I am, therefore I write

Random musings on my life and the world

Fighting Environmental Destruction

Shopping Choices catalogs 1“I am writing to inform you that my name and address must immediately be removed from any and all mailing lists associated with your products.”

Lovely blogger friend Alice kindly mentioned my blog in a recent post associated with a ‘quote per day for three days’ challenge. She made the brave decision to bend the rules of the challenge, and I, thoroughly inspired by her rule-breaking, have decided to bend the rules even farther.

If any of you are like me, you find yourself spouting phrases, the same phrases, over and over. While none of the things I say are in any way profound, or even really quote-worthy, I figured that I would choose three phrases that I have been using a lot lately.

Starting this little adventure off – the words above that I have been emailing to every single company that will not stop sending me unsolicited product catalogs. I am on a mission to eradicate these tree-destroying, paper-wasting booklets from showing up in my mailbox.

And that folks is Day 1, completed in a very unofficial way. I am not following the rules by thanking the person who nominated me, because Alice did no such thing, officially. I am also not nominating three other bloggers. However, I will suggest that if anyone wants to jump on this little bandwagon, and share some simple words of interest that pop out of your mouth often I, and I’m sure others, would be most interested and willing to both read and know why those words issue forth. The quirkier and/or funnier, the better.

You Know That You’re Special When…

I knew, a few weeks ago, that my blog was important when I got a Happy Anniversary!! note celebrating 5 years on WordPress. I mean, I’m sure not just everyone gets a special notation from the powers of WordPress congratulating them on the fact that they’ve hung around for longer than 6 months.

Today however, I now have a complete understanding of what it means to be an ESB (extra special blogger).

I was just notified that I have another new follower and I have to imagine that when you achieve a follow by this particular site then you have to know you’ve made it in the blogging world.

Playing in the Park

I try to take Miss G to the park often. That usually means at least two of the three days that I watch her.

I feel like being a grandma in these park excursions really affords me the opportunity to sit back and observe, both Miss G and her peers. Okay, I also find myself observing the parents of those peers, most of them much younger than this grandma.

Miss G has blossomed as we have made the rounds of parks near both her home and mine. She has gone from the shy, quiet new kid at the park to the child that I have to warn not to be overbearing to the kids who are still in the reticent stages. Everyone is her friend, rather she knows them or not. She seems especially fond of kids younger than herself and I’m counting that as a good thing right now, hoping that her interest to help toddlers will transfer over to her new sister in a few months. She is still very easily led though, so while much more outgoing, I haven’t seen a huge desire in her to lead the pack of wild animals running their parents ragged around the toys.

It’s hard for her to understand why some kids don’t want to play, or why some kids are shy. In almost three-year old terms I have tried to explain to her that if she doesn’t force herself on them, or try too hard, then most kids will eventually want to play with her as much as she wants to play with them. I’ve actually seen her comprehension grow by leaps and bounds with this concept and watched her purposefully back off, play near but not in the face of, a quieter child and then realize success when her ‘friend’ suddenly warms up on their own terms. I don’t remember ever thinking about, or really noticing, all the nuances such as this between kids when I was the younger mom at the playground. I mostly remember just trying to keep my kids from killing themselves on the equipment.

Today as we approached the park she saw a few kids on the toys and a mom near their stroller. I tried to gently remind her, in a quiet voice before we got too close, to allow the kids to get comfortable with her. These were girls we hadn’t seen before. Miss G, in her wisdom apparently had already decided to bypass the kids and, as we approached the mom she said, “And what is your name?” Needless to say neither the mom nor I was expecting this. You can’t tell me that introduction wasn’t completely strategic on Miss G’s part…she knew impressing the mom would win her over and get her to encourage her kids to play.

Then, as usual, the age question came up. When mom’s of already three-year old kids, and especially four-year old kids, ask how old Miss G is and I mention that she will turn three in late August they get the funniest look of shock on their faces. She is very tall for her age. Then she begins speaking, often much more clearly and with greater detail than those older peers and the faces change again.

I’ve also come to realize that parks are pretty big social spaces for the parents, perhaps more so even than for the kids. A second mom of two joined up for play time shortly after our arrival. These moms immediately set themselves to talking over their strollers and it was clear that this meet up was more than random. I’ve seen this happen over and over in almost every park we visit. Younger moms learn each others schedules and seem to generally acknowledge that they will plan to be at the park for play time, which in reality equates to chat time for the moms.

I inevitably sit off to the side on a bench and watch and listen while thoughts of some sort of ethnographic study buzz around in my head.

Completion of the Cycle

Do you remember my rant about the trees in our yard that was posted just a few days ago?

Today the old stump has been ground down level with the grass and nine trees have been pruned and trimmed and thinned a bit and just generally spruced up.

Doing all this work has exposed a few things:

*The broken boards in the oldest part of the fence. Those broken boards provide an easy gateway for neighboring cats to navigate through our yard and on over to the next street. This opening serves as a shortcut. It gets plenty of traffic.

*The neighbors yard and house directly behind us. I appreciate the deadly branches being removed from both the ash tree and the maple tree, but those same branches did quite a bit to secure our privacy as well.

*Our gutters and roof line are now uncovered of branches in four strategic areas. However the moss that accumulated under those places is thick and most likely not doing our shingles any good.

*The driveway. Okay, so we could see our driveway, but many branches were so low that they would scrape the top of my car and Alison’s also. Large trucks have been seen swerving into the other lane to avoid the deadly branches hanging over the street. None of use have to worry about this anymore.

I was told that, in a few cases, more thinning would be recommended in a few years, especially if we don’t want to lose the maple being crowded out by the ash tree. I was told that the tiny plums growing on the tree in the corner of the lot are actually very tasty. I have never seen one single plum on that tree before. In fact, I always thought it was a flowering cherry and that it didn’t produce fruit. Apparently I was wrong, and now I would like to figure out how to get into that tree to pick some of the fruit that we’ve been missing. I also learned that one large maple should never have been planted where it was on the side of our house. No surprise there, and now the question is how long do we have before it starts uplifting our sidewalk and fence.

And, in an ironic note, when the husband came home and looked at what had been accomplished, one of the first things he mentioned was “hiring someone to come clean the vinyl siding of moss and algae now that it was so obvious in so many places.”

I’m not sure if my mouth fell open or if I managed to cover my shock and clamp my jaw closed. I didn’t spout off with anything sarcastic, even though I wanted to. I didn’t question why, suddenly, it was okay to hire someone for yet another project. I know enough about the spouse to understand that this is his way of saying that perhaps it had been a good decision to get these trees pruned and that other projects were better off being done by someone else. I also know that it will still be up to me to do the finding and hiring, but I’ll take that, as long as I’m not on the receiving end of inappropriately negative questions about price when the estimates begin rolling in.

Thoughts on Birth and Advocacy

I had a few moments to sit down today and read through the latest Sunday Morning Medicine from Nursing Clio. I have to stress here that if you like history, medicine or want to gain insight into past and present gender issues, then you need to subscribe to Nursing Clio. I learn something new every time I read one of the essays featured there.

Two of them caught my eye today, probably because my daughter (Miss G’s mom) posted a picture of herself at 22 weeks pregnant. Miss G is, of course, smiling by her side. In the past I have not edited photo’s of my family, and while I don’t think the daughter would care if I showed her smiling face, I chose to focus on her expanding bump today.


Anyway, Nursing Clio had an article on making a knitted uterus. One of the best prenatal teaching tools ever. Give me a great knitted uterus and a pelvic model and childbirth would become real for my couples when I was teaching. Using the knitted uterus allowed an educator to really show what happens internally to the cervix during labor as it thins, shortens, and opens. Combine that with the pelvis and we could illustrate all the movements baby has to make to navigate out of moms body. In a pinch I have used a tennis ball (mimicking the babies head) and an athletic sock with a nice tightly woven calf cuff that serves pretty well as a cervix.

Then, Nursing Clio also included an article on vaginal cutting during childbirth, or episiotomy. That’s a word that used to, and perhaps still does, strike fear into pregnant women. I could go on a rant about this ‘little snip’ as it was often presented to a laboring women. Or mention that, usually in the midst of an amazingly strong contraction a male voice would mention that ‘this process could go a lot faster if we just made a small cut down here,’ and let’s not get started on the process by which women were placed flat on their backs, spread-eagle in stirrups pushing uphill against perineal tissues that had no hope of stretching so they got the notification that they ‘could have a small cut or risk tearing…’ Nothing like instilling fear to get a laboring women to agree to being medically managed for the ease of the physician.

On the evenings that I taught this topic, along with other medical interventions, it was a test of my performance skills to remain unbiased when presenting the how and why that managed interventions such as the episiotomy were commonly used during labor or birth. I used to have a nifty, and simple, visual aid centered on episiotomy which would usually debunk that idea that without that little snip the perineal tissues would tear, or better yet, rip wide open. It involved a plain piece of copy paper, a pair of scissors and some gentle tugging force. Intact copy paper never tore, but create that realistic little 1 inch snip with the scissor and with almost no force at all it was easy to create one of those wide open rips that only happen WITHOUT the episiotomy.

Of course, I am not generalizing that all physicians would use possibly coercive techniques. Many, many would never consider being anything but honest, would never consider trying to influence a women during stressful points in her labor, would never use fear-inducing words to achieve personal goals. Some physicians however, even in 2015, continue to practice in this manner. 

I miss teaching. I miss striving for a balanced but honest presentation of the facts to the pregnant couples in my classes. I do not miss the procedural and administrative changes of teaching in hospitals that put constraints on my ability to be open and honest. I’m sure you have all heard, in some form or other, of the phrase, ‘teaching to the test.’ I common term in K-12 education whereby the specific goal is to teach only the essential elements found on state-wide competency exams. When I left childbirth education, we were being encouraged to teach to the procedure. To downplay choice and simply present what would be occurring in a hospital birth.

Birthing preferences seem to rise and fall with each new decade. You know how clothing styles come and go. It often seems as if birthing procedures, and the acceptance or denial of those procedures, come and go as well. I’ve been away from childbirth education long enough to be unsure of where we are socially right now, although I know that the C-section rate has climbed steadily and is close to triple the ‘ideal’ and has at least doubled in occurrence since my last official class.

My favorite couples to teach were always the ones who knew that they had both a right and a responsibility to question, to choose, to be informed, and to make reasonable decisions about their labor and birth. Not everyone wanted that. I suppose some still don’t. Knowing that many were uninterested in choice and responsibility could have made teaching the class simple because I could return to that idea the hospital pushed of ‘tell em what’s gonna happen and move on.’ Honestly though, I could never pull that off completely because I knew that I wasn’t doing the job that I believed in and needed to be done. In not educating them fully, by not encouraging them to have a voice, I couldn’t say that I had served them well.

These two articles today have taken me back almost 20 years and allowed me to touch base with ideals that are still important to me, and ideals that I feel should be important to women and their partners rather planning pregnancy, or in the midst of it like Miss G’s momma. Advocating for women, and empowering them to have a voice in this personal process was one of the most important aspects of my teaching.

I have to thank Nursing Clio for this timely post and for allowing me to remember a time when I truly felt as if I was making a difference for women.

Trees, and Complicated Lives

I’m struggling this morning.

I’m not surprised by this fact, just stating the reality of what I knew was an imminent response to my taking the lead and bringing up a project that involves spending money.

And yes, this involves the spouse.

Since earlier revelations of issues and unhappiness I have attempted to not turn this blog into a place whereby I do nothing but bitch and whine. I really want to, because in many ways this blog is also my personal journal, but I can also appreciate that readers likely aren’t interested in tuning in for a daily rant. Thus, very few posts appear here lately due in part to my self-imposed silence on touchy subjects. In short, I wanted all of you to know of my discontent, but definitely not overload all of you with my discontent.

However, as those of you with the responsibilities of home ownership know, things must be done to keep a home livable, functional, safe, and upright. Those things include the property the home stands on. Those things also include, unless you are a person who physically and skillfully calls yourself a Jack or Jill of all trades, chores and projects that include hiring experts to do them.

I used to have a firm belief that I could tackle quite a few projects around the home. I have ripped up and taken out carpet. I have caulked bathrooms. I have sanded and refinished wood. I have wallpapered. I have taped and placed mud on drywall. I have even painted the entire inside of this home… alone. There isn’t much outside that I haven’t engineered or had a hand in except work that involves being on a ladder. I don’t do heights. Ever. I also know my limitations, which used to be things like extensive plumbing issues, or electrical work. Now, with a very uncooperative body, my limitations are many and pronounced. Now I sit and wish for those days when very little stopped me from the doing because I know now that I can’t.

There are two options looming with a house built 23 years ago. Allow little things to continue to grow into big issues because of neglect, inability and avoidance – or – get the work done. I have never voted for the first option. If I can’t get the work done myself, then my call is to get someone who can and will.

We have 9 trees in our yard, having lost 2 in a horrid ice storm a few years ago. Those trees, save for one, have been here since the house was built. With the exception of random low-hanging branch pruning, these 9 trees have never been trimmed. It’s long past time for these trees to have the care that they deserve, as well as our personal safety to be relatively assured during the next big wind or ice storm. This process is also step #1 in the series I am calling Landscaping After 23 Years. You see, there are two areas of our backyard that have never been completed. They are designated planting areas that have no plants. They are areas filled with rocky soil. Very rocky soil that requires a pick ax when forming a hole big enough to plant shrubs. I have grown so used to seeing nothing but bark covered rocks and dirt that I’m almost afraid of a view that includes some sort of plant life, maybe even some color.

Because hard work, and money, is involved in the process just described there are overgrown trees and two areas with little possibility of sustaining any plant life placed there unless the process is done correctly. Correctly, to me, means having an arborist evaluate and prune the trees so that we can then have someone else truck in decent soil and a few plants and I can miraculously cross yard landscaping off my list.

I had an evaluation and estimate done yesterday by a certified arborist. I am pleased. The spouse, however, balked and cringed and asked me seriously if I “really think that the trees need it THAT bad?”

Yes, the trees needed IT that badly about 15 years ago when the cost estimate would have likely been half of what it is today. However, by ignoring and neglecting and fearing instant bankruptcy associated with a tree trimming bill (that we could afford then), we are now facing a larger, but what I believe to be reasonable (which even today we can still afford) fee.

I cannot begin to explain all the nuances and body language and agony and dread that crossed over this mans face and body during this conversation. All of those things have, and will continue to occur, each and every time any major project arises. I have touched here before on the fact that poverty was and seemingly continues to be REAL in this person’s life. Deeply embedded in his psyche is a true fear and that manifests in a need to hold onto money with an iron fist.

The funny thing, and perhaps why I struggle so much this morning, is that it is so very clear when looking at our financial records that we can well afford this work. I struggle because I cannot comprehend, nor come to terms with the fact that the agony and fear induced at the mere mention of hiring contracted workers isn’t necessary. It isn’t practical. It isn’t rational. I also struggle because, quite frankly, I have to wonder if the fear has simply become a habit and that habit is used as an excuse to not participate, to avoid and neglect, to ignore and pretend, to keep a complacent attitude of non-involvement.

While money fears were often of concern early in our marriage, the practicality of those worries, with small children and a much smaller income, was somewhat understandable. By the time we arrived at this home, many aspects of our financial situation had changed for the better, yet the agony over specific and much-needed upkeep and costs has grown well beyond what would need to be done with outside help.

There apparently is no fear when one purchases hundreds of dollars of ‘healthy diet plan food’ which sits on a pantry shelf overlooked, and/or overshadowed by the junk food sitting in the cupboard nearby. There apparently is no fear when one purchases a large home gym apparatus and stationary bicycle costing well more than tree trimming services, yet disregards the fuzzy layers of dust that grow increasingly thick on the surface of that unused equipment. There apparently is no fear when an incredibly large TV appears and replaces the perfectly functional smaller TV better suited for the space at hand. The fear of the dollars invested there was clearly outweighed by the fact that the purchaser “just wanted a bigger TV.” I might venture to guess in these examples that fear regarding monies spent is relative to the items or services personal value to the purchaser.

We are not wealthy. We live comfortably however, even without my contribution via a real paycheck. As arthritis was taking away my ability to work I was planning, and saving my paychecks for some of these home projects because I knew just how long the work had been ignored and brushed aside.

Whether this house remains our home or not, it must be in a reasonable condition, especially if it is to be sold in the future. I wander around, both inside and out, looking at many projects that I wish I could take on. Some are truly wishes. Improvements that would make the home nicer, certainly updated, and perhaps help the house to sell, but not must do projects. Yet some things cannot be ignored. Things like trees, a roof, an increasingly unsafe deck.

The look of horror and the instantaneous need to shoot down a needed project such as I witnessed yesterday will happen again, just as it has for 23 years, and my doubts as to why such a reaction will surely grow and fester.

I am waiting to hear back from the aborist on when the work can be scheduled, because yes, it is going forward.

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