Some good stuff

It is hard to ignore all our global crises, from the pandemic to catastrophic weather, but laughter truly is a medicine.  My psychiatrist Zoomed me last week and I made him laugh out loud.  He suggested I try a stand-up comedy evening and generally gave me a gold star for trying hard to keep the blues away.  The next day, I felt low and overwhelmed but just watched one of my favorite Youtube comics.  The First Minister in Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, has been giving daily briefings to Scotland on Covid-19.  Unlike ours in the US, her briefings are succinct, sensible and more importantly CORRECT!!  A Scottish comedian, Janey Godley, does a voiceover of the briefings in a strong Glaswegian dialect.  They make me howl with laughter because they are so familiar.  I doubt that many of my readers could understand her so I have put a translation underneath.  The First Minister approves of the voiceovers because Janey Godley keeps the real message intact within the comedy.  WARNING!! There are a couple of F bombs in it (common parlance in Glasgow) but the other video below is more gentle and doesn’t need translation.  Just one wee eff at the end…

Right here’s the official word and I will tell you (for) why.  All the Sandras, big Jeanette, all the Pippa Dees (Tupperware like parties?) have all been cancelled.  Nobody is going to Torremolinos (Jersey Shore style Spanish resort).  We are all just chatting on the Snapchat Group.  Stop going out.  Stop meeting your friends.  Stop going to the park and gathering together.

A Bunch of effing Idiots.

You have all been told.

Everybody is going to die if you keeping going about and going home with a virus on you.  So, I’ve told you once and I’m not going to tell you again.

This the Official Line –

If I see any of you out there, I am going to take a run and put my toe up the crack of your bottom.  So stop it.  Stay in the house, wash your hands and keep your families safe.  Effing snapchat your friends.  I will be speaking to Big Teresa later.  All of you; use your phone and STOP IT!

If you browse Youtube you can see the real briefings – that have no F bombs and are less fun!  I know that we all need a wee massage at the moment so I hope you enjoy the virtual cat one below.  I think you will understand this but let me know if you need a translation.  Happy Weekend, Wash your Hands, Keep your Distance, Wear your Bloody Mask and Keep Safe.  Most of all, keep laughing.

My Enigma

Every time I call the doctor or health insurance of late, there is an extra message to check that my mental health is okay and offering care options.  I feel a little bitterness that it has taken a tragedy for society to take mental ill health seriously – where were you when we had to wait many months or years for psychological help?  Clearly, Covid-19 has challenged even those of us who have not had a pre-existing condition.  My psychiatrist seemed shocked at the amount of patients presenting with psychosis during this time, although I am not.

My diagnosis/mental health had always been an enigma to me, the people I love and the medical profession.  Like many others, my original diagnosis is not my current one.  After years of working in the mental health field (and my own personal experience), it is clear that we know less about this complex field of medicine than others.  Heart bypass surgery has become almost commonplace and much safer, for example.  I was perfectly happy with my original diagnosis of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.  It was such a relief to find out why I had to check the gas was off a dozen times or more or check that a plastic bag in the road was not full of cats.  In the back of my mind, I was sure I had separate depressive and anxiety episodes but perhaps it all goes together, I thought.

As much as we would like a clear cut name for our individual illness, for many of us diagnosis seems to be a wavy, mysterious line.  That is not the fault of the medical profession, necessarily.  One of my cousins had very different diagnoses in her later years and she ultimately died of an overdose.  I imagine her doctors were trying desperately to find a medication to make her feel better.  Then there is me.  I present a chameleon personality to both my doctors and loved ones.  At a social event, I seem like ‘party central’ – confident, amusing and fun to be around.  This exhausts me.  My mother was so concerned about my shyness as I child, that she made every effort to bring me out of my shell.  Drama classes in high school and finding a group of peers helped me to blossom.

This pandemic has had the opposite effect on me – my mental health has rarely been better.  Teddy and my doctor express astonishment that I am coping so well.  The truth is I always knew what was best for me – isolation and silence.  After I married at age 21, I followed Teddy around the world for his career.  He was always going to be the major breadwinner with ambition and skill.  He kindly says that he couldn’t have done it without my support – who knows?  My IQ is above average and I have honed my people skills over the years.  As Teddy was pursuing his career as a Geoscientist, I did a variety of dead-end jobs such as cleaner, bar person and fossil picker.  That last job sounds more exciting than it was.  My husband’s company offered me training and a job looking at tiny fossils down a microscope.  I then transferred those of interest to a slide and a micro paleontologist would further assess them – this was all in the pursuit of oil.

It was the perfect job for someone with OCD – timing and precision was critical.  Even though I was smarter than the average bear, I was quite happy to stay in this dead end job.  Teddy persuaded me to push my ambition further and that is how I ended up in the mental health field.  That led to various other jobs where I could use my writing and people skills to their best capacity.  But I was always so stressed, even when I enjoyed the plaudits.  The job I really longed for was Librarian.

So here we are in 2020.  At the suggestion of a doctor friend, I started eating gluten free at the beginning of the year.  This was to try to address my curious neurological sensations in hands and feet.  I have since read some medical journals on the effect of gluten on the brain – fascinating.  It was relatively easy to change my diet – I guess I avoid gluten naturally. At the same time, I stopped working and driving because of Covid-19.  Now I don’t know if the absence of gluten or driving/working has helped but my neurological symptoms have abated considerably.  It’s another mystery – but a silver lining for me.

Turning 60 in 2020 has given me so much time to think about growing older.  Unexpectedly, I have reached an acceptance that I do feel different and a little less sexy.  Teddy disagrees – thank goodness! There is a huge sense of relief that I don’t have to work anymore and I realize how lucky I am to be in that position.  I am perfectly happy cleaning the house, watering the garden and making very short journeys away from the house.  When all this is over, will I enjoy the normal pace of life or need to buy 10 acres of wilderness for peace and quiet?  I guess we will all adapt and realize how strong most of us are, even in the most desperate of situations.

For now, my Enigma remains just that and I am grateful for this moment of stillness in society.

The Fairy Blight

Kiera as a fairy child

Kiera looked around at the empty room in the Texas School of Fairies and sighed deeply. The beautiful red and gold silk hangings that festooned the ornate Hall of Fairies looked sad and almost gaudy without the flutter of little fairy wings. She so missed the excited chatter of her students. Eons ago Kiera herself had been a nervous sophomore. She still remembered how carefully she dressed for her first day. The indigo blue velvet pinafore almost matched her big dark blue eyes. Her long dark curls were braided into submission and interwoven with blue velvet ribbons. Both her grandmother and mother fussed over her appearance making sure her unruly curls behaved. Her family was surprised but delighted that Kiera was accepted to the school because mixed species were frowned upon for many centuries. Her mother was a typically beautiful Celtic fairy with long straight dark blond hair and wings with just a touch of pistachio green on the tips. Her father was an outcast from the fairy community.  Kiera was too ashamed to even talk about it. Those dark curls were all his, though, and the dark eyes.

Keira loved her wings which were an iridescent mixture of pearl, blue with a touch of emerald. They were reminiscent of a gem stone or mother of pearl. It seemed so long ago when her blue eyes darkened with excitement at her first sight of the fairy hall. So much had happened since then; human and fairy wars wreaked devastation upon the two species. Over centuries there had been so many fairy blights somewhat similar to human pandemics. In human society viruses usually transmit from animal to human but in fairy life they spread from plants to fairies. The worst in Kiera’s memory was the potato blight of 1800 in Ireland. Much like the human Irish, the fairy folk had to flee to far distant parts of earth to escape the blight. In potatoes it caused a failure of the crop leading to famine but it affected the fairy world differently. Some became blind; others lost their sensory perception leading to much the same conclusion – famine and deprivation.

Now in 2020, the human world is being devastated by a new Coronavirus Pandemic and perhaps coincidentally the fairy world has been struck a deadly new blight – nicknamed Black Shade. It spread from late tomato blight which is related to the Irish potato blight and can affect all nightshade plants. The blight has mutated to cause a devastating browning or desiccation of fairy wings and occasional wing drop. A fairy without wings cannot survive. Only a few short months ago this eerily silent hall had been alive with every hue of fairy, chattering in many languages. Kiera had been shy little fairy when she arrived at The Texas School of Fairies but happily discovered that her classmates liked to share secrets with her. Her sweet face and trusting nature made her an excellent future choice for a school soothsayer akin to a human school counselor.

Fairy Blight

Over decades, as School Soothsayer, she had wiped away despondent tears of homesick fairies and helped them find their true path. Her long dark hair had turned pewter and her eyes were still deep dark blue with just a touch of grey. Kiera had succumbed to Black Shade and her beautiful wings were permanently stained brown along the tips. Thankfully she had recovered quickly – the fairy healers had been quick to find unique remedies for this new blight. Eventually there might be a cure but in the meantime almost all students and pupils had been sent home.  Kiera chose to stay at the school to look after those very few staff and pupils that remained. The panic was tangible at first with anxious parents flying in to pick up their children. Some parents had to ask relatives to make the long journey to collect students if they had suffered wing damage or worse. With every new pandemic there is an initial mystery about transmission but this new fairy blight was passed by touch. Little fairies love to touch each other with hugs, kisses and wing trembling. No matter how many times the headmaster or Miss Kiera warned the students to socially distance it was beyond their limited understanding of how serious this Black Shade could be. Just like human children, fairies bairns needed touch to develop into well-adjusted adults.

Kiera wandered the lonely corridors with too much time to think about her life. She was approaching retirement and wondered how she would adapt to that or an extended closure of the school. She caught a glimpse of herself i an ornate mirror and was startled. Where was that beautiful young fairy that looked just like her father?  Over the years she had come to terms with his failures. He had fallen into the Black Arts using his charm to trick the fairy and human world. Centuries ago he was sent to The Spectral Isle for punishment. It was a shameful time for his family who were proud Baja fairies from Mexico. He had ruined his family’s proud heritage.  Kiera looked just like her paternal Abuela, Juanita. Curiously, it was her father’s choice to name her Kiera which honored her long Irish heritage.  The name Kiera is a feminine version of Ciaran which means dark haired. She looked at her untidy Pewter hair in the mirror and quickly tidied it into a braided plait. Kiera looked at her brown tipped wings with sadness but gratitude for having survived Black Shade.

The fairy world is naturally superstitious and Kiara had to bite her lip with many ill-informed parents.  First the Shade was spread by crows, then toads (both untrue) and every possible portent of doom.  Even though the Healers had quickly established that this was the late Tomato Blight, preposterous theories persisted.  Kiera understood their fears and as a soothsayer did her best to reassure anxious students and their families.  It was easier for Kiera who had lived through wars and pestilence to accept that Black Shade was a natural part of living in this world.  One day, when the worst of this was over, we would grieve for the fairy folks who had succumbed but then move on with lightness in our hearts.  The sun will shine again and the Hall of Fairies would be alive with little fluttering wings.

Postscript

My friends had often asked me when I would write a fairy story about myself so Kiera is my alias.  My father did choose my birth name against my mother’s wishes.  He also dabbled in the Black Arts… Fairy stories traditionally allow us to tell children harsh facts about the world in a style that they can understand.  The sun will shine again.

 

 

Pest Control moved in…

This tiny little bug is commonly known as a junk bug or aphid lion – ain’t she cute? Teddy was admiring our fire bush when he saw this wee pile of debris moving.  If you click on the red link to junk bug you can read a hilarious article about this ‘voracious predator’ – it is about the size of the half-moon on your pinkie.  She is a gardener’s friend; the debris on her back is the remains of aphids and other plant eaters (her victims…).  This little dusty bundle is her larval stage and she blossoms into one of my favorite insects, the delicate green lacewing.

Henrik Mackevicius, Pixabay

Teddy and I get so excited when we discover a new animal in the garden no matter how small.  Below is Leo (DiCaprio), one of our many spotted Anoles.  He loves to sit at the prow of the deck and display his bright red throat flap to attract a mate.  There is so much lizard sex going on in our back yard that we should rename it Studio 54.  There are tiny babies, pregnant moms and horny teenagers (none of them are social distancing).

A few weeks ago I found what looked like bird poop in the garage and I was curious.  It was unlikely that a bird had gotten into the garage which is usually closed and then I saw another poop on the front porch.

The black section is full insect bits and the white part is uric acid (pee)

As I was taking in the groceries, through the garage, this week I spotted a small cockroach struggling in a spider web.  Briefly, I wondered whether I should put it out of its misery but when I went back for the rest of the groceries the roach had gone.  Then I spotted her – we have a five striped Skink living in the wall of the garage.  Woo hoo!  She is now called Skinky because I have no imagination.  They eat cockroaches – what more do you need?  My neighbor has one on her front porch and after I told her how useful they are in our bug ridden swamp, she named her Skink, Tiger.

Jan Haerer, Pixabay

Can you tell that the pandemic quarantine is beginning to wear on us?  My psychiatrist forgot to put in my regular refill for Xanax, WTF!  I panicked briefly then I put my big girl pants on and am back in a Breaking Bad situation with a drawer full of meds.  My friend was laughing at Teddy and me when I shared with her that I refused to share my prescription-only painkillers with him.  She felt that it was a perfect senior couple moment – she’s right!

 

From negativity to positivity

As my Nana would say, “You can almost see her breakfast…” Thank goodness for skorts on windy days.

This is my second draft of a post because the first was a tirade about the Dystopian nightmare that I feel I am living in.  I keep looking up to the skies for a plague of locusts or frogs to accompany the Pandemic and violence.  Ultimately, I decided that there was no point in adding my angry comments and opinion to the melee.  Instead I retreated to my containment pond where the water is full of ducklings from both the Muscovy and Whistling Ducks.

Muscovy Mama with her head in the pond and gorgeous ducklings (eight are still with us)

I have been sitting on the edge of the culvert, frightening the green heron because I walk so softly and delighting in nature.  The dragonflies, of every hue, come close to me and land on my head.  Teddy has counted over 30 species of dragonfly in that pond alone.  We watched their very active mating and then saw a female dip her tail, with the fertilized eggs in the pond.  By August, it feels like you are in fairyland with a rainbow of dragonflies fluttering around you.  They stick close to humans to catch the mosquitoes that bite us.

So far in 2020, Teddy has rescued a really large Turtle who was stranded upside down and yesterday I found a tiny little one, about 2 inches across, who was dropped by a predator in the grass.  I lifted him up and we were able to take a close look at his cute little face.  He was hot and bothered so I delicately popped him in the pond and off he swam having lost one of his nine lives (or whatever turtles have).  Today I stopped on the path as Mama Muscovy and her eight big babies walked up the bank and onto the grass for shade.  Mama kept on walking with a trail of ducklings waddling, with me at the tail end.  They have become used to my presence so know no fear.

The Whistling Ducks have tiny little spotted ducklings and they are a little more wary.  There are at least 8 pairs of ducks with a variety of little ones.  The ducks have a really cute squeak but I haven’t heard them whistling yet.  The frogs that bleat like sheep are back – and it is quite unnerving.  I keep looking for a flock of lambs to no avail.  There is a GIANT carcass of an Armadillo in the grass.  It is about the size of a large cat.  I guess it was run over and then the predators had some tasty lunch.

Whistling (squeaking) ducks – their babies are spotted!

I mentioned before that Muscovy Ducks are called Backyard Ducks in Mexico where they originate.  That means they are a tasty lunch in Mexico…  While I was sitting at the pond I spotted an older Mexican couple who were gardening at one of the houses.  They were taking quite an interest in all the ducks and I watched them with trepidation.  ‘You can’t eat these ones – they have names!!’  I was overreacting because they just wanted to ooh and aah over the ducklings like all of us.  In Baja, Teddy and I had the most delicious duck and pomegranate tacos but I didn’t name those ones…  What a hypocrite I am, especially since I have eaten many interesting animals in our travels across the world.  Alligator is chewy, BTW, as is camel.

As much as I still enjoy my pond and its critters, I realize that I live in an idyll far removed from many Americans.  In our township, you are not allowed to discharge a weapon for any reason, especially not to hunt.  There are no fireworks allowed at any time and a million other regulations.  As frustrating as our quarantine has been, I can only imagine what it is like in crowded public housing with no job to go to.

Great Heron walking in Pond Weeds

May we exit this pandemic in peace and live more equitably with compassion for every member of society.

All these photos are taken by the marvelously talented Teddy who has a new exhibit for his photography.

 

Yellow Pollen or Pandemic?

 

I watered the garden yesterday and this is the pollen that washed off the drive.  It is everywhere and each year the residents in our little forest cough profusely.  The yellow pollen is from the Pine trees but Oak pollen is around at the same time to add to our misery.  Tree pollen is larger than other types and tends to get stuck up your nose (on your clothes, hair, car…)

I washed the deck yesterday…

Once the news of Covid 19 reached us my OCD habits kicked in and I stocked up on reasonable amounts of disinfectant and cleaning products.  Over the last month or so, I have been really depressed and anxious.  I stopped all my work and volunteering which was unnecessary as for the foreseeable future, I will have no work as it relies on people traveling.  I laugh wryly.  Then I increased my anti-depressant and feel much better.  But I am stuck in the house with Teddy…  He had flu a couple of weeks ago or at least we think it was.  I disinfected every part of the house and really wanted to spray him in a light bleach solution but I know that is unreasonable (but I really wanted to).

The PERP

This morning I went to Kroger at 8 am and the locusts had descended.  I considered asking one woman why she needed to fill her WHOLE trolley with toilet tissue but thought better of it despite a devilish thought about how big her butt was.  Three hurricanes gives you plenty of experience of mentally unstable residents in supermarkets.  During Hurricane Ike we had fully armed officers in supermarkets to keep control – where are you when we need toilet tissue??

So, during this low period I have been hunkered down in the house, square eyed from watching too much TV, unable to write blogs and now I want to PLAY!!!  Talk about timing.  I am ready to go back to work, go for lunch or go on vacation. After the stressful supermarket expedition, I looked in the mirror and saw my gray roots.  My hairdresser cut my hair really short in case I couldn’t see her for a while.  Think GI Jane, except older.

Sally Beauty won’t be busy, I thought.  It was wonderfully quiet until a lady (with the same gray root situation as me) needed to look at Clairol hair colors.  We were being terribly polite and trying to keep our distance.  Then I felt a yellow pollen tickle and coughed – loudly.  Both of us looked at each other in horror and I shouted, “ALLERGIES!” and we burst out laughing.  Then we started talking about realities of catching COVID 19 and agreed that we could catch it anywhere.  Even in a beauty shop, because nobody wants to be in isolation with your gray roots showing. 👩‍🦳