Friday, December 24, 2010

Happy Holidays?

I think the older we get, the more Christmas changes. In your twenties, it's often about the rush of traveling home and seeing family. For most people I know, their thirties is about starting families of their own and juggling their own, new Christmas traditions with those of their now, expanded, families.
But what does Christmas mean if you don't have kids and aren't married? If, all you have is a dog who is easy to shop for?

I found myself exhausted the last couple of weeks with the selfish, all-about-me, grabby nature of the holiday. I'm not alone the past few years in bemoaning the incredibly insane materialistic nature of the holiday season. Not only because of the season, but also because of the economic times, it seems the utmost selfishness to try and live a Sharper Image life. It seems as though all it does is showcase how selfish you are, and that you don't seem to care that your ridiculous list makes your poor family feel like shit because they can't afford anything on it.
I've enjoyed the week to just hang with Nehi (despite being sick AGAIN!) I have my hunny-do list for stuff to get done next week in the house. I'm enjoying the time off. I've enjoyed going to lunch with a friend I haven't seen in a while, a movie with a couple of ex-students, a visit with an old family friend and her daughter. These seem the reasons for the seasons.
I find myself dreading tomorrow. Do I really need an in my face reminder that I fall short in the gift giving department as well as so many other seemingly stupid things? I find myself tired of being judged by someone else's ridiculous list of what I should be doing- no I'm not married and I don't have kids, and yes I'll be 35 soon. You know what? I don't care. I have Nehi, and I'm just fine with that.

So, I think Nehi and I will spend the day with a smile pasted on our faces and keep one eye on our watch, waiting for it to be over.

If Santa shows up, I'm siccing Nehi on him.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Trying to create a dog park on the Outer Banks

So, when I was out in Santa Fe this summer, the place I stayed had a genius idea. They had taken an unused tennis court and converted it to an off leash area for dogs. It required little work, they installed a couple of Doggie Depots like we have here on the beach accesses for cleaning up after your pet, the owners provided the water and donated toys and benches.
So, this got me thinking. We don't have a dog park here on the Outer Banks, and it would seem fairly easy to do. I know there have been rumbles of building one in Kitty Hawk, but it sounds as though that may take forever, and isn't really centrally located.
I decided to take matters into my own hands and have sent the following letter to the town planners of Kill Devil Hills.

I have a proposal for the town of Kill Devil Hills and I was hoping you could give me some assistance.


I am interested in knowing how often the tennis courts in the Dare County Recreation Park and behind the fire station are used. If one of the courts is unused, I would like to recommend turning it into a dog park. As I'm sure you're aware, the lack of a dog park on the Outer Banks is a complaint of both residents and visitors. This summer I vacationed in Santa Fe and there a lot of the towns have turned unused/under used tennis courts into dog parks. The transition is easy to make, all that is required is the installation of a Doggie Depot, as we have at the beach accesses, a trash can, a sign listing the regulations (and covering liability). In Santa Fe, the people who used the parks were responsible for supplying the water, donated toys and benches.

As I'm sure you know, dog parks offer several benefits. According to wikipedia, the benefits include:

1) Promoting responsible dog ownership,[26]

2) Socialization and exercise for dogs (which leads to a healthier dog in both mind and body),

3) Bringing dogs and owners together in neutral territory, which can reduce fear and aggression in dogs,[27]

4) Offering elderly and disabled citizens a place to exercise their companions,[28] and

5) Accommodating dogs and their owners in a public open space (this has been shown to lead dog owners to higher levels of compliance with relevant laws).[29]



I have attached a sample document that New York City uses of rules that could be posted on the gate doors.

Please let me know how I can explore the possibility of turning one of the town's unused/underused tennis courts into a dog park. I appreciate any help you can give me. Thanks
 
We'll see what they say!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Santa Fe Adventures Part II: The Bread

It's hard to believe that my six and a half week adventure at Bread Loaf will be over in a week. The summer has not been what I thought it would be. It's the first time I've lived off campus, and that was complicated by the fact that my roommate had to leave after a week because of medical reasons. So Nehi lost her playmate and I lost my friend (only for the summer, she's alive and recovering back home).
So I've had the house to myself. Nehi and I just rattling around. Nehi has enjoyed the off leash area, chasing skinks in the yard and trying to destroy landscaping when I'm not looking. She has not enjoyed the last week of 100+ degree days with no AC (neither have I). And she has not loved the long days when she's left alone because I have class and lab hours, but we've dealt. It's been hotter than any other summer I've been out here. The computer's hot, I just sit here and sweat. Nehi collapses on the tile all day. I keep all the windows and doors open to try and catch a breeze, but that also means that all the bugs come in, and frankly- I'm ready to go home to AC.

BL has been weird. Part of it is that I'm off campus, so I don't get a lot of interaction. But I think a lot of it is that I'm over the drama of BL summers. And this summer, the students seem to all be 22 year olds. Not exactly people I feel an urgent need to hang out with. So I've just had a quiet summer. The classes have been good- especially my film class.
It hit me this weekend that I was graduating, and I had a hard time wrapping my head around what life is like without BL. 5 years, 4 summers. A bunch of pain in my tail. A lot of cool classes and professors. But a whole segment of life is over.
So what comes next?
Well, I had hoped to go home to new and exciting things, but I've reached the glass ceiling at my current job- I'm just not going to go anywhere there.
But, I've come to a decision. I think I need something new. And, I need to stop having my whole life revolve around Mom and Dad. As much as I love them, I don't want to still be jogging in place in five years. I'm 34 and I think it's time I start making plans for separating my life from theirs.
I really want to teach at a community college and make that transition, so this will give me time to plan. I also need to prep downstairs for being self sustainable- I figure either Mom and Dad could move downstairs (one level) and I could rent the upstairs, or if they want to stay upstairs, I can rent the downstairs.

Mom has always asked me where I want to live and the only answer I've ever had is no where I've ever been. I'm thinking something drastic- This is what I know. I want to live somewhere:
-near an ocean (although I've realized I'm over my years of tanning on the beach, I just like to walk along it and I still love the smell)
-forests, trees, hiking trails
-small town but within an hour of stores and movie theatres.
-lower cost of living. Low enough for me to rent a house, and not an apartment and put some savings aside
-liberal/Democrat area
-I like the idea of living near a reservation
-seasons, but not wicked cold winters or sweltering summers

So, we'll see. I'm not making any immediate plans. The downstairs will take a while to get in shape (althought he current remodel is a blessing in disguise!). I need time to save money. Once all that's done, I'll feel comfortable enough to start applying for jobs. I'd hate to get a job but not have all my ducks in a row and be able to take advantage of it.
I don't know how well this is going to go over. Perhaps like a lead balloon, maybe well. I just know that I can't let guilt make me put my life on hold. I've done all I can.

I just think I need to live my own life, in a place where I have a chance to go somewhere.

Santa Fe Adventures Part I: Disaster

It's hard to believe that my six and a half week adventure at Bread Loaf will be over in a week. The summer has not been what I thought it would be. It's the first time I've lived off campus, and that was complicated by the fact that my roommate had to leave after a week because of medical reasons. So Nehi lost her playmate and I lost my friend (only for the summer, she's alive and recovering back home).
So I've had the house to myself. Nehi and I just rattling around. Nehi has enjoyed the off leash area, chasing skinks in the yard and trying to destroy landscaping when I'm not looking. She has not enjoyed the last week of 100+ degree days with no AC (neither have I). And she has not loved the long days when she's left alone because I have class and lab hours, but we've dealt.

The summer was further complicated by the house problems. A week after I left, the Town of Kill Devil Hills was replacing the water and sewer main in my neighborhood. By their own admission, they screwed up and put too small a pipe in. So when they turned the sewer back on, it back pumped into my house, up through my shower and into my house. Luckily, Joe was there to work on tiling the downstairs and noticed it right away and called me. I called the Town and then my insurance. Serv Pro went in and cleaned everything (as well as ripping my house apart). A couple of weeks of arguing with the adjustor about what should be included, and finally work starts today.
I'll save everyone the horrifying pictures, but suffice to say, in the kitchen, part of the living room, bedroom and bathroom, the panelling had to be cut to dry out.
There are a couple of positive things- I was insured, Joe was tiling the downstairs stretch, so that carpet being ruined wasn't a big deal. However, I was still looking at trying to find a contractor from 2000 miles away that I trusted to get the job finished, and the house livable before I came home.

So, the final list of what needed to be repaired was this:
-chair rail in the living room and bedroom has to come off, panelling removed and replaced, along with insulation and drywall
-bathroom and closet and kitchen panelling has to be removed and replaced
-all flooring has to be ripped up and replaced
-vanity replaced
-panelling/insulation/drywall in garage that shared a wall with the bathroom

So, my contractor starts today and he says it will only take 4-5 days to fix. Then Joe comes in and will tile the floors and the bathroom walls. Since the price difference was minimal, I'm replacing the carpet with a terra cotta tile in the bathroom, bedroom and closet. Because there's no chair rail in the bathroom, and that took the most damage, I'm tiling half of the bathroom wall, up to the line of the vanity. I figured since I could update it, and bring the house value up for the same price, there was no reason not to do it. Since the kitchen panelling has to be replaced, I'm putting in a whiteboard on the side of the bedroom door instead of panelling which I'm excited about.
There are also some things that I'm having to do that I'm not thrilled about. In order to cut costs, I'm having to put a chair rail in the kitchen, which I don't want, but can't afford to replace full sheets of plywood. The closet will also have a chair rail which is just stupid, but again- no way to hide replacing the panelling line.

So I'll get home next Saturday. Unpack from Santa Fe, and start trying to put my house back together. I'd packed all my books so that Joe only had empty bookcases to move to tile the downstairs, but with all this clean up and remodeling now, everything is everywhere. So, putting it all back together is step one. I think I'm going to repaint the bottom of the living room though, so that will take a couple of days. I'll have Sunday off, but it's back to work on Monday morning. Luckily, the work days are only half days, so I'll have plenty of time to mess around with getting the house back together.
I'm sure that I'll post the finished product here.
I'm frantic that all this has happened with me so far away and unable to do anything. However, it's a little exciting that I'll go home to a whole new house. Although I'm not looking forward to the cleaning of the mess.
Here's hoping it all goes off without a hitch!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Photo Bike Ride

Nehi and I took a Photo Bike Ride today which really just means that we took a lovely bike ride this evening, as par our norm and I just happened to remember to take my camera. I'm finding it hard to get back into the habit that I HAVE a camera again.
I couldn't help but make up mini stories for the things we saw, that I took pictures of.

So, the last few weeks, these strange pipes appeared in the neighborhood. No idea what they were, just all of a sudden there were digging up driveways and pipes everywhere. I finally asked a neighbor what was going on. She said that they were trying to drain off some of the groundwater. Because we're at the head of a nature conservatory with fresh water ponds, there was some concern that with all the rain we got this winter, that the groundwater was going to overflow into the neighborhood's septic system. Yuckers.
It turned out, as I discovered on one of our bike rides, that they (always the mysterious THEY that conjures up dark Orwellian images) were taking the groundwater from my neighborhood and had run pipes just two streets over and were dumping the water into another neighborhood. See how attractive it is being dumped into an overstressed drainage ditch? I know it's just groundwater, but it is foul, THEY did not dig out the existing drainage ditches to accomodate the overflow and didn't clear the old ditches of debris, so it comes out of the very attractive black pipe and gurgles to a stop a few feet away. YUCK!

Onto prettier images. I always love to imagine what the lives of people are based on their houses. I did it in NYC and always came up with some interesting stories. I think my favorite is this:
It looks so out of place at the beach, more like something that you would see in some secluded location for rich people up north. Beautiful ivy crawls up the fencing on either side of the driveway and the pine trees that flank the driveway. Every time we go past it I wonder who lives up the hill and what the house looks like.
This one is bizarre. It's on the route Nehi and I take for our walks and our bike ride. It's on a lot next to a regular house except one day all the pine trees were cut down. There's no contractor sign out front, and the people who live in the regular house seemed to be directing the lumberjacks. So this is what the lot looks like now. I find it a little sad and strange because of the way the trunks are cut, part-way through, but not completely taken away, just sad reminders of the grand majesty they possessed only hours before.
These little cotton balls live a few streets over. They bark ferociously and defend their yard vehemently which is funny every time we pass only because they are constrained by an electric fence and can't do anything other than bark their little Q-tip heads off.
 I still think this is creepiest children's playground I have ever seen. In the year that we've lived here I have never seen a single child playing here. It's set way back in the woods and I don't even know if people know it's there, which is strange, as there are a fair amount of kids in our neighborhood. I'm still percolating the horror story I'll set here. Sorry, I know it's twisted, but it really is the perfect setting for something horrible to happen. No kids involved though, I promise, I'm thinking dark, but not that dark.
And of course, what blog of mine would be complete without the wee one? Here she is as we rolled back into the garage after our photo bike ride. She's always very happy on the bike because she gets to run, and Mom doesn't run unless chased, although it took her a little while to get used to being hooked to the bike. Now of course, when I say bike, she practically bowls me over to get to the garage.

Nehi's Spring Break

Nehi has had a fabulous Spring Break. Here's how it went:
Mom not only is off for Spring Break, but she brought friends! There was this puppy that came with the red head. His name is Diesel and I spend most of the first day chasing him around the yard. I figured he just had to be pestered into playing. He finally got into it.

It turns out I am very good at playing. Diesel was funny, he would go and lay down like he was tired, but I knew he was just faking and REALLY wanted me to just go jump on him. So I did. He kept looking at his mom, and I just know that he was trying to tell her how much fun he was having. I learned that even though we were the same size, it was lots of fun to pin Diesel to the ground. Mommy and Diesel's Mommy laughed a lot and cheered us on. I'm sure Diesel was joking when he would make pathetic faces at his mom.
I didn't like when Mommy went out with Diesel's mom. It hardly seemed fair that Diesel got to play around the house while I was stuck in my crate. Diesel gets right up on the couch with his mom, but he didn't realize that the couch is mine, or at least the top half. I was nice though, I shared.

Diesel didn't like to share much, but I kept trying to teach him by showing him my toys. I even let him eat my food. I don't think he got it, but he was nice. It was so nice to have someone to torture, I mean play with for two whole days! When Diesel and his mom left I slept, because I was very, very tired. I slept for three whole days. I barely got up to do anything, and Mommy laughed at me a lot. I don't know why, but I was too tired to care.
The rest of Spring Break has been fun too, Diesel was just the beginning.
Mom planted 6 baby rose plants that she paid over $100 for and I took great delight in digging them up. Until she put that yucky red powder on them. Spoilsport.
Mom likes to get up on days off and quietly drink her coffee outside since she's not a morning person. I had to let her know that wasn't acceptable. Sometimes it takes several minutes of loud barking before she realizes we are supposed to be going for our morning walk and coffee can wait.
I like having Mom home. We got for our walk, spend all day outside although I occasionally have to bark loudly in her face so that she'll realize it's time to play with the soccer ball. Then we usually go for a bike ride at night, although the bike makes it hard to go after squirrels.
Mom planted pretty fruit trees and it's fun to knock the flowers off the cherry tree.
It's been very nice but very hot. Mom thought I might want some ice cubes, but I liked the plate she put them on more...

I'm ignoring the fact that she goes back to school Monday.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Scars

The weather for my Spring Break has been heavenly, as though God himself knew that I needed a week of reading in the sun with Nehi in order to recover from the hellishness of the past few months.

As I have soaked up the rays of the healing sun, and seen my skin turn darker (all you skin cancer folks just go away) I couldn't help but notice the way that my scars are seen in sharp relief. This seems only right to me, in the same way that my tattoos fading into the background the darker I get seems right.

There's the deep, ropey, white scar on my right arm from where I put both my arms through a window during summer theatre at ECU. Amazingly, I walked out of that room with shards of glass sticking out of my arm like a horror movie freak, but this is the only scar I bear from that day.
On my left upper arm is a burn mark from baking cookies this past winter. A small, long line, that is darker than the rest of my skin.
On my lower right leg is my favorite scar- a heart shape if I'm being generous, a pizza slice if I'm not. I got this one from laying my leg against a motorcycle tailpipe (not on purpose) while getting off a friend's motorcycle several summers ago.

There are smaller ones that I look at and can't remember what their origins are, mostly on my hands. Most from repeated covnersations with a make board when I could find no outlet for my rage. While my hands always look like a small child's to me, they bear the scars of repeatedly being slammed into a two by four.

Scars, like tattoos, are with your forever. Some have great stories, some hold simply as reminders of youthful stupidity. They become a part of you and for me, become a way of marking time, and people and events. While none of them purposeful, they serve as reminders of where I've been and what I've done. As I look down on my darkening skin, it is a roadmap of my life. They say your life becomes written on your skin, although I doubt they were thinking of these two things when they said it.

To me, it's just me.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Finished Rain Garden

So except for flowers that aren't in season yet (black eyed susans, etc) the rain garden (all the hard work!) is finished.
Some before and after for ya:



What the left side of the yard looked like a year ago...






Now, the fence is up, and the entire left side of the yard is a rain garden to help with the run off you see from the house in the "old picture.



In this old picture I wasn't sure where the property line was and there was a lot of crap/debris on the property line. That all got cleared out, the swing got put in, and the raised beds all got moved over to the side
In the corner is a cherry tree and an indian hawthorne, along with my new favorite thing- the doggie composter

Saturday, March 27, 2010

What to do, what to do?

There has been a dearth of me posting lately (not that anyone appears to have noticed :-) mainly because I'm not a negative person by nature, and it seems that everything I have to comment on lately has been negative, or things that would get me in trouble, or both.
I've been thinking a lot about what you do when you seem to be in an untenable situation. Where there just doesn't seem to be a way out of the rut you're in. I've been just trying to get through my week: grad class, teaching, grading, planning to get to the weekend. I've tried to channel my energy towards playing in the dirt and with Nehi. I've managed to get the front bed put in, the border mulch finished, the rain garden finished, trees planted. It looks great, and as soon as I replace my camera, I'll take pictures and post them. Now, we move onto the list of smaller things, but still things to keep me busy.
But that just seems to cover two days out of five. I still don't have an answer for how I get through everything else.
I partly blame my hippie mother. I think it would be easier if I could look at things, see that they aren't right and just shrug and let it go. But I wasn't raised that way. I was raised to raise my voice, point out what was wrong and scream at the top of my lungs if necessary that there are better ways to do it. Not something endearing me to anyone these days. All of this is probably why I don't do well with politics, that seems to be arena where you are expected to do the former and shove the people who do the latter into deep, dark holes where they are never heard from again.
So, what to do, what to do?

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Tax money and the to do list

Federal tax money came in this week. And it immediately led my eye to the to do list for the house. What could I afford to do now? What did I need to sock money aside for? So here's the potential list...

$400-renew home warranties (because if I don't, the water heater will break. Thanks Murphy!)
$150-finish mulching yard border
$300-buy plants for rain garden and mulch (although I was told this week that I can apply for a grant for this, so maybe this should go a little further down the list)
$3000?-put money aside for tiling this summer (this also requires me to start getting quotes on how much it will cost)
$75-buy a maple tree to plant in the front yard celebrating one year in the house
$600-get built in shelves built around the bar
$50-blinds in the bedroom. The curtains are pretty, but block all sunlight- yuck
$200-rain barrels (the North Carolina Coastal Federation has them for sale, but I need to see if I can't just find 50 gallon plastic barrels. The design isn't much different from the dry ice machine and I did 4 of those!)
$75-build Nehi a sandbox and train her to dig there and not all over the yard

Later this spring: Once county supplement comes in?
-replace vent seals
-repair screens
-side fencing for climbing plants
-seed the yard (it's turning out to be a little difficult to find White Dutch Clover seeds...)

Most are smallish projects and I'm hoping to try and get one done a weekend. The bigger ones I have to prioritize. Tiling while we're gone this summer is at the top of the list and if all the price quotes are too high and I can't do it this summer, then that frees up some of that to get smaller projects done. I really hope I can afford it though, because it will be infinitely easier to do while we're gone versus having to go stay somewhere while it's done.

Well, the sun's out and I have to go teach Saturday school, so the to do list will have to wait a bit....

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Unfulfilled

I've been thinking a lot lately about what I want to do and what I'm happiest doing. Perhaps this is all on my mind because I graduate this summer from Bread Loaf and I always see a chapter ending as a chance to start a new adventure. Maybe it's because I'm feeling unfulfilled at work.
I have never had political aspirations, and find playing political games in the workplace a waste of time. Because of this, I've never wanted to be in administration, aiming for department chair was as far as I ever thought. This has not always stood me in good stead, either in theatre or as a teacher. Standing by my principles has often resulted in me watching others, who I thought were not as qualified or as dedicated, rise above me.

I take pride in my job and what I do and have always felt that should be enough. I have tried my best to be involved in my workplace as much as possible and contribute wherever I can.

However, this year, I find myself rethinking a lot of that. In part I think it's because I don't feel as though I'm being rewarded for all of my hard work, and that perhaps my stress level would go down and my happiness level would go up if I refocused just on my classroom.

Added to this is the fact that I'm looking to where I'd like to be down the road. I'd eventually like to pursue my PhD and teach at the college level. My current professor was nice enough to give me some advice which includes joining the professional organizations/societies I can and starting to attend the conferences that relate to my field. Saving to attend conferences in definitely cheaper than going to Bread Loaf every summer! And I think I would really enjoy it.
I've put my information in with the local community college, with the hopes that when they have an opening I'll be on the list. I'm also thinking of doing the same thing for the local university.

I have doubts- not about teaching at the college level, I think I'd like it more. However, I have a house and a mortgage now and there's an uncertainty with trying something new. It's a chance. What if it doesn't work out? What if I'm looking for a new job in a year or two?

I don't know. I just know that these days I'm unhappy a lot. I'm happy when I'm playing with Nehi or doing new stuff with the house or yard, but not so much with work. Maybe it's just a slump. I still love all the time I'm in the classroom. Maybe it's just that I've spent 9 years teaching pretty much the same thing. I don't know. I guess I'll just ride it all out and do the best I can. I don't know how to do anything else.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Day in the dirt

Today it was 55 degrees, but to me, it felt like the best days of summer after all of the wet and cold the past three months.

So it became a productive day. I bought some red mulch to see if it would look as good as I thought it would as a border around the yard, and it's going to look great when I get the whole yard finished. Right now I plan on a section a weekend.
Then it was fresh topsoil on the raised beds. The dirt I bought last summer for them seemed to be a bit clayey (I know, not a word- DEAL). So, when I moved the beds this winter I made sure to add a lot of material from the compost pile and then put a good 3-4 inches of topsoil on today. I'm hoping that by the time I go to plant in a couple of weeks, I'll be able to mix it up real nicely and get better soil this summer, although the vegetables didn't seem to really care last summer, most did well.

I also was able to cross another thing off my list- I bought and planted two fruit trees, an apple and a peach. I love how apple trees look in the spring, and I have fond memories of the gigantic peach tree outside of my apartment in Brooklyn. I know it'll be a few years before they fruit, but there is something permanent about planting trees and it made me proud to know I could do it.

Next, I dug a trench all along the side walkway. A friend of mine had given me a bag full of tulip bulbs a couple of months ago. And I mean a huge bag, at least a hundred bulbs. They've been sleeping peacefully in the garage. Today they went in the ground so hopefully in a little while the walkway will have lovely tulips flowering in crazy profusion and a disorganized pattern.



















The final project of the afternoon was to finish digging out the rain garden, now that all the water is gone (but a lovely chemical gunk remained, ew. What the hell are my neighbors behind me dumping into their yard that's running into mine?).

Now I'm ready to head to the nursery and get the plants for the rain garden: some ferns, black eyed susans, grasses. Once I plant them I'll lay down a layer of pine needles to help combat the chemical gack and then mulch and finally round off the berms. I'm very excited to see it take shape. Although the extra digging at the end of the day, I'm sure will make me crippled tomorrow!
It was just what I needed after a shit-ass week at work. I felt better as soon as I was covered in dirt and working. It's nice to have some hints of spring after the long winter. It was also wonderful to see small parts of my plan for the yard to take shape in just little ways.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Nehi ate my birthday cupcake!

Mom and Dad brought down a cupcake and candle for me for my birthday when we came home from dinner.
Nehi obviously thought it was for her, as she knocked her head into the plate, sent the cupcake to the carpet. Dad recovered it, and lit the candle, but it was covered in Nehi fur, so I wasn't going to eat it.
Nehi did.
I at least unwrapped the cupcake first. Didn't seem to make a difference, as she quickly snagged the paper and ate that too.
I was able to rescue the Winnie the Pooh candle before she ate that though.

She constrained herself the rest of the time to ripping apart the tissue paper my presents came in. It obviously didn't taste good, as she would chew it and then spit it out on the floor.

She then tried to eat the sweater that Mom gave me.

Happy Birthday me!

What Nehi ate last night

Nehi ate my last regular pillow last night. Ripped the flannel pillow cover right off, was not disuaded by the cotten cover beneath that and promptly started flinging pillow guts all over the bedroom.
That's the third one.
So I had to drag out my remaining down pillow and will have to obviously guard it with my life as I am too broke to buy another pillow if she destroys this one.

In other news, decided the other night that rinsing out peanut butter jars for recycling was a huge waste of water and time, so now I just give them to Nehi. She licks them all the way clean, very generously rips off the paper label and then breaks the bottom of the plastic peanut butter jar so she can get to the peanut butter on the bottom of said jar.

I should rent her out. Of course, the possibilities for damages increases exponentially at that point!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Blast from the Past

Some people, you can tie most of your memories to. This was the time that...Remember when...They become marker posts for your life. People that you can't imagine ever not being in your life.
Then they aren't. And somehow you create a new construct without them in it. And then one day, you turn around and there they are. And it doesn't feel like nine years since you saw them, it seems as though it were yesterday.

There are times when I think that because I am socially inept with new people, that the only way to be happy is to be with the people that have always known me. There is comfort in that, but also the knowledge that these people always call you on your bullshit. You can't get away with things with people who know you that well. But what do you do when you realize that those people are all gone?

I saw someone yesterday that I hadn't seen in a long, long time. And all I could think of last night was how surreal it was to see them again. Here was someone that I was glued to the hip with through most of high school and my early adult life. If you had asked me ten years ago, I would have said that we would be friends forever. But we weren't. People move, lose touch, get married and you blink and almost a decade has passed.
I wonder if you can pick up where you left off and if these people can serve as tethers to who you are or if the past is best left behind.

I'm not sure what the answer is. It seems in my life that I've left a lot of people behind, taken them for granted, lost touch. I am ashamed to say that with most I never looked back, and only mourned their loss later. Only later did I realize that I didn't have anyone around who remembered me, knew me, loved me. Some of that I can trace to switching careers- in theatre you always figure that you'll run into people again, we seem to be on a neverending loop. And when you leave it, it is as though you've lost the connect to that world.
When I moved home, it seemed as though the only people I ran into that remembered me were people I could have cared less about- casual aquaintances from high school, that quite frankly, I barely remembered. It seemed as though the people that mattered to me had either become people I no longer respected or recognized or had disappeared completely.

I spent most of last night flipping through the memory album in my head. Much had become fuzzy, but there were bright, clear moments that sped through- almost too fast to catch all of the image. I tried to reconcile these old images with yesterday afternoon, but it just wouldn't sync, as though the new image sat like a ghost over the old one.

I've proven that you can go home again, and it is not home that changes but you. But I think I've learned that while you can go home again, it doesn't mean that anyone will be there to greet you when you get there.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

My Plan for Afghanistan

A friend suggested this: we'll drop Nehi on the country and then run. If her past performance is any indication, I think it's a good plan, and would be cheap- she works for Cheerios.




Saturday, January 23, 2010

Rain Garden Part I (of many I'm sure)

I decided the last weekend to start digging out the rain garden. Nehi was actually a great help- as soon as she saw where I wanted to dig, she continued it. I worked more on it after it rained, which was acutally MUCH easier as the four gazillion roots from the pine trees are easier to work around when the sand is wet.

Right now it's just a huge hole in the ground. And I'm not finished digging. And it obviously doesn't do it's job yet because it's not all the way dug out, there are no plants and no mulch. BUT, I think it's going to look really nice and hopefully, prevent this kind of flooding due to run off. A lot of the problem right now, it that we've had really big, flooding rains for the last two months, and no time for the ground to dry out, so it's saturated. At this point, I wish we had snow- easier to deal with in many ways.
Anyway, the two main problems with our flooding is that we 1) have run off from the property behind us (which hopefully the rain garden will fix) and 2)run off from our own roof, because like most houses down here, there are no gutters. I hope to fix that when I have the money to install gutters and rain barrels, but that's a way off I think, as money is tight.
So, that's where we are now. Hopefully, can get the rest of it dug out the next week or so (when it's maybe a little warmer). Then it's just a matter of waiting a couple of weeks until I can plant and put the mulch down. Maybe the mulch will also act as a but if a deterent to Nehi.

Not holding my breath on that one though!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Start on that ark...

I was looking out over the yard today, and looking down at my muddy, soaking wet Nehi and couldn't help but think that summer seems very far away. The days of sun and green grass, and not wading through muck seems very, very far away.



Things are gearing up for Bread Loaf, which usually seems to herald that summer is just around the corner. But this year, it seems all I do is look out on my flooded yard and wonder if spring and summer will ever come. It seems hard to remember warmth, and sunshine and being dried out.
I have my plans for what I want to do in the yard this year, and my list of seeds for the garden, but it seems hard to imagine what it will look like in light of the reality that faces me every day as I look out at the backyard.

Part of it I think is what I like to think of as the "futility of Nehi". It seems as though I have to start over so much of what I did last summer. Nehi has pulled up most of what I planted last year. Plants that were doing well- the jasmine, the hybiscus. So, starting over. Rethinking. Evaluating what I can replant (and hope she's old enough to not do it again) and what I need to do to prevent her from doing it again.
I want longer days, sun all the time, digging in the dirt (not mud).
But it does seem very hard to imagine now. I know it's only January, and to people who live above the Mason-Dixon, it may seem weird to imagine spring and summer. But down here, we're teased with 65 degree days of sunshine like earlier this week, and so the dream of spring and summer seems just out of reach.
I dream of it anyway.

Monday, January 18, 2010

You Keep Working On That...

I was bored out of my skull the other day when I had to take Mom up to Norfolk Sentara on Wednesday. We left a little after 6a, had to check her in by 9a, waited two hours for the procedure to start, it was 1230p before she was done, there was a two hour recovery time, then over to the neurosurgeon where we waited over an hour and forty five minutes to be seen, then were out of there around 5p, got stuck in Norfolk rush hour, and home after 7p. I'm exhausted by the sheer depth of what I could write about the failures of our healthcare system, so instead, I'll leave you with this little tidbit:
While I waited for Mom's procedure and recovery to be done (she was asleep for most of it), I wandered out for a smoke to kill the excessive time.

These signs are everywhere, and I had to take a picture. I even had the caption already in my head- You keep working on that, I'll be over here smoking.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

What did you do today? I built a wall...

Today saw a combination of two things...

#1:When I first got the house, I went and bought a couple of books on gardening. One I really loved, called Coastal Gardening. While it focuses on British gardens, the conditions and plants for a lot of the British coastal gardens are similar to here. One thing I particularly loved were the herb/plant walls. The idea was you built a wall that was stacked so that there were spaces between the rocks and then you filled the gaps with soil, then herbs and clinging plants. You could also plant on top of the wall (called, cleverly, a topper). I loved the idea, especially the combination of form and function. Unfortunately, I could not see how I could make it work in my garden. But the idea stayed in the back of my head.

#2: So I had this really ugly concrete patio thing in the corner of the yard (you can spot it in early pictures of the yard). I had no idea what it was. I knew it wasn't septic because my neighborhood has septic, the individual houses don't. A few weeks ago, I decided to dig down near it and see how far the concrete went down and maybe give me an idea of what I was dealing with. Turns out that it was just bricks laid down with concrete poured over it. One brick depth. In my digging I tried to lift a section of it and lo and behold, the section cracked and separated. I spent an afternoon breaking off sections of it and tossing the bricks aside. However, there were a couple of sections that weren't breaking and were much too heavy for me to try and lift and break. So the pile of rubble just sort of sat there. It became Nehi's favorite place to play, as there was new sand to dig in, new roots to play with and rubble to jump over.
However, I knew I'd come back to it, because I suddenly knew how I was going to get my herb wall. I'd use the bricks from the patio.

Today, I let Nehi out in the yard to play and then laid down on the couch, because I really wanted a nap. But then I felt bad, because she was out playing by herself. So I bundled up and went outside. I figured I might as well try to loosen more of the patio rubble while I was out there. Turns out that the freezing weather had loosened the rest of the mortar. So I spent two hours loosening bricks, dropping them to break them when necessary and building my wall.


I purposely set the bricks so they were concrete side down, with the bricks up. I spaced them so I would have room to put in the soil and plants later this spring. It looks a little out of place right now, but in my head, I see what it'll look like and it's going to be great!
So now, the corner of the yard is clear except for a couple of brick pieces I couldn't use in the wall.

I'll finish clearing them later, and find some use for them (see blog from earlier today). This also clears the way for another spring time project- creating a rain garden on that side of the yard. We get horrible runoff from the property behind us, and I'm going to put a rain garden in to see how much that helps. While I can't plant until it warms up, I can go ahead and plan the space out and start digging it out.
So, I probably won't be able to move tomorrow (hey- I built a WALL!), but Nehi and I had fun. There's nothing that beats being able to look at something and know that you've built it. I can't wait for spring.

Nehi Teaches Me About Rebuild, Renew, Reuse

Nehi discovered this week that comforters are just like stuffed animals- full of stuffing to pull out. For some reason, the heat vents in my bedroom don't work (it apparently only gets heat from the rest of the house if I leave the bedroom door open and if I leave the bedroom door open, Nehi eats the comforter stuffing). I don't have the money to get someone to look at it so, I was less than pleased that Nehi was destroying my source of warmth at night (other than her, she has always slept on the bed with me, but now she snuggled right up to me).

The first time this week I heard complete silence from the bedroom (always a bad sign) and went to look for her, she was hiding under the comforter:

There was stuffing everywhere. I said no and went to go get the sewing basket. As I sewed up the comforter, I started to think about a couple of things. We used to live in a world where we repaired and patched clothing rather than buy new ones. Where we bought things that would last instead of junk that had a short shelf life. Old clothes and blankets got reused for scraps or fabric. It seemed that things got rebuilt and reused until there was nothing left of it. Things in general got used until there was nothing left to use.

I have a couple of acquaintances (I wish I was cool enough to call them friends, but alas) that appear to live simpler lives, closer to the land, rebuilding, reusing and otherwise living perfect carbon footprint lives. I'm not that cool, for many reasons. I marvel at the balance they've achieved between the simpler life and modern conveniences. While they would probably argue with me, I think they are wonderful examples of what a perfect modern world would look like- the modern accessories of computers and blogging balanced with organic living.

Nehi has taught me many things, and while I'm not as cool as the wonderful women I mentioned above, I think I've caught some glimmers with Nehi the past six months. As she ripped buttons off of sweaters and flannel shirts, I simply patched the holes and chose unmatched buttons to put on. As she ripped the pillows on the couch from chewing on the corners, I simply sewed them up. As she ripped the comforter for stuffing, I patched it. I learned that having her was worth more to my life than the plants she destroys in the yard. Now don't get me wrong, she gets disciplined, I don't let her run amok. I simply realized that it wasn't worth it to get angry. She didn't realize what she'd done ten minutes later, so getting angry about it didn't do any good. It was better to discipline her, clean it up and move on.

I've always preferred to have a couple of simple things rather than a lot of junk. I spend most of my money on books. While I love my computer, I spend most nights curled on the couch, with Nehi on the cushions above me reading a book. I love my cell phone, but spend weekends with it sitting in the charger, unanswered. I'm a firm believer that modern conveniences are for MY convenience, not that of others.

I think life would probably be better if people figured out what they loved, and then built their lives around that instead of the things they think they should have. I love my books, learning, teaching, gardening and my dog. So that's what I spend my time doing. It's reflected in my home. The seed catalogs and landscaping plans sit on my desk. Bookcases dominate the living room. There are Nehi toys all over the floor, her crate sits right behind my desk. To many people, it might not seem like a lot but I'm happy. So, while I've not achieved perfect balance yet, I'm pretty content with the path I'm on.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Nehi's Possessed and It's All My Fault

As usual, I had grand plans for winter break. I was going to get the bike fixed, get Nehi used to riding with the bike, take long bike rides around the neighborhood, paint the garage floor. Of course none of this happened because I've had the plague for three weeks. About all I've managed was to vacuum Nehi dirt out of the carpet once. The rest of my time has been dedicated to laying prone on my couch. This resulted in Nehi becoming the wee demon that she is called, although at this point, the wee could be debated.
I'll fess up right now, that I know it's my fault. She's a high energy dog, and I've had the energy for about one walk a day versus her normal two, and with it being 30 degrees out, we're not playing in the yard for hours on end. So I understand why she's stir crazy and feel horrible about it, because the thing I like best about time off is that it gives me time to play with my girl.
But, due to the fact that she's not getting her playtime (except for that day I brought the bike home, and then spent two days on the couch recovering because well, I'M STILL SICK), Nehi has picked up some new tricks, that look alarmingly like a dog possessed.

Nehi has learned how to whine in the last couple of weeks. It's like she just suddenly discovered the sound and now makes it just to see if she gets a reaction from it, much like some of her barks. She'll be sleeping on the couch and just suddenly start to whine, the most pitiful sound you ever heard. Then look at me to see what happens. Normally nothing, I go back to my coffee.

Nehi has learned to take revenge for when I go upstairs without her. She grabs the remote, my cigarettes, my lighter, Dad's new book I borrowed and eats them. Sometimes she just carries them in her mouth, but destruction is normally involved. On the bright side, she is learning to drop said objects when I tell her. So now, if I pop upstairs for something, I have to open the door at the top of the stairs occassionally and see if I can spot Nehi. If not, it's a quick race downstairs to see what she has, because she always has something, and the attempt to retrieve it.

Nehi seems to have regressed into younger puppyhood. All lessons about not jumping, not biting and not pawing seem to have been forgotten. She can be sleeping so cutely on the back of the couch, but then as soon as Mom or Dad come downstairs, it's like someone has switched my baby girl for a hyper lunatic. Especially problematic with Mom.

Nehi went through a stage where she was very destructive at night and since I sleep like the dead, it was a bit problematic (although having Nehi has made me very Zen about the idea of material possessions- mainly don't get attached because they may be destroyed tomorrow). So, I of course, went into Google mode and read that if I moved her crate into the bedroom, this might help. Maybe it helped, or maybe she just outgrew it. Either way, the problem with her crate being in the bedroom is that I must leave the bedroom door open for her. This created a problem the other day (the day after the bike ride). I was prone on the couch, and feeling sicker than I had been. Suddenly, I realized that I didn't hear any noise. Uh oh. I got up, went into the bedroom and discovered what Nehi had been occupying herself with.




Nehi has gotten bored and decided to go back to her old habit of ripping open my down pillows. The two pillowcases did nothing to stop her, and I spent some quality time cleaning up feathers. The down pillows went away into the closet, and we returned to our regularly scheduled programming. Except now I'm thinking about moving her crate back out into the living room.

Nehi also learned how to open a hat box. She had gotten tall enough where she could stand on the toilet seat in the bathroom and reach my collection of rubber ducks that were on the shelves behind the toilet, and enjoyed chewing their heads off. So, time to put the rubber ducks away, I grabbed an empty hat box, put them all in there and put the hat box on a shelf. Then I spotted Nehi squirming under the bed with something in her mouth (her favorite den to take things Mommy is going to take away). When I finally exchanged what was in her mouth for Cheerios, I realized it was a rubber duckie, and lo and behold, there was the hat box, open. She had somehow managed to get the box open. Clever girl. Duckie went in the trash (his head had been eaten, and it would have been cruel to keep him alive) and the box went on a higher shelf.

Years ago, when Mom managed a retail Christmas store, she had a couple come in and buy a bunch of these really large jingle bells. They explained that they had trained their dogs to ring the bell that they hung on the back door when they wanted to go out. Well, when I got Nehi, I remembered this and thought it was a cool idea, so that's how I trained her. This week however, Nehi has decided that she didn't like the bell on the door anymore. She ripped it off and had been playing with it all over the house. A 3" jingle bell is loud, for the record.

So, that's been winter break- me feeling horrible because I'm sick, and horrible because I know it's my fault that Nehi is being a possessed lunatic. I return to school on Monday, and she'll go back to her regular schedule. Hopefully I'll feel better (and even if not, she'll get her walks/bike rides if only because I don't want to imagine what she'll come up with next!). Hopefully the yard will dry out so Mom doesn't have to step in wet dog poo to play with her at lunch, and maybe the mercury will rise above 35 and it'll be nicer to be outside in general.
But the thing is, Nehi's possession is a wonderful lesson- stuff happens, when you're not expecting it, not prepared for it, not wanting it. And the best any of us can do is deal with it in a way that doesn't make US lunatics, laugh and keep on trucking.