getting dirty

I have really been wanting to get down and dirty lately.

(Get your mind out of the gutter. I don’t mean that way. At least not with you.)

Every day since my big gardening weekend three weeks ago, I have looked at my backyard with a wistful eye. But even though my enemy, WebMD, recommends gardening as a gentle, stress-free activity a concussed person can undertake, I’m not thinking it would be wise at this time. After all, the authors of that suggestion have not seen my backyard.

I need to pull ivy. I need to dig through the hard red clay that passes for top soil in this region to make holes large enough to plant shrubs. I need to mulch. Did I mention I need to pull ivy? Oh, and I have to contend with my other enemy, poison ivy, which has such power over me as to render me unable to recognize it in the wild, even though I rationally know what it looks like.

But when tasks like warming up a bowl of soup, driving to work, and reading the newspaper still leave me exhausted and lightheaded (by the way, a CT scan today revealed my head is normal) it’s hard to imagine I will beat the incoming heat and humidity to get done the gardening I want to do before summer’s end.

Which makes me sad. And makes me even more determined to get my hands in the dirt. You think I’m a girly girl and I am. But I also like to sweat and work hard and get my boots muddy.

Alas, for now the only mud in my life coats my brain.


why I quit foursquare

I joined Foursquare a year ago when I got curious about all the “4sq” tweets I was seeing in my Twitter feed. What was this social media function? And oh, there are points so it’s like a contest? Sign me up.

I quickly became “mayor” (automatic +3 points) of places no one else checks into like my house and the kids’ bus stop. Then Nancy’s house and the gas station and our local farmer’s market. When I finally became mayor of Biker Barre, I felt a sense of glee.

I never had more than about 35 “friends” (followers?) many of whom I’d never met but was connected to on Twitter. I didn’t consider myself to be competing with them for the top spot on the leadership board but I was definitely competing with myself. One new coffee shop away from a new level of the fresh brew badge? Let’s go here. I loved being awarded +7 points or even +9 points sometimes for a new place I was checking into. My highest single check in (+12) occurred in Hawaii where I was first of my friends to check in said spot, it was the first of its category I’d frequented, the mayor was in the house and I’d already hit x number of spots that day.

Last week when I was home concussed, I didn’t go anywhere after checking in at Sibley Hospital that Saturday (only +1 because I’d been there before) until Thursday when I made the poor decision to try to return to work (+3) before my body was ready. My point totals for the week were near their lowest ever, my head was throbbing, and I thought: why do I care? And furthermore, why do I feel like I need to tell the world where I am at every single moment?

(In my previous bouts of asking myself these questions, I’d justify my addiction with the thought that if something happened to me and the DC CSI team needed clues as to my whereabouts, they could follow my moves on Foursquare.)

We live such public lives even when we aren’t public figures. With all the focus on privacy the last few weeks, I’ve been less astonished on how it might have been violated and more struck by how much we reveal of ourselves.

So this morning, I checked in at Washington Radiology (+1) where I waited two hours to get my mammogram. But I purposely did not check in for coffee afterwards. I checked in at work (+3) out of force of habit but that was my last official check in. As I sat outside Biker Barre tonight, waiting for the rain to subside before going in, I deleted my Foursquare account.

But not before I received an email telling me I’d just been ousted as mayor of Biker Barre.

glass half empty no more

I used to be a glass half full type of person.

Then in 1986 I developed the passionate fatalism shared by my adopted New England brethren when the Boston Red Sox tragically lost the World Series.

And since then, I’ve had an “x thing I want to happen will never happen because my teams never win” outlook.

Absurd because my teams DO win. I’ve now witnessed not one but two Red Sox World Series titles. And I don’t even want to count the combined 49ers-Pats Super Bowl victories over my lifetime. (On the other hand, I definitely take the blame for Michelle Kwan never winning a gold medal.)

So when talking to Nancy the other night, I complained, “what happened to Year of Chelsea? 2013 was supposed to be Year of Chelsea!” Then I went on to tick off the bad things that have happened to me this year:

My cat ran away. (“But she came back and you got to experience the heartwarming response from your community in the process,” Nancy reminded me.)

My other cat died. (“She was old and lived a good life, and you had many happy years together.”)

I got a flat tire. The Boston Marathon bombing happened. Congress is never going to pass climate legislation. (When I’m on a roll, I’m on a roll.) My washing machine broke. I cracked my iPad. Got concussed. Not to mention the countless other mini Chelsea disasters that put dents in my spirit.

Nancy has this great way of turning the energy around in a cloudy situation. She takes a negative and manages to find the positive. And she has challenged me to try it.

It’s going to take some practice. I might not be very good at first, and I’m sure I won’t be consistent. But I think I will give her methods a try. With a glass half full of wine to help.

summer woes

I want to love summer. Pool time. Beach season. Easy breezy attitudes. Dry rosés and barbecue.

But the truth is, I hate it. Summer is stifling when it’s hot and humid and you have a professional dress code to adhere to Monday thru Friday. The pool is nice, but with kids it isn’t always relaxing. When was the last time I went to the beach? The answer would be Hawaii. In December.
Easy breezy? Congress is in high dysfunction mode and summer camp is harder to prep kids for than school.

But one of the factors I hate most is my summer casual wardrobe. I don’t find shorts to be very flattering. It’s hard to find summery dresses that fall between too girly and too soccer mommy. And I hate every pair of sandals on the market.

Which is odd because you know I love shoes. I have tried and tried to find acceptable summer footwear. I can’t do flat sandals, but I don’t always want a heel on the weekends or super hot days. Please no ankle cuffs. (I don’t like to look shackled, though I do like how gladiators look on other women.) Flip flops should be reserved for the pool and/or beach. Flatforms are out of the question.

(As my friend Hillary tweeted yesterday: “I don’t care if Coco Chanel came down from the heavens and told me to get flatforms, I will never ever (ever) buy them.”)

But I haven’t given up yet. I’m hopeful that my “friends I haven’t met yet” at the Shoe Hive can help rescue me. In the need for some retail therapy this sticky, concussed (still) day, I ordered a pair of sandals (pewter, simple, low wedge) from them that just might hit the mark.

And if they do, then please, someone host a BBQ. I promise to bring good wine.

third string quarterback

Football Jesus is coming to a Patriots jersey near you.

It was bound to happen. I feel like rarely in New England sports do we get saddled with a so-called bad guy player. For example, I can say with some level of certainty that Derek Jeter will not end his career with the Red Sox. Usually it seems to go the other way around. Our beloved stars play their final days with the sworn enemy.

Not that Tim Tebow is that level of the devil. I just find him mediocre as a player and intolerable as a public figure. So he’s in the third string quarterback position. Hopefully he will only get his hands on the ball when the Pats are so far ahead that Tom Brady can give his arm a rest. (Though I do love me some fourth quarter Tom Brady action.)

Third string, third string, third string. I keep whispering those words to myself but we all know how this season is going to play out.

Either Tebow is going to come in and save the day, I mean, game, and I will have to like him, which will make me hate him more. Or he will come in a game, blow the lead, and I will be vindicated, but at the cost of a tick in the loss column.

Honestly, I don’t know which way I’d rather see it go down. I just know that I will not be buying a Tebow jersey anytime soon, and I hope my small gesture is a form of, shall I call it abstinence, we can all agree on.

my aching head

I woke up in the middle of the night a little discombobulated. But once I got my bearings, I could not fall back to sleep. So in my head I wrote the definitive account of how I managed to get myself concussed this weekend.

In the light of day, I don’t remember a single word. But I couldn’t remember who Stannis Baratheon was when turning the TV on for the first time all weekend (screens hurt to look at) because after last weekend’s “Red Wedding” I was sure the season finale to Game of Thrones would find Dany charred by her own dragons, Arya encountering White Walkers and Tyrion drinking poisoned wine, all in very bloody and violent fashion.

So for all who asked, the short of it is that at 5:00am on Saturday, I was about to take my younger son to the airport. I opened the hatchback of my Prius, swung his suitcase up, and clocked my forehead on said hatch which had caught and not provided its expected clearance.

That hurt.

I saw stars. There was blood. I needed a few minutes to compose myself but I’m Chelsea and a job needed to be done so I got in the car for the 45 minute drive.

“I need coffee, that’s why I feel hazy,” I told myself.

“I’m hungry, not dizzy.”

“Of course I have a headache. I just hit my head, hard, on a car door.”

I got us to Dulles and since we had time, I grabbed a coffee and a bit to eat but those feelings (okay, symptoms) didn’t go away. In fact, I started to feel nauseous (“I’m nervous for Colin to fly alone”) and had a hard time finding the right words to say to him.

After his flight departed, I got back in the car and started to make my way home. But something wasn’t right. My friend Kate offered to come get me. My ex-husband was more direct: don’t mess with the head, go to the nearest ER.

So I did. Well, the second nearest because I will always choose the ER at Sibley if given the choice.

48 hours later, my head still throbs though not quite as severely. I’m still a little light of head when standing, though my goal today will be to do more of that. Writing this is going to take all the screen time I have allotted myself for the morning, but I didn’t want to forget, and now I have somewhere to point people who want to know what happened.

Just please, when checking in on me, do not reference Natasha Richardson.

a big boy now

Colin had been waiting almost exactly 365 days for yesterday to arrive.

About a year ago, Jack let slip that in August, he’d be going to San Francisco, by himself, to spend a week with my dad, their “Papa.” (And by “let slip” I mean the kid can’t keep a secret to save his life.)

Colin fretted all summer. Why not him? Why Jack? It was so unfair.

Oh, the injustice of being the younger child. It’s something I’ve tried to be more cognizant of as a parent. As the oldest sibling among my brothers and sisters, it seemed perfectly fair that Jack would get his adventure first.

After a painstaking year, during which the question, “when am I going to California?” was posed nearly daily, the big day finally arrived, but was shrouded in a typically klutzy Chelsea maneuver that left my literally seeing stars for the drive from home to Dulles.

He was quiet in the car. Not unusual for the 5:00am hour or for Colin. For a kid that can be really loud, he can also be quiet as a church mouse. (Assuming church mice are quiet. I don’t exactly have field experience there.)

As we approached IAD from the parking lot, Colin wrapped himself around my arm.

“Come with me, mommy.”

“I can’t,” I said reassuringly. “I don’t have any clothes to wear.”

“You can buy new clothes,” he offered, hitting me at my vulnerable point.

“Jack is home waiting for me to return.”

“Daddy can go get him.”

The reasons I should go with him continued as we made our way through security and to the gate. I started to dread boarding. Would he cry? Would be refuse to go?

But when it came time, he gave me a hug, pulled his face into the most serious look I’ve ever seen on the kid, and made his way.

And of course, on the other end I know he’s being spoiled, getting the special one-on-one time he deserves and not having to share this experience with Jack or with me. He will return with fantastic stories and detailed accounts of where he was able to drink Dr. Pepper, which seems to be a big goal of his trip.

But it’s up to Papa to break it to him that the Hollywood sign does not live in the Bay Area, as seeing that iconic landmark is definitely on Colin’s bucket list.


on growing things

People, I planted stuff.

And five hours later, everything looks happy still. If plants can look perky, then yes indeed, that is the word I’d use to describe them. What started as a Weekend Warriors project in April has morphed into a new obsession.

I can’t and won’t let the hard work of my devoted friends be for naught.

I had not done much in the yard since my home improvement day except water. And trust me, that endeavor represented a huge outdoor commitment on my part.

Then Lola had to be put down, kids were crying, and I was my own little emotional mess when it hit me.

“Mom, can we go to the pool!” Jack asked on our tear-filled Friday afternoon.

“No,” I replied more curtly than I meant to. “I need some time alone.”

And I went outside.

I started pulling ivy. And weeds. And more ivy, maybe some of it of the poisonous variety. (I know what it’s supposed to look like but part of the evil plant’s power over me renders me unable to identify it when I’m actually among it.) It felt good to just mindlessly pull trails of ivy out of the ground. I suddenly knew what I wanted to do over the weekend.

Saturday turned out to be more of a prep day as between an extra long little league game and visits with friends who wanted to drink to Lola’s long life, I ended up not being able to spend as much time in the yard as I’d planned.

(By the way, when my time comes, I hope you all toast me as robustly as you toasted my cat.)

Sunday I woke up with the birds. Grabbed the book on my nightstand before remembering I had work to do and an entire day to do it. I started with the front yard. I pulled hostas that needed dividing. I reorganized some plants that weren’t getting the sun they needed. And I ended up planting this new flower bed. A Fothergilla anchors the bed, an Abelia taking up the rear, with transplanted hostas lining the brick border that was already in the dirt, just covered by years of neglect.

(Oh, and I pulled out all the ivy and pokeberry weeds that had been the tenants of this space until today.)

I performed lots of other gardenly tasks but this bed was my coup d’état, and five hours later, my back was achy but my heart was filled with pride at how I suddenly converted my black thumb into one of green. It felt good to bring life to my yard after a few days of thinking only of death.

And so here I sit with a crisp Rosé while the kids read (what else?) and I’m planning the next project.

All bets will be off when temperatures hit three digits but for now, I’m enjoying my newfound hobby.