Rainy weather working its foggy magic on a landscape is beautiful. A rainy day encourages introspection. Or at the very least a nap. I love the rain in all of its spirited and benign forms. But we have had rain day after day without much respite. This is rain of a different sort. Too much rain foments rot both above and below ground. Too much rain spoils blooms. Too much rain dampens the spirit. We have had all of the aforementioned.
Jumping from a home landscape to a specialized garden in the community is a huge leap on many levels. The size and the scope of the project just multiplied by too many factors to count. I have barely pitched the project to the President of the Board of the 501c3 that owns the Community Park and drawn up a basic Site Plan. Just 6 days later, there is a 22 x 26 hole dug in the ground! Wait, what?
When I heard that there would be a Kubota tractor available to scratch-dig the rock hard base of the proposed Rain Garden, I had to move quickly! I was going to try to attend the Community Park work day on Saturday to get a sense of how things worked, meet some of the volunteers, and learn more about the park facilities. The Pres gave me a more detailed tour of the grounds, introduced me to “the guys,” shared some more history and vision, then mentioned that they would be finishing that afternoon, the prep for a sidewalk adjacent to the proposed rain garden area. The tractor would be available after that, wow, in about 3 hours!
I noticed some mega weeds around the entrance to the park so I grabbed my shovel to do some impromptu weeding; I did what I could in the hot sun. A really nice man came over from where he and his wife were staying with family across the street and offered to donate some mulch to the Park. His brother-in-law had just bought a local landscape supply business and this man wanted to know if we needed anything before an event coming up the next weekend. I gave him the President’s contact information and mentioned the rain garden project ’cause, hey, there are already mountains of mulch already on the property but not landscape-quality; tell him Julie would love the offer of some “dark hardwood mulch!” (Later the Pres just smiled; I’ll bet it’s a go!) By the time I left the park, I had met this man’s wife who became my first volunteer for the Rain Garden Project.
Off to Walmart I went to pick up some marking paint for the Pres then came home to prepare some treats for these amazing men. My energy was waning but some kind of momentum had taken over. A bunch of food, a glass of chicken bone broth and a ton of water helped revive me enough to keep going! I had most of the ingredients at home for chocolate cookies and a gallon of lemonade; surely some “appreciation treats” would be welcome as temperatures soared above 91 degrees? The conditions were tough on everyone for sure. By 1:30 p.m. I was back at the park to hang out in the shade of the picnic shelters and learn.
I am learning as much about general carpentry and construction as I am about how members of a community can work together, how much fun these men have just hanging out with each other no matter what they are doing. Most of them are retired from the trades and in their 40’s and 50’s. Building this Community Park is how they love to spend their free time together after breakfast at the Kitchen Table restaurant down the street. Perhaps it has a lot to do with the years they all once worked together in one way or another and the small town friendliness I had never witnessed up close from our housing addition across the highway. The Pres treated all of them like contractors, co-workers, brothers, and sons alike. It was beautiful to witness as they helped to craft the public facility already enjoyed by dozens of folks every day. They worked REALLY HARD that day in their respective projects!
About 3:00 p.m., the man in the Kubota tractor was ready to scratch-up the base of the rain garden. Its claw-bucket digging down few inches deep didn’t loosen up the nasty crab grass in the compacted clay/sand mix so down a full foot he had to go. It took about 30 minutes to complete the 22 x 26 foot area, much like the shape of a baseball diamond in miniature. As I do additional calculations we might need to increase the size of the rain garden yet that is still bigger than the initial site plan noted above. I realized that those dirt clods would be rock hard within half a day so I tried to weed a few chunks of those grass plants as I could in the searing heat . . . with a couple of breaks just to cool off a bit. It took a long time, leaving much more for another day and team of volunteers. Even I was munching on a chocolate cookie and drinking lemonade before the day was done! 🙂
Sunday morning the guys would be meeting again for breakfast at the Kitchen Table before finishing adding the mesh to the sidewalk plus other preparations before the delivery of concrete on Monday by 2:00 p.m. I was glad that the Pres had shared with me about the sidewalk so I could ask if they cold add the crushed limestone instead of dirt along the outer edge; this would match the other stone edge already in place along what would become the top of periphery of the rain garden (i.e. the front horizontal and right perpendicular edges in the photo above). It might not be the most aesthetic choice of materials however those two stone borders would definitely be easier to maintain than a berm made of dirt that would eventually grow weeds. While I have begun seeking volunteers from the Master Gardener and Native Gardener groups locally to help build and maintain the the rain garden, I see signs all over the park of “good idea” projects that don’t look as good anymore, lost to poor follow-up. Low maintenance must be part of this garden design!
Some interest in the rain garden project grew among the guys, just by being there, hanging out, and helping here and there where I could. One gentleman told a story of how he used Roundup to kill all the grass in his yard before re-planting his lawn. So we talked about the effect of glyphosate on beneficial insects, how it can effect plants in the area for up to 6 months, and how it would basically not work with the project here. Beneficial insects pollinate the flowers of the tap-rooted plants that hold and filter the water runoff plus help prevent all the flooding that lasts for days on this side of the bathroom building after heavy rains. No insects, no healthy plants, no rain garden. Another man suggested using the extra pavers they had on the property which we could use for the outer border (i.e. to form the berm that prevents spillover; we would add drainage windows too). Even the Pres said he could probably work with a local landscaping company to build a flagstone path through the area which would enhance interest for visitors in addition to helping with weeding and such. I agreed, taking lots of mental notes. Chances are that I will see these hardworking men again . . .
So tonight I put together a flyer about the Community Family Park Rain Garden project. How poetic to set in motion something like this that will actually come to fruition through the “organic” interest and talents of so many wonderful folks in my community. Momentum has started as I continue to recover from a setback in July. So grateful to have something else focus on: my own Horticulture Therapy! The flyer will likely become a temporary sign along the edge of our big dirt hole so that folks attending the Heritage Festival this weekend will know that something really cool is about to happen there soon. Maybe some will join in and help? I feel really privileged and honored to have this opportunity that came about just by taking a little online class, just by making a little post on Facebook, . There is so much more going on here and it transcends me for sure.
Then again, that is always the case now isn’t it Gentle Reader? Yeah God! JJ
11The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.
I may not be cut out to be a personal caregiver. After 3 decades of working as a healthcare professional and caring for a thousand or more adults over my career, you would think that this would come easy for me. It is not.
It’s one thing to work with up to twenty different personalities in a single day for 30 to 60 minutes at a time, trying to facilitate a therapeutic experience that is meaningful for the person and billable to his or her insurance company. I learned to quickly develop a rapport with each individual, turn our focus to the therapy evaluation and treatment process, and wrap it all up with a plan for the next session or discharge. Often the most challenging patients were put on my schedule because of my experience working in mental health settings and with persons diagnosed with dementia. Many were depressed, angry, resistant, unable to focus for more than a brief moment, or simply were not coherent at all. I would often have to come back to a person’s room several times a day or miss my own lunch break to facilitate a feeding session during his or her mealtime while my tummy growled. There were the difficult families, co-therapists who would “steal” your patient throwing off your schedule, the CNAs who wouldn’t bring the client to the clinic, or the patient who almost always needed a diaper change before we could fit in any therapeutic activities. Standing tolerance, functional transfers, and self care were easy goals to fit in when the nursing staff just couldn’t fit in the care needs of their residents; occupational therapy gotter done. I wiped a lot of bums in the process.
It’s another thing to try to help an aging family member 1,000 miles away with a range of personality, behavioral, cognitive, and early physical changes. I am having difficulty managing the frustration of dealing with a person who can make decisions one day and not the next, seem to engage in manipulation/pity partying/whining then be as sweet as sugar, ruminate on minute details for hours, and complain more than converse about most everything else. She has changed this past year for sure then other times she seems just like her old self. I just didn’t see some of these more difficult characteristics before this year and before I understood that the diagnosis of a brain disease has made everything in her life more complicated. Of course she wants to make her own decisions and we agree. Of course it is hard even a year after diagnosis to accept that she is having problems and needs help. And when depression, anxiety, and compulsive tendencies take over, it is nearly impossible to help her to keep moving forward. I just don’t know what to say or do sometimes.
I could do nothing. My husband and I could do nothing. Instead we have offered to help and have devoted probably 100 hours of such thus far. She has asked to stay with us this summer then backpedaled when picking apart every detail of the visit that will not be perfect, problem that will not be solved in the way she would like. I am sorry. We just cannot move across country to cater to your every need in sunny Florida my dear! There are always limitations to what any caregiver, professional or family member, can do for a person in need. We will likely continue to help her and have started to set some boundaries too. I am still in recovery from a serious illness and, while I can do more than when I first discovered her illness just 3 months ago, there are limits. Should she come she will have to contribute some financially and is reluctant to do so. She will need to follow the routines of our household and is reluctant to do so. She will need to leave a tropical climate for the ravages of the four seasons in the Midwest and is reluctant to do so. She wants to see what it would be like to live with us but isn’t sure she wants to come for a visit. Whatcha gonna do lady?
Tonight I am frustrated. The Lord has set me on a path to healing with a trip to a medical specialist that happened to reside in a town near my beloved family member out of state. It seemed to be providential that I would spend some time caring for her as I could when in town for medical visits. We prepared for each trip for many hours on the phone and followed up for many more thereafter. I helped her with 2 day-long projects in-person with great physical consequences for me after the last time I was in her town: travelling alone for the first time in over a decade and only 5 weeks into recovery from a new treatment that is working! Geez oh man. I just don’t know how much more I can do until I am further along in my healing process.
The stress of caring for my beloved family member, even at a distance, is weighing heavily on my heart and frame tonight. I know I am called to help her some. The amount is unclear for every time I set a boundary there is push-back. My ability to manage stress has changed since battling a serious illness for over six years. I am saying no, making things as clear as I can. My hubby wants to accommodate her this summer (and permanently if desired) as best we can yet to do so could create some financial and scheduling chaos. My beloved family member is not yet willing to consider some things that we see need to be done for her personal protection and safety long-term. We understand that these are big decisions. However, waiting seems to just foster more indecision on her part, more stress on our part as her potential caregivers. Dear Lord, what shall we do?
We are grieved that my family member has strained relationships with several family members who are not fully ready to attend to all that is needed to care for her. She hasn’t been able to talk directly with them yet which puts us in an awkward situation with them should she have us proceed in our role as caregivers. We are grieved for the sorrows that her and her children have endured trying to make sense of the heartaches in their pasts and how it strains their relationships today. Conversely, I have only good memories with my family member so I’d like to think that I am a little more level-headed in honoring her wants and needs. Who knows? It is still hard to care for her varying emotional states on a daily basis. Good golly, why still struggle when there are two people who love you, seem to care about you the most right now, and are willing to invest their time and energies in doing so? Help us out here my dear: will you be spending the summer with us or not? Will we be making some major purchases to help make the visit more comfortable for all of us or not? I do hope we know the answers to these questions in a couple of days. This distance caregiver thing is running me ragged!
Stay tuned, Gentle Reader. We are praying for guidance, peace, and the same for our family. Let’s all take a deep breath and take care, k? JJ