Sometimes in moments of pure existential dread, a light shines through. Sometimes impulsive decisions turn out to be part of some holistic synchronicity that defies explanation.
Earlier this week, before the Texas tragedy, I accompanied my moms to Tractor Supply as they needed more duck food (for the resident swan and other waterfowl they meet on their twice daily walks) and plant food. I hadn't been to a Tractor Supply since 2015 for a shot clinic with my rescued dog at the time, Angel. I'm not really the country music, cowboy boots, baseball caps with guns type. Surprise! BUT I heard there might be baby birds and I was curious.
Yes there were baby birds, no I didn't buy any. I did pick up a bag of tree spikes (long term tree food), a Venus Fly Trap growing kit for V, and a wadding pool with a dog bone motif for Boo.
Boo was not a fan of the pool, but I left it full as she was happy drinking from it.
Yesterday I received a number of PMs and @s on Facebook. I am known in my neighborhood as "The Swan Lady" and all around bird lover. I learned that minutes before said flood of correspondence, one of the Pekin ducks that had been introduced to our retention pond by "owners" unknown, had been by an alligator. The gator had just moved into the pond the day before. I was told she was alive, but in bad shape.
I was at my parent's house a little less than a mile away, borrowed by father's bicycle because I still don't have a license or car, and peddled like hell (though not well) to my neck of the (not) woods. I found my next door neighbor Steve (also from NJ) standing over the bloodied and cringing duck. Turns out he had witnessed the attack and already contacted numerous animal rescuers and wildlife management, none would take a Pekin duck. I had brought a reusable grocery bag with me (it's not like I was planning for this event) and Steve and I managed to fit Winifred (my family's name for this bird) in the bag and tie the straps together to sort of hold her in. Steve got back in his car, I got back on my father's bike, with the duck bag on my right shoulder, and attempted to ride home.
I wish I had a photo of this scene. Needless to say, not graceful. At. All. Very shortly into the trip, I had to dismount and walk the bike, with the duck bag fighting me the entire time. I was so focused on the bird, I went right past my house, quite a bit. I came to from my bird fugue, turned around and went back to my house. I dragged my father's beautiful bike as close to my front door as possible because I trust almost no one, and let myself into the backyard through the new gate I was so glad I hadn't locked. At this point the bag, bird, and I, all smell like duck shit. Once in the yard I immediately released Winifred (Fred) near the wadding pool and went inside to get food. Of course I always have waterfowl food. Who doesn't? I put Fred in the pool and sprinkled food. She ate like she had never seen food before. To be fair she's always been greedy. After she had eaten and had some water, I lifted her out of the pool to inspect the damage. A large portion of her left foot, is gone. The middle toe had two compound fractures and I had to carefully inspect her belly before being able to determine, only her foot was actually injured. Although she's lost most of her tail feathers. I watched her for quite a while, Boo came out and saw she was there and decided that she's not interested in being besties with waterfowl. And then I had to leave again.
I should mention, the Pekin ducks are my daughter's absolute favorite on the pond other than her two geese. Yes, I consider this pare of Canada Geese hers, and she's theirs. You have to see it to believe it, but it's true. Anyway... Hubs got home from work and I texted him to check on Fred before coming over to get V and I. When he showed up I (away from V) asked how Fred was, and he said she looked good. So I told V we had to get home right away because I had a surprise for her. She decided the surprise just had to be an animal, but when she saw Fred, she was wide eyed with tween joy. I checked on Fred's foot, and she has a good scab and had pulled out the fragments of bone. Go Fred! She can very gingerly hop/scuffle along, but she seemed even sadder than the pain and trauma would account for. Ducks are incredibly social, and she had been raised and released with her BFF/life partner, who we call Ethel. (Apparently others called them "Donald and Daisy" because Donald/Fred is so much bigger that they just assumed she was a drake.) So "Operation Grab Ethel" had to be accomplished. George disagreed. He though Fred would be okay to return in a couple of days. Dood, she's missing a third of her foot. No. So he went upstairs to lay down, and I snagged V, a string backpack, and my "waterfowl visit bag" (grocery tote with beach towel and food). Of course George came down while I was gathering supplies. I just said V and I were going to check on the other birds at the pond, we won't be long, I don't have my phone it's charging, don't worry!
V and I walked hand-in-hand to the pond and found Ethel looking quite sad even though three Mallard drakes were near her. While V and I made sure no one was around, I tempted Ethel with the food, snagged her, and unceremoniously shoved her in the string bag. Immediately we gathered ourselves, the two bags, and duck, and went home. Again the bag, duck, and I all smell like duck shit quite quickly.
When we got home, I went in through the gate again, and released Ethel right in front of George. He smiled. I smiled. "I don't always listen to you! But I do sometimes. Just not this time." He laughed. Winifred IMMEDIATELY hobbled toward Ethel and they've been no more than two feet from each other since the reunion. This morning there was even a beautiful fresh duck egg in the middle of my yard.
George, sweet George, still thinks the ducks are going back to the pond. He hasn't noticed that I never say anything in response to that assertion. He keeps saying they aren't pets. Actually they are, that's why this happened. Pekin ducks are pretty much entirely defenseless and should never have been on that pond in the first place. So now I have ducks. Soon enough so will George. In the mean time I told him I'd tell the twins (my bonus girls) about them and they have to stay at least until they visit in July. Stay tuned...
The title of this post is actually a quote from my new friend and auther, Tom McCaffrey on his website The Wise Novelist. Tom wrote The Claire Trilogy and I cannot recommend it enough. The problem I have with this philosophy, which is great, is that I hate going to the gym. Also be prepared for this post to get dark.
I just learned that my LOA doesn't end next week, I have a few more weeks to get my shit together, which is not long enough because I never get my shit together. My to do list (I don't make lists) is more like a word map of anxieties than a manageable list of tasks that should be easy to accomplish. I slept until after noon today with only brief moments of consciousness in order to provide basic needs to my dog Boo. And I took my morning meds.
Now for what is paralyzing me for real today:
As I mentioned previously, I have great difficulty compartmentalizing but this most recent school shooting in Texas has me horrified. As I live in Florida, the response of our senators is disgusting. From the live updates on CNN:
In separate interviews with CNN, Florida GOP Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott defended the need for AR-15s and semi-automatic weapons, dismissing calls for expanded background checks. Rubio instead said he would try to force a vote today on a measure to bolster school safety in other ways.
In a back-and-forth with CNN, Rubio contended that expanded background checks would not solve the problem and said even if Washington banned AR-15s, a killer would find a different weapon.
“Listen, at the end of day, you're arguing about what they're using to commit this, and the truth of matter is these people are going to commit these horrifying crimes whether they have to use another weapon to do it; they're going to figure out a way to do it,” Rubio said.
What the fuck else would I expect from the "government representatives" of this fucking state? Then on top of that, I get this from my daughter's school superintendent.
Back in the day I was trained in elementary school for attacks from above (hide under your desk when the air siren screams) and fire drills. In high school we had bomb threat training. Now, our children are trained how to barricade themselves from a shooter and teachers in many districts are encouraged to carry guns. How is this progress? With over 200 mass shootings in 2022 as of today, and school shootings on the rise dramatically since Columbine, what the fuck are we doing to protect our CHILDREN from this? The GOP response: More guns because only "crazy maniacs" will use those guns for harm, and if they can't get the big guns, they'll get little ones and it will happen anyway. "Thoughts and prayers" help as much as snake oil does for cancer. In other words, not at all.
Where is the compassion for human life and the drive to protect it? Why is everything reactive instead of proactive? What are we doing about the toxic masculinity that teaches gun violence is a cathartic answer to the stress of living in this country? How the fuck do I protect my children from this culture?
I'm counting the minutes until V is released from school today knowing she will go to my parents and be embraced with love by my moms. And I do not know what to do. Last night V and I were frustrated with each other, today I just want to wrap my arms around her and keep her there. Forever.
There is a very strong "Us vs. Them" attitude here in Florida. When I first moved down here, my father encouraged me to date. I had broken up with someone I truly loved before the move, and was significantly depressed. So I set up a POF account (don't do that, just don't) and was very honest in my profile about who I am and what matters to me. Including that I'm a progressive liberal and conservation/animal rights/human rights advocate. I wish I had kept the screenshot of one of my first responses... I was told, in a three paragraph screed how I had moved to the wrong state and should be in California with all the other "fruits and nuts" and wait for the state to fall off the continent with the next big earthquake because if I didn't like guns and trucks and confederate pride I didn't belong here.
On local Facebook pages I see posts aplenty about how "Northerners" moving here for less taxes and better weather (I'd argue the weather is not a draw for me) are "ruining" the state. And to be truthful, I do believe the great influx of people moving here IS ruining the state, but for ecological, infrastructure, and educational reasons. Development here doesn't seem to be controlled AT ALL, and the only reason my development is building a new school is because a mother who moved here on the initial promise of plenty of schools drug up the initial building contract promising a school in our midst. That's it! They got called out on their own legal contract and acquiesced to local pressure.
Not to mention that "Florida Wo/Man" is a REAL THING. The people here are damn good at making bad decisions. Attempting to rob a fast food joint with an ALLIGATOR is a thing that happened here! Even in my "good development" in the "best county" in Florida, there's a rash of bicycle thefts that result in the bikes being thrown into retention ponds. And someone was shooting people with a bb gun out of a car. They shot an elder lady walking a dog.
I live between Jacksonville and St. Augustine (I believe both were locations of crimes in Criminal Minds). My father is a retired police Sargent from a large city near NYC in NJ. He has stated more than once that the murder close rate in Jacksonville is abhorrently low. He has mused that retired law enforcement officers should set up an independent task force to actually solve those cold cases. I wish he would set that up, he would find equally amazing retirees and definitely make a difference. My father also believes in on the street patrol (hoof it, don't drive it) with officers recruited from the neighborhoods, to increase the trust between civilians and LEOs. When my father was a patrolman in the 70's in a very diverse city, he had friends EVERYWHERE. As a "punishment" one time he was sent to sit in a vehicle near a potential "hot spot" all shift, every shift. It was near where we lived. Every shift he received free full meals from the people he knew there. When asked how it was going, he replied "great!" And his commanding officer realized my father could make the best of any situation.
I don't know how to make the best out of the current social climate. I'm not interested in hearing that there are good parts on both sides of the gun control debate. There aren't. Like most parents, I want my children to grow up and have the lives they want. That used to be a relatively easy dream. Of course there has always been violence and accidents happen, but this... This is chaos.
This fear washes over me and I cannot shake it. I'll try to read. I'll play with Boo, I'll hold V until she tells me "Mama, let go!" and my dreams will be filled with screams and blood and helplessness.
And tomorrow I'll tell V how much I love her as she goes off to school and hope that today is not the day someone enters her school with a high powered gun, and hope if it happens, she's smart and quick enough to survive. Parenthood in 2022 should not be like this!
Change does come from within, and the individuals and families that have had enough of this will eventually prevail (Hope springs eternal...) but will it be soon enough? I do not know.
I've always had difficulty with expressing what's in my head (like speaking words that make sense) because aphasia and word salad are a symptom of my migraines. But since the mental collapse of winter 2021/2022, it has become much worse, so I'm really trying to figure out if compartmentalizing is what I actually wanted to say, since spell check isn't freaking out, I suppose it is.
My mother recently suggested that I discuss an issue with my therapist. The issue is, I get too emotionally involved in issues I can't do much about.
I had to stop following the news about the war in Ukraine because I was living there, through it, in my head. I CAN donate, share information, and hold space in my heart that maybe that asshole Putin will give up, even though that's not likely with that fucking narcissistic dictator.
I moved from New Jersey to Florida (ugh) in 2017. V (the wildflower child) had been in an elementary school in NJ that had, as just the basic curriculum, Spanish, Art, Dance, Music, Computer Sciences, as well as the standard Math, ELA, PE, Social Studies, and Science. So we move with my parents to the county in FL with "the best school district in the state." Again, for perspective, that state is FLORIDA. Guess what's not available in these public schools? SPANISH, dance, art as a basic requirement, and you know, SPACE for the kids.
Recently a zoning suggestion for the "new school" being proposed, would split our development into a minimum of three different school zones. Sometimes one side of the street was zoned to another school than the opposite side of the street. I'm not even going to get into the bussing fiasco. The thing is, the very reason we moved to this county and this development, was because there was promised at least two new schools built HERE, in the development. I'm going to give you one chance to guess how that's going. I'm absolutely livid that there's a chance my daughter may have to go to her last year of middle school (8th grade) in a completely different school. WTF is that? Anyway...
I'm a longtime supporter (and member of) the LGBTQ+ community (yes I married a man, doesn't mean I'm straight). The attacks on rights, people, and even fucking recognition of the legitimacy of LGBTQ+ rights as humans and their value to our collective community... There's a rage I can't contain. I can only make sure my home is a safe space, and donate to the local shelter organization for Jacksonville LGBTQ+ youth and young adults, JASMYN. I want to find the parents of children disowned for being themselves and well, I should try to understand, but violence is my first instinct. My daughter is asexual bi-romantic and I'm so proud of her for being herself.
I hate all of the GOP at this point. Anti-science, anti-environment, anti-compassion, racist, misogynistic ego maniacal monsters. All of them.
And why the fuck would someone my hubs has worked for, without a raise, who is family, refuse to give him a raise, right after telling him he spent between $1000 - $1400 a night on a resort stay in Hawaii, and then say his expenses are too high for a raise. Fuck him.
There's no infrastructure here to support the continuous development. For all Florida's social and political flaws, the environment and wildlife is astonishing. But none of that is safe from the siren song of easy money for developers.
I'm angry. I'm angry about everything that I see as injustice or exploitation of people, resources, animals... I'm a progressive liberal leftist and that will never change.
One of my favorite lines in the televised version of "American Gods" is Mr. Nancy's "Anger gets shit done." But my anger allows not much doing of anything I can do to change the situations. I've protested, I've walked, I've donated when I can, I call out people for using hateful, outdated, or prejudicial speech. But I can only change what is right around me. And that makes me feel hopeless and insignificant. Which makes me even more angry.
I do have to do something to compartmentalize what I can, and cannot change. And try to be satisfied with leading my own life in line with my values, helping Hubs to understand my views, and raising V, and hopefully my bonus children, to carry on with compassion and awareness.
Sometimes though, that's not enough, and I rage. Today is one of those days. So after posting this long rant, I will try to relax, focus on my small gardens and my dog, make sure V's cramps are under control, and keep Hubs from feeling overwhelmed and depressed. And tonight when I lie down to sleep, I will try to not dwell on all the things I cannot change.
I'm Kirsten. Some things you could label me with; tattooed, geek, mama, animal lover, weirdo, nerd, writer, movie and TV addict, lazy, ambitious, insomniac, feminist, LGBTQ+.