Oops Upside the House!

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Tim White, PhD, LPC, NCC offers advice on family planning and parenting, LGBT issues, disability issues, education and work issues, relationships, ethics and “unusual” social issues. Send questions to Tim for future columns through his website.

Tree Killer

Hi Tim,

I’m a man, 26, living with my girlfriend in a house and our driveway is beside the neighbor’s driveway with a row of 30 feet-or-so pine trees in between them. I work at night and I’d only slept about 30 minutes before work one night, so I ran out to the car and wasn’t paying attention. I plowed right into one of the trees and even though it made the most awful crashing sound, my car wasn’t badly damaged and a mark was barely noticeable on the tree. I noticed the neighbors were gone, forgot about it, and then a few days later we had a terrible storm. Our yards and driveways were flooded and sitting in water for about three days. The morning after the storm, the tree I hit was lying on the neighbor’s garage! Most of the roots came out with it and there was severe roof damage. The tree is on their lot but I hit it only days before! I want to say something but could my accident have caused this one?

– Tree Killer

Hi (Alleged) Tree Killer,

It sounds like you may only be a person of interest at this time, so go easier on the guilt for now. This one is well outside my domain of expertise. Consulting arborists are experts who deal with difficult tree issues: neighbor and property issues, tree preservation, litigation, and such. I contacted the wise and wonderful Barb Neal, Master Gardener Program Manager and Community Educator at Cornell University Cooperative Extension, President of the American Society of Consulting Arborists, and also a consulting arborist for eight years. She addresses your question below:

Dear Tree Killer—I do not think you deserve that moniker. I believe that your tree failed due to a saturated soil rather than from the impact. When a soil is saturated, especially after a number of days, the holding strength of the soil lessens, and can lead to tree failure, especially when there is a lot of wind. You said that the “roots came out” with the tree—consulting arborists would call that a root plate failure. While hitting the tree with your car did no favors to the tree, it did not, in my opinion, cause the failure.

This makes enough sense to me that you can stop blaming yourself for what the insurance people call an act of God. Some things are out of your control, and you should let this one go. Plenty more things are going to happen that are your fault. Get some sleep, and drive carefully!

Default Dad

Hi Tim,

I’m a single man, mid-thirties with a successful career in law. I’m an only child but I had one cousin, “Rita,” we were not close, who was a single mother to 5 year old twins. She recently died from untreated cancer and her kids are without a permanent home. I agreed to take care of them when their mother was sick, so they’ve stayed with me for several months and I hired a wonderful nanny. During that time, I assumed we could track down a biological father who would take over. We found him alright, after Rita passed away but a paternity test revealed that in fact, he was not the father! Now what do we do? There is no evidence of the real father anywhere, and no other relatives can take the children. These are good kids and I love them, but my career is too demanding to be playing house with children, which were never in my life plan!

-Default Dad

Hi Default Dad,

Yeah, funny thing about those neat life plans; they tend to get away from you. You are not playing house, you are the caregiver for two human being’s lives. I can assure you it is not a silly game they picked up out of boredom one afternoon; this is their life and it continues to get worse. You are apparently the only constant they have left. That said, even if two orphaned waifs who are depending on you to piece together a new life for them in a loving home and keep employing that nanny in order to give them a decent start in life cannot soften your icy heart, then it is reassuring that you know your limits. You are likely already connected with your local social services agency. They can help you relinquish guardianship and/or seek counseling, together and separately, in order to evaluate what your lives-changing decision will mean for all of you before pursuing alternative placement. If not, seek counseling on your own and whatever you decide please put these innocent children first.

Is This Love?

Hi Tim,

I am a girl, 18 in my first year of college. I met a guy my age on social media and we started chatting and eventually had phone conversations, and seemed to hit it off. We did live a long distance apart, but when I started college I moved to a new town just under two hours from him. We had a couple of dates and only held hands and kissed. He tried to invite himself back to my apartment where I live alone, but I diverted him and chalked it up to him being the average overly-eager guy. I still liked him but in January he planned a weekend away for us, already rented a room at a lodge with one bed, and I was slightly put off by his presumptions. I turned down the invitation/order over text, and he sent me back a string of profanities, calling me a tease among other derogatory names. I just texted him back once and said “Do not contact me again.” He has called and left a few messages, not as angry or hurtful, but not polite either, eventually requesting I call him. He never threatened me actually. I really felt like we were beginning to have a connection and then he did a 180; was I being unreasonable? I would have kept seeing him if it weren’t for the rants. I don’t know, maybe I overreacted? Help me stop thinking this to death, please!

-Is This Love?

Hi Is This Love,

No. That is the short version of my reply. Regardless of what trashy sensationalism makes it into print or onto movie screens, or whether or not various cretins are to blame for it, some folks just have a warped worldview as recent events so vividly illustrate. It does not matter what charming game this scoundrel led with because he revealed his true nature disrespectfully when he was unable to manipulate you with unannounced trips and escalating pressure to sleep together. If one of his top qualities is, “He never actually threatens me,” then game over. You dodged a wretched snake, so give yourself a pat on the back and give him no response whatsoever, but do save a record of your correspondence just to be safe. You can, and you will, do better.

Editor’s Note: The opinions offered in this blog are the author’s alone. Tim White, and any experts he may consult and/or quote in responses to letters, will never provide medical or psychological advice, diagnoses, treatment, or counseling of any kind. General advice, opinions and suggestions may be offered with no obligation on the part of readers to accept or act upon the content published within this column. Anyone in immediate crisis and/or mental/physical distress should call 911 or related resources of assistance.

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