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Grief and Gardening Tips

I did not know it was possible to actually die of a broken heart, and yet my neighbor Kathleen has done just that. She just laid down in the bed and didn’t get up again. Her heart stopped.

Sometimes there is a moment in time, or an experience that will bond people together forever, like a lens peering into the emotions of another human, so real and vulnerable that their pain is your pain, a kind of empathy squared. One of those moments came the night Kathleen spent with my husband. That night, they drove my brother to rehab, and she swore the next time she would bring a toothbrush.

Kathleen knew a good place and could get my brother a spot, just as soon as he sobered up… Kathleen was in recovery herself and former addicts come with a streak of MUST GIVE BACK to society because they’ve pissed on too many lawns and done their fair share of wreaking havoc that there is an intense debt, a hole they have to fill, that only driving people to rehab and checking on your dog after an earthquake, can fill. And that brother of mine? 10 years later he has found sobriety.

I will never know the depths of sorrow that Kathleen felt after losing both of her sons to the opioid epidemic, but she never failed to make me laugh, ever. Damn she was funny.

For example, I made Spanikopita for her after a funeral and received a text a few weeks later….. “Just want you to know I refrained from sending you a picture of me rolling around naked in your spinach pie….” And I knew she was alright, at least for a moment.

When I first moved back to Maryland my new puppy chose her feet to pee on, and so she wore Crocs. Drawn together by toddlers and obligations, plants and old junk, she was the one who introduced me to Community Forklift. Kathleen said, “You will never believe this place…. follow me over the railroad tracks and down to the river….” and I thought, “This is it. She’s lost her mind.” But there it was, the place where I would work for the next seven years (and counting).

Recently Kathleen sent me some gardening tips, which I felt I should share, being as it’s springtime and this is a home sort of blog:

  • If you have greased your shepherd’s hooks with Vaseline to keep the squirrels off the suet cakes, it is important to remember you have done this. That way, you don’t grab it, pull and have your hand fly off and hit you in the face. It can cause a nosebleed.
  • When custom mixing soils for a particular plant in high winds, do not stand downwind and put the lightest soil in first. This will keep you from becoming covered in peat moss.
  • If you decide to just plop your butt on the ground while weeding, it is important to notice if it’s a holly tree. Self explanatory.

The tears sliding down my cheeks when I found out she had passed away made me feel guilty and a little bit selfish. Kathleen was suffering, and there was no amount of Spanikopita or cookies that would take it away. Even Regina smiled and said, “Well mom, she is with her boys now.” For once, I didn’t correct her, because maybe Regina is right. Who am I to say?

©copyright Mariam d’Eustachio at Simply Turquoise 2021.

And so it goes….

This post was specifically requested by a fan. I will do my very best.

The fan/reader/mom, who shall remain anonymous, posed the question, “How does one get into the mood for Christmas, or any holiday, during a pandemic?” Good question. I have no idea. They asked, would you please write a blog post on that?

I promise to do my best, so here goes. Please put away your cynical thoughts. I can hear them in my head already!

1. Fill all of your senses with Christmas! Smell it! Add a fresh tree and set some mulling spices simmering on the stove. Fill the house with music, whether it be jazz or classical, and bake. Decorate the tree and write your thoughts down on a Christmas card, yeah old fashioned-like. Actual pen and paper. Lick the envelope and mail it to the f***ing North Pole. Your kids will love you for it. And then say a prayer of thanks for Samuel L. Jackson, because he made it okay to use that word. You know the one. Have a drink. And if you don’t drink, have a Seedlip cocktail, because they…. are….delicious and are the only distilled nonalcoholic spirit in my repertoire. The bomb. Tested by me, and no, I am not an alcoholic. Yet.

Seedlip nonalcoholic distilled spirits. Originating from apothecary recipes from 1651, or something like that.

2. Adopt a pandemic pet. I have a non-pandemic pet who won’t stray 6 inches from my feet and I am NEVER lonely. He adopted me:

My pet gremlin.

Henry Adams is a legit pandemic pet. Unveiled like some sort of long-awaited designer fashion object d’arte….. on a political blog for people with way too much time on their hands. Behold, meet the…. Henry Adams Cat. He is my latest sibling and heir to the throne:

The foot is real and Henry is doing his job as the foot is no longer a lonely foot.

3. As a family we have enjoyed some seriously fun Zoom calls. We got an account so you can talk for more than 40 minutes. We hosted a game of “Among Us” with the Australian cousin/family. Fun we might not have had if it were not for the pandemic. We even included our far-away Boston child in the game, who dressed unsuspectingly like a plant, and proceeded to murder us in our sleep. It was all good.

Just relax and enjoy the quiet peaceful moments.

4. Seize the calm and the small moments. A fire, a bath, a quiet walk in the woods. Just be in the present. Put down the news and watch the birds. Believe me, those birds have plenty to say. Recharge your batteries.

I realized I have quite the collection of beach-bum Santas and this year, they are hanging out in a prominent place, reminding me that another year is on its way. Thank God!

Beach bum Santas.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all!

© Mariam d’Eustachio at Simply Turquoise 2020.

Survival of the Fittest

I would like to share a few things that have been helpful to me lately, for all three of you that read my blog:

1. I need sleep. I am not the best version of myself when I am tired. If you are also running on empty, pulled in every direction and holding down a demanding job, maybe this post will help you. I just discovered breathe right strips. I feel refreshed in the morning instead of tired. I am pretty tuned in with breathing (see former professional career as flutist) and know that I am getting more oxygen and it is helping me sleep. Quality sleep. No machines, no diet detox, no vitamins. Just a band-aid-like thing that opens my nostrils. Full disclosure: it hurts like 10 Biore strips to take it off, but totally worth every lost skin cell.

2. Skincare. The simpler, the better. I love de Mamiel skincare and yes, it is expensive. I can’t say how expensive just in case my husband is reading this. But even if you can’t afford one single de Mamiel product, please read about Annee de Mamiel’s approach to skincare. Your skin is like leather or furniture or a plant and it needs moisture! I feel like maybe I am ready to take on turning 45, just a couple of weeks from now, and I am armed with de Mamiel.

3. Hair. I stopped dying it about 5 years ago when Prima said, “our culture was shallow and we should value wisdom over beauty.” Spoken like someone with a full head of blonde hair, but still, she’s right. Every time I hear I should dye my hair, I just think “I’ve earned this!” And now, cue New Wash. It goes on like conditioner and has helped my hair feel less frizzy. I’m not sure what my hair was supposed to be, but I think New Wash is good stuff and it does not come in a plastic bottle!

4. Tampons and pads. Organic cotton and delivered in pleasantly plain packaging on a regular schedule. Life changing. That is all. MyLola.com

5. Crave creativity. I try to nurture that instinct in little ways throughout the day. A scarf with my outfit, fresh herbs in my food, a book by the fire. It’s the little things that keep me going.

I know I am fortunate. I know I shouldn’t complain. The pace of life with kids and work and the pressure to volunteer for everything feels overwhelming. Take a deep breath, truly. It will ground you. It’s what my mom tells me all the time when I am stressed, prepping me for flute playing without even realizing it. Thanks mom! Or possibly Obama, I’m not even sure anymore.

Drink a glass of wine, don’t stress, take a deep breath, try to use less plastic, and then if you’re lucky, do it all over again.

© Mariam d’Eustachio at Simply Turquoise.

This post was not sponsored by anyone or anything. I’d love to know what you can’t live without.

The General Store

Maybe your neighbors are not as great as mine. If that is the case, I am sorry for you. Mine, well…. they are my neighborhood general store, daycare, garden center, and lawn-mowing service. Do you need a lemon? A carrot? Or perhaps a stray can of beans? Can’t beat the traffic home? Need them to check on the teens? Or perhaps a place to hide the liquor? Don’t forget the lawn-mowing service and dog walking to boot! And why not? Don’t you have neighbors that mow your lawn and walk your dogs?

This is a teen that is up to no good.

If only everyone had a neighborhood like mine, where civility, jokes, and kindness rule. We have fires on their patio, drinks on our deck, and watch the flickering lights of the fireflies. We have stories and foot massages, gripe sessions and therapy.

I’ve always had good luck with neighbors, so I know this is not a one-off situation. Over the years, my neighbors and I have become the very best of friends. (Except for that one time when I suspect the neighbors had the Gimp tied up in their basement and ran a hospital for dolls.)

Find the dogs!

I challenge you to find a neighbor and chat them up. Try to connect with them as humans. That relationship may eventually prove to be your lifeline, and at the very least, may come in handy when you need a cup of sugar or a friend. It’s a little something we can do to invest in each other, and in our communities. To quote Mr. Rogers, “Won’t you be my neighbor?”

© Mariam d’Eustachio at Simply Turquoise 2019.

This Couch is Stalking Me!

It’s true. I surf for sofas. I know exactly what I want…. and so does my phone. Let this be a warning to you.

Even if I lost my brain, my phone might serve as a decent substitute.

The couch I have zeroed in on pops up in my fitness app. (I know, you’re shocked I use a fitness app. Don’t worry, this is how I communicate with my mother.) That gorgeous sofa is the first thing I see when I log my coffee calories every morning, right under the person SLEEPING on the fitness app. Seriously, how do they know?

My Fitness Pal!

My Fitness Pal!

Who knew that an incognito browser was now required for online shopping, among other things? If you want your heart’s desires to be constantly flaunted, but still unattainable because you can’t afford them, then please continue browsing for stuff online while sipping your coffee. It’s fun, and will drive you to delete your Facebook app, once and for all.

This is it! Again!

What would happen if I actually bought that couch? (Or TWO because I want a matching pair to satisfy my increasing desire for order through symmetry.) I never should have searched “How to clean velvet.” For that matter, I should never search how to clean anything.

Would the ads stop? Would my phone leap out of my hands in a suicidal dive for the floor, taking my brain along with it? I wonder.

Cocoa on the couch

Cocoa on the couch opposite me and my coffee.

In the meantime I am sitting on my old couch, as comfy as Bilbo Baggins in his hobbit hole, still sipping my coffee.

Maybe it’s time for new pillows.

© Mariam d’Eustachio at Simply Turquoise 2019.