A Real Page-turner

Posted: 10 May 2011 in observations
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I love love love this post by someone who does the same things I do.  Just yesterday, in fact, I walked home two and a half miles reading the whole way.  Although sometimes I have a proper book with pages and all, I find that the glare of the sun on the pages and the heft of the book make it so that reading while walking longer distances isn’t as comfortable.  A block?  No problem.  Any further makes my head hurt.  So yesterday, as I do often, I walked-read on a Kindle and angels sang a chorus the whole way home.

Walking while reading provides a certain amount of danger.  Negotiating curbs, rogue bicycles, malicious bees, traffic.  If you enjoy a little spice to your day, I suggest you try reading while walking from a flat area up a barely noticeable incline. A page-turner walk is even more fraught with peril than walking with a Kindle. Turning the page requires extra attention to the pavement and surroundings and a physical effort that could set you off kilter.  Any veering I’ve done while reading has been at the prodding of a paper page turned too quickly.

That said, reading while walking (in any format) means I’m missing out on what’s going on in the world around me.  Since I love seeing unusual cars (or people) pass, looking at balcony gardens or watching the bridge construction progress, I don’t read every day.  Walking is as much a meditation as it is time away from my child, my work, my life that I can devote to a few chapters of a particularly good read. Like Deborah Bryan says, it has to be a really good book to claim the cracks in my schedule.

Garden Bad

Posted: 29 April 2011 in observations

The dog spent a good part of the morning digging up my garden bed.  I’d string him up by his toenails if they weren’t so caked with dirt he’d slip right off.  D rescued the unearthed bean sprouts and put them back to bed.  Now, to see if that special little earthquake affected growing.  Bad dog!

Garden bed is successfully built – though not without some struggle.  The 4 x 4s couldn’t be found untreated (eventually found out of town), the friend with the plans wasn’t free (eventually bending time to be available), I was out of town (eventually coming home exhausted), the drill and saw weren’t strong enough (eventually convinced to function by brute strength), the rebar didn’t fit the hole (eventually tossed aside) and the daylight was fading (nothing we could do about that).  The dirt was delivered early and is more than we needed – much more.  It has been slowly sending rivulets of rich composted earth into our neighbor’s yard and our azaleas, neither of whom probably appreciate it.  The baby has an internal clock and despite our refusal to adhere to it, food is required and, after a time period long enough to  fidget but not long enough to accomplish anything, bedtime.

Even after the bed was built and stopped looking so awesome that I couldn’t bear to put the dirt into it, it mellowed until I had time for planting.  And here in Virginia, spring is ticking.  Seeds need to get into the ground, tomatoes need to get their legs.  It’s time.  Yet another week passed and we finally obtained plants and supplies.  ANOTHER week passed and we put them into the soil, once again tempting the tender boundaries of daylight and the baby’s patience.  But they’re in!  That bed is beautiful.

Marzano and Champion tomatoes, bells red and green and hot peppers, carrots, pole beans, cucumbers, shallots and zucchini.  If my gardening skills have matured sufficiently, we’re in for a bounty come July.  If they haven’t, well, I can manage a mean herb garden.  Speaking of herbs, we practically have an apothecary’s cabinet full.  It’s no doubt wrong to be this proud of anything that depends on sunshine and a rain barrel, but if you’ve got a headache, a rash, a cut or some intestinal distress we can handle it.

I say all that to say this, I think I’ve finally touched on my calling.  It wasn’t diplomacy, though I had a knack.  And it isn’t librarianship, though it’s excellent and enjoyable work.  It’s victory gardens and herbal medicine.  It’s feeding the family.   In some decades, it’s nourishing the land and the people on it, in others it’s cursing the neighbor’s cow.  My mother would tell you that she has always known this.  In fact, she often attributes her cautious distance from me to an other-worldness.  I don’t buy that, but sometimes I catch a glimmer of what she’s talking about.  Let’s face it, when’s the last time your colleague asked you if you were a witch?  And when’s the last time you needed to explain Wicca in order to distinguish it from yourself?  Bringing it back from the limits of what you’re willing to put up with, when’s the last time you looked at yourself and found you are entirely new?

Points for everyone.


Posted: 8 April 2011 in observations

Spring always gets me.  I get so excited – planning new beds for the garden, buying plants, mulch, dirt.  It’s a far more expensive and time consuming hobby than you’d imagine in the Fall (and by you here, I mean me).  In the off-season, it’s a bit of raking here, another bag of leaves there.  An occasional cover up for a particularly sensitive plant.  But as I practice both tough love and negligence, you could say my off-season attention to the garden falls to practically nil.

Here is the view from my office:

How can you not want to leave work instantly and sink your fingers into the nearest available patch of land?  Never mind that it’s raining today.  Or that the price of gas has left the construction of the vegetable bed in a state of uncertainty.  Just fling yourself out the door and find a fragrant branch to sniff, a petal to run between fingers, a spicy herb to brush your hands through.

Instead you’re trapped here with me and all I want to do is investigate tomato plants and consider peppers.  Vegetables are a touchy thing for me – I’m a perennial person – I like things that are established in Virginia, that come up every year, that spread as expected and persevere even in the heat of summer.  I go to great lengths to trap and provide water but there’s a minimum level of performance I’m expecting and frankly, annuals just don’t have it.  Unfortunately for me, most perennials don’t produce vegetables and some of the herbs I’m most interested in medicinally either don’t make it through the winter or don’t come back.  Chamomile, I’m looking at you.

After several summers of steadfastly planting nothing that wouldn’t provide scent, long-lived color and springtime resurrection, I’m stepping back into annuals.  Vegetables will pay for themselves, provided they grow (and I have no reason to suspect they wouldn’t).  And the herbs are part of an expanding bank of supplies and knowledge I’m gathering.  In addition to last years sage, mint, lavender, coneflower, passionflower, oregano, chives and rosemary, I’m adding calendula, feverfew, and chamomile.  We also planted a few berry bushes and are going to, eventually, get in some vegetables.  Peppers and tomatoes, yes.  But also cucumbers, beans and squash.  There’s room for something else too, which is exciting in and of itself.

So far, the plans have progressed but not the garden itself but did you see outside my window?  The time is now!

My parents have just been visiting for three weeks.  I had a fortunate childhood and I like them well enough, but my mother (previously known here as the VVM) has a complex set of mental illness and emotional damage that makes her less like a mother and more like a particularly sensitive time bomb.

It has taken years of visits to recognize that two or three days before she leaves for home she stops speaking to me, has no opinion about anything, trails behind on any outing – and by behind I mean a block or so, not just a bit – and waits for the opportunity to take something I’ve said and twist it into a personal attack.  You can imagine where that goes.  No place good.

In the end, I spend hours wondering what I could have done differently, and I can usually find something.  I said or did something that she could take wrong.  This time I carefully watched every word I said and until the very end of her last day.  I’d be proud to announce that I’d averted crisis except that it’s impossible.  She dissolved anyway.  She attacked other people, less so than she usually goes after me, but I stayed out of the line of fire until all the signs came anyway.  Even though I didn’t say anything, it happened anyway.

She lives on the other side of the country and our visits are annual at best.  It doesn’t matter that she has contentious relationships with other family members.  It doesn’t matter that I love her very much.  It doesn’t matter that she treats me differently than my sisters.  What matters is that I don’t know how avoid another visit.  I can’t stand the idea of doing this again now that I am completely sure it isn’t my fault.

Sure, it could be so much worse.  But it sure as hell could be so much better.


Yoo Hoo!

Posted: 31 March 2011 in observations

Well then, I stepped out for a year.

Things that make the internet like real life:
Sometimes everyone talks at once.
Folks like to look at pictures of themselves.
There’s Crazy Aunt Cindy in the corner ranting about how no one understands.

Then there are the things that make the internet not at all like real life.  Primarily:
No one calls the police when you’ve been missing for a year.

In fact, it’s okay to go missing, we just move on.  Let me tell you though, I miss you.  For better or for worse, I think of folks I used to read, but there are no Internet Police to call.  So I forgive you for letting me slip away.

Right.  Moving forward.  I’ve carried on my monologue over at Counting Chickens for the last year but I’ve missed being a grown-up.  So I’m pulling the sheets off of the sofa and rinsing the windows.  The direction here will likely carry on as aimlessly as usual which doesn’t capture me many readers but lets me be as unfocused as I like.   On the plus side, I suspect the voyeuristic sorts I gathered when exposed at my former job have long since gone, except of course, if they haven’t.  Then, clearly, they’re the solid sort and are welcome to stay.

Excellent.  Onward ho!


The news is fun lately, isn’t it?  I mean, not that it was ever fun like woooo! but it’s definitely more fun like take shelter! and honestly, that’s not my favorite sort of fun.  Rather than continue on lamenting the lack of wooo! news, I’d just like to put in a plea for disclaimers.  Most people are pretty good at hollering SPOILER ALERT so that they , hopefully, don’t reveal the ending of a given book, situation, movie, plot for those that are planning to engage but haven’t yet.  I deeply appreciate this since I hardly ever get around to seeing or reading things as soon as they happen and I don’t like to have endings just tossed about.  But I need spoiler alerts on more things.

In particular, I need to be spoiled on graphic violence, cruelty to animals and people, heartbreaking, irreparable situations and so forth.  Just today, I read part of a terrible article about a terrible thing that happened to something helpless in a country where folks felt like they had no choice but to do that terrible thing.  It showed up in my feed, so I didn’t even get the chance of a headline (not that it would have helped) as a hint to rush past and I would not have read that article had I known I was going to get graphic detail about what happened.  Also, that video you posted about the loyal dog refusing to leave someone’s side after a tragic situation?  Please, take down the picture associated.  Last night I was reading a book whose jacket stated that it was a mystery tangentially related to a flood happening 60 years previous.  So when I encountered the detailed description of how a person drowns and what it looks like I was paralyzed.  I couldn’t unread it.  The author couldn’t know how I would feel about that, but I sure could have used some warning, rather than just words flung down on the page in the middle of what was a previously gentle paragraph.  SPOILER ALERT: I’m fragile.  No, seriously.

So it’s my own fault.  I don’t NEED to click on the article with a clear headline about abuse or disaster.  In fact, there is no way that’s going to enrich my life.  Unfortunately, in the very same places I get the news I want to see, I also find headlines that all but explain other tragic and terrible stories.  You certainly are thinking this is an ostrich in the sand sort of moment and you probably are also thinking that folks like me are the reason we can’t solve epidemics of abuse or haul nations back onto their feet.  I’m okay with that because I don’t function well when I’m mentally bruised.  I can’t make a difference in anyone’s life if I’m overwhelmed by terrible thoughts and memories.  I’d rather be a happy, productive, whole person than read about or see images of horror. Unless I’m prepared.  So please, CNN, spoiler alerts.