Friday, October 19, 2018

Thanks, Dad

Today would have been my father's 86th birthday. I mowed the lawn in MD on Thursday, and it dawned on me that I've been mowing twice as much this summer, and each time I've thanked my father. I'm not even completely conscious of doing it, but I whisper a little "Thanks, Dad" every time I mow on a slope. Here's the story.

I desperately wanted to mow the lawn when I was growing up, but my father didn't just fill the mower with gas and let me loose; he embarked on a series of safety-based teaching sessions. First, he made me change my shoes from flip-flops to sneakers and told me to never, never mow the lawn in flip-flops. Then I learned how to start the mower and he walked beside me while I cut a few rows. Our front yard was a long slope, and when we got to that part, he told me to turn the mower off and we would try it again next week. We did the same thing for the next few weeks, and finally he decided that I was ready to mow the slope. He turned the mower off, and explained in detail that I must always mow the slope from side to side, never, never up and down. Grass is slippery, and if I slipped, my foot would slide directly into the mower blades. He had me repeat this several times, and then we started to mow the slope, side to side. He walked beside me, we finished the lawn, and we mowed like that, together, with Dad supervising, for the rest of the summer.

He did finally allow me to mow by myself the next year, checking that I had sneakers on and with a warning about mowing side to side on the slope. It was my job to mow the lawn until I went to college, but then I didn't mow for years because I lived in apartments. We bought the house in NJ where the whole back yard is a long slope, and I thought of Dad for a moment almost every time I've mowed there.

His health started declining almost a decade ago, and he was eventually diagnosed with diabetes, heart disease, end stage renal disease, prostate cancer, bladder cancer, and complications with all of these. He was sick, scared, and in pain, and because of those things, our relationship deteriorated to the point that he would barely speak to me. My sister and I took him to daily radiation treatments, doctor appointments, the pharmacy, grocery shopping, and a million other things almost every day for several years, but he wouldn't even say hello or goodbye at the end. It was a difficult time for all of us by the time he passed away in January.

He was never a warm and talkative man, and things were quite sad, frustrating, and difficult at the end. But with all the mowing this summer, and being careful on the slopes, it finally dawned on me that even if he wasn't the kind of father I wanted, he had still cared about me, as evidenced by all the care he took with teaching me how to mow. I do apologize for this rambling post that isn't like my usual, but it's something I've been thinking about a lot, and I wanted to write it down as it has resolved a lot for me. So, be safe, go side to side on the slopes, and thanks, Dad.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Three on Thursday

Joining Carole for Three on Thursday, and today it's with three different sky views. I'm still working on organizing my digital photos, and yesterday I combined quite a few different folders labeled "sky", "skies", and "look up" into one, and then spent an hour or more going through all the photos. I've probably got more than 100 pictures of skies, so you may see more of them on future Thursdays.

First, a rainbow that appeared right in front of my house just as I went out to look for one after a thunderstorm. 

Here is a stormy sky during sunset. I saw this just as I reached the top of the cemetery hill during my walk. I didn't have my phone, so I ran home to get it. I'm glad I did because the view was even more dramatic when I got back to the top of the hill.

Lastly, this is one of my favorites, taken from our bark yard after Ryan and I had a very nice mother-son conversation. It's a pretty photo that always evokes loving memories.

I hope you have a lovely view of the sky above you today.

Head on over here to read more Three on Thursday posts.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Unraveled Wednesday

Joining Kat and friends for Unraveled Wednesday. There's been no unraveling of knitting this week, but I'm going to own up to to some unraveled thinking. 

When I come down to MD I pack a knitting bag with one or two knitting projects. It's usually just what I'm working on currently, and maybe a back up, just in case. I'm not sure what happened this week, but I was living in a dream world very optimistic.

I brought Ryan's fingerless mitts (which still aren't done), my almost completed Match & Move, a half-finished Hitchhiker, and a Hitchhiker that I've been fiddling around with, but have only progressed as far as two teeth. Four projects is really quite laughable, especially when I'm having trouble completing one. I'm going back to NJ tomorrow, and will try to pack more realistically next time.

I did get two books by Anne Lamott from the library this week, Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope, and Repair and Almost Everything: Notes on Hope. Given the general state of things, I was desperate to feel even a smidgen of hope after the Supreme Court hearings. I've never read anything by Anne Lamott before, and she has her own distinctive style, but reading these is helping me to see a tiny glowing ember of hope. 

What are you making and reading this week?

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Words in the Wild

These words are a bit weird and unsettling, and the photo may be even more so, but I'm sharing it in case someone can maybe give me a clue.

Yesterday was cold, rainy, and raw, the perfect day for some chicken soup. I was looking for some actual chicken to put in the soup and came across these first. My mother-in-law used to add chicken feet to her stock, but that was because they raised chickens and used everything. Has anyone ever seen these called chicken paws or actually used them? Is this a southern thing? We're in MD, which I don't think of as "the south", but they sure don't sell chicken paws (or even chicken feet) in NJ! I'm just curious; there's really not much chance of me putting these anywhere near my chicken soup. :-)

Monday, October 15, 2018

Sometimes Monday ...

... is a wonderful day to enjoy a thoughtful gift!

Justin made a quick, unexpected visit home this weekend, and brought me a present - wireless headphones! He is getting some new ones, and thought I might enjoy his old ones. He knew they weren't something I would purchase for myself, and thought they would be a great way to listen to audiobooks. And he is right!

It's a chilly, rainy day in MD, and I have the pleasure of listening to some good books with my new headphones, along with tea and knitting. These delightful headphones make listening a wonderful immersive experience, and a practically perfect Monday. Thanks, Justin!

Friday, October 12, 2018

Monarch on Mums

We had six inches of rain throughout the day yesterday, followed by strong winds overnight, but now the storm has passed and fall is finally blowing in on 20 mph winds. I have windows open to to get rid of the humid, stuffy air, and my spirit feels revived by the fall breeze. I feel like I can finally buy mums, so when I was adding that to my list this morning, it reminded me of these monarch on mums photos I took back in 2011.

His wings looked a little bedraggled, but still beautiful. I think their epic migration takes a big toll and he was miles away from the usual coastal path through NJ.

I was glad that the mums were blooming profusely as there wasn't much else to provide nectar and pollen in November.

You can tell that he is a male by the "eye spots" on his hind wings.

I like to think that his perseverance and a resting place on my mums in the fall sunshine for several hours before he flew away helped him make it to Mexico.

The fall migration is currently underway; you can see a map of sightings here. I'm going to be out looking for monarchs myself in NJ and MD. Wishing you a good weekend, and maybe even a monarch sighting or two.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Three on Thursday

Joining Carole for Three on Thursday, and today it's with more mushrooms. It's been warm, humid, and rainy, providing perfect conditions for fungus. Thanks to my mushroom book, now I know what these are called.

The book seriously calls these Little Brown Mushrooms (also Little Boring Mushrooms or LBMs)! "This catch-all term is used even by professional mycologists to refer to any of a number of common, medium, brownish mushrooms that are difficult to identify precisely, and are usually considered not worth the bother." These LBMs are growing in a fairy ring; it looks more like a fairy square or maybe fairy blob to me, but it seems these professional mycologists call it a ring even if it's a disorganized one. 

This Green-Spored Lepiota (Chlorophyllum molybdites) is distinguished by its greenish spore print. Really that just means I broke the cap off of the large mature one and looked at the grayish-green color of the mature gills on the underside. Part of the trouble with mushroom identification is that they change a lot as they mature. These are all the same, but the young specimens have elongated caps with bumps (scales) before they open up. They are labeled as TOXIC in the book, and the accompanying skull and crossbones looks like they mean it. 

When I first saw these, I wondered how pine cones ended up at the base of one of our big oaks. (I blamed squirrels.) They encircle most of the tree, with more showing up every day. These are actually Hen of the Woods or Grifola versicolor. "These large woodland species are fibrous, and overeating can cause digestive issues." Good to know, but there is no danger of overeating Hens here. 

Mushroom identification seems to be a somewhat imprecise science, at least for someone like me. I don't intend to eat any of them, and am just curious about what the multiple types that pop up in my lawn might be called. My identifications are really best guesses, and now that I know about LBMs, I will probably be seeing a lot more of those. 

Head on over here to read more Three on Thursday posts.