Archive for August, 2009

No heaven will not Heaven ever be…

 regularcat-goodbye

Our Beloved RegularCat
born: January 31, 1994 ~ died: August 24, 2009

“No heaven will not Heaven ever be,
Unless my cats are there to welcome me.”
– anonymous

No room for arugula.

Way back when RegularDad bought our first house, one of the Great RegularAunt’s gave me a book on gardening as a housewarming gift. It was an old book, probably bought used at a yard sale, so I had a good time perusing the pictures and giggling over the oh-so-70’s outfits the gardeners were wearing in them. But I also spent a lot of time reading through the book, and wanting very much to give gardening a try.

But as luck would have it, it seemed every time I’d say to myself: okay, this year I’m gonna go for it, something would happen. We’d suddenly have to move, or I’d suddenly become pregnant, or I’d already have a new baby to nurse and care for, or some combination of any of those things. And the years went by and I’d often pick up that old gardening book and pour over the pages again, and think to myself: someday.

And as this past winter was coming to a close, I got out that old gardening book, and sat down with RegularDad and said: okay, this year I’m gonna go for it. And he smiled at me and we talked about it for a long time and we walked around our large neglected yard and talked some more and then we decided we needed to fence the whole thing in because of the little pool we put up every year, and then I said, this corner over here would be perfect for a vegetable garden.

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And we spent quite a few evenings walking around that little corner and sitting down with graph paper and planning and plotting, and then we decided on raised beds, and RegularDad said he’d be happy to build me whatever I needed. Then one night we sat down and ordered a whole mess of seeds from an organic supply close by, and over a series of weekends, RegularDad built me eight large garden beds, dug out the sod, and refilled them with dirt.

I can’t even begin to tell you how much work that turned out to be. Not just the actual carpentry and digging and filling, but the fact that he had to schedule it all around a very busy work schedule and the absolute RAINIEST spring ever on record, and in between doing the actual labor he had to deal diplomatically with one crazy neighbor, one crazy fence-builder, a less-than-ethical dirt supplier, and my many bouts of angst and worry and doubt.

You see, once we decided to do this project, and we told the kids about it, they of course had to tell everyone that we were putting in a garden. And when they told my mother and my mother-in-law about it, both of those women said in no uncertain terms: What are you kidding? That’s so much work! Why would you do that to yourself?

What they were thinking was probably something along the lines of: oh GOD. First she homeschools. Now she wants to grow her own food. WHAT NEXT????

And silly me, sometimes I’d buy it. I’d agree that this was ridiculous. That I’d never be able to grow anything. That I would fail. That I’d look so stupid at the end of it all, having made RegularDad do all this work, and there’d be nothing to show for it. And my mother and mother-in-law (the two people who should be NURTURING me in this process and sharing their knowledge of cooking and doing MOTHERLY type things like SUPPORTING ME IN THIS ENDEAVOR), they’d be lined up out front elbowing each other out of the way to be the first to say to me: See? I TOLD YOU SO. Didn’t I tell you? You can’t do this. You can’t do anything.

Because they’re THAT kind of mothers.

But RegularDad kept telling me to shake it off, and I remembered some very good advice a good old friend once gave me about gardening:

Just plant something.

So I did. I planted stuff. And at first, it didn’t look so impressive at all:

 garden-5-31a

And I spent quite a few anxious hours on the phone and online with some of the greatest women I’ve ever known, discussing the state of my dirt, the health of my little plants. And they all held my hand and told me that everything would be okay. That things would grow. Wait and see, they said. And take another picture in a month. So a month later I went out to the garden and snapped another shot:

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I was starting to feel a little better by then. I’d gotten some lettuce to grow and the corn was definitely knee-high by July, and we’d had fun with radishes. Even more important than that was the fact that all four of us would often end up out there after dinner working in the beds, or just playing in the vicinity. My 8-year-old suddenly became quite attached to the garden and often asked to go out there with me so that we could work together. We’d be busy digging or mulching and she’d say to me: What if nothing grows? And I’d say to her: Then we’ll try again.

RegularDad decided to build me a gorgeous little picket fence to go around it, and if there wasn’t any actual work to do with the plants, the kids would often go out there and help hold boards in between bouts of swinging on the swings or playing tag. And every time they found a worm, they’d bring it to me and I’d say: oh, go put that in with the squash. Or the cucumbers. Or wherever. And whenever they found a ladybug in the house, they’d make a big deal out of ushering it out to our garden and wishing it well.

And one day my mother-in-law showed up and said, so… show me the garden, and we went out there and walked around and talked about what was in there and she smiled and nodded as if she’d been the one who’d had to encourage me to do this all the while. And at one point she said, so are you growing any arugula? And I said, no, I wasn’t because I don’t really like arugula very much. I find it very bitter and prefer to not eat it. She expressed her disapointment at that, and then bent down to one corner of a bed and said: see… this here (using her arms to draw a wide box in the air)… this would  be perfect for my arugula. And in my head (not out loud, because the kids were clamoring around begging to harvest the last radishes) I was all: OH MY GOD. GET THE FUCK OUT OF MY GARDEN.

And then a couple weeks later, my mom showed up to have dinner with us, and she said to us: so… show me the garden. So, we all trooped out there again and walked around again and commented on what was out there AGAIN, and my mom was all: how wonderful! I’m so glad you finally decided to do this! And before I could even sputter any obscenities in my head, she trotted off to her car and came back with a tray of nearly-dead plants she’d picked up in a garden center, oh, I don’t know, three months earlier and then apparently hid in her trunk until that moment. To give to us as a gift. Oh, I know they’re not looking too good, she said to us. But I bet if you just put them in the dirt and give them a drink, they’ll perk right up.

Oh, my FREEKIN’ GAWD.

So, the point of this whole story is, I did it. I gardened. And it’s been a really great experience. So far, I’ve eaten the following things from my own garden: lettuces, radishes, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, zucchini, corn and green beans.

Here’s what it looks like more recently:

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 Those are my cucumbers right above there. Can I tell you that I’m currently in cucumber heaven? Actually, I’m in a full medley of vegetable heaven, but the cucumbers are really my favorite this year. I planted two varieties, one of which was recommended only for greenhouses, but I thought I’d try anyway because I loved them so much, and they were so expensive at the store. And I watched, amazed, as they grew into these enormous giant vegetables with small thorns on them. I gingerly picked one about a month ago, and brought it inside. I washed the dirt off it, scrubbed the spines off it, and sliced it and, oh-so-timidly bit into it. And it was the most amazing cucumber I’d ever eaten. I couldn’t believe how much I’d been paying for store-bought cucumbers that were yellowed and scrawny and dry. The ones in my garden are like watermelon rinds.

There’s a patch of corn in the background there. A month ago it was knee-high. Now it’s seven feet tall. And tasty. There was this one afternoon when I went walking down the aisle to pick some beans, and I walked by the corn, and the aroma of those plants pollenating made me stop and just stand there for about five whole minutes.

Never in the past three years was I as glad to have quit smoking as I was at that moment. Because if I were still smoking, I probably would have missed that scent. And so I realized yet one more benefit to having this garden: it’s something new. Something I never smoked while doing. I’ll never be triggered by a wish to smoke in that garden. And more than once, when briefly wishing I still could grab a quick smoke, I’ve gone out into the garden instead and stood between the corn and the tomatoes and just breathed it in.

And last week, when my mother-in-law begged us to make the long drive to see her mother, crying and moaning to me on the phone that her mother wouldn’t stop calling her and crying and moaning about how no one comes to see her, I went out to the garden early in the morning and picked a small basketful of tomatoes and cucumbers and brought them up to RegularGreatGrandma’s. And I bit my tongue when my mother-in-law raved about how beautiful our garden is, and just pulled out a pile of knitting and kept myself happy with it while we had our visit.

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For a first year garden, I’d say this has been a success. And next year will be even better. Not that I haven’t lost any crops. Because I have. I lost my early spinach. And I don’t think my watermelons are going to make it. Nor the pumpkins or squash. I didn’t get to start them as early as I would have liked, and they’re still very tiny. This has been an unusually rainy year and it seems some plants do well with it but others don’t. But I didn’t lose it all. And each year, I’ll try again and see what I get. It’s amazing how fast I’ve gotten used to just wandering outside to pick something to make for dinner. What a gift this is.

I’d orginally planned to blog about my garden project slowing during the course of the summer. But then, I lost my watch, and blogging took a backseat to both looking for it and to actually being out in my garden. Gardening. But again, I do apologize to those of you who have waited so patiently to see these pictures, and to see how it all turned out, not to mention the length of this post.

You were right, cowgirls. It all came together. And now I’m hooked.

After dinner conversation.

6-year-old: Kerry was totally doing it again at karate tonight.

RegularDad: Doing what?

6-year-old: Touching me. She does that all the time. She just follows me around and touches me. Ugh!

8-year-old: Well, she had a really rough day today, you know.

6-year-old: She did?

8-year-old: Yeah. I heard her mom telling all the other moms that at daycamp today, Kerry’s teacher made everyone practice letters ALL DAY LONG just because one of the parents complained that the kids were playing instead of getting ready for the school year.

6-year-old: No WAY! All day long? Practicing letters?

8-year-old: Well, sometimes they’d take a break and paint for a while, but then they’d have to go back to practicing letters for, like, 8 whole hours.

6-year-old: EIGHT WHOLE HOURS????????

RegularDad: That can’t be right.

Me, from the kitchen: No, she’s got it right. At least that what her mom told us.

8-year-old: Anyway. So maybe that’s why she was touching you. She had a hard day.

6-year-old: Well, I still don’t like it. I tell her again and again, ‘Please stop touching me,’ but she just keeps on doing it.

RegularDad: How old is she?

6-year-old: Four.

RegularDad: Four? Oh, well now, it’s pretty common for someone who’s four to not listen to you when you ask them not to do something. You’ll just have to keep repeating yourself.

6-year-old, from the lofty heights of maturity: Yeah, four is pretty young, I guess.

8-year-old, in a completely genuine  tone of cheerful matter-of-factness:  That’s really true. You know, when you were four, you didn’t listen at all. In fact… you still don’t.

In 20 years, we’ll look back and say: “Oh yeah, that was the summer Mom lost her watch!”

See, the thing is… I lost my watch.

I lost it way back in June. The kids were swimming and I was cleaning the back porch. It was hot and I was sweeping the porch, dust and grit floating in the air around me, and I was sweating a bit and thinking about getting on a suit and getting in the pool with the kids for a while to cool off, and my watch was sort of STICKING to my wrist in that way and at some point I went inside the house and went into some room or other to do something and I remember taking off my watch and putting it down on top of a little pile of… oh, I dunno… junk, toys, something… and I can see myself doing that and I can SEE the watch tumbling down the pile a little bit, and I can CLEARLY REMEMBER saying to myself: don’t leave your watch there, dummy, you’ll lose it for sure.

But I was hot and gritty from sweeping the porch and I just wanted to cool off fast, so I left it there, in that place where I was SURE to lose it and went and got my bathing suit on and went for a little swim with the kids.

And guess what? I haven’t seen it since.

And I LOVED that watch. RegularDad got it for me a year ago and it’s one of those uber-cool solar-powered things so I’d never have to get the battery replaced in it ever!

Sigh… and now it’s gone.

And I’ve thought about it and thought about it and retraced my steps again and again, and I can’t find it anywhere. I’ve checked all the likely places. The most common places where little piles of junk crop up, and nothing.

And then my camera battery went dead.

And every time I’d come up here to my office to get the charger to charge the battery so I could post some pictures of things I want to blog about, I’d think to myself: hey, I wonder if my watch is in THAT PILE RIGHT THERE? and I’d start looking and then I’d wander down to check the top of the microwave but it’s still not there, and then I’d wander into the bathroom and check there because I was about to change into a bathing suit when I took off the watch so maybe I left it in there. But nope. (I even let the trash can in there pile up for a quite a while because I was afraid to throw it out because maybe my watch had fallen into it, and it took quite a while for me to find the spare 10 minutes needed to dig through that trash, and let me tell you what a THRILLING 10 minutes that was for me. And guess what? It wasn’t in there.)

And then I’d forget all about charging the camera battery, and by the time I remembered it and realized I hadn’t done it, it would be time to take the kids somewhere or cook something or CHECK THE LAUNDRY ROOM BECAUSE MAYBE MY WATCH IS IN THERE SOMEWHERE. I know I already checked there, but hey, you never know. It could magically reappear there someday. Maybe. And by the time that was all done, it would be time to put the kids to bed, which seems to somehow TAKE FOREVER AND A MILLENIUM THESE DAYS and by the time that was done, I’d be too tired to do anything but sit on the couch and look for old House reruns, which I can’t seem to find anywhere lately. Dammit.

So, I’d say to myself, okay, I’ll charge the camera battery tomorrow. And then I’ll blog something. HONEST I will. PROMISE. Total Freekin’ Pinky Swear.

And right now, I’m in my office and the camera battery is charging, but it’s not ready, so I have no pictures. But I felt like I sort of owe you some sort of an explanation of where the hell I’ve been all summer, and the answer is, quite simply:

I’VE BEEN LOOKING FOR MY WATCH.

God help me, in between the normal craziness that’s an average day around here, what with all the new curriculum to be ordered and the myriad social events my kids simply MUST ATTEND and the ubiquitous dishes and laundry that need washing, that’s how I’ve spent my summer vacation.

I’d tell you more about all the OTHER things we’ve been doing this summer, but… well… wait a minute… I see a pile of stuff over there in the corner that I’ve haven’t checked yet and—-


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