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.