I live about twenty minutes outside of Raleigh, the 43rd most populated state in the United states. It has a population of about 430,000. I live right next to Cary, which has a population of 151,000. I live in the heart of suburbia — “encroaching suburbia” is what it can best be called. The farm that Lacey and I visited in October is about five minutes from where I live.
When I was driving home a few weeks ago, I turned onto Church Street and noticed that there was an awful lot of smoke. As I continued driving, I thought it smelled like smoke, too. The smoke was only getting denser and denser the closer I got to the Presbyterian Church. Finally I spotted a sign — fireman training in progress. I glanced across the street from the church and saw a house engulfed in flames. I saw a woman sitting in a lawnchair, watching. I saw maybe one fireman standing outside the house. That’s all I saw in the split second before I turned my eyes back onto the road.
I wondered if I should go back and watch. Clearly they weren’t stopping the one woman on the lawnchair. But I was also very tired, since I had been up since 5:00 in the morning. I decided to go home and stay home.
I regretted that decision. What happened to going out and living? Seeing new sights? How often did one get to watch a house burn down?
Two days ago I kept myself busy. I cleaned a fishtank, in preparation for goldfish. I reorganized my living room. I read two books — I can’t really concentrate, so I would pick them up, read a page or two, set them down, and walk away. I ate well. I was feeling satisfied with myself. So I decided that I would, indeed, go take a closer look at the burned down house.
First of all, if someone ever asks me for fun things to do in Morrisville, NC, “walking down Church Street” is not something I would recommend. Church Street has intermittent sidewalks and the ground immediately drops down from the road. I was frequently in danger of being run over.
In the ditch between the road and the burned house, someone has tossed a fresh stack of hay, making it easy for me to cross over to the burned-down property. Where did they get the hay? Why do we have hay? Church Street is weirdly rural, in the center of suburbia.
However, the burned-down house had police tape all around it.
“I am a responsible 28-year-old member of society,” I told myself. “I’m not going to cross that line.”
But I was so far away and could only take so many pictures from one angle.
“I just won’t walk on the house,” I said. “Just on the lawn.”
So I got as close as five feet from the house. Look at those pictures. Totally worth getting a potential trespassing fine. I have no idea what the “C” means. Condemned? I don’t know legal things.
“Yes,” I said, inspecting the house in the fading light. “That is a burnt bunch of house things.”
I went home.
But, of course, living close to condemned houses and houses flying the Confederate flag isn’t the only good thing about living in encroaching suburbia. Since we’re surrounded by farms, we got to go berry-picking!
They’re Sweet Charlie tomatoes from a farm near Cary. We picked them ourselves! In the sun! We had honey from the same farm! I bought a cantaloupe and a tomato plant. It’s the last days of berry-picking season, so there wasn’t much to get, but we managed to get a full bucket of blood-red strawberries (for pie, of course). I learned a lot! Strawberry plants have flowers! Honeybees are nice! Strawberries taste best right off the plant!
I haven’t posted in a month! It’s been a very busy month.
-James and I moved to a townhouse! We’ve been here for ten days now, and it’s been great. We have so much space. We can fit all of our furniture here. The most difficult part was getting the kitchen fixed up. We hadn’t realized how little storage this place has, so we had to buy a bunch of shelves.
They’re filled with dishes. The cabinets are full of food. Everything seems laid out nicely now!
-Every time I sit down to start a blog entry, I started writing fiction instead. Which is good. Except for the fact that I went a month without updating. Will my future children want to look at this blog and see what all of my thoughts were when their father and I were moving? (no)
-We bought a wedding dress! It is beautiful! Now I have to pick a printer for the Save-the-Dates and start working with my Ladies to pick out their dresses. The process of picking out the dress could be the fodder of so many blog entries, but, alas, that stuff has to be secret.
-I finally sought help for my depression. I visited an independent doctor (hard to find in this area, the intersection of UNC and Duke). My doctor introduced herself and explained the concept of the clinic (less patients, more time with each patient). We went through all the symptoms of anxiety and depression, and yes: I have anxiety and depression. Not a severe case, but definitely a case. So she prescribed regular exercise, medication, and visiting a Cognitive Behavioral Therapist.
Something I was surprised to learn: my tendency to not want to get out of bed is a fairly common sign of depression. My tendency to not want to leave my car when I get to my destination? My inability to get off the couch when I’m hungry or have to pee and want to get up, but can’t? That is exactly the same symptom. Who knew?
Doctors. Doctors knew.
-Look at this writing though:
Asking about any sort of magic would look suspicious, and for days Martha was held up by not knowing how to proceed. In her twenty-two years of governing, she had never had a problem like this before. She turned the question over in her mind. She would be tickling Lily and start wondering if the local laundry girls would know anything. Hyacinth would take her two girls out for walks and would start making sniping statements, but Martha would be wondering if the local coven had some sort of signal to signify a meeting, and if so, what could it be?
The answer came rather undramatically. Lily woke up one morning red in the face, coughing, and hot as an oven. Martha and Dawn worried over Lily while waiting for the physician. For a while Martha forgot about the frog and the witches.
The physician explained it was just a sort of generic fever. He prescribed fluids, and stated that the room be kept as hot as possible to help the fever along. They were to summon him if the fever became any worse.
As he left the bedroom, he paused by Froggy.
“Has this been attracting bugs?” he asked.
“No,” said Martha. “But look.”
She tore off a small piece of bread from Lily’s bedside and put it in front of Froggy. Froggy considered the bread, then snatched it up. “He won’t eat bugs,” she added.
“Interesting,” said the physician quietly. “Have you consulted the Sisters?”
“I haven’t consulted anyone,” Martha whispered.
“The sisters meet at the full moon where the tributary meets the river,” said the physician. “Speak of this to no one.” Dawn and handmaiden entered the apartment. The physician said, louder, “Keep me informed on your girl’s condition, and make sure she stays in bed. Little girls get antsy after too much rest.”
“I’ll keep you informed,” said Martha.
“On the girl,” said the physician.
Martha smiled and curtsied.
I am a terrible writer. Just the worst. I don’t want to be blunt. I want to be light. I want to be like Jane Austen. I want to write sentences backwards just to point fun at social conventions. Believe it or not (especially given this example), my main writing strength is in dialogue. I couldn’t think of a way to get all this information across lightly.
So I’ve had to step back from wanting to write well and convince myself to just write. It might help that I joined a writer’s circle. They gave me a lot of good advice on improving a scene I’ve been struggling with in Pizza Boy and Maggie.
I think I’m getting old, guys. Yesterday I encountered a teenager and all I could think of was how she was such a teenager doing inexplicably painful teenager things. “YOuths,” I thought to myself, and that weird capitalization was deliberate.
She came in with her father, who is a regular customer, and another girl, presumably her sister. She looked less than five feet tall. Her hair was gigantic, poofy and sticking out in all directions; I’ve never seen hair like that outside of an anime convention. She was dressed in a long-sleeve Pokemon shirt and short shorts. Her sister was taller than she was, and caught in the prime of teenage awkwardness, but came across as very sweet. Her sister walked straight up to the counter and asked a question about a sandwich, then ordered that sandwich, then ordered a drink. The father ordered his usual coffee. Then they looked at this teenager.
She stepped up to the counter and stared at me. Her face was somehow blank and full of antipathy. I smiled cheerfully at her and said, “What would you like?”
She continued to stare antipathetically at me.
Finally her sister said, “Tell her what you want.”
She turned her blank expression her sister.
“That sour look isn’t going to do anything to me, you know.”
So she turned one tiny middle finger on her. Her sister rolled her eyes. The girl rolled her perfect non-expression back into me. I smiled again.
“Just order a drink,” said her father.
She continued to stare at me.
Finally I looked at her father and said, “We can just take care of these two orders, and when she’s ready, we can take care of her.”
“No no, we’ll wait,” said her father.
Then, a minute later, “You know what, we’ll pay for that sandwich and those drinks right now, and when she’s ready she’ll order.”
So he paid and then the trio sat down at a table and waited for their drinks. I started the sandwich and got his coffee while the barista on bar prepared the sister’s latte. A minute or so after these had been delivered, the teenager approached the counter. She ordered a sandwich and a green tea frappuccino, which I verified. Then she paid, then she stood by the counter and stared at Kathryn until it was delivered. When the frappuccino was placed on the counter, she stared at it some more. I wondered if maybe I should say something, then decided that Kathryn was in charge of the bar and I would just be interference (this was probably not the best instinct, but it is the decision I made).
Finally the manager on duty, saw her staring and asked if something was wrong with the drink. The teenager replied that she had wanted a green tea latte, not a green tea frappuccino. So the barista and the manager apologized and started making the new drink.
The teenager took the frappuccino, set it on the table, then disappeared into the bathroom. While in there, the manager took it upon herself to take the finished latte, walk it to her table, and switch the frappuccino for the latte.
When the teenager emerged from the bathroom, now wearing more makeup, she saw that the frappuccino had been switched for the latte. She approached the counter and asked the barista and the manager to ask where the frappuccino had gone. The manager explained what she had done. Then the manager had to explain that no, the teenager couldn’t have both drinks. Because it was a bad business practice. Because we would lose money. Because if she had wanted to have both drinks, then she should have ordered both drinks. I swear the manager had to spend twenty minutes explaining this.
I found myself wondering if she had made such a fuss about ordering in front of her family because she had intended to order the “wrong” drink and then get two drinks out of us. I wondered if she really was a moody sourpuss like I had originally thought, or if she was a scammer, or both, or neither, or who knows.
I was in DC very briefly, long enough to visit two venues, host a play reading, and shop for dresses. I hadn’t realized how much of a respite from the ridiculous pollen I had had until I got back into North Carolina. I immediately started getting itchy eyes. When I showed up at the apartment, James immediately hopped up from his computer and went to me with his arms wide open. I ducked under his arms and went straight for the tissues. Then I hugged him. Because, you know. Fiance.
I’ve visited four possible venues now:
1) Meadowlark Atrium in Vienna
2) North Carolina Botanical Gardens in Chapel Hill, NC
3) Wolf Trap in Vienna, VA
4) Old South Mountain Inn in Boonsboro, MD
At lunch on Tuesday, after Mom, Katie, and I had finished visiting South Mountain Inn, we sat down for lunch in Frederick.
“Let’s do this HGTV style,” Katie said. “Just eliminate one, right of the bat.”
When my future Mother-In-Law, Deb, had said that she had expected me to choose a Virginia location, I decided not to consider any more North Carolina locations. So we just had three other locations under consideration.
“Meadowlark,” I said.
“Good choice,” said Mom. “I hated how industrial it felt!”
“I’ve been to weddings there, it was nice,” Katie said.
“Yeah, but there’s no place to go while the caterers reset,” I said.
Katie described the wedding she had been to there. The ceremony had been on the patio, and then they had gone inside for the reception. It hadn’t been a problem at all. I pointed out that that had been during warm weather. Since my wedding is in January, my guests couldn’t go outside. I would have to store them all in the smaller alcove behind the atrium. That would probably be uncomfortable.
“If you had to pick a venue right now which one would it be?” Katie asked.
I honestly had no idea. There were pros and cons to both Wolf Trap and South Mountain Inn. Wolf Trap just had more space. It had the large lobby and the nice patio (if the weather allowed) where the guests could have cocktails while the main room was reset. And an awesome fireplace. But while one quadrant overlooked the pretty woods and patio, the other quadrant overlooked the parking lot.
“We can probably put some bunting up or something,” Mom said.
“Yeah, but it’s still in a conference room, and they have very little allowance for decorating,” I said. In fact, James and I would look at pictures that very night; all the pictures were taken from one very specific angle, to show off the windows.
And they are very nice windows, exactly what I was imagining. But it’s in a conference room.
Old South Mountain Inn had so much light. The Garden room was all windows. It was the building that gave me the idea for a heavily-windowed room for the wedding anyway. The wedding coordinator that was so nice and clearly knew her stuff. The transition from ceremony to reception was only 15 minutes. Plus there was more leeway for decoration. And the Christmas decorations already being in the wedding colors? Clearly fate.
But it was so small.
“We’ll have that second room for spillover,” Mom pointed out.
I stared at my guest list and worried about it anyway.
I don’t think you guys understand the severity of the pine pollen around here.
It rained and thunderstormed all night, so all of that accumulated within, like, twelve hours. The asphalt is dyed yellow! Fear the pollen!
Although, admittedly, the pollen on my shoes is fairly recent. It’s probably only been there for two hours. I had the great joy of tramping about with a couple of excited dogs. Yes, I decided that, now that I was no longer working all day in the middle of the day, that it was time to start volunteering at the animal shelter again.
My first dog was Arianna.
I chose her because obviously. Look at that dog. Look at that face. Her ears are two different colors! She has an eye patch! She was so sweet too. She did tend to jump a bit and she was a little mouthy, but she never bit. I was easily able to get a collar on her and get her outside. She was good on a leash, too, and she had this weird tendency to just sit randomly, and then look at you, waiting for a treat.
I was hesitant about walking Big Boy, although he was next in the kennel order. He’s 61 pounds. But he sat calmly in his kennel, so I gave him a shot. It turns out that I can’t handle 61 pounds of boxer energy. He pulled me without even trying — his stride was just that long. But he was a sweet dog. He stopped just so he could lean into me and demand pets. I was very happy to oblige.
Huxton is my new buddy. He’s an eight-year-old beagle, and he has something important to say. When I came into his kennel and tried to put the collar on him, he started howling. Then he would stop howling and give me a serious look, like he was trying to gauge my opinion on whatever he had just howled about.
I would pat his rump and say, “Yes, you are a good dog.”
This was apparently not what he was howling about, because he would start howling again, then look at me to see how I reacted. This happened several times before I was finally able to get the collar and leash on him.
The biggest problem with the kennel is that we have to walk all of the dogs past all of the other dogs in order to get them outside. All the dogs go nuts, both in the kennel and out. Some of the walking dogs get scared and won’t walk. Some dogs in the kennel jump and snarl at the walking dogs. We try to pull the dogs as close to our bodies as we can and get them out into the sunshine as soon as possible.
Huxton was totally chill. He ignored the other dogs and heeled perfectly. Once outside, he padded along nicely, sometimes next to me, sometimes in front of me. He sniffed things like he was a connoisseur. He maintained this air of perfect dignity mixed with asthma. He would walk, then stop and pant, and then walk some more. I brushed his back with my fingers as best as I could, and he would look at me as if acknowledging that yes, I had done something, and he appreciated it.
Huxton was the best.
Tiffany was the last pup I walked. She was all about playful energy, so I prepared a toy to distract her while I got the collar on her. It worked perfectly. Tiffany was all about playing. She wanted to be everywhere, to sniff everything. It took a lot of energy just to keep her from running us into the road.
While we walked, I noticed another dog following us. It was a smallish dog, mostly black, but with a brown chest. It had huge, pointed ears. It stared at us. Tiffany ignored the dog. I walked along and kept my eye on the dog. It was definitely following us, and I couldn’t see a collar. It slowly closed the gap on us, but I could tell it was going to keep its distance.
I walked Tiffany back a little faster than I would have otherwise. I walked her to the front of the shelter, rather than the back. Ricci Kearney, the volunteer coordinator, was standing in the reception area with two boxers and a tawny pitbull; three administrators were at the front desk. One of them was on the phone, talking about trapping kittens.
I wasn’t sure who to speak to, so I just said, loudly, “There was a dog following us.”
The administrator asked, “Who was the dog following? You or Tiffany?”
“I couldn’t tell,” I admitted.
Ricci took charge. He put the boxers and the pitbull in the volunteer office and emerged with treats and a leash. Tiffany and I went with him. I described the dog; he said it was a shepherd mix, probably. But the dog was at the field across from the shelter. “That looks like a Chi,” he said.
Tiffany pulled at the leash, trying to run to the stray. The stray began to back off. Ricci had me take Tiffany back inside so he could focus on catching the dog.
I put Tiffany and all my volunteer gear away and then emerged from the Center to find Ricci and another volunteer trying to slowly encircle the dog. I decided to join them. So did another volunteer, an older woman bearing dog treats. The sheer amount of us frightened the dog and he disappeared into the woods. I felt guilty; I should have just left. Ricci said that they would put out traps for the dog.
Pine pollen is a funny thing. Since I grew up outside of DC, I grew up with many varieties of pollen, almost all of it green. We would chuckle at the thin layer of dust on our cars, then turn on our windshield wipers and go about our day.
Down here in NC, it’s all pine, all the time. It’s called the “yellow rain” and it covers everything outside in a thick layer of dust. Wipe it all off, and an hour layer, there will be a new layer. When it finally rains, the streets will run thick with yellow steams. Last night James and I emerged from Red Robin at night. The pollen was so thick it looked like fog.
When it’s at its worst — right now — you just don’t go outside. I’m not even allergic to pollen, but I spend my days at the Starbucks drive-thru window sneezing and sneezing. When I’m finally allowed in the rest of the store, I got a headache and started crying from itchy eyes. Inside. People who have gone their entire lives merrily flitting through pollen season suddenly can’t breathe through their noses. Their life force is sapped out of them. They collapse at their registers, looking like they’re on the verge of tears.
Today I decided to splurge and buy a carwash from the gas station. I don’t have windshield wiper fluid, so I’ve been depending on airflow to rid my car of pollen. But I was at the gas station, so I figured, why not? I ate my dinner in my car and watched the pollen drain off my car.
As I drove my car out of the carwash, I heard thunder crack. My car pulled out into thick rain. It was a total waste of $9.
NOTE: this was mostly inspired by tumblr
Mylov enters from a hard day of work, wearing a coat, scarf, and boots, absolutely exhausted. I don’t know what work Mylov does but it’s enough to cover a good car insurance plan, and has a lenient enough dress code to allow Mylov to wear a scarf at all times.
Mylov collapses on the couch, sighing. After a moment, Mylov starts struggling out of the coat and boots.
A dramatic, vampire-y sting. Draven enters, wearing bat-themed pajamas, yawning and stretching.
Draven: Good evening.
Draven begins picking up the boots and shoes.
Draven (tsk-ing): Such a mess my love leaves! We must be in preparation for our guests tonight!
Mylov gives Draven a look.
Draven: Did my love forget? Tonight is the Summoning! We will have many guests over for dinner tonight!
Draven: What should we prepare for them?
Draven: My love, what is wrong? I haven’t done anything wrong. What could possibly be wrong?
A knock on the door.
Draven: Our guests have arrived and I am not yet prepared! Seduce them with your wiles, my love.
Draven exits. Mylov reluctantly gets up and opens the door. On the other side are Nasia, Lucy, Cain, and Dmitri.
Lucy: Mylov! It is good to see you.
Nasia: We are here for the Summoning.
Cain: We were pleased to find your excellent dwelling!
Dmitri: And now we stand. At the door.
Nasia: We have many things planned.
Cain: Inside of your cozy home.
Lucy: We need to get started.
Mylov: Please enter.
Now that they have been invited, the vampires enter the house, all saying “Good evening” as they enter. They start making themselves more at home.
Lucy: This is my first Summoning, does anyone know how to start?
Nasia: The word is initiate.
Lucy: Does anyone know how to initiate?
Dmitri: No one does, but I brought a book.
It’s the Necronomicon.
Nasia: Where did you find this book? There’s only five in existence.
Dmitri: I had a fellowship at Arkham University in a, shall we say, previous life.
Nasia: Last I heard of anyone even trying to take that off the grounds was Wilbur Whateley way back in 1926.
Dmitri: I have a little more pull than a bumpkin from Dunwich.
Cain: Can we get started?
Dmitri: Are we all assembled? We need five points for this pentagram. Where is our fifth?
Draven enters, dressed in much more dignified clothing.
Draven: Good evening, my friends.
Other Vampires: Good evening, Draven.
Dmitri: Then let us begin.
As Draven speaks, Dmitri arranges the other vampires just so, lights candles or draws with chalk or whatever.
Draven: My friends, let us not forget our purpose. Tonight we summon the power we need to avenge ourselves. For too long have the humans forgotten us and our power. Every day they find new ways to mock us, belittle us, objectifying and sexualizing us in their printed media and moving pictures. Tonight we say…no more! Awaken the dark powers!
Dmitri: Animi, clamorem meum audete! Altere parte te voco! Veni meo!
Vampires: Animi, veni! Anime, veni! Animi, veni! Animi, veni! (and so on)
Dramatic lights and music. The lights turn red, and a Demon appears. Well, maybe it’s a demon. It’s rather formless (covered with layers of cloth)
The Demon roars.
Nasia: We must feed the demon for it to take its shape!
Draven: My love, my love, come here!
Mylov is reluctantly pulled into the circle.
Mylov (sings): Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.
A car insurance agent appears. The Demon eats the car insurance agent. A layer of cloth is lost – the Demon is taking shape!
Draven: Again, my love!
Mylov (sings): Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.
Another car insurance agent. The Demon again eats the agent. Another layer of cloth is lost. Draven again cackles.
Mylov (sings): Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.
A car insurance agent appears.
Agent: In the Vatican!
The light turns blue, and the insurance agent pulls the Demon offstage. Loud Latin chanting. The Demon screams, and is suddenly cut off.
The lights return to normal.
Lucy: So…now what?