Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Toughen up

One of the most enduring images of myself in my own mind is me, at 3 or 4 years of age, sitting in a swing at my preschool. I was younger than many of the kids in my class and therefore shorter. My feet dangled from the swing, my legs not long enough to reach the hollowed-out ground beneath it to propel the swing on my own. I had to ask for help to swing, when other children did not. That was when I began to feel as if I were set apart from others.

Swing seat

As a first-year teacher I was constantly told to develop a thicker skin. I was told I would not make it as a teacher if I cared about what the kids said about me.

Well, I'm sorry. I never learned how to thicken my skin. I never learned how to protect my heart. I never learned how to stop caring about the people I met, the children whose lives were even lonelier than mine had been. I never stopped being affected by their pain, even when they were taking out their pain on me.

I never learned how to stop getting my heart broken.

I think I might finally be okay with that.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Putting down roots

I spent most of my twenties and a good chunk of my thirties wandering. Five years was the longest I stayed anywhere. I lived in a succession of dorm rooms, rented rooms, and apartments. At many times I lacked a permanent job. Teaching in New York was my first Real Stable Job -- and of course housing costs there were far, far beyond my means for all but the most meager co-op in a giant building.

In a nutshell, this is why I wanted a house.

I wanted a house for about ten years before I finally up and bought one.

One of the reasons I bought this specific house was the back yard. It's safe to say that I saw the back yard and ignored most of the house.

This is not to say that the yard was perfect. I have had to do a lot of work, both to remedy the neglect it suffered (the owner was in her 90s) and to shape it to reflect my own preferences.

The front yard in particular was trying. About a third of it was phlox, a third dirt, and the remaining third, mulch.

Phlox is very pretty for about two weeks in April (which, coincidentally, was when I first saw the house). The rest of the time it's pretty much nothing. I moved into the house in June, so there was a limited amount I could do. I put the front garden off until the following spring

I wanted very specific plants for this garden. Swinky sent me a box of goodness that included all kinds of zombie love and gladiola bulbs in purple and green. Zombie mix, she said, and the idea for the Zombie Garden was born.

With that in mind, I spent the winter planning out my garden.

Purple Garden
I scoured the Internet for the plants I wanted at reasonable prices. I wanted very specific things, and most importantly, green envy echinacea.

The company I ordered from last year has enough bad reviews on the Garden Watchdog to dissuade anyone who does a little research from ordering from them. Last year I didn't know about this fantastic site and took a chance. Bad move. At first I thought awesome, I will totally order from The Nursery That Shall Not Be Named again because they pretty much sent me twice as much of everything as I ordered. The plants were teeny tiny and their roots wrapped in plastic and newspaper, but I was like, okay, maybe that's just how they come.

But then I planted the coneflowers and waited for them to grow and they were totally not what I ordered. They were still coneflowers, but they were not the coneflowers I was looking for.

These are not the coneflowers you are looking for

So they grew, but they were spindly, and not what I ordered. Granted they also do a free plant deal, and one of the free plants, I have to say, is doing much better than any of the other plants I got from them (several died, though we did have a late frost). This is the free Red Weigela, which I just moved into the ground to replace the giant yucca I dug out. It was...yucca.

The other free plant never got beyond the stick phase and I ditched it this spring.

So I was sourcing my green envy again this year and thought, I wonder if there are reviews of mail-order nurseries. There are. Dave's Garden is awesome; the Garden Watchdog which contains reviews of mail-order nurseries is only one of their fantastic features. Do be careful and watch the date of the reviews; the merchant I ordered from had some bad reviews a couple years ago...but many of those reviews were later changed to good reviews because they made it right. Recent reviews show they have really improved their business. While I am certainly someone who is more likely to just take my business elsewhere than complain to a business, I think you really do have to complain if there's a chance that the people might actually want your business and be willing to make it right.

I was totally impressed with the size and plant-like-ness of what came to me. The packing was pretty awesome. Lots of cardboard, lots of vertical space, and little tucky-inny things so the plants stayed put in their sheaths.

So here's one of my new plants, tucked into my higgledy-piggeldy front patch. I am optimistic about the outcome, but of course it will take a couple months to find out.

The undead glads came up really nicely.

I did have to relocate a couple to the back yard this spring, and will probably have to dig them up and separate them in the fall because, holy moley, bulbs multiply!!!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The potential legal hazards of non-hoarding

How much do I love Share Faire?

So much that seeing the police there did not dissuade me.

I am so law-abiding that I honestly thought they were there to make sure no one bothered us. After all,

Congress shall make no law ... abridging ... the right of the people peaceably to assemble....


I had set out my books and was starting to put out my clothes when one of the staffers announced that the police had said that we did not have a right to be in the park (it's a public park) and that they would cite anyone who remained (there were no signs, no tents, no substances, and no dollars being exchanged). He said that usually they clean everything up at the end, but since the police were asking people to leave immediately, all the items would have to be left there. He also said that it was up to us whether we wanted to leave or stay and continue to share.

I didn't want to leave perfectly useful things to be disposed of, but I did want to hang around and see what happened. A few people left, one of them sharing her address as she walked by, suggesting a backyard share; unfortunately I didn't have a map with me so I wouldn't have been able to find the address.

After about ten minutes the police dispersed, and sharing resumed as usual.

I was pretty happy with both the speed with which the things I set out disappeared and the lack of things that I acquired. In the past I have acquired all kinds of things, from safety-orange yarn to canned goods to bomb-diggity tees, one of which I frequently wear dancing. This year I grabbed a couple tees to turn into bibs, some craft sticks to use as plant markers, and a pair of earrings I may or may not be able to clean up.

Probably the best thing about this particular event is knowing for a little while that we're all there, open to sharing, participating in the same experience, sidestepping capitalism, allowing one another to benefit and enjoy the things we don't need. I can talk to anyone there, while we are picking through bright sweaters and LP albums. A community springs up for an afternoon, disappearing at the appointed hour, and arising again in a few months for another round.

Update: EEMA's response.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Aparigraha, part 2: de-cluttering

Remember what I said the other day about the coal rooms?

Cue your favorite horror movie music or sound effects.
For the record I do love that the walls of my basement are silver. Not gray. Silver.

If you're not from here, you may not know what coal rooms are. They are exactly what they sound like: rooms in which coal used to be stored. They're kind of great, because you can put all your junk in them and close the door and forget about it. Of course that is also what makes them kind of horrible, because they allow you to think that you don't belong on Hoarders and then one day you go down there and you're like...well.

I do admit it looks pretty well organized, but there are some mystery boxes. Not to mention the two (count them, two) all-in-one printer things, neither of which works perfectly. The local Goodwill has a computer parts and repair shop so that is where those are going to go.

I did give myself a time limit of two hours, which I'm proud to say I came in well under, and I did go through the whole house. That's a basement with two coal rooms, main floor, and top floor with 3 bedrooms.

Here are the goods:

Some of the more interesting items include bag gloves (lower left) from a short stint with kickboxing, groovy light fixture (lower right), nearly full printer ink from the printer returned to my ex-job (ziploc bag center left), planter thing that worked fine at the old apartment, but won't fit on my brick walls (top left, I put books in it for funs!), blue serial mouse (center) and "World's Greatest Teacher" decorative eraser (top right). I love you, former student who gave that to me, but I don't need it to remember that I love you.

These are all going to one of my favorite events: The East End Share Faire. Seriously my main problem with this event is that it only happens twice a year. Things I love about the Share Faire:

  1. Free market. Leave what you want to leave, take what you want to take. No judgements.
  2. Sometimes there is food.
  3. You can bring literally anything.
  4. I really mean it. Anything.
  5. Including food that you have and just don't like.
  6. And bras. Because sometimes your bra doesn't fit anymore.
  7. You never know what you'll find.
 I learned two valuable truths while de-stashing:
  1. You always have more junk than you think.
  2. It's okay not to be ready to get rid of something.
There were a lot, and I do mean a lot, of things that I just wasn't sure about. Can I do something with those curtains? Should I keep the box of bathroom tiles even though I hate my bathroom tile, because I don't know when I'll be able to redo the bathroom, and I might need to patch? Could I alter that top?

Well, it would be nice to be able to toss everything, but sometimes you just can't. The Goodwill, the Salvation Army, the AmVets, they all take donations whenever, so if I change my mind, they can go at a later date. That's like, meta-letting go: letting go of my need to let go of everything right this minute.

I'm all packed and ready to go. I'll be back later with what I've acquired, which will hopefully be far, far less than I am giving away!

Friday, May 25, 2012


Here is a very short but fantastic story.

I do not get much mail beyond circulars and assorted local junk mail. Almost never do I get hand-addressed mail, and I'm a little paranoid, so when I got a hand-addressed envelope from some hose company (I'm not kidding, they make industrial hoses) I was like Whoistryingtosellmewhathowdidsomeonegetmyaddresswhatisthisjunk?

The letter informed me that someone was attempting to charge $7600 worth of hoses and air freight for said hoses to my credit card. This person had my name, address, and all the salient credit card info including the security number on the back, which I kind of always doubted was all that secure anyway.

The unparalleled honesty and kindness that this took - for the salesperson to decide something was fishy and ask the accounting manager to review it, and for the accounting manager to send me this letter - blows me away. I could have seen a crazy huge charge on my bill and had a coronary. Instead I called my credit card company and canceled the card.

Sorry, hose-buyer. You were dishonest, and just this once, you don't get to hose someone.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Aparigraha (non-hoarding), part 1 of oh, so many...

Aparigraha means non-hoarding, non-possessiveness. This one was a little difficult for me to figure out, since in my head, I'm not materialistic at all. In my head I'm still the girl who packed everything she needed into a Toyota Corolla and drove off to live at the Grand Canyon. I get rid of things, I give books to the library; I go to clothing swaps and try to give away as much as I acquire.

But then I head down to the coal rooms.

There are still two half-boxes of dishes I still haven't unpacked after two years, because I don't currently have the space to store them in my kitchen. Two years, now, they've been down there, and I clearly haven't needed them.

Come to think of it, I have more dishes than I need, and some are even chipped. I deserve to eat off dishes that aren't chipped - particularly since I own plenty of dishes that aren't chipped.
And then there are the books, and the teacher things that I hold onto, because I'm not sure I'm done teaching. Holding onto ideas and pieces of identity is a kind of hoarding, too.

Don't even get me started on the fabric stash, and the t-shirts that I'm going to modify when I get around to it. I was un- and underemployed for 5 months and didn't make much of a dent in them other than making some burp cloths for Vivacious P and modding two shirts, only one of which I've worn out in the world.

For a year, the old medicine cabinet was in the basement, because I was going to take it to Construction Junction. I put it out and someone picked it up for scrap, and I didn't even have to drive it anywhere. I admit that I took a second look at the mirrored doors when I put them out for trash collection today, thinking, what else could I do with these? Could I spray paint the metal? Could I attach them to a wall? And I had to tell myself, no, there's nothing I could do with these other than prop them on something, and they're not even stylish. Out they go.

I used to go garbage-picking in New York, seeing what other people threw away. I salvaged several bookshelves for my classroom, which I passed on to other teachers when I left. I still have a bit of the garbage-picker in me. A couple weeks ago I picked a guitar out of someone's garbage (it was right on the top, I swear!) but found it was broken. I thought I could push it back into shape, paint and decoupage it. But a guitar and I really have nothing to do with one another. I'm not a creator of music. I could invest a lot of time and energy into creating an art piece to sell, and would it sell? Who knows. I should invest my limited time and energy into creating art for my own walls. Even though I was going to be late for work, down to the basement I went to get it for today's trash collection, before I changed my mind.

I mean, I'm not saying I'm going to ditch it all, sell the house, and live in my truck - though I think it's great that there are people who can go where their dreams take them without needing to hold on to things or places. One of the things I really wanted was roots; I was rootless and temporary for so long. But there are many things, both physical and ephemeral, that are weighing me down.

So, a yama that I thought was easy, turns out to be what this blog really is about.

I did find one thing down there that might be worth keeping.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The problem with truth ultimately that everyone has a different truth. And rather than just putting their truth out there, sometimes a person becomes so attached to their truth that they want everyone to accept it. They insist that their truth is the only way to live, and if you would just listen to these people and do as they say, then you would get to where you say you want to be.

Except, where I want to be is true to myself.

To be true to myself, that means I have to look at what other people put out there, and decide whether to accept or reject it. It means that sometimes people are going to want me to do things and I am going to say, no.

To be true to yourself, and to let others be true to themselves, you have to put who you are out there, and let people take what they want from having come into contact with you.
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