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


Converting Plastic Back to Oil

Hey there, blog!  Long time no see!  I just came by to post this interesting little tidbit from the internet.  I had heard about this a couple of years ago, but just googled it.  This was the first result I found:

Things like this give me hope for the future…

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.

Cello Ambitions

I just woke up from a dream, which I wrote about in my dream blog, in which I was playing a cello that someone had given me.  Upon waking, I immediately remembered a woman I met last autumn in Vancouver at my Aunt Janet’s house.  Her name is Sharon, and she and I instantly clicked.  She’s Icelandic, so we bonded over our shared zeal for the little island country just south of the arctic circle that has a sublime music scene and the most beautiful language in the world.  But also, and more to the point, she is a cellist, and I’ve always wanted to play the cello but never had the opportunity.  I told her that it was still a dream of mine, but that at 31 it was probably too late to start.  She looked horrified by this statement and said, “Oh no!  I started playing cello when I was 45, and now I perform in the symphony orchestra.”  That was incredibly inspiring to me: it’s never too late to start.  So this dream came along last night to remind me that, although this desire might have been forgotten or ignored for a while, it is nonetheless latent, persistent, and best of all, attainable.  I may not be able to afford a cello or the lessons right now, but I’m putting it out in the universe: that’s what I want.  I’ll eventually get it, one way or another.

On reciprocity, and how it doesn’t seem to happen as often as it should.

At the risk of sounding like an arrogant asshole (but if the shoe fits…), I’m pretty good at making friends.  I can think of maybe three times in my life when I’ve really wanted to be friends with someone and they, for whatever reason, weren’t feeling it.

The more common social problem I experience is when someone seems very eager to befriend me and I, for whatever reason, am not feeling it.  Over the past few months, two people in particular have been aggressively pursuing a friendship with me, and I just haven’t been able to muster an equal amount of zeal for them.  Believe me, I’ve felt pretty fucking guilty about it.  It’s not that I’m a snob; I don’t think I’m better than these people or more interesting or more likable.  In fact, on a purely cerebral level I can tick off all the boxes on the list of characteristics that I usually value in people.  By all rational accounts, I should totally adore these people.  But for whatever reason, I just couldn’t, and I felt horrible about that.

Enter Other Person.  I met Other Person a few months back and was instantly friend-smitten.  I wanted to be their BFF.  I wanted to spend all my spare time with them.  I wanted us to hold hands and skip off into the sunset.  It was instant.  It was magnetic.

Well, for me it was.  For them…not so much.  At first I chalked it up to personality quirks (“Oh, they’re just not as demonstrative as I am!”), but eventually I realized: karma, my friends, it is a bitch.  The shoe’s on the other foot now, innit?  I felt like a little puppy that’d just gotten the smackdown from an adult dog: hurt, confused, bewildered.  “But… but… I don’t understand!  How can you not love me?  Don’t you realize that when you met me you struck friend gold?  I’m loving, loyal, thoughtful, generous, caring, reliable, smart, funny, adventurous, and fun.  I’m patient and compassionate and understanding about your flaws; honest and open and apologetic about mine.  I will never judge, betray, or intentionally hurt you.  I see you, I get you, and I certainly treat you a hell of a lot better than your other ‘friends’ do.  WHAT’S NOT TO LOVE???”  (I told you I was an arrogant asshole!)  But no dice.  No matter how hard I tried, Other Person just doesn’t give a shit like I do.

So recently I was hanging out with Other Person and it occurred to me that I need to put on my big-girl pants and behave like an adult.  Sure, it would be awesome if there was some cosmic rule that you could never feel drawn to someone who isn’t equally drawn to you, but that’s not real life.  In real life there are adages like, “If you love something, you let it go,” which is another way of saying, “Look, most of what or whom you love in life probably won’t love you back, so quit being a Clingy McDesperaton and let everyone and everything do what they want and go where they will.  That way, if someone or something sticks around, you’ll be pleasantly surprised,” which is yet another way of saying, “Hey, you can’t win ’em all.”  So that’s what I’m doing.  I’m letting Other Person go, and I’m trying not to get my feelings hurt by the fact that they clearly don’t appreciate me at my full value, because maybe they can’t help it exactly like how I couldn’t help it with the first two people I told you about.   It isn’t my fault; it isn’t their fault; they just don’t connect to me like I connect to them.  Maybe the cosmos is sadistic or maybe I remind them of their abusive gym teacher or maybe they just don’t dig on curly hair.  Whatever the case, I need to respect the disconnect and move on.

Having said that, the OTHER thing I learned from this experience is that maybe I need to stop running from the guilt I feel about the first two people, turn around, and really face them.  If Other Person was being blind to the friend-gold they were passing up in me, maybe I’m being blind to the friend-gold I’m passing up in these people, right?  So I started spending more time with them recently, really focusing on all the good things I admire about them, and you know what?  They’re actually pretty great!  I don’t know if we’ll be holding hands and skipping off into the sunset together, but we’ll at least be sitting in the grass watching a few sunsets together for sure.

So there’s that.  Life lessons at 32 years old that I should’ve learned at, like, 12 years old.  Ah, well.  Better late than never.

EDIT: This whole blog entry reminds me of this song:

Ah, Bjork, you have a song for every situation.

Body Dysmorphic Disorder

So a thing happened at work this morning, and it seems silly to even bring it up, but though it’s small, I think it’s significant.

I was in the treatment area with a vet, a tech, and a receptionist (this sounds like the beginning of a terrible joke, but bear with me), and somehow the topic turned to our bodies.  They were talking about how and where they gain all their weight, the changes they’ve noticed in their bodies as they’ve started to age, etc.  I chimed in: “I hate how I’m built like the fucking Michelin Man.  I have these lumpy boobs, lumpy tummy, lumpy abdomen.  I look like a stack of freaking tires.”  The receptionist – whom, by the way, I think is totally gorgeous and has a beautiful body – looked at me with a flash of irritation and said, “Just… don’t.  Don’t even go there.”  At first, I didn’t understand why she was irritated.  Then, it happened.

There was this little pop in my vision.  Nothing in the room actually changed, but my perception of it did.  I am so used to being the fattest person in the room that I don’t even consciously think about it anymore.  No matter where I go or whom I’m interacting with (except for obviously, drastically, morbidly obese people), there’s always just this underlying assumption that I’m the fatty in the room.  I hadn’t really thought about it at this hospital where I’m working right now, but in that moment I realized that I’d still been thinking of myself as the fattest person there.  And then that little shift in perception happened.  I looked down at myself.  I looked around at the other women.  And then I realized: I am the thinnest person in the room.  And none of them are really overweight at all!  They’re quite lovely, actually!  But *that* was why she was irritated with me: I was being one of those obnoxious girls who is thinner than everyone in the room and complaining about how fat she is.  That was me.  Wait, what?  That was me? I was standing there in the midst of a mundane little conversation that happens every day, every where, among any given group of women, and my mind was exploding: I’m not fat anymore.

50 lbs.  I look at that number, and I understand it.  On a cognitive level, I know what that number means.  I know what it feels like to carry a 50 lb dog, so I can imagine what it is to take 50 lbs off my body.  But this is the first time that I’ve actually internalized it–that I can see myself without it.  Before this morning, I still saw a fat person.  Today, I see myself as I truly am.

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