Calling Reinforcements

divorceSo, your house has been neglected for a long time. There are good reasons: you went through a terrible divorce, and while that was happening you were caring fulltime for a very sick relative in your house. The caregiving went on for years, and that on top of the divorce sucked out your soul.

Life basically imploded and you were doing good just to keep breathing.

The house and its upkeep just didn’t matter.

But you’ve pulled out of that and have set your life on a course to go forward. Good things are happening. You’re engaging with people again. Going back to hobbies. Spending time outside. Feeling the air going through your brain, getting rid of the cobwebs and depression and all that yukky stuff.

But there’s the house. It still has all that accumulated stuff that just got set down and ignored, and other stuff got set down on top of it, and left, so that now you can’t even see the floor because of the stuff that’s all over it.

It’s time to jump in and deal with it. Yeah, it’s overwhelming to look at the whole thing.

Which is why you have to start out with some concrete projects that have a beginning and an end. Do those, and you’ll start creating some momentum.

laundryStart with your bedroom, because that’s the most personal space in your house. Clear off your bed first. Hang up all that clean laundry. Put the socks and underwear in your drawers. All the clothes on the floor? Put them all in the hamper, take them to the laundry room, and start washing. Follow the cycles through. Get all that stuff washed and dried. Bring it back to your now empty bed, sort it, hang it up, and put it in drawers.

Get an empty box from the garage, take it to the bedroom, and put all that paperwork in the box. You know what I’m talking about—the piles of statements and documents that you haven’t looked at in literally five years. Get that in the box, label it “paperwork from master bedroom” and take it out to the garage. Decide what corner of the garage you will allocate for paperwork (since you know you’ll have a lot) and put the box there.

Deal with the closet. Do you have things that you haven’t worn in years and that are also now too big or too small? Get rid of them. Now. Put shoes in the racks where they belong. Put socks in the drawers. Hang up the hangers.

Now get out your dusting cloth and your diluted cleaning spray, and wipe off the years of dust on every surface in the bedroom. Then get the vacuum cleaner and go over the floor thoroughly.

And now step back and just look. It’s uncluttered, it’s organized, the trash is out, the pile of papers has disappeared, the drawers are closed, the floor is free, and it’s all clean.

You have just completely done one room. In less than a day. You are reclaiming your space and showing yourself that you are in control and that you’re taking back your life.

Now move on to the kitchen!

Garden Retreat: Fountain of Youth?

Stop Stress: Get a Fountain

So, you have an area on the side of your house that you want to turn into a pretty garden/sitting area, and you’re wondering how to do that. . . .  It’s fenced, has a curving paver path down the middle, and right now just has grass.

It’s a blank slate and you’re wondering what to do with it.

Let’s think of some ideas.

fountainFirst, I’ll say that you have the perfect area to transform into a little retreat area. Not so big that it’s completely overwhelming, and yet big enough that you could really create something spectacular there.

You want to begin with a plan. And the plan should begin with a decision on what structures you want there or focal points. For example, do you want a pergola? Trellises? Hanging baskets on shepherd’s hooks? A sitting area with table and chairs? A fountain?

And then you want to think about the kinds of plants you want in there. Are you a tropical plant person? Do you like the English cottage garden look (kind of wild and free-for-all)? Do you like formal and structured? Italian with those skinny tall evergreens?

I’ll pretend that your side garden is for me, and I’m going to design it how I’d want it.

gardenI would put a sitting area with an umbrella on the west end of the garden. I’d put it there because that end is closest to the front door, which is near the kitchen. So if I wanted to bring drinks or snacks out from the kitchen, it wouldn’t be a long walk to get to the table.

I’d put a simple pergola halfway down the garden, backed up to the side wall of the house. Inside the pergola I would have a fountain.

At the east end of the garden I’d have a bench. Probably set at an angle across the corner. Behind the bench I’d have a shepherd’s hook with two hanging baskets of geraniums or begonias.

I would plant a couple of small trees in the garden. They couldn’t be ones with wide spreading branches. They’d have to have an upright form, more or less.

When it came to the plants, I would do a mix of semi-tropical and zone 9 plants. I would put philodendrons in two corners. I’d put some ginger across the back wall. I’d have several snowbushes as part of the rear tier. I’d put a bunch of Xanadu across the back up against the house, since there would be the most shade there.

Then I’d put some ixora as the second tier. Probably pink and yellow. Not the orange. Some dwarf azaleas. Maybe some boxwood. Not ilex shilling; that’s used so much that it feels boring to me.

The front tier along the path would be low-growing stuff. A bit of liriope. Probably some bromeliads. Maybe dwarf lantana of the color variety that’s my favorite—the combination of yellow and pink and magenta.

At several points in the garden I would have urn-type planters with giant ferns in them.

And for interest, some garden art, like old barrel rings hanging from a hook, or glass globes on metal rods, or stuff like that. Oh, and garden flag hanging somewhere.

I can totally see the finished result. It would be spectacular.

Dystonia and Dropped Beats

I’m in a band.  Well, five, actually. It’s why my house looks like a dump, because either I’m working or rehearsing or gigging or charting out songs in preparation for rehearsing and gigging.

I play bass. I own five or six. Most of them are four-string basses, but one is a five-string and one is a six-string.

I don’t play the six-string much. It takes a whole shift into a different mental groove to play the six-string. The six-string I have is a 36” inch, and the frets are far apart. I don’t have giant hands, so playing some of the chords is a real stretch, literally.

I like the sound of it, but because it’s a 36” inch, it’s also hard to do my slap hit.

So, basically, the six-string doesn’t get played that much.

classical musicI actually like the five-string best because of the high B string that gives me the capability to play different kinds of music, including classical.

I have dystonia, which is a condition where, in my case, my middle finger thinks it’s my index finger, and I can’t move the two fingers independently. Most of the time I can’t use my middle finger at all for playing.

I’ve had to adapt and figure out a different way to play, which has boiled down to just using my thumb and index finger.

This means that I can’t play at all like I used to, when I was on the road and played professionally. I just don’t have that capability, because that middle finger doesn’t cooperate.

I’ve had a few times lately where I regained use of the middle finger during a rehearsal. It was after I had worked out and had a huge dopamine surge. I don’t know if there was actually a connection between the dopamine surge and the functionality of that finger. But still, it was like before, when I could play rapid sixteenth notes without a thought, and the fingers alternated strings like they are supposed to.

My left hand and fingers work just fine. I can play the chords like normal. Thank God. If I had a finger crap out on me on my left hand, I think I’d have to give up playing completely. How can you make a chord without all the fingers working?!

I do a lot of work to chart out songs in preparation for playing. It’s time consuming. I do have software that helps me, though.

band musicBecause my musical roots are based in reading sheet music, I’m reading oriented rather than listening oriented. I can hear a song but struggle with hearing where the changes happen.

If I have a song charted out with bars and measures, I can see where the changes happen and I can play the song.

I also don’t skip bars or beats. Some of the musicians in the bands I play with chronically drop whole bars or multiple bars. Since I know that, I’m always on alert. If the vocalist or lead guitar or whoever skips beats and measures, I skip them to. It wreaks havoc with the song, but I just roll with it.