Wednesday, December 28, 2022

...we'll muddle through somehow...

I have been thinking about time machines lately. What if I could go back to one day just for a bit and not interrupt anything but just live that day harder than before? The thing is I actually try to appreciate every day. Before the pandemic, I would say “TGIT” (Thank God it’s Tuesday) in class with my students because why live for Fridays or weekends? We might not even make it until the weekend. 

I remember the first day I was a teacher. I had graduated, completed a practicum and a student-teaching internship; I was as prepared as a teacher can be in this country. A super uncomfortable event occurred, and I immediately thought, “shit, get the teacher” which quickly changed in my head to “shit, I am the teacher.” After that moment, I realized no one really knows what to do in times of crisis. No one actually teaches us how to be adults. We just try our best. 

Since August when I made my last update post, I have been trying my best. That doesn’t read quite as scary as it’s been on this end. To make a very long story short, or to condense the last five months, my mother, who has struggled with her mental health, now has dementia. In the last few months, I’ve only started to understand dementia. My mother has had visual and auditory hallucinations, confusion, and an inability to pay attention to someone or something. She’s had sleep difficulties, apathy, and depression. My mother stopped recognizing my father. This was probably the most devastating aspect of her diagnosis to him. I just keep thinking how fortunate we are that she did not hit my father on the head with a hammer while he was sleeping, which is what she revealed to me later. In fact, she told me exactly how she was going to kill the man whom she ominously said, “that’s not your father.” 

Without much guidance and a whole lot of confusion, I was able to find assisted living with memory care. I could rant about American health care and how we treat elders but what’s the point. My working-class family saved all their money and lived like ants (as opposed to grasshoppers-- see the Aesop Fables if you’re not sure what I mean) only to have it all drained away. But we’re lucky. I’ll keep saying that because it could have been worse... it still could be worse. The last five months have proven that life gets worse. 

My mother-in-law’s kidneys failed and within a month, she has moved from her home being an independent woman living alone and caring for herself to a woman who is dying in hospice care. Even hospice care isn’t what I imagined nor is palliative care in this country. But we’re lucky that we have *vacation* time to use so that we can be there by her side. 

When my father’s visit to my mother became so stressful one day that his blood sugar dropped, a security guard found him parked on the side of the road. But we’re lucky that he had pulled over and not killed someone or himself.  

It’s been a hectic last half of the year. I’ve been medicated for stress that was affecting my blood pressure; I’ve started to dehoard my parents’ home (I was even able to make room for a Christmas tree. The first one in over 15 years. It's little but mighty). I’ve been journaling like mad and focusing on exactly what needs to get done. I’ve accepted that this is the new normal. I hate that phrase when it comes to the pandemic but having Silent Generation parents means that I have new responsibilities as a caregiver. As long as I have a plan, I’m okay. My plans keep changing and that’s okay too. I’m just trying my best and trying to muddle through somehow.

Sunday, August 21, 2022

Garden update and macramé

When I’m terrible at keeping a blog, I’m usually writing somewhere else. This summer I researched and wrote a book and even received a book deal for my manuscript. It’s been quite a summer, which I will write more about later. This is a quick garden update. 

I’m writing this on my mobile so this post might be a disaster but I have been outside nearly all weekend soaking up the last moments of summer before the fall semester begins and my time is taken up with teaching. Last week was faculty development training so I’m already back to the compute. Like so many others, since the pandemic, I’ve been trying to find my own way of disconnecting and relaxing. I do like to keep busy but I’m trying to be more still. Yesterday was a day of gardening and trying a redo! 

A couple years ago, I bought a bunch of black iris bulbs to finally see which black iris was my favorite. Unfortunately, all the bulbs were chomped on and got infested with bugs during the winter. Here I am trying again. 8 black iris bulbs, another Dracula’s Kiss, and one with black and yellow. I tried to add a video but a screenshot of the video is probably the best I can do right now. Gardening means to keep trying. This place isn’t landscaped! 

A friend even gave me a gardening log book that I’ve never used  I always tell myself that I will remember what is planted where and I never do. This is my super rough sketch (I’m not an artist and don’t try to be. This is all about information.)

Many of my houseplants move to the back porch in the summer but I still have plenty in the house. I bought this cute bat macramé from an Etsy shop (shop tag pictured). He even came with his own name- Ivan!  

I have many cemetery trips to share. I finally started traveling again. Mind you, I haven’t gotten Covid and hope I won’t anytime soon. I’m not super people-y in general and my research focuses on those who are distanced (in the ground) and many years free of any viruses (because they’re dead!) For one of my long trips, I even stayed in a boutique style hotel that doesn’t include any staff on site. Check-in was remote. I only saw one other hotel guest at a distance. For that trip, my hotel was a suite with a refrigerator and microwave so I brought all of my food in a cooler. It was more an act of convenience than being afraid to eat at a restaurant although I’ve only eaten outdoors. I probably had the most healthful food-fruits and vegetables I’ve ever had on any trip. I would like to do this again. As an introvert, I naturally keep my distance. Apparently that is true even with this blog. Thanks for staying with me and reading this. (Insert awkward smile) 

Sunday, April 10, 2022

...Cemetery Happy Hour... authors and cemetery lovers share connections with cemeteries

Last night I hosted a Cemetery Happy Hour with authors Loren Rhoads Denise Tapscott and Chris LaMay-West focused on the forthcoming book DEATH'S GARDEN REVISITED: RELATIONSHIPS WITH CEMETERIES. We had so much fun discussing cemeteries in Louisiana, Arkansas, California, and Maryland. I asked my guests to go a bit thematic with their drinks and connect them to their pieces in the anthology- each beverage represents a cemetery or grave.


Wednesday, March 30, 2022

...grave symbols and a secret society...

This is the grave of Henry Noble Taylor, known to his friends as Harry, who rests in the University of Virginia Cemetery in Charlottesville, Virginia. Taylor was a journalist and a war correspondent for the Scripps-Howard newspapers. He was killed on the job by machine-gun fire in the Congo on September 4, 1960. The inscription on his footstone reads: “He died to find and tell the truth.” 


While many of us delight in discovering grave markers with symbols from society and fraternal orders, it was fun to see the mark of the Seven Society, one of the secret societies of the University of Virginia. The Seven Society was founded in 1905. Their symbol includes the number 7 surrounded by the signs for alpha (A), omega (Ω), and infinity (∞). 


Siskiyou Daily News, September 8, 1960.
The inner workings of the Seven Society remain secret but their philanthropic gifts to the University include great flair. Gifts from the Seven Society have varied with donations including numerous sevens. In UVA Magazine, Robert Viccellio explains, “One notable example occurred during Final Exercises in 1947, when the commencement address was interrupted by a small explosion at the front of the stage, followed by a check for $177,777.77 floating to the ground. The money established an interest-free loan fund for any student, faculty or staff member who was in financial trouble.” 


Membership is revealed only upon a member’s death when a banner appears during the funeral. There is also a tradition of wreaths in the shape of the number 7 with black magnolias.  



Robert Viccellio, “Wrapped in Mystery: A Guide to Secret-and Not-so-Secret-Student Organizations at UVA.” Virginia Magazine, UVA Alumni Association, 2012, 

Siskiyou Daily News (Yreka, California), 08 Sep 1960, page 6.

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

...a student memorial in a university cemetery...

I have a new research project that I have started and was searching for a particular grave; yet I’m always distracted by cemetery memorials and epitaphs, which make me curious to learn about those who are interred in the cemeteries that I visit. 

Saturday was a beautiful day to be in the cemetery. I headed to Charlottesville to the University of Virginia Cemetery that was founded in 1828 and used as the burial ground for many of the prominent individuals from the university. 

Thomas Jefferson never made plans for a cemetery on the university grounds but disease, explicitly the typhoid epidemic in Charlottesville made the space necessarily.  


In this particular cemetery, numerous epitaphs note how each individual was connected to the university from professors, librarians, doctors, students, and even the children of those who worked for UVa. 


The memorial of John A. Glover
I’m intrigued by unusual deaths, deaths of students, and nearly anything circus-related so the grave of John A. Glover, who died on April 11, 1846 at the age of 21 years and 6 months piqued my interest when I saw that a Find A Grave bio noted that Glover was killed by the elephant keeper of a circus that came through Charlottesville. The source was listed as a letter from C.C. Wertenbaker, who was the son of UVa’s first librarian William Wertenbaker, to Prof J.A. Harrison (1897) in The Alumni Bulletin of the University of Virginia, Volumes 1-4. Professor Harrison had been inquiring about the history of the cemetery when Wertenbaker, who may have also enjoyed the unusual, shared details about the tragic incident.



Richmond Enquirer, March 26, 1846
After doing a little research, I learned that John A. Glover of Alabama had been a beloved student and his classmates offered a “tribute of respect” in that they believed the murder was “an atrocious murder” so they would wear black armbands, or the “badge of mourning for a period of thirty days.” (Richmond Enquirer, Tue May 26, 1846, page 4). 

Richmond Enquirer, April 21, 1846
The murder occurred when there was a fight at the the exhibition of Raymond & Co’s Menagerie of Animals. Glover, considered “an unoffending bystander, in no way participating in the conflict, received a blow on the head with a stick or heavy bludgeon, which occasioned his death in a few hours.” (Richmond Enquirer, Tue April 21, 1846, page 4). The article continues by noting that the person who had been arrested was discharged. 


David Maurer of Virginia Magazine goes into more detail about the incident pointing that Glover was not necessarily free from blame as he “foolishly tossed a burning cigar into the arena” of a lion pulling a cart with an animal trainer. Glover’s actions spooked the lion and caused an uproar. Maurer writes, “In a moment of blind rage, the infuriated trainer picked a large tent peg off the ground and struck the student with it” and explains that according to Wertenbaker’s letter, the man was tried for murder but acquitted. An evening that was intended to be a fun outing for some students turned into a tragic event. 

David Maurer. “Set in Stone: The Serenity of UvA's Cemetery Belies a Colorful Past.” Virginia Magazine. UVA Alumni Association. Accessed March 29, 2022. 

Richmond Enquirer, Tue April 21, 1846, page 4.

Richmond Enquirer, Tue May 26, 1846, page 4.