My First Freelance Publication

Y’all, I got my first ever freelance writing piece published.

Woot!

https://smileypete.com/community/testing-the-water-caring-for-hickman-creek/

Black Bears Give Me Hope

Well, 2020, you do have some pleasant surprises in you after all.

A black bear was spotted on UK’s campus right smack dab in the middle of downtown this week. Here, see for yourself.

https://www.wkyt.com/2020/07/01/video-bear-spotted-on-uks-campus/

I smiled and squealed the first time I saw the video. Each subsequent time I see it, I grin from ear to ear. I love this black bear. And all black bears.

Lexington, KY, is a city of around 320,000 people, though most of us who live here still consider it to be a town instead of a city. A couple of weekends ago, a friend of mine who has a farm in the rural part of the county took a video of a black bear, maybe the same one, moseying across her gravel driveway in the middle of the day.

Bears! In my county!

Turns out, that same weekend there was a bear spotted in my favorite hiking area, the Red River Gorge, about an hour southeast of Lexington, as well as in the county due east of us. Kentucky has a healthy population of black bears in eastern and southern Kentucky, but seeing one so far north is definitely rare.

BEARS!

I have a long history with black bears. Back in the mid-1990s I used to camp and backpack a lot. On one camping trip in the Big South Fork, which straddles the Kentucky-Tennessee border, a friend and I were walking back down to our creekside campsite when I gasped and stopped short in my tracks.

Up the mountain to the left of us, climbing over a rock face, was the very prominent, and very obvious, backside of a black bear. It topped the rock and disappeared into the woods. I don’t know how long I stood there with my mouth hanging open, wishing it would come back. I held my breath, but it was gone.

I didn’t stop talking about that bear the entire weekend. On a later backpacking trip in the same area, a park ranger told us there had indeed been a Mama bear spotted in that area several times. Yikes! Mama didn’t seem to have any cubs with her the day I saw her and for that I’m glad.

The experience even led me to write about black bear reintroduction into the Big South Fork for my graduate school Capstone Project.

So when I saw the video of the bear on UK’s campus and heard about the sightings in other parts of Lexington, my heart exploded with excitement. One of the best parts of being out in the woods is seeing wildlife doing its thing, whether it’s turtles and frogs or owls and foxes or bears!

We obviously don’t want bears living downtown or in Lexington’s suburbs, but black bears out in the county? Sounds good to me.

The black bear downtown is probably a juvenile male, roaming and looking for territory. There is no breeding black bear population in Lexington. The bear in the video is likely right now working his way back to the woods of eastern and southeastern Kentucky, as he should.

I hope he gets there safely because humans can be so stupid. Black bears are not aggressive and have a natural fear of humans. While they are interested in our garbage, they don’t have an appetite for our pets. They want absolutely nothing to do with us, but that might not stop a scared or uneducated person from harming it. I hope that doesn’t happen.

Humans can be so toxic to our natural environment, but the pandemic has given me hope that our Earth can repair itself. We only have to look at the jellyfish swimming in the canals of Venice, the cougars in deserted cities in California, or the maps showing how much air quality improved all over the world during the initial shutdown.

For me, the visiting black bear came at the perfect time. We are seeing coronavirus cases spiking all over the country, we are worn down from social distancing, and we are more anxious and depressed as a country than at any point in my lifetime. That black bear gives me hope for all of us.

Twelve Things I Learned on My First Backyard Campout

My daughter’s Scout Troop had a backyard campout last weekend. Each Scout camped out in her own back yard with her family and checked in periodically with the rest of the Troop. Here are twelve things I learned on this campout:

 

  1. Cars make a lot of noise. Of course we all know this. We subconsciously acclimate to the sounds of engines, car horns, and tires screeching every day without even knowing it. It’s only when we don’t expect to hear it that it bothers us. When I’m camping, I’m usually in the backcountry where my lullabies are owls and bullfrogs or a gurgling creek. Engines revving all night long are not very soothing.

 

  1. Speaking of revving engines, overcompensators battle for dominance all night long. All. Night. Long. It’s as if they don’t have enough time during the day to show us their souped-up pick-up trucks that cruise 10 feet off the ground. Sometimes I wish they’d just stop, pull out the body part they’re worried about, and measure. It sure would be a lot less annoying for the rest of us who really don’t care how loud their motors are.

 

  1. Porch lights suck. I have a big motion-sensor security light on the back of my house as well as a motion-activated porch light on the deck. I like having them on because I feel safer, whether or not I actually am. However, I’ve never tried to sleep under their bright lights before. Even after turning both those lights off, our neighbor’s big security light shone through our tent with the brightness of 10,000 suns. Well, not really, but it was bright enough we had to zip up the back of the tent. Light pollution is real. I need to learn more about it and ponder the effects it has on my backyard wildlife.

 

  1. There is no sweeter face than that of my little baby boy while he’s sleeping under the stars. And the neighbor’s security light.

 

  1. Backyard campouts can be full of firsts. My baby girl, who is 12 now, slept in my little one-person tent all by herself. She’s 12, and her brother and I were in a tent right beside her, so it’s not really a big deal, except it is. It was her first time alone in a tent all night. And yet another proud yet devastating reminder that she is growing up.

 

  1. Food always tastes better cooked over a campfire, but turns out it tastes good cooked over a grill at a backyard campout too! My daughter learned how to operate the propane grill and cooked on it all weekend. She made burgers Friday night, followed by pancakes, bacon, and eggs for breakfast both mornings. It tasted so good and it was so much fun eating food she made herself while sitting under the sun in the wildness of our backyard.

 

  1. The smell of a campfire is the best smell in the world. Fight me.

 

No, really, I could wax poetic on the many reasons I believe this to be true: primal connection to the elements, many memories of good people and good times, s’mores…

 

I love how it permeates everything it touches and lingers in hair and on clothing. As much as I love a good shower after a weekend in the woods (or a back yard), I’m sad when my soap and water washes the smell of burnt wood away.

 

My daughter got to learn how to build a fire log-cabin style. She built it in a fire pit instead of a fire ring, but the basics of structure and safety are the same. However, I need to make sure she understands that pouring bacon grease over the wood to increase the size of the flames (as her dad demonstrated for her) is not a tactic she’ll find in her Scout handbook.

 

Bonus: The Fire Department was not called to our suburban bonfire as bacon grease burns away fairy quickly.

 

  1. Catching lightning bugs (and immediately releasing them) never gets old. I had just as much fun prancing through the yard after them as my 9-year old son did, even if he did insist on calling them fireflies like he isn’t from Kentucky or something.

 

These gentle creatures never disappoint as they patiently hover in our hands, letting us ogle their glowing bellies, in awe of nature.

 

  1. Always, ALWAYS, have a phone around to video spontaneous outbursts of Wild Kingdom. After the bonfire, er campfire, was extinguished, and the kiddos were told it was time to hit their tents, they morphed into two wild animals posturing against each other for dominance. I channeled my inner British nature narrator and it went something like this:

 

And here we have the wild Will in his native habitat, bravely challenging the larger and meaner wild Beth, who has emerged out of the darkness to defend her territory. And now the Will is beginning to bounce up and down, indicating his intention to charge the wild Beth. He paws at the ground and snarls and we wonder if he is ready to make his move. And, oooohhhhhh….the Beth has aggressively pre-empted the smaller wilding’s advance and pounced on him before he could react. Now they are just a wild mess of stinky shoes and dirty clothes rolling around the terrain with neither able to gain a foothold of superiority. How this battle will end we do not know, but it is clear they will fight until they can fight no longer.”

 

Or Mom says get to your tents. Now!

 

Wouldn’t it have been fun to get that on video?

 

  1. They provide growth opportunities for everyone.

 

Beth: Worked for over two hours to make a turtle out of paracord, fighting through anger, frustration, and tears. She persevered. And she was successful.

 

Will: Picked up more trash on our day hike to the park than anyone else in our family. Without being asked.

Me: Enjoy the time I have with my kids while they are still kids. They will never be this young or have the same perspective again. Be with them, love them, experience the wildness of back yards together.

 

  1. It still sucks to pack up in the rain. At 6:00 a.m. Sunday morning we heard thunder and saw a storm coming. Granted, we didn’t have to pack up everything properly to fit it into our backpacks before scrambling to safety, but it’s still a pain to make 500 trips from the back yard into the house hoping not to get struck by lightning in the process.

 

We survived. And it’s good practice for the real thing.

 

  1. This was not our last backyard campout.

 

 

Get Outside, but Tread Lightly

I am hitting the trails this weekend. Hallelujah!

Since self-quarantine for COVID-19 began back in March, much of my outdoor adventures have been limited to my neighborhood and my local park, which luckily does include some woods and a creek. I am lucky to have even a small piece of wooded nature near me and I know it.

Even as the kids and I bemoaned our cabin fever, our limited geographic roaming did have some perks. We met more of our neighbors (from a safe distance of course) in the last two months than we have met in the 10 years we’ve lived in our home. And while we visited the same old creek every few days, it was fun for us to watch the creek change over time. Water levels rose and fell with the rain and we looked forward to what new wildflowers might be blooming that we didn’t see on our last trip. We identified where the snakes liked to hide and where the turtles liked to sunbathe. We strengthened our relationship with our little part of the Earth.

As more of our trails and natural areas open up, I’m reminded of a recent hike at a new-to-me trail that is part of a large cemetery. It was a bright sunny day, almost hot, and I was excited to experience some new terrain. Amongst the wildflowers, waterfalls, and Batman Trails, which were beautiful and hilarious, I also witnessed several behaviors that infuriated me.

I hadn’t been on the trail a quarter of a mile before coming to the first tiny waterfall in the creek. A section of dirt and undergrowth right beside the creek was clearly marked off with orange tape and a sign that read, “Stream Restoration in Progress. Do not enter.”

There were five teenagers tromping through the restricted area and into the creek splashing and having fun, clearly unconcerned with anyone witnessing their actions. There was really no way to NOT see the sign so I just assumed they were doing what teenagers do: being loud and obnoxious and breaking the rules (apologies to the teenagers I know who aren’t loud and obnoxious; I know some of you though I wasn’t one of you; I was the idiot in the stream).

I thought about saying something to them, but even if I’d managed to sound nonjudgmental, which I likely would not have been able to pull off, would I have listened to a grouchy middle-aged woman when I was a teenager? I decided to hike on and put my faith in the universe to work it out.

I met very few people once I passed that initial waterfall area even though bigger and better waterfalls were just a few miles down the trail.

On my way back, though, I saw people in the creek at the exact same site, only this time it looked to be two mothers with five kids. No more rebellious teenager excuse. This time it was parents teaching kids that ignoring the rules of the woods is OK.

To make matters worse, as I turned the corner to this waterfall, I saw a boy (may have been old enough to be a teenager) with a handful of purple dwarf larkspur wildflowers. A huge bouquet. It sure was pretty, though nobody else, human or other animal, would ever be able to enjoy those flowers again. A man I assume to be his dad was walking right behind him, silently condoning the behavior.

I’ve been a hiker a long time. I don’t remember when I learned about the Leave No Trace Principles, but I wasn’t born knowing them. At some point I was educated. My favorite motto, though not an official principle, is, “Leave only footprints, take only photos.” We have to protect our natural spaces and treat them with respect if we expect any of them to still be around in 100 years. Sure, it’s no big deal if one boy takes a handful of wildflowers, but if we all did that there would be none left.

If only one person walks across a wild area to get to a creek, probably no harm done, but if 12 people do it, as I’d seen in only two trips by the waterfall, it can permanently alter the landscape and the ecosystem.

Instead of being judgy, I’m trying to be understanding, or at least give people the benefit of the doubt. Maybe those people had never been to a wooded area before. Maybe they don’t have access to it every day like I do. Maybe they were never taught how to exist in nature without harming it and don’t know any better. How many things have I done in my life that I’d never do now after learning the consequences of the behavior?

The Leave No Trace Principles are (parentheses my own):

  1. Plan ahead and prepare (know the rules).
  2. Travel and camp on durable surfaces (not stream restoration areas).
  3. Dispose of waste properly (bury your poop).
  4. Leave what you find (even if they are gorgeous purple larkspur).
  5. Minimize campfire impacts (clean up).
  6. Respect wildlife (observe, don’t bother; also don’t leave food).
  7. Be considerate of other visitors (don’t be loud and obnoxious).

If you’re interested in learning more about the Leave No Trace Principles, go to the organization’s website at https://lnt.org/.

My challenge to myself is to find a way to approach people in a way that isn’t threatening or judgmental when I observe these behaviors. I’m not sure many people would find me frightening (though my children might disagree), but I know I’m judgmental. And I have Resting Bitch Face too, so that doesn’t help either. But I have to believe that if people take the time to think about their actions and the impacts they will have on nature, they’ll stop behaving that way.

I can’t often be accused of looking at the world through rose-colored glasses, but I’ve just got to do what I can and hope for the best on this one. What’s the alternative?

So while we are all anxious to get back out into nature, do so respectfully. Hike that trail, explore the woods, but tread lightly, and remember natural areas are here for all of us to enjoy.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

Note: Just this week a coalition of outdoor advocacy organizations issued guidelines on how to #RecreateResponsibly as we navigate our outdoor spaces during a global pandemic. You can find these guidelines at https://www.recreateresponsibly.org/.

Celebrate Sandy Roberts Month

Today would’ve been my Mom’s 74th birthday. What to write about her that hasn’t already been said? I still think about her and miss her every single day. It’s been my new normal since 2005.

Surely you guys know her by now – single mom who worked her butt off to raise my brother and me, laughed all the time, loved her family and her church, and died at 58 of the inherited heart disease that ravages her side of my family. The mom who used to call me in college to say, “I hadn’t heard from you and just wanted to hear your little voice.” I rolled my eyes at the time, but now, with an almost-teenager and a little boy who’s not so little anymore on my hands, I know I’ll irritate them with similar passive aggressive methods to remind them to call me too.

Other ways I’m like my mother:

  1. You can hear my sneezes two counties over. Thanks, Mom.
  2. Sometimes I watch Dateline on Friday nights with a cat on my lap (sssshhh).
  3. I talk to everyone I meet. EVERYONE. This used to embarrass the crap out of me when I was a child. Now it’s my children’s burden to carry.
  4. When I look at my daughter in exasperation and say, “Well, daughter, honey…?” it is the exact tone with which my mom used to ask me, “Well, Shelley, honey…?” when I’d done something that made no sense to her. The first time I recognized I was doing it, I had to put myself in timeout for 20 minutes just to calm down.
  5. I can’t rest, or sleep, until my children are home, under my roof, safe and sound.
  6. We love to play with flowers, the dirtier our hands the better.

flower5

Me and my Mama, circa 1973

Growing up in northeastern Kentucky, the first of May didn’t have anything to do with the Derby; it was the beginning of Celebrate Sandy Roberts Month. From her birthday through Mother’s Day, she insisted we spend the majority of our time working in her yard. After all, she’d say in her coquettish way, it’s the only present she wanted. We planted flowers, weeded, and hung out on the big front porch enjoying each other and how beautiful her yard looked. It made her so happy, the yard, and being with her kids.

flower4

Me and my little brother, circa 1977-78?

When I became a mother I wanted to continue the tradition. My perfect Mother’s Day has nothing to do with chocolate or jewelry (although who doesn’t love chocolate and jewelry), but instead involves my kids getting their hands dirty tending the garden with me.

A few weeks ago on a perfect sunny and warm afternoon, I decided to repot all my houseplants, a chore that was long overdue. I lugged all 20 or so outside and spread them out on the grass to get a good look at them. I brought out the potting soil and the empty planters and began mentally matching each plant to its new pot.

flower1

My daughter, who is 12 going on 25, asked if she could help. She liked to help me with plants when she was little, but that interest has waned over the years, so when she volunteered, I greedily said yes.

On this day, though, she loved all the plants. We had to separate a bunch of them and she took some of the new babies to her room. She made a spot for them on her dresser right in front of the window, her own little greenhouse. And when that space filled up, she tried to clear other spaces to make room for even more plants in her room. I thought my heart would explode.

 

I hope the flower gene runs in her DNA, but I’ll take what I can get.

flower2

My beautiful daughter and her plant babies

After we finished settling all the plants in their new pots, we needed to look up which ones could go outside on the deck. Yes, it was early April, but we were infected with spring fever. To Google we went to find the answers: yes, spider plants can go outside during the summer, but keep the African violet inside. We put the succulents on the hottest part of the deck, but offered the fern a shady spot.

Google makes finding answers to our questions almost effortless. It’s too easy, no journey required. Back when we celebrated Sandy Roberts Month, we had to lug all the big, chunky flower reference books out to the front porch and pour through them like we were digging into the Kennedy assassination. It took effort, but it was relaxing.

I loved those warm, lazy afternoons on the porch fingering the glossy pages of Better Homes and Gardens Ultimate Guide to Perennials and Southern Living’s Definitive Flower Guide, laughing at our silly family jokes until my sides hurt.

Today, we sit in an air-conditioned house while asking a search engine to find an answer in two seconds that might have taken us hours to discover investigating the old tomes. And really, that was much more fun. Not sure that would keep the attention of my daughter, though. Gotta fine tune that DNA with baby steps.

My daughter is like my mother in ways that bypassed me. One day my daughter came home from a walk carrying an old wrought-iron mirror and a child’s rocking chair with tattered weaving. She told me one of our neighbors had set them out as trash and she was going to clean and decorate them and put them in her room. And she did. She’s creative and she can envision new lives for old objects. That’s Sandy Roberts right there. Me, I have no patience for such pursuits.

flower6

My babies, circa 2012

Still, neither of my kids seem to mind our Mother’s Day ritual of playing in the flowers. I remind them that not only do I enjoy spending time with them, but it helps me feel close to my own mom and in that way, all of us are together.

We can’t go back in time no matter how much we want to. Change happens and time moves on. My mom never had the chance to meet my kids, but they will always know about Celebrate Sandy Roberts Month. We may not spend hours looking through flower books, but this weekend, we’ll play in the dirt and make new memories.

In the meantime, my mom is up there in Heaven, laughing her ass off watching our shenanigans. Through her tears of laughter I hear her say, “Well, Shelley, honey…?”

flower3

Sandy Roberts 2004

Love Letter to a Swiss Cake Roll

Dear Little Debbie Swiss Cake Roll,

I am so glad you are back in my life. I’ve missed you.

You were a staple of my childhood yet somehow we lost touch over the years only to find each other again during this time of social distancing. I’ve heard other people have rekindled their romances with Oatmeal Crème Pies and Zebra Cakes, but for me, you were always the tastiest treat.

Other popular ingredients of my adolescent diet like bologna sandwiches and Tab haven’t aged as well as you have. You are still 270 calories of processed chocolate and cream deliciousness.

I discovered you again as I developed a weekly adult relationship with Kroger. No longer can I “pick up stuff for burgers” or “swing by to get diet coke.” No, now I have to plan my weekly grocery transactions and make sure I get everything I need in one frantic Sunday shopping trip. During one early visit, I was perusing the taco kit selection, and there you were, beaming out at me from the aisle display hidden amongst the Honey Buns and Nutty Bars. Our eyes met and I realized how badly I needed you in my pandemic life. Just a little something sweet to get through the long days at home.

I unashamedly hide you from my children. I stash you behind the tea on the second shelf and only take you out at night after the little incessant sugar consumers have gone to bed. You wouldn’t be safe if they knew you were here.

I may unwrap you just in time for Stephen Colbert, both of us taking comfort in the ridiculousness of our situation. Or maybe I take you up to bed with me so I’ll dream of you through the long restless nights. I try to rid myself of you with the toothbrush, to hold onto some sense of right and wrong, but even though I can’t see you, I feel a little bit of you stays with me.

I am careful to hide your plastic package and the tell-tale little piece of white cardboard that supports you inside your wrapper. If the children knew you were here, we’d be finished.

I wonder if our love affair, intense as it may be right now, will ever end. When the pandemic is over, will I still need you? Still want you? Will I trade you for a bottle of Clorox wipes? Or will I be forced to let you go when I can no longer fit into my yoga pants? I don’t know. Pandemics change people. There are no guarantees.

Until then, I will savor our time together. I will treasure your 47 grams of carbs and 15 grams of fat. Thank you, Swiss Cake Roll, for all your sweet goodness, and for being there for me during this dark time in our history.

Beshear is the Leader to Usher Us through this Pandemic

My latest column for the Herald-Leader.

https://www.kentucky.com/opinion/op-ed/article241997791.html

 

Thoughts on Social Distancing Day 8

I am so very grateful I have a job that allows me to work from home part-time. I worry about folks who can’t work from home, who have been laid off, who won’t receive unemployment and may not know how they’re going to pay the rent. Most of us will indeed be just fine in the end, but what will we have to go through to get there?

**

I don’t think I could be a stay-at-home parent, much less a homeschooler, bless my baby childrens’ sweet hearts.

**

I love memes. Andy Beshear memes, work-from-home memes, bad homeschooling memes…give me all the memes. Memes get me through the day and make me laugh. A lot. Memes were made for this moment.

**

It’s OK to be lazy. It’s OK to retrain our Busy Brains to take life at a slower pace, even though between work, raising two kids who are now home all day, and figuring out how to determine the area of a trapezoid measuring 64 units (WTF?), I don’t feel like I have any more free time now than I did before The Corona came at us.

That said, on Saturday, I slept until 10:30, took a long bath, and napped on and off for three hours while reading and watching TV. This Busy Brain had a really chill day. It’s OK not to check off things on our to-do lists. All those tasks will be here tomorrow and our fresh Busy Brain muscles will thank us for the day off.

I took a break from the news and most of social media on Saturday too. Combine that with the silencing of Busy Brain and I could feel my body and mind relax as the day went on. Sometimes that’s all self-care needs to be: a day in your pajamas napping in front of the television.

Cabin fever is real, though. I took a really long walk Sunday afternoon and saw tons of people out walking, exercising, and mowing the grass (Busy Brain added that to my to-do list, the jerk). The skies were overcast and the wind had a chill to it, but I could tell people were happy just to be outside. AT LEAST IT WASN’T RAINING!

In fact, the only thing that put a damper on my walk was the SuperBuff couple in the SuperTight Workout Gear who didn’t clean up the poop of their SuperCute dog. I almost said something snarky to them, but they WERE SuperBuff and could probably beat me to a pulp, so I said snarky things to them in my head and felt pretty good about myself.

Clean up your dog’s poop, people.

**

My daughter turns 12 Wednesday and she is really bummed out about not being able to have a birthday sleepover or a party. At almost 12, she is all Tween-Angsty about many things, but the disappointment at not being able to celebrate her birthday was real. Her anger at the STUPIDCOVID19PANDEMICVIRUSRUININGHERLIFE was also real. My baby. Apple and tree are we.

I posted on Facebook about her not being able to have a party and asked that maybe folks might want to send her a card to lift her spirits. I was just trying to think of ways to make her birthday feel a bit more special than she was anticipating.

I could never have imagined the number of people who responded saying they were going to send cards to her. These folks weren’t only old friends, but new friends and good friends and Facebook friends I barely know. I was humbled. I may have even teared up a bit that so many people would care enough about my baby girl to do what they could to make her birthday special.

People are so good (unless you are the SuperBuff non-dog-poop-scooping-kind) and Andy Beshear is right. We will get through this together.

Late Night Thoughts on Social Distancing Day 4

This working from home thing WHEN THE CHILDREN ARE ALSO AT HOME is harder than I thought. I am very extremely mucho grateful for the ability to work from home and be with my kids because it’s a privilege and I know it, but it requires more stamina and restraint than I was prepared to demonstrate. Today was day 2 at home this week and I’m pretty sure Scary Devil Mama came out at least three times.

Also, I need people. I don’t think I’d choose to work from home every day all day. It’s too easy to stay in my pajamas and sit at the computer and eat crap food and drink three diet cokes every day. I’m 51% extrovert, and I’m glad because that’s the part that gets me up and makes me shower and brush my teeth.

My kids, and all the kids on the cul-de-sac, played outside for 4 hours. There were bikes, skateboards, footballs, and kids everywhere. No, it wasn’t exactly proper social distancing, but they were outside and moving and breathing fresh air and away from screens and that’s a good thing.

**

Some dude ran into me with a cart at Wal-Mart today. Usually I shop at Kroger, but the little neighborhood Wal-Mart is on my side of Man O’ War Boulevard and that’s a BIG deal. So I’m going in, not really needing anything in particular except broccoli and some chocolate milk I was going to take to a friend, and Dude and Lady come barreling in from behind me and ram their cart against my heels, then deftly swerve around me, passing me in the process. We are at the entrance of the Wal-Mart, like in the doorway of the area where you get your cart and then enter the store. Lady never turned back, but at least Dude turned around to say he was sorry. He didn’t stop to talk to me, but turned his head and called to me as he made a beeline for what I would soon find out was the toilet paper aisle.

I was calm (strange for me, but I was out of the house where the children were doing their homeschool work…), and at peace with the fact that I’m not panicking about “The Corona.” Dude and Lady need to do them. No blood was shed.

After I got my broccoli and scored some burgers, I turned the corner and found Dude and Lady at the toilet paper pallet. Did they know that toilet paper had just been delivered and that’s why they nearly ran me over at the entrance to the Wal-Mart? Were they stalking the loading dock in the back? I don’t know. What I do know is that not only was there a sign that said people could buy one package of toilet paper and one package of paper towels, but there was a Wal-Mart staff person there to enforce it. Dude and Lady each had their own cart and were getting one each. Fair enough.

Maybe they’d run out of their McDonald’s napkin stash in their glove compartment and things were urgent. I get it. I relied on that stash many times when I was younger. I know what it’s like to feel desperate.

As I’m in the checkout line, I hear Dude in the checkout next to me. Lady must have already made her escape to the car. Dude was trying to persuade the cashier that he had two packs of toilet paper and was paying with different money on two separate orders because he was buying for home and for work. The lady behind me says, “I don’t know about you, but where I work they provide toilet paper for us.”

I don’t know whether Dude was able to purchase both packs of toilet paper. His conversation with the cashier was lengthy and explanatory and I was done checking out before he was.

Here’s the thing, though. I hope he got to buy two packs of toilet paper. No, it isn’t right to buy more than we need and we need to think of our neighbors and be responsible. But I kept thinking, “At least I’m not that guy.” If two packs of toilet paper make him feel better, so be it.

I may or may not have a couple of 12-packs of diet coke in my car. You know, just in case. Catastrophic thinking sometimes gets the best of me.

The next few months, and maybe longer, are going to be tough and challenge all of us in ways we’re not prepared for, but this isn’t the end of the world. The shelves won’t be bare for long and we’ll adjust ourselves to the new normal. The Corona won’t be here forever and we’ll make it through this pandemic stronger and tougher than we were before.

**

I am ashamed of myself for not having been 100% Andy Beshear from the time he announced his candidacy for Governor. I voted for him, but I wasn’t excited about it. He wasn’t the charismatic candidate, he didn’t move me, didn’t show emotions, blah, blah, blah.

He has been everything a Governor should be throughout a public health crisis and more. Calm, reassuring, honest, transparent, and an example of how Kentuckians should conduct themselves throughout this pandemic. We are truly all in this together.

I was reading Aesop’s Fables to my son tonight at bedtime and we came upon the classic The Tortoise and the Hare. It was a good reminder that flashy gets you nowhere. Slow and steady wins the race. Andy Beshear is slow and steady and that’s exactly what we need. He was made for this moment.

I am proud of my Mayor too. Linda Gorton has been as honest and calm and reassuring as Andy Beshear. We are lucky to have her as our leader during this crisis.

**

Facebook is full of posts about the people of Kentucky helping each other through this uncertain time. Whether it’s small businesses banding together, people supporting local businesses and their employees, folks helping the elderly do their grocery shopping, donating money to a local emergency fund, or toilet paper hand-offs in a darkened parking lot to a friend in need, we are all here to help each other.

I am so proud of us.

#TeamKentucky

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Landscape of A Marriage

I poured gasoline all over the back yard and lit a match. The flames were glorious, bright yellow and orange and as tall as the trees. They were surely illegal. And, unfortunately, all in my head.

I closed my eyes and visualized the fire, slowly but persistently consuming the green grass.  Could I ever purposefully wreak such destruction?

I opened my eyes and turned back to the task at hand and stared at the tall grass, weeds mostly, and wondered how long it would take me to mow them down. I resented the grass growing at all.

On a crisp cool day back in the spring I cleared out all the winter rubble from my yard. I mowed the lawn and inhaled the smell of freshly cut grass, savoring a job well done. I mulched and tended, admiring the beauty of it all. I surveyed the kingdom I’d cultivated with love and focus, standing a little straighter, proud of my hard work.

Later that evening I sat on my deck, lounging comfortably amongst all the living things in my yard, neat and tidy. All the members of my botanic family happy in their homes.

But the landscape didn’t stay pristine. I knew it wouldn’t. It never did. It maneuvered in the predictable unpredictable patterns of nature. Ragweed overpowered the grass, elevating its spiky flowers like skyscrapers, casting shadows over my Kentucky fescue, stealing the sun for itself.

Black-eyed Susans overtook the carefully lined rock borders I created for them, mingling with the crabgrass and clover, a strange concoction of flora nobody understood.

Weeds sprouted up overnight in parts of the garden I thought were firmly planted with hardy perennials, able to fight off any unplanned trespassers. And I never even considered deeply buried seeds that could lie dormant for years and then burst through the dirt wreaking havoc on entire patches of new growth.

The landscape in my tiny yard grew, changed course, and died, leaving in its wake a messy scene that required constant upkeep just to achieve an uneasy harmony.

This wasn’t what I signed up for. All this work. I want to sit on my deck, drink a beer, and appreciate the perfection I’ve nurtured.

I used to make fun of people growing lemon trees in pots on their condo balconies. How much can you really love a lemon tree in a pot? It’s not even planted in the ground. How committed can you be to something so temporary?

Still, balcony plants are easy to grow and they aren’t vulnerable to unwanted invaders. If they die, well, you get another. Perhaps a lime tree next time. Maybe I’m a lemon tree girl after all, not a landscaper.

It’s nauseating to see a work of art crumble and to realize no matter what I do, no matter what magical concoctions I dream up to keep my yard safe, the weeds will come back. Reminiscing about the joy the flowers once gave me makes my stomach churn. Especially if the only consolation in front of me is a miniature citrus fruit.

I am not a fan of the bittersweet, but I do find solace imagining a kernel of my garden might have escaped the yard, might have floated in the wind to join with another patch of dirt, beautifying someone else’s yard. It might have a chance.