Day ?: Losing Count

Taking 100 days of no paid work and writing this blog completely transformed my life. I don’t regret a single minute of it. Thank you @FundraiserBeth, for planting the seed in my brain. It grew into the most wonderful tree, and now I can call myself a writer.

I had to go back and read the blog in its entirety. It was remarkable how much better the writing got as the days went on. The majority of the early posts are rambling and unfocused, as you might expect a daily journal to be. The later posts are more insightful and concise. They also have less typos. Here are some of my favorite posts:

I could go on forever with this, but counting days no longer makes sense. And frankly, because I don’t write everyday, the math is a drag. This particular project had a very clear beginning and now it needs an end.

So, I would like to invite you all to join me my new blog Harmonious Mess. It’s a clearing house for all my great ideas and good advice. I hope you will find it just as enjoyable as this was. Thank you for your support.

Day 398: Getting Schooled by the Ladies

Reflections of a Waterfall I, Louise Nevelson

I am now a member of the press. At least the Seattle Art Museum thinks so. I was lucky enough to be included in a private reception for Elles: Women Artists from the Centre Pompidou, Paris. In the board room, we were given wine, snacks, and then asked to leave these things behind and be guided through the exhibit by a docent. I don’t usually go on Museum tours, I prefer to draw my own conclusions of the art, but this was different. It was a history lesson.

It was a history lesson that was sorely needed. I went to NYU and majored in Communications. I took as many art classes as they would let me without being an art major. My one art history class was “Painting and Sculptures in NY” I learned all about the collections of the Met, Guggenheim, MOMA, The Frick and others. Just living in Manhattan was an art history lesson.

During my college years I also made it to Paris and spent an entire day at the Pompidou. I mostly remember the architecture. Another embarrassment was that I didn’t leave much time to look at the Louvre, so I had to jog through it to see Nike before they closed and I had to go to the airport. I did spend an entire day in the Musee D’Orsay sketching Ève après le péché.

When in the hallowed halls of these famous institutions, I never contemplated the genders of the artists. I was always drawn to paintings and sculptures OF women, but I never looked at the tag and noticed a woman’s name. My hunch is that 95 percent of the artists I saw were men. Especially because there was not a single work in this collection, that made me say, “Oh I’ve seen this before!” For that reason alone, I think everyone should see Elles:Pompidou.

But that reason is not alone. The work is good. I am usually a bit bored by the work at Seattle Art Museum. It’s all pretty and fine, but rarely does it make gasp. This show was different. This was not safe art. It was not expected. It was disturbing at times, and riveting at others. It was exciting. Never in my time here in Seattle, have I been so impressed with an exhibit. And to think –  it’s only a fraction of the 500 pieces in the Pompidou’s collection of women artists.

I am not going to spend any time telling you about the works you will see there. I don’t want to spoil any surprises. Nor do I want to send you on some kind of scavenger hunt. I will recommend you take a tour. The extra information you get – beyond the words on the walls – is the real meat of what makes the experience worthy. We all need this education. We all need to know the names of these women as well we know the names Jackson Pollack, Keith Haring, or Roy Lichtenstein.

One artist’s name I recognized was Louise Nevelson.  After college, I took a sculpting class at a Lower East Side art center where she used to teach. She became a bit of a hero of mine. Many people I know have never heard of her, yet she was a giant in the art world. At the height of her career, a reviewer of her 1941 exhibition at Nierendorf Gallery stated: “We learned the artist is a woman, in time to check our enthusiasm. Had it been otherwise, we might have hailed these sculptural expressions as by surely a great figure among moderns.” It’s time to hail her work.

At the end of our tour the docent touched on the idea that people might not want to come to Elles because they think it will be disturbing or they will feel uncomfortable. She hopes they will come – not to look at pretty paintings but to be a part of the discussion. She believes museums are forums where people come together to advance new ideas. I was struck by this. Much of this subject matter doesn’t get discussed much. Most young women shy away from claiming to be a feminist. Perhaps we hope that if gender inequality is simply ignored, it won’t exist.

Don’t think of Elles as “Getting your woman on” as one of the gallery placards claimed, (something I found off-putting), but as a slap upside the head and a reminder that the conversation is far from over. We need to keep talking. As girls, we were taught that we would be treated as equals, but many of us have had rude awakenings to the contrary. Until history paints a complete picture, we never will be. Elles is a fair start on that painting.

Day 365: Perfection is a Myth. Seek Beauty Instead. The Anniversary Issue.

A Starfish. Beautiful? Definitely. Perfect? Who knows.

A draft with this title has been sitting around since Day 72. Ironically I got caught up in it’s imperfectness and set it aside. At Day 365, one year from the beginning of my 100 days, I think the time is right to finish it.

Recently I read an article on The Daily Beast that has been getting a lot of attention, Why Women Should Stop Trying to Be Perfect. The article struck a chord with me, and with others because, as modern mothers, we are miserable in our quest to excel in all things. We are made crazy by trying correct messy kids, missed opportunities, clutter in our homes, wasted money, haphazard dinners, an out of date wardrobe – you name it.  In seeking a perfection that doesn’t exist, we are missing out on life. It’s a puzzle I have been trying to figure out for the last year. It’s what my 100 plus days has really been all about.

Technology cycles are driving home the fact that everything in the world is beta. There is no final version. Yet, knowing that, we are still are driven to seek perfection in ourselves. If something could always get better, does perfection exist? Looking up the word “perfect” on Wikipedia, “Perfection is, broadly, a state of completeness and flawlessness.” The very lengthy entry goes on to say– among a million other things – that perfection is death.

I am not so sure that even death is perfection. I was raised to believe in reincarnation. The one thing my divorced parents ever agreed upon was the idea that Earth is an educational institution and there are very few graduates, including but not limited to Buddha, Mohammad, and Jesus. Graduation is to merge with the energy of everything – perfection. If this is so, to think we can achieve perfection in a day or in any one lifetime is silly. Life is messy, chaotic, and painful. If it wasn’t we wouldn’t learn a thing.

The article closes with this final thought. “The challenge lies in recognizing that having choices carries the responsibility to make them wisely, striving not for perfection or the ephemeral all, but for lives and loves that matter.”

It is a challenge to be sure. What I have had to relearn over and over again in the last 365 days is that life is full of so much beauty. I am still trying to train myself to see this. Instead of picking up every toy/sock/paper on the floor, I should go out and get some sunflowers to put in a vase on the table. Instead of berating myself for wearing out-of-date jeans and a t-shirt on a weekday, I should dig up that pretty scarf to toss on top. Most importantly, instead of getting angry with my child, and rushing her along to the next thing, what if I take time to teach her to be kind, patient and thoughtful?

Our lives will always be busy. We will never get through our self-imposed to do lists. Our kids will always be one step ahead of us and growing up too fast.  Can we learn to accept and embrace these things, and see the busy life as a full one? Can we learn to see the abundance of opportunity as a gifts for our choosing. Can we learn to seek beauty instead of perfection?

I am going to do my best to try. I will remind my self that I am the beta version of me – learning and growing and seeking to create beauty, in this life and beyond.

Day 364: The Seven Saints of Self-Discipline

Detail of Virgin Surrounded by Female Saints 1488
Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, Belgium

As I near the completion of a full year without a 9-5 job to report to, I have discovered to the secret to this lifestyle is self-discipline. (Applause here) A flexible schedule is a wonderful thing, but without self discipline it can be a disaster. When you have to get up at 7 am sharp every weekday morning to commute through traffic to get to a 9 am meeting with your boss, you cannot spend the evening before drinking a bottle of wine and staying up until 2 am watching Mad Men on Netflix. The repercussions are just not worth it. That is just plain discipline, inflicted by others.

However, when the only time sensitive thing you have do the next morning is drop your daughter at preschool around 9ish, you can just turn right around and climb under the covers for a mid morning nap. The errands, the blog post, the dishes in the sink can wait until you feel a little better. What isn’t at the front of your soggy mind is that there are many many more things that need to get done that you are not even thinking of. It begins a spiral that results in having to get expensive  (in money and calories) takeout for dinner, use paper towels as toilet paper, and to stay up until 2 am the next night to meet a deadline.

“Self discipline is the assertion of willpower over more base desires.”

My willpower is fleeting. I found an article that nailed it. Sid Savara wrote about how your self discipline can be hampered by lack of sleep, stress, and even sugar. And if you drink alcohol (sugar) to combat stress and lose sleep because of it, your self discipline will get even weaker, and the cycle continues. The author talks about how you can exercise your self discipline to make it stronger instead of weaker. There are a lot of great tips there.

I need a way to remember ways to exercise my self discipline. Catholics have saints to remember all the ways they could be better Catholics. I have invented fictional saints to remember ways to be a better work-from-home mom. Because female role models are great for me, all my saints are women. If you are a man, you are welcome to replace the names with guy names and she with he and so forth.

I would like to introduce you to the Seven Saints of Self Discipline.

St. Aurora of the Dawn
Could there possibly be anyone out there who does not know the saying” Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy wealthy and wise.” Well, Aurora was the one who got up even earlier than that man and made his breakfast. Getting up several hours before you have to be anywhere, and before your child wakes up makes an extraordinary difference in your day. It allows your mind to wake up and to think of all the wildcards for the day, preventing all sorts of stresses and disasters. To summon St. Aurora one must set a strict light’s out at 10:30 p.m. at the latest for at least three nights in a row.

St. Ramona the Runner
It is a proven fact that regular exercise increases your self discipline, there is no disputing that. The catch is that it takes self-discipline to exercise. Excuses are never more prevalent, when it comes to getting to that class or the gym. St. Ramona just runs. She can run anywhere, at anytime, and with the proper clothing, in any weather. She pushes you to go farther and up punishing hills. She knows that when you finish you will feel like you can take on anything. Someone even wrote a book about that. Run Bitch Run. To summon St. Ramona just lace up those shoes (turns out it doesn’t matter what kind), walk out your door and break into a run. St. Ramona is most pleased when you  run at dawn because she can talk shit with Aurora while you sweat.

St. Patricia the Planner
If you are ever feeling shiftless, St. Patricia is the one you need to call on. You can’t get anywhere without a map and you can’t get anything done without a plan. St. Patricia has calendars, to do lists, budgets and charts down to a science. She rings bells every time you are on-time and prepared to a meeting, have everything you need when it’s time to cook a healthy dinner, and every time you put a tick mark on your checklist. To summon St. Patricia make a list of everything you might be able to get done today. Then make a list of everything you want to eat this week. Then make a budget. For maximum results, do all of this at dawn after your run so that Aurora, Ramona, and Patricia can catch up over coffee.

St. Olivia the Objector
Our lives are full of temptations that, while temporarily satisfying, really don’t get us anywhere. Junk food, alcohol, media, toxic friends, are always out there trying to test our self-discipline. St. Olivia just says no. “No thank you. I’m not hungry thank you. Maybe next time. Really I can’t. Not even a bite/sip/taste.” She asks for a doggy bag when her meal arrives out of proportion with her appetite. She declines a ho-hum party invite when she really wants to go hiking the next morning. She makes up excuses when people ask her to volunteer for something that she has no time for. She is an elusive saint and it takes practice to master her. To summon St. Olivia say No to three things today.

St. Constance
Some say it takes doing something for 66 days for it to become a habit. Others say that to make better decisions we need to make life automatic. St. Constance can help. Self discipline is much easier when you can keep the momentum going. Do that thing you should be doing, and do it every day. The more you do it, with the least amount of interruptions, the more St. Constance will help you keep doing it.

St. Dorothy of the Deadline
There is no stronger motivator than a deadline. When I lost 30 lbs in 4 months (2004) it was because I had a wedding date set. Any project I have ever had to turn in has been better and more fulfilling when it has a strong due date. To summon St. Dorothy, make a goal and attach a deadline to it. Try some kind of race – perhaps a marathon. Then you can please all the other saints as well.

St. Trish the Tough
Everyone needs someone to call them on their bullshit. St. Trish can help point out when you are just making excuses. No, you don’t need to celebrate that little accomplishment with something bad for you. No, you can exercise even when you are tired and it’s raining. She pushes you to keep you going and reminds you that you are stronger than you think. To summon St. Trish, force yourself  to do that thing you have been avoiding doing because it feels like it will be too hard.

I hope these Saints help you. I will work on making little cards of them I can put by my bedside so I can remember that they are there to help me be who I want to be. If I ever do that, I will share them with you.

DAY 325: Thinking About Words with Friends. WordCamp Portland 2012

I am on writing this post from the North bound Amtrak train to Seattle from Portland, sitting next to my friend Laura Kimball who is working on her own post. We are returning from a perfect weekend attending WordCamp Portland. It was truly an epic weekend, but I will do my best not to make this an “epic post.”

This was a weekend of firsts for me:

  • Riding Amtrak Cascades
  • Attending a WordCamp
  • Sleeping in a Hostel
  • Riding a bike around Portland
  • Going an a girl trip

Yes, it’s hard to believe I have never been a trip with a girl friend. It took quite a bit of memory searching to confirm that this was true. I have gone on trips to visit girl friends. I have gone on school trips that included girls who were my friends. I have met up with girl friends while I was on a trip. I have driven to visit family with female family members. Yet I have never planned, and traveled anywhere with any friend, but my husband Tom.

Here are some of the reasons why this was a perfect weekend:

  • The weather was lovely.
  • I met a freakish number of talented, smart, stylish, easygoing, friendly people from all over.
  • I did not drive a car, and only rode in 3 taxis in 3 days, but I was all over East Portland.
  • There was more to learn than I could possibly absorb.
  • I was able to support a dear friend doing something that I am scared to do.
  • Every meal was super yummy, and I didn’t cook or clean a thing.
  • I got to write and talk to others about their writing.
  • There was never a shortage of adult beverages or cool people to share them with.
  • I got to hang out with Matt Mullenweg, the founding developer of WordPress and make him laugh (at me, really).
  • We seemed to continually be in the right place at the right time – never late, never early, and never overstaying our welcome.
  • We bought some super cool clothing from super nice and helpful shopkeepers and paid no sales tax.
  • There was a perfect balance between planned activities and spontaneous adventures.
  • When you spend a weekend in Portland you spend less $$ than you would in Seattle.
  • Everything I did was something I wanted to do. Any stuff I carried belonged to me.

So now it’s back to reality of working and raising a kid. It’s easy to be wistful, wishing I could stay in this alternate universe where I have no responsibilities and everything is fun. As we sit facing forward on this train moving forward, I will look forward and do the following:

  • Pick something to focus on and dig in.
  • Influence others in my life to do the same.
  • Buy a bicycle and plan a day trip before the cold weather sets in.
  • Write for 30 days straight this November.
  • Develop a regular process/routine for promoting my blogs.
  • Create a talk on Blogging/Wordpress/Design that I could give at WordCamp Seattle next year.
  • Check out Jetpack.me so I can follow all the awesome blogs of the smart people I have a habit of meeting.
  • Also check out She Writes, Steve Krug’s new book, and make.wordpress.com/ui
  • Watch the State of the Word address.
  • Seek out people who are making more than blogs with WordPress.
  • Wake up in the morning and say, “What am I going to fix today?”
  • Go on a trip without my family every year, preferably with a friend.

Have you ever heard of anyone going on a girl’s weekend that was so productive? This wouldn’t have happened without the inspiration of my talented and brave friend Laura. Thank you Laura for being you and for liking me enough to hang out with me for 52 hours straight. Thank you WordCamp organizers for giving us a reason to get out of town. Thank you to my wonderful husband for being a single-parent for the weekend. And, thank you Portland, for being so awesome.

Day 292: Stitches in Time

It’s been a while since I pulled out my sewing machine. It’s been even longer since I started a new sewing project (years?).  Yet, sewing has been on my mind a lot lately. So has the pile of fabric and sewing supplies I have stashed away in odd corners of the house. It’s one of my many hobbies.

Stitch Sewing is in my blood. My mother was a seamstress while I was growing up. Really, she was a clothing designer. She had her own line of active wear in Hawaii. Much of what I wore, she made. My Halloween costumes kicked ass. Our home was filled with scraps of fabric and swatch samples from fabric companies. Those bits made awesome Barbie clothes. I learned to sew by making miniature swim suits, skirts, pillows, and blankets. I learned at an early age to only cut fabric with the sewing scissors – or else.

I believe I was about 8 when I learned to wield a needle. Within a few years I was using a sewing machine and I started working on a quilt project that my mom had stashed in a closet. By age 16 I was brave enough to make my own prom dress. As a tried and true procrastinator, it wasn’t a surprise that I was hastily hemming it when my date arrived to pick me up. Over the course of my lifetime I have made curtains, pillow covers, and my most ambitious project was a fitted couch cover.

Yet no project took as long as the infamous quilt. My Mom started it before I was born (1976) and I finished it in 2010. I worked on it on and off at so many different times of my life, all with the determination to give it to my Mom as either a birthday or mother’s day present. I even dragged it to NY with me where I didn’t own a sewing machine.

Sewing is messy. Thread gets everywhere. Sewing machines are heavy and like to stay in one place, not get hauled in and out of closets. You also need a big area for ironing and cutting fabric. My grandmother had an entire room for it. At one point my Mom did too. It was essential, people used to make everything. I have never had a good place in my world for sewing, yet I still love it and will go through all of that bother to make something.

At some point I bought a quilting book to try and get a little help – not helpful. It wasn’t until I met Tom’s family friend Carol Wintrick that I realized just how different quilting was from basic sewing. She agreed to look at my quilt and gave me some good advice. The fabric was wrong (all different types and much of it stretchy) the seams were a mess and a big section of it wasn’t even aligned in squares (that part was from when I was 12). The big kicker was that I would need a backing fabric that matched (most of) the material used to make the front. That would be an antique Mexican table cloth – shit. It was discouraging and it got stuffed in the back of the closet once again.

Flash forward to me, pregnant and the owner of a working sewing machine, sitting at my Mother’s kitchen table. I was staring down at it running my hands across the table cloth and then it hit me. “Mom, is this an antique Mexican table cloth, as in the kind you used to make shorts and then use the scraps for the quilt? Great, can I have it?” Now I was in business. Seam ripper in hand I tore apart all of the bad sections and spread it across the floor. I pinned it together how it should go and then turned to the All-Mighty-Internet. With it’s help I was able to get to the stage where I could attach the backing fabric. Now for the part that is actually called “quilting.” Stall.

Then I was put on bed rest. Nothing was cozier than being covered in warm memories, watching bad TV and slowly pulling the threads in and out, finally making it look like something. Then Melody came. It wasn’t until the summer of 2009 that I was able to finish it, bind the edges (more internet videos), and FINALLY give it to my Mom. It was an awesome gift, but not nearly as awesome as the gift she gave me – the power to sew.

Our home renovation plans include space for me and my hobbies. Melody and I are already planning the things we are going to make. I can’t wait to have a place to sew and to teach Melody to sew so that I can pass on this powerful gift to her.

Day 277: A Nose Buried in Books

I have been reading constantly. It has replaced my other vices. When I am tired at the end of the day, even if it’s only 8 o’clock I have been retreating to my bed in my pajamas with my teeth brushed and my night cream on to curl up with a book. In the month of June I finished 5 books and, with the exception of two major life events, I haven’t written a single word for myself.

I thought reading was supposed to help you be a better writer, not stop you from writing all together! It seems that I would rather hide in the world of fiction than examine my own. After finishing my most recent distraction last night, I realized that it might be time for a break.

So this serves as a wrap up and review of my cold and soggy June spent under the covers reading the following:

  • Ruth’s Redemption by Marlene Banks. Historical fiction about a beautiful and strong female slave in the South on the verge of abolition. It was a compelling and violent story, and I learned a lot about one of the most bloody slave uprisings in the South. However I was not expecting so much religion to be mixed in. I tried to speed read the bible references and conversion speeches, because they became tiresome and redundant after a while and did nothing to assist the plot.
  • The Creation of Eve by Lynn Cullen. Renaissance portraitist Sofonisba Anguissola joins the Spanish court of Felipe II as a painting teacher for the new Queen, after she got caught having sex by Michael Angelo in his studio with his other apprentice. I loved reading about the court of Spain and all of the traditional painting techniques and processes of the old masters. The characters of the story were all historically accurate, and Sofonisba was one of the most accomplished woman painters in history. Don Juan also makes his mark on the story and made for some lovely imagery.
  • The Blood of Flowers by Anita Amirrezvani. Set in 17th Century Iran, a young poor farm girl’s father dies, just before she is supposed to be betrothed. She and her mother, facing starvation, travel to the capitol city to live with a distant relative who is a carpet designer. The girl shows talent for rug making and designing and tries to make her way in a city where she has very little choices as a young woman with no wealth. This may have been my favorite. The sights and sounds and smells of that incredible city came alive and the culture was fascinating.
  • Cures for Hunger, A Memoir by Deni Y. Béchard. This was the only book that did not have a female lead character. It was well written but I am not much for modern day settings, or male adolescent coming of age stories. Luckily it wasn’t very long.
  • Island Beneath the Sea by Isabelle Allende. The story begins in Haiti during the bloody and cruel days of sugar and slaves. I realized that I previously knew nothing about the history of Haiti. I learned about how the power in the Caribbean was a constant struggle between Spain, France, England and America. The pirates, the slave traders, the voodoo, and the white flight to both Cuba and New Orleans were all news to me. The book was a magical and scary tour and the characters were deeply moving. I’d like to know more about Haiti and it’s history.

It was not intentional that all of the books (but one), were historical fiction featuring a brave and exceptional woman. However, I think it was what kept me hungry for more. As women we don’t hear enough about our sisters before us. I feel fortunate to have the peace and liberty I enjoy in this modern American life. If I were to heed their examples, I should get my nose out of books, stop whining, and do something impossible.

Day 253: Simon’s Last Day

At 3:00 p.m. today I will do something I have never done before. I will take my pet to the vet be put down. All the other pets I have owned in my life have died all on their own. One was hit by a car, one was poisoned by a pet serial killer, others just disappeared into the wilderness and never came back.

Simon is 15 years old. He has not lead a very healthy life. He ate too much and slept too much. He was as close to Garfield as a cat could get without actually looking like him. I got him when he was a tiny kitten in my first apartment in NY. He has always loved to cuddle and between him and his brother, I will admit it, he is my favorite.

A few weeks ago we noticed that Simon was no longer eating. This was surprising, considering that he had a reputation for stealing entire steaks off of people’s plates at BBQs. He began to spend all his time sleeping on our bed. Then we noticed he could barely walk and had lost a lot of weight.

When I took him to the vet a week ago, he had lost 5lbs since March (1/3 of his previous weight). The vet saw no other symptoms and gave him some appetite stimulants and some steroids to try and jump start him back to the vivacious feline he once was. All this did was make him nibble for a few days, and then eat nothing again.

The decision to send him peacefully into that goodnight has not come easily and every other minute I change my mind. I know this is the right thing to do, and have known all week. He is already half gone from his body and isn’t really living. That is what I say to myself to justify this. I went on and on to the admin at the vet justifying in many different ways as I made the appointment. I almost lost it at one point when he asked if I wanted to be there. I do and I don’t, but I will be.

Goodbye baby.

Day 215: To my husband on his birthday

The man I love.

Hiker Tom.

Dear Tom,

Somewhere around day 100, you pointed out to me that, in all that time, I barely wrote about you. And some of what I did write was a bit negative. I couldn’t exactly disagree with you. You and Mel have gotten mentions, but have never been the headliner of any of my posts. My excuse for this is that I am writing about my thoughts, my challenges and my triumphs, and would never assume that I had permission to reveal yours. So, for your birthday, I am going to write an entire post dedicated to my thoughts about you.

Before we met, when I was barely 20 and earnestly in search of true love, I made a list of 18 things I wanted in a man (yes, I am aware that is a lot to expect), and put it away. About a year later, you and I made a connection, and about a year after that, I found that list. I start shaking and tearing up as I read it item by item, realizing that you met every requirement. There was one item, where I failed to describe you. At the time, no one would ever call you punctual.

I wish I could find that list, but I cannot. Instead of trying to recreate it I will make a new one. Here are the 18 most important things I want in a man now, and why I love the one I have:

  1. You weren’t outdoorsy when I met you. Now you have a full backpacking rig, and can operate a water filter, a camp stove, and set up a tent better than I can.
  2. You make your own way at a party, and equitably spread your charm around.
  3. Your commitment to hot yoga has made you more tolerable in… I mean of… hot weather.😉
  4. Before Angry Birds was invented you didn’t waste a single solitary minute playing video games, and I loved you for that. Now we play Angry Birds together on the iPad and try to beat each others score.
  5. You are an excellent father – a true partner in parenting.
  6. You taught me what intimacy really is, and we have been expanding on the definition ever since.
  7. You are a great travel partner and always remember to pack the things I forgot.
  8. You kindly call me on my shit and yet humor my crazy ideas.
  9. We never run out of things to talk about. Our conversations can move from politics, to cooking, to relationships, to drug culture, to real estate, and before we know it, hours have passed.
  10. You have inherited your father’s ability to craft an excellent pun.
  11. You are really good at drawing tiny schematics on graph paper with mechanical pencils.
  12. You can wail on the bass, guitar, drums, organ, and can play any other instrument you pick up.
  13. When we go to museums, you spend more time with the art, know more about it, and enjoy it more than I do (and I claim to be an artist).
  14. You do manly things like taking out the trash, changing the oil, mowing the lawn, operating the weed dragon, chopping wood, making pancakes on weekends, and being the grill master.
  15. You can talk about sports even though you never watch sports.
  16. You have super-human willpower and restraint.
  17. You have a great laugh – the one where you squint your eyes and open your mouth really wide.
  18. I know, without a doubt, that you really truly love me, because you tell me so, often.

Happy Birthday. I glad you were born. Sometimes, I feel like you were made just for me.

Day 208: Feeling proud of my beige thumb.

Let me start of by saying that I am no Cisco when it comes to gardening. Before I had a yard, I had a notorious black thumb. Although I dreamed of a windowsill lush with ferns and flowers, all house plants would shrivel up with just a glance from me. I  once killed a 8′ tall Saguaro cactus that I found on the street in NYC.

After buying our house, I made mistakes and killed the ones outdoors. Azaleas, Hydrangeas, Flax, and countless others have all died under my care. However, after 8 years of reading and trying I have at least learned how to keep a vegetable garden. I have learned how important the dirt is, how important the variety and quality of the seeds are, how important it is to keep the cats from using the raised beds as litter boxes, and that straw makes the perfect mulch for strawberries.

Tom says I now have a beige thumb. Snigger.

So the other day, when I saw a plot across the street from my daughters preschool, first I laughed, then I felt a surge of self-righteousness.  “I don’t think I ever did anything like this. Some people out there might need a little intervention. I better write about this.”

Here is what is wrong with this picture (since I have no way to know if you are laughing too):

  • Putting out supports before your plants break ground is just setting yourself up for embarrassment. The sheer amount of supports is shameful. Having this curbside is like hanging your underwear on the flag pole.
  • Those wires are meant to support tomato plants, thus I deduced that they are trying to grow tomatoes from seed. Sorry sister, that doesn’t happen here in the Northwest. I won’t even buy tomato starts unless they are at least a foot tall and I can get them in the ground the first week of May.
  • The concept of a raised bed is that you are supposed to fill it up with dirt. Putting a frame around a patch of bare dirt on the ground is doing nothing. It’s just telling humans not to step here (I guess the supports help with that too).
  • There are visible stones in your gray dirt. Seeds can’t sprout through rocks, and they don’t like the soil that was once under the grass you just dug up. Our Northwest soil has almost zero nutrients on it’s own. The rain washes it all out every winter. You have to add at least three inches of compost (or similarly good dirt) to get anything to grow, and several cups of organic fertilizer helps too.

This would actually make an interesting public art project. Maybe I should sneak out there and put old Barbie dolls waist deep in the middle of each support. Nah, then they would just blame the failure of their harvest on the vandalism. I had better let them earn their own beige thumbs.

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