Volunteering in Place

I figured that being furloughed would be like practicing for retirement.  So it’s been surprising to me that I’m struggling.  I’m not as happy as I thought I would be and some days it’s felt like time is stretching out endlessly in front of me.   Last weekend I sat myself down (well, figuratively) to try to grapple with my problem.

It didn’t take long to realize that furlough during shelter-in-place is NOT like practicing for retirement, so my expectations were out of whack.  Although I had never actually planned my retirement, I did have some things that I wanted to do when I had the time – volunteering was big on the list.  I want to volunteer at my neighborhood library, the Crisis Nursery, Feed My Starving Children, maybe the Arboretum or even one of the zoos (although I expect there is a pretty good waiting line for these spots).  I know I wouldn’t be a good Humane Society volunteer; not sure I could pass the training and even if I did, I’d probably end up with six cats and seven dogs by the end of my first week.  For now, volunteering in person is off my table.

After some thought, I decided that I COULD contribute by making and sending cards.  Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve seen few card-making opportunities online in which organizations are soliciting card donations to send to sick kids, folks in essential services jobs and medical personnel and decided that this is right up my alley; I have a passion for it AND I don’t need to leave the house for supplies – I can easily make cards for months without having to get anything (yeah, I know, kinda sad)!

I’ve sent off two packets so far for essential services folks and also a stack of medical personnel cards as well (see photo).   When it rains next, I’ll spend a day doing cards for kids.  It’s not exactly a new lease on life but I find that I’m feeling a little better this week.  I also decided to make garden thank you cards – for letting people know that I appreciate their gardens on my daily walk.  And, of course, if anybody needs any cards – I’m your gal – just let me know!

Do you have any favorite volunteer gigs when we’re not sheltering in place? 

I Know What I Know

Yesterday I added my eggshells to my bales.  I use a high nitrogen fertilizer on the bales and somewhere in the past I must have seen something (probably on the internet) that suggested added calcium in the form of eggshells to counteract that.  While I was setting the crushed eggshells around each plant, some of them were blowing away in the stiff wind.  This made me think about my friend, LeAnne.  I’ve known LeAnne for over 30 years and from the beginning I’ve known that she believes that if you get wind in your ears, you’ll get sick. I’ve never even tried to talk her out of this belief, because you can tell that she’s not willing to believe anything else.  In fact, just last week, she mentioned how she had felt bad all day because the day before she had been gardening and it had been quite windy.

As I stood there in the wind, watching some of the eggshells blow away, I realized that I am the same as LeAnne.  I know what I know and it’s not just about adding eggshells to my bales.   Snakes.  I didn’t want YA to have an irrational fear so whenever we were around snakes (zoo, children’s museum, etc.) I made it a point to “pet the snake” in her presence.  So my brain KNOWS that snakes are dry, but my brain also knows that they are slimy.  Airplanes.  I travel for a living; I’ve been on plenty of planes.  I have even researched lift and airplane engineering.  But I still know in my heart of hearts that on every single take-off, when the plane tilts for lift off, the tail of the plane is going to scrap the runway.  The fact that this has never happened, not even once, makes no difference. I know what I know.

Do you “know” something, despite evidence to the contrary?

Darla Buys a Funeral Plot

My next door office mate, Darla, is just a joy. I have written about her  several times, and she never ceases to amaze and delight. She  monitors the services and care that Developmentally and Intellectually disabled individuals on her case load receive, and makes sure they are being treated appropriately. She has some fairly serious health complications of her own, yet is a fireball of energy with an infectious giggle and a wicked sense of humor.  Her latest quest, started, I suppose by the COVID-19 pandemic, is to have all her own end of life decisions and plans completed, and that means buying a funeral plot. Morbid, I admit, but the way she goes about these things is so refreshing and life-affirming.

Darla decided that she wanted to be cremated, and then buried in a plot near New Hradek, the small Czech community where her husband’s family has a farm, 5 miles north of our town.  She is from a German-Russian/German-Hungarian community 10 miles to the East, and has no intention of being buried in the Gladstone Cemetery.  Her parents are buried there, and she initially  thought she could save a lot of money if she and her husband were buried in the same plot, as all of them would be cremated. “How many urns can you fit in a plot?” she asked a local funeral director.  “They don’t take up that much space”.  He just rolled his eyes at her.  (They are old friends). She  got somewhat fanciful, and suggested that she and all of her seven brothers and their spouses could also be cremated and buried with their parents in the same plot, stacked like eggs in a double layer crate with the same sort of packaging between the urns.   None of her siblings thought that was a very good idea, so she returned to the New Hradek plan, and is waiting for the very elderly manager of the cemetery there to get back to her.  It is taking him a while.  “I just hope he didn’t wake up dead !” she said to me the other day.

Darla has a very specific directive for her husband if she goes first. He is to rent a coffin long enough so that all her DD clients can view her body and see and understand that she is really gone.  Then they can cremate her. I can hardly wait to hear how this all turns out.

What are your plans for eternity?  Got any good funeral stories?

Garden Envy

I think I’ve mentioned that there are a couple of gardens in my neighborhood that I adore.  In fact, on my daily walk with Guinevere, I try to walk by both houses before heading home.  I am insanely jealous of both these gardens, wishing I had the foresight and talent to have a garden like either of these.  As you know, my garden is just a mish-mosh of what I like and what survives in Minnesota, planted in dribs and drabs over the years.  A lot of hostas, lilies, sedum, irises.  The only overall plan is the “more flowers, less grass” plan – that’s it.  No maps, no sketches, no layouts.

On Saturday morning I was wasting time driving around Linden Hills (waiting for my 10 a.m. time slot to pick up some bread from the bakery) and a garden caught my attention.  Luckily no one was driving behind me, because I’m pretty sure I hit the breaks pretty good.  It was so breathtaking that I turned around on the next block and went back, parked the car and got out to admire it.  The photo I took doesn’t even begin to do justice to this yard.  I hung around for almost 10 minutes, kinda hoping that someone would come out of the house so I could compliment them, but alas, nobody.

As I looked, I realized that the overwhelming number of plants in the garden were hostas, lilies, sedum and irises – just like my garden!  Although this garden is certainly several steps up from mine, I thought that maybe I didn’t have to be INSANELY jealous… maybe just a little jealous.  It gave me a warm feeling as I drove off, thinking that maybe my hostas and lilies give others a few moments of happiness.

Do you battle any jealousy in your life?

Sewing in Place

Last month I informed YA that she couldn’t go with me to Cub if she didn’t wear a mask.  At that point I had been making due with bandanas and hair binders, but that apparently offended her sense of style.  She eventually decided that my Hawaiian-designed bandana would be OK.

After we got home from the store she informed me that she was going to MAKE her own mask.  When she came into my studio to get the sewing machine, I was a little surprised, since I knew full well that she didn’t know how to use it.  As she got the machine onto her desk, I realized exactly how much she didn’t know when she called me to show her how to turn it on.  I was expecting to spend the next hour explaining everything to her, but she preferred YouTube to my homeschooling.   There were only a couple of times that she needed me to fix the bobbins and then the tension.  She used an old t-shirt for the mask material and then scavenged the elastic from a pair of old gym shorts.  Here is the result (which she did actually wear once):

But it turns out that she likes knowing how to use the sewing machine.  Since then she has repaired a pair of pants and she made a “doughnut” for Nimue so the kitty wouldn’t have to have a stiff plastic cone after the surgery.  Although the doughnut looks good, Nimue figured out how to get her head loose in about 15 seconds. Now there is talk about other sewing projects this summer!

Have you ever sewn anything for yourself?

Cool Clear Water

Nimue has always been fascinated by trickling water; I understand from other kitty owners that this is something she has in common with other cats.  Up until her surgery last week, I never let her drink from the faucet like this, but between the cone of shame and her banishment to the dog kennel, I was feeling sorry for her yesterday morning.  I know this is probably a bad precedent to set and she’ll want to drink from the faucet forever!

Why do kitties like to drink from the faucet?  All ideas (silly or not) entertained!

Reading in Place

For years I’ve had way more library books checked out than even I can read before they are due; I spend way too much time (at least what most people think is way too much time) curating what I have checked out, what’s on hold, what’s in transit.  I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned that I have my 16-digit library card number memorized.  I never thought any of this would ever come in handy – looks like covid-19 is making me re-think this assumption.

By the end of last night, I am caught up.  I have read ALL the library books that I had checked out at the time the libraries closed up, plus a couple more that have arrived since my local library started allowing curbside pick-up.  I’m not in any danger of running out of things to read… plenty of online stuff and a good number of books that I’ve accumulated over the years but never read.  But it’s a nice feeling to be all caught up with the library.  I’m pretty sure that as soon as shelter-in-place is over, I’ll be back to my old habits!

Here are a few that I’ve read:

His Majesty’s Dragon (Naomi Novik).  5 stars.  Read this (again) for Blevins.  Bit of revisionist history of the era of the Napoleanic wars with dragons thrown into the mix.  First of the Temeraire series.

The Unbearable Book Club for Unsinkable Girls (Julie Schumacher)  5 stars.  This is the same author who wrote Dear Committee Members and The Shakespeare Requirements.  It’s a young-adult fiction but a good read and very well written.  Four girls thrown together over the summer to discuss their school required reading list.

Natural History of Dragons (Marie Brennan).  5 stars.  Bit of very fun fiction from the viewpoint of a female “dragonologist” at a time when women were supposed to be staying home and knitting.

Murder on the Orient Express (Agatha Christie).  5 stars.  Read this again (read all of AC in high school) to refresh my memory on which of the two movies was the most loyal to the book.  Although I am normally irritated by mystery writers who don’t give you all the clues, since I already know who the murderers are in all her books, I was able to let it go and just enjoy her writing.  (And the 1972 movie was much closer to the book!)

The Crypt Thief (Mark Pryor).  4 stars.  Found this when I was looking up the video on the French cemetery that was discussed on the Trail in February.  Murder mystery involving the Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.

I know you’re worried that I’m going to review every book I’ve read in the last 2 months, but I’ll stop here (except to say no need to read Fooled by Randomness (Taleb) or Wreck the Halls (Graves).  Only 2 stars each.

What’s the latest book you’ve finished “in place”?

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