Kate's Queen City Notes

Blundering through Cincinnati, laughing all the way


2 Comments

Planting Grass

There’s nothing that’s surprised me more as a home owner than that planting and nurturing a good lawn is very difficult. And by difficult I mean labor intensive, requiring lots of heavy equipment, and expensive. Have any of you looked at the price of grass seed?

From a person with a lawn that is mostly weed, let me assure you this stuff does not just take care of itself, as I naively assumed. There’s aeration. There’s fertilizer. There’s dethatching. And you can either break your back doing these activities on a large yard, or you can rent or buy large equipment that most likely has a gas engine which will need maintenance every year to do it.

About half of our three quarter acre yard was Honeysuckle and Rose of Sharon with a strong infestation of poison ivy. It’s been a slow process to attack it. We’ve probably cleared and reseeded lawn over about half of it. I am currently working a patch that’s getting toward the end of the hack all the roots out with a mattock phase and moving into leveling the ground to start seed sowing and fertilizing phase.

I will never look at a wrecked lawn full of invasive vigorous species in the same way again. If and when we buy another house, if we find something similar to what we had here? Unless I have 30 grand to throw at landscapers, I am saying no thank you.


Leave a comment

The Gym

The gym is a cess pool of germs. I thought this about it prior to the pandemic. I accepted it because working out is how I manage my depression and anxiety.

Gyms were closed here in Ohio for months, and I was reluctant to go back, but I was also suffering with having my primary coping mechanism off the table. But I did go back. Generally speaking, I think my gym is doing things as safely as possible, but I still believe it’s a very high risk activity just by its very nature. You have a bunch of strangers huffing and puffing in a building with unknown ventilation. I just don’t think that we are always six feet apart really mitigates the risk very much.

I tried to purchase some equipment to workout at home, but the pandemic had many people doing exactly the same thing. In March, gym equipment prices inflated by two, three, and four hundred percent. And because that really pissed me off, I have stubbornly refused to pay those sorts of prices. As a result my collection of equipment has been slow, but steady.

Between adjustable kettlebells, adjustable dumbbells and an olympic bar to connect them, an adjustable bench, a pull up bar, and some resistance bands my weight training should be taken care of. For my cardio, I am picking up a recumbent bike. Now, I just need to finish cleaning up the basement to make my home gym comfortable.

On one hand I am excited to put my own TV and Roku down there. That will be the first time I have ever controlled the TV at the gym! No more FoxNews for me. On the other, I am wondering if I will miss the ad hoc interactions I would have there.


2 Comments

The Rule Of Covers

I have a rule about covers. There is an inverse relationship between the song and covers on my continuum of love to hate. The more I love the original the more likely I am to hate the cover.

Here’s some examples that prove the rule. “Lovesong” by the Cure is perfect. Literally every cover of it makes me angry, especially the 911 cover. Adele’s and Death Cab for Cutie’s are not as rage-inducing but when they come on I would just rather hear The Cure. “Jolene” is a hell of a song, and although most of the covers of it don’t enrage me, nothing will unseat Dolly’s version in my mind. I’m not even going say how I feel about Sheryl Crow’s cover of “Sweet Child O’Mine”.

But there are exceptions to this rule. I love Leonard Cohen and I love “Hallelujah”, but I love equally Jeff Buckley’s cover. I loved NIN’s “Hurt”, but I also love Johnny Cash’s cover. Honestly that cover made so much sense it seemed like destiny. When Tori Amos covered “Smells Like Teen Spirit” it was a shock, but it totally works. I wasn’t a huge Nirvana fan, so I wouldn’t say I loved the original but I liked it. If you had told me Tori covered it, I would have fully expected to not enjoy it. But it’s great.

I’ve been thinking about why the exceptions work. I think there’s a number of ways a cover can go right. If the artist makes the song their own. Or if the spirit of the song seems in harmony with the vibe of the artist. I think that’s why Orgy’s cover of “Blue Monday” works for me, it seems totally plausible that 90’s industrial would inherit New Order. I’m not sure why Jeff Beck’s cover works. Maybe his works because Jeff Beck? I’m just going to go with that.


2 Comments

Becoming Now

I started meditating regularly about 5 years ago. Although it’s difficult to draw a straight line between developing this daily habit and my behavior, I am going to try. Periodically I like to reassess my commitments and whether or not they are beneficial.

Meditation has made me more aware of my emotions. Awareness allows me to take proactive steps to emotionally regulate myself. It allows me to use good judgement about when to embark on a difficult conversation, and when to give myself a break.

It has given me precious seconds between an emotionally triggering event and my response. These seconds allow me to choose my response rather than just mindlessly reacting. They give me just enough time to consider the value of escalating vs de-escalating a conflict. Spoiler alert: de-escalating is almost always the more valuable decision.

Finally, I think it’s given me headspace to relish simple pleasures. I’m loving watching the sun come up with a coffee lately. I really enjoyed watching our plants mature and fruit this spring and summer. I even enjoyed watching the the rabbits devour some of our plants.

Mediation has both been a habit of mental hygiene and spiritual growth for me. But anyone can get the benefits I’ve just listed if they just pursue it from a spiritually neutral perspective. There a lots of great app to help people new to the practice get started.

I’ve used Headspace for years, and find it to be spiritually neutral and has plenty of content for beginners and intermediate mediators. I just started checking Calm out, and that too seems to be spiritually neutral and has loads of content for beginners. Give it a try. You have nothing to lose.


Leave a comment

5 Songs That Transport

Scents and songs can transport me to another time and place. There are a few songs that put me in the back seat of a car bare legs sticking to hot vinyl and steamy wind coming through the open windows. I am just right back to my experiences as a child. I thought I would collect a few of them here.

Laws. This is some 80’s-tastic stuff right here.
To this day I love to hear this song in the car.
Man is this song still super relevant. And. Painfully so.
Tina Turner was at the height of her pop hit powers in my musical formative years of 1982 to 1988, and it was difficult to choose between this and WE DON’T NEED ANOTHER HERO.
This video captivated my imagination. I’m pretty sure this instigated my love of urban environments.


Leave a comment

Wildlife

I’ve been meditating at sunrise every day for the last few months. It’s a really nurturing experience that I highly suggest. This morning I learned that the squirrels are extremely active at that time of day.

I am hoping to get my bribe set-up for them next week. I have the crook for the bird feeder. I just need to put it out and buy a feeder. What would be a very silly turn of events is if the squirrels cannot get after it. We’ll see shortly.

In other wild animal news, Jeannine and I heard at least three red-tailed hawks calling to each other several days ago. I suspected there must be more than one, but I’ve only seen one at a time since moving in here. It was the first moment my inclination was confirmed.

I got to watch one in our back yard this past winter, and grabbed a few not so great shots of it.


1 Comment

On Grief – An Antidote

I left off yesterday with no real answer to our grief apart from being more kind to yourself and others. At my last shift at Ohio Allycat Resrouce I was reminded how good it feels to be of service to someone. It came to me while I was cleaning cat runny cat poop out of one of the play pens there.

OAR has a kitten who doesn’t have use of her back legs. She’s all black, and her name is Maeve. It was my job to tend to her on this last shift, and it was a bit of an undertaking.

Maeve wears diapers because she cannot really use a litter box as she esstentially drags her back end around behind her by her front legs. She cannot really get into and litter box, and more to the point the contents of the litter box comes out with her should she even manager to put herself there. So she wears preemie diapers.

I found her this morning with an overflowing diaper that leaked on almost everything in her playpen. I scrubbed down her playpen and switched out all her soiled blankets and fuzzy toys. I freshened her water and gave her some food. I cradled Maeve in my lap while one of the other voluteers helped me remove her poop-loaded diaper, and we kneeled there carefully cleaning her up. That sweet girl just purred and purred while we were getting her all fresh. She was so patient with us while we struggled to get her fresh diaper on.

Eventually we managed it, but not without me getting poo on my shorts. That sweet little girl just happily purred for the entire ordeal, and I gave her plenty of cheek and neck scratches to make up for it. I put her down on a nice fluffy blanket and went on to the next cleaning task.

I checked in on her before I left, and found her curled up on the fluffy blanket sound asleep. I didn’t even care that I had shit on my pants. I just felt so happy to give that sweet little girl some comfort.

Sometimes the best we can do for ourselves is to find someone or something else to help. For a minute, I forgot about our current darkness. I was just listening to a kitten purr and getting her clean and making her space nice. And everything was good just for those moments, cat shit on my pants and all.


1 Comment

On Grief

This time is difficult. There’s a tremendous amount of conflict, a tremendous amount of change, and a tremendous about of grief. Any one of those things would be difficult for Americans to navigate, but we are swimming in a soup of all three.

Americans are emotionally fragile. We don’t even have much language to describe the process of learning emotional skills and practicing them. We’ve allowed our public/cultural conversation to center completely on topics that serve capitalism, so if parents aren’t emotionally mature and modeling good emotional hygiene, their children are left to either gleen from the culture or their classrooms how to manage their feelings.

I think that’s part of why America has such high rates of addiction. Most of us are profoundly broken, and we have no obvious way to healing and growth. There’s resources, but they require people to search for them. Mental health services have skimpy coverage in most healthcare plans, assuming someone has coverage, which is not a solid assumption.

So here we are in a time that requires Olympic level emotional skills. And we have none. Conflict and change are tough, but most of us have regular experience with them. Grief happens less frequently and is a master without mercy.

When my dad died I spent at least a week sleepwalking through life. His funeral and calling hours are a blur. It took a few weeks for me to start feeling more present in my day to day.

Once that phase passed, I entered into periods of feeling normal punctuated by moments of feeling extreme loss. Maybe I would make it a few days without a bitter cry. Maybe I would make it a couple weeks. That seemed to last six months.

Now I have a crying session once or twice a year. I ran across I voicemail from my dad unexpectedly a few months ago. I heard it, and grief descended upon me feeling just as fresh and raw as the day he died. I suspect this is my new normal. Everything is fine. Everything is fine. INTENSE GRIEF!! Everything is fine. Everything is fine.

Grief feels so different from enduring conflict and change because it seems untethered to time and the range of emotions it elicits are unpredictable. Conflict and change often follow a predictable story arc, and the emotions they elicit follow more closely to a dependable script. Grief masquerades as other things, making it hard to identify. Sometimes it manifests as fatigue. Sometimes it manifests as a low-level feeling of fragility. Sometimes it shows itself as your short temper.

We are in a moment to grieve so much. I personally grieve for the country I thought I lived in. I grieve for the nearly 200,000 people who have died due to COVID-19. I grieve for the sickness and dysfunction in our culture. I grieve for my fellow Americans who are lost in rage. These loses feel as big as the ocean.

There is no happy wrap up to this post. The reasons for grieving are real. I am trying to be generous with myself, and accept that my emotions are volatile right now. I am trying to extend this kindness to others. We are all struggling, and we are all vulnerable to taking these emotions out on others who do not deserve it. Be kind. First to yourself. Then to others.


Leave a comment

Morning Ritual

After some weeks of feeling unhappy with my social media experience, I decided to change what I do in the first 60 minutes out of bed. Social media seems to leave me feeling more anxious and some times angry, and rarely does it tell me anything I couldn’t have gotten of a news site like NYTimes.com. It had been my custom to enjoy 2 cups of coffee while messing with my phone.

I decided my new ritual would be to meditate for 10 minutes, then use Duolingo to do a couple Spanish and Norwegian lessons for about 20 minutes. The remaining 30 minutes has sifted back and forth between writing and doing the New York Times crosswords puzzles. I am still trying different things with the remaining 30 minutes. I will likely settle on writing of some sort. I think I write with more clarity in the morning.

I’ve cut social media out of my mornings entirely for about a week now. I feel better. My days start off much nicer with meditation and language study rather than anxiety, existential dread, and anger.

It feels difficult to put down the social media even while I can see it doesn’t make me happy. Part of it is this COVID situation. I don’t get the chance to see others as often as I’d like, and I feel like Facebook keeps me connected. But connected to what exactly? The answer I want to put here is people, but that’s not true.

I’m sure it’s possible to use social media and not have it become habit forming. I’m just not that sort of person though. So, I need to be thoughtful at every juncture about what that time can and cannot do for me. And the last week has shown me that it cannot start my day off well.


Leave a comment

In Praise Of The 70’s

I started taking drum lessons about 4 years ago. I grew up playing piano, and took up guitar at 18, so playing music wasn’t unfamiliar to me. At the time, I was primarily listening to contemporary indie rock. I liked bands like Death Cab For Cutie, Interpol, Phoenix, Tame Impala, The Decemberists, and Muse.

I don’t fully understand the ways in which playing drums has changed me as a listener, but change has certainly happened. In the last five years, I have shifted away from recent indie releases and toward 70’s and 80’s pop and rock. I’ve always loved 80’s music for nostalgic reasons. But until the last 5 years, I’ve had little to no use for anything in the 70’s not related to early New Wave or Disco.

But here I am thrilled to listen to Fleetwood Mac, Three Dog Night, and even bombastic rock anthems from The Who and Queen. And I simply don’t know what to make of it. I am a little ashamed to admit how deeply music has been intertwined with my sense of identity. And losing my interest in indie rock feels a like losing a part of myself.

Perhaps I should consider this an opening. By losing this aspect of my identity I am freeing myself from obligatory listening and more free to just follow my ears. Perhaps the appropriate response is to acknowledge the sense of loss, but with the knowledge that it clears the path for something new.