First, I want to acknowledge the sick beating death, as a violation of public trust, of Tyre Nichols. When I have gone through minor life crises and loss, it has been so odd to see the world just go on. Right now, on social media, life seems to be going blithely on, for so many. I know that for some, it is self-protection and mental health self-care. For others, it just feels like we are becoming numb, even when this was so egregiously horrendous.
I read a few of the news stories, and they mention that he called out for his mother three times. I made the decision to watch two body cam and the “skyview” recordings. When he called out for his mother, it wasn’t what I imagined of a man dying at the hands of brutality–remembering and wishing for a love that overpowers all. He was screaming. And I couldn’t reconcile that until . . . until I later read in an article that he was only a few houses away from his mother’s house, where he was staying. He was literally screaming for his mother to hear him and come to his aid. I feel like vomiting even writing that.
I had planed to continue on and tell you about my mundane little life, my normal yard projects, my little joys, my little concerns. But, I can’t.
Change is usually hard and requires persistent effort, often stopping and starting. There have been at least two times in my life when change has been basically immediate. One of those two times was spurred by my daughter when she was quite young. I was a single mother for most of her growing up, and being a single parent is hard. I had quickly abandoned physical punishment when I realized it simply did not work with her. But, when I really needed to get my point across, I would yell.
One day, she tearfully told me that I frightened her when I yelled. It pulled me up short. I wanted her to understand. I did not want her to be frightened. After she went to bed later that day, I went into the bathroom. I wanted to understand from her perspective, as best I could. I intentionally recalled my feelings of frustration and anger and even isolation. I recalled the details of the incident. Without vocalizing aloud, I looked into the mirror and “yelled” at her again. I was shocked. No child should see that face. I was mortified.
I never yelled at her like that again. I was still a single parent. Parenting was still hard. I still got angry and frustrated. But, I never relied on the energy in my face and voice to communicate. I was not the perfect parent. In fact, I keep realizing more and more my human shortcomings, all these years later. But, I did temper that one reactive behavior. Immediately.
I am grateful she told me how my actions made her feel. I am grateful, for some reason, the full weight of what she was saying was not lost on me.
That’s a heavy way to begin a Thanksgiving post. But, since then, I have been fairly interested in how children see the world and how we, adults, can see ourselves more objectively.
After our Thanksgiving meal this year, I let my daughter’s oldest daughter, 3-year-old E, have my phone so she could look through the photos I had taken of her helping me cook earlier in the day. She quickly transitioned to taking new photos with my phone. Lots and lots of photos (more than 50?). How lucky that digital photography, existing on our phones, means that small children can experiment and develop an eye without prohibitive film-developing costs!
Today, I looked through her photos, deleting the ones of walls, floor, slivers of the tops of heads, and ones unbearably out-of-focus even with auto-focus technology at play. And, then, I started really looking at the remaining ones. This is what I saw (no photos shared for the first three):
Her mother and I having great conversations while I held her 1-year-old sister. Those were lovely pictures until I saw, the pictures of . . . .
. . . her dad, making joyful smiling eye contact with her with the most obvious love and focus.
Some great self-portraits, trying out different facial expressions. No duck lips and none perfectly framed from above, but all with curiosity and intrigue while looking at herself — and fun.
A study of this cup of a little juice mixed in with her antibiotic that represents the negotiated peace deal for taking said hated antibiotic twice a day for her ear infection.
Her sister’s new food tray, which she also has, that they are loving.
Her beloved two-wheeler. It is just happenstance that her dad’s walker, in use after his severe leg injury, is also captured – but it, too, is a snapshot of a huge event in their lives.
And then my photos were next (previous in time) in the sequence. Between the severe poison ivy reaction and then the allergic reaction to prednisone and only taking two days off from work, my kitchen in the background is a disaster zone. But, these are some of my favorite pictures. Do I wish the background was pristine? Sure, I guess? But, the joy on E’s face while whipping cream and mixing pumpkin pie spices into the sugar and everything else are the absolute best and I wouldn’t trade them for the world, least of all for a clean-kitchen backdrop. Life is chaotic and messy, but we find joy anyway.
Spices are sage, tarragon, basil, marjoram, and thyme.
I fear things for all the world may be getting more chaotic and difficult. Hopefully, we will still find joy while trying to mitigate the harm and improve our interactions.
I mentioned at the beginning of this summer that things were really terrible. They were. They got worse. I jettisoned everything extra out of my life to make time, energy, and to keep emotional reserves to absorb the effects. I was stepping gingerly, breathing lightly, as time unrolled, hoping maybe things were finding a new equilibrium . . . . only for my son-in-law to have a serious accident at work about a month ago.
Any exercise routine I had has been gone all summer. Any lunch breaks at work, gone. I even stopped reading my news sources or doing foreign language practice during my 15-minute breaks.
On weekends, I stopped attending any of the various worship services, virtually or in person. Things were just too topsy turvy with regard to time demands and I was wondering about just focusing on my daily reflections instead anyway.
For two weekends in a row, I worked hard on the backyard . . . and got hit so hard by poison ivy that I am on a prednisone taper and had to take two days off work and I continue to struggle with the reaction. I am just now beginning to cough less from having it in my lungs, too. I am very grateful for the prednisone because the edema has gone down and I no longer have fluid running freely down my arm and from my neck, but, otherwise, prednisone and I are not friends.
I am closing in on the one-year anniversary at my new job. With that comes a natural reassessment of whether I have the balance for which I hoped. Given that we have weathered a lot this summer, yes. In light of my original hopes and dreams, though, no.
Little 3-year-old E is very very sick with a flaring illness that we do not have a handle on. It is heartbreaking.
That is the setup for the unsettled feelings right now.
I need to exercise.
I think, for some reason, the communal type of worship is important, either because of community or as part of hallowing the day or marking the week or something. I’m not sure. But, I think there is an unexpected loss there.
I am shocked at how quickly I became uninformed when I stopped reading my daily news sources. Shocked, I tell you. That is disconcerting.
I don’t want to give up on my other professional goals.
I wanted to do some more yardwork today, but I was too afraid. The new addition of coldness finally appropriate for November, wind, not having enough clean clothes that I wanted to use for only the yardwork and then straight to the washing machine, and knowing rain is forecasted in the next day or so was just too much for me to overcome. I did not battle the poison ivy today. I did not visit my new little transplants or care for them. But, I lost time trying to force myself to do it.
In other words, things are out of sorts.
What I want:
To figure out a schedule, even with these new parameters of our lives, that allows regular scheduled exercise that I enjoy. I think that is my mental homework for tonight.
I guess to add a worship service on the weekend back in? (and keep up my daily sacred time). Or come up with a more formal weekly personal observance?
Start reading the news again. Not sure when . . .
Start working on my personal professional goals again. Not sure when.
See? That’s the thing. It is not that I am being lazy or just not doing these things. I have no idea how to make this all work. I didn’t even get groceries this weekend and won’t be able to tomorrow, probably, either. I’m just glad the laundry is in the washing machine right now.
This wasn’t supposed to be a complaining post. This was supposed to be a post in which the writing led to answers.
A Good Thing
But, I do have good news. I am near the end of an EMT recert class. (Luckily, I know this stuff well enough that I did almost no reading or studying – just showed up for class, did assignments, took exams.) Usually, you can just keep up with your continuing education, but I was moving between locations and not working in that capacity . . . so the recert class was the best option. I had two things left to do: upload NIMS (National Incident Management System-Incident Command System) certificates and recertify my CPR. NIMS. I took NIMS many many years ago and the last time I tried to download those certificates it was pure hell and never did work. I think one of the classes had updated and my last name had changed and it was sooooo long ago. I was resigned to but dreading just taking them over (and everyone knows how terribly designed those tests are). I did the first class, took the damned test, went to download the certificate . . . and there were all my certificates, sitting there in front of me on the screen, from having taken the courses previously. I kid you not. I about fell out of my chair with happiness. All the certificates are uploaded. CPR class is Thursday. So, that was a good thing that happened today. A very good thing.
A friend of mine mentioned Mastodon. Actually, he had mentioned it in the past, but I was happy where I was, which was Twitter. I had curated a great Twitter feed.
But, I am a strong believer that people/groups we allow to have influence over our thoughts and feelings, even seemingly tangentially (which is never as tangentially as they would have you believe) is an important consideration. So, I had already decided it was time to leave Twitter completely, with a clean break, when my friend mentioned Mastodon again.
I looked. I was impressed. There is a lot being written about Mastodon lately and I am not a tech expert, social groups expert, or Mastodon expert, so my little beginner list here is very inadequate in every way. But, the things I like, so far, are:
No ads or sponsored posts.
No data mining.
Mastodon is kind of anarchist in nature (and I am not an anarchy expert either, so, no offense for misconstruing this). A bunch of independent random people host “servers” (in English, seems to be “instances” in other languages). You could host your own server. They make their own rules about moderating, post character lengths, etc. That is your “home” group. But, you can simultaneously have a “federated” view and see posts or “toots” from other servers/instances. Don’t like your current “home”? Migrate to a new one. They have made it very simple to do.
As an outgrowth of the above, experienced users tend to use content notices much more liberally and encourage us new users to do so too. And, they do it better than Twitter. You put the subject and then there is a button to click for “Show more.” So simple and elegant.
There is an edit function.
It seems to be a more international platform, likely because it was started, I think, in Germany. You can choose servers based on primary language. My first “starter” server was in English. My current server is German, but it said English posts were fine, there are a lot of English posts, and it gives me a chance to practice perusing in German and if I want to make sure I am getting it, I just ask for help from Google Translate (which is far from perfect, but it is fun to use as an additional help). In other words, I like the international character in general and it is specifically allowing me regular fun exposure to one of my target languages without being burdensome or frustrating. It is serendipitously? intentionally? ideal, actually. The federated feed has quite a few languages making appearances.
Following hashtags is a designed-in function. You could do that on Twitter, but it was clearly an afterthought.
Sorry for the resolution – I just don’t currently have the skills to fix that. Shows the four column advance web interface (selected in “Preferences”) showing 1. Where I can post or search, 2. My “home” or “server/instance” feed, 3. Notices, and 4. Federated feed* or with arrow to example of a content notice.
So, my very short experience has been this: There has been a huge flood of new accounts. There were a few servers that were open and accepting new accounts. Other accounts had temporarily put holds on new accounts because of the flood (and these are just regular individuals hosting the servers, for fun, I guess). Most other servers, you “apply” to join (sort of like joining a Facebook group or something). I joined one of these open servers that were accepting the flood of new users and got my feet wet.
There was nothing wrong with my server. It was run very well, actually. But, then I wanted to see what it was to join a specific community. I found this list. (I have no idea if it is exhaustive. I doubt it.) And, actually, this database looks like it has a pretty good search function.
And then came the question: Who am I? Who do I want to be? What do I want my downtime to naturally focus on?
There was a geographic option that fit me, which would have great advantages. But, I have never seen myself as mainly an experience of where I live. More importantly, I did not want even subtle limitations of my feed based on my current location. So, I looked at other options and actually did some significant reflection. My job? I love my job. It is meeting my needs beautifully at the moment. Great people. Great mission. But, I am not my job and, as perfect as it is, it is not my passion. My social concerns/activism? Honestly, I need a break from that sometimes because it is so emotionally taxing. I will be able to find it whenever I want through hashtags, etc, but I don’t want to be immersed in it when I need to relax. I do need time to relax. We all do. There are topics I am interested in that did not seem to have a server, yet. I ended up on one of my lifelong passions. Emergency medical care has never left me. It has been a part of me my entire life. It brings me joy. So, even though it is a small server, I ended up on medic.cafe. Plus, it has a cute mastodon medic. 🙂 I am
One thing I have noticed is that my little niche interests, of which I had a great group and lots of activity on Twitter, have not really made it over to Mastodon, yet. I have high hopes.
So, check things out on Mastodon if you are wanting to make a social media move. Give me a follow so I can see you are there – I am rebuilding my feeds from scratch! Especially if you are interested in:
emergency medical services
building mutual aid systems and strong communities (found some on Mastodon)
religion (all walks, traditions, faiths, types)
backpacking/hiking/camping/trail running (found some on Mastodon)
One last quick note on consciously and intentionally choosing our identity and how social media influences our outlook on life: I am so grateful to have the freedom to just drop Twitter and pick up Mastodon on my own terms. In my previous job, it was important for me to maintain various social media accounts for our organization. We were very active in social justice and nonviolence. I loved our mission and loved working there. I also love being able to put that on the back burner at will when needed. If I were to give advice to any young person it would be to not be a social media manager, either as a part of or as an entire role, professionally.
*(The federated feed is not to be confused with the Fediverse, which I did, originally. Here is an explainer of the Fediverse. It’s in German, but you should be able to click to have it appear in English.)
* * * * *
Now, for a quick update on my life: Last weekend, I planted 10 inkberry bushes, three elderberries, and two persimmon trees. And, I ended up with poison ivy reaction (despite my carefulness) so bad that I am now on a long taper of prednisone. I think I am also developing secondary cellulitis on my arm. I will mark the perimeter with a Sharpie at work tomorrow. My plan is to do no more fall planting and just focus on keeping these new plants and the two previously planted paw paws alive and, hopefully, root thriving. Given that I will need to water them regularly and thus brave any lurking poison ivy, this will be enough in itself.
My daughter just sent me this photo from where she and 1-year-old A are nannying. A keeps calling this toy, “Grandma.” I love it.
Photos of bouncy happy dogs ended up in my Twitter feed one day. Who can resist photos of happy dogs? It was Blair Braverman’s feed — they were sled dogs, and she had written a book, Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube. Eventually I bought it and, a further eventually, I read it.
Great decision. Not only is Braverman a dogsledder with interesting Arctic experiences that developed her skills and interests, but she is clearly a writer as well. I would read beautiful sentences or note how she skillfully alternated between timelines and I would be increasingly impressed. Then it was revealed that her first year out of high school she had a capstone-type project of writing a novel and that her undergraduate degree was in English or journalism or something similar. “There we go,” I thought. “Now I see how this all came together.”
In writing about falling into a pit during a race and then getting back out:
“And [the dogs] were so happy, every muscle in their bodies bounding with excitement, smiles wide, not wolves at all–they were sled dogs, and it was a perfect ten below, and there was nothing in the whole world as fun as running and racing and tumbling into pits and getting out of them again.”
“The noontime sunset cast the water in shadow but lit the mountaintops gold.”
“Our breath trailed behind us like footprints.”
But, as beautiful as the descriptions of working with the dogs, of Norway, and of the glacier in Alaska, were, this book was a tough read for me. I was not entirely prepared for it, despite the subtitle that starts out Chasing Fear. Braverman uses her skills as a writer to perfectly capture, in all its nuances and manipulation, what women face all the time when dealing with men.
Immediately, I was thrown back into my own “normal” experiences as a woman when some men have thought they were entitled to my space, my body, and my decisions:
The guy my first night of college who thought it was perfectly fine to crawl into my dorm room twin bed. Luckily he was too drunk to be too much of a threat.
The coworker who would sit and watch me doing a task and make suggestive sounds and motions repeatedly and I was too young to really know how to handle it. I have randomly pondered how it was that someone from the company eventually came to interview me privately if this had been going on. And during the interview, as professionally and kindly as it was handled, I experienced a weird guilt and embarrassment?! It was only years later that I realized that one of the chefs had probably reported it, putting his neck out for me. (Sexual harassment reporting was fairly new at the time and he was African American and I and the harassing co-worker were white – I think there would have been social dynamics he must have considered before he reported it for me.)*
The paramedic who would always follow me out to the bay at night when I put my turnout gear next to the ambulance, even when I specifically waited until he was not in the room to see me leave to do so. I eventually just quit volunteering with that shift.
The guy I was semi-dating who, when I suggested we go for a run at my favorite park, agreed but then never got out of the truck and instead wanted to make out. When I called him on it, I said, “When I said I wanted to go for a run, that’s what I meant.” He just laughed and said, “I know.” He’s also the one who suggested that we do some martial arts practice together and then came out of the changing room stark naked. Semi-dating turned into no interaction. We eventually became friends again and to this day he randomly tells me he has always loved me. I actually believe him. But, how do you trust someone when the relationship begins like that, before it is even a relationship? The confusing part is that he has other great qualities.
Braverman captures that aspect well, too–how these kinds of interactions (and worse) make women doubt ourselves and leave us with a sense of confusion and shame that does not belong tous.
Although I was not prepared for it in her book, it is important. These misogynic/disdain-for-women-as-full-humans secrets should be dragged out into the light.
Another thread gently and unobtrusively woven throughout the narrative addresses how we care for each other as a society and in community.
Around the same time I started the book, we were having Gene Nichol as a guest lecturer at my place of work and he was speaking about his book The Faces of Poverty in North Carolina. I was quickly trying to read his book before the lecture. In it, he writes of the devastating poverty that exists in our state while our state and local governments and our general population make a studied effort to be totally blind to it. So, at the same time that Nichol’s words were ripping out my gut and dragging my battered heart along behind it, I was reading Braverman casually mention that in Norway,
“. . . their poverty was less about need than class, less about money than the facts that they were both northern and rural.”
The immediacy of the contrast, coupled with my own personal experience in the past of seeing how easily we cast off people, brought me to tears. Why do we do this here? Why are we so committed to not caring for one another?
Braverman does not spend a lot of time on the formal social support systems in Norway, but woven throughout the narrative is her experience getting to know Arild, the local shopkeeper in a northern rural part of Norway. In the rural areas, it has long been the social role of the shopkeeper to be an additional safety net. The shopkeeper knows everyone in the area and checks in on people if they had not been seen in a while or are generally homebound. While Braverman was living there, she saw that this included the local alcoholic. They never let him go hungry. They made him use his own funds for the alcohol and, when he ran out each month, he ran out. But, they never let him go hungry or unseen.
Over the course of the book, it seems that she may be suggesting that this tradition is fading as modern life continues to creep into the livelihoods and ways of those in rural areas. But her descriptions of the role Arild played are a glimpse into how communities can care for each other, even when the shopkeeper is just as human and imperfect as the rest of us.
“During visits [traveling out and around] he kept careful track of what people needed, whether it was a new belt or a refrigerator or just human company, and he did what he could do to provide it.”
* Yes, there is anonymous reporting, I believe. But, the location I was cornered into to do my work would have been in the line of sight of only one person. If I figured it out when I thought about it enough, so could anyone receiving the report or learning of it. I never told anyone about the company interviewing me, mainly because, again, I was embarrassed that any of it had occurred in the first place. Now, I am glad I never told anyone, for this other reason. And, if it was him, I wish he would know he did the right thing and that I am grateful.
I am dogs-cat-bunny-and-puppy sitting for my daughter.
I am happy to report that New Puppy flies in and out of their dog door with no problem. She also pees and poops outside happily and regularly. But, New Puppy does not seem particularly concerned about also peeing inside.
As a little background, I was not allowed to have pets growing up. Thus, the start of my adult life proceeded through the following rapid sequence: graduated from college in May, first career-type job started in July, rented my first post-college apartment, went to the animal shelter and adopted a puppy. I have basically had dogs ever since.
At first, I only adopted puppies. But, when my young daughter’s beloved Black Cat died, I was regularly checking the kitten status at the shelter. I had been told that “kitten season” was delayed because of the cooler weather. On one of these stop-bys, there were still no kittens, but I immediately fell in love with a 5-year-old Coton de Tulear dog. (We did eventually get a kitten too, the one who grew up to be White Cat.) Oh. My. Goodness! I had no idea how much easier life could be if you adopted an adult dog who was already housebroken!
After Little Dog passed on, there was a puppy adoption again. Then, my two current dogs were adopted as adults.
So, it is not surprising that my daughter’s first two dogs of her own have been adopted as adults. She is amazing with animals and, of course, she got to experience housebreaking the puppy we got while she lived at home.
But, life is kind of busy with a 1-year-old and 3-year-old and both parents working and life, and they have only had New Puppy for about two weeks now.
The best way I have found to housebreak a puppy is to use a crate when you are not home or cannot watch them like a hawk. If they are out of the crate, confine them to the room that has the doggy door and don’t take your eye off them. The second they start to sniff for a pee spot or squat, one sharp “no” and hustle them out the doggy door (with lots of praise and love when they finish outside).
New Puppy and I were doing pretty good with the peeing because she generally wanted to stay in the same room with me. But, after I fed her, I knew she was going to need to poop — and dogs are notorious for seeking a bit of privacy when pooping inside a home. Looking around, I realized I could slide the couch down to block one doorway and slide her crate down to block the other doorway.
So, here we sit. In this one room, all together. Of course, all three dogs seem to be happiest right around my feet and Gentle Giant sits and pants his hot breath right across my hands on the keyboard.
We only have about 30 hours left of Grandma’s Puppy Camp, but I figure whatever progress New Puppy can make in that amount of time is probably the best gift I can give to my daughter and her whole family right now. (Plus, I am kind of sick, so the sacrifice is not that big.)
Wish us luck!
New Puppy did great in the remaining 30 hours. No start-to-have-an-accident episodes at all. Hopefully, the little bit of additional learning she achieved will stick and transfer once regular life resumes and she again has freer roaming privileges.
I dragged a piano with me all over the country – literally. There was nothing particularly special about the piano except that it was my piano and I loved to play it. I am not particularly talented. I can’t play by ear. I have to practice a lot and, even then, I’m not a good accompanist or performer. I just enjoy it. The concentration it requires of me drives out any thoughts, so it is a bit of a meditative medium that also happens to include music. It is responsive to my moods and can respond to my fury or frustration and slowly transform and mellow it–or laugh along with my joy. And so, I dragged it from place to place.
Pianos are heavy. And take up space. And cost money to move, even if it is “just” the cost of renting a U-Haul.
Eventually, I ran out. I ran out of energy and space and money. I gave my piano away. I told myself that I was becoming a person who was lightweight and mobile and carefree. I have always moved. It is in my nature.
With this recent move, I had major anxiety thinking about buying a home. A home would be kind of permanent. It would be settling down. It made the most economic and autonomy sense, but, what if I wanted to move?
I bought the great little house. It’s been about a year now.
Yesterday, I bought a used piano, and it was delivered today. Pianos are heavy and don’t pack into cardboard boxes. If you want to move, they require planning, decisions.
But, oh! they invite you to sit and pour yourself into their keys and hear the sounds of your soul.
I think sometimes we adults forget how quickly we process environmental and experiential information compared to small children.
Pickup from daycare was a little different today. Normally, 3-year-old E’s Dad picks her up, but he had something else this evening and I agreed to pick her up. My daughter would meet us at my house, we would all spend a little time together, and then they would continue the rest of the way home.
Everything went well (other than a massive attack of mosquito bites on my daughter because of the rain last night and I haven’t been keeping up with the creek treatments and mosquitoes have always desired her gourmet blood). When it came time to go home, I put 1-year-old A in her car seat while 3-year-old E was climbing from the front seat to the back seat. Granddaughter E and I both realized at the same second that there was no car seat in its regular spot — there was just a big empty void of space above the back seat. Instantly, my daughter and I knew what happened. I told my daughter it was okay, I would drive E to their house right quick and I started assisting my granddaughter out of my daughter’s car, back into my house to grab my car keys, and back into my car, moving even more quickly than would otherwise be requisite due to the mosquitoes gathering in numbers with the descending dusk.
All the while, little E’s agitation continued to rise and finally broke out into outright wails. Safely in the car, but before starting to drive, I turned to console her.
E wanted to know why someone stole her car seat.
What my daughter and I had simultaneously deduced, without ever saying a word, was that she and my son-in-law had moved E’s car seat to the other vehicle over the weekend. They had simply forgotten to the move E’s car seat back to the main child-transporting-vehicle last night.
Because it was immediately obvious to the adults what had happened, we had simply reacted and adjusted course without verbalizing exactly what that situation was. However, it had not been obvious to 3-year-old E. At all.
On the entire drive back to their house, I explained to E what had happened: that it was just an accident that Mom and Dad had forgotten to move her car seat back and that they would surely take care of it tonight. E asserted that she would check the other car herself to determine that her car seat was actually where I said it was. Fair enough.
It’s hard to be 3. A little information helps.
It’s hard to be a parent, a grandparent, an adult, too. We keep trying and, hopefully, keep getting a little more skillful at it.