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Some, I Assume

August 25, 2018

The first time I went to college, I studied horticulture. A bookish person, I wasn’t suited to it, because it involved physical effort. This explains why I can tell you the botanic names of herbaceous perennials, but my back yard is a barren wasteland.

Between my junior and senior years, I did an internship in a greenhouse in Carpinteria. They grew cut chrysanthemums for the wholesale market. I went to try to learn everything about growing flowers, and left at the end of the summer, having learned mostly that growing flowers was too hard.At the greenhouse

“It’s a perishable luxury item,” said one of the owners. “If you have a luxury item like Mercedes cars and you have an economic downturn, you still have cars. If you have a perishable necessity item like milk, people still need that. But flowers? They’re the first thing people cut out in tough times.”

It wasn’t just economically hard. It was physically brutal. I worked with a crew of about 20 guys and 3 women, all Mexicans. They worked 9 hours per day, 6 days per week. I worked 8 hours, 5 days. They planted and harvested all day long. I did it four or five hours per day. And I could not handle even that. I would go home at the end of the day, empty the dirt out of my pockets and ears, and lay on the floor, immobile, my back aching. Eventually I would work up enough energy to go take a shower and eat something.

I didn’t have kids. I didn’t have any other responsibilities. I had my mommy to make food for me. And even then, I couldn’t cope.

The greenhouses were hot, sweaty, dirty. Workers sprayed pesticide at one end while people worked at the other – the rule for many types of poison was that if it was dry, it was ok to go back and handle the plants. People got rashes. They got respiratory ailments. Who knows what long-term problems they got?

I started thinking about this experience today when I read about high-schoolers trying to pick strawberries. I tried to do farm work, and I failed.

Trump and his cronies are trying to force farm workers out of the country because they are “illegal.” My question is this: when they’re gone, who is going to pick our crops and raise and slaughter our food animals? I’m not arguing that we should keep exploiting undocumented farm workers. I’m saying that we either need serious immigration reform and/or we need to pay citizens enough so that they have an incentive to perform farm work. In either case, food is going to be a lot more expensive.

Until then, I give thanks for the many labors that bring me my food each day. I got a tiny sliver of experience doing ag work, and it gave me a lifetime of compassion.

 

 

 

 

Heads

June 3, 2018

The dog and I love this weedy field a couple blocks away. She loves it because it is a large space for her to run around and explore. I love it because it is fenced all the way around except for one gap, and because the dog gets to run around and get tired.

She was running and I was checking my phone and standing at the gap in the fence. I glanced up and she was eating something. In a weedy field? I don’t want to know. Probably either something gross, something dangerous, or both.

I tossed a rock in her direction. She was about 100 feet away, and I thought it would startle her away and stop her consuming something that was going to end us up at the vet.

I’m a bad shot. I regularly miss the trash can from 3 feet away. But that day was my 3-pointer at the buzzer moment. My friends, I bonked my dog on the head with a rock.

World’s worst dog mom. She yelped and came running toward me, scared out of her mind. She has a bruise under one eye visible through her white fur.

I will stop feeling bad about it someday.

Showtime

May 30, 2018

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Walking the dog this misty morning.

I see a person sitting in the picture window of a darling Spanish-style bungalow, enjoying coffee and pensively enjoying the view.

Dog immediately squats on their lawn and drops a giant steaming load.

Why, dog, why?

Why do dogs need an audience?

 

Photo copyright Sue Davis 2017

Pace Yourselves

May 27, 2018

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Many moons ago, when I was youngish and dumb, I got invited to go hiking with a group of eight people, seven of whom I did not know well.

We were driving about 90 minutes north to a wilderness area, where we were to park by a river, take a leisurely stroll up the banks, and then come to the major attraction, some slot canyons filled with water, where we could swim and clamber up small waterfalls and enjoy the warm afternoon.

At least that’s what they told me. In reality, the park had been closed off many miles from the river, so we had to hike in and up and up and then down and down into the river valley, THEN do the slot canyon swim/hike.

We parked our cars and took off, kind of fast. Faster than I was comfortable hiking, but damned if I was going to be the laggard. I moved my chunky short legs so fast that I was almost running. And they upped their pace. It happened over and over. We were flying along, up these dirt roads, faster and faster.

After our swim in the canyons, I was determined not to be the one who pooped out early, so I took off while they were still changing their clothes. I zoomed alone along the path, keeping a sharp ear for approaching footfalls.

Someone eventually caught me and we made good hiking partners. We got back to the cars just a little before the others.

Hot, sweaty, tired and starving, we stopped at a Mexican restaurant. Over our second beer, someone finally said “Why did we have to walk so fast?”

Someone else said “Why did YOU have to walk so fast? I was just trying to keep up with YOU. I didn’t want to walk that fast.”

It turns out no one had wanted to walk that fast, but we were all too intimidated to say “Hey, can we slow down?” No one wanted to be the weakest link.

You can draw your own life lesson from this one.

 

Photo copyright: Sue Davis

Up n At ‘Em

May 23, 2018

Conversation with my doc during my annual physical, as I got ready for my Pap smear. She is a treat.

Doc: And I see you got your colonoscopy?
Suebob: Yes, I stayed awake
Doc: WHY? OMG WHY?
Suebob: It was entertaining. I got to see my shiny colon. I expected it to look horrible and it was all pink and clean
Doc: Well, of course it was, considering the prep they do. I never wanted to see mine. I saw enough in medical school. It was like when I had my kids. I said “No, don’t show me. Just get them out and clean them up.”
Suebob: I was kind of afraid of the colonoscopy
Doc: Yeah, people generally are
Suebob: Well, I assumed that…you know the position for the Pap smear? I thought it was going to be like that, but with your buns up and everyone looking at you…
Doc, laughing: Oh, no, no, they put you on your side, right?
Suebob: Yes, and I was all covered up. It was very discreet
Doc: They don’t even have to look to insert the scope, they do it so often. But back in school, we did rectal exams like that for prostate cancer
Suebob: What?
Doc: Well, this was training, and they were volunteers. We would come in and there would be a whole room with men lined up on both sides with their butts up in the air…
Suebob: [Shrieking]
Doc: I know. At least they got paid for it.
Suebob: And at least it was before social media.

Perfect Stillness

May 20, 2018

I began meditating in earnest in January. I committed myself to half an hour per day for 40 days, and I did that thing. Even on days when I had no time. Even when I didn’t want to. Even when I really, really didn’t want to, I still did it.

Here’s how I meditate: I just sit there. I begin by saying “Quiet the body, quiet the mind,” but that’s it. Then I just sit there and breathe and come back to breathing instead of everything else and then do that 1,000 more times, then the timer goes off.

I keep hearing about fancy meditation things – bells and candles and prayer beads and guided meditations and such.

One day, an ad for a free meditation app popped up in my Facebook feed, so I downloaded it. There were a handful of free guided meditations and videos about meditating on it, then everything else you had to pay for. Typical.

I listened to a 5-minute guided meditation, which was actually kind of nice. Then I started my regular practice of just sitting there.

BOING went my phone. BOING. BOING. I had forgotten to silence the thing.

I looked at it. There were a series of texts.

“Hi, Suebob!”
“This is Chad from The Annoying Meditation App!”
(Why all the exclamation points, Chad? I thought we were supposed to be calming down here!!!)
“I just wanted to know if you need any help getting started with meditation!”
(Yes, Chad, the help I need is for you to quit texting me.)

I deleted the app and went back to just sitting there.

Ah, much better.

Chi and Me

May 13, 2018

I have taken Tai Chi a couple times, once from a good teacher and once from a bad one. Tai Chi Chuan is a series of 108 movements meant to exercise the body, calm the mind and improve the flow of vital energy – chi.

In the search for a new, good teacher, I went to a Tai Chi class at my favorite yoga studio. I found it wasn’t the Chinese practice, but a shorter, American version that was created as warm-up exercises for the longer form. The short form, Tai Chi Chih, took on a life of its own.

Halfway through the first class, I knew this was My New Thing. I felt like I was born to do this. I left class so happy and with so much energy that it was almost like not being me at all.

That was three weeks ago and now I have taken classes from three different teachers, including a class at park on Saturday morning at 8:30 in a neighboring town, which meant I had to get up at 6 to have breakfast, walk the dog and drive over there.

During the third class I took, someting remarkable happened. I felt the chi. Not as an imagined thing. As a real force. The chi is not some woo-woo thing. It exists just like my hand exists and my pants exist.

I was doing the closing movement (each exercise has the same closing movement) and suddenly my left hand felt it. I don’t know what I did, but my teacher instantly knew I felt it.

She said “I spend years teaching people to try to feel that.”

I know I’m going to teach this class someday. Mark my words.

In case you’re curious, here’s the founder doing the opening warm-up.

Mansplaining

May 12, 2018

Back story: I answer my phone with my name because my phone number once belonged to Jim Schwartz, a guy who does some kind of financial thingy. For the first year I had the phone number, I got at least a dozen calls per week for Jim.

After blocking hundreds of numbers and explaining the finer points of the Telecommunications Privacy Act to a bunch of people (“It doesn’t matter if you are a vendor. You STILL need to comply!”), I’m down to about one call per week for Jim, but I still answer the phone that way for unknown numbers just in case.

Today the phone rang.

Suebob: Hi, this is Sue Davis.
Unknown dude: Nuh uh
Suebob: Pardon? THIS IS SUE DAVIS.
Dude: Silence.
Suebob: Silence.
Dude: HELLO?
Suebob: Yes?
Dude: Davis???? Where’s Michelle?
Suebob: You have the wrong number.
This is the part I love.
Dude: No, I doubt it.
Suebob: Yes, goodbye.

Reader, he waited about 15 minutes and called BACK.

To give the callers for Jim Schwartz credit, once I explained that I was not Jim Schwartz, none of them ever said “No, I doubt it.”

Girl Problems

May 5, 2018

So remember my last post when I talked about mom having a crush on a guy at her home? A much younger guy?

Well, now there’s intrigue. When I visited Thursday, she told me that “that young one” (another lady at the home, Laurene, who is in her 70s — so a young floozy) and her guy are flirting with each other.

Mom made a little face where she pursed her lips and waggled her head disapprovingly. She thinks Ron and Laurene are into each other. Both are married. Laurene’s devoted husband visits almost daily. Ron is just charming to every person he speaks to.

It’s an unvarnished look at how we make up stories in our heads. This isn’t real. Mom’s age, cognitive and memory issues make it obvious.

But how much of my life is exactly like this? Most of it, probably. The filters in my brain create the world I see – whether people are kind or mean or helpful or stupid.

I think this is the reality behind what trite books like “The Secret” are trying to get at when they say “You create your reality.”

It’s not that thinking about a red bicycle will make a red bicycle appear on your porch, and that thinking about cancer will give you cancer.

It’s that you can look at every situation and every person in a multitude of ways, and those perceptions are up to you. You may wake up and say “This is not my beautiful house. This is not my beautiful wife,” like the Talking Heads song says. Or you may wake up and say “This life is so amazing and beautiful and I love my home and my wife.”

I often look at the world, especially when it seems ugly, and think “Wow, all of this is a product of choices.”

Now I’m thinking that even my choice to see it as ugly is the more important choice. What’s out there? It depends on what is inside.

Blast from the Past

April 30, 2018

My mom’s old helper, whom I will call Anita, called tonight.

This was remarkable because Anita left about 3 years ago for an 8-week temp job in another state and had never returned.

Despite the fact that she and my mother were very close – she often told me how much she loved my mom, and they spent their time together yakking and laughing like schoolgirls – Anita never called. Never sent a postcard. Nothing. Mom was heartbroken.

I texted her. I called and left voice messages. I sent Facebook messages. I begged. I told her how mom asked about her every day, how sad Mom was, how she asked “What have I done to make her hate me?”

Nothing. Not a word.

Mom’s helper after Anita was Anita’s niece.

So when the phone rang at mom’s and I didn’t recognize the number, I expected a telemarketer. I answered tentatively.

When I realized who it was, I put her on speaker and handed the phone to mom. “Hi gorgeous!” Anita said. “It’s me, Anita!”

“Who?” Mom said.

Anita tried to explain who she was. Mom didn’t remember.

“Did you come in the afternoons? Rose, is that you?”

“No, it’s Anita, Anita, remember?”

“I’m sorry, honey, there were a lot of people and I’m sure you were one of them, but I just don’t know.”

When I took the phone back from mom and walked out into the hall, Anita was sobbing.

“I love her so much and she doesn’t remember me!” Anita said. She was bawling hard.

“Well, she’s having a hard day, and her memory isn’t what it used to be,” I said, holding myself back.

“I was gone and then I lost her number…” she cried.

She lost her number. Her NIECE was mom’s caretaker.

“Ok, then, goodbye,” I said. I was short with her because that was the best I could do.

I thought about yelling at her, telling her how much she hurt mom. But she knows. What good would it do? I hope never to see her again.

I’m just writing this down to remind myself of this lesson. Make the phone calls. Write the letters. Stop by and visit. Sooner than later. Sooner than too late.

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