Archives for August 2009

I think I might be done with gardening. Sort of. Maybe.

Last year, I gardened like crazy. I grew tons of peppers and tomatoes. I roasted and dried and sauced and froze. I spent most of my summer weekends cooking and weeding. I watered every morning and every night. When we went away, I enlisted one of my friends to come water for me. I was a gardening fool.

This year, I watched my garden get invaded by weeds while I worked on my rewrites. And it was okay, because I was still getting a reasonable amount of cukes and eggplant, with promises of peppers and tons and tons of tomatoes.

But then the tomatoes stayed green for a really long time. Eventually, the leaves started shriveling and turning brown. Then it traveled to my cucumbers, and I realized I had blight.

This weekend, I spent Saturday, sweating my butt off, digging up tomato and cucumber plants and dumping them into plastic bags to be thrown out like garbage, because that’s the way you’re supposed deal with infected plants. I spent Sunday grilling green tomatoes to make salsa so nothing would go to waste. It took me SEVEN HOURS to cut, seed, grill, and dice the tomatoes, and I made about 30 bucks worth of salsa that’s not even all that great. I certainly didn’t save any money. I’m sure I spent more than that on tomato plants and cages and organic fertilizer and containers to freeze the salsa.

I started gardening because I thought it was eco-friendly. Better to water plants that will feed us, than waste water on grass, right? But, the thing is, I never water my lawn. Ever. So my garden actually increased my water usage. My garden isn’t nearly as efficient as a farmer’s garden, and we get more than enough food from our weekly farm share bag. And while a farmer might have known how to catch blight early on and save the crop, I produced four giant bags of garbage for the landfill.

Last year, when things with the book were in limbo, I was struggling to find ways to feel like I was contributing to our family. Storing food and making things from scratch made me feel like I was being nurturing, like I was taking care of J and being a good wife. I very much appreciate that my garden helped me feel productive then. But now, I feel like there simply aren’t enough hours in the day, and all my efforts in the garden and the kitchen are taking away from my ability to be a good wife and a good friend. Plus, if I’m being really honest with myself, I have to admit that I just don’t enjoy it anymore. If I did, that would be one thing, but I feel like it’s just one more item on the long list of things I have to do and never have enough time for.

There were so many better ways I could have spent my weekend. J and I would be happier if I took the time to go kayaking with him, instead of complaining that my feet were sore and my hands hurt from seeding tomatoes and standing over the grill all afternoon. I would be happier if I’d spent that time doing laundry, or cleaning the basement, or checking something else off my to do list, chatting with friends, reading one of the many books I’ve got stacked on my desk, or, you know, writing. Argo and Stella would be happier if I’d taken them to the P-A-R-K for an H-I-K-E. My neighbors would have been happier if I did something about the weedfest that is the side of our house.

So next year, no veggies. I still have a gaping dirt pit that takes up 1/4 of the lawn, but I have some awesome strawberry plants that are already planted and doing great. I don’t mind taking the 20 minutes it takes to freeze extra berries, and I know my friends don’t mind when I show up with surplus strawberries for them. My herb garden is super low maintenance, so I’ll keep that going. I clip herbs as I need them, and there’s never any rush to harvest.

I’m thinking maybe I’ll turn the rest of the garden into a mini orchard – maybe two or three dwarf apple trees. Apples don’t require the same care as veggies, and a nice bed of mulch or gravel will keep me from needing to weed as often. If I have too many for snacking and not enough time to make apple butter, I can always drop them off at the food pantry or an after school program.

I’m in no way criticizing people who love to garden and preserve food and do it well. It truly is an art form, and I really admire people who have a green thumb and endless patience in the kitchen. I’m just saying that I don’t love it and I don’t want to put the time and effort into it anymore. I want to put the time and effort into doing things I do enjoy, because life is short, and blight sucks. And I’m more than happy to buy sauce and pickles and peppers and tomatoes from the good people at the farm market, who do it well and depend on the income. In the end, I think it’ll save me some money, and keep some garbage out of the landfill, too. There are plenty of ways to be eco-friendly that don’t involve spending your Sunday up to your elbows in green tomato guts.

Ode to Wegmans and Pat Conroy

If you live in Western New York, you spend a lot of time at the mothership. It’s just a fact of life, and probably one of the best parts of living here. On average, we have over 200 cloudy days a year, our winters are long and hard, our summers can get really hot and humid, and if we want to climb stuff we have to take a trip (it is flaaaaat here!). But we have the most awesome grocery store in the history of grocery stores. So there.

When I’m shopping at Wegmans, my favorite activity, of course, is to visit the book section. Many a pint of fro yo has gotten good and melty while I parked my cart and checked out all the covers and imprints, author photos, blurbs, acknowlegements and dedications. And many a grocery bill has been jacked up by the addition of an utterly delicious hardcover.

I came up with the title of my book at Wegmans. I had a very long, rambling title that I loved and apparently everyone else hated (I realize now it was a ridiculous title). On a late night run to Wegs to buy saline solution, I stopped in the book section and noticed that a lot of the titles were one or two words. STAY popped into my head suddenly on the way to the register, and by the time I got out to the car, I’d already sent texts to J and Neil to see what they thought of it.

Yesterday, I went to Wegs to get groceries and picked up the new Pat Conroy book. In high school, I read everything Pat Conroy had written, and read THE LORDS OF DISCIPLINE so many times that the cover fell off my beat up paperback copy (several times, because I kept trying to glue it back together). I had lines from the book scrawled on index cards, taped to the wall next to my bed. I had no idea I wanted to be a writer at the time. I did, however, feel very much like a square peg in a round hole, and that book spoke to that feeling so beautifully. That book made me feel a little better about being me and got me thinking about the benefits to not fitting in, which, at sixteen years old (and really, at any age), is an enormous gift.

I was in a hurry yesterday, and didn’t linger long in the book section. I grabbed SOUTH OF BROAD, threw it in my cart and made my way to the registers. There was one person ahead of me in line. I unloaded my groceries, but I held the book so it wouldn’t get ruined by ice cream sweat. It hit me (again) that next year I will be holding my book in my hands, and I lost it (again). Gasping, tears down the cheeks, kind of lost it. I put my head down and wiped my eyes on my sleeve. Luckily, the person in front of me had a slew of coupons that were too crumpled to scan and both she and the checker were too involved to notice. I slid my sunglasses on, checked out, and cried the whole way home.

I was that kid who didn’t feel like she fit anywhere and now I’m an adult who’s carved out my square hole, and I wrote a book, and maybe next year, I’ll be able to walk into Wegmans and buy a copy of my book, hold it while I’m checking out so it doesn’t get ruined by ice cream sweat, and probably make an ass out of myself all over again.

Now, I have to go buy a shirt that isn’t brown or ugly as sin to wear for my author photo shoot next week. Holy crap!

Item # six million and ninety-two on the Why Neil is Awesome list


When I talked to Neil on the phone last weekend he hinted that I should keep an eye out for something in the mail.

I assumed it was a cartoon. Neil draws the most amazing cartoons (that’s item # six million and seventy-four on the list). It wasn’t.

On Monday, a small white box arrived. It contained four hats and a letter. The first three hats say “The (Character Name Here) Hat,” and the last one says, “The 4th Hat for Jeremy.”

In the letter, Neil says that while I’ve been focusing on Van, now I’ll be juggling support for the book with moving forward with my next projects.

“What should go on today’s list of tasks? What are your responsibilities for the next few days or weeks? What role should you be playing? This is why, in a gesture of congratulations for finishing STAY, I present to you three hats for three characters . . . It is my hope that, when it’s time to wear a different hat, you’ll, well, wear a different hat.”

I left out a bunch of good parts of the letter that are specific to my characters and I’ve blocked out the names of the other two characters in the picture above, because, well, things are subject to change at any time, and I’m not ready for character 2 and character 3 to make their appearance yet, but I am excited about them and can’t wait to tell you more when the time is right.

Neil then writes to the hubs, telling him “I’ve admired your support of Al, and feel that such efforts deserve a hat as well. This is why I present the fourth hat to you.”

And then there is the P.S. “Please note that I’m aware that these are some ugly-ass hats. I’m hoping it’s the thought that counts and shit.”

Don’t you wish you had a Neil? If everyone had a Neil, the world would be a better place, which, by the way, is item # six million and ninety-three on the list.

Oh, and do me a favor – go stick a finger in a nose for Neil. He’d really appreciate it.