Gravestones and Hope

Yesterday, we revisited E’s child in the cemetery (near where the infamous tornado once devastated a whole city).  Then we dropped in at Peifer Orchards for some fresh produce.

The peaches that claimed to have been freshly picked this morning turned out to have been shipped in from Michigan.  Sometimes it’s Tennessee or Georgia.  I mean come on, how hard is it to grow your own peaches?

This state is so sad.  All the small farmers were pushed and priced out by the huge industrial feed corn and soybean complex long ago.  Now you’re lucky if you can find locally grown anything around here.  The miles of corn are like gravestones.

We did manage to score some fresh eggplant, tomatoes, peppers, green beans, and squash.  Today I made my own version of eggplant parmesan, using some fresh roma tomatoes from my own volunteer plants, seasoned with my own herbs, in place of a sauce.

I know, it’s been a while since I’ve posted food.  I just couldn’t muster the motivation.  But I like the whole idea of being able to create good simple meals with a few fresh-grown ingredients.  It’s so primal or something.  (I also made some strawberry preserves.  Go me.)

Not to be a total buzzkill–our so-called leaders are more than up to that task.  !@#$.  I’m surrounded by idiocy.  All we can do is hope to find a reasonable refuge from stupidness somewhere up ahead, where we can grow our own food, and live in relative peace.  Hopefully before the next civil war.

Home is Where the Flowers, Animals, Free Tomatoes, and Booze Are

Just some typical homey scenes to prove it’s not all bad in the waiting room.

Not shown: the hummingbird at the window this morning, and the humongous groundhog on his tree stump out back.  They got away too fast.

The squirrels are busy squirreling away all the birdseed I put out, but that’s okay.  I’ve seen some new types of finches that weren’t around before, so I’m doing something right.  My native wildflowers for monarchs are flourishing.

I can’t wait to make up for lost time attracting and protecting native wildlife in our future home (and possibly even a family member or two).  And growing more than tomatoes to eat.  And millions of flowers.  And having real pets.  Did I mention booze?

A modest dream, but it’s more than many can ever hope for in this short life.

Mowing Mode

Mowing day, and predictably, here are photos!  Note the grapes growing up across the power lines… lots of apples on the old tree… pink coneflowers and black-eyed susans… rose of sharon exploding in shades of lavender and white… tropical pink annuals…bright yellow marigolds guarding a volunteer cuke/melon vine (not sure yet)…I’m actually harvesting tomatoes from volunteer plants from last year.  Just a teaser for future garden days to come.




Why Write?

Why indeed.  I asked myself that question, and here’s what I answered.

The challenge for me is not only in improving my technique, but in finding the balance between just whining to myself out loud, and finding the elusive silver lining in my predicaments, which might even encourage some hypothetical person reading it.  It’s like self-help on the cheap and in the dark.

After all, it’s not just me in my own private black hellhole.  Who knows, there may be some poor soul out there struggling with similar matters, who might happen upon my fulminations and not feel so all alone.

If nothing else, I’m forced to face all my negativity and unresolved issues, and search my own soul.  Never a bad thing, if it leads to an improvement in attitude and behavior.

I seem to have an inconvenient knack of finding myself in challenging situations that test and try me to the core, that bring out the worst in me.  That’s an indication that I still have much to be resolved or reconciled.  I can either run from these confrontations, or work through them.  It’s a harrowing lifetime process, which writing can facilitate and help articulate.

Some days my mind is a blank.  Other times it’s so overloaded with crap, it leaves me speechless.  I hate tedious, pointless tirades, so I’m working on sparing you, my loyal 2.5 readers.  But sometimes a little of it slips out, despite my best efforts.  Sorry about that.  Unlike some, I don’t really have a life right now.  There’s a lot of empty vacuum, with too much time to think and second guess.  Writing helps fill the time and space.

Plus it keeps me out of trouble.  As if.  Still, better a theoretical rampage than an actual one.  A verbal purge is much more sanitary.





Dark and Stormy Summer

It’s been raining and storming like a tropical rainforest (like a motherforest!?) almost every day lately.  Very unseasonable weather patterns.  Not that we were going anywhere.  I love the fact that I no longer work in it.  There are some benefits to being out of the workforce.  Trying to see the bright side of a dark and stormy day.

Likewise, almost everyone I know is experiencing some sort of dark, bleak reality right now, and it’s hard to see the silver lining.  I’d like to be the one to tell you it will be all right in the end, but I’d probably be lying.  It seems it’s only the exceptional life that doesn’t suck in some way.  Anyone who thinks otherwise hasn’t lived it much lately.  Don’t think you’re immune.

But even I get tired of being depressing and morbid all the time.  You have to keep revising and rethinking, as life keeps pulling the rug out from under you.  It’s what real life does.  You didn’t sign up for this, it’s no fair, blahblah and so forth, etc.  So you cut your losses, take inventory, and readjust your course of action.  It’s what you have to do every minute of every day to regain your footing and keep going.

So on a dark and stormy day in bumfuck, OH, I gaze out at the soggy yard and envision, not a shangrila, just a little place to call home, with a garden I can run out to whenever, some pets, bears eating garbage, varmints, whatever they have in TN, minus the rampaging barbarians downstairs.  Not a lot to ask for, just some peace and quiet and sanity.  Maybe even a glimpse of a longed-for family member, if they’re still around.

Gotta keep some hopes up, ’cause it’s not over yet.



Bricks in the Wall

I was wondering why I was already getting back-to-school advertising in July.  I checked the calendars and discovered that some kids in this area have to go back to school as early as August 15!!  That’s insane.

Longer school years don’t improve American education, as has been clearly demonstrated.  If anything, it sets it back, as kids have even fewer breaks, on top of little to no outdoor recess.  It’s not good for developing mental and physical health, which affects learning.

I realize I’m from a different place and time, where we’d be smack in the middle of vacations and summer camps at that point in August.  I get that an earlier, longer school year enables parents to work longer and harder in this difficult economy.  I’m aware that America ranks pretty low on the world scale, and midwestern education levels in particular are disturbingly inadequate.  They don’t even require foreign languages around here, and grammar is atrocious, extended years or not.

Still.  I can’t imagine having to sit in sweltering classrooms in August, other than in summer school for part of the day.  It sounds like Gitmo or something.  Give kids a break.  Obviously it’s not working, anyway, if the kids I see around here are any indication.  They’ll be lucky if they even graduate high school, and find a job.

It’s been so long since I told time by the school year, I have to be reminded it’s almost that time  already, which is fine, because school used to fill me with dread and foreboding.  And that was with over two months of summer vacation, and plenty of other breaks.  Four schools later, I had had enough.  And that was with no preschool.  For some people, it’s several more institutions before they’re finally free to struggle to find meaningful, or any, employment.  Often, all that schooling and expense end up for naught.

Quality trumps quantity any day, in this case.  But corrupt political leaders trump consistent quality in education, so schools have to resort to quantity to try to compensate.  It’s a vicious circle, because poorly educated voters then vote for someone like trump, our truant delinquent-in-chief.

I feel bad for kids.  For many, schools are like juvie detention centers, with not much to show for all their time.  Maybe summer community service programs would be more productive and educational.  Or even a new Civilian Conservation Corps for young adults to improve state parks and learn useful skills in the process.  But what do I know?  I’m just a casualty of the system myself.




Prairie Home Crapanion

Here’s our exciting life.  We went to the dentist.  Out-of-pocket bites!  (See what I did there?)

Then we went to the voter registration place because of a troubling matter that could disenfranchise E, even though all the paperwork has been in order for over a year.  Thanks, trump.  We cleared that up (we think).

Then we visited our friend Ron’s antique shop in town, and caught up.  So much gaiety.

Then we ate at the lame excuse that passes for an Italian restaurant around here (think chef boyardee–it’s very sad).  When I think of all the awesome Italian joints in NY/NJ, PA, MD, and basically everywhere else, I don’t get what part of Italian they don’t get in Ohio.  People here settle for any old slop.  I guess I’m just spoiled by normal food.

Then it started to thunder, and as we arrived home, there was this deafening BOOM right near us, like a huge explosion, with repercussions…never heard anything like it.  It was unearthly.  But we’re still here.

Man, this place is unnerving at times.

Here is a tropical hibiscus flower in the rain.


Zen Maintenance

To expand upon my thoughts on paring down…after you get over the initial shock of being reduced to bare necessities, there’s a certain sense of, well, not exactly liberation, but–lightness.

I won’t lie, it’s not fun to have to decide between dental work, car maintenance, basic healthcare, food, and other essential expenses, and just hope that nothing goes terribly wrong in the meantime.  But there’s a weird kind of freedom in keeping it simple and cheap, and peeling back the layers of what you thought you needed to survive.

For example, I used to have a savings buffer for periodic major expenses that might come up, like dental, auto, insurance, quarterly taxes, travel, holiday gifts for the family, etc.  Now, we have to anticipate and save for costs months ahead, and/or sacrifice nonessential ones.  It teaches you self-discipline and keeps you honest.

We’re not in a position to pay large expenses in cash up front, but we don’t incur much debt either.  We only use credit cards to build and maintain our credit scores, in order to eventually qualify for a home loan, and pay the balance in full each month.  We are consistently strict about setting aside a percent of our meager income in savings to that end.  It’s not easy, but we’re still better off than many Americans.

Insecurity can take various forms, such as binge-eating, or frivolous shopping.  I used to indulge in some.  It was a temporary fix, not a solution.  Without that option, I’ve had to learn to be content with less, and make it work.  It forces you to think more resourcefully and creatively.

When I think of the horrible life of early American settlers on the frontier, how unprepared they were for the life they chose, and at what cost we’ve “progressed” to this current American lifestyle, I feel both fortunate and disturbed.  Native Americans had a much more civilized approach to the world around them, living in harmony with the natural world and taking no more than they needed. They perfected the art of living simply and using resources wisely and sustainably.  Greed and envy weren’t even a concept for them.

We can’t go back, nor should we, but we can learn to take less from our environment, and make the most of what we have.  Having not much choice in the matter does facilitate a radical change in attitude and behavior.  Would I prefer having more options, hell yeah!  But not having them forces me to focus on what’s important and essential.  The rest, you can’t take with you anyway.