When (Wo)men Make Plans… – or – Emotional Whiplash In Paradise

I will never understand how some people seem to control their destiny.  From a young age they are sure of what they want to be and do when they grow up, they set out to accomplish those goals, and then live out the lives they imagined for themselves.  I think most people are more like me, though: Mr. Magoo-ing our way through life, drifting like a leaf on a stream, being bumped and jostled by rocks along the way, and ending up somewhere they never envisioned.

Never has this been more apparent for me than the past three months or so.  In July, I wrote out a five year plan for my life and business, had a conversation with some close friends about how Austin was my home and I had no intention of leaving it, went on a beach vacation with my family, and then – for better or worse – on the second to last day of vacation I just happened to check Facebook right when the manager of the Parrot Garden at Best Friends Animal Society happened to post a job opening in her department.

I’ve known Jacque, the Parrot Garden manager, for almost three years now.  She contacted me in early 2011 asking permission to give copies of my Bird Owner’s Manual out to their adopters.  Of course I said yes, and we’ve kept in touch ever since.  So when I saw that she was hiring, I didn’t even pause to think about it; I sent in an application.  Within an hour I heard back from HR, requesting an interview a few days later, and then after the phone interview I was asked to come out for a two week evaluation period, that just a little over a week later.  I had nine days to settle things with current clients, refer them out to colleagues, wrap things up with Dr. Bendall, and prepare for my trip.

The two week evaluation was a blast.  I knew that this was the job for me, and worth completely unending my entire life at the drop of a hat.  I was offered the job, and had almost, but not quite, two weeks to get back home, pack up my life, wrap up loose ends with my business and with Austin Parrot Society, and move up here.

The Move

Frantic doesn’t even begin to describe our moving process.  We were packing and loading the van literally up to the last minute, and when we ran out of space in the van, I ended up leaving several travel cages, playstands, garden supplies, plants, and worst of all, my beautiful Betta fish, Zephyr, behind.  I was bawling as we pulled away from our house.  But even worse, because we left several hours later than intended, our plan to have the cats and birds in their crates in the car (with the windows rolled down, of course) hauled behind the U-Haul did not go over well.  They were overheating before we even started moving.  So we made a pit stop at my parents’ house, brought them all inside, gave them showers, and waited until sundown to get back on the road.  To call me an emotional wreck would be putting it nicely.

The overnight trip through Texas was uneventful.  I guess the only noteworthy part was when we drove through the massive windfarm, where each windmill had a blinking red light on it, so there were blinking red lights against the black sky as far as the eye could see.  And then, right in front of us, a bright green meteorite exploded amidst all the red lights.  Surreal.  I wish I could’ve gotten pictures of it; it was truly something I’ll never forget.

Although our drive through Texas went smoothly, if there was anything that Chuck and I learned on this trip, it’s that we are apparently allergic to state borders.

We crossed the New Mexico border right after 5 am, and as the sun rose I had reached my limit.  I was about to pass out, completely drained from the emotional departure and the all night drive (actually, Chuck had driven for a few hours in the middle of the night, but I was still so tense from the day’s mishaps that I didn’t sleep at all).  So, just past the border, I pulled into a gas station to fill the tank, grab a drink, and let Chuck take over driving.  Unfortunately, there was an emaciated and limping pittie girl sitting right in front of the pumps, looking simultaneously pathetic and hopeful.  Not wanting to run her over, I took a shorter turn than I should have and ran over the curb with the back tire.  The tire instantly exploded.

Too sleep deprived and spent to think straight, Chuck saved the day by finding the number of the U-Haul roadside assistance, so I gave them a call, and a little under an hour later, someone showed up and saved our butts.  I will be forever grateful to that man, for not only showing up at the buttcrack of dawn to fix the U-Haul, but also for being cheerful, encouraging, and generally awesome while doing so.  He cheered us up, made us laugh, and got us back on the road feeling better than before the whole incident happened.

The northern half of New Mexico is indeed enchanted, as they claim.  Sadly, we didn’t get to go through my favorite part, which is basically everything from Santa Fe north, but I did love the scenery and probably would have loved it more under more desirable circumstances.  And while Chuck was driving, I finally reached the point of exhaustion where I was able to cat nap for about 45 minutes or so.

However, once again, we were just a few miles from the Arizona border when we stopped for gas at a station where a huge biker club was parked.  Their motorcycles were sprawled out across most of the parking lot, leaving very little room for us to maneuver the 20-ft U-Haul with the car in tow.  Chuck pulled up to the pump uneventfully, but when we were done and tried to pull out of the parking lot, we got stuck.  I got out to help direct Chuck as he tried to correct our trajectory, but he couldn’t hear me when I was yelling at him to stop, the car trailer jack-knifed, and one of the chains broke off the trailer.  It was Chuck’s turn to be nonplussed.  Fortunately, thanks to the catnap I was at the point of exhaustion where I was too irritated to give a fuck, so I grabbed a wrench, forced the bent O-ring open, jerry-rigged the chain back around so it would once again secure the car trailer to the U-Haul, put a new link in the chain through the O-ring, and forced that bitch back closed again.  I know it wasn’t that big of a deal, but at the time, and under those circumstances, I totally felt like a badass.

The parts of Arizona we drove through were also fairly magical, and someday I’d like to go back and explore a few of those areas, but by this time I was so exhausted and in so much physical pain that I just wanted the whole thing to be over with.  Consequentially that drive felt like the longest stretch of the trip, even though in reality it was actually the shortest.  The U-Haul was carrying so much weight that I was having to really press into the gas pedal just to get it up to 55 mph, so my legs were completely swollen and sore.  I was so tired that I was physically in pain from head to toe, and nothing seemed real.  We were in a race against the sunset to try to get to Kanab before dark so that we didn’t have to unload the truck in pitch black, but it wasn’t to be.

Once again, we got to Page, which is just a few miles from the Utah border, and yet another mishap struck.  One of the roads to Kanab from Page was washed out a few months ago, so there was a detour sign posted to send folks to the other, un-washed-out highway.   Unfortunately, the creators of these roads weren’t all that creative, so both highways are named 89.  And also unfortunately, the people who set up the detour signs weren’t super good at posting clear, easy to follow directions.  So when we followed the detour signs from the 89 we were on to the 89 that was the detour, we accidentally ended up turning left on the 89 that was washed out instead of the 89 that wasn’t washed out.  We realized our mistake when we passed a flashing red sign that said “road closed”, but our talented road-smiths *also* aren’t very good about thinking to themselves, “Gee, we should probably create a safe place for trucks to be able to turn around, in case they accidentally head in the wrong direction.”  So we kept driving for a couple of miles, looking for a place to turn around, and finally found a place that *looked* wide enough.  Oh no.  It wasn’t.  And once again, we jack-knifed.  We were stuck.  The car and trailer were facing the wrong direction; the U-Haul was facing the right direction, but had no more road to drive on.  So we decided, hey, no way around but forward.  Those frail-looking sage bushes surely would be no match for a several ton U-Haul, right?  WRONG.  I drove over one.  It lifted the front tires right off the ground, and that thick desert sand sunk the back tires down almost to their axles.

At this point, I full on, straight up, lost my shit.  We had been awake for 40 hours, and driving for 26.  We had already encountered and overcome two major obstacles right around state borders.  I simply didn’t have the reserves to gracefully and intelligently tackle this third one.  I called the U-Haul roadside service number again, but this time the operator on the other end had difficulty understanding me through my panicked sobs.  I also called two of my future co-workers, incoherently babbling at them through sobs that I needed them to please come get my animals, because we were going to be stuck out there in the desert at night, and snakes would get into their crates and eat them.  *Of course* that’s completely absurd and irrational, but sleep deprivation and stress will do that to your ability to think and behave rationally.

Fortunately for us, a lovely couple lives right off the road right by that area where so many people before us had attempted to turn around like we had, and they saw us get stuck, and they drove up to us and asked us if we needed any help.  Chuck handled this one for me, since he was far more calm and stable than I was in that moment.  He explained what was going on to the couple, and they told us that trucks get stuck in the exact spot we did every single day, for the exact same reasons we did.  So they were used to helping hapless victims get unstuck.  Also, somehow another dude showed up in a truck, and between that dude and the couple who lived there, they got our U-Haul hitched up to the Mystery Dude’s truck.  I didn’t think it would work, honestly.  What’s one truck against several tons of U-Haul/car?  But let me tell you something: that Ford F150 slogan?  You know the one, “Built tough”?  Yeah, that’s not just advertising.  That’s legit.  Mystery Dude’s truck’s hitch was bending at a 45 degree angle like it was about to snap off, but it hauled our U-Haul right over that deceptively sturdy sage bush, out of the soft, deep sand, and back onto the road.  We thanked them all profusely – me through my sobs, which I could not for the life of me get under control – and got back on the road.

It was almost midnight when we pulled up to our house.  Too exhausted and sore to unload anything, we just grabbed the sofa cushions, some blankets, the animals, and all of our overnight bags.  I gave all the babies fresh food and water, set up litter boxes, and got ready for bed.  Are you familiar with the word “cankles”?  You know, where your calves go straight down to your feet because your ankles are the same width as your calves?  Well, I had “thankles”.  My feet, ankles, and knees were so swollen from the arduous drive and pressing that damn gas pedal to the floor for a full day that my thighs went down to my feet in a straight line.  No exaggeration.  I propped my legs up on some pillows, placed bags of frozen veggies over my knees and ankles, and promptly passed out.

When I woke up in the morning, I could’ve kissed our property managers for leaving us hand soap, toilet paper, paper towels, and epsom salts.   Never were such simple gestures of hospitality and thoughtfulness more greatly appreciated.

***01.29.13 EDIT***

I had intended to finish this blog, talking about settling into the the new job and new town, but got busy and forgot.  It’s been five months since we moved here now, so this entry is way after the fact, but whatever.  I’m just going to post it as-is and move on.  Maybe in a few months I’ll remember to post another entry.

P.S. I clearly suck at blogging, since I never freaking remember to actually do it.  🙂


The Traditional, Albeit Belated, New Year’s Post.

Well, if January is anything to go on, the theme of 2013 is going to be Learning How To Manage Expectations.  So far, every single plan I’ve made has been thwarted.  Everything I’ve looked forward to and hoped for has fallen through.  Everything I have set out to accomplish hasn’t happened.  And as I described here, I’ve taken a series of financial and emotional hits.

I find myself, at the end of the first month of the year, drained.  Exhausted.

And yet.

On a cerebral level, I can see how these events are good for me.  From an objective standpoint, this month hasn’t been bad.  Aside from Zuma almost getting his tongue ripped out, I can tick off the benefits of all these disruptions and  unexpected events.  When I think about it, even Zuma’s accident has yielded a beneficial change in my life: due to the decision to no longer housesit, I have decided to start boarding birds instead, which will be a good source of income while allowing me to stay at home more.  The unproductive east side of my garden and Archie’s death and subsequent burial on that side of the yard has inspired new plans to put in a memorial xeriscaped / succulent garden.  The disruption of my plans on a few occasions has resulted in new friendships being formed.  The financial hit I’ve taken has encouraged me to get back to my healthier, home-cooked eating habits.  It’s all good things.

I can't wait to do something like this in my yard.

I can’t wait to do something like this in my yard.

So why am I feeling drained?  Because of my emotional attachment to my expectations.  Every time a plan has been thwarted, my reaction has been frustration, rather than acceptance.  Instead of embracing the unforeseen, I’ve been clinging to my own personal agendas.  Having something ripped from my emotional grasp is painful; if I can learn to voluntarily let go, the experience will be painless.

So, instead of doing New Year’s resolutions like I have in the past, I want to set only one goal for myself: to accept, joyfully and willingly, whatever happens in 2013.  Instead of making more resolutions, I need to learn to be less resolute, more pliable.  So here’s to the next 11 months, and whatever they may bring!

A Yoga Practice a Day Keeps the Doctor Away.

So it’s been forever since I’ve blogged, mostly because I haven’t had any time to.  Life has been insanely busy lately.  The problem is, I hear myself saying that a lot. Life is *always* insanely busy.  And I admit: I have a problem.  I chronically over-commit myself.  I always think I’ll have enough time to do xyz, but I never do.  As a result, I’m constantly living my life in a state of stress and guilt for not being productive enough, not getting enough done, not meeting deadlines, etc.  And as a result of that, the things that I do to take care of myself – to keep myself healthy, grounded, and calm – end up happening sporadically at best.

It’s a vicious cycle, isn’t it?  I get stressed out, so I sacrifice the very things that help relieve that stress in order to get “more important” things done, but because I’m not taking care of myself and I’m not on top of my game, I’m not as productive as I could be.  So then I’m more stressed out, which means that I continue to skip the me-time for the “more important” things, and the cycle continues.

This cycle has to stop.  I need to change.  I’m gaining weight; I feel awful; old injuries are rearing their ugly heads; old health problems are cropping back up.  It’s gotten to the point where I feel old again, even though I’m only in my early thirties, and once again I see my body as a collection of injuries and failures and limitations instead of strength, beauty, and ability.

As a behavior consultant, one of the big things I tell my clients is to not focus on what the learner can’t and shouldn’t do and instead teach the learner what they can and should do.  So why am I not doing the same thing for myself?  I know that I have certain injuries and limitations which prevent me from doing certain poses in yoga and which require me to put hooping and horseback riding on hiatus.  So what?  I can still focus on the poses that I can do.

I also need to set myself up to succeed by creating a more realistic goal for myself.  I can’t change the fact that sometimes life is so busy that I barely have time to breathe.  So no, it’s not realistic to expect myself to pull out my mat every day and do a full 90 minute practice.  But I can do three poses a day, whenever, wherever, mat or no.  One of my yoga teachers once said that one of her yoga teachers told her that if you can do nothing else, at least do trikonasana, uttanasana, and legs up the wall.  Five minutes.  Three poses.  I could do them right before bed, no big whoop.

Trikonasana (Triangle Pose)

Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend)

Legs Up a Wall (Self-Explanatory)









So that’s the goal I’m setting for myself: to do yoga every day, those three poses at the very minimum.  For every month that I successfully do yoga every day, I’ll put at least $30 in my savings account.  At the end of next year (Dec 31, 2013), I’ll take all my saved up money and treat myself to something awesome. What that something awesome is will depend on how much money I’ve been able to save up.  Does anyone want to go in on this with me?  We can hold each other accountable.  We can be accountabilibuddies!

My religious beliefs, in a nutshell, as written by Dan Harmon.

During a conversation on Facebook today, a friend of a friend of mine posted a link to Dan Harmon’s blog entry about his religious views–and I have to say, I couldn’t have said it better myself.  This pretty much perfectly sums up what I believe:


“At Erin’s party on Friday, Myke “Bertrand Russel” Chilian came bounding up to me with this disappointed smirk on his face and “confronted” me about this rumor he’d just heard that I believe in God.

Nobody hears me when I explain this, I feel like I’m talking into a paper bag:  The phrase “believe in God” is beneath me, that’s how awesome I am. 

This is my explanation of my point of view on religion that I’m now pulling out all the time.  You can disagree with it but don’t try to tell me it’s not what I think:

If “believing in God” is Coca Cola and “not believing in God” is Pepsi, then the “corn syrup” that unites them, the poison that slips through disguised as dichotomy, is mediocrity.  Unremarkability.  Inhumanity.  That’s what people who “don’t believe in God” and people who “believe in God” have in common.  They all think you’re limited, and they’re all inviting you into their limited world where you can realize how limited you are.

Human beings do not come out of the womb having to decide what to think.  They come out just thinkin’, the way Rambo comes out killin’, it’s as easy as breathin’. 

Society then [understandably] tells them they have to use their natural thinking power tomake decisions, decisions that keep them from getting hit by cars and arrested and stuff.  In the real world.  Fine.  I agree. Make a decision at a stop sign.  Make a decision about using condoms, or, in the event that you don’t make that decision, decide who you invite to your wedding or who to tell about your abortion.  Think real hard and make a decision about whether or not to record Nylon Nymphos 3 or Law and Order.  It’s got to be one or the other and it’s going to make a difference because you’re either going to be cumming into a rag or…well, okay, you’re going to be cumming into a rag no matter what but you might be doing it while watching Sam Waterston’s closing arguments.

There are 9,000,000,000 decisions you have to make to get through this life.  God isn’t one of them.  That’s not what he’s either there or not there for.  He’s there or not there to be there and/or not there, not to be there or not there.

Mentally, by default, we are graceful, powerful creatures of limitless potential and we are as capable of living comfortably within mystery and paradox as we are capable of drinking water instead of Coke or Pepsi.  It’s riiiiight there.  It’s the easiest thing in the world.  It is the natural state of your incredibly beautiful human mind to be simultaneously aware of completely contradictory thoughts.

Mythology is our expression of that fact, an [attempted] reconciling of the infinite with the finite, an [attempted] surfing of the whirling spiral created by our consciousness of our own mortality. 

Gods are personifications of that which we have yet to understand.  The fact that we are able to give That Which We Do Not Yet Understand a name and a face is the reason why we’re able to confront it, atone with it, and wield its power, which is another way of saying that mythology begets science, which begets us standing around at parties with the free time and laser-corrected vision to look down our noses at personifications of the unknown created by busier people who knew less and died younger. 

And yes, they were very silly people, those that came before us, with their flat Earth and their leeches and their please-confess-to-not-being-Jewish-or-we’ll-sew-your-butt-closed and their stop-being-schizophrenic-or-we’ll-blame-you-for-our-souflet-falling and all kinds of horrible things.  But that is not the fault of That Which We Do Not Know.  On the contrary, the witch burnings, the inquisitions, the highly inaccurate maps depicting everything past Portugal as a giant octopus and the highly uncomfortable taxonomical hierarchies justifying the ownership of people with different hairstyles, these are crimes committed by hubris, by refusal to acknowledge, let alone surrender, to That Which We Do Not Yet Know.

That Which We Do Not Yet Know is still a minimum of 50% of every conversation we have, every room at the party and every minute of our lives, which is why nobody gets a pat on the back from me for pretending it’s not there.  What you’ll probably get is an ulcer, but it’s none of my business and I’m not a doctor.

There is such a thing as a perfectly healthy, self-actualized atheist.  I’ve met them.  They’re not all that pissed off at other people’s religions and they don’t devote a lot of energy condescending to primitive mythologies.  When you are a genuinely smart person with respect for scientific method, the confidence it brings is rarely characterized by a need to disprove people’s personifications of the unknown.  Science is founded on the principle that there’s a great deal left to be known and a great deal to be gained by knowing it.  So when you fold your arms and talk about everything you already know, and get up in my shit about how differently I should be thinking, I don’t care if you work for NASA or Billy Graham, I don’t exactly feel like I’m in the presence of a mentor.  I kind of feel like your Mom and Dad were as dopey as everyone else’s but you haven’t gotten over it, yet.

Do you have to call everything you don’t know “God?”  Hell no, baby, you don’t have to do anything.  The big question is, now that you know you don’t have to do anything, what are you going to do with that freedom and power?  Nothing would be cool with me, I’m mostly a Taoist, I can roll with doing nothing.  Something would be equally cool, provided it was something you wanted to do.  We call the moment when a character realizes they don’t have to do anything the “mid point.”  It’s half a story.  The second half of a full story involves knowing what you want to do and doing it. 

And I’m telling you, not because I’m good at it, but because we have been told this for 5,000 years now, knowing what you want to do and doing it involves a relationship with That Which You Do Not Yet Know.  A really intimate relationship with a lot of slappin’ and kissin’.
Like the relationship Tom Hanks had with that volleyball in that movie where he got cast away.  It was very helpful for Tom Hanks to give that volleyball a name and a face.  It helped him be less lost and fix his tooth with a rock and get home to his ice cubes and icky face acting lady.  The process of getting from A to B was aided, for the audience and the character, by the character having something with which to commune.

So, are you going to float down to Tom Hanks’ island and pop his volleyball and explain to him that it’s not a person?  If you’re that guy, here’s some rhetorical questions for you:

1) Do you think Tom Hanks doesn’t know it’s just a volleyball?
2) Are you going to replace his instinctive mythology with something, or 
3) Is your job done when everyone’s buzz is killed?
4) Are you really doing this to help other people, or
5) Does this have something to do with your own empowerment, and if so
6) Do you think fighting something is the most effective way to gain power, or
7) Is it possible to attain something’s power by surrendering to it?

Which brings me around to my corn syrup conspiracy point, which is that when everyone’s given a “choice” between a life of religion and a life of science, what they’re really being told is that they have no choice but to believe they have to choose.  To choose in which manner they are limited.  Someone’s got to be dictating your margins, is it gonna be math or the pope.  You’re not allowed to define right and wrong, you’re not allowed to draw your own map of the cosmos.  

And I say that is a limited world, for limited people. 

I mean, if I make the statement that there is no God, I get a bunch of people with calculators agreeing with me.  Okay, could be worse.  Like if I made the statement that there is a God and he looks like Santa Claus but his suit is purple, in which case I get a bunch of high strung hillbillies and fat teenagers that haven’t tried marijuana on my side.

But if I make the statement that I, Dan Harmon, am God, then I get a lot of hillbillies and calculator people booing in unison and high fiving each other.  Because those people aren’t so different, not in the way that matters to ME.  From my perspective, they’re all on the Dan Harmon is Not Capable of Greatness Team.  Fuck those guys.  Every vote in that election is a vote against me, I won’t pick a side in the battle to decide why I’m a useless piece of shit.

I say, mythology is about man becoming one with the unknown, and in order for that to happen, you have to personify the unknown- which is very religious and not very scientific- and you have to then know that unknown – which is very scientific and somewhat sacreligious in the eyes of modern so-called Christianity, which, in spite of its name, has nothing to do with man-becoming-God and everything to do with belonging to a global cult of selfish, lazy, gluttonous, sanctimonous, xenophobic cowards.

In Myke’s defense, his family is a bunch of foreigners, which can only mean that their version of Christianity was probably forced on their ancestors through the barrel of a gun or some kind of Happy Meal, and was therefore all the more fraudulent and therefore all the more forced around the dinner table, and he needs to run all the further from it all the faster to become a good person, and how old is Chilian, really?  His band still gets together for rehearsals, that means he’s under 30, so why am I defending myself from the supposedly worthless derision of an Armenian teenager when I could be finishing my screenplay that’s so good when he reads it he’ll have no choice but to believe in God.

I just don’t appreciate the implication that there’s anything I don’t know about – oh, crap, busted.  I don’t know what I’m talking about, I’m just arrogant and blocked.  I feel unblocked now, though.  Thank you, God!”

And thank YOU, Dan Harmon. (And also, thank you Teighlor for showing me this link!)

Adventures in gardening!

I moved into my house two years ago, and at the time, the front yard was literally a junk heap.  Weeds, trash, bits of rubber, metal, plastic and PVC…the place was a mess.  But I had a vision for it.  I knew exactly what I wanted to do with it.  It was just a matter of time.  First of all, I couldn’t do anything with it until my roommates with dogs who would potty in the front yard were gone.  Then, I buried my compost for a year to get the soil prepped.  I also had to clean out the soil, because as I dug it up, I found an ungodly amount of bullet shell casings, broken glass, bits of plastic and rubber, candy wrappers, and any number of other unidentifiable bits of rubbish.

Finally, this past November, the yard was ready for its transformation.  I put in a vegetable garden on one side, then divided the other side into three parts: a flower/plant garden, another area to bury compost so that I can alternate veggie gardens and compost yards each year, and finally the area that I wanted to put in a pond, both for the fun of it, but also to catch run-off rain water and protect the rest of the garden.  The gardens took up most of my time from November until now, but finally, two weeks ago tomorrow, I started work on the pond I’ve been dreaming of ever since I moved in.  Here’s what it looked like Tuesday before last when I started:

This was after I spent an afternoon pulling up weeds.  It then took about a week of digging for an hour or two at a time, whenever I got a chance, to get it to this point:

This was a proud moment for me.  I had about a fourth of the hole left when it started raining and I was slopping around in the mud, but the rain made it so much easier to dig up the soil that it was actually a blessing.  I was covered in mud, though!  I hadn’t been that muddy since the mud fights we used to have at camp when I was in high school.  I took a picture of myself, but it was so humid that it fogged up the lens:


I posted this photo on Facebook and said, “I dig in the mud.  Hardcore.”  To which a friend of mine replied, “Mudcore.”  Mudcore, indeed!

I even took video footage of it, to commemorate this fine moment in my life (because that’s what nerds do):


Then it was time to lay down the pond liner, line it with rocks, and trim the liner down to size.  Chuck took a picture of me, super muddy, with my liner and rocks down.  I felt like the Queen of Pondmaking.

So muddy, so proud.

I thought I had gotten enough rocks to line the whole pond, but alas!  I ran out right at the end.

So close, but so far.

By this point, though, it was late, I was tired, and I just wanted to be done with it.  The liner at that part of the pond isn’t crucial to its overall well-being, so I just decided to proceed and try to find a solution later.  So I filled the pond, then put my banana and plumeria cuttings next to the pond, so that as they grow, they will provide shade and protection for the pond, and the pond will provide humidity for them.  Hooray, symbiosis!

I also took video at this point (because, as I said, that’s what nerds do):


The next day, my friend JoDee and I went to Hill Country Water Gardens and Nursery to bring life to my pond.  We were seriously giddy like schoolgirls, and I’m pretty sure the staff thought we were nuts, but I was in a state of absolute bliss.  I wanted to get some pond plants, fish, tadpoles, and mosquito eaters, but that was about all I knew.  I had no idea WHAT plants to get, and although I love koi, I thought that goldfish would be the only critters in my budget.  But whatever the case, I was excited as shit!

We started looking at the lily pads and lotus.  I saw some pink and yellow beauties that initially appealed to me, but then I saw these critters and fell instantly, madly in love:

You know that Kristen Wiig skit on SNL where she’s insanely excited about a surprise party?  Yeah, that was pretty much me when I saw this lotus.  I was like:


I think my exact words to the employee were, “EMILY MUST HAVE!!!”  But then he told me they were $90 each, and my dreams were shattered.  That was almost my whole budget for the entire pond.  For one plant.  So…no.  But, I at least have the photo, and will be able to stare, and drool, and dream.  Someday maybe I’ll even be able to have them in my pond.  But for now, the lovely pink-and-yellow guys that originally appealed to me were a very reasonable $36, so I went with those instead.

Next, the employee informed me that I needed a “bog plant”, one which grows in the marshy shallows of my pond and will spread and provide shelter for the fish.  They had what seemed like acres of bog plants of every kind you could possibly imagine.  On the other side of the display ponds, though, I saw one which immediately caught my eye.  That was the one for me.  I was completely enthralled by it.  Can you imagine my surprise, then, when I saw what this particular bog plant was called?

It's like it KNOWS me.

How did it know that I’m a crazy parrot lady?  Clearly, it was calling out to me from across the pond.  It knew.  Somehow, it knew.  So of course I took it home with me.

Also in the bog plant section were some stunning irises, of that same deep violet-and-yellow color of the $90 Pipe Dream Lotus that I had wanted so badly.  The guy recommended I get some irises, too, since ideally the pond should have about 80% plant coverage.  But JoDee told me she had a ton of them at her house, and had to split them anyway, so she’d just give me the splittings.  (God bless you, JoDee!)

So then it was time to move on to the animal critters.  Sadly, I didn’t think to take any photos, but I got 5 mosquito eaters (one pregnant one, so I’m about to have some babies!), 2 tadpoles (with cute little legs!), and 4 koi.  Yes, I said koi. Because even though the adults are crazy expensive, the babies are only $8 each, whereas the goldfish were $6 each.  WHAAA???  So I went with the koi.  I don’t understand why anyone would pay that much for adults when half the fun of having a garden is watching things grow up?  So I picked out my new koi babies: a yellow-and-white one, an orange-and-white one, and two blue-and-white ones, both with black spots on their bodies, and one of which has an orange spot on his head and the other has an orange spot on his tail.  I’m naming the two blue ones Yin and Yang, but I haven’t decided what to name the other two, or what to name the frogs.  If anyone has any suggestions, I’d love to hear them.  I thought about naming the frogs Chicken and Fish, since those are the two things people say frog legs taste like, but I’m not sure about it yet.

So anyway, we came home with our spoils (and I stayed within my budget! Yippee!), and I set up my pond like so:

After scoping out their new home, the fish and tadpoles immediately found hiding places among the rocks (curse me for thoughtfully creating crags and caves among the rocks when I built the pond; they work too well!) and I’ve seen only the briefest glimpses of my babies since then, but I’ve read and been told that koi can get to know people and are trainable, so I’m going to let them settle in and then train them to come up to the surface so I can take pictures of them.  Someday.

Then finally, the last, missing piece of my little pond puzzle fell into place this morning: JoDee brought me plenty of irises, so I planted one in the pond itself, then cut away the remaining exposed pond liner and planted the rest of them along that part of the pond.  They will help keep the soil in place and will funnel the run-off water into the pond, drinking up whatever water remains.  It’s an elegant solution to my not-enough-rocks problem, and looks very lovely to boot!

So that’s my story of how, in one day short of two weeks, that piece of my yard went from a trash-filled weed patch to this:

And now I will leave you with pictures of other pretties from my garden:

Iris bloom (and they smell as pretty as they look!)

Lotus bloom (came up the day after I put it in the pond!)

Baby mantis (I raised them from the ootheca, so I always love finding one in my garden and watching them grow up!)

Squash flowers


Dwarf Grey Sugar Snap Peas

My vine cages

Morning Glory cage

Honeysuckle and Passion Vine cages

morning glory


passion vine flower

Obligatory NYE Post, Part Two

Ah, 2011.  What an adventure.  When, last year, I set my intentions to continue growth, change, and progress, I had no idea what I was asking for.  This was a difficult, often painful, year, but man, growth, change, and progress did indeed happen.  I accomplished some of the things I set out to do, while others have yet to be realized.  So, my intentions for 2012:

* Finish the book–for real this time!

* Continue on my journey towards health and weight loss.

* Continue improving my yoga, hooping, and riding skills.

* Continue improvements to my business.

* And, you know, just generally become better at life.

Here’s to 2012.  May it be less apocalyptic than evolutionary.

Peaches lied.

For the most part, life seems happy and good and heading in the right direction.  Things are exciting, even.  I look forward to events, people, goals, etc.  I feel like I’m where I need to be.  But then, every once in a while – usually at night, right before I fall asleep – I take a step back and realize that this is my reality now, and there is no going back.  I’m not on a break or vacation.  I’m not trying this new reality on for size before returning to my previous one.  I am here to stay.  The result is a mixture of grief and panic.  I keep having dreams of being on vacation in some other country and enjoying myself until I realize that, for one reason or another, I can’t come back home.  I’m stuck in that country forever, and have to make it my new home.  I know why I’m having those dreams; they are simply my mind’s metaphor for what’s happening in my life.  I am so, so homesick.  But there is no going back home.  Home is gone.  So now I must go about the onerous and seemingly impossible task of making this new reality my home.  Maybe someday I’ll actually succeed.

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