Posted in On the Homefront

Personality and Gardening

What kind of a gardener are you?

After an unusually hard winter freeze in February, hard as defined both by coldness and length, we are now having a somewhat unusual spring in the garden and I am enjoying watching my plants recover (or not) on a timeline that I have no control over.

A local nursery owner was interviewed on the news a week or so after the freeze and he was asked the obvious question, “Everything looks dead, what do I do?” I loved his reply, the gist of which was… If you are impatient and have plenty of money dig it all out and replant. I would be happy to sell you lots of plants. If you don’t have unlimited financial resources but do have some patience, just wait it out, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by what comes back.

Another way I’ve heard this stated is…if it’s dead, it’ll still be dead in a month and then you can dig it out, but if it’s alive and you pull it out of the ground, well, then it’s done for sure.

I am a patient person by nature, so it is easy for me to be patient person with nature as well. I also tend to root for the underdog so if some little plant looks to be wanting to defy the odds and return from the dead then I’m probably going to be willing to wait and give it a chance. I’m not much into perfection, manicured shrubs and massed plantings. I prefer letting things grow, which leads to letting things get overgrown; experimenting with random plants here and there, which leads to me having no idea what the plants actually are but enjoying the variety of textures and colors; and just trying to keep the actual weeds at bay.

There have definitely been some disappointments this spring. The hibiscus that I finally put in the ground last year hasn’t shown signs of life. It had spent 7 years in a pot and was moved into the garage during previous freezes but I thought it deserved a little more root room and a prime spot in a bed. Oops. The caladium bulbs that I planted this spring either were a) put into the ground a little to early or b) dug up by squirrels or c) just being slower to sprout than I expect. There’s something the husband is calling a corn plant that can’t seem to give up enough for me to remove the dead leaves or grow anything new to let me know it’s alive. The blue porterweed that flanks the husband’s favorite outdoor reading chair, that I thought was hardy enough to survive, still looks very dead.

We definitely took advantage of the situation to clear out some stuff we didn’t much like anyways and to prune back plants that had become overgrown and/or leggy. We cleared out enough to be able add more peat moss to the bog garden and the azaleas, which had started showing signs of disease last year got their harshest pruning in decades, we’ll see how they come thru now. The pansies put on their best display of blooms since planting last fall, shouting “we love cold weather” but now seem to be reconciled to the inevitability of their summer death in the heat.

Most days, I take a stroll around the yard, just to see how things are doing. And this week, almost 2 months since the freeze, my plants are still pleasantly surprising me. Check out all these plants, rewarding my patience.

So I’ll continue to cut back the dead, look for the life, and enjoy some patient spring gardening. The three H’s of summer (heat, humidity, hurricanes) will be here soon enough.

Posted in Really Random Thoughts

Renewal

If you asked me on any given day if I was a person whose mood was dramatically affected by the weather, I would probably tell you no. But then a glorious, bright-blue-sky, low-humidity, sweatshirt-temperature, early spring day rolls around and I find myself in a decidedly better headspace than I’ve been in lately. And even tho it means spending time inside in front of a screen, it is worth it to share this day and this mood with y’all.

I just found two plants in the front yard that are showing robust signs of life after our mid-February freeze. I was hopeful, tho unsure, if they were going to pull thru, but today they showed me they were still alive and let me know where to prune them.

The husband and I are currently waiting for dose 2 of our vaccines and most of my favorite people are somewhere along the vaccine pipeline – done, in between, or scheduled. For that I am most grateful.

I met a friend for a patio lunch yesterday, then went with the husband for a patio St. Patrick’s Day beer at his favorite bar (that he was last at in February 2020), and then met D#2 and SIL at their brewery’s outdoor beer garden to wish her happy birthday. So much (socially distanced, outdoor) socializing! It made me realize how much I need to work on my own social skills; I feel very out of practice with in-person human interactions, but it was good to see my own signs of life after this year-long covid winter and I’ll figure out where to prune and how to encourage growth as we all continue to slowly emerge.

The car is in the shop today for some recommended though not yet critical maintenance. There is enough hope for road trips (and just more getting out and about) in the near-, middle-, and distant future that I want Clifford the Big Red Car to be ready to roll.

What does it say about me and this pandemic year that I almost don’t want to post this for fear of jinxing anything? I’m sure bad news is just around the corner, but right now I’m in the middle of the block and I’m going to enjoy and take some deep breaths.

Posted in On the Homefront

Things I’ve bought during the pandemic that haven’t cured my existential dread

I really wish I had thought of this title or topic on my own, but I didn’t. Here’s the link to the post on the Last Word On Nothing that got me thinking and inspired me to fess up to my pandemic purchases.

Things I’ve Bought During the Pandemic That Haven’t Cured My Existential Dread

I don’t love or hate shopping. I don’t buy a lot because a) I don’t need a lot, b) I tend to angst over spending money, c) the waste and consumerism sometimes really gets to me. I don’t mind grocery shopping (in a pre-pandemic world) because then I am spending money on things I mostly, sort of, need. I like strolling around (again, in the pre-pandemic world) looking at stuff – there is so much STUFF in America! – both in traditional retail spots and at resale shops, estate sales, garage sales, etc. I don’t usually like to buy on-line because a) I’m old fashioned, b) that angst thing – it’s easier to put off in-person purchases and I don’t want to get in the habit of just clicking the buy button, c) I don’t trust that what I see on the screen is what I’m going to get.

Still, retail therapy, or whatever you want to call it is real. The past 12 months have definitely found me using my purchasing power to try to make everything (er, to try to make ANYthing) better. Here’s what I can recall that I bought:

Some earth friendly cleaning products – “just add water!”. I give it mixed reviews both on making my house clean and making me feel less existential dread.

On one of the two times that I have set foot in a Target store since last March, I bought a small food processor and a drying rack. The food processor was necessary for an excellent vegan spread recipe that is now a go-to snack and, quite frankly, I don’t know how I lived this long without a drying rack. Most positive shopping excursion of the pandemic.

Doesn’t that make you so happy? Well, it makes me happy.

I clicked the button on quite a few subscriptions. I have too much in my email inbox every morning, but I believe I am supporting some good causes and some good people. I also subscribed to Headspace, for my mental health, Downdog Yoga for my physical health, and Disney+ for Hamilton. “Getting my money’s worth” – that is condition that I am saving for some later date analysis of my spending.

I bought some books, but not as many as I got rid of, so that doesn’t count.

I bought some art! We finished a fun jigsaw puzzle and I was reading the box about the artist and I went down the internet rabbit hole learning about Charley Harper and pretty soon I had a new canvas hanging over the fireplace. High marks for happiness.

The Puzzle
The Artwork

Clothes. Yup, I bought clothes. I bought a bunch of leggings/lounging/exercise (HA!) stuff from girlfriend.com, a sustainable/fair wage/ recycled material sort of company that I can thank(?) the daughters for turning me on to. Pricey, but they do a good marketing job to lessen my overall angst. Also I bought pajamas. Because at least if I have pajamas that make me smile I can go to bed with a happy look on my face. Plus proceeds went to a charity. Plus plus they have POCKETS!

P’Jimmies! (From Alex Mill w/Jimmy Fallon)

Finally, to cap off this pandemic year, I have ordered myself an Apple Watch. Just because I wanted to. I think my upcoming vaccine will do a lot more to ease my existential dread, but sometimes it just feels good to spend money on something you unequivocally don’t need.

Money can buy at least a little happiness, and in a pandemic year, a little happiness can go a long way.

Posted in On the Homefront

Weary

Just when I’m ready to clear some cobwebs, to shake up something…ANYTHING…to start writing “regularly”, to start exercising “regularly”. Just when I think it might be safe to come out of hunker down, introverted, survival mode….

WHAM! (Yet again)

I live in Houston, Texas, where a record breaking cold, winter storm came barrelling thru a few weeks ago. We were inconvenienced and uncomfortable for a few days, but there was no actual damage to health or home. Well, except for some landscaping that was already due for a bit of a reset this year anyways. It’s one more thing to work back from, another layer of survivor’s guilt. And quite frankly, I’m getting weary.

I’m weary of wondering what will come next. I’m weary of wondering when. I’m weary of feeling guilty for tempting the fate of covid, for contributing to climate change, for not leaving the world better than I found it.

Today is the first day of a new month. So today I am writing. Today I put a new gnomepun in the front yard.

Gnomesick

Today I will keep going. Today I will pull out another thought from the back. Today I will remember that I’m part of a family, a community, a beautiful blue world.

And when I feel weary, I will remember the scene from the movie Bull Durham where Nuke Laloosh is singing the song “Try a Little Tenderness” on the team bus, with his misunderstood lyrics:

Oh, she may be wooly
And young girls they do get wooly

Today is March 366, 2020. It’s time to try a little tenderness. And, maybe, find a new knitting project.

Posted in All about me

Other people’s words

It’s not that I haven’t had thoughts about this whole pandemic year. I noted the advice that we should all find some way to chronicle living in these times. I had this blog already set up, I have embarrassing amounts of empty notebooks, I have a phone that takes/stores/organizes photos, I have PLENTY of time.

Pile of notebooks BEFORE I bought another Field Notes subscription

Every time that voice in my head – the one that philosophizes and rambles and keeps me awake and demands that I write things down to quiet it – every time it got so loud as to be unignorable, I would read other people’s words and be satisfied that it had been said, better than I could have. Which is fine. And I’m thankful for the sanity that reading books, blogs, poetry, newsletters (and yes even twitter dammit) has provided when I think we’ve all been on the brink of going crazy. But there is one bit of writing that I did this year because there is one subject that I can write about better than anyone else….me

For my 60th birthday, in September 2019, the daughters gave me a subscription to Storyworth. I have blogged about it before, but the quick recap is that for 52 weeks the Storyworth folks email you a simple question about your life and you email them back with your answer. I’d usually roll the question around in my head for a few days before answering. Writing to those prompts sated my creative need to put words down and kept me sifting through memories which blunted the daily doomscrolling traumas. And then, for Christmas this year, the daughters presented me a bound book.

It’s 130 pages! With large type and lots of white space!

I love the title they chose, an homage to this blog that they’ve both been supportive of through the years. I read thru the book for the first time last week and, in fact, it reads a lot like this blog. Which is to say that it sounds like me.

Great literature has not been created here. It’s not even a passable memoir. But it’s something I might skim thru every few years, to help fire up those memory synapses. Perhaps a daughter or grandchild will come across it and glean some understanding of their mother or grandmother. Perhaps, but it doesn’t matter. It was a great gift that came at an opportune time.

Goals for 2021? I’ll keep reading other people’s words. And I’ll find a way to keep writing mine.