Fall, so far.

Fall is most definitely here.

I could tell even a few weeks ago when the sunlight was a little different, never mind that we still had a day or two in the high 80s. The ferns and tall grasses have turned burgundy and gold. Nights are chillier, too. The flannel sheets went on the bed today in preparation for what’s to come. They say it’s going to be a brutal winter, whoever they are.

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So here I am thinking back on the last three months of our lives in New Hampshire. These were good months if you prefer summer over winter. For some, summer was just as brutal as the winter we’re getting ready to supposedly endure. More than a handful of days in the mid- to high-90s were absolutely miserable. Remember, most of us up here don’t have air conditioning. This includes schools, libraries, state government buildings, etc. It was a rough summer. Even I, who used to brag about my Florida blood and superhuman abilities to withstand 100+ degree heat and humidity, broke down a couple of times.

That heat, though, and the unusually heavy downpours we had throughout the summer gave to me some of the best vegetables I’ve grown in years. In two years, to be exact. My backyard in Northeast Ohio was too damp and too shady to even grow more than a handful of cherry tomatoes (Did I even manage that? I can’t remember!). The sun beats down on my front porch garden in New Hampshire which, in turn, provided us with delicious Early Girl and Indigo Rose tomatoes. The zucchini was overtaken by bores (I was glad to hear others suffered the same fate and that it wasn’t just me), my pole runner beans are still going strong, and my snack pepper plant yielded only four. But that’s four more than I grew in two seasons in Ohio. And…and!…I planted some of this stuff as seed in mid-July!

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Being the flatlander that I am at heart, I still find myself closed off a bit from the outside world (or maybe that has something to do with the fact that I live 25 minutes from the nearest decent-sized town). The lakes that dot the region are a nice break from all the trees and steep hills that crowd in close to the road. I’ve pulled over a few times on my way to and from work to take in the view at Rollins Pond and Alton Bay on the south end of Lake Winnipesaukee, near where I live. I’ve also had some time to just enjoy the scenery around here. It is exactly as beautiful as you’ve been told.

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A few weeks ago, my brother convinced me to join him on a short hike. His goal that day was to get to the top of Mount Major, an easy day hike for most people. But I haven’t been hiking in years. I walk easily through parks and trails, but the last mountain I walked up was at least 10 years ago, and even that was on a paved trail. These mountain trails in New Hampshire involve climbing over rocks, dodging timber rattlesnakes and tree roots, and wearing out my lungs for no reason that they deserve. So I made a deal with my brother: Every month, he and I will pick a trail and hike it. These hikes will increase in difficulty and we cannot stop hiking even in the winter months. This deal is so serious that I made him – my younger brother who just turned 34 – pinky swear. But who are we kidding? We all know it’s me who’s going to need to be convinced to hike a mountain in the winter.

Our first hike was more of a walk. Actually, it was totally a walk. I asked him to take it easy on me on our inaugural hike, and then I chose a trail that was so ridiculously easy that even I felt like I had cheated. Unknowingly, of course. I offered up a second walk through a state forest preserve near the top of the mountain on which I live. There was a steep incline towards the end, giving me a fair idea of what I was getting myself into. We completed both of our walks in the woods within a matter of two hours or so. Then my brother grabbed some snacks and headed out to hike Mount Major. Last weekend he hiked up two mountains in a single day! I’ll get there. One day. Until then, we’re taking it one month, one hike, at a time. Next month we’re driving out to York, Maine to hike up Mount Agamenticus. That I can spell and pronounce the name of that mountain is probably more impressive than the moment I reach the top of it. I scheduled this hike for my birthday weekend. On purpose. Accountability. ‘Cause I need to be motivated to go outside, to be outside, even when it’s not summer.

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Here’s a shot from our walk through the woods on a nearby trail, just as the wild goldenrod was at its most golden.

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Breaking Ground

A few months ago, my husband and I started talking about renovating certain parts of the house. Namely the unfinished and roomy attic space. We discussed turning it into a game room, a television room, our new master bedroom (which would then mean we needed to install a second bathroom), or my own office space. Two things came from this brainstorming session:

  1. A second bathroom would be really nice, whether we decided to renovate the attic or not.
  2. Renovating an attic into a livable, usable space is really expensive. Too expensive. I’ve seen enough HGTV to know any estimate should be multiplied by, like, three. Time and money. No, thanks.

But then all this talk about actually having my own office space got me thinking about actually having my own office space! While that wasn’t necessarily in the plans to begin with, it has been an ongoing issue in our house. Matt and I have tried sharing the front room with each one of us sitting at desks facing an opposite wall. That worked for him just fine (he’s way more easygoing than I am about most things in general), but I don’t like writing unless I’m alone and the noises from his video games are sometimes very distracting. Then we thought moving me into the bedroom would be a good solution. The newness of that wore off quickly once I realized I had to turn on the white-noise machine to drown out the aforementioned video game noises that traveled easily down the hall. Also, constantly get up to let a dog in or out, or having Elle walk through to get to the kitchen (it’s a two-door room and a closer route).

Then I suddenly noticed how much time I spent in my bedroom. I read in my bedroom. I studied in my bedroom. I researched, I wrote, I tried to decompress in my bedroom. I watched television in my bedroom. Sometimes I even ate in my bedroom. And then, when all that was over and done, I’d go to sleep in my bedroom.

That kind of isolation can make a person nutty. Even me, and I’m the kind of person who really thrives on isolation. Geez, introvert too much? I got really sick of my bedroom.

I told Matt, rather emotionally, that we needed to find a fix. Either we had to buy a new house with a separate room for me or we’d get that ridiculously unaffordable attic office space. I wasn’t even close to joking around.

We agreed on something else instead. It comes to about 1/16th the cost of a basic attic renovation and 1/40th the cost of a new house – one that probably had a crappy lot size, anyway. What did we agree on? A backyard cabin. A she-shed, a writer’s studio, an artist’s loft, a whatever-you-want-to-call-it. A 12×12, 244 square foot space that is mine, a place where I will have the quiet I need to study, to research, to write, to decompress. No dogs, no noise, no interruptions.

A week ago we drove down to Blanchard and put in our order. The construction company is building the cabin this week and we expect it to be delivered sometime over the next two weeks. After that we still have to deal with insulation and drywall, flooring installation, electric and a small heating/air conditioning unit. Then there’s painting and decorating and lighting and landscaping and porch furniture. Porch furniture? Yes, my cabin has a 12×4 porch! Which is where the dogs will hang out, because I’ll be damned if I have to lug a vacuum cleaner from the house to the cabin just to vacuum up even more dog hair.

Up to this point we’ve prepped the cabin site as best we can. There’s really not much more to do except wait for the structure to be placed. So here is a photographic journal of sorts of what we have managed to get done thus far – and by we I mean mostly Matt and his friends, because by the third shovelful of dirt I had thrown out my back, then I went under for an unrelated minor surgery and was out of commission for about 4 weeks. When it comes to physical labor I’m totally useless. But I can pick out paint and flooring, no problem!

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Foreman Teddy

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Ted and Abbey, just two of our mutts soaking up the view from their soon-to-be porch.

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Getting ready to till the ground

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Two weekends worth of dirt for my husband, or How I Threw Out My Back

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We filled in the uneven spots in our yard in the hopes that grass would grow and give them a nice cover. Ari didn’t approve of that idea, but she did approve of more dirt holes. This dog loves lying in dirt holes.

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Helpful advice: These are good sized chunks of rock and do not move easily. Ask your delivery driver to dump a load, move forward, dump another load, more forward, dump another load…you know, so that it’s not all in one unbelievable unmovable pile.

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Hahaha, a shovel. To move all that rock. Ain’t happening, but let me introduce you to my optimistic husband with a can-do attitude.

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Shovels, buckets, bare hands, and feet. That’s how we moved it. And since I am afraid of shovels (I have an old lady back), I used my bare hands. Totally works.

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Ta-da! A full morning’s work.

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My flooring selection. I had to think about seasons and coziness and how I go absolutely batshit crazy in the winter when everything is gray. I chose this because it has hints of orange and hints of gray – the cool and the warm, the yin and yang? And it was on SUPER MAJOR sale, which is always a plus.

PS. Does anyone know how to rid my Flickr photos of that embed link? 

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September

Two consecutive weekends of being outside? It does a body good. While I can, and often do, complain about my constant and undiagnosable jaw and facial  pain as of late, it seems that being under a tree canopy and/or fishing are great ways to help me forget that I’m hurting. So is the soma prescription – a generous helper of a muscle relaxer that puts me in such a deep sleep that I actually remember my dreams.

An example of a soma-induced dream: Matt and I were in a new house, one that included separate wings, and the kiddo wanted her room to be closer to us. As the two of us contemplated the many uses of Elle’s then vacant two-story bedroom, our Mexican contractor offered me up a gorgeous plate of cauliflower cheddar mash while his two Russian female assistants apologized profusely for being unable to provide me with their favorite crepes, which can only be had in Poland. Seeing as my jaw and ears were screaming from pain prior to falling asleep, I’m pretty sure the cauliflower cheddar mash appeared in my dream only as a reminder to stay on my soft-food diet (aka How Many F***ing Ways Can A Person Prepare Eggs?).

But back to being outside…

It’s finally not 147°F out there. These recent temps in the mid-80s have me pining for Wisconsin once again. Instead, I headed for the trees. A couple of weekends ago I went to Martin Nature Park in northwest Oklahoma City. The birds were out, and so were the deer. I didn’t get a good shot of the one I did see across the creek bed, but I left knowing she was there and my deer-sighting streak is still going strong.

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I emerged from the woods a couple of hours later, drove home to pick up my family, and headed out to a lakeside restaurant where we had dinner. I broke the soft-food diet rule and enjoyed the hell out of some broccoli salad. Later I snacked on two cups on tapioca pudding because, well, I’d learned my lesson. The following day’s meals consisted of scrambled eggs for breakfast, a fried egg for lunch, and egg salad on potato bread for dinner. So, there are at least three ways to prepare eggs while on the soft-food diet…

Saturday morning, after having enjoyed a few decent nights of sleep on the soma, Matt and I woke up at the crack of dawn and headed south with our fishing gear in tow. Lake Thunderbird is just outside of the city of Norman. And it’s beautiful early in the morning. We arrived just in time to catch the fog as it lifted from the water’s surface. Herons, egrets, and ospreys caught their breakfasts and laughed at us as we caught nothing. It didn’t matter, though.

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We saw deer, wild turkeys, a rabbit, and a lot of jumping fish. They were mocking us from a distance as we stood on shore, just begging us to buy a boat – that discussion continues (between Matt and I, not with the fish).

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What I’ve read: Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple. It involves Antarctica, Seattle, and snobby, rich moms. While it was entirely predictable, it was really fun to read.

What I’m reading: Burial Rites by Hannah Kent. I started this on my first night on soma and only got to, like, page 7 before I crashed haaaaaard. It’s a historical fiction novel based on true events of the 18th century that include murder and the capital punishment of a woman in Iceland.

What I’m watching: The Killing on Netflix. If anyone else is watching this, let me know. My coworker got me turned on to this series, but he’s only recently finished season 1. I’m well into season 4. I have nobody to talk to about the plots and drama, but my husband does a decent job of showing interest when I start a conversation like this: “Oh my god! Let me tell you about the dead teenage prostitutes!” I need friends.

 

May Into June

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The last day of May and the first day of June have conspired to make this weekend one of the best in recent memory.

Saturday included a late-morning trip to the farmer’s market, the local plant nursery, a used bookstore, and a family dinner at our favorite sushi restaurant. I got a little tipsy off a delicious drink mixed with elderflower liqueur, which made the unexpected sighting of a hot-air balloon pretty damn exciting. The wispy seeds of the cottonwood trees, supposedly discovered by Meriweather Lewis in 1805 in Missouri, have created “snowdrifts” of a sort, pockets of fluff all over Oklahoma City that have built up to be inches deep in some places. I bring up this part of the Lewis & Clark expedition only because I almost purchased a copy of their journals during my bookstore trip. Ultimately, I passed it up and started reading Susannah Kaysen’s Cambridge instead.

cottonwood seeds, thick like snow!

This morning (Happy June!) I managed to mix the perfect amount of sugar and half & half into my coffee and I even convinced my husband to take a morning walk with me in the woods of a nearby nature park. It smelled like honeysuckle and musk in some places; in other places it smelled like clean dirt and lake water. The sound of traffic was muffled by all the trees. They also served to keep us cool from the sun and humidity, both of which increased throughout the day. Matt and I have decided we should make plans to hike the Appalachian Trail before we die, even if we accomplish it in bits and pieces. This adventure will be much easier to accomplish after we’ve started a new life in the Blue Ridge foothills. I don’t know when that will be but I’m already looking forward to it. I miss being dwarfed by giant trees.

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Being surrounded by fields of blue stem prairie grass, Mexican hats, and Indian blanket feels pretty fantastic. I even got to see my very first prickly pear cactus…in bloom! I was hoping to meet a particular owl who has become a little famous on the park’s Facebook page, but the time of day probably worked against us. On our way out of the park we did get to see a duck swimming along with her tiny brood. We crossed paths with two deer and even spotted a little fawn hiding in the tallgrass.

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a fawn!

And all of this before noon…but we’re home now after a fantastic lunch at a lakeside restaurant and I’m off to read more of Cambridge. Happy weekending!

 

Spring is here!

I got plans for you, garden. #spring #garden #flowergarden #veggiegarden

And this is just the beginning…

Last Wednesday afternoon we received our first threat of possible tornadoes, and spring has officially arrived in Central Oklahoma! That morning the air was humid and smelled like Florida. It was very encouraging. Overnight, it seemed, the trees along Northwest 122nd Avenue blossomed with their bright pink, purple, and white flowers. Even the half-dead ugly tree in my own front yard is sprouting tiny leaves. I’m so giddy!

A few weeks ago I mentioned to Matt that I was going to buy some raised beds for this year’s garden. They worked so well for me back in Florida, unlike last year’s Oklahoma City porch garden where everything barely survived in pots and barrels. Matt took off with the idea. Suddenly there were blueprints and cedar boards and trucks delivering dirt and pea gravel, dumping them into mounds on my driveway.

My simple raised beds idea became a two-weekend project. Friends volunteered to help build the beds and level the ground. They gave up their weekends to help spread drainage rocks after removing strips of sod, trudging them all the way into the far backyard via wheelbarrow. They shoveled and sweated and suffered sore backs. All the while I shook my head thinking, “This is too much!” All the while feeling left out, too, because I had recently hurt my back and was under strict orders not to lift anything for two weeks.

Garden progress. #garden #spring #flowergarden #veggiegarden #raisedbeds

Weekend #1

Then it all started coming together. I could see the end result! My husband kept giving me that “I told you so” look, as if he knew the whole time that I’d love this garden more than I was letting on (he did, and I do!). Sometimes simple just won’t do it. Sometimes I should trust that bigger is better. Sometimes my husband is right. (See, honey. Public acknowledgement!)

This weekend I was finally able to contribute by staining the wood and making an all-important beer run. We had Chinese delivered to the house and the whole lot of us sat around the table for lunch. Later, after the last shovel full of dirt was thrown into the beds and our driveway was cleared, we thanked our friends and let it be known that we were indebted to them.

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Weekend #2

It’s like Amish barn raising when it comes to our friends. You help me, I help you. Need a room painted? A floor tiled? A dogsitter? Outside of gifting them with flowers and veggies throughout the growing season, I’m not sure how to repay them. Or my husband, who endured my reluctance to be enthusiastic.

Well, I’m enthusiastic now. The moment everyone left I went straight for the dirt. I transplanted seedlings and sowed additional seeds for nearly two hours. Covered in dirt and wood stain, I finally saw what this could do for me. It’s gonna keep me busy. And, according to my husband, it’s gonna keep me happy.

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Finished!

Greenie babies! #garden #gardening #flowergarden #veggiegarden #spring #seedlings

My peas have a home now!

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I cheated with this photo from Lowe’s, but I do have these darling pansies seeded in the garden. Remember when they sang to Alice in Wonderland, as the bread and butterflies fluttered about? They have the cutest faces!

Reveling with the Fishes

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Bull sharks at the Oklahoma Aquarium. I bet they miss the ocean, too.

In a roundabout way, and hardly as dramatic as I may make it sound right now, I kind of lost my marbles a few weekends ago. Utter loneliness, boredom, feelings of uselessness, and cabin fever have all taken their toll on me. So badly, in fact, that I demanded my husband find a job somewhere near the coast and move us all to an ocean town immediately. Instead, he suggested we take a weekend trip to Tulsa.

It worked, guys. It totally worked. And now I’m calm.

While I was genuinely having a good time in Tulsa touring a retired American Airlines jet and eating Scotch eggs (not simultaneously), I wasn’t aware that any particular feelings were missing. As someone born with a black cloud over my head, I immerse myself in those situations fully, in those moments when I’m happy enough. I feel like if I ask for anything more I’ll be branded as boring, selfish, or, quite frankly, undeserving.

Oh, it’s such crap, I know. But that’s sometimes just how my mind works.

And then it hit me the following day, that moment when things went from happy enough to…well, I don’t know what you call it, but the feeling is pretty fantastic.

It’s funny how our sense of smell can lighten our mood when it catches just the right scent. In the summertime, it’s the smell of charcoal grills and sunscreen. In the winter, it’s pine trees and maple syrup. The right scent for me, for just this weekend, happened to be stagnant aquarium water, but with equal parts fishiness and salt (it’s really not as disgusting as it sounds). A precise measurement, if you ask me.

On Sunday afternoon, I found myself standing next to a turtle exhibit, dipping my nose down closer to the surface and inhaling deeply. A poorly designed replica of a salt water marsh, complete with a fake egret, actually sent my heart racing. The puffer fish, the parrot fish, and even my Resting Bitch Face broke into a smile.

All those neurons that occasionally shoot off messages of happiness around my brain? They were pinging like crazy.

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A smiling puffer fish

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A smiling parrot fish

Note to self on how to endure future winters:

  • Vitamin D
  • SAD lamp
  • acquire tangerines from parents’ backyard tree
  • coconut scented hot tub water
  • visit an aquarium
  • close eyes and listen to this

 

Weekending

Kiddo's first time sledding! #oklahomacity #okc #winter #snow #snowklahoma #sledding

  • I submitted my 35-page in-depth bachelor’s thesis to University of Oklahoma a few days early, in anticipation of sledding all weekend with my family, and got this response from my advisor: “I’d recommend expanding it as a book and publishing it. It’s wonderful.” I’ll talk about my thesis in another post, when I’m feeling less flu-ey.
  • Yes, flu-ey. I was stricken with some kind of pestilence and couldn’t even walk into the kitchen without being exhausted by the entire ten-step journey. Fever-induced comas/naps were plentiful. P.S. All hail Mucinex and tissues with lotion.
  • While I missed out on the sledding event, I’m happy to have married such a wonderful man who was willing to take our daughter sledding with her best friend. It was the first time for both girls.
  • After a recent animated Facebook discussion with our friends about whether or not one should eat in the bed (I’m in favor of it, my husband is not), Matt made me a bowl of maple oatmeal and a mug of earl grey tea then served it to me for breakfast…in bed. He’s a catch, ladies.
  • The Apple TV wasn’t working in the bedroom all weekend so I was subjected to horrible network comedies and hokey family dramas on Trinity Broadcast Network, or, as I like to call it, the Jesus Channel.
  • Noontime on Saturdays is one of my favorite times of the week. The city’s tornado siren network runs a drill and my dogs howl like there’s no tomorrow. Chimay is the best at it. See the video here. She really is good.
  • Ten minutes later I experienced MY FIRST EARTHQUAKE! A 4.5, according to the USGS. The walls creaked, pictures rattled, I squealed like a kid on Christmas morning, and Elle was unimpressed. What is wrong with her?
  • Bedlam. BOOMER!
  • I dreamed about pizza on Friday night and my husband ordered some on Saturday. I dreamed about Cinnabon on Saturday night and my husband bought me some on Sunday. Matt spent his entire weekend cooking, cleaning, and taking care of disgusting me, the kid, and three dogs. See, ladies – my husband is a catch. I ate neither the pizza nor the Cinnabon in bed, though. I know not to push my luck.