Quite Contrary (Fending for Weeds’ Honor)

Ah, summer. The season in which gardeners turn trowels into paintbrushes and claim nature as their canvas. Granted, if you’re a good gardener, you will have started your garden months before now, when spring first defrosted the soil; but as it is, I am a bad gardener. Though I did plant my seeds a few weeks ago, I have little hope that they’ll reach their full potential due to their late start. Hey, at least they’ve started growing.

But gardening does give me something to think about and look forward to. Every day I water my little patch of soil and hope that I won’t kill the plantlife I have willed to life. The problem is, I can’t tell my photoautotrophic babies from weeds. I am a terrible mother.


So I decided to sit myself down and do some Garden Googling. I looked up the types of weeds in Pennsylvania, and how to recognize them, and discovered that yes, only three of the seven types of plants that I planted are actually growing —  the rest are weeds. I had had my suspicions before my research, but this confirmed it.

But my Garden Googling didn’t stop at weed identification. Oh, I was still researching weeds, but boredom will often gravitate you toward things you are more passionate about, and for me, that thing is the power of words. I love nitpicking the English language, for better or for worse. I looked up several definitions of the word “weeds”, and, contrary to what is supposed to happen when you learn about weeds, by the time I was through, I decided that I kind of relate to the little suckers.

Dictionary.com tells me that a weed is a “valueless plant growing wild, especially one that grows on cultivated ground to the exclusion or injury of the desired crop”. Not gonna lie, my mind immediately replaced “plant” with “person” upon reading this definition (because what good is life if it can’t be wrought with metaphors?). If we’re going by this definition, I’m willing to bet many people could call themselves a weed. There are thousands of books and films that just eat up the idea of a “wildchild” living in high society, raising hell and ruffling the feathers of the elite. These “weeds” are usually the hero of the story, though often the “injury” that the desired crop receives is translated into a blessing in disguise — some hoity-toity rosebud will be influenced by the wildflower and sow a little seed themselves (so to speak).

But some may feel more inclined to relate with this snippet of The Free Dictionary’s definition: “A plant considered undesirable, unattractive, or troublesome, especially one that grows where it is not wanted”. Well, apart from basically nailing the emotions that everyone felt in middle school, it also describes a handful of adults in every social circle. You know who I’m talking about: the person who makes you feel like you’re meeting Milton from Office Space, but not the version that you can laugh at on screen — the real version, the one that causes you discomfort every time you interact. Maybe that’s a little extreme; but there are plenty of people out there that get brushed under the carpet. And chances are you’ve found yourself in that state of mind at some point in your life before. I feel that way all the time, questioning just how “wanted” I am in a social situation.

Thirdly, there are people who more accurately fit Merriam-Webster’s description, which describes a weed as “one that tends to overgrow or choke out more desirable plants”. These are the hostile little bastards that make only three out of seven of your intended plants grow (I’m saying this, of course, as a completely neutral party). Everyone knows someone like this, whether it’s in the workplace or through mutual friends, or even in your family.

The point is, there are just as many variations of weeds as there are people.

I know that I’m supposed to write about how we need to “remove the weeds from our lives”, but weeds are so much more artistically versatile than you’d think. Here’s where my internet research started to get more fun… because after dictionary definitions, I just had to look up authors’ quotes about weeds. Their views on these troublesome, undesirable plants tend to be much more poetic and empowering:

“What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

A weed is but an unloved flower.”
– Ella Wheeler Wilcox


“Weeds are flowers, too, once you get to know them.”
– A. A. Milne

And one of my personal favorites:

“When weeds go to heaven, I suppose they will be flowers.”
– L.M. Montgomery

Which just goes to show that even the weeds amongst us have hopes and dreams, feelings and virtues and a longing for love.

And they can be pretty.

Perhaps not always in the traditional sense — sometimes weeds are just a bunch of snaggly leaves — but some of them have flowers. And some have (or can be given) a purpose: poison ivy can prevent erosion, and purslane makes a nice, sour snack. Sometimes it is not the nature of the plant that makes it a weed, but the nature of the person beholding it.

imageThe thing is, it’s a shame that we call some of these guys weeds, just because we didn’t intend for them to be in our garden. Sometimes it is the most unexpected relationship that blooms into the most beautiful friendship; and yet oftentimes we make a snap judgment and pull these people out of our lives by the roots because they’re frankly not the most attractive addition we were hoping for. I find myself doing this more often than I’d like to admit.

I will leave you to ruminate on the weeds in your own garden; but to finish with a flourish, here is a quote from Les Misérables:

“With the exercise of a little care, the nettle could be made useful; it is neglected and it becomes hurtful. It is exterminated. How many men resemble the nettle!” He added with a pause: “Remember this, my friends: there are no such things as bad plants or bad men. There are only bad cultivators.”
― Victor Hugo


In Loving Memory 1928 – 2015

My Grandma had a tradition when I was a kid: when we would visit her and Grandad, she would stand in the doorway as we all got in the car to leave, and flick the lightswitch on and off to say goodbye as we drove away. Oftentimes she would also make the shorthand “I love you” sign in ASL. I remember my sister and I would crane our necks to see the light flickering, and to see her smiling out at us.

I had another post all written out for today, about gardening; I wrote it last night, but didn’t post it, thinking I’d let it stew overnight for editing purposes. I’m glad I waited, because it would not have truly reflected what I’ve been feeling today.

Early this morning, my grandmother passed away.

The thing is, there’s no putting into words exactly how I feel about that, because every few minutes it feels like I’m rediscovering the news. My mind still geographically holds a place for Evolene Boyne.

It’s like my mind is split into two right now: the first part exists apart from language; it’s the part that feels, and acts on instinct — it’s made up of the familiar, dealing with impressions and not calculations. It’s the part of the mind that understands object permanence, but on a more spiritual level: just because you take something away doesn’t mean it’s not there. It’s always there and will always be there. And that part of my mind gets that, but maybe takes it too far. And then there’s the other part of my mind, the part that does know language, and understands but has to explain to that other part of me that object permanence doesn’t work for death. There’s a child and an adult inside of me, and the child thinks she’s going back to Massachusetts to see her grandmother, and the adult keeps having to remind her that she’s gone.

This will be the second time this month that I’m going back to Massachusetts. I just wish it didn’t have to be for the funeral.

I will always hold onto the memories I have of her: the piano lessons she gave me, and those couple of accordion lessons that never progressed into anything; getting lunch, whether it was at Friendly’s or Hearth ‘n’ Kettle or Giardino’s; acting like a typical grumpy teenager when she would pick me up from school; family dinners at the Yarmouth House. And the laughs we had — that time she called my cousin Stephen “hot”; laughing at her laughing at the man on Jeopardy; the time she found a piece of spinach behind her ear, and the time she had a brain fart during Scrabble and thought that “zip” and “zap” started with a “J”; that time she saw Angelina Jolie on TV and thought it was her.

She was the sweetest woman, and the best grandmother a kid could ask for. It was unbearable seeing her suffer in the hospital, but at least now she’s not suffering anymore. And I’m glad I got to see her once more before she went, and tell her I love her. If I had known, I would have switched the light on and off to say goodbye. I’m gonna miss you, Gma. I love you so much.

Fighting the Inevitable

It always seems to rain when I’m on Cape Cod. Maybe it’s life’s way of telling me I need to visit more often — I do my best to come when I can, to see family and a handful of friends and say a quick hello to the ocean (bad weather be damned). But maybe that’s not enough.

Especially now that my grandparents are showing their age. They never used to do that — sure, Grandma’s back got a little more hunched, and Grandad seemed to be shrinking as time went on, his fingers getting thick and bouldery from arthritis, but they were fine. The only way they really showed their age was with hair color and hearing aids.

imageMy Grandma is the sweetest little old woman you’ll ever meet. She’s got pretty blue eyes (thanks for the genes, Grandma!), and just a shade of an Oklahoma accent; she owns far too many sweaters. When I was a kid, she was my gum dealer; Becky and I would ask for a stick of gum, and she’d rip one in half and give us each a piece. Just about her favorite thing to do as far as I can tell is go to lunch; she likes to eat chicken fingers, and if for some godforsaken reason there are no chicken fingers imageon the menu, she’ll settle for crabcakes. When she was a little more spry, she would come up behind you and pat you on the bum for entertainment. And she always used to join in on family game time, especially for games like Scrabble and 99. My cousins and I have nicknamed her “Gma” (welcome to the digital age).

imageWe nicknamed my Grandad “Gdad”. Grandad is a gruff man of little words; he enjoys a good Scotch, and most days you can find him at Giardino’s with the boys. He co-owns a little hunting cabin in New Hampshire with two old friends, which they named Bear Lodge, and sometimes he’d bring the whole family up to stay there for vacation. He loves nature — whether he’s hunting it, or just watching it out the window. He always throws food out in the backyard for the birds, and religiously maintains the bird feeder in the front yard (it’s even got a heater!).image

The only real downside of moving away from Massachusetts is that I don’t get to see my family that much. Now that my grandparents are both in their 80’s, travel is too much for them, so it falls on me to come see them as often as I can.

In the past two years, they’ve both been taking a medical beating as their bodies have rebelled against their wishes. A few weeks ago, both of them were in the hospital with heart trouble. Grandad is still waiting to hear back about getting surgery to replace a heart valve, but all Grandma needed to be sent home from the hospital was some medicine.

But Grandma hasn’t gotten off the hook, health-wise. In fact, what was meant to be a simple weekend trip to go to a Red Sox game with my mom and aunt quickly turned into a perfectly timed trip to visit Grandma in the hospital. She’s fallen several times over the years, and this week it left her with a broken hip. After the hip surgery, she was admitted to a rehab center, and things were supposed to get better after that, but unfortunately, they took a turn for the worse: the rehab center gave this tiny old woman oxycodone, robbing her of her lucidity. With both my grandparents, the problem of deterioration has never been of the mind; so when this happened, it was a cold shock. It was pretty clear that the oxy was the problem, so my family asked the rehab center to take her off the oxycodone and just give her Tylenol for the pain. They agreed — and then the next day gave her a double dose of oxycodone.

So poor Grandma was all messed up. She wasn’t able to remember people, she was hallucinating, and she kept asking for her mother and father. My family moved her back to ICU at the hospital — just to get her out of rehab — but the damage has already been done. Since she hadn’t really been rehabilitated when she was supposed to be, it’s like starting from scratch. Everything hurts her. She can barely keep her eyes open. And while she is getting better, it’s such a slow, painful process that she thinks she’s getting worse.

Nothing is worse than hearing your grandmother say that she’s scared she’s going to die.

But in an odd way, the fact that she’s feeling that pain, and understanding it, proves that she’s getting better. She doesn’t believe us when we tell her that, of course, because she’s still in pain; but oh, she’s getting there.

I hate having to worry about my grandparents; as much as I hate to admit this, I worry that this will be the last time I see them face to face. I worry whether I said enough to them, expressed how much I love them — I probably didn’t, because I’m so scared that they’ll get freaked out and think I’m expecting them to die. I can imagine the greatest scenarios in my head in which I tell them how much they mean to me, and there’s that lovey dovey feel-good moment, but when I’m actually there, my mind goes blank, and suddenly it’s Tuesday — time to leave. So that worry remains. I think they know I love them. I mean, beyond the words “I love you” — I think they know that it’s not just words. But there’s still that part of me that says, it’s not enough that they know; I just want to spend more time with them. Look how selfish I am.

So now, I’m on a bus back to Harrisburg, thinking about how one day I’ll return to the Cape and catch a sunny day. And with any luck, it’ll be to visit my Gma and Gdad.

image  image

Visiting Past Sam

Hello, all you wonderful people who are bored enough to read this blog. It has now been two weeks since my last post, something that I wish I could say just occurred to me but in reality, I have thought about every day for the past week. I just couldn’t think of anything to write.

I have had this problem in the past, but usually I’ve forced myself to overcome it and just pick a damn subject to ramble on about. So I can’t really excuse myself in this situation. In fact, I think it really boils down to laziness. BUT, as an apology for being lazy, I decided to go through a bunch of old journals that I wrote as a kid and show you how freakin’ hilarious I was as a child. You’re welcome.

I have boxes full of old notebooks that I filled as a kid, many with stories and characters. But for now, I’ll just show you journal entries — you don’t need to be bored by the fictional adventures created by a girl who hadn’t quite mastered plot structure.

But I’ve got lots of fun things to show you. For example, the phase where I ended every journal entry with “Bye!”

Or the journal entry in which I quite literally wrote everything that was happening (I swear, I wrote just for the sake of writing):

In which I was extremely polite and humble in my school journals:

In which I treated life events with casual demeanor:


In which I was a stubborn, true-to-myself individual who would not bend to my teacher’s will:



In which I spoke to my journal like it was a person:

In which I was a little too enthusiastic:

In which I made Becky write a television show with me:


I’d like to think that my writing style has improved over the years. But it is still a lot of fun to go through old journals and connect with Younger Me, that zany, unbridled personality that has now grown up. Hopefully I haven’t grown up too much.

Anyway. Enjoy! Next week I’ll be back with a more thought-out post. Promise.