Day 186: Talking to Myself

Yesterday was the kids’ first day of school. I meant to take a picture of them. A photo from the first day is traditional, and it makes a nice page in the yearly photo album. But I forgot to take the picture.

Perfectionist Me says, “You really screwed up! You missed your chance, and you’re going to regret it later.”

Practical Me says, “Take the picture tomorrow. No one will know the difference, not even you.”

Nonconformist Me says, “Why does it have to be the first day anyway? Why not the third, or the seventeenth, or the one-hundred-and-eleventh?”

Grumpy Me says, “Good. That’s one fewer picture to squeeze into the album!”

All the Mes have valid points of view. Perfectionist Me and Grumpy Me want to dwell on the negative, though, and that’s not a good way to start the school year. I’m going to listen to Practical Me and Nonconformist Me instead.

What I’ll do is take some pictures of the kids this week, as well as some later in the year. When it comes time to make the album, I’ll pretend that one was a first-day picture, or I’ll come up with a different label for it, or I’ll contrast a photo from early in the year with one late in the year, or I’ll make a distance-learning collage. Or maybe I’ll come up with an ever better idea before then. I can’t know which way I’ll go until all the pictures have been taken (or not). But I am sure of one thing: I’m the keeper of my own memories, and I can do anything I want with them.

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Day 185: Soon

Recently I mentioned how I wanted to create a walking path on my property and that one of the potential destinations for the path was the big rock at the front of my property. Here is a picture of that rock.

Big Rock

To get to this rock, you must either cross the Sometimes Stream or walk across an area with a lot of poison ivy. That is why I had never gone to it before. One of those issues has temporarily cleared itself up, though. The weather has been so dry that there’s no stream right now, nor even any lingering mud, so you can simply walk across the dry bed.

Granted such easy access, I decided one day earlier this week to finally visit the rock. Approaching it from this direction, the only way to get to the top was to climb it. That task was made significantly easier by this interesting tree.

This tree has grown into the rock, creating a large, barky “step” for getting onto the rock.

Climbing wasn’t difficult, and the poison ivy was conveniently sparse along that side. The rock was just high enough that when I got to the top I felt like I was above the world.

View from the Top

At the top, toward the front, there are loose rocks (boulders, really). They’ve been there for a long time and might be stable. Then again, they might not be, so for safety’s sake that area will have to be off-limits. The only part anyone would be allowed on is the back, where there’s this pleasant, somewhat grassy area.

The Top of the Rock

I’ve told you this tale of discovery as if I had been all on my own, but that’s not quite how it happened. I climbed the rock first by myself to see what it was like. But then Marshall begged me to take him up there, and since it had seemed safe enough, I did. My husband joined us at the top, and we talked about what we should do with this unused patch of land. Then Livia came out of the house and wanted to climb up, so I had to go back down and show her how to get to the top without covering herself in poison ivy. I actually ended up climbing that rock three times!

As for the plans discussed at the top, my husband says he’s going to remove the fallen tree and the poison ivy. Then we will add some things, such as…

  • Staggy: Staggy is our oversized outdoor Christmas stag. If we put him up there and lit him up, he’d be visible from the road. People passing by on winter nights might see him and think merry thoughts. We had been thinking of doing this anyway, and it would be an even simpler matter if there were already a pathway leading up.
  • Our old fake Christmas tree: why not let it serve for a few years outdoors before it goes to the landfill? It would look great next to Staggy.
  • A picnic table: if we mulched out a square of that grassy area, it would be a perfect spot for a picnic table.
  • Other fun things: statuary, fairy houses, etc. It’s my little hill, so I can make it as tacky as I want ๐Ÿ˜‰ .

So now we have a more detailed plan. Everybody loves the plan and is eager to make it happen. The kids would be up there right now if we’d let them. “Soon,” I told them, and I hope that that was the truth.

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Day 184: Long Week Ahead

The new school year starts on Monday. Over the last few days we have tried to prepare ourselves, but it hasn’t been easy. The school committee didn’t make its decision until recently, so teachers and administrators had little time to prepare. Consequently, supply lists and teacher assignments only just came out.

I ordered our supplies immediately, and luckily they arrived in time. On Friday my husband collected school materials for the kids at the designated pick-up stations. Then we attended, via Google Meet, Livia’s 4th-grade orientation. Marshall had the same teacher for 4th grade, and I’m glad that we’re starting off with someone we already know. She seems well-prepared and we feel like Livia will be in good hands.

We still don’t know the identities of all of Marshall’s teachers. The middle school is less organize than the elementary school is, but slowly the e-mails are trickling in. By 8:00 a.m. Monday we should know most of what we need to know.

Speaking of 8 a.m., we are going to have to readjust ourselves to keeping morning hours. Unlike the quickly thrown-together distance learning that the kids had in the spring, this time around the teachers will be teaching class all day, starting in the early morning. That means no more rolling out of bed at whatever time feels good. Alarms are going to have to be set. Discipline will have to be employed. Darnit.

It’s going to be a long week.

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Day 183: You Have to Ask Yourself, What Would Aliens Do?

Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, on the debate over mask-wearing in this country:

Imagine you were an alien who landed on planet Earth, and you saw that our planet was afflicted by an infectious-disease and that masks were an effective way to prevent the spread. And yet, when you went around, you saw some people not wearing them and some people wearing them. And you tried to figure out why, and it turned out it was their political party. And you would scratch your head and think, “This is just not a planet that has much promise for the future” โ€” if something that is so straightforward can somehow get twisted into decision-making that really makes no sense.

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Day 182: So Close!

I found a potter who makes the most amazing Art Nouveau style vases. Her vases are expensive but so beautiful that my husband and I have decided to buy one. The only problem is that her work is in such demand that every vase she posts for sale is immediately snatched up. She never posts more than one per evening, and she’s not consistent about the timing. So it’s very hard to get one.

But we’ve come close! Last night, when I opened up her webpage, there was a new vase that appeared to be available. I thought I’d finally gotten my chance. But someone must have been in the process of buying it, because I couldn’t put it in my cart. I kept trying, just in case, but a few minutes later: SOLD.

And then tonight, my hubby got even closer. He had the vase in his cart! But then the page unexpectedly refreshed and that lost him the vase.

That’s OK, though. Both of the vases were small, not quite what we’re looking for. What we really want is one of the bigger ones that will be up for sale over the next few days. There’s one with butterflies and cattails that would be perfect for our bedroom, but all of the vases in the current batch are lovely. Any one would do.

So we’re going to keep trying, and if we don’t get one of these, we’ll wait for the next batch. And so forth, and so on, until we finally get one. Or until the pandemic ends and we can go to one of her shows to buy a vase from her in person. Or maybe both, because that would give us something to look forward to in the immediate future and something to look forward to in the more distant future.

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Day 181: Hop, Hop, Hop

We got some rain. It perked up the plants. It also seems to have drawn out the toads. I saw three of them during my evening walk.

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Day 180: Next Best Thing

Usually I take the kids to Target for back-to-school shopping and let them pick out school supplies for themselves. They love Target, and they love shopping. I like taking them, too. Though it’s an exhausting trip, it helps them get excited about the new school year, which is important.

This year is different, though, thanks to the coronavirus. It’s not worth the risk to bring the kids to the store. So today I took a solo “trip” to the Target website.

I didn’t buy everything on the teachers’ lists. We have a lot of stuff left over from last year, and I’d like to use it up. I also decided not to worry about notebook and folder colors. It’s always hard to get supplies in the specified colors, but when you’re shopping online, it’s just not doable. I know teachers love their color-coding, but they’re not going to be here to see the colors, so whatever. I spent less money than I usually do. That’s a good thing, I know, but I’d happily spend more if it meant an end to the pandemic that’s keeping us home.

Once everything arrives, I would like to sit down with the kids for a creative session of decorating their notebooks and folders. We can brighten up the old stuff, maybe even change some colors around, and add a little personality. We wouldn’t normally do that, but I’m hoping it will help the kids get excited about school. It’s not nearly as good as a trip to Target, but it’s the best I can offer them.

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Day 179: Ignorance Is Bliss

I belong to several groups on Facebook that are for local issues, including schools, and they’re a great way to keep up with what’s going on in my community. There’s one group that deals with all sorts of town concerns, from water quality problems to lost-and-found items. It’s a good group, probably because the administrators are so determined to keep it clean and friendly. But, I always seem to arrive at the page right after they’ve deleted something juicy that everyone else is still talking about, and it leaves me feeling like I’ve missed out on something. So I decided to join the uncensored community group, which is where people post the kind of things that get deleted from the other group. I thought it would be fun.

But I was wrong. It is not fun! There are about two thousand people in the group. I don’t know how many of them are active, but the ones who are post the nastiest, most insulting memes and the worst propaganda and the most idiotic misinformation. And they are not there for discussion. If you try to talk facts, they’ll assume you’re a liberal (which means, to them, enemy) and then the insults will start flying. And they support Trump!

Having removed most of the Trump supporters from my friends list, I haven’t had to see much of this kind of stuff for the last few years. I remember what it was like before the 2016 election, though. I told my husband then that I thought Trump might win because I was seeing so much support for him on Facebook. And it scares me now to see so much support for him in this group.

It’s a small group, though, and because it’s uncensored, it attracts a certain type of person. So I am not going to read too much into it. In fact, I think I’m going to stop reading it altogether. I see now that I really was missing out on things before I joined the group, but they were things that I was better off without.

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Day 178: Drought

Knowing that some parts of the country are suffering from extreme heat, I wish that everyone in America could share in the wonderful temperatures we’ve been enjoying here. I feel almost guilty about how nice our weather has been in comparison. But, I’m sorry to report that we, too, have a weather problem: it’s too dry. Wildflowers are wilting. The yard is so dry that it crunches underfoot.

I knew when I started to write this post that Rhode Island had had a below-average amount of rainfall this year. I wasn’t sure if we were officially in drought conditions, though, so I looked it up. We are. The whole state is in Severe Drought, according to https://droughtmonitor.unl.edu.

We’re not alone. Nearly all of New England is unusually dry. But we’re not at the highest possible levels of drought or having to deal with massive forest fires, as some places are. So I know things could be much worse, but I hope they will get better, not just for us, but for everyone.

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Day 177: A Little Hope

The season is changing and temperatures are falling. Ticks are less of a threat now. Soon it will be possible to walk in the woods without having to swat away gnats every three seconds. I’m looking forward to returning to some of my favorite walking paths.

But I find that I like walking on my own property, just for the convenience of it. It’s good for me to take breaks during the workday, and I do that now almost every day. So, even as I am planning to walk farther afield, I am also thinking about how I can improve my walks here at home.

One thing I’m thinking about is trying to make a walking path on my own property. I have two acres of land, much of which goes unused, so this is theoretically doable. The path would start on one side of the driveway and follow the crest of a slight hill, loop around another small hill and connect to the woodland trails, in case we wanted to go that way. Then it would follow the property line all the way around the house, down the front yard, to turn toward the hulking rock at the front of the property. It’s an interesting rock that would be fun to climb from time to time. Then the path would turn again to cross a bridge over the Sometimes Stream and end at the driveway, across from where it started.

The bridge, though as of yet unbuilt, has always been part of my long-term landscaping plan. If you have a stream, you should have a bridge to cross it, right? The stream may not be constant (it tends to disappear during the dry months of summer), but the bridge would always be nice.

Making a permanent path would be complicated. The complications are that my husband and I would need to finally decide on how long we plan to live here, how much money we’re willing to spend on improvements to the property, and what our long-term landscaping plans are. We’d also need to know the exact locations of the property lines. There are ticks, poison ivy, and briers to contend with. And, of course, there’s no bridge yet.

But, it would be fairly easy to get started in the wooded areas. Wearing my tick clothes, and/or waiting until winter, I could blaze a trail along the path of least resistance and remove the underbrush. Once it was cleared out, it would be safe enough for walks during the cooler months. If I inadvertently crossed the property lines, no one would notice, and it wouldn’t matter much as long as I didn’t make any permanent changes. A few well-placed stepping stones would let me cross Sometimes Stream without a bridge.

My husband likes the idea of a walking path, not surprisingly, since it was his idea. He’s eager to work on it, and that’s great, because it’s not going to happen without him. It might just be a pipe dream, though, for both of us. I need to accept that. We have a lot of things we want to do around the house, but with limited time, energy, and money. Our track record is pretty spotty. That is to say, we’ve had more than a few pipe dreams over the years.

So I’m not saying it’s going to happen, but it could happen. As long as it could happen, it gives me something to hope for. And these days, a little hope goes a long way.

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