Journey to Texas…or Ponderings of Moving

It’s been a few days since I returned from Spring, Texas where I visited with my sister, and I miss both my sister and the place already (though it is wonderful being back in my own bed).  There’s something about traveling to different places that makes me wonder why I’m still in the small town in which I grew up. It makes me wonder where I “should” be…or rather where I belong, where I fit.

Spring is a fairly large suburb of Houston with countless nail salons, tanning salons and fast food restaurants; it also has the novelty of summer-like weather for extended months in comparison with Virginia.  It also has the novelty of housing my sister, the one with whom I am closest in age and heart.  Maybe that’s why I have a soft spot for that bustling outlying area of East Texas.  Indeed, in 2011 (when last I visited my sister, or as I refer to her “thithta”…just say the word sister with a minor speech impediment) I was gung-ho to move there; and my sister being my sister said she’d support it if I did, but that starting a new life in a place where you don’t know anyone is hard. Very hard. She uttered the same sentiments during my visit this time around.  The difference is, I would know her and a couple of her friends who she has had the pleasure of knowing for the past three years.

I think the time has come in life to figure out what I want to do.  And, evidently, so do a few of my co-workers who honestly love me dearly; just yesterday, I was invited to lunch but politely declined as I’ve decided to start my Weight Watchers venture again (God, help me)  and upon their return, one of them mentioned that she believes it is time for me to do what I want to do and be where I want to be, because as she put it to me, “you have the whole world in front of you and no strings holding you here.” That lady has a point.

But, therein lies the question: Where do I want to be? Truth be told, I have no idea. I know that I’d like to be somewhere out west. I don’t know why that is other than for years, I’ve had an affinity with the west. Maybe it has something to do with a past-life reading I once had (evidently, I used to live out west).  But see, there is a problem: I know that the prospect of being far away from my family scares the living shit out of me. I’m a worrier; it’s what I do.  I’m afraid that the second I move, something will happen: one of my parents will get sick or hurt. I don’t know why I think that, but I do.  Who then will be there to help when help is needed? Maybe that’s a strange worry to have…maybe I should just realize that wherever I may go, I’m only a drive or a flight away. Maybe the problem is that I am so reliant upon my folks because they’ve been there for me when things got really, really shitty that the thought of not being able to be right there for them if they need me is truly the basis of the problem.

Here is a list of places I’ve thought of moving to throughout the past couple of years:

  • Spring, Texas
  • Colorado Springs
  • Denver
  • Charlottesville, VA
  • Austin, Texas (just because “Keep Austin Weird” is their motto)
  • Arizona (nowhere specifically, I just think the dry climate would be good for me)
  • Spring, Texas

I think my other problem is my fear of leaping, of making a big change, because in the event that I do make a big change, I have the very real probability of failing. So many things dictate the thing that we do in everyday life and I’ll admit that fear has been a big dictator throughout my existence.

What am I fearful of failing at, specifically? Well, I shall make you another handy list:

  • Not being able to get work
  • Hating said new job
  • Being lonely
  • Deciding that I actually hate the place where I choose to move
  • Something major happening with one or both of my parents

Obviously, the above fears will need to be a hurdle that I jump in order to move forward with my life.  Who knows, maybe admitting to my hang-ups and writing all of this out has been therapeutic and will actually aid in my quest to move forward.  With that said, anyone have ideas for the place I should move?

these are my options

these are my options

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Trudging Through (the Snow)

I thought it would be a really good idea to plan a hike with two friends a couple of weeks ago. I was itching to be out in the sun, plant my feet on the trail and take in some good vistas. With that being said, I’d like to point out that I live in northern Virginia…and it’s March. This part of the country gets unwieldy snow storms through the months that you think should be sunny and warm with high temps in the 60s and 70s. It just so happens that it has snowed every week here for the past three weeks. Three weeks of wearing layers, bundling up in winter coats and scraping the car free of snow has not made me a happy girl. Alas, when I decide that I want something, that’s what sticks in my brain until I do it, and therefore, this weekend it was decided that I would meet up with two good friends (and make a new friend, as one of my friends brought a new acquaintance with her) and we would hike Stony Man Mountain. I’d read about Stony Man before; the views were supposed to be stellar and (the big plus side of this trail since I hadn’t hiked in a while) it was rated as “easy”. I don’t know who rates these trails, but whoever it is a liar. This ended up being one of the more difficult trails I’ve done.

Now, remember I told you had it has snowed quite a bit recently? We’ve had a few warm-ish days recently and for whatever reason, the prospect of a snowy trail didn’t even register in my (what must be tiny) brain. I met up with Christina (long time friend with whom I’ve hiked before) at 7:30 a.m. to make the trek to Sperryville, VA to catch up with my good friend Kate and her new friend, Abby. It was a bright, sunny day and the temperate felt fairly moderate so I was excited to hit the trail for the first time since New Years Day. As we made the drive to the entrance of Skyline Drive, peeking out of the car window I noticed how the mountains were still draped in snow, and yet, the thought of trudging through a snowy trail didn’t pop into my head. We paid our fee and proceeded along the parkway to Skyland, a parking area between mileposts 41 and 42. After bundling up and consulting our map and directions, we proceeded to the trailhead and were met with a thick carpet of snow to either side of the crystalized-in-ice trail.

Stony Man Trailhead

Stony Man Trailhead

This made me nervous. The last time I hiked, I hiked on trails like this and was sore for literally days afterward because of the slow-going and tedious business of staying upright. We marched on, Abby and Christina taking the lead, Kate taking small steps and me bringing up the rear with baby steps in hopes of not face planting onto the icy trail.

Making their way through the snowy landscape...three hiking mamas.

Making their way through the snowy landscape…three hiking mamas.

I’m not what one would call sure footed at all; in fact, I have a small stride and plant my feet rather lightly – both of which put me at a disadvantage when it comes to making ground and staying vertical! I felt a bit better once Christina had found me a sturdy walking stick; note to all who want to hike in the snow: trekking poles or walking sticks are your friends.

We made the short (yet icy, and slippery) jaunt to Stony Man lookout without any incidents of bum or face plants and boy was it worth it!

Three Of the Hiking Mamas at the Summit Sign

Three Of the Hiking Mamas at the Summit Sign

Me Atop Stony Man Lookout

Me Atop Stony Man Lookout

The views atop this summit are incredible: 360 degree views with snow-capped mountains surrounding you and an amazing view of the valley below. The photo op here was too much for me to resist and I wound up taking picture after crystal clear picture of the snowy scene.

The View From Stony Man Summit.

The View From Stony Man Summit.

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After a little snack on the blustery lookout rocks, it was time to head back the way we came and figure out what way to go to end up at our next destination: Little Stony Man. Little Stony Man is touted as an east coast climber’s hangout; I can only assume that because of the ice and snow that there were no climbers today.

After lots of discussion, and a peek at our map and our directions, I discovered that only one out of the four of us were good with directions. Abby took the lead, blazing forward down the White Trail (the AT or Appalachian Trail). Trail conditions remained less than desirable for me, every step I made I worried that I’d end up in a split on the ground or with a broken leg or ankle. I think my trail name should be Sure Foot, don’t you? Alas, we made it to the next post with only one incident: Christina slipped and bit the dust after taking a slippery step on a rock. No blood, no foul…we kept moving on.

Once again consulting the directions and labeled post, we followed the way that read clearly “Skyland 1.4 miles”. Only this time, the trail didn’t feel right to me. We were gaining elevation and while we’d had a safe bit of distance between us and the edge of the cliff until this point, we were allotted that security no more. A few inches now separated me, (good ol’ Sure Foot) and my demise. With every step I planted my walking stick firmly, swallow in determination and try not to think of how easily it would be for me to make a stupid mistake and end up rolling down into a ravine. That right there shows how much confidence I have in my feet and balance. Needless to say, I was the next person to fall. And hard did I fall. Right on top of a rock; I landed right on my hind end while spouting an expletive I’ll keep to myself now. After getting back up, I proceeded to fall yet again. That’s right! Not once more, but twice more. The downward slope that we had come to was getting the best of me and I was none too pleased about it. But then we came to a rather steep upward slope that got the best of me.

We finally arrived at another post marker which put us on the yellow blazed trail, getting me off the blasted Passamaquoddy Trail. I cursed it and it’s ice and smiled as we hit our last 0.4 mile stretch of trail. I was thinking to myself, “this will be cake! Less than half a mile and I’m sure it’ll be relatively flat since we’re so close to the parking lot.” I was wrong. In fact, I’ve never been more wrong in my life. The trail description and directions state that there is a “slight incline” before coming to the parking lot. All I have to say to that is, “nu uh”. Slight my ass. I think what made this stretch even more challenging was that the snow was no were near as packed down to resemble an actual trail through this stretch as the previous miles we’d covered. This felt more like a walk through the woods in lightly trampled snow. Abby and Christina are total pros; they found their speed and stuck with it, stopping every now and again to make sure that I hadn’t thrown down my walking stick and sat down in the middle of the trail in protest of the cursed white stuff. This section of the trail was the worst for all of us; even good-natured Kate started asking where in the hell the parking lot was (after we heard several cars, I knew it couldn’t be far). After huffing and puffing, baby stepping, slipping and trudging along, I finally saw the blacktop of the parking lot! Once that blessed parking lot was sighted, I thanked God (and my lungs for helping me through that tough portion) and picked up my pace. We’d done it! First hike of “spring” done. Honestly, this hike may put me off hiking for a while…or at least until the snow melts and there is no more danger of a snowy forecast! Without the powerhouse that is Abby to lead the way, Christina helping me down slick downward slopes and Kate to keep pace with me, I don’t know that I could have made this hike today. The views were definitely a reward for the hard work we all put in, but I think the real prize is knowing your friends can help motivate you through the tough spots (in life and on the trail) and get you to your destination.

Hiking with the Girls

Hiking with the Girls

Red Feet, Green Thumbs

Just when I was ready to throw my hands up in the air and dub myself the Countess of Black Thumbs, the garden showed evidence of sprouting!

Perhaps I should back up: you see I have successfully murdered the first herbs that I started as seeds. Everything was going so smoothly, everything was sprouting. Everything was such a lovely shade of spring green.  My basil had started to flourish in little patches, so I transplanted the tiny shoots into larger, colorful pots in hopes of a fragrant and tasty large plant; the oregano was coming up sparsely (yet still growing) and I had tiny green shoots of rosemary. And then, due to my sweet non-watering skills, all of the original plant babies wilted and died a quick death. Woops.

This unfortunate turn of events made me question my new hobby. Maybe I’m not responsible enough to foster wee seedlings and plants into healthy, robust, edible produce.  Throughout the week, I continued to question my gardening abilities. I recall thinking that all of the items I’d previously planted weren’t sprouting, and that I should just till it all up and start over; I voiced this to a co-worker of mine who has success in container planting and she just laughed, exclaiming that I didn’t have the patience for it. She’s right: I’m an immediate gratification kind of girl. And, generally speaking, if something becomes too labor-intensive or gives rise to trouble, I just quit and move on along to a new venture.

I got home Saturday and trekked down to the garden patch after I talked to my dad and confessed that I’d killed the plant babies and that I probably needed to start over in the garden.  It was then that I regained a tiny bud of hope when my dad confirmed that everything I’d planted in our little patch was thriving! I was so proud and excited. The lettuce, peas and green beans I’d planted as seedlings had turned into lush green patches sprouting out of our rocky, red clay soil. The onions I’d poked into the earth showed evidence of being happy: leafy spring green onion tops broke through the soil reaching up toward the sky.

 

 

 

 

 

Then I realized something fairly important that I know will keep me interested in this new hobby:  Maybe I wasn’t so bad at this after all. Maybe I needed to just start over with the herbs, throwing them directly outside to grow in nature rather than babying the seeds into shoots indoors.

So, with renewed enthusiasm, I made the journey down to the garden today. Under my dad’s instruction, I lurched and stopped, lurched and stopped from the garden shed to the garden plot behind a scary, loud gurgling roto tiller. I kicked off my shoes after I the rocky red soil got the best of me by cramming itself into the crevices of the inappropriate shoe I’d chosen for this activity and, stepping onto the soft earth, I tilled (I tilled!!), turning up and weeding rock soil. I broke out the metal rake and threw down beet seeds and pea seeds, and I watered.  By the time I was done, my hands and feet were stained by the red Virginia soil. Just call me Red Foot.

I have renewed hope and gusto for this new attempt of mine. With new seeds in the earth, patches of the newly sprouted greenery in the garden, and ity bity newly birthed oregano shoots breaking through the surface of seed starting soil in tiny planters on the deck, all I have to do is remember to water the babies. And of course, to have patience; that this is most definitely not an immediate gratification type of hobby.  There is a chance that I’ll gain a respect for things that take time to come to fruition, at least one can only hope.

Ventures in Dirt

About a month ago, I decided that this was going to be the spring and summer where I’d turn my (erratic and unguided) energy and focus on gardening. It seemed like a good idea; I’d never attempted it myself and knew absolutely nothing about gardening other than it requires you to get dirty (we’re talkin’ covered in red Virginia mud dirty).

I started this new venture with the same unabashed intense energy and enthusiasm that I begin all things. I researched. I looked up veggies and herbs that grow well in my part of Virginia. I looked into companion planting and heirloom vegetables. I decided what herbs I wanted to grow and I planted seeds in biodegradable homemade newspaper planters.  Two weeks later, I had become a proud herb mama; I had tiny little green sprigs of basil and oregano. I don’t know that I’ve felt that much excitement at something I’d “created” since I played music every day as a teenager.

(These are my plant babies)

 

And surprisingly enough, after two weeks I was still interested in this hobby. You see, I have a tendency to throw myself into new ventures and interests with reckless abandon and within a very (very, very) short period of time, my attentions have shifted and I’m onto the next thing. I think that the only event that has kept me from turning to some other new-fangled idea (that popped into my head whilst trying to avoid dealing with issues that I’ve been repressing, because, let’s face it, that just how I operate) was seeing the physical progress of my new hobby in a short period of time. God bless the short maturation period of basil.

Anyway…back to the story. I decided it was time for more. I wanted to attempt to grow some things in my dad’s garden (which I’d threatened to completely take over in the Eager Puppy planning stage of this new idea). I went to Lowe’s and bought a ton of seeds: broccoli, peas, beans, lettuce, carrots. I was excited.

Last weekend involved a first for me. I “suited up”, laced up my boots and trekked out to the garden, seed packets in hand, trailing after my father.  My dad has gardened for years but the extent of my gardening experience is snapping ripe tomatoes off the vine (so I could enjoy a “mater sammich”) or being forced to (begrudgingly) pick beans and peas.

I headed down to the side yard with growing trepidation as I reached the garden square: I had no idea what to do. How exactly does one garden? If I plan a seed for a pea, if I cover it too much, will it grow? It is alright to plant broccoli next to peas? Does it matter that we have somewhat rocky soil and will that choke out our plants? Do I own a nail brush to get the red clay out from under my fingernails? I put all of my concerns aside and decided that’s what my dad is there for. So I began spitting questions left and right. I looked up from the dirt and asked, “How do I cover up the peas after I’ve sprinkled them?” My Dad burst into laughter. He then said something along the lines of, “As many years as I’ve been doing this and you don’t know how to cover up the seeds? A southern girl like you ought to know how to do this.”  Then, he showed me how to cover the peas up after I’d sprinkled them. If any of you are wondering: use a rake. Once I put down peas, I planted broccoli seeds. Then lettuce.  And then, Dad taught me the art of planting onions.  Then, I planted seeds for kaleidoscope carrots; I don’t think I’ve ever been more excited about a vegetable. Purple and white and red, oh my!

All of this was serious physical work. I guess I never realized the work that is involved in the actual planting.  I squatted. I crouched. I bent over and stood up repeatedly. After about two hours of this, my white dog (who, against all protest,  decided that he’d aid me in this venture) was covered in red mud and my hands had never been dirtier.

dirty bud

I felt great. I felt physically exhausted.  I can only imagine the work that will be involved in keeping weeds at bay in my veggies’ home. I felt like I’d accomplished something. I got to thinking about the days when people’s gardens were the way they fed themselves. Would I have survived that kind of life? No wonder the pictures of the farmers of old echo wiry looking people: they were continuously physically taxed.

I really do hope that my interest in this will continue to grow. I’m kind of roped into it for the long-haul (or for as long as the produce lives) of spring and summer. I don’t look forward to the time that I know I’ll have to invest squatting over plants to rip weeds from the earth; however, maybe I’m looking at this all wrong? Perhaps I should look at the impending upkeep as my new gym routine: step, squat, pull, stand, repeat. Who knows, maybe this venture will force me to eat healthier and develop “buns of steel”.  Wherever this hobby leads me, I’m glad that I’m doing it: I’m learning something new and I’m spending more time with my dad. Those are two things that are worth the work.