Fall clean-up

In the great northwest, September means fall clean-up and a bit of planting. This year has meant a lot of both, and I’ve learned a ton about what not to due thanks to the intrepid, ever daring and eternally patient Janel Ecker, of Terra Firma Landscape Design. Who, will likely kill me for mentioning her unless I also type “she doesn’t do the dirt part.” ergo, she designs, not digs.

Lesson number one. Hire a designer first. Bribe. Trade. Babysit. All of the above. When I was a high-heeled, pale, non-jean San Francsico girl and moved up here out of love (and a bit of lust), I naively hired a guy with a big machine. That happens…in any case, he moved a lot of dirt around, but put lots of things in the ground that started green and ended up brown. Permanently.

Lesson two. Ask your ‘advisor’ if they know what kind of soil you have. In my case, the reason we could even afford this property was because it was/is, in the middle of nowhere, relatively speaking, outside Seattle, and it was also horse pasture. Stinky, slimy, rat-infested, dung heaps surrounding a decrepit old house. We were young(er), without children and thought it would be an adventure.

Lesson three. Ask your mother “why she’s crying” when you proudly show her your new pad. And when she gives you the honest answer, “Honey, whatever you have as a budget, double it once, then double it again, and maybe you’ll come close.”

Lesson four. Don’t believe your husband when he says his mother in law “doesn’t know what she’s talking about.” As one year of remodel stretched to 2, then 3, then 4, she was right. But we were still married.

Lesson five. Play Rock Paper Scissors. It saved our marriage. At the beginning of the project, my contractor took us aside and sat us down. We thought he was going to change the price before he’d dug a shovel of dirt.

“I like you two,” he began, his wisened old face scrunched up as he took a drag on his cigarette. “So I gotta tell ya. The three top reasons for divorce are 1-death of a child, 2-job loss and 3- remodel.”

Rog and I looked at each other. We didn’t have the contract in front of us, but I felt pretty sure we hadn’t signed up for the marriage counseling add-on option.

“Well, this is a remodel. And I’d hate to see you kids get divorced.”

Oh, was that all, we said collectively, sighing with relief.

“No, you don’t understand. You like each other know. Maybe even love each other. But when you are twelve months into this and sleeping on the floor with dust in your mouth, you may want out.”

We laughed uncomfortably.

“Get a system now,” he recommended. “Doesn’t matter what it is. Flip a coin. Throw stones. Just pick one.”

Rog likes to proudly announce he’s never been to a therapist, but he has. This was it. That bit of wisdom has seen us through 12 years, and we employed Rock Paper Scissors. Even today, we use it to solve major differences. Rog got his colored walls, I got my garden. It all worked out.

Now, I actually started this blog thinking I was going to write about fall clean-up. So here it is:
1-planting trees. If it has a root ball, take the burlap sack down half-way and tuck it under. This is because the small tentacles on the bottom (in and outside the burlap sack) are feeders for the tree. Removing the sack entirely removes/kills all the feeders. No wonder I’ve killed so many trees!!

2-trim all the hostas. Never done that before either. I thought they were the raggedy look was supposed to represent fall. “Give them a haircut” said Janel, by lifting up the roots, and trimming the top. I was mortified that at 42, I had no idea of either this tip, or the one above.

3-plant plant–seed seed. This is a great time to seed and fertilize the lawn. As much as I like moss, I would like a blade of grass now and then.

4-prepare for winter. I read this is supposed to be 2 years of El Nina, and that means likely 2 ft of snow at the house. We got 2 cords of wood (yes, and I stack it myself), 2 pallats of pellets (Rog helps on that) and make sure the tub works for long soaks.

5-check your regional advice. I really like Home and Garden’s regional section. I can never remember what I’m supposed to do, even when I’ve bribed someone to tell me. This month’s October section was perfect. If it hadn’t been for my reading, I would have forgotten to divide (well, Janel told me once, I forgot already and them remembered. Thx H & G)

I’ve already mowed the lawns today, perhaps for the last time this year. As my relatives bake in the 100+degree of Arizona and Nevada, I must say, I do envy the warm weather and ability to get some vitamin D. But I wouldn’t trade the beautiful fall weathers for a tan. I’ll happily cover up my under-belly-of-a-slug white for the natural loviliness of fall.

Caffeine Withdrawals

My hands are shaking as I type this, so be kind, and overlook fragments, extra spaces or run-on sentences…

Last night, my scare was that I was going to have another child. Pregnant and 42 is not my ideal right now. It would have to be an act of God, but that’s another story. The withdrawal part is that I figured if I was, beyond the mortification and pain of pregnancy I’d endure (again), I’d be mainlining my child caffeine through the vats of chocolate I eat every day. Now, mind you, it’s not a vat. But it’s enough–a piece here and there-to probably equal some great cappucino. Both are loaded with caffeine. Each addictive. And each harder to quit that crack. Well, or so I’ve heard. Since I don’t like the notion of a newborn addicted to anything (save green vegies), I had to go cold turkey.

Oh, what a mother will do……Here’s the signs of withdrawal, what to do, and how to live to the following morning.

Signs–headache over my right eye first. It begins around five pm. By eight, it has spread to the entire side of my head, making it painful to move my neck. Midnight means I’m lying down, because my body quivers when I walk. Three am, I’m praying for a sudden death. I’m shaking. Five in the morning, I’m vomiting. At seven, I’ve put the pillow over my head, trying to hide the obvious from Rog, who knows the symptoms of withdrawal. Back when he had sympathy for me, he’d do anything for me. Now, he shakes his head, because I know better, and haven’t “kicked this habit once and for all.” This morning, he rushed out the door without noticing my bloodshot eyes or the dark, smoky looking rim underneath, due to smudged mascara (see vomit point above). It’s 10 now, and I’m fully recovered.

What to do:
Whatever you’re addicted to (ok, within legal bounds)….first, get prepared with an ice pack, and Arsenicum, a homeopathic remedy you can get at your local PCC, Whole Foods or health food store. It is for combating food poisoning. Yes, caffeine in large does is considered a poison. Anything that causes black teeth, stimulates cancer cell growth (as told to me by a dr at the cancer center here in Seattle-that’s another story), saps the collagen from our faces, and dramatically reduces the bone density SHOULD be considered food poison.

As a side note, I really like ABC Homeopathy. Even my husband, once a non-believer in natural medicine, goes to this site when I’m not around or he can’t get in touch with our homeopath.

When the onset hits, post headache and pre-puking, take a white pill. If the symptoms abate, then take one every 2-4 hours. If they don’t you can take it more often. Avoid taking it too much, since it can actually make you sick. (I’m making the leap you readers are smart enough to consult the Internet or a homeopath for more details. I’m giving advice from 30 years of using this stuff, all the while at the direction of my homeopathic swami)….

Back to what you do.
Fizzy water, no sugar, is good, in small amounts. Also, dehydration sets in very quickly. Chamomile tea with a bit of lemon is good. Lemon=highest amount of vitamin C. Honey generally has a mellowing affect. If lemon rips your system apart (as in, gives you diarrhea), don’t use it. But keep the tea and honey part. A cracker or two is going to sound nauseating, but eat it with the tea or the fizzy water. It’s 10:49 now, and I’m going back and forth (still) between the tea, the cracker and the fizzy water. About a tablespoon of each to keep hydrated. (note-the headache will come back if the body doesn’t get enough water).

What’s happening…I’m no dr., but I should be on that rehab show, Just for Idiots. Ok, I’ve not seen that yet, but it should be on TV, for people like me. Then I could get paid for being stupid enough to go through this time and again.

My swami tells me I wouldn’t be so sensitive to caffeine if I drank, smoked, or generally ate bad food. But I don’t. The rest of my diet is oddly ‘clean’, as in, organic, no preservatives, I make most of my own food. My singular are those black, little quarter size dollops of chocolate that resemble a chipmunk dropping, nuts and all.

What’s in front of me. This morning, two pregnancy tests showed negative. WAHUUUUU!!!! Of course, the first thing I want to do is celebrate with my treat of choice. But I’ve gone through so much pain and misery, hugged the toilet bowl more than I hug my daughter, I’m repeating to myself “never again, never again.” As I’m feel better by the moment, the true test will be if I can display any sense of willpower (and common sense) and not go through this again, w/out the threat of additional progeny as motivation.

A bit-o-inspiration

An hour ago, my personal tank of inspiration had run dry. No more creativity. Few cohesive thoughts. The break allowed me to think about inspiration. The first notion being selfish, as in ‘why can’t I get a bit more right now’, followed shortly by, “and why do others seem to have more than their fair-share and I’m deprived.”

After P-dog farted on my leg (she’s my writing partner, and doubles as the resident couch potato), I gained a jolt of perspective. Inspiration are the gifts of light that come at strange times, after a lot of hard work, thought, concentration and desire. (see photo. note laptop, and my p-doggy (this was pre-gas-btw)

Frank Tibolt said it best: “We should be taught not to wait for inspiration to start a thing. Action always generates inspiration. Inspiration seldom generates action.”

Over the last eight years, countless people have said to me–“I’ve always wanted to be an author, but…” I listen to incredible ideas; more than a few that are leagues better than my own ideas. I nod my head in complete understanding, wait for the inevitable question about ‘how’, then pull from John Grisham, who says “just write”.

At that point, I hear the same comments and excuses for not writing as I, myself made for 20 years. Right up until the time Rog finally told me to “forget the dream, make it a reality.”

Bless that boy for his bluntless. We were hiking on the side of a 9K Colorado mountain, and he’s like a billy goat going up that thing. The last comment I wanted to hear was something motivational. But he was  friend at that moment, and called it right. Within the hour of coming down off the mountain, I pulled out the laptop, told his mother-in-law I needed 20 minutes and wrote the outine for my first book. Can’t recall if I told the story, but within 20 days, I had an agent, and 40 days after that, a book deal.

Back to my dilemna an hour ago, it’s hard work (persperation begets inspiration). Can a jazz musician be inspired if he/she isn’t playing? No. Neither can a writer be inspired if not in the act of writing. A peruvian proverb essentially says that “little by little one walks far.” In real terms, my producer friend in LA recently tried to rid me of some impatience-despondence about the movie development cycle. He said that some days, forward progress is measured only inches.

“But after a few days, those inches become a foot,” he said. “A few months later, those feet equal a mile. And soon enough, that equates to a full movie.”

When I get bummed out, tired, or drop a bit on the mojo-scale, these trite, pithy and worn phrases pop to mind. Tonight, I got up, gave my daughter a hug, listened to some good music, and had an incredible scene come to mind. 30 min later, the scene was written, I sent it off to the producer, felt so satisfied I just had to share with my peeps.

Great baby finds for showers & gifts

Something’s in the air, and it involves big bellies. Six women are preparing to give birth in the next few months. With the recession slamming the doors on already threatening boutique baby shops, where does a girl (and some husbands/friends/spouses) turn, but to the Internet.

I’m going to save someone the time and energy of looking and give you some great sources for unique, high-quality and affordable baby stuff. And if you’re a man reading this, remember that you win GREAT POINTS for getting your female co-worker, cousin, sister, friend, something cool. You are guaranteed to be named in a will if you actually look/find/buy it yourself, without relying upon a female conspirator.

First things first. Tinyprints.com. The best, highest-quality and least expensive source for printed anything. I’ve used Tinyprints for my own birth announcements, two wedding shower and a baby shower. If you want to surprise someone, use this source (shout out to Darcy for showing me the way on this one). Pick the item, the color, upload the photos, proof and wallah! You are done and looking like a superstar.

Next, go for the gifts at Too Cute Baby Gifts. I particularly like the Personalized section, because it has items as low as $19.99 and then upper end stuff of course. Think this is over-the-top? Think again. 20 bucks is about the same as a dinner at a regular restaurant (or less), and it will last years. The impression and thought goes a long way. I spent another $10 and got the lamb set for the wife of my voice teacher. At $27, it’s a great gift, and free shipping. If you don’t have a clue, go for the giftbaskets. You can’t go wrong.

If you are a fashionista, and want to make a statement (as in, get all the other ladies and a few men saying ‘aahhhh’), check out BabyStar.com. I love the variety of organic bibs, burping, nursing clothes etc., and the cool baby bags, although that’s normally an oxymoron. But I’ve had good luck, as in, the mom-to-be has never returned one.

I’ve a few more, but I need to reserve a few for the next two weeks before I do my shopping. I’d hate to have every single friend check out what I’m going to get.

Smile today

This is for the sad looking man at the grocery store today
The person who needs a fast-paced ‘happy song’, an inspirational, motivational upper
Anyone who thinks life is horrible, depressing and only getting worse.

I have this song on 2 devices, two computers, and as a backup, on a memory card in my car. At times, I’m three of the above. the music and lyrics are great-not in love with the video, so close your eyes if you need to.

Smile by bendj

Sunday, running shoes and family

Sunday’s are great for two reasons. The first is because in theory, I get to exercise, and the second, I get to go to church. One is for health the other for my happy factor. Allow me to explain.

Like every other day, I’m typically awoken by one of my two cats, laying on either side of me, reminding me it is possible to have a sunspot while on Earth, my dog, who needs to be let out, or one of my daughter’s who is bright-eyed and bushy-tailed in the six-am-range.

Today was no different. By 7 I had donned on the running shoes for my exercise of choice, the treadmill. Yet, Porsche wants pancakes, Sophia is trying to squeeze her head through the metal rungs by our stairs. You get the picture. Time passes, breakfast, cleaning, etc., and I’m not on the treadmill. I’m literally walking towards the rubber mat of death, when Rog comes around the corner, wearing new running shoes and says “hey! want to go running outside?”

Now, I’ll let you in on something. Rog is from Ouray, Colorado, raised at @7K feet elevation. He runs like a gazelle. He needs to run like a fish needs to learn how to breath under water. Which means he’s really telling me that I he bought a new pair of shoes he wants to test out. You must also understand I like being dry, which means running in the sun (or on the treadmill) whereas Rog actually likes the rain, snow, sleet etc. because he keeps cool (that freaking high metabolism again). Mind you, he looks down at his Puma running shoes that he scored for $50 on sale and we both start laughing. You see, he’s got two full bins of running, basketball, workout/lifting shoes upstairs, all of which look as spotless as the day he brought them home from the store.

By the time we get done debating the merits of taking both girls in the Burley, which is boasting one flat tire, the hills we have around the house and whether or not it’s good to run on cement, another 30 minutes has gone by. At 10 am, it’s time for me to get ready for church, thus eliminating the possibility of a workout. Now I get to attend church, a highlight of my week.

Now, this may come as a surprise, since I’m not sure what I come across like to those in my circle of the universe, but I’m pretty sure it’s not that I’m a church-going gal. But in fact, I do. And I like it.

I go by myself (Rog is somewhere between skeptical and angry on the religion spectrum, thus he stays home with the girls), and a funny thing happens. I hear stories of love, hardship, hope and faith, and whether I tune out with boredom during lows, or cry when touched by a heartwarming story, 60 minutes is all it takes to get re-centered on the important thing in life. Family.

One word. I know it. I’ve always known it. But nothing takes the place of hearing about a 42 yr old father of four dying of a heart attack to make me stop and say, WOW, I’m really glad that wasn’t my husband, followed by a quick run-through of all the great things about Rog. Not to sound sappy, but its easy to fall into a trap of non-appreciation, which begets ingratitude, begetting frustration…you see where this goes. And it turns out that no matter the topic (are there bad topics at church?), I come home quite happy to see Rog and the family.

A few years ago, I got lazy. I stopped going for a few months, slept in (we only had 1 kid at home) and Rog said–“have you stopped going?”

“No,” I replied. “I’m just taking a break.” Thinking he’d be pleased, I asked him why he asked the question in the first place.

His answer shocked me.

“Well, I don’t know how to say this, but you are a lot nicer to me when you go to church.”

How’s that for some thick irony? Since then, I only miss if we are out of town or sick. And when I come home, Rog has had “protected time” with his girls, usually the only moments of such he gets during the week.

Now that Rog and P are off at the fair, I’ll get my workout after all. And it was all ok it didn’t happen on my timeline.  I’m happy, feeling appreciative for a (live), gainfully-employed, supportive spouse.

Just this morning…Marital discord, happiness and Thunk

Do you ever wake up, the sun is shining (somewhere), you feel good and then BAM, it all goes downhill? That was this morning…picked what was left of the tomatoes in the garden, such as it was this year, walked around w/P and little P (P-dog), chased rabbits….then Rog and I get into a scrap. Not a major scrap, but enough that we retreat to our respective corners (he the bathroom, me to the office) for personal timeouts. BTW—this nearly saved our marriage a few times. Blood pressure rises, irrationality sets in, and then one of us (the person who’s being-big at the moment) calls for a personal time out.

In any case, he beat me to the punch, called the personal time out first (leaving me more angry), I took my walk, and was bound to set things right. I find him taking a shower, tell him I’m leaving to run errands, and he starts laughing. The inside joke here is that he knows I a) wanted to leave w/out telling him, in the hopes of making him angry, but b) this was my way of saying I’m sorry, although aa) not asking for an apology nor ab) offering one. He then says:

“Since you’re being big, and I know you know that I know you want an apology from me, but you’re being too small to give me one, I’ll give you one first. Then I’ll be bigger than you twice!”

He laughs with the moral superiority that only a spouse who has just won a scrap can, upon which I laugh (at my smallness) and call him a Thunk. That would be the combo of a Thug (which, if you’ve done business with my hard-headed husband, he is a Thug) and Lunk (because if you’ve seen him playing hockey-you also know he’s a Lunk. In fact, that’s Porsche’s nickname for him). Thug+Lunk=Thunk.

There you have it. Now I can be off on my errands, the world set in fine order, a new word to boot.

My favorite fall finds

Fall is awesome. Assuming you can tell the transition from summer to fall. This summer, the seasonal change went unnoticed, since one type of rain blended into another with little difference. oh, a leaf fell yesterday. that was the difference. On the bright side, the lack of outdoor activities for the fam gave way to Internet and store indulgences, looking for good buys on things that glitter with some glamour.

Find one: Butter nail polish, from London. Found this at a local store, didn’t believe the pap about it being environmentally conscious, but for 14 bucks, i gave it a shot. The great news: I’m a FAN. no staining. no bad colors. no carcenogens. LOVE it. My mom, who’s 70, hates polish because it cracks and chips. For her, a piano-playing fool, she can’t have that. She learned what I did-it lasts a long time. I went back, picked up 6 more colors + top and base coats, sent some off to my equally skeptical sister (the fashion maven who helps me keep current) and she was another convert.

Find two: twinkle boots. The latest take on the Sketcher’s twinkle shoes that light up with each walk. Found the boots outside Tahoe in a western shop. And NO, these aren’t for adults. For girls. In pink–at $44, debatable if it’s a necessity or a splurg. But Porsche has worn her pair for days in a row. She’d sleep in hers if she could.

Find three: metallic, hanging pumpkins. sounds crazy and cheesy, but my local nursery had a set on display, and they are totally cool. I removed my kitchen hangings (which I’d not done for years) to put these up. Love them! $29–a great accessory I can leave up until Christmas comes along. The pieces are approx 24″ wide by 18″ tall, and have hooks on the back. Tried to find online-no success. But could probably locate from the nursery.

Find four: knee high boots. Wow. Took me 42 LOOONNNNGGG years to be able to fit my badboy calves into the things, but perhaps that’s what having my last child did for me. Thinn(er) calves, finally. Of course, I temporarily lost my mind, and bought several. Would show pics but the items must be in-store only. Couldn’t find on-line. ohwell. Rog LOVS them, and in turn, is very pleasant. Who knew?

dogs and cancer–10 yr trend and cure

Last May, my special P-dog, code named such because my sister named her p-doggy because Penelope the pitbull frightened the uninitiated…started manifesting lumps on her body. They were red, and would come and go like an overgrown bug-bite. It was really strange, especially when she kept after them, licking them until they started bleeding. I wasn’t really worried until she got three on the same side of her body.
Jane the Vet identified the bumps as cancer cells gone awry, requiring major surgery, removal, and some nasty scars on my poor, lovely, mushy dog.

“Is this going to return?” I ask.

“Most likely,” she says, before telling me why.

Turns out that big dogs, or dogs with a lot of muscle-pits, rotts, mastiffs, bulldogs etc., have had an alarming increase in cancer over the last decade. Jane said she’s not quite sure why, but the thinking among vets is that something in the food/air/whatever, is getting into the muscles. The muscles can’t “expend” the carcenogens, it builds up, and then poof. One day, it turns over to the dark side and is cancer. She gave me 2 types of pills designed to ‘dispel and dissipate” the build up. It wasn’t quiet a death sentence. More like an on-going session with the chemo machine.

Now, I’m going to reveal that I’m a believer in alternative medicines. Not because I’m not down with western medicine, it’s just that the Chinese have been at it for 4,000 years, and I roll with the notion that they perfected using nature for healing. Since homeopathy is the same principle (plant based healing to be simplistic) I turned to my swami in the foothills in Arizona to see what could be done.
He told me about AlcaGreen, a green, powerdy substance comprised of a whole lotta good foods. Turns out that stores abound (on-line) of people being helped/cured by the the human version of the stuff. I bite, and in a few days, i get two big vats of green powder I’m to feed my dog every day.

Skip forward 6 months. The dog, nicknamed Stitch, when she’s turned left, and P-dog when she’s turned right, was fine, until I stopped giving her the Alcagreen. I went on vacation for a month, didn’t take with, and in another 30 days, 2 bumps reappeared. Call the swami, he said-don’t freak-and resume treatment. Sure enough, the bumps left, Jane couldn’t find the lumps when I took her back in, and it appears we might have the solution to this weirdness afflicting our pets.

My specialty is mixing a tablespoon with half-cup of soup, though she’ll take the remnants of baby food in a pinch.

the importance of photos

Rog hates this photo and suggested I crop it. but why? if I did that, it would take out the hysterical white-girl yo-sign that we did at the lake. and for my peeps, Janelly and Lindsay, that wouldn’t be much fun. If it goes down, then i’ll have to find something else equally as interesting.

This blog is intended to compliment my other ‘business‘ (e.g. boring) blog required by my writing adn business world. To quote my editor, it sucks for the general reader, while great for the .000000001% of homosapiens that care about writing. uh, ok.

So here it is. My sis came up with a complete email full of great subjects, more in a thirty-second stream of brilliance than i could must in 2 months of complete suckiness writing. Rog then helped even further by telling me to write a cookbook on Swedish Fusion, which in fact, I may do. I’m tall. I’m swedish. I like to eat. That too, can apply to the other .00000001% of folks I failed to reach with my other blog.

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