It’s Likely That I’ll Be Smothered By That Pink Goo From Ghostbusters II

I’m not very good at relaxing. Those who know me best are sitting at their computers, nodding vehemently while (perhaps) shouting, “No shit, dumbass.” Even if I win at life*, I suck at relaxing.

When my life gets stressful, like it has been for the past few months, instead of doing the smart thing and taking a nice bath** or zoning out and watching some reruns of The Girls Next Door, I work. More. I take on more projects. I buy diseased plants from the nursery just to prove to myself that I can rehabilitate them. I add more pressure. When I feel that pressure? I add even more.

I actually DO own this orchid – and dozens more like it. They’re blooming right now. It’s gorgeous.

It’s a vicious cycle. It’s also how I get so much done.

Until I hit That Point. The point at which I realize I have so much on my plate that it’s going to smother me while I sleep like that pink goo from Ghostbusters II if I don’t watch out.

(I don’t imagine my pressure goo actually dances to that (Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher song – I imagine my goo is into either thrash metal or Burt Bacharach or both)

It’s now the time of year in Chicago in which dead people vote, roads begin to get worked on, and everyone slithers out from their houses, all pasty, sluglike and squinting into the sun. We’ve not been outside unless it’s on the way to or from the car for the better part of four months, even after a winter as mild as the one we just had. We’re all a deathly shade of what I like to call, “Midwestern Pallor,” and we’ve, of course, forgotten how to be neighborly. After all, we’ve been hiding in our houses for months now – we’re just as likely to try to gnaw on our neighbors as we are to invite them for a BBQ. Our social skills have gone down the shitter.

But this weekend was one of the first genuinely nice weekends we’ve had in months that I didn’t feel like I was going to die from the flu or whatever. It was 80 degrees and sunny, though the chance for thunderstorms loomed large, they didn’t happen until nightfall.

I strapped on my ugly gauchos and an ill-fitting tank-top, noting my particular pallor was even more pronounced than normal, as I prepared to Tackle The Garden. If you’re read my blog before you will know two, maybe three things:

1) I love to garden. I also love hotdogs, the color blue, and Tom Jones.

B) The people who first owned the house went all bush-wild and added a fuckton of professionally landscaped – yet hideously fug 70’s style bushes. No, not vaginas. Although everything WAS a bush back then. The people who I bought the house from had let it all go to shit, so I’ve spent the better part of two kids and four years trying to hack the garden into submission.

3) I consider proper punctuation bullshit.

For the better part of two days, The Guy on my Couch and I tackled the garden. Mulching, seeding the lawn, bagging up refuse, watering, pulling weeds, training roses (sadly, not to shake or speak).

It was the best, most stress-relieving thing I’ve done in months. I’m reminded again of how much I need balance in my life. How much I need to stop, smell (or spray) the roses. How much better I feel after a good solid day’s worth of solid hard labor. How I need to remember that not everything is such! serious! business!

How I need to stop pushing and learn to breathe.

Just breathe.

*I don’t.

**No, I’m not 800 years old, I just know the value of a good bath. Oh shut your whore mouth 🙂

A Life Less Ordinary

I’d been casually chatting with my father about my growing orchid obsession. He looked at me a little funny – nothing out of the ordinary there – when he dropped a bomb, “You know, your grandfather grew these orchids.”

No, no I didn’t know that. I’d remembered the greenhouses from my early childhood. Every other weekend, I recall, we’d go to a certain greenhouse or another, which is why the smell of that good green growing earth makes me nostalgic and warm inside. I remember being a toddler, spending hours at the rose garden at the Chicago Botanic Garden, listening to my family plan my future wedding there. I cannot tell you how sorry I am that I did not marry there.

My grandfather grew roses – beautiful roses – always puttering around with them, lovingly spraying them with this and that, warding off all potential pests and coaxing out the most beautiful, heavenly-scented blooms.

When I grew my own rose garden, lovingly spraying them with this and that, warding off potential pests, and coaxing out the most beautiful, heavenly-scented blooms, I’d think of him. Not at first. But eventually, I felt as though he was right there beside me, helping me identify pests and apply the proper fertilizers.

The orchids, though, they threw me through a loop. Until I found this:

That’s an orchid bloom in my curls.

My grandfather is with me always, it seems.

He is my hero.

And not just because he grew orchids and roses like I do, but because he lived the sort of live I hope to live. It was a life less ordinary.

He graduated from Johns Hopkins medical school at nineteen and became a doctor at the same age that my life hit a crossroads. I’d always planned to go to medical school myself, and life found a way. I became a mother.

He worked as the sort of family doctor that made housecalls, his forceps and stethoscope always in his medical bag, ready to deliver a baby, diagnose rubella, or treat a broken arm. It was during these housecalls that he was exposed to tuberculosis and spent many months at a TB sanatorium in the mountains, missing out on his first son’s – my father’s – early life.

Before that, though, he was a doctor in the United States Army. He was the first on the scene when the Allies liberated the concentration camps. He was the first medical personnel to treat the concentration camp victims. He never spoke of those days, what he saw, the atrocities of the Nazi’s, and what he had to do to help the survivors, although I know they weighed on him.

By the time I rolled around, he’d given up his medical practice and became the head of pathology at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

The apple of his eye, his granddaughter, he spent as much time with as he could. Weekends roaming the botanical gardens. Nights at Ravinia, on the lawn, under the stars, listening to the magical strains of Saint Matthew’s Passion and The 1812 Overture, eating fried chicken on a picnic blanket. Those were the best days of my young life.

An adult with children of my own, my grandfather long-passed, I have the vain hope that one day, my life will, too, be remembered as less ordinary, if only by myself. That because of the choices I’ve made, the people I carry in my heart, the people who now (however virtually) walk by my side, the experiences I’ve put behind me, that my own life can be as far from ordinary as his.

I’d say that I miss you, Grandpa, but I know you’re always with me.

Today, tomorrow, always.

If I Wasn’t On The FBI’s Radar For Shopping In The Serial Killer Section Of The Hardware Store, I Certainly Am Now

Last summer, during the Great Bush-Whacking escapade, I spent quite a bit of time perusing the Serial Killer Section of the Hardware Store. I had to buy the proper supplies to remove the eleventy-million bushes that had taken over my yard; making me look like some creepy (ier) shut-in who probably killed people in her very secluded (looking) house.

I figured that anyone who spent as much time as I did ogling shovels and pickaxes was probably carefully watched by the FBI as a Potential Serial Killer. (if they’d seen the bushes in front of my house, they’d have redoubled their efforts to apprehend me)

Sadly, I’m not a serial killer. In fact, the pickax I’d so lovingly bought nearly broke both of my ankles when I tried to use it. I should know by now that I’m not coordinated to be a serial killer.

(insert awkward segue)

After my daughter was born so sick in 2009, I developed a pretty serious case of PTSD and PPD and probably some other acronyms, too. One of the ways I combated my misery was to buy myself flowers every week.

You may want to sit down for this.

Ready?

READY?

Good.

I’m an avid gardener.

I know, I know, you’re shocked. Everyone always is, especially since I’m such an awkward cook and a poor excuse for a female, but it’s true. Gardening is one of my favorite things to do.

My daughter was born in January and my garden covered in thick Ass Cold Chicago snow so there was no way I’d be able to get outside and tend to my plants. Seeing those beautiful cut flowers every week cheered me up intensely.

One week, while at the grocery store about to select this week’s batch of flowers, I came across a mysterious-looking plant.

An orchid.

orchid-picture

(my first orchid as it is today)

Despite having roses that tower over me, I’d never tried to grow plants indoors, but at $15 – cheaper than the bouquets I normally bought – I figured I’d give it a shot.

But, like anything I set my mind to, rather than just enjoy that one orchid, I painstakingly researched the orchid family, learning about temperatures, light, and humidity levels. I poured over books, websites; anything I could get my grubby hands on.

I wasn’t going to grow orchids, I was going to Grow Orchids. Perhaps even Grow MotherFUCKING Orchids.

I started An Orchid Collection. Rather than buy cut flowers that would invariably die in a very stinky heap, instead, I combed hardware stores and greenhouses for these beautiful, exotic tropical plants.

Soon I had not one, not two, but a metric fuckton of orchids.

orchid-collection

(This picture was taken a year and a half ago.)

In that year and a half, I learned more about orchids than any normal person should. In fact, I have grand plans to GO to an orchid show, but that’s mostly to see what kinds of people attend orchid shows. Are they like Dog Show People? I saw Best In Show, and I’m anxious to find out what Orchid People are like.

Believe me, I’ll take ridiculous pictures and show you.

After my painstaking research, I realized that I needed More Cowbell Light. I had The Daver build me a Light Box, which meant ANOTHER trip to the Hardware Store for Grow Lights and various other things. You know what MOST people use Grow Lights for, right?

Exactly.

The cashier looked at me and giggled as he rang up my lights. Like, “I can’t believe this lady grows The Pot.”

(SPOILER ALERT: I DON’T)

But I AM a bit, uh, compulsive, so I kept buying orchids. (you shut your whore mouth)

orchids-light-box

(those are the same orchids today)

Soon I outgrew the lightbox and started a second table of orchids.

Earlier this week, for my second table of orchids, I bought another Grow Lamp. And since we all know what Grow Lamps are REALLY for, and because the Grow Lamps are sitting in front of my windows, I know one thing:

It’s only a matter of TIME before the FBI breaks down my door, looking for my Mary-J stash.

Man, won’t THEY be disappointed. Maybe I should bake them a cake.

Cake-Wrecks

On second thought, maybe not.

They Call Him The King Of The Orchids

In one of my favorite pictures of Young Aunt Becky, I’m wearing a flower in my hair. It’s not surprising that I’d have a flower in my hair, as my parents are fucking hippies and all that, but it was only recently that I identified that flower: it’s an orchid.

For those of you not playing along at home, I’m a little obsessive about my orchids. It’s not that I’ve named them and have wee little orchid dresses and suits painstakingly knitted for them that I change them in and out of, but that’s only because I can’t knit and the last thing I tried to name was a cat I was fostering that I named Little Cat. You can guess why.

But my favorite memories as a child involve being in a greenhouse somewhere or another (there are a shocking amount of greenhouses in the Chicagoland area); the smell of green, alive things filling my nostrils while the warm humidity curled my hair. I didn’t have a particularly happy childhood, so those really were the best of times, and the holidays always bring back the worst of it, that feeling of being on the outside, looking in. I wrote about it on Band Back Together, because, well, obviously.

Since I still live in Chicago where the temperatures range from Ass Cold to Ass Hot, and we’re clearly in the middle of an Ass Cold spell, I haven’t had much need to visit the greenhouse in a couple of months. And because Ass Cold lasts somewhere until mid-July here in Chicago, I didn’t expect to be visiting one until then.

Your Aunt Becky was sad in the pants.

Then, I found this video of Amelia eating a lollipop, for the first time, right? She was probably about 8 months old and it was about the most hilarious thing ever and I’ll have to upload it somehow for you because DUDE, HILARIOUS BABY.

BUT.

In the background of the video, I can hear my three-year old son, Alex going on and on about going to the orchid greenhouse. He’s begging to go there.

He, too, loves greenhouses (I wrote about it here). He loves the garden and flowers and plants and digging in the earth and I’m looking forward to taking him to the Chicago Botanic Gardens some day soon. Clearly, I’ll wait until the ground isn’t covered in a thick blanket of snow and ice. Because I might as well save myself a trip to the North Shore and take him out to my backyard.

That video had given me an idear. We all know Aunt Becky doesn’t often have idears, so when I do, it’s important that I actually inform someone that my brain made a thought. So I did.

And that is how I ended up taking my three-year old son to the orchid greenhouse yesterday.

This isn’t your mom’s orchid greenhouse – presuming, of course, your mom HAD an orchid greenhouse. This is four acres of swinging death orchids in various stages of growth, all of which you can peruse and enjoy at your leisure. If you’re into that thing, which I TOTALLY am.

Alex ran inside, begging for an orchid of his own, a smile stretched ear to ear, the only three-year old on the planet who could properly identify varying orchid species.

They Call Him The King of the Orchids

It’s likely he’ll never know why I was a little misty-eyed by his delight at the orchid greenhouse. It’s likely he’ll never understand why having a connection to his great-grandfather is so important; that knowing where you came from is half of where you’re going. I can tell him, but he won’t understand that the same blood courses through both of our veins, just as it always has, uniting the three of us.

All he will understand is that while he ran through, yelling “HI ORCHIDS,” the orchids seemed to bob and wave, in an almost-human way they’d never done for me, as if to say, “Why hello there, Alex. We’ve been waiting to meet you.”

And it was then that my heart finally took flight.