Tag Archives: Midlife divorce

Snowbound

For those of you who have been without TV, telephone, Internet, Twitter or Facebook access the last few days, Chicago just experienced its worst snowstorm in forty years. It does not make me happy that I remember the ones that were worse; that just makes me old.

At any rate – here we are, on the day after the blizzard.

This was the first storm like that that I’ve experienced on my own. I felt like I was okay. I stocked up on important things like Diet Coke and knew that I would be grateful for my seasonal snow plow contract. I’ve been home for a few days with a bad back anyway, so I looked forward to the opportunity to continue to nurse my aching back and get another day or two off from school.

Wednesday I kept getting phone calls from people wanting to make sure I was okay. It kind of made me feel like I was in a Cormac McCarthy novel… single woman, two dogs, trapped in a house waiting for the snowplow…

My aging border collie has been sick, too, so, alone in my bed hearing the wind whip I started to obsess about that a little. Interesting word – aging. Why do we use it to talk about those getting old? Aren’t we all aging starting at day one? You never hear anyone say “the aging three-year old struggled with toilet training…” Sorry – I digress.

Back to obsessing over the dog. What if she passed during the storm? What would I do if I couldn’t get to the vet with the body? Would I put it in cold storage of some kind? That just made me feel like I was in a novel by Stephen King.

In the morning, in the aftermath of the storm, I watched my neighbors outside digging out. Families, husband and wives, moms and dads, kids. Shoveling, clearing paths to mailboxes, playing with the dogs. It definitely fell into one of the moments of feeling alone.

Snowbound makes you feel alone. Alone like vulnerable, alone like “I wish I had someone here to drink a hot cocoa with,” alone like “there’s nobody here who cares that we’re stuck in the house.”

Some days feel more divorced than others. Like when I had to put Ben Gay on my own aching back. Or when the vet says “I think her liver is more enlarged.” And when the weatherman says “it’s going to be one for the history books, folks.”

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There are times

When you feel more divorced than others. Today, as I sat in the emergency vet’s office for 3+ hours waiting for them to do X-rays on my 13-year old border collie, was one of them.

And then, when the vet went over the results with me, recommending an ultrasound to see if what looks like an abdominal mass is on the liver or spleen, was one of them.

And then, coming home and sitting looking at these sweet dog who’s been with us – and now, me – for almost 13 years is one of them.

I have wonderful children and friends who are only a phone call away, but, in the end, the decision is mine.

And I’m not loving making it by myself.

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Lonely at Ikea

Ikea is not for the faint-of-heart in any instance. The lines; the cart-only escalator; the miles and miles of lamps, bowls, desks, linens and things-you-didn’t-know-you-needed can make anyone turn on her heels and head for the nearest mom-and-pop furniture store (are there any of those left?). And you really want to make Ikea a miserable shopping experience? Go by yourself.

Yesterday I was in the Ikea neighborhood and headed there for a desk. A simple desk. No drawer, no keyboard drop, no hutch. Essentially a tabletop with legs. Nothing too deep, nothing too long. Ikea had just the thing, I discovered via the Internet, and the price was right. I also wanted a small nightstand lamp, and we all know that Ikea can’t be beaten for cheap lighting.

So I went there. Alone. I think I was the only single person there.

First, it’s the choosing. To be honest, going to a grocery store post divorce was kind of weird too. I looked with sadness at the old people strolling the produce aisles holding hands. I couldn’t get used to buying food just because I wanted it. No reading labels to make sure it was suitable for Mr. Ex the vegetarian to eat. No thinking about what the kids would eat for lunch or what the family would share for dinner. Nope, just me. But I got over it. And, to be honest, there are always lots of alone people at the grocery store.

At the grocery story, though, it’s not like you see a bunch of people standing around discussing the relative merits of Gala apples over Honeycrisp.

Not Ikea. Everything at Ikea is a discussion. White table legs or silver? Red bowls or blue? And everywhere you look there are couples and families trying to figure out if it will fit, get home in the car and if it’s really that easy to put together.

And then there’s the pulling off the shelves and getting the item into the cart with nobody else to hold it steady. I bet you never appreciated that extra person before, right? Go ahead and do it yourself without looking like your cart was taken hostage by Candid Camera. Whoops – there it goes down the aisle while the divorced lady chases after it with a tabletop in her arms.

Then it’s the buying. They don’t bag at Ikea (they don’t even give you bags – you have to buy them now). They just take your money. And since most people use plastic in some way, they really just scan and give you a slip of paper with numbers on it. So you’re stuck bagging after you’ve paid, if you’re alone. While the people behind you stand tapping their feet because you’re now in their space.

Then there’s the dreaded holding area. The pickup zone (I don’t mean that in a good way). The leave-your-cart, get-your-car zone.

I may be overly suspicious, but I’m not happy about spending a lot of money for stuff and then leaving it alone so I can run and get the car. And I didn’t do it yesterday. Luckily I know I’m suspicious, so I planned ahead (I do that occasionally) and chose a parking space that was fairly convenient to the pickup zone. And my purchases weren’t that heavy (and, of course, I had my new, 59 cent Ikea bag), so I grabbed them out of the cart and carried them to the car myself. And even got the 48-inch tabletop in the trunk first try.

All-in-all, it was a pretty miserable shopping experience. The exciting news is that I got the purchases home and managed to put everything together from the no-words, goofy pictures instructions.

But I’m not excited to do it again any time soon.

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The tree stands straight

There’s a tree in front of my home that I really love. I’ve loved it since we bought the house 17 years ago. It provides a wonderful canopy over my front yard, shades the home and just makes a really pretty statement in front of the house (okay, my SIL did hit my daughter’s car while trying to maneuver around it, but we won’t quibble here).

As I looked at the tree this morning I noticed the spot on one side where a very large branch had to be cut away. Very large. It was literally pulling the tree down, making it lean dangerously toward the house. I remember watching them cut the branch away, wondering if that was all it needed to make it strong and straight again. Wondering if the tree would look the same, still be my favorite.

Today the tree is gloriously straight and tall. You can see where the branch was severed, but it doesn’t mar it.

I guess sometimes you have to make a drastic change and get rid of what’s weighing you down to be straight and tall again.

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When in doubt, do nothing

I’m here to urge you to… do nothing. To paraphrase a particular shoe manufacturer, “Just don’t…”

I have never been, um, particularly spontaneous. Oh, if you call me and invite me to dinner, I can be ready at the drop of a mascara brush. Unlike my mother, who needed three days’ notice before going out, that I can manage to do with no notice whatsoever. I’ve also been known to be fairly spontaneous with buying stuff, which makes early morning coffee and the Internet a baaaaad thing.

No, I’m talking about the big stuff. The REALLY big stuff. Not. Spontaneous. At. All.

When we made the offer to buy our house and it was accepted, I threw up. Not kidding.

So, it should come as no surprise that, after Mr. Ex moved out, while I had the urge to make major changes like redo the entire house, or sell it, or move to wherever, I really did nothing for the first 16 months or so. That possibly may have also had something to do with the fact that, for much of the time, my mother was dying and I was otherwise preoccupied, but let’s just pretend that it was by choice, not completely by inertia.

When I finally got around to redoing the house in February, I knew what I wanted to do. I had lived with it for quite some time and let it speak to me. Seriously. That sounds hokey, but I did. I sat in its quiet rooms, just House and I, and let it kind of flow around me. And, when I did decide what to do, it was good. Not to paraphrase the bible or anything (it was good). I mean, I think God was kind of spontaneous, don’t you? Shouldn’t she have waited to see how the “let there be light” thing worked out before going with the animals, and people and all? Sorry…back to doing nothing.

Now – the yard. Last year, the first summer after Mr. Ex departed the premises, I hired a lawn service. I really don’t think I stepped foot into the yard more than a half-dozen times last summer (and that was probably just to pick up poop). I don’t really think I entertained out there, other than an occasional eating on the patio with my kids, if that.

This summer, more out of frugality than anything else, I took over the lawn duties. The frugality part is kind of funny, since I think I’ve spent quite a lot on yard stuff since becoming, um, intimate with it, but work with me here.

First came the mowing. I’ll admit, I don’t exactly find the lawn mowing part to be the ultimate zen experience. At first it was no big deal, but now, as the grass is rapidly growing and it seems that every day it’s either too hot to mow or raining, I’m not listing mowing as my favorite thing to do (a side note…if you go to Match.com, there’s a picture of a lovely young woman lying on the grass and it says “Mowing the lawn is very therapeutic.” Bullshit).

But the thing that mowing did get me to do was to pay attention to the yard, which is a very large space. Very large. With potential. I started to think about the things that could be done – more space for entertaining, some room for a butterfly garden, or a zen space…

The other thing is that, while I’m good with the mowing, I’m not good with the edging. I don’t like gas powered things, and I don’t want to spend much money on more lawn mowing equipment, so I don’t have an edger. And the problem with manual mowers is that they don’t get up close and personal with fences or other hardscaping, so you tend to have this unruly, unmowed edge around the lawn. I don’t care so much about the edges of the yard – it’s not a golf course, after all (which would be my new mantra. I’m thinking of having that put on a tee-shirt to wear while I’m – what else? – mowing). I have grass shears that I use around the patio, but I’ll be damned if I’m edging the whole yard that way.

So the edges of the yard – the three very long edges that are up against the fence – go unmowed.

Guess what? The not mowing part has given way to YARD SURPRISES! Little pretty presents from the unmowing fairies.

On the south fence, we have hostas. Lotsa-hostas. I seem to remember that they were growing there when we bought the house, but I guess we just kept mowing ’em down. And in the corner, right by the uglyshed, there are daylillies. Bloomin’ daylillies. Like a present.

Along the west fence we have some more more hostas, and I think there are some more daylillies trying to poke their little heads up. Comeon little guys…

Under the magnolia tree, there are some elephant hostas like I’ve never seen before. Biggest leaves ever. As soon as I start my experiments with hypertufa I’m picking a few of those babies to cast.

And along the north fence there are weeds. I think they’re weeds. But they’re interesting. And it’s not a golf course.

And, like I did with the house, I’m contemplating what exactly I want to do with the yard. So far I’ve done only one “permanent” thing, which was to plant a hydrangea next to the patio. It’s only as permanent as Tallulah will let it be, since she decided yesterday that it would be a good idea to dig it up. I think for the time being I’ll stick with container gardening and deciding what to do with the huge space I’ve got.

I’m not in any hurry.

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The greening continues

Green updates: The compost bin is assembled and sitting in its corner of the yard. Wow. Me composting… I can’t believe how excited I am to have stuff rotting in my yard.

I ordered – and received in two days – two collapsible rain barrels from Woodland Direct. Unfortunately, they didn’t send me the diverter kits that were supposed to be included. Um, I can’t use ’em if I can’t divert the water from the downspout into the barrel. I’m excited, though, to be starting my rainwater saving. It mostly started because of my frugality (didn’t want to pay a bigger water bill) and because the idiots who built my house didn’t think it would be important to put a water spigot in the back. Really…why would you want a water spigot where the yard is? I have one on the side of the house, but that’s on the outside of the gate, which is locked from the OUTSIDE because I have a highly intelligent border collie who know how to open the gate (really). So, in order to use the water I have to go in the house, walk through the house, go out the front door, open the gate, make sure the dogs don’t get out… not worth it. I’ve been shlepping water in a watering can from the laundry room (which actually is only a few steps from the back door, but then there’s the whole spilling of water as I carry the heavy can…) so I’m excited to use rainwater. And I understand rainwater has the added benefit of being better for plants; it’s softer (which I’m sure is true in my case since I have very hard water), and it’s freeeeeeeeee.

I chose collapsible barrels because I will easily be able to store them over the winter, rather than leave them outside to possibly crack. I put them together with no problem. I’m a little nervous about installing the diverter kits, but I’ll ask a man for help if necessary.

Hypertufa…

Do you know what hypertufa is? It’s a combination of cement, perlite and peat moss. You mix it all up, add water till it feels like (ew) cottage cheese and then mold it into planters and stuff like that. It’s going to be my summer project; learning how to use it and make stuff out of it. It appeals to me because it has a lovely, rustic quality about it; it’s a little different; and the materials aren’t expensive. Of course I mentioned it to some colleagues, who all want to come play in the mud, so I thought, once I get good at using it, I’ll host concrete camp (it’s technically not concrete, but I like the alliteration). I’ll serve a mud-inspired cuisine; mudslides, Oreo mud pie… Go ahead; Google it – it’s cool.

What I’m reading right now – thank you to my adorable younger daughter who sent me the link to The Jew and the Carrot. What a great blog!

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Green side up

It all started with the lawn mower. Faced with another summer of writing checks to the lawn care service, I decided to suck it up and buy a lawn mower and do it myself. Since I have the bulk of the summer off, it seemed like I could probably spare a couple hours a week to take care of the yard.

Then I started to research lawn mowers. Not one to simply traipse into Home Depot and buy the first thing off the shelf, I spent a few hours (okay, probably more than a few) learning about various lawn mowers and the art of mowing in general. First, I was shocked to learn how horrible it is for the environment to use gas-powered lawn mowers. Seriously. You have no idea how much damage those puppies do. Also, I forgot to mention that I’m pretty scared of gas-powered things to start with. Except cars. I’m good with cars. But gas-powered snow blowers and lawn mowers…nope. As soon as you start to tell me about the right mix of oil and gas, which I’m supposed to keep in a little plastic can in my garage… I’m done.

That left me with two options. Manual and electric. Electric lawn mowers offer “power”ful mowing with a quiet motor. They come in a variety of flavors; price, mowing width, etc. You can get corded or cordless. The cordless ones are pretty pricey – more than I wanted to spend, and they vary in charging time and all that. I didn’t want to spend as much as the good ones cost, though, so I ruled them out. I ruled out corded electric mowers because they’re, well, corded. Sometimes I have problems with the hair dryer, so it seemed like a corded mower should be out of the question.

That left manual. The good news is they’re pretty cheap, and they’ve come a long way since the old days. If you’re a regular reader (yes, both of you) you’ll know that I did choose a manual mower and I’ve been using it regularly for the last 6 weeks or so.

Anyway, now that I’m out in the yard mowing it, I’ve started, well, paying attention to it. Last year I don’t think I stepped out onto the grass more than a dozen times or so. I think it was a hold over from thinking it was Mr. Ex’s domain (even though we started having lawn services while we were still together). But this year, being the Head Mower and all, I started to pay attention to it. And, now that it’s June and the lawn is coming in nice and FULL, I’m starting to think about lawns in general, and how wasteful they are.

There’s a lot of stuff out there in Internet-land about how we should abolish lawns. They waste water (if you water them, which I don’t), fertilizing them uses really BAD cancer-causing chemicals that are banned in many other countries, and, well, they’re high-maintenance without getting much in return. In my backyard, the lawn is pretty much where the dogs run and, um, poop. In the front, the lawn is completely worthless; it’s nothing more than a big wasted green hunk-o-land. And mowing it is a PITA. There’s a huge tree shading the lawn, so every time it rains the lawn is littered with tons of twigs (which stop the manual mower dead in its tracks), and the culvert thing for the rain sewer is in the front of the lawn and it’s a huge pain to mow. And my neighbors to one side aren’t real good about mowing their part of the lawn, so….. well, you get my drift.

So, this summer, I’m out to kill my lawn (which, since I didn’t fertilize or spray pre-emergent weed preventative, I’ve gotten a good start at already). Okay, maybe not kill it completely, but seriously reduce it.

I’m reminded that, years and years ago, Mr. Ex stated that we should have concrete poured over the whole yard. I poo-pooed that idea, and, even though I still don’t think the all-concrete look is the way I’m headed, I do think that a little more hardscape (like that word? It’s garden-speak for, well, concrete, or wood, or flagstone, or brick…y’know…non-growing stuff) might be in order. And ground cover. Lots of ground cover. That’s green stuff that isn’t grass. Oh, wait, like the clover that’s already growing in the backyard where I didn’t fertilize. Did you know that clover isn’t as horrible for your lawn as the folks at Scott’s would want you to think? There’s a lot of information right now that says that your lawn should have some clover in it. And maybe even weeds (and did you know that weeds are just plants that grown where you don’t want them to?).

So, here I am, first official day of summer break, and I’m researching what plants to plant, what ground cover to encourage, and how I’m going to reduce the lawn overall.

Yard dreams:

I want more plants and flowers (which will amuse my children, who bought me an Aerogarden last year because it tells you when it needs water – I think they were giving me a hint). The herbs that I planted in containers at the beginning of the spring give me a huge amount of pleasure, and I haven’t killed anything yet (well, the mums aren’t too happy, but my score is still pretty good). The lavender smells great, the rosemary is gigantic, and I planted a hydrangea bush last week which is still alive.

I want to extend the patio with flagstone or something similar. And I’m going to have to suck it up and pay someone to fix the patio where the tree roots raised it. Blech.

I ordered a compost bin, and I’m ordering two rain barrels this weekend. The ONLY water spigot is on the side of the house on the other side of the fence (seriously. What brain surgeon decided to put it THERE?) and it’s a pain to use. And I’m too cheap to pay for more municipal water or lawn waste removal and composting appeals to the new-green me.

In the spirit of less-mowing, I’m planning a shade garden in the front of the yard, next to the house. It’s a small space, so mowing is a pain, but it’s fairly shaded from the house and the fence so it wouldn’t be good for a vegetable garden.

Perhaps a butterfly garden at the back corner by the tool shed. I don’t know if it gets enough sun (unfortunately, with the weather we’ve had the last few days, charting the sun is an impossibility), but it would be lovely. And the shed is ugly, so maybe it will dress it up.

Plant more prairie grass, more ground cover, more Things-That-Don’t-Need-Mowing or upkeep.

Decorate the yard with hypertufa. More on that tomorrow. Or, as I like to call it, concrete camp.

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