Not-So-Wordless Wednesday: Here We Are

Ten years ago, I added Toni Morrison’s words to my photo of bleeding heart vine. The words captured my emotions in the wake of the Sandy Hook school shooting. The flower?  Well, all of our hearts were bleeding.

Ten years later, here we are . . . again . . . and sadly, we are all too familiar with the routine from the people who are actually in a position to do something but who openly choose not to.

I’ve heard many people say they have no words to describe what is a regular occurrence in this country. Well, I have words — plenty of them, as you can only imagine.

The nation and families are still mourning the victims of the Buffalo, NY, supermarket shooting, and here we are again — mourning the murder of children in school. On top of this are the victims of gun violence who don’t make the news, the ones who are killed on a daily and nightly basis, the ones who don’t get their own theme music on the news and hashtag-insert location-strong paraphernalia.

Thoughts and prayers aren’t working. We all know it. It’s said so often — a throwaway line — that the phrase is watered down, a cliche. We need action and policy and change . . . but where to begin?

I’m not an expert on policy and law, but . . . How about creating a national gun policy? How about closing gun ownership loopholes? How about reining in gun shows and online purchases of ammo and gear? How about getting lobbyists and corporate money out of politics? How about holding our elected officials accountable and voting them out for failing to protect our collective right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness? (Note: I haven’t mentioned one thing about taking away Second Amendment rights.)

I don’t want to be (nor do I want you to be) a sitting duck in a shooting arcade . . . or a church, supermarket, school, movie theater, cafeteria, military base — the list goes on.

I also don’t want us to be numb. When future shootings happen — and they wilI, perhaps tomorrow, maybe next week — I don’t want us to shrug and say, “What can you do? It happens.” That’s the equivalent of stepping over the bodies and the carnage to get on with our own lives.

We cannot and should not get on with our lives when so many — too  many — will never be able to.

When I worked in a school, we practiced regular lockdown drills and instructions on what to do in the event of an active shooter in the building. Close and lock the door, shut off the lights, pull down the window shades, help students make a barricade against the door, huddle with the students in a corner. (Note: Books about two mommies, two daddies, addressing different family structures, and using the word “gay” does not cause trauma in children. Witnessing the shooting deaths of their friends and teachers, and then stepping over their bodies, does.)

When I worked in the nursery of a national box store, employees received regular training on what to do in case of an active shooter. These are lessons I carry with me whenever I’m anywhere — be aware of the exits so I can run to safety; if I’m trapped, find a safe hiding place; if my safe place is in danger, what can I use to defend myself and fight back.

This is not a normal way to live. This should never be a normal way to live. Yet, here we are.

I’m sorry for this rant, but I’m tired. We’re all tired. I’m tired of writing letters to and calling my senators, representatives, and governor. I’m tired of their canned responses and carefully crafted words and their inability and/or unwillingness to actually do what they were elected to do. I’m tired of them doing whatever the highest donors request. I’m tired of them focusing on divisive politics, while ignoring the very real-life problems that are impacting all of us every single day. (Note: I’m also tired that taking away a woman’s health choice has a higher priority than the massacre of living, breathing children.)

We need each other. We need each other. We need each other — because there may/will come a day when we find ourselves standing near one another at restaurant or in a mall, when a gunman walks in and starts shooting. When this happens, we’re going to look at one another, grab one another’s hand, and run to safety or find a hiding place until law enforcement arrives. If the shooter enters our hiding place, we are going to fight back . . . together.

No offense, but this is not how I want to meet you. There are so many other, more pleasant ways I’d like to meet you . . . in your garden or a nursery, at a flower show or botanical garden, here in the blogging world or there on the street.

Again, I apologize for the rant and for sounding defeatist and cynical — but I’m disgusted. I’m sad. I’m angry.

How much longer do we ignore the idea that we are all expendable, that we are collateral damage so politicians can continue to fund their campaigns with dollars from the gun lobby? How many more people have to die? How many more times do we experience a tragedy and offer the same do-nothing response? If that’s not an idiocracy, I don’t know what is.

So, here we are. Again.

Please, keep yourselves and your loved ones safe — and please vote. It’s the only weapon we have.

Repost: And So This Is Christmas

I used to love the news. Over the past several years, though, I’ve found that it brings me more stress and anxiety than information. As a result, I’ve done my best to avoid it. Every so often, though, a news story breaks through my wall — and one such item was the recent school shooting in Oxford, MI, which — according to CBS News — was the 28th school shooting of 2021. (There were 10 in 2020. Thank you, COVID.)

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“Ladybug, Ladybug, Fly Away Home . . .”

Ladybug 2

Traditions.  We love them as much as we love ladybugs.  It’s one of the reasons we bake Christmas cookies.  At any other time of year, they seem out of place — but in December, they fit (and taste) just right.

Right now, traditions are everywhere in my day job, where I am not the Nitty Gritty Dirt Man.  I’m a social worker in a suburban high school, and as the school year comes to a close, the traditions are all lined up.  Junior Prom.  Senior Picnic.  Senior Cut Day.  Graduation Count Down.  Senior Banquet.  Senior Prank.

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The Spoils Of Suburbia


Snow has melted, fallen, and melted again — but winter’s debris is still there.  I don’t mean the fallen leaves and broken twigs that litter the beds and lawn.  I’m referring to actual litter.

Due to a combination of winter winds and my home’s location at the head of a T-shaped intersection, my yard is the final resting place for not only the leaves from the intersecting street, but also for my neighbors’ garbage.  Whether it’s been set free from cans on garbage pick-up days or dropped on the street by passers-by, trash loves my yard.

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And So This Is Christmas

Santa 2

This is not the post I planned for today.  I originally wanted to write something funny about one of my favorite holiday films, Christmas In Connecticut, or poke fun at myself for crying over Christmas carols, like Darlene Love’s “Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home).”

Today, though, I have a need to write a long post (my apologies) about a very different Christmas in Connecticut, a very different Christmas in America — and the idea that I, and I think most of us, cannot stop crying — with or without Christmas carols.   For me, the overwhelming sadness is just below the skin.  It doesn’t take much — the news, a moment of silence, an overheard conversation — to unleash a flood of tears.

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When Holidays Collide

Thanksgiving is around the corner, and that can only mean one thing.  My PHSD is about to kick in.

Post-Holiday Stress Disorder, or PHSD, is the only way I can describe what happens to me once turkey day is done — and in less than a week, it’s about to come on full force.

Just the other night, while Joe and I were shopping in a local home improvement box store, I heard tinny, computerized notes weaving their way through the store’s general noise.  The song sounded familiar, and as soon as I realized it was a Christmas carol, my head ached, my stomach knotted, and my chest tightened.  Goodbye November and December, and hello PHSD.

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Not-So-Wordless Wednesday: Gardeners Beware!

An Open Letter To All Home & Garden Centers


Dear Home & Garden Centers:

I have come to the conclusion that you are deliberately misleading the plant-buying public for your own profit by selling plants while not fully disclosing  the plant’s specific needs and growing conditions. 

I first became suspicious of  your tactic years ago, when I purchased a beautiful climbing vine that was covered with deep pink trumpet flowers.  The plastic tag said Mandevilla, and when I asked the salesperson if this can grow on Long Island, he said yes.  Although I was suspicious, it wasn’t a complete lie.  This tropical beauty did grow on Long Island — until the first frost.  Then, it was kaput.

Imagine my surprise this year, when I saw countless Zone 6 and 7 shoppers picking up pots of Croton, pictured above.  I had only seen the plant in South Florida — because it is native to the tropics.  Actually, it’s one of my favorite plants in South Florida — the leaves come in a variety of shapes, from flat to crinkly, wide to elongated, and the colors are brilliant hues of greens and reds and golds.  With autumnal colors like that, it’s no wonder that so many northern gardeners stocked up on the plant, punching up their fall flower displays.  

What saddens me in all this is the amount of money that homeowners shelled out for a plant that really would only last until the first frost — which, in this area, could happen a day or a week after purchase.  There’s no guarantee when frost will arrive, just know that it will — and when it does, your tropical treat will be a droopy disaster.

Equally frustrating is the amount of money the garden centers pull in by selling tropical plants at the end of the growing season.  I really cannot blame the gardening public.  For starters, they may not have any knowledge of the plant.  It’s the garden centers, though, which not only count on the consumers’ impulses but also have their expert salesperson guide the novice gardener into making the purchase.

That’s a lot of brown matter, as well as green matter — financial and organic.  It’s also a waste.  And it’s irresponsible.  And it teeters awfully close to being a scam.  But, hey, that’s business.  Right?

From now on, I will speak up when I see a shopper wasting his or her money on a plant that has no chance of surviving because of the climate.  The buyer and the gardener should certainly be aware, but so should the home and garden center — we  gardeners know your game and we know how to plant seeds.


Nitty Gritty Dirt Man

Not-So-Wordless Wednesday: Occupy Thanksgiving

I’m not sure of the accuracy of this depiction of the first Thanksgiving, but it is the inspiration for this Not-So-Wordless Wednesday post.  While there may be a lot happening in the image, I’m not sure if it fully captures all that occurred during that first Thanksgiving.  Many of those lessons seem to have been lost over the centuries, crowded out by thoughts of food shopping and preparation, football, and Black Friday, which, in my opinion, is one of most vile displays of human behavior — so much so that my Mayflower ancestor, William Brewster, would cringe. 

Apparently, we could all use a bit of that first Thanksgiving.

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What Happened To The “G” In HGTV?

A few posts ago, I made a brief comment that the G in HGTV is noticeably lacking.  Personally, I long for the old days when the G, with shows like “A Gardener’s Diary” and “Gardening By The Yard,” far surpassed the number of H shows.

That comment, though, resulted in my fellow garden bloggers agreeing that there is a serious sink hole in the HGTV programming schedule.  One commenter, Erin from Urban Organic Farming In Sidney, wrote, “I’d love if you could write a blog about it, get the readers and writers to write to them and ask that that be rectified.”  So, Erin, I accept the challenge.

My first step was to visit the HGTV website.  Clearly, the opening page is the home page – because it’s all home, all the time.  Surely there must be a G somewhere.  Shouldn’t there?

The truth is that the G has been reduced to a single on-line tab that says “Outdoors.”  The editor is Marie Hofer, and I’m worried about her – especially if her office is proportionately equal to the amount of space HGTV has given to G.  It’s probably too small to fit a desk.

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