Monday, June 30, 2008

dumpster diving 101

Dumpster diving is practically an Olympic Sport in Athens--an event held annually right around the end of spring quarter when everyone's year-long housing contracts run out. Starting June 16th (the last day of finals) a giant game of musical chairs begins with thousands of students moving out of their apartments, purging their rooms of all kinds of useful junk and moving into their new places. It all comes to a head June 30th, the day that most contracts officially expire and students must have their apartments emptied out. There are three different thrift stores in town but only a small fraction of the discarded furniture ever ends up on their loading docks. Instead couches, futons, shelves, beds, dressers, lights, bikes, desks, filing cabinets, and piles of perfectly good used housewares ends up on curb-sides, in dumpsters, and in apartment complex parking lots.

In our complex the campus recycling office has designated a patch of grass beside the dumpster as a drop zone for "reusable goods." Over the past few weeks the pile has been steadily growing and every couple of days something turns up that is worth going out there to pick up. Between the pile outside our complex and other piles around town we have managed to score one book shelf, a bathroom shelf, a white board, a clock radio, several plastic bins, a door mirror, a house plant, a salad bowl, a five-drawer dresser, and a kitchen table. Some of the items were new acquisitions, but many, like the kitchen table and the book shelf, were upgrades of what we already had, and the old stuff we simply swapped out and took to the pile for someone else to take.

The common explanation for the mass purging of stuff around town is that students are all spoiled--that there parents pay for everything they need so its no big deal if they leave behind a kitchen table or a futon. There's also a lot of talk about the practically disposable furniture sold at Walmart every fall to the incoming students that isn't built to last more than a few months. It may be a combination of the two, or it may be something altogether different. What ever the reason, the fact remains: right now in Athens dumpster diving is thriving, and the competition is fierce, so if you see a coffee table you like, don't go home and see if you've got room for it, take it now and check out your space later. You can always just put it on another pile if you decide you don't like it.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


Just a moment ago Melissa caught me standing in front of the fridge, drinking straight from the bottle of JuicyJuice.--Harvest Surprise Grape, no less. She was supposed to have been in the laundry room, but she came back a little earlier than I was expecting. It is moments like these where you have a few choices. You can A) tilt the bottle upright and pretend you're looking at a suspicious floaty in the bottom of the bottle, B) try to throw the cap back on and make for the dish cabinet and hope she doesn't notice the purple stain on your upper lip, or C) you can hold the bottle just below your mouth, glance sideways at her as she walks in the door, and give her your best, most sheepish grin possible. Then when she is teasing you about being too lazy to get a cup, and saying things like "that's such a guy thing," you can explain to her that you were simply trying to avoid dirtying another dish which she would likely have to wash anyway. You can then point out to her that you're actually doing her a favor by drinking straight from the bottle, at which point she will throw her arms around you, thank you for your profound consideration, pull the juice from your hands and demand a grape flavored smooch right there on the spot.

errr....maybe not.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

More Cleveland

We wanted to get a picture of both boys on the railing in front of the NKW store, but as you can see, there is no longer a railing in front of the store. When Papa Fitz (below, as a 19-year-old missionary photoed and preserved in a mission memorial notebook we saw in Kirtland)

was a missionary here, he had his picture taken by a Church Magazine photographer, sitting on the store railing.

When these pictures were taken, Papa was still single, still a boy really, and had so little notion of what family awaited him in his future (okay, arguably he had a good idea about who his wife might be, but as for his three daughters, son-in-law, and two grandchildren, he could only have had the slightest theoretical notion of what it would mean to be a father and grandfather.) And just last week we took this picture of his youngest grandchild, sitting just a few feet from where Papa stood as that young man. We really have no idea what lies ahead of us, where life will take us, where it will double back on us, and how one place, grayed and fading in memory may someday come back into color. I'm not really much older than Papa was in these pictures (I certainly don't feel much older) but life seems so laid out for me. School, family, future career--it all feels inevitable, but the truth is anything and anyone can happen. Perhaps that's the only real guarantee.

Callan loved the water, and even was willing to go under a bit after we'd been in the pool a while.
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A few more pictures that need to be on the blog and we're so behind on posting its starting to make me depressed...

This week's awesome garage sale find: Kelty Kids Back pack. Great for doing dishes.

Mr. Baseball Looking in on the Newel K. Whitney Store in Kirtland, OH. The place where Joseph Smith received (among other revelations) the revelation now called the Word of Wisdom--also the place where Papa Fitz once lived as a missionary (many many years after Joseph Smith was there, of course.)

Same Day, Mr. Baseball at his first Major League Baseball game. It was my first too. The Indians one 12-2, but tired boys and empty stomachs forced us to leave before the beginning of the eighth inning.

We Pricelined another fun hotel. I'm telling you, its the only way to go if you're looking for decent 2.5 star hotels. This one had a pool! The monkey loved it (and was a little scared by all the splashing).

Green Thumbs!

We've decided to start our own organic farm. Well, okay, only if by "farm" we mean a 10'x8' plot of un-plowed grass in the middle of a baseball park, and only if by 'organic' we mean we wouldn't know what artificial stimulants to put on the plants even if were were allowed to use them. But still, we're growing something.

After poking around the community for the past several weeks trying to figure out the best plan of attack, we decided to start a community garden plot at the West State street park. The Park is a gigantic sports complex with more than a dozen baseball fields, a driving range, acres of open field, a playground, and back in the corner, along the bike path, a thriving community garden. For 50$ and a promise to donate 10% of what ever we grow to the Athens County Food bank we were in business. And by business we mean we spent the next three evenings double-digging our heretofore untouched garden plot digging through four inches of grass roots and top soil, another two inches of compacted gravel left-over from a no-longer-existent gravel road, and another seven or eight inches of good, if slightly sandy, dirt. We turned that all around with our shovels, made a path down the middle, put up a fence to keep out deer, and finally, on Saturday morning put some actual plants in the ground: Tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, Green Bell Peppers, Pimentos, yellow squash, bush beans, cilantro, carrots, and onions.

Both the Monkey and Mr. Baseball had a blast playing in the dirt at the garden. The Monkey had a hard time 1) staying out of other plots, 2) not pulling up the pepper plants dad just planted, 3) not stealing Mr. Baseball's shovel, and 4) not dumping his bag of animal crackers over in the grass. He did however have a wonderful time wandering around the garden, poking sticks in the dirt, hanging on fences and watching ants and spiders crawl through the dirt.

The Queen Bee, directing her hive. She was the spearhead for getting our garden plot organized and getting us out there to work on it. The community garden itself is tended by a great mix of first-timers like us as well as many experienced gardeners, so while the amazing rows of beans and tomatoes in some plots are extremely intimidating, the withering, anemic plants in others are oddly comforting (its nice not to be the only goof in the bunch). There are tools we can use, water buckets, and even occasionally some mulch and organic bug-be-gone (bone meal). The organization that runs the garden also provides classes, holds potlucks and offers plenty of free advice. All week the QB has been singing "The Prophet Said to Plant a Garden."

The plot kiddy-corner to ours is a gigantic plot (maybe 20x50) run by the Athens county food bank. Just after it was plowed under we showed up and the monkey and Mr. Baseball dug in the new dirt for nearly two hours while the QB and I worked on our own plot. The next day the people from the food bank showed up, which ended the boys' digging fun. But that didn't stop Mr. Baseball from having fun anyway he could. Before we knew it he had a handful of seeds and he was helping the food bank people plant beans and discussing with them various ways of keeping the deer from eating the sprouts. The monkey on the other hand is a little bit more reserved and he was content playing in the tomato cage pictured above.
The Monkey's favorite thing to do at the garden is run away from wherever we ask him to play. On Friday the QB and Mr. Baseball left for a while to go to swimming lessons and the Monkey and I stayed behind to work. But the poor kid just wanted to go with Mom and brother. Several times I looked up from my shovel to see him wandering half way around the garden in the direction of the dirt road that he'd seen mom and and brother leave on. He wasn't upset, but he also wasn't going to take being deserted lightly.

Green. Everything in Athens is green. Including, hopefully, our thumbs.
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T-Ball: Parents' Meeting (otherwise known as Sportsmanship 101)

Callan started T-ball last week, which meant I had to attend a 45-minute parent meeting with the director of youth sports at the Athens Community Center. Since this was the first of what will surely be many "parent meetings" for our two boys, I wasn't really sure what to expect. I have a vague memory of attending a parent meeting with my mom for the basketball team I played on when I was eleven, but I don't remember much besides a lot of paperwork, a lot o talking, and a lot of B-O-R-I-N-G! (Did you notice the existential "Yikes!" moment that just occurred--namely the realization that I am attending parent meetings as a parent just like my mother did for me and that means I'm really getting old).

What I got last week at that parent meeting, in addition to an explanation of the schedule, an introduction to the coaching staff, and no less than three reminders to not get my child's ears pierced until after the season is over, was a twenty-minute lecture on sideline rage. I am now informed and accountable. So, if at some point during this season I lose my cool during a game and punch the umpire (who happens to be a 17-year-old girl), or throw a cooler at another dad, or scream, holler, shout, boo, grunt, or otherwise make a fool of myself, I will be asked to leave and never come back, my son may be asked not to participate, and I could face criminal charges. Of course everyone in the room was all chuckles and self-righteous "I would never do that" rolling-of-eyes, but the truth is that people do! Every year, according to the director, some dad is asked to leave for yelling too much. We're talking about 4-6 year old level t-ball here. There are not outs, everybody plays, everybody bats, and they don't even keep score. I was glad for the information, but felt like the forty-five minute meeting could have been handled in an email. But that's the thing--emails don't get read, letters get ignored, and meetings get skipped (there were maybe twenty parents in attendance of the 208 attached to the league). I felt sorry for the director, who's voice during the entire meeting sounded somewhat like the voice of a frustrated dog trainer--I got the impression that he knew his message wasn't really going to get to the people who needed to hear it.

After the meeting I thanked him for the information and said something about being surprised about the problems with sideline rage. "You'd be surprised," he said. "I could write a book with everything I've seen in this town." The sad thing is, I don't think he's exaggerating.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Cleveland in short: Part Two

A few more photos from our Cleveland/Kirtland trip...

In t the kitchen at the Newell K. Whitney store. Papa Fitz may have mad Mac and cheese here in this room when he was a missionary.

It was hot that day, but not as bad as it could have been. Nolan was fixated on the glass doors of the Store in the background. After we left that store he kept wanting to back and look through the doors.

A fort of pillows is the perfect place to chill in the hotel room!

More Cleveland Shorts

Mr. Baseball strikes up a conversation with our tour guide

The Monkey checks out the flowers in front of the Inn in Historic Kirtland
Look familiar Papa? The Newel K. Whitney Store as it may have looked in 1831.

Cleveland: In Short

The drive to Cleveland: Long but cheerful

Stopping at rest areas: Weird. Has anyone else seen an entire truck full of horseradish?

The drive home: Long and long

Monday, June 9, 2008

Dow Lake

Dow Lake is only about 10 minutes from town and it was HOT on Friday. We've never been swimming there but thought we'd try it out. The water was bit murky after the huge thunderstorms earlier in the week but the temperature was perfect, even at 6pm! The boys dug in the sand and picked up sticks while The Writer and I imagined ourselves at the beach with clearer water, whiter sand and a more beautiful sunset on the horizon. Ahhh....
No, really it was fun and the kids smiled and giggled as much as they would on the beach in Hawaii. We're planning to go again soon.

Friday, June 6, 2008


We were outside playing next to this tree yesterday when Mr. Baseball asked, "What are all those bugs?" I turned around to see a giant swarm of bees buzzing around a branch. We watched as they slowly attached themselves on to form a swaying mass. I don't have any idea what they were doing but it was neat to watch. Later in the afternoon they were mostly gone and there wasn't a hive of any sort. I would be happy if they found a new tree soon though, this tree is the only shade behind our apartments.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008


Kids have a funny way of growing up without their parents really noticing. I mean, I noticed that the clothes go too small and I had to start spelling conversations with my husband over dinner but somehow I thought my Baseball man was going to stay little forever. And whamo! Now he's done with preschool. It's fun though to watch him learn about this world and all the things I know, but don't realize I had to learn at some point. One day that will be a high school graduation cap and I'll say the same thing, "But he was just a baby!" I'm reminded to treasure these young years when I occasionally I look at him and get a little flicker of the slightly gangling, dusty blonde boy he will be as a teenager. We love you Mr. Baseball, don't grow up too fast!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Our first tornado warning

Once, maybe twice while we lived in Utah we heard the "emergency broadcast system" announce an actual weather warning over the radio, and then it was just a winter snow storm advisory. Prior to that, my memories of the beeps and scratches of the warning system were connected with test interruptions of Saturday morning cartoons, or episodes of "Ramblin' Rod."

But now we live in the midwest-- Tornado country--and for the first time since moving here we heard a severe weather warning issued over the radio.
A huge thunderstorm, moving at speeds of up to 40 miles per hour is currently marching its way across the mid-west, and has apparently been creating funnel clouds and other scary weather as it goes. We have dodged the brunt of the storm, and it looks like it will continue to skirt past us, but its still a little disconcerting. We emptied out one closet, just in case we need a place to duck into tonight, and we'll sleep with the radio on.

Melissa and I stepped out onto the porch tonight about 10pm to watch the lightning flash like so many strobe lights at an outdoor concert and we both had the same thought--how did the pioneers do it? As I watched the tops of trees and the silhouettes of buildings blink to life in the storm, I couldn't help but wonder what it would have been like to sleep in a small cabin, or covered wagon beneath a storm like this, with so little between me and nature. And I wonder about experiencing this storm without the modern understanding of predictable weather patterns that dilutes the mystery of severe storms, if not the severity itself. Still, even safely inside my house of brick, knowing the national weather service has got my back, when the thunder cracks like a shot gun blast, and the rain comes down so hard I can't see across the street, its not difficult to feel small and vulnerable.

Worse than feeling vulnerable though is the twisted desire to actually see the storm. A part of me wants the storm to come in full force--perhaps for the experience, perhaps to be able to say "I was in a tornado once," perhaps to record a great Youtube upload. I remember as a child wanting to be sick, so I could stay home and watch The Price is Right and Matlock, and I remember wanting to break a bone in my leg so I could use crutches. As an adult I've considered the benefits of getting provoked into defending myself with my fists, or being mugged, or witnessing a bank robbery, or being in a devastating (but ultimately harmless) car accident, all for the novelty of it. And tonight I'm caught between curiosity and concern for my family, and I've got to say that with the storm dying down a bit outside, the curiosity is winning out over the concern. How ridiculous is that? Shouldn't I be more worried? An actual tornado watch (which, at least, is not as bad as a tornado warning), and a flash flood warning on top of that, and all I can think about is
Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton chasing F5 tornadoes (and their complicated romantic past) across the American heartland, and that rolling house they drove through and the cow that flew past their window and then I think about here and what would happen to the cars in the parking lot, the windows, the trees, the roofs, the thousands and thousands of trailer parks clustered all over the Appalachian countryside, and I wonder why anyone would ever want to live in one of those things, and then I wonder about a country that can't supply safer affordable housing, and I wonder about who would really want something like a tornado to come anywhere near them. No, no, the storm can stay as far away as it likes. I'm perfectly happy leaving the 72-hour kits right where they are, collecting dust in the closet, waiting for that something to happen that we hope never will.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

The Monkey..

got a new stuffed dog on Saturday at a Garage sale. For three dollars we scored a gently-warn plush pile of toddler happiness, and it was money well spent. For weeks now we have noticed the Monkey eying his older brother's collection of stuffed animals, gazing longingly at the menagerie of cotton-filled friends piled on his brother's bed, apparently awakening to the inequity represented by his own, lone stuffed monkey, draped limply over the crib rail, moldering in the dark shadow cast by the mountain of stuffed animals on Mr. Baseball's side of the room.

More than once, when Mr. Baseball wasn't around, I found the Monkey apparently hording the animals, trying to hold, not one or two, but four, or five stuffed animals in his arms all at once; and even when Mr. Baseball was around, the monkey often resorted to grabbing, hitting, and screaming in an attempt to get "doggy" (Mr Baseball's first and favorite) to himself. But all of that is old news. The monkey has his own "doggy" now, and if the half-hour of giggling we did on Saturday morning playing with the new doggy is any indication, our stuffed animal problems may be solved, at least temporarily.

The bigger issue here, of course, is that of equity. The days are already gone when we could get by with just one balloon at the grocery store, or one sticker, or one cup of water, or one baseball bat, or one piece of candy, or one piggyback ride, or one bedtime story, or one bathroom stool. Everything comes in pairs--one for the Monkey, who is just beginning to understand his own independent existence, and one for Mr. Baseball, whose reign as heir-apparent has come crashing to an end.

I think back to afternoons at my brother's house playing with his two kids. I remember smiling at the pairs of everything in their house--two razor scooters in the front yard (one with a Spider Man logo, the other pink with princesses), two bikes in the driveway (same character themes), two banana chairs in the basement, two swings, two drink bottles, two bottles of bubbles, two night lights, two of everything that they might fight over. I used to think it was a matter of needing to learn to share. Now, faced with my own pair of competing children, Its not difficult to imagine myself at, say, the bakery counter, one boy on each pant leg, asking the clerk, "Um, you don't by chance have two of these frosted donuts with the basketball decoration on it, do you?"