Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Tie That Binds


I guess technically I've just made it through my first holiday, although Easter isn't one of those "big ones" that I know I'll face later. This afternoon my parents and I met Roger's family at Trattoria Lisina in Driftwood... long drive, well worth it. :) I indulged in a little lobster risotto, a nice chianti, and an overly rich coupling of cinnamon and hazelnut gelato.


I've wondered the last couple of months what would happen to those relationships as time goes by. I suppose there are some that would disagree, but I've always felt that I married into a family, not just the man. And I've always felt very lucky that the stars aligned in such a way that the family I legally joined is amazing.

While we were planning the memorial, there was a driving force that intertwined our lives during those two weeks, and as we all found ourselves breathing a sigh of... not relief, not completion... maybe a sigh of exhaustion when it was all over, one of my first thoughts was, "Aside from our trip to Ireland, will I see these people again?"
 I remember meeting Roger's family for the first time. It was actually his sister and niece that I met on this occasion. We had come back from a date, and the two of them were still up. His niece was 2 or 3 at the time. She was very intrigued by my red, faux-crocodile purse, and while the adults engaged in small talk, the niece raided my belongings. It turned out that she had recently acquired a children's book called My Granny's Purse that also had exciting things to excavate.
His parents reminded me so much of my own: teacher mom, beer-drinking dad... okay, that's simplifying their comparative qualities, but isn't the root of our existence truly a combination of the profession that calls us and our beverage of choice? ;)

I got to know his family really well on the first family vacation I took with them. We ventured to Concan to brave the wilds of the Frio River, which sounds ridiculous until the story morphs into the true story of a 20 minute tube ride turning into a 4-5 hour tubing disaster, the likes of which included taking the wrong branch of the river, no sunscreen, a rain and electrical storm, hiking with the tubes up a slick, muddy embankment to the very camp site in Deliverance, and asking the crazy hillbillies within to drive us back to our own cabin via the back of their truck. It became a fairly miserable afternoon that climaxed with one of my worst sunburns ever and the realization that I was so lucky to be joining this group of people in my marriage.

What happens to that history? What becomes of the stories we've written together on holidays and vacations, over glasses of wine and games of Scrabble, through the deaths and marriages of relatives? Where do we go from here when the original tie that bound us together is gone?

As we ate lunch today, I played photographer with my fancy toy. I'm still learning, but I think I got some great shots. There was obviously a missing chair from our table (and our table was noticeably quieter than the last time we at the trattoria when I constantly had to remind Roger that his voice carries like crazy), but what there wasn't was an awkwardness of not belonging. I love those guys like my own family because whether they like it or not, they are family, and not even death can dissolve the tie that binds. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Whatever IS will be WAS. — Bhikkhu √Ďanamoli

I've been reading about the truth of impermanence recently. It all started from an article I read on Huffington Post about what we could learn from the Japanese earthquakes. I have obviously learned through personal experience that absolutely nothing is as it was or as it will be. I'm certain I'm expert on at least that half of what Buddhists call "anicca"; it's how I am accepting this truth in it's ever changing form that I'm treading water. 

There have been a number of impacting moments in my life that have left me in a place I will call "not religious", at least for this impermanent moment. The last year has definitely led me to take a hard look at what I believe spiritually and existentially. I am what my sister believes to be a contradiction of terms: how can I be non-religious and so heartily believe in ghosts? :)

I'm intrigued by the ideas that follow my readings. One point that seems so simple but was one of my Oprah-guru's Aha moments for me was that suffering is the direct result of clinging to an impermanent status quo... of any sort, whether it be fluctuation of things, ideas, relationships, position, etc. The appropriate response would then be to recognize that nothing is as it was or as it will be, and so enjoy and revel in the present as it is one moment that will cease to be.

I can't decide if that is brilliant or a bit defeatist... maybe even cold.

I will admit, however, that I do believe there is a bit of that realized truth buried inside of me, even before I knew it had a name, and I think that understanding that, even on a subconscious level, has kept me sane, perhaps more sane than those that are still praying and hoping for a reason or a purpose.


I did my own round of Ashtanga on my patio last night. It was both refreshing and mosquito attended.

Afterward I had Round 2 of Backyard Photo Safari! I call this one "View from Savasana" (my favorite yoga position hehehe).

The following could be a study in Impermanence via my new rose bush that replaced the one that melted. Several of these pictures came from what I'm going to call Chance Photography. For those, I set my camera to auto-focus, zoomed in close enough to get my potential subject where I might want it, and then held the camera away from my body, sometimes in really awkward positions like underneath the rose bush itself.

Click on photos for a better look. The one with the bud got an interesting focus. That one was a planned shot.

This one is neat as you can see the entire life cycle of a rose by looking right to left. :) 
Both of these shots were taken with my camera held underneath
the plant, away from my face ala auto-focus. Both came out
really cool, but I love how the fencing in the photo above
seems to make the image have movement. 

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Death of a Rose Bush and Other Tiny Tales

kids size medium tshirt
now magnificent jewelry!
Oh my goodness, have the last 2 weeks been crazy!

I've had 2 band contests in 2 weeks, and even now that contest time is over, it seems like my "me time" still isn't clearing. I guess it's that time of year, and I did know what I was getting into when I chose this career.

I tried a new way of making my cool t-shirt necklace today with a $1 kids shirt from Hobby Lobby. Instead of cutting a bunch of singular rings like I did with my red necklace, I cut the shirt into t-shirt yarn, and then wrapped it around my bent knee, varying at what point on my leg I wrapped it so that I ended up with a variety of lengths.

These two experiments with the tree in the front yard look similar, but I like very different things 
about them. I like the focal point in the left, and I like how the blue of the sky pops through very 
subtly on the right picture. 


My rose bush died.
I'm a really good gardner. I do everything exactly like my organic gurus tell me to. I amend the soil with a mixture of local compost and added garden soil. I use only the finest organic turkey poop :) fertilizer and products like Actinovate to stimulate healthy root growth. I break up the root clumps before I plant and always water the specimen about an hour before transplanting.

Being both careful and a cheapskate, I go through the same Central Texas Gardener approved process with every plant, and I usually have great success. When I bought my Olympiad rose bush during spring break, I followed the same protocol. It seemed happy; I saw some new growth in the form of tiny, red, baby leaflets over the course of a week or so.

As I've mentioned before, I regularly go through my gardens and inspect each plant, making mental documentation of growth, flowering, watering needs, dog holes... I then in turn respond to what I find in whatever way I believe will best help my plants to live a long, healthy, beautiful life. It was on our first crazy hot day a week or so ago that I first noticed it.

The base of my brand new rose bush was turning black. I've never seen anything like that before. Upon further inspection, I noticed that the tips of the branches that had been pruned while still in the greenhouse were also turning black. I scratched the discolored surface with my finger nail. The tissue was... squishy. I knew that probably wasn't a good sign.

The next day was even hotter. When I check on my rose bush what I found was shocking to say the least.

There was a puddle of wax at the base of the plant.

I couldn't imagine where wax was coming from. As I looked at the branches, I could see some drip marks, just like you'd see on a candle. The plant had been coated in wax at some point. I can only imagine that this was done to prevent it from rotting during frequent, generic waterings in the greenhouse in which it was started or to prevent borers from burrowing into the tissue before it has a caring, attentive gardener tending to it at a permanent home.

Over the next several days, my poor rose bush from base to tip.... cooked... in the sun. I can't really find a better way to describe what has happening to it, and I had no luck on the internet trying to diagnosis its malady. The once green stems withered into a hard, black, crispy shadow of a plant. Each day a little more wax worked it's way down toward the mulch with which I had lovingly protected the soil. When I finally pulled the plant out of the ground last week it looked much like burned bacon.

Perhaps I'm way off base, but I have to assume that the precautions taken to protect this young rose bush when it was at a fragile point in its life added to its demise. I can't imagine that a wax coating hot enough to melt is positive for a tender, transplanted addition. The very barrier separating the young plant from all the potential evils of the yard smothered and baked it. My attempt at bringing new life into my gardens withered with the branches.

It's like the weed and feed we applied to our yard when we first moved in. It killed a lot of weeds. It pumped up our pathetic excuse for grass. But it also severely damaged the one tree in our yard. It's going on 3 years of gently coaxing it back to health.

Interesting how one form of life imitates another.

And I lost the receipt from the nameless big box home store, so I couldn't even get my money back! However, the NEW pink rose bush I got from my favorite organic garden store is doing well - no wax so far!

Saturday, April 2, 2011


I was just starting to believe that maybe I was as heartless as I tell my students I am.

It's been a couple of weeks I think since I cried. That just seems crazy considering that the single most important person in my life is, for all practical purposes, just... gone.

I wake up.
I get ready.
I make coffee that still isn't quite right.
I've started eating granola bars on the way to school - not even close to the oatmeal waiting for me as I used to leave the house - and they make my jaw hurt.
I invest the bulk of my energy on my job, and then I come home.
I usually call someone to make the time go by faster.
I feed the girls, walk them if it's still light.
I watch bad TV and eat boring food. It seems like such a waste to spend time cooking sometime creative just for me.
Some nights I get energetic and do something fun and crafty, like the t-shirt necklace on this post or learn something new about my nifty camera. I enjoy doing stuff like that.
I wash my face, turn on my bedside lamp, turn off the kitchen light, then the living room lamp (in this exact order), and plug in my phone with my White Noise app playing a never-ending shower.
I read some... maybe write in my journal I've started.
I turn off the lamp and snuggle down with the doglets.

But I haven't cried.

Throughout all of this, people have told me how strong I am. I'm the strongest person they know. I inspire them with this inner strength they don't think they have. And I know I'm strong. That has never been a question. What I wonder is how I can have this strength when about the worst thing that could possibly happen to a person has happened. I feel almost ashamed or embarrassed that I am this strong during something so terrible. I should be curled up in a fetal position, unable to work, unwilling to breathe. I'm 28 years old, and I have more god forsaken life experience than hopefully anyone will have before they die! ..... and I haven't cried in probably 2 or 3 weeks.  

This morning I went to my second yoga class. It feels so good afterward. In both classes, there have been these super advanced students in the room who take each position to a level at which my body just does not move yet. I'm amazed watching them. I catch myself sneaking long, penetrating stares at them in awe while I'm sure I'm supposed to be focusing my gaze on my thumbs or belly button. The control they exhibit over their bodies is inspiring! No movement is without purpose. A combination of strength and relaxation at the same time allows them to move slowly, carefully, exactly planned, with intent.

I remember what it feels like to have that. 

This afternoon, way too early for the sun to have sunk to a comfortable temperature, I also mowed the yard and finished up with the weed eater. I mulched some leaves, pulled some weeds, and swept the back patio. It looks really nice out back. Roger would think so. He also would have laughed that I still think it's easier to mow like you vacuum... apparently that's not efficient.

I came inside, made me a glass of tea, and sat in the living room floor, too dirty to touch the couch. I drank most of the tea in one long drink. I sat there. The house was quiet aside from the washing machine. The doglets were tanning in the yard. All was still. I took in a deep breath, tired from the yoga, the yard work, the week of UIL, this 3rd cold I've had since Christmas. I let out my breath, and the flood began. 

It was like I was making up for lost time. I cried and cried and cried some more; big, heavy tears manifested from somewhere... I don't know where that kind of moisture comes from when you only drink coffee and diet Dr. Pepper. It wasn't just tears. I could *hear* myself crying. The only time I can honestly remember, maybe in my life, crying audibly was when I came home on what I now only refer to as "that night". I remember wondering "that night" if the sounds I heard were coming from me. I had only ever seen that in movies or on TV. Maybe that only happens when your soul hurts. 

For seriously an hour my eyes poured and my heart ached in a way it hasn't for a while. I think I've been so focused on UIL, being okay, functioning, the things I can control, that I've let what would have been a daily dose of sorrow build into something like a force of nature. I am okay, saddened and missing my husband greatly, but still okay, which is what made today a bit of a shock. I suppose it took my body finally being so tired and worn out that my heart got to take the reigns for a while.


Earlier this week I attempted a project I saw on a couple of the blogs I follow. My favorite shirt of all time, my "Geek" shirt that I found for $5 at Abercrombie probably 10 years ago, has expired... and is now up-cycled into a fancy new necklace!