re eating dinner late these days.

Wednesdays through Fridays, I stay home, but most Mondays and Tuesdays, I go with Beth and North to Columbia so we can attend individual family or multi-family therapy. We leave the house at 2:15 and get back five hours later. A lot of that time is spent in the car, but during the two hours while North’s in IOP before family therapy starts, I either work in the library alongside Beth or wander around Columbia. I am learning a lot about its environs. If you want to know how to find a coffeeshop, grocery store, drug store, post office, or pretty trail within walking distance of the Howard County Library main branch, I’m your girl.

Here a few things that have happened in the past couple weeks while we weren’t driving back and forth between Takoma and Columbia, some here and some there:

Snowfall (Here)

We have had almost no snow this winter. Just some flurries a couple days before Christmas and a dusting on the first morning of February. It was pretty and so novel I took a lot of pictures on my walk, but by afternoon it was all melted, except in the shady spots. I particularly liked how the snow looked on the red leaves of this plant.

Swim Pass (Here) 

You may recall I finally got the Piney Branch pool to agree to honor my pre-pandemic punch card, but I wasn’t sure it would actually work until I successfully used it on the first Saturday in February. I am pleased about this, as I had $25 worth of swims left on the pass. It should last me the rest of the month and a week into March if I go every weekend. I’ve been swimming three Saturdays in a row now and it’s nice to be doing it again after an almost three-year-long break.

Care Package (Here and There)

I made brownies that same weekend, for two reasons. I wanted brownies and I wanted something homemade to put in a Valentine’s Day care package for Noah. I wrapped the individual brownies up in foil and decorated the foil with snowflake stickers because I couldn’t find any heart stickers in the sticker drawer. (Later I got some in direct mail from the American Heart Association and I put them on the envelopes of my valentines for Beth and North.)

In the care package, I also included Girl Scout cookies, Valentine’s Day candy, and a set of long underwear Noah accidentally left at home. (I texted him one morning when the temperatures in Ithaca were in the single digits asking if he wanted them and he said yes.) The following Monday, I mailed the package from a post office in Columbia, because, as previously mentioned, I know where things are in that town.

Lake Kittamaqundi Trail (There)

Last week I stumbled across this trail, which is part of the longer Downtown Columbia Trail, which goes right by the library. For a while it just seems to go along the highway, with some weedy fields in between. But eventually it comes to a creek and that creek leads to a reservoir and there’s a trail with some public art that goes along each side of the water. I didn’t have time to make the whole loop the first day I went, so I resolved to return and, where the trail bifurcated, go the other way so I could see the other side of the little lake.

Home Repairs (Here)

As of a week ago, the repair work on our roof, eaves, and kitchen is finished. We still don’t have the final bill, which we need to know what we can afford this year in terms of summer vacation, but it’s good to have the house intact, with new paint inside and out, and to have it ourselves.

Early Valentine’s Day Dates (Here)

North went over to Ranvita’s Saturday afternoon, for pizza and a movie and an exchange of Valentine’s Day gifts. North got Ranvita a box of chocolates; Ranvita got North a rose-scented candle. As a result, Beth and I had several hours alone, so we had a date, too. She picked me up at the pool and we got takeout from Mark’s Kitchen, a Takoma fixture that’s about to either close or be under new management after thirty-two years.

Because it might be my last chance to have my favorite dish there, I got the bibimbap with a fried egg, a bit of a diabetic splurge, because of the rice (and I did eat a good bit of the rice). I might not have done it, but my sensor expired that morning and because they are less accurate the first twelve hours after application, I wasn’t planning on taking any readings from the new one until that evening anyway. Sometimes during these gaps I eat just as I normally would, and some days I go a little crazy and have half a banana and a strawberry in my morning oatmeal, a splash of orange juice in my tea, and a rice bowl for lunch. This was the latter kind of day, and it was very satisfying. I have no regrets.

We ate at the picnic tables in downtown Takoma. It was in the high forties, and I had wet hair from the pool, but it was sunny, and we’ve gotten pretty hardy about eating outside in the past few years, so it didn’t seem too cold.

After lunch, we went back to the house and watched the Valentine’s Day episode of Abbott Elementary, then hung out until it was time for Beth to go get North from Ranvita’s and take them to McLean, Virginia where North was attending a play they were going to review.

What Middle-Aged Lesbians Do on a Saturday Night (Neither Here nor There)

We spent the evening apart, as North was attending the play, a musical based on a Mario Brothers video game, which they said was “surprisingly good.” Once Beth had driven them there it was too far away for her to come home, but the play was sold out, so she couldn’t attend and had to occupy herself for several hours. I told her to google, “What do middle-aged lesbians do on a Saturday night in McLean?”

She ended up spending it in a nearby mall, where she got Turkish food for dinner, and when the mall closed, in a coffeeshop where she got hot chocolate. The coffeeshop was having an open mic night and she kept me updated via text about the acts:

[R]ight now there is a white guy singing a slowed down acoustic version of “Little Red Corvette”off key.

Now there is a woman singing a rewritten version of “Blue Christmas” to a backing track. It seems to be about climate change. Also off key. 

New guy singing now. Not being able to carry a tune seems to be a requirement of this open mic. Fortunately there is a two song limit.

Meanwhile I was home, doing the kind of thing I do when left to my own devices: cleaning out my mail drawer, menu planning for the next week, blogging, and reading Love in the Time of Cholera. I’d been in bed over an hour by the time Beth and North got home at 11:25 and then North stayed up into the wee hours to write their review.

Valentine’s Day (Here and There)

The day before Valentine’s Day North made chocolate hand pies. They consist of chocolate crust filled with a fudge-like substance and drizzled with more chocolate. They are as good as they sound. North filled a tin with them to take to school for Ranvita, but some were reserved for family (and Zoë, who had dinner at our house that night).

When North got up on Valentine’s Day, a few minutes before their first class, they sleepily nodded in the direction of the heart-shaped balloon Beth had left at their place at the dining room table, and said, “Happy Valentine’s Day.”

At nine-thirty their astronomy class ended, and they had a half hour before English, so they found me in the basement, where I was preparing to mop the downstairs bathroom floor and asked if I wanted to exchange Valentine’s presents now instead of in the evening. It seemed to be what they wanted, and I had no objection.

We gathered around the dining room table and opened cards and gifts. In addition to the balloon, we’d gotten North a box of the Lindt strawberry-white chocolate truffles they like and a Starbucks gift card. I told them it was a little extra cash to make their money at Starbucks go further now that the stars are less valuable. (North has been irritated about this.)

My card was a very cool piece of original art Beth commissioned from North. Two black cats I recognized as Matthew and Xander are standing with their tails forming a heart and it says, “Lucky to love you.” North explained it was because black cats are supposed to be bad luck, but of course, we don’t believe that. Valentine’s Day was the day North assigned the cats as a birthday (years after the fact) when they found out the shelter estimated their litter was born in “mid-February.” The cats would have been twenty yesterday and we miss them both.

Beth got me a book and a box of tiny cupcake-shaped truffles in five flavors (chocolate, coffee, caramel, lemon-poppyseed, and raspberry). It’s a great gift for a diabetic with a sweet tooth because their diminutive size allows me to fine-tune how much sugar I eat at any given time. Beth got treats from me, too, chocolate-covered cashews and chocolate-covered clementine sections.

That afternoon we all drove out to Columbia together because it was a Tuesday. I went back to the lake and explored the other side a little bit. There are a lot of docks and benches and a playground and some retail, including a few restaurants on the water. It’s a nice space.

The theme of multi-family therapy was love languages. We all had to identify our preferred ways of giving and receiving love and talk about how to navigate differences in family members’ love languages. It was well attended, with seven parents in the room and another on Zoom, for the six kids.

North had been looking forward to the dinner I often make for Valentine’s Day, tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches cut into heart shapes, but they had a migraine and went to bed as soon as we got home. I was sorry about that, as food is definitely an example of one of the love languages, though I’m not sure which one—acts of service or gifts? Anyway, this morning while they were doing astronomy homework I made them a grilled cheese sandwich, cut into a heart shape, for breakfast. There had been plenty of love the day before and in the month so far, but there’s always room for more.