03/15/2017 – Never too late to learn

I finished my eight-week beginning French class last week and it’s just begun to sink in that I finally did something I had been wanting to do, but was afraid to, since high school which to younger people nowadays was before electricity was invented. Or so I’ve been told.

It wasn’t like I thought about little else but learning French over those forty-five years. I probably wouldn’t have thought of it at all, perhaps never again in my lifetime, had I not received a continuing education class catalog in the mail from Clark College. I love that catalog. The new one comes out this week and I’m signing up for the second French language class. That thought hasn’t sunk in yet either. Or maybe it has and while I’m not listening, my head is softly whispering, “WTF are you doing?”

Anyway, I’m taking the second class and that’s all there is to that.

Another nice change: I’ve successfully lobbied for and won the right to purchase a cordless lawn mower to replace our seventeen year old hand push reel mower that the man is unable to use anymore due to his MS. And I don’t have to pay for it out of my meager savings (unlike any class I want to take).

We bought that reel mower for ninety-nine dollars in the year 2000 and it perfectly fit our dinky-small peanut-shaped lawn, the only grass on the property. Took him one minute and seventeen seconds to mow that lawn back in the day when he wasn’t a wobbly weeble. Took me four minutes to do the same just last summer. The handle has always been set to fit his six foot six inch height and he never saw the importance of lowering it for me, since he was THE lawn mower here, key word being “was.”

Nowadays, I fertilize on a good schedule (every major holiday) and during the March-October growing season, I mow two times a week so the grass won’t get too tall for me to push that reel mower through. I edge and rake and sweep/hose down the cement after. I hand aerate twice a year with a poky metal stick and this spring, I’m going to attempt dethatching, also by hand/rake because he broke last year’s promise to do it, naturally. In the meantime, he sits in the house. He never really was an outdoor guy, so I’ve learned.

I’ve researched cordless lawn mowers half to death and so has he, and compared to paying someone once a week for a year to mow and edge and rake the clippings out of the bark mulch, a five hundred dollar mower ends up being a few hundred dollars less. That cost has taken me a few months to swallow. But I’m not going with a gas mower. No way, no how. I’m going with an Ego self-propelled cordless mower, last year’s model which is two hundred dollars less right at the moment, and I couldn’t be happier.

Yes, there are less expensive cordless mowers out there. Yes, I’ve read every last thing I could find on each one. No, I’m not changing my mind.

Now, if it would just stop raining so we can get someone to come find the leak in our fountain. And if he would just try to get up the motivation to replace the leaky gasket in our master bath shower, I might not have to spend time on YouTube learning to become a plumber, too.

03/10/2017 – Dumping Winter Thoughts

I had the opportunity to catch the movie Concussion with Will Smith the other day and I both enjoyed it and felt very dismayed at how much of a football tool I’ve been over the years. I’m not a big football fan but I have liked a team or two over the past thirty-some years; not enough to drop everything to watch a game, but to tune in should nothing else be going on at the time.

That ended after seeing that movie. The people who run the NFL should be ashamed of themselves yet I’m more than certain they all sleep very well at night in their uber-luxurious homes on purchased islands under ten thousand thread count sheets with the coziest of pillows and comforters stuffed with the tears of kittens.

That’s all I’m going to say about that, other than to say I look forward to making better use of my time each Sunday come fall.

I haven’t been reading as much as I wanted to this past month because my French class had filled my head with all kinds of regular and irregular verb uses and who wants to get any of that mixed up with old Dean Koontz? That was the novel, actually a set of three novels, slated on my reading list for February.

I had read the first story of the three, a one hundred page story that was so dated in all its 1970’s descriptions I dreaded turning every page. But I’ not a quitter (really, I’m not) and I stuck it out clear through to its passive, nearly nonexistent end. Two more to go for Mr. Koontz and just as soon as my last winter French class ends, I’ll knock those out by the end of the month. Then I’ll only be one book behind on my 2017 to read list.

To be completely honest, I have been reading something hit-or-miss on the side other than my French Fundamentals college book. Writing out the Storm by Jessica Page Morrell is a good book for my head space right now. I haven’t been doing the suggested exercises at the end of each short chapter; that French excuse again, but I intend to (insert future date here).

It’s raining again. I’m not quite done with all the rain yet, not quite longing for dry warmth and sunshine. Our fountain out back has a slow-ish leak in it somewhere and rain means I don’t have to spend money adding gallons of water, nor the thousand(s) it might take for someone other than me to find and repair said leak. Somedays, if I allow it, I feel somewhat ill thinking of all the money we’ve spent on keeping that thing going since 2002. It’s beautiful, yes. But let me share one thing I’ve learned about fountain/pond upkeep: If someone insists they want one and promise to the ends of the earth they will maintain it, run away very fast. Trust me. That will be a lie.

Fountain photo from Spring 2016 - © Colehaus.com

Fountain photo from Spring 2016 – © Colehaus.com

03/03/2017 – Readying for Spring

It’s not spring yet but I’ve never let that stop me from getting serious yard work done outside. We lost a twelve-foot blue cedar in one of the wind storms back in December and a week after New Year’s Day, I took it down the rest of the way by myself, including digging out the entire stump, and got most of it crammed into the yard debris bin. A second loaded bin saw that end of that beauty. Now I have a big blank spot in the side yard that blocked our direct view of our neighbors, the ones that moved in last August and to whom I have yet to say a word. Perhaps I’ll touch more on why that is later.

The first week of February was nice enough for me to remove a five-foot row of laurels that had begun to send suckers up some ten feet away, as well as harbor some kind of small white moth whose offspring defoliated the nearby fancy, deciduous azaleas every spring. I am so done dealing with that grief, and so, those laurels are gone.

Three years ago, part of our short boxwood hedge near the front door was killed off by next door rental neighbors who poured something over it (the same neighbors who would urinate on our birch trees and holly bushes). We dug out the boxwoods and part of the soil and replaced the bushes with some kind of similar looking shrubbery. We like the look for two years and then, one of the bushes, naturally, the one in the very middle of the row died. The others looked “okay” but overall, they were messy with leaf drop and definitely not as pretty and orderly as boxwood.

When I was digging those out two weeks ago, I found countless grubs the size of my fingers and that helps make a little sense as to why one of the shrubs outright died. I also noticed of the six remaining bushes, five had dead centers while one was about as nice looking as something fresh from a nursery. I kept that one and the rest went into the yard debris bin. The one now resides where the twelve-foot blue cedar once lived as a temporary spot. Depending on whether it will have survived transplanting and hasn’t drowned yet, I might leave it there or move it next month elsewhere. Next month, I get to go plant shopping for a couple of things and that one shrub might make a nice green backdrop.

Or it could continue to be messy and into the yard debris bin it will go. I’ll be wrapping up my three-year excess dirt digging project this summer, in which the ultimate goal is lower maintenance for all yard work moving forward. I feel I’m still more than capable of doing hard labor out there every summer, but this will probably be the very last year the man will be able to help with anything, and even that will be very limited due to his MS progression combined with his lack of self-care and exercise. Anything big that comes along and needs to be done from now on will be up to me alone to tackle. I’ve been planning for this scenario for the past seven years and can only hope I’m up for what’s to come.

Other than late winter yard work, this was the year I thought I’d start doing things for myself outside of gardening and landscaping and so I took a five-week Calligraphy class and an eight-week beginning French speaking class through Clark College. Calligraphy was fun and spoke to my creative side while the French class punished my non-creative side and kicked my butt. I came home from class in tears half the time, feeling like an utter failure, and then discovered almost everyone else in class felt the same way.

I’m the only one in class who isn’t going to France or has been to France or is hoping/dreaming/making plans to go to France. I have a husband with MS who isn’t able to travel, doesn’t like to travel, and doesn’t even like people. Any trip I took would be alone; that is, only if I saved every penny of my one hundred dollars a month allowance for the next eight years in order to go and by then, the cost would be eight-times higher.

I’m taking French class because I didn’t get to when I was a freshman in high school. I wanted to but freshmen got last choice of language class, and some years, my high school didn’t have a French language teacher. By the time I could take the class, my mother refused to allow me to do so. I never knew what that was all about, nor could I ask without seeing stars for a week. You just didn’t ask my mother anything if you knew what was good for you.

The class is hard. I didn’t think it would be easy by any stretch of the imagination. I constantly feel I’m a week or two behind despite two hours a day of serious studying plus an hour or more of various language help from YouTube and DuoLingo.

So, with so much difficulty, why would I even consider taking French 2? I don’t know, but I’m going to. This will be the year I learned French, or some French, and the year I started checking those wished for things off my list.

12/05/2016 – Gifting

It’s closing in on the time of year when, as a sort of sad, twisted Christmas present to myself, I ask myself if it was worth being a bitch for twelve months to have what might appear as a tiny bit of money left in the bank with which to start 2017.

In 2015, after six months of complaining, name calling, financial infidelity, and undermining all efforts to stick to my “Draconian” budgeting plan, I gave up trying in June and we ended the year being overdrawn. Major meltdown happened and frankly, that scarred me for life. I vowed that would not happen again.

And so, yes, it was worth being a bitch and sticking to my draconian budget plan if it means I get the gift of not witnessing a meltdown that was of one’s own fault in the first place.

Do I know how to party, or what?

I’ve decided to start my 2017 reading list early, beginning with a rereading of Fight Club, because the end of the year is approaching and I like how it smacks around the stupidity of consumerism for the sake of consumerism. As someone who, out of necessity because of massive debt, hasn’t celebrated the holidays with gifts since 2001, and spent too much time being depressed about that, parts of Fight Club is a good headspace to be in. Parts of the book isn’t a good place, but this is a reread; I know where it’s going, I know how it ends. I don’t need to focus on the bad parts, just what works for me now. Now is all about making sure someone else doesn’t start believing spending money is the thing to do just because everyone else is spending money. Also, the holidays.

It snowed here today, ever so briefly. A neighbor’s ignored kitten is staying in a warmed feral cat shelter I have in my backyard. Today, she experienced snow and she didn’t like it. She’s a smart one and stuck to the narrow space next to the house where the cement was wet and not slushy to get to a food bowl left out daily for neighborhood strays. She’s eight months old and black with a touch of white on her chest and she’s a sweetheart who loves human interaction. I cannot and will not take it in, nor will I turn it in to our “humane” society – I know their true death rate numbers as a result of being a shelter volunteer. I feel good about providing food, warmth, and shelter within our budget to someone not of our family. That’s a gift to myself, too.

Last year, we had numerous trees cut down and removed from our tiny property and we lost some bushes here and there, mostly on the front east side. Some needed to come down, others were permanently damaged by years of the rental neighbors urinating on them. Up until our front birch trees died and needed removed, I had a good Christmas lighting plan going. Everything looked balanced, as if some professional lighting expert knew what they were doing. I stuck to that plan year in and year out. It worked.

Now, I just don’t have a good vision on how I can make our Christmas lights look any better than a bunch of mismatched sets of various colors thrown willy-nilly at this bush and that. There is no plan. Nothing looks balanced. It’s a blob of color with a few strings of white lights wrapped around a short tree trunk.

Part of this angst is due to not putting lights on the house. We never have, for the following reasons: 1) we refuse to staple gun anything to our house, remembering the damage done to the rental house we lived in for eight years prior, 2) light clips have never seemed to work for us, and 3) I’m the only one who puts up lights, meaning, I’d have to be the one to find a neighbor with a twenty-four foot ladder to borrow, I’d have to be the one to hold it while I climb it, and I’d have to be the one to watch that I don’t fall off our moss-covered roof while trying, somehow, to put up lights without the use of a staple gun, nails, or light clips.

And then, I’d have to go up and take them all down again in January.

Nope. Not happening.

But here’s the good part: This year, all our neighbors have decided, independently, to put up red and white lights. Only red and white lights. Most are steady burning. Some flash like a half-burnt out Eat At Joe’s diner sign. All look tacked up, sagging here and there, with mismatched bulb sizes and brightness, LEDs mixed with regular, old school C9 bulbs that are probably sucking half the power of east Clark County. There are sun-faded inflatable things lying in yards, things that I’m not sure have anything to do with Christmas – maybe I’m just out of the loop but what does an octopus have to do with the holidays? Most are waiting to be plugged in and blown up, for those that will blow up. The others lay across yards in vinyl fabric puddles, killing the grass, their owners having already given up trying to resuscitate the six-foot jolly man in red or revive the snowman from the movie Frozen.

No inflatables here. Nothing fancy. No garland swaying free in the east winds. No big plastic ornaments banging together from a porch roof. Our lights are simply strings of multi-colored LED lights woven through a row of one-foot tall boxwood, a single two-foot tall blue juniper, a six-foot stretch of three-foot high holly bushes (bushes that miraculously survived human urine), and a four-foot tall Japanese maple completely wrapped in cool blue-white LED brightness.

It’s not pretty, but it does stand out. Everyone else has lights tacked up on their houses and none on the bushes in their yards. We have nothing on our house and everything on the bushes in our yard. I guess that’s what the old lighting plan did, too. It was different and it stood out. So, maybe it isn’t so bad out there after all. I feel better about it already.

11/30/2016 – Please remain seated until ride comes to a complete halt.

I’ll admit to running around like my hair was on fire since February. So much I wanted to get done, so much that needed to be done, and I’m thrilled to say all the things are done! That is, everything I had on my 2016 to-do list(s), my yard work list*, my reading list, and my what-the-hell-why-not list I completed. In addition, and because I thrive on being extra annoying this way, I’ve already decorated our house inside and out for Christmas, sent out my Christmas cards and a secret gift to a pet-loving friend.

Since I’ve done everything that needed to be done this year, all day I felt as though I was flying at one hundred and eighty-miles an hour and someone suddenly mashed hard on the brakes. And I’m wondering, what do I do with myself for the next thirty days?

This is a very unusual state for me, the one who has to do so much now by myself, that I would have some days, not to mention thirty days, free to do what I might want to do, instead of what needs to be done. So odd this is, I’ve not been able to think of anything at all other than to dive right into my 2017 reading list, and I’m not sure I want to do that just yet.

I guess I’ll just teach myself to enjoy this down time, because who knows what other drama and/or catastrophe might be lurking in the shadows.

*Stated as if every last thing pertaining to yard work would ever be one hundred percent done. Yeah, right…

Under the odd news category, on and off over the past twenty-seven years, I’ve secretly kept up on the doings and police record of a heroin addict, also known by DNA as my sister and recently discovered she has a facebook page. She’s filled it with confederate flag images, which is odd because while she and I were born in Ohio, she was brought to Arizona when she was a baby (I was six) and she has never been to the south. Not that she would need to go there to become a fan of that culture, I realize.

Reason number two million three hundred and eight why I am estranged from my family.