eMail as (lazy) memoir

I mentioned on Facebook the other day that I had nearly 4,000 emails in my Sent folder that I needed to clean out — a chore I detest and obviously hadn’t done in a long time. I spent all day today, many hours of my last day off, going through and deleting around 3,200 of them, so far. Three thousand two hundred interactions with clients, colleagues, friends, family wiped away one by one.

It made me wonder how these interactions would have happened in the olden days — like 25 years ago. We didn’t use email then (did it even exist?). When colleagues and I needed to exchange information, we talked to each other, or called, or left notes on each other’s desks. We didn’t have voicemail; if you called someone who wasn’t at their desk, you called back later or left a message with an actual person. We all had little, check-the-box “While you were out” pads that made it easy to communicate — let someone else know that someone had come by to see them or that they had had a phone call from X about Y. We relied a lot on our memories of what was said in conversation or notes that we, you know, wrote by hand — no CYA email trail in those days.

And friends, family? We didn’t have instant access to share a funny picture or interesting article — except by fax, and no one did that. We talked by phone (but not when we were anywhere but at home or work, where the phone was) or sent cards and letters. Sharing a picture was a big deal — you had to send your only print from the roll you had to get developed or have copies made. A lot of people sent their film away by mail for processing because it was cheaper. You’d wait anxiously to see how the pictures turned out. A lot of them didn’t turn out so well — you might look silly, eyes closed or mouth open or hair askew, and you’d have to rip it up or hope no one would show anyone. If a card or letter someone sent you made you LOL, you might call them to say that, but more likely you’d have to write them back — and an LOL several days later just isn’t the same.

It’s a wonder we could function at all. What with having to walk uphill both ways to work in blizzards and all, too.

It’s also weird to think that what in days of yore would have been simple, easily forgotten conversations or phone calls or notes are today all countable and “rememberable.” Four thousand interactions over the course of several years recallable in an instant.

Imagine if you never deleted any. Ever. If all the email exchanges you ever had were there for the perusing. Of course, not the boring work ones you’d never want to see again. But the others — the chats with friends, the shared jokes and memes, the advice given and received. A little like a living journal. In my case, I had a lot of emails pertaining to my mom’s care, illness, and death. About our work to clean out the house, settle the estate, sell the house. I have some giving or getting advice from friends. I even have a few about 9/11 — written on or in the days following the massacre. Some of them, though painful to remember, I still couldn’t delete. Not yet; maybe not ever.

I don’t plan to let my emails pile up that high ever again. Not that many years ago, I was vigilant about keeping my Inbox and Sent mail to 400 emails each. That’s probably not feasible anymore given all the projects I need to track over time. But I won’t let it reach 10x that number again. It may be an easy way to document slices of life — an unconscious journal — but I don’t think it’s worth a day of my current life to relive them.

What you need to know about the past is that
no matter what has happened, it has all worked together
to bring you to this very moment. And this is the moment you can
choose to make everything new. Right now.

~ Author Unknown

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Getting my garden groove back

Usually by the time spring appears after months of cold and snow, I can’t wait to get outside and start digging. This year, though, spring came so early. It was wonderful, but the garden exploded. Daffodils were here and gone in March, hyacinths barely made it to Easter and are now kaput, the few tulips we have are almost gone, spring-blooming groundcover is on the way out…heck the azaleas are blooming! It’s been so strange, and it got hot so fast I wasn’t sure what to do. Too early to start digging? Or full steam ahead?

The spring chores seemed insurmountable. Weeds everywhere, wild onions especially (how DO they spread so much?), and the yard is a mess. The sweet woodruff, which is a really nice groundcover, has become a bit of a nemesis. It’s great filling in under the trees and shrubs where nothing else will grow, but it is also aggressively swarming over the hosta and other perennials and needs to be cut away every year (sometimes twice a year) before it chokes them out. Imagine pulling up 2-3″ thick carpet that’s been glued down — that’s what it’s like to pull up sweet woodruff. Amazingly matted.

I felt pretty defeated after a long day of that a couple weekends ago.

After this past Sunday, though, things are looking up. Mike has already edged a lot of the back yard (the first of at least 3 times we’ll do that), so that always makes things look great.

See that dark swath in the yard to the right of the light? I’m trying to ignore that — it’s weeds that have taken over — ground ivy, I think. Now blooming purple at least. I am so not a lawn person…

More stuff is up and getting greener — including buds on the peonies before I even thought about getting the ring supports out for them. Had to try to retrofit…just a ring this time; no neat little weaving a grid for the stems to grow through.

The hosta now have breathing room. I can feel them sighing in relief not to have the sweet woodruff choking them.

I planted 8 new little things here and there, including these Siberian Wallflower, which are supposed to grow to 30″ but are now only about 10″. Pretty silvery foliage.

And this adorable Saxifrage…I’m a sucker for the tiny pink flowers perched on their dainty stems. We’ll see how they do — I’m asking a lot of them — expecting them to grow and spread in the small border next to the driveway.

And 3 more autumn ferns. Last year was my first year planting these and they are fantastic — actually lived throughout the winter (which, I don’t know if that’s typical or only because winter was mild). My neighbor even commented on them, “Are those ferns hardy?”

I hope they’ll do OK in the shade garden — it doesn’t look so good this year. Maybe got hot too soon? Even my favorite Bugloss are much smaller. Or is it just too early yet? This weather is very confusing for me, so no doubt for the plants, too.

My biggest fear is the scraggly trees (neighbor’s side) that make it a shade garden will die and so will my shade garden.  It’s a favorite little spot of mine.

I don’t think I lost anything over the mild winter, though. But it’s strange — because things are still small, it looks like I have more room to fill in. I know full-well that’s not the case. In a month or so, I won’t have much room to dig at all, let alone add all the plants I’m itching to buy.

Some of last year’s purchases look good; others are still iffy. This Kolkwitzia (which, what a great name) is a good-looker — such a pretty chartreuse.

The jury’s still out on this hypericum (a form of St. John’s Wort grown for its berries — the orange-ish ones you see in bouquets). It looks mostly dead, but has signs of new life. Not sure if I should chop it back or not, so I’m waiting to see what happens.

I’m partial to this lungwort — a hunk my neighbor gave me a few years ago that has never taken off, but continues to bloom every spring before dying back when it gets too hot. Hers is gigantic and beautiful…not sure what mine is lacking to make it spread.

This cheerful one looks vaguely like a dandelion, but is actually a perennial I planted last year that’s doing well so far. I can’t remember the name, although I just saw it again at Lowe’s the other day. Oh well, goodoldwhatsitsname is quite a pretty little springtime treat. (UPDATE A FEW DAYS LATER: Not that anyone cares, but the name came to me in a flash — it’s called Leopard’s Bane, so named, I learned, because it was once thought to be poisonous to animals. And it’s also been used medicinally — but don’t ingest too much, because it’s toxic. I think I will just confine myself to looking at it.)

Even prettier close up.

I’m also trying to breathe new life into this poor weigela by giving it a new home.

It used to be fantastic and huge — 5 ft tall and wide (a “dwarf” that didn’t know it). But it grew too big for its original spot and I moved it, much to Mike’s chagrin.  Here’s how it looked right after the move (October 2009 — the one on the left).

An exhausting move of two giant “dwarf” weigela who outgrew their old home and will now anchor a new bed-to-be in the front yard (assuming they live, which Mike will kill me if they don’t)

It’s struggled ever since, poor thing. I hope it recovers now (and yes, Mike is not happy with me).

Its partner is doing slightly better, so it’s allowed to stay put out front for now. I wanted to move it, but the roots were thick, and I was afraid of killing it for sure this time. I had already dug the hole in the back yard for it, so now I have to find something else to put in that spot.

I can’t think of a nicer problem to have.

April prepares her green traffic light and the world thinks Go.
~ Christopher Morley

One of those weekends

I don’t really know why we look forward to the weekends. This last one started out having to spend an inordinate amount of time Saturday morning trying to compensate for other people’s jerkiness in the form of door dings/scratches in both our cars. Yes, in addition to my door ding at Cook Forest, Mike got a new giant one in his door as well — amazing that so many people are that thoughtless and careless. Thanks to my $20 eBay purchase a couple years ago of a dent puller-outer thingy, and Mike’s endless patience with such things, both cars look passable now and we saved the $300 or so it would have cost to fix them. Me — I would have left the dings. Like I said, Mike is the obsessive one about such things, lucky for me.

After that two hours of fun, it was “Clean the remaining filth from the sewer project out of the basement” time. To be fair, the plumbers did a really good job cleaning up the piles of dirt. But…they’re plumbers, not miracle workers or Martha wanna-bes. That meant we had the big fun of shop-vac’ing and then scrubbing down the concrete floor with bleachy-soapy water. YECH!

We were just feeling pretty good about that, and had the fan set up to dry the floor and all, when I hear Mike say, “Hey, where’s all this water coming from?”

Apparently, it was coming from the torrential (I mean torrential) rain that was not flowing into the downspout over the front porch (because we forgot to reconnect it after they finished excavating) but instead pouring like a waterfall into the still unfilled hole under the porch and then right through the foundation wall into the storage room of our basement (next to the laundry room we had just scrubbed). Muddy, sewery water. Flowing through the storage room toward the nonworking center drain in the middle of our basement landing at the bottom of the stairs that some previous owner-idiots had decided to cover up with carpet. Light beige carpet. Light beige impossible-to-clean-because-it’s-in-the-freakin’-cellar carpet. Oh, and that same carpet goes down the cellar stairs, so every time we or every workman on the planet needs to go down into the cellar…more dirt on said carpet. People’s stupidity in what they chose to do in this house never ceases to amaze.

So, while MIke was busy outside down in the mucky, muddy porch hole bailing filthy water, I tried to stem the flood inside. Fortunately, most of what we had stored in that room was in plastic bins — except for the approximately 700 cardboard boxes of all sizes we’ve been saving for “eBay shipping.” (I think we haven’t sold anything on eBay for, oh, a year or so. But boy, we are ready with boxes when the time comes.)

Another 2 hours later, time to throw in our wet, dirty towels for the night.

Sunday (the day of rest) was “rent the carpet scrubber” day. The instructions say something about not recommending making 2 passes, especially on berber-type carpet, because it will take forever to dry. I have to say, we made like 27 passes on that filthy cellar carpet and at least 4 passes on the stairs.

Fill up scrubber with clean water. Scrub, scrub, scrub. Empty filthy water. Fill up with clean water. Scrub, scrub, scrub. Empty filthy water. Fill up with clean water. Scrub, scrub, scrub. Empty filthy water. Again and again and again. You wonder, just how much filth can there be in one 5’x7′ carpet? The answer: More than you can ever imagine.

Yes, someday we’ll pull it all out and start over, but “fixing the cellar” is way, way low on the house project priority list. For now, it is what it is, come hell or high water. And it’s already been through both — a few times.

So another weekend fills a couple more pages in the “heinous chores we’ve had to do in fixing up this old house” scrapbook. Good times, people. Good times.

The tendency to whining and complaining may be taken as
the surest sign symptom of little souls and inferior intellects. 
                                                                     ~ Lord Jeffrey