Monthly Check In: January

January 2020: Gratitude Jar

I have been dealing with sick kids for several days and the last 48 hours has been spent getting puked on and cleaning up puke and holding a kid so he can sleep at night…it’s been the side of parenting you don’t see in movies. It’s been horrible, and great, because it’s part of life and it won’t last forever. That said, I have had exactly one hour a day the last few days to do my #writeonhour and I’ve not had time for anything else. I am grateful for that hour, grateful to my amazing husband for taking over during that hour, despite the fact that he doesn’t have the boobs that do the comforting. Excuses aside, here’s where I’m at with my NYR’s:

Continue Practicing Gratitude

I started a gratitude jar on January 1 and I’ve been slowly filling it with little slips of life that bring me joy. The jar helps me refocus at the end of the day and I find that knowing the jar will be there I’m more present throughout the day as I listen for things to go in it, and as I experience things I want to put in it. I’ve also ordered more Thank You cards because I’ve had some people to thank since December but no time/cards to do the thanking. They just arrived today, and as soon as I’m not worried about getting covered in yak, I’ll be filling some out and sending them. I would say that puts me squarely in the black on this one.

Continue Spending Time With Family and Friends

Family gets an A+ on this one. I’ve had two family meet-ups in January. Friends are a little behind this month as I was only able to have my once a month meet-up with my very best girlfriend and none of my weekly dinners with friends. Once these kids stop getting sick I hope to reinstate the dinners. So I would say that while I’m not keeping up as much as I’d like, I am still keeping up and I say we’re in the black on this one, too.

Continue My Self-Care Regime

I am getting my 3 times a week sauna time, and I had my monthly massage in January. I’ve also gone on several bike rides with the family, and I’ve been doing a lot of walking and working on a project that includes carrying around heavy things and bending and stretching and stuff, so while I’m not actually doing the exercise I had in mind, I am still exercising. My non-inflammatory eating was put on temporary hiatus while we tried to see if what I was eating was causing the still breast fed kid to have gas issues. Turns out the only thing that seems to be a major no-no besides dairy and eggs, which we already knew about, is soy. So now I’m back to my non-inflammatory eating with no harm done. I’m thinking I’m in the black on this one, too.

Spend More Time Outside

We’ve been doing the 1000 Hours Outside Challenge and it’s making a huge change in how we all view our days. Even on horribly windy days we’re trying to be outside for at least half an hour. Even on the coldest days we’re trying to be outside for at least half an hour. I’m not sure how we’re stacking up to others doing the challenge, but for us it’s been a game changer. We’re solidly in the black on this one, too.

January 2020: 1000 Hours Outside Challenge
January 2020: 1000 Hours Outside Challenge

Write for One Hour Every Day

Done! Super black.

Submit at Least One Piece for Publication
Each Month

Ouch. Okay, so this one is a huge fail. I started a spreadsheet and began researching where and how to submit to, and apparently you can’t just submit to anywhere at anytime (learning moment!), there are open calls for submissions at certain points in the year and if you miss them, you miss them. Also, they only accept a certain number of submissions each year. So. Now that I know this I’m trying to compile some stuff to send so that I can get in on each submission time as it comes up. My lack of time this month has meant that I did not get anything submitted this month even though I technically could have. Red. Totally in the red here.

Read at Least One Book a Month

Thanks to the sauna and having started some books in December that I didn’t finish until January, this happened this month. I actually finished five books, two of which I didn’t start until January. So super black on this one, surprisingly.

Take a Stained Glass Making Class

Hasn’t happened yet. I need the youngest child to be off the boob during the day so I can take a class. I don’t imagine breathing glass dust would be good for him, assuming I could find a class that would even let me bring him. So this NYR is probably not going to be completed until later in the year.

Summary

I’m maintaining on all but two of my NYRs and that feels pretty great, especially because one of them I can’t do anything about until later in the year and the other one I am still making strides on. Five out of seven = winning, in my humble opinion.

How are you doing on your New Years Resolutions? Are you meeting your goals? If you’re having trouble, take a read of my post on Achievement and let me know if it helps you!

The Bait

I was only interested in him because he was broken. His wife was leaving him, he knew it, I knew it, lots of people knew it. But they were still living together. And I was working with her. So I was there that night, working on a project with her, when he came home all sad and rejected, his face a perfect picture of misery, which he knew because he snuck a look in the mirror on his way in, but I wasn’t supposed to see that and obediently pretended I hadn’t. He made sure his hair came down, just so, over his eyes so that we’d want to brush it away. He made sure he spoke with just the right amount of sad resignation and hope. He complimented me in front of her, hoping to draw her jealousy, or anger, or laughter…anything really. Hoping for a reaction from her, ignoring the reaction he got from me.

I was embarrassed by myself. How could I blush and look away and be attracted to this man? He clearly wasn’t good enough for my co-worker, so why did I find him attractive? And why wasn’t I better able to hide that I was attracted to him when she was right there! What sort of monster was I?

Or maybe it was her. Maybe she was the monster. After all, he was a perfectly likable guy: well groomed and maintained, employed, hetero enough, by all accounts good with kids and animals, and attractive. Very attractive. The way he moved his body smoothly from standing to sitting. The way he leaned back in a chair, pencil in hand, smiled shyly and spoke of how much meaning and reward he got out of his job. The way he talked about riding horses when he was growing up and how much he missed that and wasn’t there a place nearby where you could ride horses. Attractive. Obviously perfect.

No, there must be something wrong with her. Here she had the perfect boyfriend and she was giving him up for a better life somewhere else. Why wasn’t she taking him with her? What had he done so wrong that she couldn’t continue loving him the way he loved her. Definitely her, the monster.

Perhaps I could help, after all, I’d be staying behind when she left, too. Really she was leaving us both. We could look out for one another, make sure he was getting over his heartbreak, make sure I wasn’t floundering at work without her. And why not. He was a perfectly lovely man and he’d just complimented me, hadn’t he. He wouldn’t mind my company for awhile, just checking in on him every few days….

Look at the way she was baiting him! Getting dressed up to go to our company party. Who was she trying to impress? She was leaving? But there she was, looking perfectly perfect for a night among boring colleagues. Look at how he looked at her, almost angry. No, that couldn’t be it. Must be a trick of the shadows. He clearly adores her. Will be miserable without her. But I’ll be here to help.

She’d told me all about how she worried for him. How she didn’t think he’d take care of himself without someone to do it for. She told me how he only knew how to make the same three meals, and one was nothing more than a dessert. She told me how he couldn’t go to a movie alone, even if it was one he desperately wanted to see and she had no interest in. How he only had two close friends and they weren’t much more than people he ran into at the coffee shop. She told me how lonely he’d be, how he needed somebody.

I couldn’t believe she would leave him, knowing all this about him, how could she leave him? Well, I wouldn’t do that to him, not me. I’d care for him. I’d be there to eat his two meals and a dessert, if he cared to make them. I’d be there to watch the movies he wanted to see, even if I had no desire to see them. I’d make sure he had a reason to take care of himself. After all, he’d just complimented me. We would get along just fine. She could leave and enjoy her perfectly new perfect life, and I’d stay here and take care of the pieces she left behind.

He was beautiful, after all. Perfect really. How had I never known she was such a monster?

~~~That’s one hour~~~

Rapists Can’t Be Heroes

Here’s the thing, people can be great at a lot of things, like really, really great, like so great that they set records other people can’t beat or they create music no one else can improve upon or they just have a shit ton of money that other people can’t have and so they’re able to do things other people can’t do. So here are those people, the great, the creative, the rich, and sometimes they are also amazingly decent people, as human beings. And that’s amazing and wonderful and we all fall all over ourselves, “how can they be so normal when they’re so above us?” But when these people, these great or creative or rich people, do something absolutely atrocious, something heinous, illegal and immoral and socially unacceptable, we still fall all over ourselves to forgive them or ignore the transgressions or, and this completely baffles me, make excuses for why they did what they did.

How is that Michael Jackson can mentally, emotionally, and sexually abuse children and Cirque du Soleil makes a show honoring him and saying how he was just so confused and had demons and was (essentially) persecuted. I used to love Michael Jackson’s music, I was a huge fan, would crank up the radio anytime one of his songs came on, didn’t care if it was the old Jackson Five stuff or the newer stuff, I listened to it as loud as it would go and I sang along. I was not above learning the dance steps to Thriller. I knew which of his songs was my mom’s favorite. I was all over it. I was on the bandwagon of “isn’t it messed up that people would go after him for his money, that poor man, he has so many problems.”

All the law suits were always dropped. I figured they were all BS. And then Leaving Neverland came out. You can’t tell me those kids weren’t abused. You can’t tell me it was “okay” because he was a talented musician. You can’t tell me it was “okay” because he was suffering from his own childhood trauma. It is not okay. Is it sad that his family lost a brother and a father? Absolutely, yes. Is it sad that a pedophile died? Nope. And when a Michael Jackson song comes on the radio, you better believe I turn that shit off immediately. It doesn’t matter if it’s an old Jackson Five song either, yes, that was before he was a pedophile, but no, it doesn’t change the fact that I can’t condone his actions by supporting his music.

What about the rich guys sexually harassing all the men and women and getting away with it? Remember all the people the #metoo movement brought to light? All the people who had finally had enough, had finally felt like maybe they’d be heard now, all the people who were ready to tell their stories. Weinstein, Cosby, Freeman, Spacey. All these big name entertainers. And what did people do? Call foul. Refuse to believe. In the case of Morgan Freeman there have been literally zero repercussions.

And now the latest: Kobe Bryant. Kobe Bryant raped a woman. He was a rapist. He was also an unbelievable basketball player. So. Fucking. What. There are TONS of unbelievably excellent basketball players who are not rapists. Why are we celebrating this one? Why was he able to keep playing? Why are people who didn’t even know this rapist mourning his death? And why are people calling for the renaming of Staples Center as the Koby Bryant Center? That is some serious bullshit.

We all idolize someone (Bruce Springsteen). We all have our heroes/heroines (Maya Angelou), the people we look up to (Beyonce Knowles) or long to be (Pam Houston) or wish we could be besties with (Heather Havrilesky). It’s healthy, like setting goals, looking up to people helps you make sure you’re on your best path, too. Like all those people sporting WWJD bracelets. But here’s the thing: when your idol does something horrifically wrong, it’s time to get a new idol.

Stop defending people in the wrong just because they make more money than you do or have more talent. Money and talent do not absolve a person of their transgressions. Yes, we are all human, yes, we all make mistakes, and yes, to err is human. But there’s a reason we remember Hitler as a bad man even though he loved his mother, was a vegetarian, a failed artist, and a billionaire. You scoff, “Hitler is a bit extreme” you say. Is it?

Public figures remain public because we make it so. People in power remain in power because we make it so. People are immortalized as good or bad because we determine it.

If you read about an adult who brainwashed families, made children watch porn and masturbate in front of them, forced children to have oral sex, bought children rings and performed “marriage ceremonies” with them. If you read about this adult would they be your hero? Would you want to give your time and money and voice to defending and supporting them? What about if the adult also happens to be a really great singer, songwriter, and performer? Now is it okay?

If you read about an adult accused of rape with a bruises, vaginal tears, and blood to back it up. If you read about this adult would they be your hero? Would you want to give your time and money and voice to defending and supporting them? What about if the adult also happens to be a really great basketball player who has won Olympic gold medals? Now is it okay?

The question here is: where do you draw your line in the sand? What are you willing to ignore so you can enjoy a song or a basketball game or a movie or a television show? Does someones private life not affect your pleasure of their professional life? What if it was your kid being abused? What if it was your sister being raped?

We are responsible for whether or not a celebrity remains a celebrity. We are responsible for whether or not a person is remembered for their evil or their good. We can absolutely mourn the loss of our heroes, the loss of peoples families, and friends, and we can do so without forgetting that these people were not infallible. We can let go of our heroes when they do something we can’t condone. We can stand up to the whitewashing that occurs when they die. We can be the voice who says, yes, they were excellent at x but they also did y, and that is why I cannot continue to hold them up as an idol.

~~~That’s one hour~~~

I’m getting a huge response via email and comments about this, and rather than publish them all and respond individually, I’m going to update the post itself. Sadly, people are asking me why this matters. When I’m limited by time and familial duties I often have to accept that my posts have typos and errors and are very much unfinished, but this one can’t be treated that way. It’s too important. Here’s why it matters.

When people grow up knowing that celebrities are above the law they not only expect and condone the atrocities celebrities commit but they also begin to root for them. For example, Martha Stewart broke the law and people were shocked when she actually got convicted. Why? She broke the law. Why are we shocked that she was convicted? Because she’s a celebrity. Celebrities are supposed to get away with it. And she served time, although not the kind of time you or I would serve, and we accept that, too.

Before marijuana became legal in half the country, people cheered when Snoop would talk openly about smoking (me included, the whole idea of criminalizing marijuana is ridiculous, but that’s a tangent). The point is, people loved that he broke the law and got away with it. They encouraged it.

We love the idea that celebrities can get away with things we can’t. And that’s dangerous.

When we grow up knowing celebrities can get away with stuff and rooting for them to get away with stuff we end up with a president who is a criminal. When we grow up knowing celebrities can get away with stuff and rooting for them to get away with stuff we end up with a criminal president who may not get impeached. A criminal president who may not get impeached and who may run for re-election. A criminal president who may not get impeached, may run for re-election, and here’s the scary part folks, may very well win.

Rapists can’t be heroes. Pedophiles can’t be celebrated. Criminals can’t be president.

It matters.

The Porch

It was touted as a studio but it was really just a shack, built sometime in the mid 1800’s before indoor plumbing, electricity, or insulation became standard. It would be freezing in the winter and sweltering in the summer, although perhaps the presence of those enormous oak trees would make summer quite bearable. Still and all, a shack.

Obviously they’d added on a little bathroom in the back, if you could call it that. A shower that was nothing more than a surround built over a drain, there would be critters coming up out of that for sure, a toilet that wobbled at your approach and a sink that spit more water at your torso than at your hands. Still and all, a bathroom.

There was nothing wrong with the wood stove and as the shack was so small, you could cross the whole thing in ten strides one way and seven the other, that little wood stove would keep ya plenty warm as long as you kept it stoked. Although stoking it could be a problem, tiny little thing that it was you couldn’t fit much more’n a couple logs in it at a time. Still and all, a wood stove.

No kitchen to speak of, but there was a counter someone had put in somewhere along the line and it would do for holding a hotplate, maybe an InstaPot, maybe a toaster oven. It would all depend on the electricity that’d been put in. The lamp in the corner, the only source of light besides the bare bulb that flickered in the bathroom, made sputtering noises and sparked a bit, the plug hanging limply in the socket rather than snug. Still and all, electricity.

There was nothing to complain about, really. Who didn’t want a chance to live in a piece of history? How many gold miners had lived in this shack? How many had struck it rich? What would happen if you dug around underneath the house and did some panning like in that movie with Clint Eastwood before he was a cowboy, back when he sang songs and you could see just how impossibly tall he was…Paint Your Wagon! That was it. Would you find any gold down in the dirt under this little shack?

The thing that really sold the place, the thing that made it stand out above the recently renovated one bedroom apartment with subway tiles in the kitchen and imitation granite counters in the bathroom, or the two bedroom cabin made from real logs chinked together where you could look out the living room window and watch the deer cross the yard, the thing that made the bathroom and lack of kitchen irrelevant was the porch.

The shack had a rough-hewn wood porch that wrapped all the way around and went out far enough that you could put some chairs out at the outer edge where the porch roof didn’t quite reach and watch the stars and other chairs up against the outer wall of the shack and be out of the rain. The porch spoke of a rocking chair, a pipe, learning to whittle or perhaps knit, and long evenings where the only words spoken would be about the lovely weather or the vast quantity of stars. The porch said “yup,” in that way that says you’ve seen it all and want to forget it, and here’s where you could do just that.

The porch was the first thing you saw when you arrived and the last thing you saw before you left and the porch called to you. It had a distinctly male, distinctly old, and distinctly charming voice, much like Sam Elliott or Kenny Rogers. The porch spoke of cold beer or perhaps whiskey, and warm tales, stories of long ago that weren’t really so long ago at all. Living in the shack was the toll paid to hear the stories the porch had to tell. And who wouldn’t want to pay that toll.

~~~That’s one hour~~~

Wood Stove

The ticking, banging, gong, and flutter of wings that signaled the wood stove was heating up could be heard clear on the other side of the house. It was the sound of comfort on it’s way, and even though the floor was too cold to walk on in bare feet and she could see her breath in the closet where she hurriedly tried to change from pajamas to out door apparel there was something about that sound that gave her a warm feeling. Sadly it was a warm feeling that wasn’t real and she quickly cursed and how frigid the air was and how long it was taking to get a bra on with her fingers numb.

Winter mornings weren’t always this way. Most nights her insomnia would wake her around 2 a.m. and she’d slip out of bed, sliding her feet into her old plaid slippers and her arms into the thick robe kept at the end of her bed. She’d quietly make her way down the hall towards the still glowing stove, careful not to touch it as it maintained it’s heat in a way she wished her sheets would. Carefully opening the front door, sliding the air vent to the wide open position, and grabbing a poker from the rack of iron tools, she’d shuffle the contents around getting hot coals to glow all over the bed of ashes before adding a couple pieces of wood. Not quite closing the door she’d return the poker to the rack and step back to watch the fire reignite.

Sometimes the fire came slowly, the coals not quite hot enough or the wood she placed inside a bit damp or very, very old and therefore difficult to start. Other times the fire wooshed up, spurned on by the front door and air vent being open, the cold flue and the still warm stove creating a sucking and drawing that immediately brings the flames to life. It was an art, a dance, this fire making, and she’d only recently become an artist.

When she’d first arrived in the mountains, new to the cold and the idea of a wood stove for heat, she’d read the manual for the stove and followed all the directions to a t. She struggled mightily with each and every fire. It was somewhere around the second month of her first winter, her city car unable to make it up her street in the snow and therefore sitting as far as she could get it off to the side of the road but technically in her neighbors yard, that she mentioned to an old-timer at the local coffee shop she’d walked to for breakfast just how difficult it was keeping her house warm. They commiserated a bit and then he clued her in to the best kept secret she’d ever heard about starting fire: pinecones. Just one pinecone would get any fire started, wet or dry, old wood or new, just throw a pinecone in there when you go to light it.

For the rest of that winter and the winter next she always had a fire and never had trouble lighting it or re-lighting it. She did, however, start to have trouble with smoke. It turned out that summer as she was having the flue cleaned for the first time ever that pinecones leave behind a substantial amount of creosote and she was lucky she hadn’t smoked herself out or worse, started her whole house on fire. Pinecones were now a thing of her past, and so were cozy warm winter fires.

In her third year of mountain living she met a guy who was intent on proving to her that he knew how to start a fire anywhere and keep it going. By the fourth month of their relationship when it was freezing cold and they were both desperate for just enough heat to sleep in they started going to his place where he could actually light a fire and keep it lit. Their relationship was as doomed as his ability to work her stove.

Another year and another guy, this one claiming there was no need for a wood stove, simply use the HVAC system. Which was all well and good until the electricity bill arrived. It turns out you can’t heat a house in the mountains using your electricity, or your propane, unless you’re willing to pay dearly. Their relationship also ended, much the way the stove was never lit.

By her fifth year in the mountains she had figured out a thing or two. She no longer had a car that stayed parked in her neighbors yard each time it snowed, that was a win. And she’d figured out how to make the stove limp along enough that she didn’t need a heater. But damned if that limping didn’t mean numb fingers on a bra strap in the morning.

~~~Combined With Podcasts, That’s One Hour~~~

Podcasts

What is the deal with podcasts? I can’t seem to figure out why they’re so popular, although maybe it’s just that I haven’t found one I love. I guess I don’t entirely get where you go to listen to them, how you can have a free hour or more to listen to them daily, or what people get out of them. I would like to get it. I would like to appreciate podcasts, but for now I just don’t get it.

Here’s the thing, I used to know some guys who did a podcast. Every week they’d get together, drink a bunch of beer, and speak into microphones about…nothing. It was a show about nothing. Like Seinfeld but with less humor. It wasn’t bad. The guys were actually funny together for most of it, but I never felt like I gained anything from listening. It was like sitting around at a party listening to people’s conversations. It felt weird and unfulfilling.

Here’s another thing, I can’t figure out books on tape either. I freaking LOVE to read. I mean love it. I read War and Peace in junior high for fun. I am all about books. So I thought it would make sense to get books on tape so that I can “read” while I drive, or when I’m on a flight, or when I’m gardening, or whenever. Makes sense. Only every time I’ve ever tried to listen to a book on tape I realize around minute ten that I have no idea what’s happening because I wasn’t listening. I’d zoned out somewhere along the line and by the time I pulled myself back from whatever I was thinking, the book had moved on without me. I don’t do this when I’m reading a book, but any time I try to listen to one it happens.

So maybe this whole “I don’t get podcasts” thing is because of whatever is miswired in me that won’t allow me to listen to books on tape, even though I can watch TV, read a book, have a conversation with a friend, watch YouTube and successfully learn how to fix my vacuum cleaner, etc.

For those of you who have a podcast or follow a podcast, perhaps you can do me a favor and tell me:

  • how do you listen to the podcast (phone, computer, smart TV, car, etc.)
  • where do you go to access the podcast (iTunes, a website, etc.)
  • how do you find out about podcasts you might like
  • when do you listen to the podcasts you like

I would like to make space in my life for podcasts if I can find a way to have them make sense for me, if I can find one that I get something out of, if I can find one that keeps my attention and doesn’t send me wandering for ten minutes only to return lost. Any and all advice and info is appreciated, especially the answers to the questions above.

Thank you!

Trust

Whatever’ed gotten caught in the netting was large, not a small songbird or even a jay, she’d rescued plenty of smaller birds from the netting, one hand on their back, head between index and middle fingers, other hand unwinding or even cutting the netting from their legs or wings. It was a simple process, the hardest part being keeping her hands relaxed so as not to crush their little bones. She’d feel their hearts beating terrifyingly fast and always worried they’d have a heart attack before she was done. But they always flew away, not far, just far enough to sit and ensure they weren’t hurt, try to understand what exactly had happened, reaffirm for themselves that the giantess no longer had them in her clutches.

This was no small bird. Whatever this was would require two hands just to hold, and it was up a bit higher than she was used to, roughly shoulder height, she figured. Perhaps this would be the first creature she didn’t find in time. It wasn’t moving. The lack of movement was more intimidating than the creatures size.

She’d seen something in the netting from the kitchen window, seen that it wasn’t moving. Immediately dropped the glass she’d been rinsing, and rushed out of the house throwing on shoes and grabbing her gardening gloves trying desperately not to trip or lose momentum. She stubbed her toe shoving it inside her shoe, nearly twisted her ankle taking the corner around the garage, rushing to the netting, slowing only as she realized the creature was a hawk.

A beautiful hawk, with a wicked sharp beak, and large talons. How was she going to hold this bird and get it out of the netting. If the bird was already dead there was nothing for it, if still alive she would need to be very smart about this rescue. She stopped to think. Burlap. Burlap would be best. She could put the burlap over the hawks back and head. In the dark of the cloth the bird would be unlikely to try and take her fingers off. Burlap was something she didn’t have.

The hawk moved, not much, she could tell it felt the netting getting worse with movement rather than better. Smart bird. Think. Think, think, think, think, think. A feed sack would be too noisy and would surely cause the hawk to struggle, a blanket would reek of human and would probably cause the hawk to freak out as well, it’s not like she had a lot of options. She finally settled on a horse blanket. Horse smell would be unlikely to cause as much stress as human, and it would be suitably thick that if she wasn’t able to secure the hawk it at least wouldn’t be able to remove her fingers while she fumbled.

Rushing to the barn, grabbing the blanket off the wooden horse, rushing back to the netting. She slowed several steps away. The bird was definitely up at her shoulders, this would make it more difficult as it’s defenses would be right in her face, although luckily she was facing it’s back. How far can hawks turn their heads, she wondered. She decided there was nothing for it but to tell the smart hawk what she was going to do and hope he understood.

“I’m going to help you,” she nearly whispered, “please be calm. Please trust me.”

The bird remained motionless and she took it as a sign that she was welcome to get to work. Lifting the blanket up she began to narrate her actions, if knowing what was happening helped people at the doctor and dentist feel better perhaps it would help the bird.

“I’m going to put a blanket around you from behind back here and up over your head so I can see how to help,” and she did.

The bird still didn’t move. She realized she’d been holding her breath since “help” escaped her lips. She couldn’t feel the hawks heartbeat through the blanket. Perhaps it wasn’t alive after all. With the head and wings under cover she looked at the legs. Not too much thicker than her chickens, and there was the netting, all looped around both legs. The hawk was very much alive, as it was holding itself up at the elbows. The longer she held it, the more it relaxed back against her. She wouldn’t be able to untangle it like this. She needed a free hand.

As if the hawk had read her mind it completely relaxed it’s body, including it’s talons. That’s when she saw the netting was weak, it had been ripped, torn perhaps by this very hawk. There was very little netting left holding the hawk in place and captive. If she could tug the bird a bit the netting would rip the rest of the way and she’d be able to lower the bird down and maybe have a moment or two to get the straggly bits off before the hawk took off or took off her finger.

“I’m going to pull on you a bit, please trust me, I won’t hurt you,” and she began to gently lower the hawk down towards her chest, tugging the netting still wrapped around it’s legs.

Once the hawk was at her chest it was much easier to see what she needed to do, although not any easier to do it. She still only had two hands and they were both around the hawks back keeping it’s wings down. If this was one of her chickens she’d simply slide the bird over and down to her hip on one side, switching her hand over from its wing to its lower chest. She didn’t dare try that with this bird, it left her fingers much too vulnerable. What else could she do. She took a deep breath, realizing the bird would feel her chest rise, and fall as she let the breath out. The hawk didn’t move.

Checking that the blanket was still in place over the hawks head she said, “I’m going to hold your legs with my hand. Please trust me. I won’t hurt you.”

Keeping the bird firmly against her chest with her left hand, she slowly moved her right hand towards the hawks chest and then pressed gently to keep the hawk firmly against her. She then moved her left hand slowly down towards the hawks legs. Rather than grabbing both, which had been her original plan, she simply began to unwind the netting. This was working quite well and even though she was excited, she remained wary, this was still a wild animal and likely to decide it had had enough at any minute. She worked quickly but calmly and with steady movements.

She soon had the hawks left leg free and the hawk moved. She became stalk still although her already racing heart began to beat faster. The hawk was simply retracting its leg, pulling it in closer to its chest, it stretched the talons, too, merely checking for injury it seemed.

When the hawk stopped moving again she said, “We’re almost done now. I’m going to free the other leg.”

And with her left hand she let go of the bit of netting she’d removed from the left leg and took hold of the netting still surrounding the right leg. It was even easier to remove the netting from the right and soon she was left holding a hawk. A perfectly healthy hawk. How was she going to let it go without hurting it or herself.

The blanket was still covering it’s head and back, “I’m going to put both hands on your wings again, then walk a bit so you’re away from this netting,” she said, “then I’ll set you down and remove the blanket. Please trust me. I won’t hurt you.”

She returned her left hand to where the hawks left wing would be and slid her right hand back to the same wing space on the right. She walked as smoothly as she could while also moving somewhat quickly, taking the hawk to an open bit of land and sky. She very slowly lowered the hawk to the ground and just as she grabbed the blanket and stepped back, the bird leaped up into the air and took wing.

A gasp escaped her lips before she could stop it, it was truly breathtaking. She watched as the hawk flew up and up and then circled above a bit before flying west. She’d been holding her breath again, or rather, she’d been holding an exhale and gasped for air. She simultaneously wanted to fall on the ground in a heap staring at the sky and run and jump and laugh. Adrenaline was coursing through her veins and for an instant she almost thought she could fly after the bird she was so high.

Instead she returned the blanket to the barn, walked up to the shop for a ladder and some clippers, and began dismantling the netting.

~~~That’s one hour~~~

The Garden

When she designed the garden she thought about practical things like the space between the raised beds being large enough for a wheelbarrow, the raised beds being tall enough that you could tend them without hurting your back, plumbing running to the beds so you could set a timer and not have to spend two hours every morning watering the garden. She did not think of things that would be just as important later and much more obvious like the garden itself being beautiful.

Due to the enormity of the project and the skill required to complete it, she hired a man to build it for her. They were on the same page, or so she thought, and she left him to it. Later that day when she came out to check on progress she was dismayed to find that things had not been begun as discussed. There was now a large step to get up and over into the garden, entirely impractical for the use of wheelbarrows, there were now large posts sticking up throughout the space which would later be used to help create a netted canopy to protect against birds.

The man explained to her the reasons for these things. She understood in practical terms why they were necessary, but did not understand why he didn’t simply tell her before hand they would be needed. Perhaps there could have been another way, a different way, a better way. This was to be the first of many disappointments and if she’d known she would have ceased work on the garden immediately. Sadly, the work continued.

Water lines were run underground and into the middle of each bed but they weren’t run until after the beds had been built and gopher wire strung and stapled. Now the gopher wire was cut to make room for the water lines. None of this was her plan. The water lines were plumbed such that they simply couldn’t water the garden as necessary and had to be re-plumbed and then re-plumbed again.

By now her excitement for the garden had waned and her dislike of the project and the way it was being handled had turned to loathing. The project was to be completed in two weeks time but suddenly the man in charge ceased to arrive. Nothing was happening in the half-contrived space and the deadline was drawing near. Every day the man assured her the project would be completed on time and every day no one arrived to work on it. She began to spend her afternoons and evenings out in the garden, working to build the garden space she no longer wanted.

When the final day of the project arrived and the man didn’t, she was glad she’d continued the work, irate that she hadn’t simply taken it upon herself to do it all herself to begin with, and grateful that at least by working on it herself she’d managed to do some things the way she wanted. When the man arrived two days later to “finish up” she told him not to bother and not to come back.

It was not as satisfying as she’d hoped. Like the garden, the dismissal of it’s creator was disappointing.

When the space was finally complete she drank a beer in celebration. Tomorrow she would begin planting. Her excitement for the garden returned.

The space was so large and her seed bank so full that it took the entire morning to plant half the space. She took a break for lunch, nothing more than a quick bite of apple and cheese, a bit of bread with real mustard and a few capers. She was back out and planting before the leftover mustard had begun to crust on the knife. She finished planting the second half of the garden and heaved a deep sigh with her hands on her hips and a smile on her face. She grabbed another beer and drank it while watering and singing to the seeds.

The sun came and went, came and went. The sprinkler system worked as it should. Around the fifth day she noticed a slightly different color to the luscious dirt in the beds. That would be the seeds starting to germinate, the little leaves still too small to see without a microscope, but their presence making itself known subtly. By the tenth day little leaves were obvious. And they were everywhere.

She took to spending the early evening on her porch where she could see the garden. She’d watch as squirrels tried every space they could think to try and get in, thwarted by the chicken wire all around. She’d watch as birds sat on the poles, pecking at the netting wondering how they’d get in, unable to. She felt some triumph, some vindication. Her crops would be safe from these free loaders.

As the days turned to weeks and the weeks turned to months her garden grew. There was so much green! And red and yellow and purple and orange. The rainbow of her garden delighted her and she couldn’t wait to begin to taste the bounty it promised. Only after two months there was still nothing quite the right size and color to pick. Everything grew a bit stunted, a bit off. By the third month it was obvious that something was really very wrong. Her corn wasn’t as tall as it should be and the ears were no larger than her hand. The squash had flowered beautifully but the nubs growing from the vines were smaller than pickles.

Her disappointment in the garden returned. Looking at it from the porch she realized how orderly, and ugly it was. She watched as the birds sat on the poles, unable to get in, and she was saddened. She watched as the butterflies flew into the netting, unable to get through, and flew away and she was embittered. Even the parts of the garden that had been done right were clearly all wrong.

By autumn she was able to claim that she’d grown ten beautiful pea pods, five delicious cherry tomatoes, and one somewhat acceptable zucchini. The garden would come down. Perhaps she could still salvage the beds, but the posts and the netting and dreariness of the garden must be removed.

Winter came and took care of the netting for her. The snows were heavy and wet, so wet that it stuck to the netting, weighing it down, unable to slip through and land on the garden below. It was really quite beautiful to see this large space completely untouched by white. Until about the third day or so when the netting finally succumbed to the pressure.

The giant posts remained and she’d decided to leave them and use them to her advantage. In February, the time for planting peas, she placed seeds all around the base of each post. They would prove perfect for climbing peas in spring and climbing beans in summer.

~~~That’s one hour~~~

Occam’s Razor

The fridge was buzzing…again. That high pitched drone that completely disappeared when you got close enough to shake it, rendering the shaking of it unnecessary. But the minute you walked away…. It was going to be the death of her.

Sometimes she’d shake it anyway. Shake it, shake it, shake it. And of course it wasn’t making the buzzing while she was standing there so she’d begin to walk away and just as she was thinking, “finally! I finally got it!” the buzzing would start again. Sometimes she’d shift it just a smidge to the right and it would stop. “Vindication!” she’d think, only to walk away and hear it brrrp-brrrp-brrrp and buzz all over again. So, obviously, she’d shift it a little to the left. That never helped.

Repairmen came and went all saying the same thing: everything’s clean, nothing’s out of order or out of place, perhaps moving items around inside would help.

Fat lot of good repairmen are.

The buzzing would sometimes begin to escalate and make wha-wha-wha sounds and the distraction of it was just maddening. She couldn’t read a book, watch television, scroll through the internet on her phone. Anything she tried to do she’d realize she wasn’t actually doing because she was really listening to the fridge.

She’d finally be down the hall in her room, in bed, asleep, desperate for an hour or two in between insomniac moments, and the next thing she’d know she was awake. Why was she awake? This wasn’t her insomnia, this was something else, something had woken her. What?

The damn fridge.

She thought about unplugging it at night. If there was no one around to open the doors the food would remain cold til morning at which point she could plug it back in. And why not? Perfect solution to the unsolvable problem. Only unplugging it required moving the beast out far enough that she could reach the plug. And plugging it back in required moving it out even further so she could pick the plug up off the floor and get between the fridge and the wall and the cabinet and re-plug it in. It was a different kind of nightmare that plug.

Plus the moving of the fridge was bound to destroy the floor. It was only a matter of time. Moving a fridge back and forth and not expecting it to wear grooves into the floor or tear the floor completely, that was foolish. And she didn’t want to have to replace the perfectly adequate flooring in her kitchen just because her damn fridge didn’t work properly.

The only other thing that would work would be removing everything. Literally everything. If there was nothing in the fridge or freezer the damn thing was quiet. So very wonderfully quiet. Maybe she could just eat out of boxes and cans. Boxes, cans, and the kind of fresh fruit she could keep on the counter. Never buy anything that required refrigeration. Never bring home leftovers. Never use condiments at home. Never drink anything cold or have a pint of ice cream for one of “those days.”

If friends came over she’d simply warn them before hand that all she had was a little handheld cooler with ice for drinks or something. She’d just have to remember to buy a little handheld cooler. And buy ice. How hard could that be? Remembering to buy ice on the rare occasions her friends came to her house instead of meeting somewhere or going to someone else’s house. Easy.

She could do it. Live without a fridge. She was sure of it. What did they do in the old days before electricity anyway? She’d read about it somewhere…oh, right, they had those beautiful wooden boxes. Freezer boxes? She couldn’t remember what they were called, but that sounded right. She’d get one of those. Only they required a big block of ice. How often? Wouldn’t that make a terrible mess as the ice melted? Why did they make them out of wood anyway, wouldn’t the melting ice ruin the wood? Maybe it was best if she just made do with nothing.

Winters were cold enough she could leave some things out on the porch. Summers she’d just do without. It would be worth it if she could sleep. Worth it if she could hear herself think. Worth it if it meant never having to hear another repairman tell her to shift the contents around.

“Or you could just buy a new fridge,” her friend offered.

~~~That’s one hour~~~

Ramblings

When I was growing up there weren’t all these rules as you have today. You shoulda seen the things we got away with, you wouldn’t believe it now. But that don’t mean nothin’ really. It wasn’t any better or worse then than it is now. Don’t let anybody fool you with all that nostalgia crap. It seems every generation is destined to see things as better “back then” and no generation is open to seeing it as pretty great “right now.” Maybe we’re just programmed that way as humans. Maybe things always seem better when you didn’t have to live through them. Maybe we only remember the good stuff so only the good stuff gets passed on and remembered.

It’s hard to believe anyone looking back on World War I or The Great Depression as “good ole days.” But they will. They won’t call it WWI, but they’ll be pointin’ to the early 1900’s and waxin’ poetic. Ain’t nothin’ poetic about war, famine, rationin’, food lines, gas lines, children workin’ in factories, none of it. But these are the same people who blame the time change on farmers.

What do these people even know anyway. How can you possibly think the farmers are responsible for the time movin’ back or forth. I mean really. When have farmers ever been given an ear by anyone in any space of power. And these people think they’re responsible for the movements of time. Please. Now honey, you wanna know about time change you gotta think money. We are in the United States after all, ain’t nothin’ happenin’ around here if it ain’t for money. Money and time, time and money. That’s what oughta be printed on the bills, cause you better believe it ain’t got nothin’ to do with God or trust.

What were we talkin’ about? Oh right, growin’ up and life and stuff. Well, lemme just say I feel sorry for the way these kids are growin’ up. They don’t walk anywhere anymore. They don’t spend time with they friends. I ask my great great grandbabies what they learnin’ in school and they can’t hardly tell me. Sound like they don’t rightly know they own selves. But they can tell me what time the bus comes and what time they get home and what time they favorite television show is on. That’s just sad, it is.

I couldn’t tell you the last time I watched television. I think it musta been back when I lived with your grandmama for awhile. They always watch so mucha that box. Seems they had it on all night and day, got to where you couldn’t tell if whatcha were watchin’ was real or not. Is this still the news or we watchin’ one a them stories. You ask me that’s one a the things wrong with people today, they still don’t know the difference. Is it true or is it a story, they almost seem like they don’t much care either way. Like it don’t much matter to them if it’s true or not so long’s they can play on they phone while it’s happenin’.

You don’t get nothin’ outta your life if all your life is spent on a phone. I can tell you that right now. I can see the value of ’em, sure. It would have been right nice to know where my kids was at on a summers day when I needed to run to the store for somethin’ but it wasn’t necessary. Back then I’d just run to the store. Maybe leave a note on the kitchen table case they came lookin’ for me. Like as not I wouldn’t have to go to the store at all. Just call out the back door for one a the kids to go for me or ask my neighbor for whatever it was I needed. I bet you don’t even know your neighbors name. Am I right.

It’s not just connection though, y’all are missin’ much more than that. You have all kinda connections too, don’t ya. You got the interweb accounts that let you see what everyone’s doing all the time, and that makes you feel connected. Right. It’s why they keep trying to teach us how to use the computers. They got these real small ones now you don’t have to plug in or anything, ain’t heavy at all, like a magazine just about. They keep tellin’ us that usin’ those things will let us keep in touch, just like television but with our families. Well, that ain’t no kinda connection I know. And sides that it don’t get you any closer to the point does it.

Everyone’s always askin’ for the secret, the purpose, the point of life. I heard some great theories, lemme tell ya, but none of ’em are right. Truth is the whole purpose of life is failure. You wanna fail at so many things you can’t even count, but you don’t want to fail at the same thing twice. And the thing is, after all that failure, at some point there’ll be a thing you don’t fail at. It’s statistically impossible to fail at everything. Trust me. So you just go on now, go out there and give it all ya got, as many times as it takes to fail at all the things you wanna try, and then you just let me know when you hit upon something you can’t seem to lose at.

~~~That’s one hour~~~