Join groups where people talk about the stuff you want to talk about.
I’m standing around in my kitchen heating up some pasta and meat sauce for the boys of my house. Penny is having cheese for dinner. Whatever. Her and I just got back from my visit to the salon, which was not what it used to be. As you might imagine the usual pampering of customers with hot tea and fizzy water service is now a pre-COVID thing of the past. We had to wear our masks the entire time, and when Penny decided to switch chairs for the 5th time, the girl at the counter (finally) told me that, per the customer policy, additional people are not allowed to join appointments, kids included. I suppose they were going to just let it be until they saw that Penny was only going to touch every chair in the salon.
They let me finish my session where I got highlights in the front to, you know, hide the fact that I’m sprouting grey hairs. It’s a reverse-hiding. It’s a “my light hair is so in plain sight that maybe you won’t notice” hiding. Now I feel, sort of, like a lion? Or like Poppy. Steve has walked past me twice and said nothing. Nick came and collected his dinner, same thing. Boys!
Today at H-E-B Penny and I went shopping for eggs and popsicles and a few other things I can’t remember. We’re in the habit of wearing our masks now, the hand sanitizer thing takes a little more intentional remembering but that’s much improved as well. The one thing I haven’t gotten into is the six-feet apart thing. It’s difficult in the grocery store when everyone seems to be standing around in the bread aisle at the same time. Maybe some social distancing things will stick, and other things won’t.
Today I took Penny to Floor and Decor, a construction materials retail store with isles of hardwood flooring and tile and backsplash and anything you could want for a home construction project. Penny and I went in, masked up, but it seemed like we were in the minority. Most of the contractors went around bare faced, and you know what? I didn’t care. It was a relief even, to see people going about the business of manual labor without a face mask. Like somewhere in these little occupational enclaves there was no COVID-19. I know this isn’t true of course. And I don’t know why I felt so differently at seeing people bare faced at Hobby Lobby. It’s completely illogical.
My sister introduced me to a book a little while ago called Designing Your Life. I haven’t read it and asked her to explain to me how it’s different from other self-helpy books about organizing your life.
“The author talks about designing your life versus making plans,” she said. “You design your life the way you might design a room in your house. You make a plan and buy some pieces, but when you put your pieces in place, you might discover that something doesn’t work in that space. So you move things around, and it’s more of an iterative process.”
To think about life as a design process is a more helpful model than say, finding your passion. Perhaps because in a design process you can account for the fact that you might not know exactly what you want, and so you allow yourself the freedom to make changes as necessary.
When I think about how we came to land in Houston and the lifestyle we had hoped to achieve, we made assumptions about specific neighborhoods—and about ourselves—that haven’t panned out as expected. Some things aren’t working the way we had hoped. Rather than get bent out of shape about what could have been, it’s time to get to designing and adjusting variables.
The great thing about designing is that the next iteration doesn’t have to be perfect. If you find that a framed picture doesn’t work in a space because it’s too small, you can find a wall that doesn’t dwarf the picture. If that’s still not quite right, you can try portrait versus landscape. You keep working it and improving on little details until you’re satisfied or you just plain don’t feel like fussing with it anymore. The same goes with the variables and details or our lives. So, it’s time for me to start fussing with the details of our life design.
Although the sun is still out and twilight is some thirty-minutes from now, it’s quite late in the day, nearly 8pm. The long summer days are in full swing, but so are social distancing measures and other weird norms of the past 2.5 months.
I took Penny to the Houston Camera Exchange hoping that I could talk to an expert and browse some camera bodies, but when we arrived to the store they said it was appointment only and turned us away. So I did what any sane person would do, which was go to Best Buy and browse their inventory and pick the brain of their camera expert. I had every intention of buying something from Best Buy, but when they didn’t have what I wanted in stock, I called back to the Houston Camera Exchange, who had exactly what I wanted, and I bought from them. I wonder how much longer the big box stores can take this kind of customer behavior.
This weekend I started getting caught up on Formula 1 racing. Steve had made a few comments about how much he had enjoyed the Netflix series, Formula 1: Drive to Survive. I’m sheepish to say that there was a time in which I might not have noticed that comment, but since I’ve been wanting to take an interest in what Steve’s into these days, I heard him say Formula 1 and started binge watching. After all, if you want to do fun things with your spouse, do things that you both think are fun. You know, like pizza and beer fun. So, if he thinks Formula 1 is fun, maybe I can get behind it too.
Formula 1 is pretty cool. It’s single-seater auto racing at the elite level. Red Bull, Mercedes and Ferrari have teams, along with McLaren, Haas, Renault, Williams and a few others who are lesser known to the Formula 1 lay person. There are ten teams total, two drivers per team. It’s easy to learn and follow because there are only a few players. What’s interesting about Formula 1 is the pureness of the sport. In a very broad sense, the variables boil down to the car and the driver. The game becomes engineering a car that is optimized to do this very specific type of driving, and cultivating a driver who is Alpha Alpha Alpha.
In Formula 1, there is no team in the philosophical sense. Drivers are fiercely competitive, especially with the driver counterpart on their team because, well, they are driving the same exact car. They are in pure competition with one another over who is the best driver.
In some ways. Formula 1 reminds me of elite climbers, like Free Solo guy Alex Honnold. In each sport the athletes risk life and limb to perform feats of athleticism for no other reason than the pursuit of excellence. There is no greater calling or sense of purpose. From what I’ve seen in Formula 1 interviews so far, there is little credit afforded to the engineers or the pit crew. Elite climbing is the same. There is no team. It’s the pursuit of excellence for the sake of it. And while Formula 1 drivers appear to have luxurious lifestyles as a result of their success, they’re not prima donnas. They care about being the best, like driver monks or something. And I think anything with that kind of dedication is pretty cool to watch.
I’m sitting out front by the curb. There’s a nice breeze going and lots of shade since the sun is making its descent and not beating down like it was earlier. I’m out by the curb on a broken lawn chair that Penny managed to crack after throwing it in a fit. I have it set for the recycling to pick up.
I spent the better part of the day out shopping with Penny. Poppy, my beloved dog, the apple of my eye, dug a massive hole over the course of several months that I am finally sick of looking at. I’m not a fru-fru woman, but I don’t like manual labor. On my deployment I was glad to have a bunch of big guys on my team because there was always someone to handle my luggage. One of them would only have to twist my arm, and offer once. Check it out, I think my lawn is coming together.
On our way home from Lowes and Hobby Lobby, Penny and I stopped at Subway to pick up some lunch. Everyone was wearing face masks and social distancing and all that. I ordered us the Tuesday sub special and scooted along, when a lady behind me arrived at the counter. The sandwich artists asked her what kind of bread she wanted.
“I don’t want anything from you with your nose sticking out!” She left immediately.
“That lady didn’t have to be so dramatic,” said Penny.
The lady had been in line for a while, and obviously wanted to make a big deal about the fact that both sandwich artist had their noses sticking out from on top of their face masks.
Personally, I don’t get confrontational about these things. If they had been wearing no face mask I would have just left. But I’m not one of those people who makes formal complaints on people just trying to earn their hourly wage. Besides, they both wore glasses (which I have read get foggy with the face mask thing) and frankly I felt bad because this is all just so unfortunate that now, anyone in the business of handling food is going to get the third degree just for doing their job and handling food. I mean, let’s try and be reasonable? I don’t know…
Oh. Speaking of face masks. Here’s a picture of Penny and I at Hobby Lobby today. Our face masks were made by my mom and sent over from Florida a few weeks ago. It’s important to note that my mom has always enjoyed sewing things for the family.
Now, take a look at this picture from Disney World, circa 1992. Notice the print on my dress. Notice the print of my face mask.
It’s the same fabric. My mom assures me that my dress from 1992 is still in tact.