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.
Just after Thanksgiving, we had a massive downpour. The little creek behind my house usually runs a little trickle or less, fills quickly with any rain, and recedes again quickly. So, when the rain paused for a moment, I went out and took some pictures and video of it running high and quick, just for fun.
Then, I went inside to do some work for awhile just as the skies opened back up. Out of curiosity, after about half an hour, I opened a second-floor window to see how the creek was doing (there is a privacy covering on that window). That’s how fast a creek or a river can jump its banks. (Additional note: flood waters always flow fast. Always be careful.) I kept an eye on it the rest of the day.
Just like the rest of the backyard, I have plans for that little creek. Replacing the footbridge with one that arches higher above the creek is one plan. (It is submerged in the photos.) Removing a sapling growing in the middle of it is another. I want to do some studying on habitat-friendly creek maintenance, so if you have recommendations for resources, let me know in the comments. This is going to be a long slow project that will never really end.
Today, I braved the backyard again so that I could go pull up more English ivy along the row of black inkberries. After spending the entire month of November dealing with weeping skin from poison ivy contact and then finally learning that I am allergic to prednisone (this was my first time being prescribed prednisone), I set up a primary decontamination “warm zone” every time I prepare to go out there. The water spigot is just out of picture frame. Then, afterwards, I count the days, waiting to see if I am safe. Eventually, I will eradicate all of the offending plant. I hope.
I also cleared out one haul’s worth of leaves from the creek and took them up to two of the inkberries. I will catch the other eight another day.
Note neighbor’s English ivy to the left. I have been working hard to the right (and only have a small swath to show for it, so far.)
And, I started pulling English ivy away from this old rusted clothesline pole that is such an eyesore (especially in winter) and that I hate. I figure that is the first step in preparing to dig the concrete footing out. It did cross my mind that there are people out there who shoot up power substations . . . but if I am desperate for a clothesline, I will just string it between trees.
Wish me luck. I have a feeling this is going to be a beast. And, there’s another one.
The long hours of darkness long into the morning and returning early in the evening, resulting in the only daylight existing while I am sitting in an office, are hard on me during the week. I want to be outside and work in the yard and am thrilled for any weekend day that does not rain.
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.
Also this week:
When I decided to plant one of the persimmon saplings at the bottom slope of my driveway, I had forgotten that there is a runway of rainwater runoff after storms that travels down that way. We had a big storm recently. I was delighted to see that the natural path swerves around my little tree. I hope it does well in that location.
The knots and just general character of this big tree caught my eye as I came home from work the other day.
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.
Week 44 photos
I heard some rustling and looked over to see White Cat in the sack I had brought along for English ivy yard waste.
After getting nowhere in positively identifying this plant encroaching a beautiful old growth tree, I noticed the same plant where I work and was able to find out from experts there that it is wintercreep euonymus. Not native, invasive, and so I can relieve my tree of its encumbrance, despite its cute little additions of color. Someday.
This little maple brings me joy when I look out the window first thing in the morning.
One of the ten inkberry bushes had one little black-ink berry on it already.
Paw paws when first planted and then one month later (from reverse viewpoint). I am hoping they are still healthy and this is just autumn changes in new transplants.
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.
I think I have decided to plant a native-species hedge along the western edge of the yard. At first, I wanted trees, but there are power and utility lines that run right along that line.
So today, I started pulling out English ivy, right in the midst of a sea of it. I don’t know that I will be able to plant anything there this winter, but this is a long project anyway. I worked from the utility pole to the little maple volunteer sapling. What a tangled matted mess!
(Any maple identification experts out there? Do you know what type of maple this is? I have a book and have been Googling – but I am not sure.)
As I worked, I wondered about that little maple.
It couldn’t stay where it was, directly beneath the power lines.
I really didn’t have anywhere to transplant it. There were some tiny spots of sun that I was hoping to use for persimmon trees and maybe a few more paw paws.
I wasn’t sure to whom I could give it away and wasn’t sure it would survive being dug up anyway.
It grieved me that I should lose this little tree, even though I had done nothing to care for it up until this point. It had beaten out the English ivy and every other competitor all on its own — which, in fact, endeared it to me all the more. (Which, in fact, may point to it being an invasive type?)
Then, I realized I was thinking in a binary: it either had to be transplanted to hopefully survive and grow into a large tree or it had to die outright. But, what if I just kept it pruned to a small tree and let it stay where it was?
Of course, this is not the life it was imagining for itself. It would not reach its full potential of majesty. But, perhaps it would still thrive, just on a smaller scale? Or, was I dooming it?
Speaking of doom, the squirrels uprooted and flipped the final woodland pinkroot. I am so sad. Perhaps the newly freed up patches from pulling ivy will distract them away as an easy acorn hiding spot and keep them from doing the same to my milkweed. The milkweed and pawpaws are not looking quite as glorious as when I panted them, but they are still alive. I am hoping it is just the stress of transplanting and cooler weather, although one of the milkweeds does have signs of squirrel digging about it.
One of my projects for my little home is to incorporate native plants and simultaneously rid the property of English ivy, learning along the way and taking it slowly.
One of the first steps, last Saturday, was the purchase of two paw paw saplings,
three milkweed plants,
and three woodland pinkroot plants.
I busted my butt the rest of that day buying a garden hose (nope, had not bought one yet, at that point) and getting them all planted and watered. All night Sunday night, it also rained.
Every morning this past week, the first thing I have done as soon as it was light enough to see outside, was peer out the windows at the saplings and the milkweed. As I have been leaving for work/coming home, I have walked over and checked on the pinkroots in the front of house. I checked on the one pinkroot down by the creek bed whenever I went down there (usually daily). It was kind of humorous how much I cared about them, especially when my daughter cracked last week, “Are you planting these outside so they at least have a chance of surviving when it rains?” (I haven’t done great with houseplants inside this house yet.)
So, when I came home from work one day and walked over to check on the pinkroots, I was stopped cold when I saw that one little plant was cut at its base and had carelessly been tossed aside. How could this happen? Some kind of worm? None of the leaves had been munched. It was a mystery. I quickly checked on the other one that was nearby. It was fine.
The next day, I came home for lunch and was enjoying the beautiful weather from my front porch. Looking forlornly at the sad location, I saw a squirrel quite obviously burying an acorn in the exact spot where my poor pinkroot had been casually murdered. I was so shocked that I audibly gasped, “It was you! You meanie!” He scampered up the nearest tree. Apparently, my starting to clear away the English ivy, pulling up whole runners, and digging a hole and refilling it back with the freshly dug dirt, made an acorn stash spot that was too inviting to pass up. The squirrel’s little digging claws must have sliced through the stem. I checked on the other pinkroot. So far, it was untouched (and still is fine, as of now). Today I discovered that, unfortunately, a different squirrel (I am quite sure) apparently came to the same conclusion about the patch of loose dirt (+ pinkroot) down by the creek bed. So, two of my three woodland pinkroots did not even make it a week.
I am wondering, if I try again in the spring, if the dirt will have time to compact back to the same density as that in the surrounding area before acorn-burying season comes around again and the young transplants won’t become squirrel winter survival collateral damage. Obviously, I am not going to purchase more woodland pinkroots for sacrifice this fall.
The milkweed is not in such an inviting spot (as you can likely tell from the photo above), so hopefully will be left alone. Even though the paw paw samplings are larger in size, I am just hoping the dirt around their roots will remain undisturbed.
The whole aim of incorporating native plants was to learn to work with nature rather than against it. I guess that includes the meanie squirrels, too.
I have discovered a few volunteer asters making a brave attempt to out-compete the English ivy. I am trying to protect and nurture them along, too.
As of Tuesday, the minor work on the Hügelzaun/berm divider has already been undone in one section, the most important section to me. In one sense, it is likely part of a larger positive step. At the same time, there is some sadness in it, which I alluded to in my previous post.
In that post, I did not share one of the photos I had taken. It is this one and it shows the buildings on the property bordering the back edge of my lot. There are old rolls of carpet to the right, just out of the frame.
When I came home for lunch on Tuesday, I went to investigate a sudden amount of loud activity over there. The building with the blue tarp hanging from the roof was being demolished. I chatted with the two guys doing the work a bit. They thought the house was being flipped. They asked if I was okay with them driving their equipment on my property a little in order to get good position to clean the debris, even though it would probably tear up the soft ground. I told them it was fine. A day or so later I went to look. The ground was not too bad, but my first branches of the mound structure were gone. I had to laugh at the sweat I had poured into moving them into position just days prior! No matter.
But, this whole thing has made me reflect again about that house and my interactions. I am a bit sad. I keep asking myself if I should be carrying guilt.
There have been a couple of times in the past few years when I knew I should think carefully and choose my decisions carefully in otherwise somewhat ordinary scenarios. Overall, I had the luxury of time to think through those decisions. But, I sensed that these particular decisions would carry forward.
Regarding this adjoining property, there were many times in the last year when I could have called the police, when I considered at least officially documenting some things, when I could have chosen to be angry and take a hard stance. When I bought the house, there was a “No Trespassing” sign that specifically faced that house and was nailed high up on one of my trees. I should have realized that was a red flag. That sign mysteriously was on the ground several times before I just took it inside.
I never did call the police on my neighbor or his associates. I never did try to verbally (or in writing) stop the trespassing (though I was mentally designing trees/shrubs along that line but had not gotten to the Hügelzaun idea–as a screen and demarcation, knowing it would not be an absolute barrier). Most importantly, to me, I think, is that I was genuinely caring and open when I did interact with the guy who lived there. I listened to his story, even if I did not buy his wares.
He no longer lives there (though I think he is still alive, somewhere). Everything about the situation is tragic. When we witness tragedy, including slowly unfolding tragedy, we wonder if we could have done something to prevent it. I guess this is a mild form of moral injury.
But, every time my mind wanders there and analyzes it, the answer is honestly “no.” I could not save him from the path he was on, and it would have been condescending for me to assume so. I can feel sorrow for the pain without shouldering guilt that is not mine.
Which brings me back to those moments of clarity–clarity not of how to proceed in my interactions with him but clarity that, whatever my decisions, my actions were important.
I am grateful that something nudged me to pause, to evaluate, to proceed carefully, and err on the side of compassion, both this time and in a few other recent times.
I read a sentence on another blog today (Magdalene’s Mission):
He [a particular volunteer] makes it possible for suffering people to survive so they can figure a way out of the dark places.