Can I stop people-pleasing?


Is people-pleasing a form of naiveté? Maybe it is, because when you’re a people-pleaser, you think that if you can just figure out the pattern – – the code – – you can fix the relationship with that other person. And so you spend all of your time soothing that person and replaying painful incidents. “What can I do to make the other person happy?”

But some people will not be happy, but for a few days or months sprinkled here and there. It’s not in their make up. But you are not responsible for it. It is up to them to change–if they so choose.

And you’re also thinking you must be doing something wrong, or that person wouldn’t be angry with you or jealous of you or enjoy taunting you or whatever. But everybody is as messed up as you are. And like you, they will learn or not learn lessons as they progress through life. You can’t fix everything for them. You can’t even fix things for yourself, or you wouldn’t be a people-pleaser.

And so my goal today will be to stop myself anytime I try to put myself in another’s shoes. I know we are all taught to do this. But the fact is, we all have different lives–even those within the same family. We can never know what another experiences. But we can stop trying to squeeze their shoes onto our feet. If their feet hurt, they can tell us. Or not. And when they tell us, we can listen. Or not.

It’s part of our journey in the river of life. We are changed as debris flows toward us. Sometimes a log hits us and we suffer damage, or it bumps us in a better direction. More often, the detritus brushes our skin and drifts away. But we don’t control the river. And we don’t control which detritus sweeps ourselves or others. We can resist adding garbage to the flow–some of the time–but that is the extent of our control.

So for 24 hours, I will give up fear of passing leaves and bubbles and twigs. And flow with the current driving the log. Maybe I’ll even hold on and rest for a while; take in the view. And if I can do this for a day, then maybe two. Perhaps a week. With practice, a lifetime.

Hopefully, I’ll relax enough to smile. Gain confidence that myself and others will spill into the ocean mostly unscathed; ready to return to the river’s head, to jump in again no shoes at all.


Photo by Oldiefan with Pixabay.

Is a Kindle Paperwhite worthwhile?

I’ve wanted a Kindle reader for several years, but was dissuaded by early negative reviews; later the price of the device. But Amazon and YouTube reviews indicate that most of the initial bugs have been worked out, and most reviewers seem happy with their purchase. So, a few days ago, I bought a Kindle Paperwhite while it was on sale for half off.

I’ve been using the Kindle app on my iPad. However, the two reading experiences—iPad vs Kindle Paperwhite—are completely different.

How big is the Paperwhite?

When my Paperwhite arrived, I was surprised at its size. I didn’t pay attention to the dimensions, and thought the Kindle would be similar in size to the iPad. Instead, the Paperwhite was half the size of my original device—about the size of a standard paperback book. I wondered whether enough words would fit on the smaller page, since I planned to enlarge the font. And would such a small device be difficult to hold?

I found that the screen holds one long paragraph or two shorter paragraphs—normally what I read at a time on the iPad before scrolling down.

And the Paperwhite, being roughly a third of the iPad’s weight, is easier to transport and hold. And when I read on the couch, I can balance it on a knee. So now I don’t have to grip the device all of the time.

Is black-and-white better than color?

I wasn’t sure I would like the Kindle’s black-and-white format, since I’d become accustomed to highlighting in different colors on the iPad. But this turned out to be a minor issue.

I found that the simple black-and-white screen makes for easier reading, especially when one can easily adjust the brightness and warmth of the screen by clicking on an arrow at the top of the Home page or Library page. This pulls up a menu that easily allows one to adjust the lighting with two sliding bars. One bar adjusts for brightness and the other applies a faint sepia-tone to the screen.

Are there advertisements?

When I close the Kindle cover, the device goes into sleep mode. And when I reopen it, the book is right where I left off. Except I must first swipe an opening advertisement. These advertisements can be removed for a fee, but so far I’ve found them unobtrusive. Usually, they show a book I’ve shown interest in but haven’t bought.

When one first opens a Kindle, they find themselves on the Home screen—a bunch of advertisements for books the reader may or may not be interested in. “Suggestions.” I don’t find the Home page helpful at all, since it’s much easier to search for new books using a PC. Note that, even if one pays for ad removal, the Home page remains filled with purchase options.

However, at the bottom of the Home page, there is something that is helpful—the Library tab. The Library contains all of the books one has purchased/downloaded.

Can I organize my books?

Once within the Library, the reader can create “Collections.” Collections are basically folders which allow the reader to sort books into different categories. My categories are: 

AA Now in Progress
Biography
Fiction
Nature
Psychology
ZZ Biography
ZZ Fiction
ZZ Nature
ZZ Psychology.

I put all of the books I am currently reading in AA Now in Progress. I usually have six books going at once, since I like to read different genres during different times of the day. The “AA” slug assures that this folder will be at the top of the Categories list when folders are sorted alphabetically. I currently have 15 additional books downloaded and ready to read. I’ve placed these in appropriate folders (Fiction, Nature, Psychology, etc.). When finished, the book is then shelved into a ZZ folder. The “ZZ” slug assures that these folders will be at the bottom of the Collections list once alphabetized.

To add a book to a collection, simply press and hold the book’s icon and choose Add to/Remove from collection. Then select and deselect as desired.

The Library contains one oddity. It contains a non-functional scroll bar. The bar only indicates where one is in the list being scrolled. To moves the scroll up and down, the reader clicks the arrows at the top and bottom of the bar. Or swipes a finger up or down in the center of the screen.

Can I create and erase bookmarks easily?

While reading, pages can be bookmarked by pressing the right-hand corner of the screen. A white bookmark appears, but is not yet set. To set the bookmark, press the plus-icon next to the listed page number. Once set, the bookmark changes from white to black.

Bookmarks remain until erased. To remove a previous bookmark, press the upper right-hand corner of the page to view a list of bookmarks. Then press the X beside the bookmark no longer needed.

There is one annoying aspect to bookmarks. Once a bookmark is selected and the reader goes to that page, a footer appears at the bottom of the screen. And it stays there until the reader tells the device they want to stay on this particular page or return to the one they just left. I mean, if I wanted to return to the previous bookmark, couldn’t I just select Bookmarks again?

Can I highlight text and add notes?

I like to highlight text as I read. To do this, one simply drags a finger across the words to be highlighted.

There is one thing that the reader must get used to when highlighting passages. After highlighting, one must tap on the page to exit the highlighting menu. Even if one is immediately advancing to the next page, the page surface must first be touched. It seems as though the device should anticipate that, when one taps the side of the page, the task is finished and the reader wants to go to the next page. Not a biggie, but it creates an unnecessary step.

One can also take notes, which would be easy if the font for this was larger. The font for note-taking is quite small—tiny even. While I can read a Kindle book without my glasses, to add a note I must put them on.

The reader can scroll through their Notes by accessing the Table of Contents. There is a tab at the top of the Table of Contents that says Notes, and this is where all highlighted sections of text and personal notes are found. Although scrolling through these notes on the Paperwhite is slow and cumbersome, one can send their Notes to the email listed in their account. (It may be a fluke but, when I did this using the Kindle device, I didn’t get the message normally received when exporting from my iPad, indicating that the author or publisher only allows the export of a small percentage of the book’s content. I’ve always found this frustrating because I take lots of notes and do lots of highlighting in my books—even though I rarely use these notes later).

Note that, when a document is uploaded to the Kindle (not purchased through Amazon), this export feature is unavailable. One can still take notes, but the notes can only be read on the device. They cannot he saved as a PDF.

What other helpful features does the Paperwhite have?

I like that one can place a finger on an unknown word to call up a dictionary. And, by scrolling horizontally, the same word can be translated into a foreign language. All words that are looked up are saved for later review.

At the top of every page is an arrow. Tap this to open a menu which allows one to view a time clock, exit the book, change font size and page layout, and access the book’s Contents and the reader’s personal Notes. Click the three dots and select Vocabulary Builder to retrieve a list of unfamiliar words. Unfamiliar words from all books read will be included in the list.

While the menu is open, the bottom of the screen shows which page the reader is on, how many pages are in the book, how many minutes are left in the current chapter (which varies from reader to reader according to calculated reading speed), and what percentage of the book has been completed. This percentage calculation is also shown in the bottom, right-hand corner as one progresses through the book. I find this reminder particularly helpful. It gives me a sense of accomplishment as I see the percentage rise and, when nearing the end of a book, it gives me an incentive to finish.

Is it true; I can read the Kindle outside?

Now one of the Kindle Paperwhite’s biggest features is that it can read in sunlight. I have tried reading outside in the past, but was always frustrated. The pages in a physical book were too bright when reflecting sunlight. The screen on my iPad had too much glare. Would the Kindle perform any better?

I took the iPad and the Kindle outside to compare them side-by-side—and there is no comparison. The iPad becomes unreadable in bright sunlight. Although it’s possible to capture glare with the Kindle, it is easily removed with a minuscule shift of the device. The Kindle is easier to read in sunlight than is an iPad; than is an actual book.

The Paperwhite is also water resistant, which also makes it easier to use for outdoor reading. Where I live humidity can be quite high and leave films of moisture on objects. I am assuming that my Kindle can handle that, but I’m not going to test it quite yet.

How much does a Paperwhite cost in 2022?

I paid $119 for a package that consisted of a Paperwhite, an official Kindle book cover, and a charger which I really don’t need. And I do think that price is somewhat fair.

However, I might have felt cheated had I paid the $200 that this Kindle normally sells for. I mean, there’s nothing fancy—nothing distinctive—about the technology (beyond the fact that it can be used outside).

If someone asked me what I would consider a truly fair price for a Paperwhite, I would say maybe $79 plus $15 for the cover. So $94 for the set. The device is plastic and, again, old technology.

What is the storage size and battery life?

I bought the 16 GB version, but actually got about 13.8 GB of storage. No biggie. Apparently this amount of storage will hold thousands upon thousands of books – – likely many more than I will ever read.

The battery life is pretty good. I’ve been using it for three days and it’s at 76%. Mind you, I’ve spent a lot of time playing on the device, figuring out how it works. I also interact with it while reading, I’m constantly highlighting, looking up words, and taking notes, and all of this consumes energy. So I am happy with the battery life  thus far. Odds are, I will have to recharge it less often once use of the Paperwhite becomes routine and I’m experimenting less.

Can I use my Paperwhite for audiobooks?

Without asking, Amazon uploaded icons for all of my audiobooks to the Paperwhite. Apparently, one can connect a wireless headset or earbuds to the Kindle and listen to audiobooks. However, I normally use my cell phone for that.

All of the audiobooks were thrown into an automatic Uncollected file, and this cannot be changed. I do wish that one could make subfolders within this collection so that these might be sorted.

Is a warranty offered?

When purchasing a Kindle, one is asked if a warranty is desired. The claim will be that it covers all breakage—up to three events in three years. But what it doesn’t tell say is that it only covers up to the purchase price. So if one buys a  Kindle on sale, like I did, once the purchase price is met, that is the extent of the coverage – – even though a replacement device might cost $200. And of course, like most such warranties, one may be sent a refurbished product.

I did take the coverage, but am thinking about canceling it after reading the fine print. If I did break my Kindle, would I pay $200 to replace it? Probably not. I would wait for another sale or go back to using my iPad, in spite of its deficiencies.

Would you recommend the Kindle Paperwhite?

Overall the Kindle Paperwhite is a recommend for me. The flaws are minor compared to the primary benefit—I am able to read much longer before experiencing eye fatigue. The page is easy on the eye—more comfortable than the pages of a book; more comfortable than pages read on the iPad’s shiny surface. In addition, the software is easy to navigate; not too loaded down with features few people would use. But a note to Amazon… The ads are pointless. They only frustrate and distract. And the very reason many people choose a device dedicated to books is to avoid the distractions posed by modern technology.

Remnants

The house is inviting and painful;
She left remnants behind.
A glove in the grass
Blackened by earth.
The plumbago lift their arms
As she trims beneath them;
Gusting wind; a floral scent;
The door draws them in.
Nails click on less-kept tile;
Little One searching room to room;
Halts and cocks an ear.
But keyboard is silent;
Both blessing and curse;
Assured her presence;
I tossed and turned.
What time is it?
This night and life;
Endless and brief.


Poem by Carol Fullerton-Samsel
Revised image by ds_30 at Pixabay

Creating a nature habitat in 5 months

When I first started this blog, it leaned toward hiking. But then, we had a long, excessively hot summer. And hiking in 90°-plus weather simply isn’t enjoyable. So it seems unlikely I’d spend the five-month summer out-of-doors, but that’s exactly what I did.

Now when we first moved back to Florida, I just wanted an easy-to-care-for plot of green. No plants necessary. However, keeping a suburban lawn green and weed-free proved impossible.

You see, our house backs up to a retention pond, and the neighborhood’s open, mown lawns attract geese. And new residents to the subdivision initially find geese charming and feed them, which increases their numbers. And then the geese spread seed through their droppings, as they tear tender blades of returning grass from the earth. So the neighbors’ yards soon become patchy and weed-filled. And shorn embankments are subject to erosion. And we receive “friendly reminders” from the HOA that we need to keep our yards in repair.

And this year’s flock of geese seemed quite enamored of our yard, and insisted on roosting on it each evening. In exchange, they left behind 2.5 gallons of appreciation every morning. I could leave it as it fell, but then I wouldn’t be able to step outside to enjoy the view. My solution was to gather the feces every day, mix them with an equal amount of garden soil, and spread them across eroded areas. I wasn’t sure if those areas would be weed-filled over time, or if they would grow anything at all.

And as sheets of poo-filled soil thickened, I coincidentally started volunteering at an eco-farm . And while I was there, I learned about Vetiver Grass, which is used to control erosion. My husband and I had been discussing erosion control in the back yard, and I decided Vetiver was the answer. I’d simply plant a long line of the towering grass and be done with it.

I initially planted 2×5 inch (5×13 cm) slips. A few months later, the grass was several feet tall.

I ordered some slips, but they didn’t extend as far as envisioned. But controlling erosion through plantings was on my mind and became a quest. And soon I added Roselle Hibiscus, another eco-farm introduction, smaller ornamental grasses, a Dwarf Plumbago, Dwarf Papyrus Grass, and Mexican Marigold. The more plants with roots the better since, as I planted, I discovered Saint Augustine Grass to be useless for controlling runoff. Essentially it forms a sheet on top of the soil, which can be easily pulled back to establish planting areas, but allows soil to run beneath it during downpours.

And while I was planting the back yard, a new problem developed in the front. Someone or something shredded the yard running along the sidewalk.

We didn’t have any enemies, as far as I knew. And the damage seemed too extensive to be caused by a dog. I played back security footage and found that the geese, having been dissuaded by my activity in the back yard, had taken to walking the sidewalk in front and enjoying the buffet.

I imagined the HOA complaining. I had to repair the damage here and elsewhere in the yard, but new grass would only invite the geese to return. So I wrote a polite letter to the Board, explaining that, in recent years, I had received warnings about bare spots in the lawn. I’d added sod plugs and spent fortunes on broad-spectrum insecticides, but the problem returned in the same areas season after season. I now realized, through surveillance footage, that geese were doing the damage. I sent along photos of the sidewalk and pictures of one-day’s goose droppings. I told them I’d added plantings to the back yard, and the geese were leaving these alone. My plan was to add plantings to the front, as well as decorative ground cover less enticing to fowl. I had gardening experience from previous homes, as well as a fine arts degree, and thought I could do a good job. I wanted the HOA to know the reasoning behind my endeavor, before they became suspicious of sudden activity in the yard.

First I needed to address the area along the sidewalk, and so I went looking for low-growth plants that would allow one to look across the yard and see a future array of color. I needed something that spread quickly and wasn’t too expensive. I also needed something that would play well with the blue flowers on the Dwarf Plumbago, which I’d planted on a whim two years previously. I settled on Blue Daze Evovulus and yellow-leaved sweet-potato vine.

As I planted the yard, I worked in sections, considering color choices and questioning which plants might help pollinators. When the pollination question came into play, habitat began to evolve. I added Scarlet Salvia, yellow-flowering Dwarf Alamanda, Purple Sage, Fire Bush for hummingbirds, New Gold Lantana for butterflies and bees, a Cigar Plant, and Giant Swan Milkweed for Monarchs.

As the months progressed, I started to split plants growing particularly well, and stuck these sections into the ground. Although some did not “take”, others became new members of the community. I simply treated them like any other introduction, watering daily until they showed new growth or shed a few yellow leaves. “No more water! Please!”

After the front yard, it was time to plant the side. This was a favorite walkway for the geese, as they traveled from pond to sidewalk and back again. Here I chose “disposable” plants, because the edge of the property – – the middle of their walkway – – contained a huge drainage pipe, which at some point might need maintenance or excavation. Years ago, the city sent someone to maintain the pond, and they drove a pickup across this section of yard. Anything planted here had to withstand truck tires or grow low enough that a truck might straddle it. So this strip became a line of low-growing, inexpensive, flowering plants, like Mexican Heather, Coreopsis, and Dianthus.

The geese threatened a return, but avoided areas where planted bushes had grown large. So when a local museum held a huge plant sale, I picked up lots of additional bushes and a variety of towering milkweed. By early spring, when goslings are toddling between parents, they should be reasonably large.

And, unexpectedly, the yard has become a habitat where pesticides are no longer welcome or necessary-– except for bait for particularly aggressive red ants.

I started planting around April first, and most of the work was completed by the end of August. It’s now mid-November, and many of my plantings have become independent. I no longer have to carry buckets of water or drag hoses from one plant to another. Slowly, the yard is becoming self-sufficient.

Once a week, I walk through and check each plant – – a daily ritual when the plants were tiny. I snip away dead leaves, and check for fungus or insect outbreaks.

Within weeks after planting a yellow hibiscus, I found it covered with White Flies. There were no Lacewings to eat the them. In fact, there were few predators in the yard, other than lizards. And so I resorted to spraying this plant with Neem for a week.

A group of Mexican Heather was also swarmed by Flea Beetles, and all of those plants had to be pulled.

But now the predators are arriving. I saw my first Wheel Bug yesterday, and Umbrella Wasps are patrolling flowers and leaves, looking for caterpillars to feed their young. Lacewing eggs hang from leaves in fine white filaments, and an assortment of toads and frogs have moved in. There are little ring-neck snakes, and I saw I my first Earth Snake last week. Increasingly, there is balance.

There are songbirds, which have been absent all of these years. They visit a tree in the neighbor’s yard, and then come to my garden to forage for insects and seed. Hummingbirds swarm the fire bush, hovering a few inches from the ground to drink from tubular flowers. As I stand on the patio, a red-shouldered hawk swoops in front of me, shopping for lizards, a dietary staple.

As I tend my plants, butterflies dance about me – – Monarchs, Sulphers, Skippers, Viceroys, and Peacocks. Next year, I’ll expand my offerings so that Swallowtails are invited. For them I’ll plant parsley; perhaps some celery. A garden is never really finished.

A hitchhiker on incoming Milkweed. A Monarch caterpillar
hangs in a J for up to 48 hours before becoming a chrysalis.

My plant-filled yard has become my retreat, where I listen to birdsong and watch the sun rise. Or marvel as a Scarab Beetle lands on a feathery, cone-shaped spray of Papyrus Grass, where a hidden female awaits.

My yard is becoming my grocery store, since many of my plantings are edible. I collect the calyces from the Roselle Hibiscus and make a tangy red tea. I save the boiled calyces, and add them to my oatmeal.

Roselle Hibiscus blossom

I include Ornamental Sweet Potato Vine leaves in my salads, and find they’re perfect for sandwiches. The leaves lay flat and have a strong buttery flavor. I’ve planted some Portulacaria (Elephant Bush), and when this grows bigger, I’ll harvest its leaves. Earlier in the season, I grew mint and basil in pots. When I do the same next year, I’ll use deeper containers, since I’ve found they have long legs and like to stretch them.

And the areas covered by soil and goose feces are now full of spider plants, which spill lushly down the slope as they reproduce. And while there are weeds on the slope, and throughout the yard, I treat them as any other plant. Some I pull. Others I leave alone. Clover I can live with, but I remove an invasive mimosa, which reproduces rapidly and chokes out other greenery. A weed that grows huge and spiderlike spreads by runners. That I also pull. For now, the Buttonweed is welcome where no grass will grow. It forms a mat and for now acts as ground cover. Next year it may be less welcome. And the Dollarweed tells me when the ground is wet and warns me not to water. I harvest its leaves and make a tart tea.

I foresee no end point, since gardening is experimentation, investigation, and a love of living things. It’s creating an oasis that serves many. It offers habitat to an array of tiny visitors. It offers me a chair and engages me in conversation. It beckons to my neighbors, who often stop to admire the flowers and ask questions about a favorite plant. Some volunteer that they’re creating habitat of their own. In a distant future, there will be clouds of butterflies and the cheep of hatchling warblers.

Are Artists Obsolete? Has Artificial Intelligence Replaced Them?

“An A.I.-Generated Picture Won an Art Prize. Artists Aren’t Happy,” announces a recent New York Times article. The reporter goes on to say that, at a state-fair art competition, one artist won the digital-art category for an AI-generated image.

Although I have no qualms about the artist submitting this piece, especially since he was up-front about the AI generation, I found the idea that computers might replace artists disturbing. That and curiosity led me to try some of the available art-generation apps.

Frankly, I gave up on all but one due to complicated instructions or poor results on initial demos. However, I did spend several hours on Midjourney, an arm of Discord, and attempted to create an illustration for an upcoming blog post.

As I worked, I realized that Midjourney is basically a search engine that attempts to locate an image already in existence. It then morphs the image somewhat, using a painterly style that blends elements to suggest form, but that produces a picture in which no form is clearly discernible.

When using Midjourney, the more one’s description matches an image already in existence, the better the results. For example, one creator requested an image of cavemen looking at a cell phone. The result was charming, but the app simply appeared to locate a picture of men looking at a cell phone (how many of those have we seen?) and then added Neanderthal features to their faces.

Another requested gloomy pictures of black crows. The results fit the request, but there are many gloomy crow pictures already online.

A major weakness with Midjourney is that it does not recognize verbs, so it is impossible to create an illustration of characters interacting. While experimenting with the app, I used common verbs such as chasing, running, and pushing, all of which were ignored. And when two or more characters were mentioned, the app attempted to morph them into a single creature.

Below are examples of descriptions and results:

My description, or prompt:  A tired, sweaty hiker stands on a Florida hiking trail. She pushes her walking stick in deep, black mud. There are tall grasses behind her. In the grass lurks an alligator and a pit bull. Both animals look at the hiker. In the foreground is a broken compass.


This is the best result of four options provided. It caught the words [hiker], [Florida hiking trail], and [tall grasses] and located a matching image already online. It ignored all other information in the description.

But really, I was hoping for something whimsical, and the alligator was a critical part of the illustration. So I tried with this prompt: Colorful cartoon. Hot, sweaty, female hiker. Knee-high in black mud. Surrounded by high grass. An alligator and snarling pit bull in the grass.


Again, the images generated don’t fit the description. None of the hikers stand in mud. Only one image shows high grass. Is the black blob an alligator? Maybe it ate the pit bull?

Now I’m feeling annoyed and try something different.

Prompt: Female hiker wrestling an alligator and a pit bull.


In these images, the app appears to morph the dog and alligator into a single animal. And the hiker in the upper right-hand image appears to have a tail that’s part alligator and part pit bull.

Prompt: Funny cartoon. Female hiker with a leashed alligator. Colorful.


Midjourney attempts to merge the alligator and hiker into a single being.

Prompt: Female hiker walks over a trail full of alligators.


Umm, where are the gators? Oh wait, a black blob follows one hiker, and in another image, an alligator has disguised itself as a hiker.

Prompt: A female hiker steps across a trail covered with alligators.


Finally something somewhat usable. However, look at those gators. None of them have heads. There is only the suggestion of gators.

Prompt: Cheerful female hiker on summer day walking a trail filled with alligators.


Does the app even know what an alligator looks like? I decide to test it.

Prompt:  Detailed alligator on muddy hiking trail. Florida.


Apparently not.

Afterwards, I tried two completely different subjects (not shown here) with equally poor results.

Artists, I can assure you that you are still needed. AI is a long way from being truly useful, and it lacks thoughtfulness, appropriateness, and creativity.

Although computers can provide a definition of a verb, AI doesn’t understand the meaning offered, which means it can’t put things into context. It can’t put things together in a meaningful way, or imagine a story from a given description.

AI is simply a tool and, at this point, a poor one. And since AI image-generation apps appear to simply copy and morph images already in existence, it’s easier to search for pictures on sites like Pixabay, which offers copyright free material. One can then credit the original artist or photographer because, for us humans, those little acknowledgements make a difference. They’re recognition that we’re all interconnected and depend upon one another; that humanity still matters. Each of us is as unique as the day’s sunrise.


Flatworm in the garden

At first glance, a flatworm can resemble an earthworm.
However, there are no body segments and
the the body had a shiny, slimy appearance.

A visitor from southeast Asia in the garden. This is Dolichoplana striata, one of many introduced flatworms now found in the United States. Most of the flatworms feed on earthworms, 30% of which are also foreign species. Flatworms are slimy and can be killed with a generous application of salt. But don’t cut them in pieces, since each piece will produce a new flatworm. I’ve also seen a hammerhead species in the past.

Although the head of this flatworm is nondescript,
some flatworms have a T-shaped head
(or hammerhead).

An exterminator threatens my suburban island

Umbrella Wasp

The doorbell rang. I looked through the window and then stepped onto the porch, where a lanky young man in navy shirt and khakis greeted me. “Hi. My name is Kevin. I wanted to let you know about some work being done on your street tomorrow.”

Road work maybe?

“Your neighbor has a pest problem.”

And I’m sure she appreciates it being advertised.

“We’re helping her. We could help you, too.”

“We’re fine,” I replied. “We don’t have bugs.”
Not a single palmetto bug (giant cockroach). We don’t eat meat, so there’s no carrion smell. We remove the cat dishes as soon as the animals finish eating; wash the dishes before going to bed; take out the trash each evening.

“We do outdoor pests too,” he says. “Get rid of wasps.”

He’s noticed the hive at the garage door.

“The umbrella wasps?!” I picture their home being destroyed, just as they’re completing their work for the season.  “They’re docile.” I wave toward the yard. “I planted all of these flowers for the pollinators!”

“A lot of people think wasps are pollinators,” he continues. “But that isn’t true.”

I know, I know. They’re primarily predators. But they do pollinate inadvertently as they hunt.

“I like the bees and the wasps,” I state flatly.

“We can treat the yard. It’s not a spray. We apply granules…”

And annihilate anything above and below the sod.

I’ve been planting all season. Know for a fact there is no “problem” lurking in the earth. Found a single pupal case, and plenty of earthworms.

I shake my head. Frown in repulsion. “I’m not at war with insects.”

The man retreats without leaving a card.

But I’m left disturbed. Are my neighbors so fearful of the small creatures around them – of any sign of life – that they’d decimate the lot? And with it the balance that keeps us healthy?

Now, I understand why my island habitat is filling so quickly. It’s surrounded by a desert of poisoned sod grass.

And I encounter new immigrants each morning. Sweat bees and skinks. Spiders and monarchs. I can see that my work goes beyond its original intent of adding color to the lawn and repairing bare spots. The hours I spend serve so many – the earthworms, fungi, and beneficial bacterium beneath the soil; the plants; every type of insect imaginable; birds and scurrying reptiles; as well as neighbors who drive slowly by or stop on the sidewalk, to take in the floral painting and gymnastic bumble bees.

This mini-park of mine is slowly reintroducing others to the intricacies of life. And they can see, as I reach among the branches, there’s little chance of harm.

I feel hopeful when they ask what is this plant or that; nod and say, “Maybe I’ll plant one.” Because that’s how it starts. One plant, then two. And as one is drawn into miniature worlds, a desire grows to offer more. To give all that one can. To treat the earth’s wounds and allow them to heal.


Image by Brett Hondow from Pixabay

How Boomers Think

The Greatest Generation (1901-1927)
The Silent Generation (1928-1945)
Baby Boomers (1946-1964)

As human beings, we love to categorize. But categorizing generations is only statistically convenient.

We are assigned a generation according to which 16-18 year period we fall into. But in a world that changes daily – hourly – a single generation holds multiple groups that experience the world in completely different ways.

I am a late Boomer; my brother an early Boomer. We were raised by latecomers to The Greatest Generation.

My brother was idealistic during the early part of his life, a passionate member of the 60s generation. I watched as ideals of equality took form, and saw his battles with my father. Fearsome battles that warned me to keep silent or undergo the same punishment. Fearsome battles Brother couldn’t possibly win – in a household where the winner of an argument was he who could shout loudest. But I admired my brother as he spoke for fairness; as he [initially] foresaw a world that could improve for most, if not all. And in spite of my mother’s efforts, I glimpsed protests on TV, and saw protestors who were my brother’s age. Would have included him except for parental threat.

But as Brother became older, the world changed. Became physically easier but emotionally and financially more difficult. His hopeful outlook became one of cynicism, echoed by Logan’s Run.

In adulthood, early Boomers were told to attend college to avoid the draft, by parents who boasted of their own service during World War II and criticized those who escaped Vietnam through Canada. Early Boomers joining the workforce were faced with declining job prospects and opportunity, while honoring parental insistence that success only took hard work and putting away for the future. They took on their parents’ personas, because somehow that would protect them. Their parents had succeeded and, if early Boomers persevered and behaved like their parents, so must they.

And in some ways they did. Their wealth grew, but rather than in leaps and bounds, by hops. With time, the hops became stumbles, and they struggled against reality and against parental implication that they were failures. Why hadn’t they succeeded? Why hadn’t they become rich? In a world where money became the sole determiner of human worth.

But the world had been different for our parents. They experienced great hardship early on – The Great Depression; World War. And after the devastation, they reaped the benefits of rebuilding. Of growth. And by midlife, many found themselves wealthier than ever imagined.

As their children grew into adults, The Greatest Generation pressured them to support candidates and institutions that would continue the bounty – at least for themselves. My mother confessed that she opposed universal healthcare, because her own Medicare might be impacted in a negative way. It was good for her; not necessarily the country, or even her own children.

As parents, The Greatest Generation was shocked when the young adults they produced  rebelled. Why did they think the world could be a better place for everyone? Why couldn’t it stagnate at pretty-good-for-a-moderately-large-group; and exceptionally good for a few?

They came down hard on their children to get them in line. The more their children espoused love, the more The Greatest Generation espoused hatred for anyone unlike themselves. An emotional war that continues to divide.

As adults, early Boomers were torn between doing what was right and fitting into their own families. All the while, however, rules and possibilities were changing in the background, making it less likely that they would experience the prosperity of upper-middle-class parents. Of course, there was always the hope of an inheritance to latch onto, provided relational norms were honored. Family interactions were both friendly and tense; love being present, but one generation controlling the veritable survival of the next.

So it’s not unexpected that early Boomers are often angry seniors, chanting, “I did it all by myself, with nobody’s help but my own.” Although untrue, it expresses how they feel. They know they’ve struggled, but cannot point to a specific obstacle. Know they’ve fought, but can’t articulate the particular battle. The mantra protects the story that’s been drilled into them. That anyone worthwhile can succeed, if they only work hard and save for the future. It’s all up to them.

Meanwhile, late Boomers remembered the crusades of older siblings; connected with the calls to fairness. But they began adulthood in an unsteady world, in which new rules made success even less likely. They watched as company consumed company and retirement plans were scrapped during corporate transactions or declarations of bankruptcy.

As a young adult, I encountered a woman who’d worked 18 years at a bank, under the promise of retirement benefits at 20. But her pension was lost in a corporate transaction, and those 18 years of service produced nothing but a broken promise. As well as society’s condemnation. “She should have planned for the future.” Should have planned in a world changing so rapidly that each day became foreign, and where long-term expectations became obsolete.

During The Greatest Generation’s lifetime, these were some of the changes that that propelled things forward:

  • Populations were small, but growing. There was less competition for housing and increasing opportunity for business growth.
  • Interest on savings went up to 10%, and lingered there for years.
  • Banks paid several percentage points on savings and checking accounts.
  • An 1,100 square foot house could be built for $10,000. Sales contracts were a single page.
  • Investments became transparent and available to anyone.
  • Gains were made in employment. The 40 hour workweek was established. Everyone took a half-hour to hour for lunch. There were two paid 15-minute breaks. Most employees received 2 weeks of paid sick leave and 2 weeks of paid vacation. And all benefits started the first day of employment. Companies trained their employees, free of charge. Except for CEOs and other upper level employees, pre-employment contracts were non-existent.
  • Union membership grew, increasing wages and pension payments.
  • Early on, most healthcare could be paid out of pocket. Later, employers provided generous insurance plans.
  • Social Security was implemented and began at age 65.
  • Medicare was implemented.
  • Women had just gained the right to vote when The Greatest Generation was born. Women continued to make gains, eventually being allowed to wear pants, hold jobs, live independently, work and go out in public while pregnant, and manage their own bodies.
  • Healthcare improved, extending lives.

But gradually, these gains fell away and, for late Boomers, no longer exist or are in the process of elimination. Although late Boomers are less angry about the decline, since decline has been the norm of their experience, they remember the cries for fairness and continue that cry in their hearts. Don’t mind their comments of, “What are you going to do?” and “It’s beyond my control.” Late Boomers are expressing frustration, but the towel is still gripped in their hands.

My life experience has been very different from that of my brother, even though we’re both Boomers. Even though we’re from the same household. He was raised during a period of vehemently suppressed belief. I was raised during a period where that belief had already been silenced, but was secretly held. He lived with a couple just starting out in life. I lived with parents who were more settled and experiencing the benefits of economic boom. As an adult, Brother slowly descended a mountain trail. Years later, the trail was gone; the mountain eroded into a cliff, its base strewn with rubble. My brother tried to emulate his parents; I knew I could not, the world being so changed.

We’re a mix of experiences, and those experiences have influenced our behavior and beliefs. Personally, I still believe the world can be an ever-improving place for most people, if not everyone. And when things are gamed against that forward progress – when entities intentionally prey upon the anger and fear of suppressed generations to obtain or maintain power – I still think that enough of us can come together to make a difference and win through love rather than hatred.

Maybe I’m naïve, but silenced hope is the experience of my “generation,” whatever that term may mean.


Image by Christian Dorn from Pixabay

Why follow a routine?


What is routine? A reason to get up in the morning; to persevere throughout the day. I think that’s what it comes down to.

So it’s important that the first routine be pleasant. Or productive. Which means different things to different people.

My favorite start to the day is coffee on the patio; an array of bricks pushed together in the form of a square. I watch as the sun rises and the geese fly in, then  worry the geese will find their way into the garden; begin their day by ripping out grass.

But the routines of others often circumvent our own. Nature’s day starts with sunshine or a rain storm or swarms of mosquitos; an occasional wildfire tinges the sky orange and smokes the air. On some days, International Flavors and Fragrances belches toxic fumes into subdivisions, as it produces chemicals to scent cleaners, and lotions, and flavor unenticing food. Which no one suspects as they shop. Just as they don’t see the animal skinned alive as they grill their steak; or the worker pummeled as the living corpse thrashes against the knife.

So we never know until we arise what the day will bring. Routines are often interrupted. Hopeful plans skittered. A day munching grass is replaced by a crate, slippery with urine and manure; a cement floor slick with blood. Or a workday with bombs, courtesy of Freddy Krueger, commanding his people to be as disturbed as himself.

Long routines and short; indoor and out. Bracing ourselves for the days’ unexpected gifts. They give us a reason to rise in the morning and face the unfaceable. They keep us from shivering beneath our bedcovers.


Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay