26 April, 2013

Loss follows loss

My Aunt Joanne, my mother's older sister, died today. She had been in ill health for the past 8 months, and when my Uncle Arthur died  a month ago, she was very fragile and weak.

She has spent most of the last month in the hospital, including time in ICU. Yesterday they told Matt, her son, that she had taken a sudden turn for the worse and they did not expect that she had long to live. She died this morning, peacefully.

What can I tell you about my Aunt? One thing I remember from my childhood is that you never knew what color her hair would be. Each time we saw her, it was different. She liked to change it up. Blonde, light brown, dark brown, red, frosted (remember when frosted was in in the 1970s?). She said it was the only thing anyone could change easily, so why not do what you felt like!

She was a career schoolteacher. She always had stories about things that her students did and said. A story told so often that it became part of family lore had the punch line, "Mees Updike, Mees Updike, he say 'sheet' to me!" It still makes me smile thinking about it.

Joanne and Arthur were engaged two weeks after their first date. When my Grandmother called Mom at college to tell her about the engagement, Mom was flabbergasted. When they saw each other just weeks before, Arthur wasn't in the picture and now he was going to be a brother-in-law! Arthur was nine years older than Joanne...and they had that whirlwind courtship. As a kid I thought that was the MOST romantic thing and also sort of scandalous. And hard to understand because they were just not the scandalous types.

In just one month, my cousins have lost both their parents. I am sad, but in some way it does not surprise me. More than many couples I have known, my aunt and uncle were very attached at some deep level.

My aunt was always tough, and a fighter. About twenty years ago, she was in a terrible car accident and was in the hospital for over a month. Several times they called the family to her bedside, telling them to say goodbye. Each time she fought back and got better. I think that after Arthur died some of that determination to fight left her and her physical troubles spiralled out of control.

Rest in peace Joanne, rest in peace.

22 April, 2013

Yer not from around here, are you?

Thomas and I went to New York City yesterday. (Please, imagine me saying that like the cowboys in the Pace Picante Sauce television commercial. It's much funnier that way.)

We rode the Big Apple Bus to the Big Apple. Ate lunch in a diner (food adequate, service really surly) and then spent several wonderful hours at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Looked at the Civil War photographic exhibit. Learned a new fact. During the Civil War, the Union used large cameras to take pictures of maps and reproduce them. The first "copying". It was a wonderful exhibit.

We also looked at shiny things and statues and purty paintings (again, COWBOYS) and finally left when the idea of walking one more foot on hard flooring made my back scream out in protest. I was also hungry so we went to a little Greek diner type place (really delicious Greek food and pleasant service). Then we took the bus back towards Time Square.

I went to a book tour launch and heard Jon Acuff talk about his new book. Enjoyed hearing him speak, he's really funny. Then I had to hustle back to catch the Big Apple Bus back to Charm City.

It was a fun day doing something really different from how we spend a usual weekend day. Two bus drivers in Noo Yawk City were very nice to us when we got on the wrong bus (ride uptown) and didn't have enough money on our Metro card (ride downtown). Those guys blew the stereotype of the rude city dweller apart, they could not have been kinder. 

New York is wonderful and terrifying and overwhelming. So many people, so much noise and action. It was lovely to be there, and lovelier to come home to my quiet little house and my rotten dogs, who were equally pleased to see me return.

17 April, 2013

Dirt under my nails.

Today I planted a bunch of small plants out in the raised garden beds and the beds that surround our grassy patch in the back. They are mostly green globe artichokes, with a few tomatoes and a poppy thrown in for good measure.

I know, I know, it's too early and too cool for the tomatoes. But they were starting to look very raggedy in the basement, and I was afraid if I didn't get them in the soil they were just going to flop over and die. Which they may be doing out in the yard anyway. At least I tried.

I have full confidence in the artichokes. I planted them from seed and they have been vigorous growers in their peat pots. I am sure they will do well. As long as no dogs or other critters stomps them or eats them or does any other critterly damage. Thinking good thoughts for my beautiful future artichokes.

Thomas and I have had two meetings with a landscape designer to help us figure out a plan to fill the backyard with food, native plants, plants to attract pollinators and birds. We are also installing a herb spiral and a small water feature.

16 April, 2013

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold

Some of my tiny seedlings growing under the grow light. I think most of those actual green things you see are some of the brassicas.

I have nothing good to report, other than the fact that we spent much of this past Saturday puttering around our yard. We cut down some weed trees behind the fence and pulled up about a mile (maybe even two miles) of honeysuckle and other strangling vines. We shredded leaves and mowed the grass and I planted a couple of seeds. We put in two new rose bushes (Tawny Tiger and Soaring Flight) and put manure around the old roses and dumped shredded leaves over any bare soil we found. It was glorious. Having a not too cold, not too hot day to work in the yard was some of the best medicine for my spirit. If I had known Monday was coming, I'd have done the same thing on Sunday.

Monday was horrible. First I had a day at work that left me feeling disspirited. Then I heard about the bombs at the Marathon in Boston. Then my dogs had a fight that left one with a bleeding toothmark right on his snout between his eyes. How in the heck did Punkin even bite him there?

Today I felt as though someone had boiled me. Do you ever feel that way? So tired and dazed that you feel as though all the energy has been pummelled out of you, leaving you weak, bruised, and wilted. I felt that way. I felt that while I was at the doctor having my yearly lady check-up. Good times that. I am glad it's over and that once I get my mammogram I can put all that lady goodness behind me for another year.

I am not sure Morgan is going to work out for our family. He is so anxious and spends most of the time we are all together pacing and growling at us. Not growling AT us, just growling at us to get our attention. He wants us to...to what? Well, first, to feed him, because he's always ready to eat. Then, I guess just to get our attention. He's not happy with us patting him while we read or compute or watch tv. He wants something else...what I'm not sure. I think he wants more than we are able to provide, whatever it is.

Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe he and Punkin will bury the hatchet (not in each other, I hope) and learn to tolerate each other and he will relax and stop being so damn needy. Truthfully, right now I myself feel so anxious and frazzled, that I may not be thinking all that clearly about him. I wish he would just lie down next to me and let me pat him and shut up with the damn whining.

I am praying for Boston, and Morgan, and the world, and a bit for myself. I plan to spend as much time as possible this week with my fingers in the soil, looking at green and tender things. It's one of my weaknesses that I look at the glass as half empty (and probably cracked and filled with poison) but I am trying to have faith that there is more good in the world than bad, that "the helpers" are stronger than the destroyers, and that we are not all in a handbasket accelerating towards hell.

07 April, 2013

Hi, I'm calling about the rabbit poo. NO, this is not a prank call!

I found a lady on craigslist who had a bunch of rabbit poop she wanted to get rid of. Rabbit poop, in case you don't know, is a good fertilizer that you can apply directly to garden beds without composting. It will not burn your tender plants.
Anyway, I called her the other day and said I'd come get the bunny manure (it's called bunny berries, which I could not say out loud because somehow it sounds gross). We agreed that I would call back and get her address because at the time we first talked I did not have access to pencil/paper.
SO, today I called back and got her answering machine. I left a message:
"Hi, this is Amanda...I'm calling about the rabbit poop. I need your address, please call me on my cell phone and I'll come get it today."
I called back a couple of times and got the machine again. I was curious because the woman had said she always had her cell on her. Also, the voice I was hearing on the machine sounded younger than the woman I talked to on Thursday. So I checked, and SHO NUF, I had misdialled and was leaving messages about RABBIT POOP on some stranger's email, including my full name and phone number in the message.
If you had been anywhere in the vicinity of My Back Yard, Baltimore, MD, USA, North America, Earth, The Universe, The Galaxy, you would have heard my shrieks of laughter. It was that kind of amazing laughter that feels like it cleanses you down to your very soul.
So, my friends, if someone you know tells you they got some wacked out message on their voice mail about bunny poo, my advice is...pretend like you've never heard of me.

04 April, 2013

Wonder Twin Powers....Form of a Drama Queen!

I don’t know why, but I often lack a certain perspective   
That’s the only way I can describe it. When I am cold, I am COLD, I have always been cold, and I cannot ever imagine being warm again. Cold is the state I live in eternally.
Ditto when I am too hot. I am going down in flames and it has always been just this fiery and it’s never going to anything less (or more) than miserably, sweatily, moistly HOT.
If I am in any kind of pain it just consumes me. I can’t ignore it and I feel that I have always hurt and that it’s going to go on forever. And forget the idea that suffering is ennobling. BS – suffering just makes me bitterly mean and hateful.
Whatever my current perceived reality is, I have a hard time looking through it, and remembering that things always change. I know this with my head and intellect, but my emotional immediate reactions to things tend to be strong, wholehearted, consuming…and stupid.
I was thinking about that this morning in the garden. I was out with the dogs, eating a carton of yogurt, wrapped up warmly to combat the unseasonably cool morning (39 freaking degrees F) and looking at my garden beds, which honestly, at this time of year, look…bad. And I thought, cue the dramatic music, “Ugh, this yard is ugly. It’s just horrible. Why can’t we ever have a nice looking yard? Whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee? Why doesn’t anything ever grow here? Why haven’t those peas and radishes sprouted? I am a failure at gardening; I have a black thumb, grump, grump, grump.”
As if, to me, this one early spring morning of cold, frosty weather was the actual daily state of our yard 365 days a year. As if I have not enjoyed flowers that I planted and eaten vegetables that I grew from seed. As if I have not sat in the yard on warm evenings, drinking beer and admiring the fertility of the garden.
In the middle of my little hissy fit, I started getting tickled at myself. The reasonably sane part of my mind was observing the grumpy Drama-Queen-tantrum part, and finding the whole situation absurd. Even though the peas aren’t sprouting (dammit), there are jonquils blooming and some of the woody perennials are showing signs of new green. It will not always be 39 freaking degrees in the yard. In fact, based on 20+ years in Baltimore, there are days coming in the not too distant future when I will yearn for 39 degrees with all my hot, sweaty self. And for all the cold, it was a beautiful clear morning and the dogs were having fun in the yard sniffing out signs of fox, and I am mostly healthy, and I had Greek yogurt to eat and a yard to eat it in.
So my inner Dramatist had another spoonful of yogurt and (ignoring the blank spot where the peas are not sprouting) admired how the yarrow was putting out new growth. Welcome, welcome to even the tiniest signs of spring!

Addition: On the walk today I met my friend Deana and was complaining about the lack of germination in my peas and lettuces, and she said not to worry, as soon as the weather warms up, things will start growing.

01 April, 2013

Captain Morgan... just plain Morgan will do

We are fostering another Cocker Spaniel. His name is Morgan. He is a 12 year old, deaf, white-and-butterscotch boy with a full, plumy tail.

He's ridiculously soft and pretty. He has big, dark eyes that make his look sort of like a plush toy. So far he's been calm, though we did find he does not like people to mess with his food bowl. Which I can totally understand, but you need to know these things to avoid trouble.

He was turned in by his owners for who knows what reason. He was in a foster home and did well there for a while, but eventually they couldn't keep him, I don't know why. He was in the kennel for a couple of weeks where he did NOT do well. He's got anxiety over being caged or penned up, and he went a little do-lally. According to the kennel people he just started scraping his nose against the cage until he had a huge wound on his nose. (He's got a scar.) A CSAC volunteer went and got him and kept him for a week until Thomas and I could get him. We are giving him free wandering rights of the house and he's doing okay.

Not sure yet if he'll be a permanent resident, we like to let these things work out in their own time. If he's a good fit, it will show itself.