One Planet, One Experiment

21 Aug

I just finished a remarkably good book, Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything. It is a book that is going to stick with me a long time and continually keep me thinking. It changed my world-view. There was so much provocative information that he shared that I’m sure I will need to read it several more times.

The book seemingly got more intriguing and expansive the smaller he focused, when he was talking about living cells and how crazy lucky it is to be “alive,” and how reckless humans are in taking care of what we are surrounded with (including ourselves, which he didn’t talk about but my mind immediately went there). His last page really hit home.

“I mention all this to make the point that if you were designing an organism to look after life in our lonely cosmos, to monitor where it is going and keep a record of where it has been, you wouldn’t choose human beings for the job.

But here’s an extremely salient point: we have been chosen, by fate or Providence or whatever you wish to call it. As far as we can tell, we are the best there is. We may be all there is. It’s an unnerving thought that we may be the living universe’s supreme achievement and its worst nightmare simultaneously.

Because we are so remarkably careless about looking after things, both when alive and when not, we have no idea – really none at all – about how many things have died off permanently, or may soon, or may never, and what role we have played in any part of the process….

The fact is, we don’t know [about extinction figures]. Don’t have any idea. We don’t know when we started doing many of the things we’ve done. We don’t know what we are doing right now or how our present actions will affect the future. What we do know is that there is only one planet to do it on, and only one species of being capable of making a considered difference. Edward O. Wilson expressed it with unimprovable brevity in The Diversity of Life: ‘One planet, one experiment.’

If this book has a lesson, it is that we are awfully lucky to be here – and by ‘we’ I mean every living thing. To attain any kind of life in this universe of ours appears to be quite an achievement. As humans we are doubly lucky, of course: We enjoy not only the privilege of existence but also the singular ability to appreciate it and even, in a multitude of ways, to make it better: It is a talent we have only barely begun to grasp.

We have arrived at this position of eminence in a stunningly short time. Behaviorally modern human beings – that is, people who can speak and make art and organize complex activities – have existed for only about 0.0001 percent of Earth’s history. But surviving for even that little while has required a nearly endless string of good fortune.

We really are at the beginning of it all. The trick, of course, is to make sure we never find the end. And that, almost certainly, will require a good deal more than lucky breaks” (477-8).

The book reinforced my theory of humans being just another “germ” on planet earth, just easier to see than, say, the invisible bacteria that exists in multitudes everywhere (which Bryson does talk about). The question is, are we going to be a cognizant, helpful type of invasion, or will the earth eventually kill us off in favor of other species?

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Barn Raisin’, not Barn Burnin’

16 Aug

From the moment we talked to Walt about moving from our old house, we made it clear that he would get a play set for his new yard. We wanted him to feel excited about this big change, and half the point of moving was to get more outdoor space to play in. When he spoke of his play set, he always made it clear that he wanted Pop, Mimi, Nini, Tashi, and Grandpa to come help us build it. And that’s exactly what he got!

A week before his 4th birthday, we had a good ol’ fashioned barn raising, complete with pizza dinner — just like in the olden days.

IMG_20160814_131121786And so it begins. It was a lot more not-put-together than I thought it was going to be. For example, the slide was just a long piece of plastic. Oh yeah, and there were a zillion wood pieces covering our yard.

IMG_20160814_133222308_HDRDuggy monitoring progress. He really enjoyed being outdoors All. Day. Long.

IMG_20160814_161037382When David saw Pop show up (his key partner in getting this thing built — I was in charge of water refills and picture-taking), his words were “Oh thank God.”

IMG_20160814_145112282_HDRMore helpers! Our picnic table was covered in hardware as well.

IMG_20160814_162422596The instruction booklet contained 20,000 pages. Luckily W’s cousin Ward showed up to help play.

Mimi shows the boys how to train for Olympic track meets. There was a lot of time for running around.

IMG_20160814_165324821Getting closer! We’re starting to see some structure!

IMG_20160814_165507259_HDRIt was a beautiful but hot day, even with the clouds and breezes helping us out.

IMG_20160814_202455511And it only took 7 1/2 hours!

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A happy boy’s inaugural slide ride! A fine end to a wonderful day spent with family. Couldn’t have done it without them!

What do you mean summer is over?

13 Aug

It’s still hot as the dickens out there. It’s only mid August. I’m just getting into the summer swing of things… and yet school has started all over Atlanta and apparently summer is over? I’m not ready! I thought summer was at least supposed to be three months long!

Luckily we decided to homeschool Walter this year, so we can really do whatever we want. Since we moved and many of his friends just posted their “back-to-school” photos, it’s a new ballgame (thank goodness baseball isn’t over yet). We’ve got to find a new groove. I signed us up for Atlanta History Center’s first Homeschool Day of the year on Monday in hopes of not just learning a bit about Georgia’s history, but finding some new friends we can play with during the week and who can teach us a bit more about what homeschool looks like in GA.

Meanwhile, we have lots of fun on our own and with the friends that aren’t quite school age yet or are not in daycare. Despite the hole in W’s tongue, this week we went to LegoLand, swimming at Mimi and Pops, and on two big hikes.

IMG_20160810_144304466This kid was so happy and excited to be at Legoland, it really warmed my mommy heart.

IMG_20160812_140654603We finally tried out Lullwater Park and after getting lost for a bit in very hot weather, we found the waterfall. We took off our shoes to climb around in the water but I was a bit dismayed at all the broken beer bottle glass Emory students leave behind.

IMG_20160813_125431888Sope Creek, my new favorite place in Atlanta, especially since we’ve gotten the hiking bug. There were several other people there swimming and playing in the creek, and some guys had trapped a bright orange snake under some rocks. David freed him even though we couldn’t figure out if he was poisonous or not. And then we left!

IMG_20160813_134332750After a short hike to the creek, the Paper Mill ruins are quite a climb but so cool to explore. If you know to avoid the poison ivy, which is everywhere.

IMG_20160813_134523670_HDRSo. Much. Love

A mostly DIY bathroom remodel

10 Aug

This is our “master bath,” but as I like to say, this house is much more humble than our other home. So it’s really just “the bathroom we all mostly use,” and it was a disaster until this weekend. Very narrow, and the pink tile was disgusting to me, not because of the color necessarily, but the grout was old and gross. I don’t really feel clean when I can literally see the dirt other people have left behind while I’m taking a shower.

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In this photo we had already removed the shiny, floral wallpaper, the lacy curtains, and replaced the counter.

I wish we could totally renovate and blow out the bathroom to make it more spacious, however, we are the type of people with a budget. A budget that was mostly spent on a brand new kitchen, floors, and a gorgeous fence around our wonderful land when we renovated before we moved in.

I am, though, particularly proud of what we were able to do to the space.

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We got the tile painted by Georgia Tub and Tile. They use a special epoxy paint, and it turns grungy tile into amazing white tile that you can’t tell wasn’t put in that way. Freedom from grime at a fraction of the price! The company was great to work with and they guarantee their work for three years, so I expect we won’t have to worry about it for probably something like five+ years.

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A little bit of elbow grease, paint, and some new fixtures, and I love the ambiance in here. It’s now fit for a relaxing bath!

(Don’t) Bite your tongue! Walt’s first Urgent Care visit

9 Aug

Sunday night we were almost about to leave for dinner, and I mean mere seconds from wrapping up our obstacle course playing on the couch and heading out the door, when Walter fell head first into our (luckily soft) ottoman and nearly bit through his tongue. There was a loud thud, crying, and a lot of blood, and I immediately took him in to the bathroom for his father to help me examine him. It took us a minute to locate the source of the bleeding, and seeing the giant gaping wound in his tongue, there was no choice but to get in the car and head to the nearest urgent care.

I have nothing but good things to say about the WellStar Urgent Care on Roswell Road in East Cobb. The staff, nurses, and doctor were all amazing. They checked him out immediately to see if we needed to head to the hospital, then saw us quickly after we registered to check him out further. The amazing thing about even fairly severe tongue injuries is that they are rarely sewn up, especially in young kids, and usually the biggest thing you have to worry about is infection — and of course the soreness of the healing tongue. They gave us an antibiotic prescription, and upon hearing that he refuses to take the white liquid medicine, worked especially to find a pharmacy near us that sold chewable antibiotics (which is not as common). We were sent home with instructions to go to Scottish Rite if the bleeding didn’t stop in a couple hours. They would need to sedate him and give him a couple stitches if that was the case.

Our poor kid was calm by this point but I think in a state of tired delirium from all the crying and pain. So was I. I felt so helpless that I didn’t stop the injury from happening and scared that recovery was going to be awful. We spent the rest of the night replacing the gauze in his mouth that was saturated with blood and saliva and watched TV — the greatest remedy for all ailments! We tried to get him to eat ice cream (doctor recommended) or some Tylenol, which he refused. Eventually he passed out and held that last piece of gauze in his mouth until morning, when he came into our room and I pulled it out and he spent several minutes dry heaving. I thought he would vomit from the blood and saliva consumption and the fact that he hadn’t eaten since lunch the previous day. But he didn’t, thank goodness, and after a few more TV shows — I would have fed him ice cream and let him watch TV for a week — he was already bouncing back.

He was hungry — soft foods only — and eventually got tired of TV and wanted to play. Even though the wound was still open, he said it didn’t hurt anymore. How was that possible? If I had that wound I would be on a morphine drip! But his spirits were happy and he spent a good portion of the day talking (with a lisp) about the hole and all the blood the ottoman made in his mouth and asking if we remembered him going to the hospital where the doctor looked at his tongue. And he kept sticking his tongue out to show us the “lid” on the hole! Dave had thankfully stayed home from work to help me, not knowing what the day after would look like. Even though it was surprisingly good on Walter’s part, I was emotionally very fragile and very glad for the support.

It’s not the worst thing that’s ever happened to a kid, but when it’s your kid, the baby you love more than anything else in the world, when they are in pain, it is searingly bad.

Onwards and upwards, to see what the next day will bring!

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Cuddling with my very strong and brave little boy, as he napped 24 hours after the incident.

 

Taking another graceful step into my 30s

26 Jul

When I have little or no expectations, I generally find that my experiences are usually that much better overall. In terms of my birthday, I always love it and feel like it should be a special day, but I still don’t try to put too much emphasis on it or I can easily let myself down. This birthday was one of the best.

We had a relaxing but productive weekend where Dave and his dad worked on a large home project of mine (moving the washer/dryer out of our unfinished basement), and I did work too while Walter designed with “modeling play” and drew pictures. He’s getting ever more creative and inventive with art and building toys like magnatiles.

Sunday we did a few more chores and met my parents for a quiet but lovely birthday dinner at Hearth, which happens to make the best pizza in Atlanta. Yum.

IMG_20160724_185827494He loves his Nini and Grandpa!

On the way home David pulled off into the Sope Creek parking lot, and we took an impromptu dusk-time hike to the creek. Even in flip-flops it was a nice walk to a pretty creek, and being able to be closer to nature is one of the reasons I love living a bit more out of the city. I definitely want to take Walter back there as soon as I can.

IMG_20160724_201925916Perfect way to end 31.

Monday, my actual birthday, was tubing day! I’ve been tubing down the Cartecay River with friends every year on or around my birthday for 12 years in a row now. It’s amazing to have seen the changes over the past decade, when the river drop in was barely attended by a tubing guy, to last year, when it was so crowded we had to park in an additional field and were constantly surrounded by other tubing enthusiasts. So I decided that from now on, due to the popularity that I suppose will be ever increasing, we will tube on weekdays. In college it wasn’t difficult to get friends up to Ellijay on whatever day I chose, but we might have to plan more in advance from now on, since as adults we usually do the adult thing of 9-5. There were still a few people on the river, but it wasn’t crowded, and it really is the perfect way to recharge for the upcoming year. Nothing but water and trees and sky.

IMG_20160725_181640A picture taken in the same spot every year. We had a blast just the three of us, but the Cartecay is so wonderful, we love bringing as many friends to experience it as we can. And soon Walter can join us too!

This morning I woke up to easily find a long gray hair among my locks… beautiful sight! Thanks for the birthday present, universe. But honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Summer Shenanigans

14 Jul

We’ve been having some fun this summer! It’s all Walter, all the time… as it should be!

IMG_20160618_181933Walter’s first movie theatre experience: Finding Dory. He liked it so much he says he wants to go see it every day. He’s not one for moderation yet.

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Learning to throw water balloons with daddy in our new backyard. I love that you can’t see any other houses in this photo.

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Lunch dates with mommy and the chips of course. Don’t be fooled, they tasted stale.

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Doing art projects like learning to work with “paper ma-clay”.

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Enjoying the new exhibits at the Atlanta History Center, especially the architectural model of Atlanta. He wants to build an exact replica at home.

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July 4th sparklers! Our neighbors were shooting rockets off all night. Definitely going to join them next year.

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Getting our swimming legs at a neighborhood pool with friends!

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Having a great time with cousins visiting from Miami! I had to bribe him with M&Ms to get him to sit down for the picture.

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This picture makes me laugh because he had a blast at the Botanical Gardens, especially going through the scary jungles with Nini.

Thinking about Brexit, and Happy Independence Day, btw

4 Jul

Because I’ve deleted all news apps from my phone, have no cable, and rarely search out the news, I had no idea what was going in Britain until my Facebook newsfeed popped up with all sorts of Brexit and I can’t believe the vote passed memes.

What I find interesting as I reflect upon the anniversary of our Independence Day, is how many of my FB friends were against Brexit.

They want their independence, y’all. Their freedom!

Isn’t that what we want most here in the United States after all? What we fought a war over?

And here the EU and GB get to part ways (for whatever their reasons) without the bloodshed of war, and y’all decry their right to do that? There is talk of overturning the vote, that somehow it didn’t count? Well guess what, that is democracy. And when you take away the power of the vote, things get tricky and usually pretty bad.

It’s reasonable to be scared of change (folks who regret their “Leave” vote and Americans worried about the economic impact), but there are people much older than you, who want change, who are sick of being told by other countries what to do with their land and money.

The world has enough strife. Let’s accept and support our brothers and sisters in their quest for Independence, just like we celebrate and support ours every year.

Cheers, folks, and don’t get blown up by fireworks today.

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Photo taken from Atlanta History Center’s FB page. Photograph ca. 1955

Audible Love

23 Apr

I am in love. I have always been an avid reader, but Audible has allowed me to take it to a new level. Now I can read while I am doing other things. Not only that, but it has replaced my need for performances from TV to books (not completely! I’m not a learning robot!). I can’t remember the last time I opened the Netflix app on my phone.

Nowadays I generally have two book club books, a personal fiction, and at least one fiction and non-fiction audio books going at the same time. Because of this, I have already read 20 books in 2016! I feel smart.

Here are some of my favorites so far:

yellow

Oh my gosh this book was so good. I was distraught when it ended, which was very soon because I listened to all 8+ hours in two days. The narrator was amazing. I will be seeking out more of her reads.

martian
Our first audiobook on Audible. It was a great story, and it was a good first one because I have a feeling that I liked the book more as an audiobook than I would have reading it on paper. It also introduced me and my husband to listening to books together while doing puzzles.

nightingale
I would not have gotten all the painting done to sell our house if I hadn’t gotten addicted to listening to this book and finished it in a weekend. Her other books aren’t that good, but this one is a winner.

summer
Bill Bryson. What more needs to be said? He is an amazing author, and I love that he narrates his own books. He makes history read like fiction. And his comedy makes the tragedies easier to bear. Plus who doesn’t love a playful English accent?

A Bit Untethered, but Happy and Excited

22 Apr

While living in the gloriously big house that Walter now doesn’t want to leave with my awesome, frequently jet-setting in-laws has been fantastic, it’s not easy for me to not have my home base. When I want to settle down or escape, I don’t really have anywhere to go that is mine, except maybe my car. I was even having difficulties living in the small room with our cat, who I am allergic to — long story –, until my brilliant husband suggested I take a Claritin, which thankfully worked. So at least I have that space too again.

The good news is, the finish line is within sight. We sold our house! It went under contract the first day of showings, and the buyers were great. I’m jealous of our old neighbors.

We also bought a house! I feel ridiculously lucky to have found the house we did. It’s a 1965 ranch-style that has previously had one owner, sitting on half an acre of gorgeous landscape.

IMG_20160414_171304306_HDRDay of closing: happiness.

It was very well-maintained, but dated. But that’s the best part! We get to do what we want with the space! No one else has done some costly, generic updating. Mostly it is painting the walls, changing light fixtures, and refinishing floors, but we also get to redo the kitchen from scratch!

IMG_20160418_162936242_HDRYep, that’s our kitchen. Walter thought it left the house on its own.

I already feel like it is my house, even more so than our old house, not just because I’m on the deed of this one, but because I picked it out knowing that I want to live here for the next 30+ years. We have only three weeks until the movers bring our stuff, but oh what needs to be done before then!

IMG_20160422_094949Our wonderful helper!

 

IMG_20160418_205801862_HDRWallpaper was clearly invented by the devil.

IMG_20160421_170823349I needed to paint by myself, and when I was ready to go, I found him like this!

It’ll be more than great to be home again, which is why we’re working round the clock to get things done. We have been blessed by the help of Dave’s dad, who has spent several days doing electrical work at our house and puts Walt to bed so we can go work in the evenings, and my mom who has kept Walt while we get stuff done. I worry about him. In the end it’ll have been a 3 month move, and moves are not easy. Sometimes he isn’t really clear about what’s going on, but he’s a trooper. I’m real proud of him.

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