Possum Living: Laying the Ground Rules

So back at the beginning of the year (is 2018 over yet, because it feels like it has hung around long enough!), I shared some of my goals. One of them was the most ambitious thing I have ever tried. Inspired by the book Possum Living (cool video here), I plan to go all of 2018 without buying anything I don’t NEED. Sometimes there is a giant grey area between needs and wants. Take books, for example. I need books like I need air. But do I NEED to BUY them? Unless it is a text for my job, probably not. This outline is rather fluid, and time may force some changes, but I will share any changes as a means of holding myself accountable.


  • Gasoline
  • Food
  • College tuition
  • Clothing (but NO T-SHIRTS)
  • Utilities and mortgage
  •  Cellphone – I have a Tracfone, so I have to get service cards periodically. Texts are $5 for 1000, and it’s the primary way we communicate at work
  • Books specifically relevant to work – must be read within a month of purchase
  • Car (I signed my car’s death warrant when I put my favorite sticker on it)
  • Potting soil and bare bones supplies for growing plants to sell at Farmer’s Market
  • Photo books – I do these twice a year as a gift for my mom, but I also get one for me. My photos are essential. But no superfluous photo gifts. I use Snapfish, and they usually provide me with good coupons.


  • Books (Goodbye, BookBub! Until next year?) – Not even the illustrated Goblet of Fire due out in October
  • Harry Potter memorabilia (this kills me!)
  • Music (unless I already have gift card credit on the music site)
  • Toys for the pets. It’s too bad, really, because Lumen is quite destructive, but she LOVES HER TOYS SO MUCH! I stocked up on the one toy she hasn’t managed to completely murder and dismantle, so she won’t have nothing. Don’t look at me like that!
  • Additional pets – (no more snakes? WHAT? But… but…)
  • He wants a friend…

  • Additional pet housing, beyond basic supplies (food, UVB bulbs, etc
  • Toys in general
  • Impulse buys for the kids
  • Clearance holiday stuff *whimper* unless it’s for prizes for my students
  • Squishables
  • Coffee or meals out – unless I am traveling or it is pre-arranged date-night
  • Postage for packages to friends
  • Gifts – beyond family birthdays and gift-giving holidays
  • An addendum to the above rule: no creating gift-giving holidays. In our house, Valentine’s Day is a children’s holiday. I cannot turn it into a “Hey, gimme this Funko Pop! figure” holiday.

So you’re here to hold me accountable.  Almost As much fun as a host of fleas nesting in your armpits.

I make a lot of impulse purchases when I’m feeling sad, lonely, depressed, excited, anxious. I admit that I shop (and eat) to deal with feelings and to fill a void. So what am I going to do when that shopper vibe starts bouncing in my brain? I’m going to be creative. Literally. Like, I’m going to create something. Here are some ways to channel my energy

  • Write – I’ve been successful with this one. I have been writing a LOT. I have written so many blog posts this year already, and that’s not even the tip of my brain’s iceberg. I think I could spend the next few weeks and write out blog posts for each day for the rest of the year. Don’t worry. I won’t. But I could. And I wrote a short story and entered a writing competition. So yay.
  • Take Lumen for a walk or a run- I ran with her a few days ago, and I totally freaked her out. “If Mommy’s running, someone must be chasing! LET’S MAKE TRACKS!”
  • Who’s the happiest dog-parking dog in the world? And maybe the most exhausted. Little Pittie mixes are fast and intense, old girl!

  • Read – I am on NetGalley, and I’m working on reading a book I’m super-excited about. And when I read the book, I can REVIEW it, so that brings me back to WRITING!
  • Knit – I have the basics down. Yay, me. But I suck at it. Practice makes perfect, so I shall practice.
  • Give stuff away – Stuff begets more stuff. If I clear out some of the clutter, I am less inclined to buy matching clutter. Also, moving stuff out helps me to realize how much I already HAVE.
  • Make little turtles out of Sculpey – I’m good at this, and I owe some people some critters. I gotta get on this as soon as my right arm begins functioning again.
  • Play Neko Atsume -What better way to practice becoming a crazy cat lady than to learn to attract stray cats?

    My yarn balls bring ALL the kitties to the yard. And I can’t get rid of them. Help!


How do YOU deal with anxiety or depression? What’s the most effective thing for you? Tell me in the comments.




A Brave New Year

Everybody makes resolutions. Some people are even all clever and make resolutions NOT to make resolutions, thus proving we can’t get away from this tradition/trend. I’m no exception. This year, I’m going in big. Go big or go home, right? Actually, it’s cold outside. Going home sounds not-so-bad at the moment… Just kidding.

2016 was a dumpster fire. I said there was no possible way that 2017 could be worse than that, which 2017 took as a personal challenge. It was not a good year overall. But you know what? That’s partly my fault. I am not going to spend this brand, spanky new year sitting passively in the passenger’s seat. 2018 is my year of being brave.

This year, 2018, I am going to:

  • Learn to knit. I don’t know a whole lot of people in person who knit, so I am REALLY going to have to go to the interwebs for this one. I have never learned anything from Youtube before, except to pee BEFORE watching an episode of Bad Lip Reading, so this will be an adventure. And for some reason, it makes me a little nervous. But if I practice knitting for a year, I’ll get decent, right?

  • Breed my dart frogs. I have a bunch of them at work. Three different species. And none of them have bred. I have done everything recommended, and I have gotten to the point of getting them in condition and getting them to call, but so far, no luck. If you have bred them before, hit me up. I gotta know what I need to do differently.

Why you little dudes take a vow of chastity?

  • I am going to put my interest in plants to use. I am going to grow some things to sell at the local Farmer’s Market this summer. I can’t stop myself from growing plants. It brings me joy and energy. If I am stressed, I can soothe my spirit by checking up on a cinnamon tree or a root peeking out of a fig cutting. And since I have no self-control where it comes to growing stuff, I can maybe share my joy with others. And make a little cash. To buy more plants…
  • I am going to learn how to make saagwala at home. I love Indian food. I have attempted curry, and I’m good at the recipes I have. Now it’s time to learn saag.
  • I am going to vote in any election that pops up. It’s my civic responsibility, and I’m going to take it seriously.
  • Call my representatives when there are issues I am concerned about. Which is, like always.
  • Add ALL my reps’ numbers to speed dial so I can leave them messages in all of their offices. I currently only have one number each in my phone.
  • Produce 2 pieces, either short story or essay,  to submit somewhere for publication. This means re-learning how to write a short story. Eek! But it’s time to start building my wall of rejections. Or acceptance, but it’s the rejections that make us stronger, right? I am gonna be STRONG!
  • Actually submit these pieces. This is me closing some loopholes.

And here’s the big one. The one that is the biggest change in my life. Are you ready? Am I ready?

  • I am going to go the entire year without buying anything I don’t need. I read a book by Dolly Freed called “Possum  Living.” It’s a non-fiction book by an 18-year-old. She and her dad spent 3 years living like possums (not eating them!). They ate what was around them – raised chickens in the cellar for meat, raised gardens, saved money however they could. They spent about $1500 a year. Even in 1978, that was chump change. And her motto when it came to buying things was “Not now, maybe later.” That’s my mantra for 2018. I’ll unpack this whole goal in a separate blog post, and I’ll keep you posted on my progress throughout the year. A surprising amount of planning goes into inaction, really. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with this. It’s just a few minutes long and worth a watch!

How do you plan to make 2018 your lap dog? Inspire me!

That One Time I Did a Thing

So I did a thing. It’s a cool thing, too. Let me back up for a second.

A friend of mine has a cinnamon tree. Like, real cinnamon. You peel the bark, let it dry, and BOOM! Cinnamon for tea, baking, sticking up your nose… (just me, then? I’ll move along.) I didn’t know that cinnamon came from a tree at all. I thought it came from a can.

Last February, my friend asked me if I wanted some cuttings to try vegetative propagation ( a fancy term meaning: start a plant from cuttings). Of course, I did. She brought me several. I read all kinds of stuff on the internet, but almost no one had any real info on growing from cuttings, so I improvised. I dipped the ends in rooting hormones. One was potted in a plastic bag full of soil. One was in straight water. Another was  planted in normal potting soil and set outside.

Two died right away. One lingered. For nine months. It never turned brown, but it never grew, either. By that point, I knew I had to have a cinnamon tree of my very own. So where does one turn in times of such crisis? Why, to Ebay, of course. And that’s when I learned how expensive these things are. Like, eighty bucks.  For a tree. Yeah. My husband would totally be on board with that.

I looked through all the listings, and I found a little six-inch baby tree for $15. It was unseasonably warm for November, but I was afraid we’d have a cold snap and the tree would freeze before it arrived in the mail, so I contacted the seller. We chatted back and forth for a bit, and I realized I had found a seller who wanted me to succeed. So I placed my order.

When the package arrived, I discovered that Dave’s Garden hadn’t sent a six inch tree. They’d sent seedlings instead. Five of them. They said a seedling is tougher than larger plants, and they had sent extra so that I had a good chance of ending up with at least one thriving tree.

So how does a small, warm-weather, humidity-loving seedling survive in a house that stays 65 degrees in the winter? The only answer was a greenhouse. So I made one. Out of stuff I had lying around the house – specifically, a ten-gallon aquarium, two ziploc bags, some packing tape, and a light bulb.

I planted the seedlings and placed the pots in the ten gallon tank. Then I split the two bags along the sides to make a cover to hold in humidity. Then I put the little makeshift greenhouse on my baker’s rack and set it under a regular 60 watt bulb.

A month or so after setting up the seedlings, and look!

grow trees from cuttings

The new growth is a beautiful red color. It’s so pretty!

And now I’m three months into the project. The trees are growing so well that I have had to peel back the plastic to make room for new growth! And I have five healthy seedlings to show for my efforts.

This project has been such a success that I’m trying to grow some other things, too. What’s next for me? I’ve got my eye on one of Dave’s Garden’s nutmeg seeds…

What cool projects have you tried recently?


The Race Is On

My lovely harvest

And there it is, folks. The sum total of my tomato harvest for this year, and those little beauties are on my vine as we speak. Took this pic five minutes ago.

All summer long, the plants grew, but they didn’t bother setting blooms until about a month ago. You know, right after those big rains we had. Apparently tomatoes need water, or something like that. I don’t know. That kind of stuff is beyond my comprehension. So, anyway, tomatoes finally on the vine. Yay, and all that. Here’s the problem.

Check the number in the lower right corner

Not the time, though I, too, am stunned that I am blogging at this hour on a Saturday. No, it’s the number in the lower right. It’s a little chilly. Not only for me, but especially for ripening fruit. It’s all over with the first frost. I have no idea how long it takes a tomato to ripen on the vine, but our first frost can only be a matter of days away.  I need those maters. Not to eat, of course. I need to harvest their seeds. So I can plant tomatoes again next year. If I remember to water them, we might even get to eat some. Odds are against me.

I have been told that if I cover the little babies with a blanket at night, they’ll be protected from the frost. But let’s be realistic. If I can’t remember to water them, what are the chances I’ll remember to tuck them in at night? Not good, I’d say.

And the race is on. Will my two lonely tomatoes ripen before the frost kills them dead? Place your bets here, ladies and gentlemen. Fruit or frost? Who will be the victor?


Adventures in Gardening, Part 2. I Shouldn’t Be Allowed.

I have said before that I am not a gardener. Not the out-of-doors, tilling the earth kind. I can grow all kinds of pretty green things in my refrigerator, but I haven’t much skill with tending under the open sky. When I was a kid, my mom would ask me to weed her flower bed. Despite the fact that the kidney-shaped bed was a small one, it would take me most of the afternoon. Not because I was doing a good job, but because I kept coming back into the house to get a drink, go to the bathroom, catch “You Can’t Do That on Television,” you know, basic needs. And when I did get around to it, I yanked off the green parts that I could actually see, and left the rest.

Fast forward 20 (okay, maybe 30) years, and that little bed is long gone. Before you get too excited, I’ll just let you know that she replaced it with a bed that spans the entire length of the backyard. This monster is roughly 40 feet long and 8 feet deep. Nifty. And it’s hard to keep up with on your own when your knee needs replacing, so when she asked me if I could help, I said I’d be happy to. And I meant it.

I am not afraid of hard work, but I was a little worried. The spirit is willing, but the skill is minimal. My idea of weeding a garden is tying orange yarn on the stuff I planted on purpose and taking a weed-eater to the rest. Mom gave me a basic tutorial on “this-is-weed-this-is-plant” before her appointment. I got it. Or I thought I did. And she made it clear that we weren’t just taking off the tops. We were digging for gold. That garden claw was to be used to dislodge every Bermuda grass root we could find. Dig it up, pull it out, throw it away.

I admit, I was a little distracted as she was giving me the run-down. I don’t know why. It’s not like a toddler can do that much damage with a two-by-four, right? Or a spade. Or a mattock. Silly me. I should have been paying more attention to the important stuff. The moment I was alone with a two-year-old and a garden, all of her profound teaching left me. I knew I was up a creek.

I did what I knew for sure. I know Bermuda grass. I dug those roots like nobody’s business. But there were other plants I was unsure about, Was that a delicate day lily or a brazen clump of grass? They look rather alike. When in doubt, leave it. My mother returned home to find that I had carefully weeded around the weeds themselves. I did learn something, though. If its roots go all the way to the center of the earth, it is a weed. If it comes up, roots and all, with barely a tug, someone paid a lot of money for it.

When my confidence was built (aka, I had a supervisor), I was able to claw with joyful abandon, making rapid progress. I was thinking I might actually finish this patch in one day. Until. I sunk the claw into a particularly think clump of weeds. As I bent down to remove the bits I had broken up, I discovered a toad. Don’t worry. He was whole. But he was scared, and it got me thinking.  He was probably not alone in that mass of overgrowth. Seeing as how it would break my heart to uncover parts of toads, I was going to have to take the heavily grown parts by hand. Oh, joy.

I didn’t finish that day. Or the next. And we’re still not finished, but we’ll be back at it as soon as the weather clears up. And I think I’m getting kind of good at it. It’s relaxing to break up roots and follow them by hand back to their evil source. I’m sure I made a few mistakes in my zealous efforts, but as long as hydrangeas don’t actually need a taproot, it will all be fine.

Tallest okra plant in the world. The woman knows how to garden.


Adventures in Gardening, Part 1

I am not a gardener. I can grow things in pots to beat the band, but an actual garden is beyond my experience/capability/attention span. And this is one area in which I am in no danger whatsoever of becoming my mom. She loves to garden, and she spends a great deal of time planting, seeding, researching, mulching. She spent my entire childhood trying to tame the wild undergrowth on the bank in her backyard. A few years and a backhoe later, she has the garden of her dreams. And a knee that needs replacing. That’s a bad combo, if you didn’t already know.

Last week she asked me if I’d like to come help her “get some weeding done” and get the plants to bed before the first frost. She’s not as fast as she used to be, and there are some things she just can’t do right now with her bum knee. I would rather stick a garden rake in my eye than tend my own garden, but of course I was happy to help her out. There’s just one complication: Mr. Squish.

Who? Me? I not do nuthin.

Where I go, Squish must follow. Sounds like it would be no problem at all. Small child, large fenced yard, what’s the issue? If he was an ordinary youngster, he might play happily while I worked. Ordinary, he is not. Creative and with a nose for trouble, he is. Throw a cocker spaniel with barely two brain cells to rub together into the mix, and you’ve got yourself some fun.

Mom had an appointment, so she showed me where to start and left me to my work. The first ten minutes were fine. I did the rough work with her claw, the most amazing tool ever found on a late-night infomercial. A few twists, and the top soil and mulch are loosened, weeds are yanked up like so much spaghetti. Fabulous. I look up, and Squish is nowhere to be seen. The next few minutes go something like this:

Scream loudly for small child.

Locate him indoors playing with the remote control.

Bring him out of doors.

Remove can of insect spray from his hands.

Place small child in pebbles with toy dump truck.

Remove pebbles that he has buried in the very, very bottom of the raised vegetable garden.

Begin to hand-weed a tricky patch on hands and knees.

Remove skunk-breathed dog from face, repeatedly. Attempt to convince her I do not wish to give her a kiss.

Come up for air.

Return to hands and knees and commence to weed.

Feel sudden weight on back as small child becomes “baby gorilla” and asks for a ride.

Crawl to compost barrel to dump weeds, so as not to disturb baby gorilla perched between shoulder blades.

Remove skunk-breathed dog from face.

Remove child from back and take him back to the rocks to play.

Hear child say “I have a rock for you, Mommy!”

Notice sudden movement out of the corner of eye and move just in time to avoid small child slam-dunking rock the size of a dessert plate directly on my head.

Curl into fetal position.

Scream at skunk-breathed dog to get out of my ever-lovin’ face and beg child to quit bouncing on my kidneys.

That was all before Squish discovered that the five foot retaining wall is an easy climb.

And Mom wonders why I didn’t get much done. I think I remember why I don’t garden.



Will I Ever Learn?

Symmetry in nature is beautiful

The days are getting shorter, the kids are off to school, and we all know what that means. I’m screwed. Let the record show that I don’t do this every year. It usually takes about 2 years to completely forget past mistakes and make them anew with reckless abandon. And I think I outdid myself this time.

I love plants. I used to work in a greenhouse in college. I did everything from cloning African violets to cloning carrots (yes, somewhere out there is a giant carrot dragging its mutated self around the globe searching for its creator. It’s ALIIIIIVE!). I love watching the new shoots pop up through the soil, fighting the odds in its struggle for life. I take as much pride in my aloe’s offspring as if I had spawned it with my very own rhizomes. I love surrounding myself with a jungle of green. And that’s my problem. Where does the jungle go in the winter? I only have one window.

Okay, I have more that one window. I don’t live in a subterranean cave, after all. But I also have several cats. And a small kid. So let me amend that statement to “I only have one window that gets enough light for a plant to survive and is out of reach of four-legged diners and wild two-legged diggers.” So I’m screwed.

Last year, I remembered. I remembered the drought and twice-a-day waterings. I remembered not being able to see the top of my kitchen table from October until May. I remembered the heartbreaking parting as I had to send my largest ficus to my husband’s office because there was no way to keep our burgeoning bi-ped out of it. Instead of our forest of tomato plants (which are annual and die before it’s time to bring the plants in, thank you very much) and cuttings of every house plant I have ever owned, I contented myself with planting one tomato and repotting my ferns. I did make a few cuttings of my ficus to grow as Christmas gifts. But that was it.

At the end of last year, I had my fern, my son’s alligator plant and a few of its incredibly homely offspring (but a baby plant is a baby plant and must be nurtured, right?!), and the cuttings of the ficus. At Christmas, I repotted them for their new homes. Unfortunately, the ones that were supposed to travel to the in-laws got left behind. But their tiny pots fit on my sill. I wasn’t too crowded as I did my dishes, and there were only 4 plants to  move off of the kitchen table when it was time to eat.

I blame our university’s garden story-time for the loss of my ever-lovin’ mind. We went to our first story time of the season, and instead of a coloring station, the children got to plant a seed to take home. Squish was fascinated by the bean. He insisted on watering it and checking its progress every day. The day it sprouted was a day of celebration. And then it hit me. What do we DO with it? It can’t live a full life in its little cup. Do we let it die an unnatural death in front of our son, or do we buy some soil and give the stupid thing a chance at achieving its potential? Do I have to tell you what we did?

Once the bean was planted, we (okay, there was no “we.” It was all me) decided it could use some companions. Having no idea what kind of bean we had planted, I was unsure if it was a self-pollinator or not, so we planted some sugar peas in the same pot. We started them in a plastic jar so that the kids (okay, me again) could watch their root development. I called them Venomous Tentacula in honor of the upcoming HP movie, which amused me more than anyone else. They grew with frightening speed. I measured 2 inches of root growth in just under 3 hours. Good thing they’re sensitive to temperature or these things would take over the planet!

Then my husband became an accomplice to my stupidity. He brought home a book on herb gardening. Suddenly I had my heart set on growing my own bay laurel, and we set about on a city-wide search. The plant was elusive, but we managed to secure one. I’ll never have to buy dried bay leaves again! Who knew it needed a 12 inch pot? And it’s a tender perennial, so it needs to winter inside.

Same with the rosemary.

And then my daughter bought some mint. Won’t fresh mint tea be tasty this winter?

And then there’s the thyme. And the oregano.

And those ficus babies have been re-potted. They doubled in size  and are ready for their new homes.  Except for the one I’d really like to keep.

The fern is now so big that it won’t fit in its little nook by the microwave this winter.

And the burro-tail won’t fit on the sill because its new pot is too wide.

I might be easier if we just move.