liz hugo

Life in the Middle of the Road


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To dream of February

If anyone were to ask me what I do all day, I’d have to answer with an “I have no idea,” because I really don’t know. Somehow I am busy while at the same time not doing anything at all. It’s a strange conundrum that I must blame on my pregnant lady status, because I don’t think I’ve had this weird situation before.

Along those lines, I’m glad I didn’t make any new year’s resolutions this year. I would have failed on the first day. I have, however, made a number of lists, and some of them I have even completed. I learned a long time ago that when it comes to actually checking off line items, it’s better to have too many details, such as with laundry:

  1. sort.
  2. wash
  3. dry
  4. fold
  5. put away

The more things I cross off, the better my list looks. Even if I don’t put it away for three days, I still got over half the list done.

Sometimes I like the list very short and broad:

  • make decision on carpet
  • work on bassinet
  • garden pictures

This is my list for the month of February. I’ve actually purchased the carpet already, and the installer is scheduled to come out on Tuesday to install. So then I can proudly cross that off a mere seven days into February. I’m not quite sure what to do with the bassinet. It’s from my mom, which is nice, but it has been sitting in my parent’s basement for a long time and needs some refreshing. “Work on it” might turn into deciding what needs to be done to get it ready and no more. The garden pictures are about last year’s garden to go into my garden notebook (or do I call it my garden journal? Can’t remember). It helps me with planning, though I might not be doing much gardening at all this year. It’ll still be nice to look at last year’s garden and reminisce, and then I’ll cross something off my list and it’ll feel good.  It’s like my own version of a motivational speech.

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I mentioned previously that I would like to finish up some of my craft projects (and at the very least, not start any new ones). Sad to say, I’ve already failed on this one at least twice. The cold, dreary, misty-rain January days made me long for season-appropriate weather, so I made a snowflake. It finally snowed again right before January ended, before I actually finished the snowflake. I could have worked on my “Snow Many Umbrellas” snowman cross stitch (that I probably started four years ago,) but no, I had to make something new. Besides, I didn’t want to work on something with umbrellas anyway–it seemed like it would encourage the rain. I also purchased some fabric to cover a floor cushion, but I haven’t even washed that yet. Another all-around bad idea, seeing as my back hurts right now when I’m at the sewing machine, and I have another project in the queue before that anyway.

 

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Kinda boyish, eh?

One thing we’ve been talking about quite a bit lately is putting on an addition or two to accommodate the coming tiny human (and all the baby paraphernalia). With only a few months to go before expected arrival, construction wouldn’t be able to start until summer. (Put on an addition with a newborn? Yeah, sounds like a great idea…) We had a contractor come out and look at our house and hopefully he’ll give us an estimate sometime soon so we can decide if/how to move forward. All the talk about adding on has made me want to get SketchUp, a 3D modeling software that has a free download version. Unfortunately, my computer isn’t compatible with the program. Caleb’s laptop is a Chromebook, and that’s not compatible either. I suppose it’s good that I have a clear picture of what I want, though explaining it to someone else is a challenge. Sometimes I feel like I’m trying to get this built:

Blivet illusion

…which is why it’d be nice to draw it out with the specific details I want. Show, don’t tell, writer’s self-help books say everywhere. I suppose I could revert my computer back to Windows 8, but that version is so clunky that it makes me angry sometimes, which makes it not worth it.

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Because Meiko is cute and I like his new napping spot.

So that there is how my February is going. A lot of do this, do that, look forward, plan…not a lot of “ahh, enjoy February” going on. I feel like I’m going to forget about this month in a heartbeat, and in July I’m going to be like,”how come it’s July? Last I checked it was barely February.” I think I’ll blame the baby (it’s a boy, due in April). Crazy how time-consuming a little person can be, especially one I haven’t met yet. Granted, the last two months feel the longest (they say), but I’m sure the longness of it will be forgotten after a few weeks of newborn life.

Anyway, happy February, and make sure to make this month count while you can, and cross off some stuff on a list, if you like.


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Garden Left

…untouched. Unwatered. Unnoticed…

I’m not known for my gardening skills. That said, things grow quite happily in my garden despite my shortcomings in all of the garden things. Shortcomings indeed–I’ve even had hens and chicks die on me!

It’s been unreasonably warm for January, and I wish I had the energy to go out and take care of some things I should have done in the fall. Despite the extended warmth, I didn’t feel the best at the end of last year, and the mosquitoes were quite bad. Not making excuses, just stating facts. It was warm, I was sleeping a lot, and the mosquitoes lingered. Then it snowed suddenly, and then this prolonged January thaw sauntered along, teasing while it waves its foggy hand at us.

Well anyway. Since I’m thinking about the garden, I thought I’d share a few pictures of my gardening “progress” from last year. These shots are of the left side of the garden, when standing on the deck by the step that goes down into the garden. This is, by all standards, the better side of the garden.

May brought flowers, none of which are to my credit. They grow, I enjoy.

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I made a little progress in May, specifically with putting snapdragons in the circle planter, and getting some mulch.

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Also in May, I cut the oregano plant. Play “spot the difference” to find the oregano plant.

Before:

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After:

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Early June: plants are starting to fill in.

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Mid-June: the tulips and fall crocus greens are starting to die off. I realize I need to cut down the milkweed that sprang up from nowhere. Well. Not nowhere. I know for certain that it sprang up from the ground.

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Give Up Day was July 15 last year. I didn’t work much in the garden from mid-June to August, so I guess the timing of Give Up Day was appropriate.

In August, all those bushy plants with the little flowers (where’s a plantnameologist when I need one?) were turning brown and stinky. I cut them back and a second phase of growth emerged. Also note that the milkweed is still there. They had such pretty flowers that the bees loved that I couldn’t cut them down, and then the monarch caterpillars came, so I waited until well into fall when they were eaten and brown before I removed them.

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September first. The whole thing is green and wild. At this point, I started spending a lot of time napping on the couch, and just didn’t have the time I needed to be able to get out there. At least it wasn’t a total disaster like the rest of the garden. (Just trust me.)

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Near the end of September, I took one more shot of the leftern side, though I was actually standing in the garden to take this picture. I appreciate that the rose bush bloomed again despite my lack of care, the second planting begonias and snapdragons in the pot survived a second assault from the chipmunk, and the marigolds volunteered to spring up this year despite me not planting any.

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Perhaps my garden will look this good this year. That’s partly wishful thinking and partly stubborn ambition that comes with the weather being warmer when there’s nothing to be done about it. At least I can look back on these pictures with a weird sense of fondness!

 


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Look Back and Look Forward, But Don’t Stay Here

Hello, 2017. You’ve come around at last. And too soon. Time does have this tenacious way of moving at a hard-to-follow pace, doesn’t it?

2016 started out rough. The first few months of last year are a blur now, but they were not pleasant when they happened. And they lasted forever. When I finally came out of that fog, winter was long over. I’m thankful I have an understanding husband and a steadfast God who walks with me during tough times. We all have our difficult times in life, and last winter was one of mine. Maybe I’ll share about that some other time. I’m feeling too optimistic today for such talk.

2016 was the Year of the Travels. Or perhaps Year of Vacations, but I like “travels” better. I got to see a lot of family, and some for the first time. When most of your family lives in a different state than you, it’s a big deal when you get to see a lot of relatives–and in the same year.

If I wrote a Christmas letter, it would probably have the following in it:

In June we went to Lake Michigan with Caleb’s family. It was a great time of relaxation. And dune climbing.

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There are people in this picture!

In July my mother-in-law and I drove out to Virginia. I got to meet Caleb’s other grandma for the first time (and we’d been married almost six years at that point!). I also got to meet Caleb’s uncle and aunt of Virginia, and Caleb’s American-Japanese aunt who was visiting from Tokyo area. We also drove to Colonial Williamsburg and spent a few days historying.

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We also stopped in Wild and Wonderful West Virginia on the way.

August is our anniversary, and we finally got to go to Sleeping Bear Dunes–after over a year of waiting. We got to do everything I wanted–including the famous Dune Climb, a difficult four mile hike through what felt like a desert, Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive, and probably some other stuff I forgot about by now but enjoyed at the time.

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That’s Lake Michigan in the background!

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From Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive–it was like a desert!

We got to celebrate Caleb’s Michigan grandparents’ birthdays in October, which was fun because of the Illinois family coming up. It was a great group. I guess I don’t have much to say about it because what I remember is the familyness of it all. Yeah, I just made that word up.

My sister had her second girl in October, and I got to go up to Alaska the week after she was born to help out. I wasn’t much of a help though because I came down with a cold a few days after I arrived and could barely read a whole book to my two-year-old niece. As disappointing as that was, it was a awesome to meet my niece so early. She is a sweety-Beth.

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We went down to Caleb’s parents’ house for Thanksgiving. Yeah, we see them more than my side of the family, but much of that has to do with geography. Closer people are easier to see (especially when you’re short on time).

For Christmas, I drove by myself to see my Minnesota and Wisconsin family. I broke up the trip by going to Illinois first, then went to Wisconsin to see my grandparents where I was joined by my parents, and finally made it to Minnesota two days later. I drove through a snowstorm in Wisconsin (there were no cars in the ditch–good job, traffic!) but when we (my mom rode with me) did the drive to Minnesota, it rained. I was pretty sad about it until my dad mentioned it was much better than driving through what would have been heavy, wind-driven snow. The weather made up for itself when it thundered later that evening. Christmas thunder! I got to see my baby niece again, and read the same four books to my two year old niece more times than I could count. Also, I think she has a crush on Kristoff from Frozen. That’s just a theory though.

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Frozen Uno. Mainly for the Frozen part.

(This would probably be the end of the Christmas letter, but keep reading anyway.)

January 1 marks four years of dieting for better health. I’ve come a long way since then. While I still wish to add back in all of my favorite foods, I know that what I’ve gained is so much better: a clearer mind. More restful sleep. A body that doesn’t hurt all the time. Four years ago, my body was in survival mode. Now, my whole life has been functioning so well that I was able to get pregnant.

Wow, what a mystery lies ahead of me! I’ve watched a lot of people get married and have a baby–many now on their second one by now–and I felt like I’d been left behind. I’d accepted the fact that, after five years, a kid just wasn’t in my future, but I felt like parents (I speak generally here) held a superiority complex over me because they had made babies and I hadn’t. Social media was mostly to blame for this, and I lost my respect for many people who felt the need to voice their opinions of the stupidity of “non-parents,” since I was lumped in as one of those, despite the fact there was nothing I could do about it. It was a subversive form of stress that I don’t fully understand. Now that I’m on the verge of this parenthood thing, my view of “non-parents” hasn’t changed. I know to respect those who are in a different place in life than I am, though I get that an all-time-consuming baby can cause sleep-deprived individuals to be a bit blinded to the joys and woes of others. I hope I don’t loose too many brain cells in the next few months so that I can remember all of this wisdom to impart on myself in the latter part of this year.

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3D picture from November

So how have I made goals and plans with Baby Wild Card thrown in the mix? Easy. First of all, I don’t do technical New Year’s resolutions. I decide sometime late in November or early December what it is I want to be focusing on in the following year. Then I start working on (or at least planning for) achieving that goal right away. No waiting until January 1. If I can’t figure out how to work on it in the busy month of December, then I probably won’t stick with it the minute a busy spell hits after January. Of course, that’s not true with all things. For instance, I have been itching to get working on my fiction stories again. Because Caleb was working two jobs this past fall, I was doing my best to pick up the slack (whilst being quite tired because of the pregnant thing), and I was also doing all of that traveling. I knew I wasn’t going to have time to write, so I promised myself I would figure out a way to pick it up in January.

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The garden sometime after Give Up Day last year. The marigolds are all volunteers, and the roses decided to come even though I stopped watering them.

It took me a little while to get excited about having a baby (it’s a boy, due in April. I need a name tag I can stick on my belly so I don’t have to keep answering all the questions). Now that the baby is more real, I’m thinking about life after the baby is born. One of my goals is to hike more this coming summer, but I’m putting a condition on it: I have to feel good enough. (No difficult, four mile hikes in eighty degree plus weather through sand.) I have a number of gardening goals for this year, but again, it depends on the timing of everything, seeing as baby and spring are coming at the same time. (I don’t even know if I’m going to observe Give Up Day this year.) One thing I think I can successfully do is finish more craft projects than I start. (That’s easy, right? I just need to refuse to start anything until I finish one or two things I already have on hand. And not buy stuff. And continue to refuse to jump on the Pinterest train. That would wreck havoc on my crafting goal for sure.)

Planning is great, looking forward and back is helpful, but the best thing to do when making goals is to get working on them, the sooner the better. Learn from the past, move forward before you lose the present. Speaking of, I need to get going to work on a craft project or something…

Happy New Year!


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Saugatuck Dunes State Park

What beautiful climbing adventure. And perfect weather. Dunes on a cool day in early June gives all the advantages to such.

The parking lot, a loop with a foot washer-offer in the middle, was almost full. As had been described in 50 Hikes by Jim DuFresne, “a midday hike on a summer weekend results in encounters only with the kind of wildlife that wears bathing suits and carries in beach towels and suntan lotion.” That was basically when we were hiking: on a Sunday evening around 6:00.

We started out by going on the North Trail, which was fairly quiet. In truth, once we got past the connecting trail, we didn’t see anyone at all. That’s one of my favorite things about these hikes: the solitude.

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The natural beauty is one of my favorite things too. I find the different types of dunes fascinating. We started out in the woods, and then, without interruption in the woods, came to sandy trail, as if it had been imported from the beach to make a decent pathway. We were in the rear dunes or the established dunes, or whatever you want to call them.

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It did open up a bit more after that, as we went through the slack towards the foredunes. Since I just looked it up again, I’d better explain. The slack is the low part between the dunes, and the foredunes are the newer formations that are closer to the wind source.

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We headed back into the woods. Not there yet! We passed a pretty flower I couldn’t identify. There was only one, and one of the few flowering things we saw.

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Sorry it’s blurry. There were mosquitoes!

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I took the weather-beaten trees as a sign we were getting closer. Trees don’t look like this when they’re all sheltered!

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Finally, the well-trampled slipface. “This is it!” I said. You don’t see random piles of sand in the woods for nothing. Well, unless you do, but it was pretty obvious here.

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I don’t know if I’ll ever get tired of the view one gets when looking at Lake Michigan, but it didn’t take me by surprise as much as it did last year. Having grown up around a bunch of regular lakes, this big one is still pretty incredible to me.

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We decided to walk above the beach, seeing as I was in my sturdy leather boots (I call them “hiking boots,”) and we got a better view anyway from up here.

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I am no photographer. I am well aware of the fact that if a picture is worth a thousand words, mine are only worth about five hundred. I will never be asked to take pictures at someone’s wedding (what a relief) and I won’t be found on the cover of Nature Today anytime in the near ever. (I’m just assuming there’s something called Nature Today. I haven’t looked it up or anything, but it’s such a catchy name I’m sure it’s out there.) The point is, I’m going to have to describe the next picture. Bear with me.

I find the nature of sand to be quite fascinating. One of the most fascinating aspects is how it piles up so steeply (aka dunes) but even more fascinating is how it piles up in places it seems like it shouldn’t. Like in the woods (see five pictures back). Here, it looks like someone made a sand-ramp up to the dry beach on the foredune. I mean, the sand just drops right off on the sides. We were walking above the forest floor. How cool is that! I do believe the sand-ramp came about from wind and foot tramping, but that doesn’t negate any of the cool factor.

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We took the Beach Trail back, as opposed to heading down to the Livingston Trail like how the book suggested. Our route was about two miles and we did it in an hour. We did indeed see some of that wildlife that Jim described (can I say Jim, or do I have to say Mr. DuFresne?), but the fact that it is a decent walk to the beach keeps out a lot of extra bikini traffic, I’m sure. The parking lot was still pretty full when we got back to the car, which means the place is big enough to absorb a fair number of people without a problem. I plan to hike this one again, and the whole route. Definitely worth it.

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Obligatory park driveway photo.

 


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The Stumped Corner

Remember when I was trying to get a whole bunch of little things done and I ended up with this mess?

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This actually looks better than when I started.

I recruited some help and got this “little” project done!

First off, a little history about this awkward area. When we moved in four and a half years ago, the stump was the stepping stone from the sidewalk to the patio in the middle of a sea of ugly red-dyed mulch. It looked great. Very clean, not a weed in sight. The next year, there were maybe one or two weeds, and then the next, a few more, and then it got so bad that by last year you could barely walk around the forest that was comprised of five foot tall weeds.

And why did I think I could change all that in an hour?

After raking off most of the weeds/dried leaves/wet leaves/mulch/etc., I thought I could just pull up the plastic that was showing through. Turns out there was a layer of rocks and dirt in the way. Through not trying to bust my back, I picked out the rocks by hand. I got a gallon-sized ice cream pail for the rocks I was picking out to make easy transport to the Land of Elsewhere. The plastic was still pretty weighted down, but I was able to get a portion of it off. By the end of the day, I’d spent a couple of hours on it (cumulatively) and gave up for the day.

I made a secret plan to get Caleb to help me finish it up. I mean, if you’re having trouble doing a manual job, hire bigger muscle, right? Now, don’t get me wrong. Caleb is great at helping me with things around the house. Last year the deal was that I would mow 2/3 of the yard and he would mow 1/3 (which was the hardest part to mow, making it more equal). Then I hurt my back somehow and suddenly Caleb was doing all of it, no problem. That’s just the kind of person he is. Oh, and he’s much tidier than I am, so the house is usually pretty picked up too. But the garden is my area, and he doesn’t do anything in that weedy mass of chaos. But I told him I thought we could get this little area cleaned up in a few hours, but if done by myself, it would probably be several weeks, and there was a big pile of rocks on the sidewalk (and there was an ice cream pail in there somewhere too).

I was right. It only took us a few hours. And Caleb did most of the work.

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Rocky dirt

The main goal was to replace the nasty plastic. In order to do that, we had to pull out the little edger things, since the plastic went under them. And that was totally fine, since they were wanting some help too. What took the most time was picking the rocks out of the dirt. We left the smaller rocks, but the bigger ones came out, especially around the edges. Then Caleb dug a beautiful trench and dumped sand in for the edgers to sit on. About half of the bag of sand was used under the edgers, and then about half of what was left we dumped next to them for some added stability. (I just made that part up, but it sounds nice. Who knows? Maybe it’s true. I just do stuff and hope for the best.)

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Spreading sand next to the edgers

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Professional tamping equipment

Next we (by “we” I mean, Caleb) packed down a layer of dirt next to the edgers, then packed down the rest of the area.

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We used two strips of water-permeable weed block fabric to cover the area. The first one surrounded the stump, so it stayed in place okay, but the angled strip kept sliding about, and the fabric billows up in the form of wrinkles as if that’s the new trend. This was a bit of an issue because I randomly decided to plant lilies here. And by “randomly decided,” I mean, the day before, when this whole area became an even bigger mess, Eva had mentioned that this might be a good spot to plant my birthday present from her. I, of course, thought it was a terrible idea, since I hadn’t thought of it first. After reading a little more about where to plant lilies, I found that while this is a great spot because of the long sun exposure, it’s not so great because lilies aren’t big fans of rocks (they prefer well-drained soil). They’re just going to have to tough it out though–I had Caleb cut some holes in the fabric, and in they went. The big question is, will they come up?

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Water-permeable wrinkles

I also trimmed out some of the bush that’s at the top left of this area. It’s dying for reasons unbeknownst to me, and one of the greenest branches is the little floopy part that hangs down in the picture below. So I left that for now. If the lilies come up, it might look less awkward. Doesn’t it look better? This is a whole bag of mulch, which I bought accidentally last year and never got around to dealing with. I didn’t want to use dyed chips in my garden (no reason why, just don’t), but I made an exception for this contained area. The three things up by the patio there were buried under the layers of stuff that was raked, yanked, and picked off during this little process. I vaguely remember them being there when we moved in, and thought they looked nice (though random). Now they’re back in the open, getting full sun again.

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Ready to fight some weeds

Yay for getting a (three years overdue) project done!