Small Blessings

I love where I live.

Southern Indiana may not sound glamorous, but Bloomington is special place. It’s a college town, and very near the hippy-dippy-country-town of Nashville. Our population just about doubles when the students arrive in August, but they bring an influx of culture and excitement. Some of my friends call Bloomington “the town of requirement” : if you want it or need it, Bloomington probably has it. Limestone carving lessons? Check. Tibetan monastery? Check. Nudist communes? Check. We’ve got it all.

The land itself is special, too. Most of Indiana is cornfields, sure, but we’re right at the edge of the native hardwood forests, which cover rolling hills and shelter little lakes and rivers. We’re on top of limestone karst, too, which means you can find some serious treasures in the dirt:

DSCN1555

Naturally occurring geodes! I picked this up out of a creek bed yesterday — exactly like this.

It’s nice to know there are little pieces of beauty around every corner, just waiting to be discovered.

It’s a Green Thumb After All

Remember how I said that I can’t ever really succeed with gardening?

Well, it turns out I lied.

DSCN1548

Here we have my the chives I recently mowed down, some chamomile, my potted lilac bush, a baby pepper plant, the basil, a tea-rose, lavender, and a LOT of mint.

DSCN1547

The seed-pots contain borage, more chamomile, hollyhocks, poppies, some sort of climbing plant, and something else I’ve forgotten. You can catch a glimpse of the big pepper plant on the right.

DSCN1546

This bottom photo is mostly of my tomato plant, which is HUGE. It’s tied to the stake with purple yarn, but still threatening to tomato-bomb anyone on the sidewalk below. Next to it is a teacup tomato plant (complete with gnome) that’s still a baby. (The tarp covered monstrosity is my bike.)

I’m completely infatuated with my little garden. I’d work and read out there, but a) it’s greenhouse-hot, and b) we live near the highway so it’s never really quiet. I do have a couple of houseplants by my desk, though.

DSCN1550

Yes, that is a fairy garden in my jade plant pot.

So, the moral, dear readers, is never think you can’t do something.

How are your gardens doing? 

I Guess the Wedding is Off!

I am planning a wedding.

Specifically, I’m planning my own wedding to the guy I’ve been dating for seven years and living with for five. The decision to get married wasn’t exactly a surprise—it was more like cleaning out the big box of old clothes in my closet. It’s something we’ve intended to do forever, but we’re only just now getting around to it because, frankly, planning a wedding is only marginally more fun and satisfying than said box-emptying… but it’s a lot more expensive and time-consuming.

Okay, that was bitter. As we get closer to the wedding, I’m getting a lot more excited, and that big box was never even remotely amusing.

I’m finding that the more decisions I make about the wedding, the more silly problems—many of them even hypothetical!—I come across.

“What if the out-of-town officiant has an emergency and can’t make it?”

“What if the Etsy sculptor can’t give the owl a bowtie?”

“The handfasting cord is too lightweight, and if it’s windy, it’ll blow around!”

These questions irritate the crap out of me, because people don’t seem to like my answers. Saying, “I guess we’ll find someone else to perform the service,” or, “I’ll guess the owl will have a regular tie,” or plain old, “Oh well,” just seems to puzzle people.

Drew has started answering all of these questions with a straight-faced, “Well, I guess the wedding’s off!”

Oh, no, we didn’t get out first choice rehearsal venue! “Well, I guess the wedding’s off!”

The nearest Men’s Wearhouse is 45 minutes away! “Well, I guess the wedding’s off.”

What if said Men’s Wearhouse doesn’t have shoes big enough for the father-of-the-groom? “Well, I guess the wedding’s off!”

The groomsman’s gift arrived broken! “Well, I guess the wedding’s off!”

You get the idea. It puts all these bridal catastrophes into perspective. Because, really, we’re getting married. Flowers, cake-toppers, ribbons, shoes, and pocket watches really don’t matter in the scheme of things. It’s going to be an amazing day.

Plus, Drew got me Medieval Sims to play when I start to feel stressed out. And that’s love.

The Name Game

You’ve probably seen me mention that I’m getting married soon. I’ve written about it here, and some of you actually know me well enough to know just how crazy I’m starting to get.

You may not know, though, that Kristin McFarland is my real name. I never adopted a “pen name” because, well, I’ve been writing under my real name for years. You can do a Google search and see a lot of pieces written by Kristin McFarland—news pieces from Berkeley, Indianapolis, IU, small-town New Mexico; about a gazillion blog posts; interviews; eHow articles—there’s tons of stuff, and they’re all out there, permanently a part of the interwebs.

And that’s okay. I vouch for my work, and I’m fine with all of the publications to which I’ve attached my name.

But now I’m getting married. I plan to keep my name. It’s MY name, after all, and I’ve lived with it for 27 years. Plus, all my work is under this name, so I’ll keep writing under it regardless of what name I end up with.

There are fair number of young women who aren’t changing their name when they  get married. I can name three good friends off the top of my head who have kept their names—though I admit I can name a lot more who haven’t. I can also think of a friend who changed her name and said it was a huge wrench to do it.

Lately, I’ve been suffering over it some myself. It all started when we had to take my cat to the vet.

Receptionist: “What’s the name?”

Kristin: “Well, MY name is Kristin McFarland, and the cat’s name is Portia.”

Receptionist: “Hmm… and you’re sure the cat has been here before?”

Kristin: (distinctly remembering feline wails and trauma while visiting this clinic) “Well, it’s been a few years, but yes, I’m sure.”

Receptionist: “I’m not finding you.”

Kristin: (lightbulb) “Well, our other cat is in the system under my fiance’s name.”

Receptionist: “Oh… yes, here Portia’s file is!”

And it occurred to me, after they teased me about it when I arrived with the cat, that this will be a pain in the rear my whole life. It will always be, “Well, did we do this under MY name or YOUR name? Better check both!” And it will get worse if we ever have any little-Kristins. A friend of mine who kept her name says people regularly judge her because they think her kids were born out of wedlock.

So I have to admit now that there’s a little logic to a family having the same name. It creates unity, after all. And I could see wanting to distance my writing persona from my personal-self. But I still don’t think it’s fair that the woman always changes her name.

Maybe we’ll just adopt a completely new name, like Skywalker or Summers or Baggins.

Readers, what would you do? If you’re married, what did you do?

No ‘Poo

It’s a terrible term, isn’t it? It makes me think of the Weasley twins’ “U-No-Poo, the constipation sensation that’s gripping the nation!”

Evidently one can now buy U-No-Poo.

In fact, it’s a cutesy term for the hippie movement to forego shampoo: no ‘poo. I’ve been trying it.

Now, before you run screaming because I’m a disgusting person, hear me out. Instead of using shampoo, you use a mixture of baking soda to “wash” the roots of your hair and diluted apple cider vinegar to “condition” it.

But why do this? You can read all sorts of scientific and/or pseudo-scientific reasons why shampoo is evil and we’re pouring carcinogens on our heads and stripping away our natural hair oils and replacing them with synthetic grease! *deep breath* That’s not why I’m trying it, though, even if I really believed those things. Nor am I trying it because it’s cheaper or because I want to live a more “organic” lifestyle, though both those things are true.

No, you see, I have long hair. (I’ve written about it before.) Not SUPER long or anything, but it does reach my lower shoulder blades. It’s also very fine, and tends to need a wash every day so that it doesn’t look totally limp or require a ponytail just to give the appearance that I can manage it—which, to be honest, I can’t. And as it gets longer, it gets more unmanageable, and I have to spend forever washing it after every trip to the gym.

So I’d like to be able to wash it less. Yes, the basis of my decision to try no ‘poo was laziness. Go figure.

The basic process goes like this:
1. Mix approximately one tablespoon of baking soda with a cup of water. Repeat in a separate container with apple cider vinegar.
2. Spray or pour baking soda mixture onto roots of hair. Massage well and rinse.
3. Spray or pour apple cider vinegar mix over ends of hair. Let sit for a moment, then rinse.
4. Enjoy your newly lovely hair that may smell a tiny bit like pickled beets (but only if you didn’t rinse well.) Also, try not to give up during the so-called “transition period”, during which your hair will produce excess oil in a reaction to no longer getting stripped every day.

Easy. It started out grand: my limp hair was, for the first time ever, FLUFFY. I use all  caps because it really was huge. I was so amazed that I felt bad for slandering my hair all my life.

I feel your pain, random photo lady.

And then the baking soda started to build up. My hair wasn’t just FLUFFY. It was stiff. You could push it into a position and it would stay. It was alarmingly static-prone. It tangled and snarled enough to frighten away even the most dedicated nest-making birds. My fiance could pet my hair and come away with a small handful of it. And it was somehow simultaneously dry and oily.

Gross.

I gave up and used shampoo again over the weekend. My hair was so limp on Monday, thoughm that I’ve adjusted my no ‘poo routine for another try. I’ve diluted the baking soda mixture more and now comb a very little jojoba oil over the ends to combat the snarls and tangles. I’m told more vinegar would solve that problem, too.

In short, I’ve spent way more time messing with my hair than I was to begin with.

The whole process has gotten me thinking about the ludicrous things we do in the name of beauty. I met a woman once who had had lip-liner tattooed on. Plenty of women have tattooed eyebrows. We use razor blades, wax, lasers, and bad juju to remove hair from our bodies. We use radiation to darken our skin.

Once, when I was in high school, I read that applying mayonnaise to your hair would make it ultra soft. I tried it, and my hair turned into a grease pit. Without thinking, I had used Miracle Whip.

Oops.

Readers, what crazy things have you done in pursuit of beauty? Please, tell me, so I don’t feel so absurd.

Happy Friday to You

You shall receive “Freudian Saturday” tomorrow, as today has been a wicked day, and I must recover by going to see Titanic in 3D.

To slake your thirst for Kristin-content, though, here is a picture of my princessly cat, Portia.

DSCN1481

She is a princess on a pedestal. We’ve had that scratching post for three years, and she’s only sat on top of it the one time. (That we know of.)

Tune in tomorrow for my musings on Triangles (and Quadrangles, etc) of Love in urban fantasy.