The Kale Salad Days

I think the best caption for this photo might be simply: RESIGNATION

I started Noom again this week. While I have managed to log a decent amount of exercise during COVID times, I won’t deny I’ve done a lot of eating my feelings. I don’t know if I’ve gained weight, because I’ve avoided the scale like it’s a feverish person with a dry cough and an off-kilter sense of taste and smell.

I’m calling my kale salad resignation because I’m becoming increasingly certain that there is no end in site for this nonsense. And if I don’t at least make an attempt to pull myself together, my ending of COVID-19 will bear a striking resemblance to the end of What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?.

And it’s fine. Kale salad is fine. I don’t hate it. But I’d rather have nachos or enchiladas or pizza or a bacon cheeseburger. I know kale is what’s best for me, though, so I’m eating quite a bit of it these days.

I will reiterate that I have a lot of pandemic days that are just fine, and I’m able to roll with the punches. I don’t write about them, but they exist.

Today, though, has not been one of those days. The reality that summer’s end is imminent is always tough for me. This year’s taking that phenomenon to a whole new level. I cannot see any possibility of the next six weeks going well. Hell, I have trouble seeing any possibility of the next six months going well.

In some fashion or another, we’ve been at this since March. I believe it was March 15th when the governor announced schools would be closing. It’s probably a good thing I didn’t know then how much uncertainty would still exist five months later. Things are uncertain. They will remain that way for an uncertain amount of time. And to what extent I can envision what the future holds, it doesn’t look terribly promising.

I trust tomorrow will be kinder. I’ve been at this long enough to know the dips on the CORONA-coaster don’t last forever. Whoo-boy, though. Today blows.

Kale salad for the foreseeable future.

My attempt to close on a better note– The War and Treaty released a new single today. I may or may not have played it 10 or more times today.

Citidiots

I’m frequently told my daughter looks a lot like me. Usually I can’t see it. On this unfortunately timed shot of one of her very few wakeboarding failures to launch, though, I can *totally* see it. Bless her heart, she’s inherited my HOLY CRAP face. So, pretend this picture is me and you have my wakeboarding experience in a nutshell. And, speaking of this picture, YOU NEVER SAW IT. She’s actually a wakeboarding boss. I could show the video, but this face is more entertaining.

Chris and I have lived in Minnesota for 20 years. My kids have lived here for 18 and 15 years respectively, their whole lives. But we are most assuredly first generation Minnesotans and cannot, no matter how much we may want to, trace our heritage to any Scandinavian country. This makes us a bit of an anomaly around these parts. We have no family cabin, do not own a boat, and our sweater collection is decidedly not very Lutheran looking.

And, I’ve spent very, very little time outside of the Twin Cities. And next to none on any of our famed 10,000 lakes.

Having no cabin, but a strong need to get out of town for a bit, we spent the past week at Madden’s on Gull Lake, a popular Minnesota golf resort. I realize this could be deemed a questionable choice under current circumstances, but it is what it is. Yeah, I know. That phrase. Groan. But HEY, Yo SEMITE, if it’s good enough for POTUS, it’s good enough for this blathering, naval gazing blog. Also, I really wanna go to Thigh-land. Anyhoo.

I was prepared for the fact that my lack of lake time (and my 30 extra pounds and complete lack of coordination) would mean I wouldn’t be able to wakeboard. I was decidedly NOT prepared for the influx of Trumpy mask haters who entered my sphere of being when I left the land of the Citidiots (pronounced city-its, rhymes with idiots, and likely not surprising to anyone, is a term I learned this weekend).

Ooooooof.

Thankfully the resort was dutifully enforcing the rules and felt like a reasonable environment (attributable to the citidiots, I suppose).

The Trump flags on the lake, though, and the male Karens (why don’t they have a name?) who proudly strutted around the St. Cloud Wal-Mart sans mask, and the dude at dinner last night who couldn’t just not wear a mask, but had to announce loudly enough for everyone within a mile’s radius to hear that, “I don’t do masks,”in search of fist bumps and validation– these were all unfamiliar to me.

I live in a bubble. I knew this, but I suppose it may have been good to have this fact reinforced so strongly over the past week. When our city council debated whether or not to put a mask mandate in place, the ratio of residents in favor to residents opposed who emailed council members was 8:1. Not that you don’t understand a ratio (and hell, maybe I actually don’t), but I feel a need to reiterate: for every one person who emailed council members to express opposition to a mask mandate, EIGHT (8!!!) people emailed in support of a mask mandate. So I suppose it makes sense that I felt like I’d entered another universe, one that is likely more representative of the rest of the nation than my urban, citidotic urban paradise.

Trumpers or no, we had a lovely week and I’m grateful we were able to get away. This time, more than ever before, though; there is no place like home.

Mask up, bitches.

…but there was a lot about the old normal, that wasn’t good

If you don’t know anything about Rhiannon Giddens, you probably also don’t know anything about Our Native Daughters or the other three badass ladies who make up the group. Americana, y’all– check them out.

There are moments when an Instagram post succinctly summarizes all the noise that’s been invading my mind.

My local school district announced its plan for the start of the school year. Prior to the announcement, I did not pay much attention to the scuttlebutt around what might happen. I don’t know that I even filled out the survey they asked families to fill out. It seemed most logical to stick my head in the sand and assume summer would last forever and not think about what was to come. Beyond wearing a mask, washing my hands, and otherwise following the rules; there wasn’t a damn thing I could do to influence what was going to happen anyway.

The condensed version of the plan is students can opt for a hybrid model of instruction, where they attend school in person two days a week; or select receiving 100% of their instruction online. In a situation where there simply is no good option, I feel these are the best options the district could have possibly come up with. Still, my heart is quite heavy today; mostly with the unknowns. But also with the knowns.

Kids are going to go to school when they shouldn’t, when they don’t feel well. This will not be a new, COVID induced phenomenon. Perfect attendance is historically viewed as a virtue. My high school students tend to avoid missing school at any cost, because it’s so easy to fall behind. And, let’s face it, parents need to go to work because paid time off is at a premium; and very few parents have enough of it. There was a lot about the old normal that wasn’t good. Perhaps a silver lining is that, at least older students will feel they can stay home and opt for online instruction if they are feeling ill on a day they’re supposed to report to the building. But, who really knows? None of us know what this is going to look like.

My son is set to enter his senior year. The college selection and admission process is undoubtedly going to be a complete cluster. We are fortunate he sat for the ACT once before all this started, but had every intention of him taking it again in hopes of a higher score and, ideally, more financial aid. Many of his classmates hadn’t gotten around to taking it. Powers that be are saying we all need to let the ACT go, that colleges are not going to require it, but if anyone thinks this will alleviate stress surrounding college choices for students, they obviously haven’t been living in the same universe I have for the past decade. Granted, it could be a function of where I live (though based on recent standardized testing scandals, I don’t think Edina is all that unique), but test scores are life. Getting into a prestigious school is the goal. Achieve, achieve, achieve at any cost– go to school when you’re sick, cheat, schedule 722 extracurricular activities and volunteer projects so you’ll look good on paper, do whatever it takes to achieve AMERICAN SUCCESS. There was a lot about the old normal that wasn’t good. These attitudes are deeply entrenched. Having a guidance counselor say, “meh, you’ll be fine without an ACT score” is NOT going to undo years of societal conditioning. It just isn’t.

So, yes, there was a lot about the old normal that wasn’t good. There’s a lot about the new normal that’s not good. There are lessons we could take from this as we move forward. If we ever move forward. Are we ever going to move forward? Feeling lots of feelings today. I have no answers, just feelings.

Is This Normal?

COVID-ly speaking, I’ve been on a right nice streak of being in the moment, taking one day at a time, and accepting I cannot know what coming weeks are going to look like. Which is probably why I quit writing anything about it. Words are seemingly hard for me to find when I’m lacking angst.

I’m not lacking for angst today. It’s hard for me to point to a single concrete reason why, so I can only speculate it’s a number of factors, one of which is an increase in COVID cases. I do not explicitly take time to watch or read the news on a daily basis, but I believe I osmose enough through social media and physically distant chats with friends and family to know COVID cases are on the rise; here, there, and everywhere. And, I’ll admit to being somewhat surprised.

I think I’m surprised, because, for a long time, it felt like there were not necessarily consequences (outbreaks) for stupid people. I’ve heard nothing of an outbreak caused by the Memorial Day human stew photos we saw from the Ozarks. And, while it’s not surprising to see surges in places like Arizona and Florida; it is surprising to me that we didn’t see them sooner. And, life in my neck of the woods seems pretty normal, which I did not anticipate by the end of June. People who want to go to a restaurant can. One can shop in pretty much any store.

I guess though, I’m using ‘normal,’ as a relative term. When I go to the store, most people are masked. Worship services from my church are still online. All four of us are at home most evenings. And, although summer soccer leagues were completely canceled; my kid has been going to training sessions for both her club and school teams anywhere from 3-4 times a week. So, I guess some things feel like new normal and others seem like old normal.

I’m not going to spell out the Minnesota Department of Health guidelines for youth sports, because I don’t actually know them. I know I’ve seen kids on baseball diamonds around town, and, as previously mentioned, soccer teams are gathering for training/conditioning.

I’ve been very ambivalent about this return to youth sports (and restaurants and whatever else), admittedly because I cannot wrap my mind around what’s going on with this damn virus. I don’t understand what had changed on June 1st when restaurants were allowed to open patios. I don’t understand what’s changed now suddenly making it ok to dine inside of a restaurant. And I really don’t understand why gathering kids up for baseball, where there’s a dugout involved, and sharing of catchers’ gear and bats and who knows what else seemed wise. The soccer conditioning I could kind of get, because so long as there’s no scrimmaging, distancing seems workable. But it has still felt incredibly strange to be taking my kid to practices. While simultaneously hearing cases are increasing.

Now, to be completely honest, I don’t know what the trajectory of case numbers looked like in Minnesota when things started reopening. It did seem like numbers were mostly increasing in the expected areas (lookin’ at you again, Florida and Arizona). I will begrudgingly admit it’s possible the Minnesota Department of Health knows some things I don’t.

So, I followed state government guidelines. Yes, I’ve eaten on a couple of restaurant patios and will tell you it felt absolutely luxurious to be served and cleaned up after. And we started soccer, albeit on a completely different level that what we’d normally experience in June.

I can’t tell you what overall numbers are looking like in Minnesota, but I can tell you my kid has been exposed to COVID at both club and high school training. I can tell you kids have been exposed during day baseball (my town’s starter league for little gumpers). I’m guessing a great number of these exposed kids are headed to their cabins this weekend to spend time with extended family. It feels like numbers in my town are getting set to skyrocket.

I’m not telling you this return to some bit of normalcy was the wrong move. Again, I simply do not know enough. But I can tell you it seems awfully strange that we asked high school and college seniors to give up so many lasts, particularly spring sports athletes; only to head back towards normal in June. And so help me, if this has any impact on what school looks like in the fall, if this sends us back to a place where distance learning is the only option; I will undoubtedly lose my shit.

It kinda sorta seems like American youth sports culture could be what makes this pandemic shit get really real. I’d like to say I’d find that surprising, but I don’t.

Thistles & Thoughts

We have a thistle issue in our yard, and have had for quite some time. This weekend, I spent a lot of time and energy working to clear a ridiculously large patch of them from our backyard.

Spending this time digging in the dirt, largely away from the noise of social media and my family; I had the opportunity to form some deep thoughts about thistles. None of said thoughts were earth shattering or even a little bit original, but I found them striking nonetheless.

1. Roots are amazing on countless levels, thistle roots perhaps more so than others. When you start to pull or dig one of these thistles out of the ground, what’s directly underneath is not a given; and getting the entire root is essentially impossible.

There are very few that seemingly resemble a tap root (very possibly the only term I remember from college botany) that goes straight down, and can simply be pulled straight up. But in reality, even with these seemingly straightforward removals, if I really look at the tip of what I extract from the earth, there will be a break. Meaning, i think, that instead of eliminating the weed, I simply mowed it. So, given a little time, sunlight, and rainfall; the thistle will rise again.

Far more frequently, as I dug down trying (ultimately in futility) to get to the very tip of the plant, I found roots that, instead of going straight down, made a sharp turn.

Why would a root pivot in such a manner? I can only imagine it’s to increase its chances for survival. These plants felt more anchored, harder to remove with simple a good strong tug.

And, there were lots of these.

Before looking below the soil, I assumed these to be completely separate entities. Upon close examination, I found them to be birds of a feather, so to speak. Holding onto one another in a symbiotic relationship, each helping to anchor the other making it harder for either to be removed.

After lots of digging, both literally in the dirt and figuratively on the internet, I learned these plants deveolp an extensive horizontal root system that works relentlessly and effectively to allow these plants not only to thrive, but to overtake large expanses of space.

2. Removing these things is a daunting task. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve said to myself, “Today is the day I shall make these thistles my bitch. I am going to go out there and show these MFers who is the BOSS.” Only to be quickly humbled by the already described roots and profanity inducing prickles that hurt like hell when my bare skin inadvertently encounters them. Also worth noting, I’ve yet to find a glove those prickles cannot breach. They. Are. Bastards.

3. There is a time for Roundup. Or put differently, to simply burn the shit to the ground and start over. Yes, Roundup is a drastic measure, one I try to avoid; but if the thistles have shown repeatedly they are not going to respond to lesser measures, I must be open to drastic steps.

4. There is no easy button to get rid of the thistles. Not even Roundup is the end all, be all solution. Yes, it will temporarily improve the situation, but the thistles require constant vigilance, even after seemingly having been contained. I say this with confidence, because we DID resort to roundup a few years ago. But then we quit paying attention, which led to my weekend of attempting to reclaim the corner of my yard.

5. While I think dealing with these thistles is a grade A prime pain in the ass, I’m fortunate in a handful of ways. I have the option of ignoring them. I have access to the necessary tools- shovel, spade, gloves (FAR better than nothing even if not 100% effective), and weed killer to best deal with them.

I can opt for a retired pair of shoes to tromp around in the dirt, and when I’m done, there will be time to sit on the porch and enjoy a beer while reveling in the glory of my labors.

6. Removing thistles can be painful and disruptive. As previously stated, brushing up against these things smarts. And, while digging yesterday, I inadvertently cut the line of our below ground electric dog fence. So, until I can get the repair person out here, I have to be more vigilant about making sure the pups stay in the yard. And I don’t even want to think about what the repair is going to cost. Ohhhh bother.

BUT, if I don’t remove them, if I don’t pay attention, they thrive. And they don’t only thrive on my property. Apparently they haven’t read the property deed and can’t see the fence, because they don’t hesitate to spill into my neighbors’ yards.

They thrive on my ignorance, neglect, and refusal to take the time to acknowledge and deal with them. And then their effect spreads. I ignore them at the peril of myself, which I can deal with. But ignoring them at the peril of others is inexcusable.

Is it possible I’m talking about something beyond thistles? Is it possible that when I speak of my neighbors I’m referring to more than those who live adjacent to me?

Yes, indeed.