Organizing as Coping

Japanese Maples

These reddish twigs are apparently Japanese maples that forced their way from under a pile of wood and bricks. Cool.

As anyone who regularly reads this blog knows, my father has liver cancer. The most recent news was not as good as we’d hoped, but not any more dire than the initial diagnosis. He still feels pretty good right now, so that’s what matters. Basically, it’s a lot more waiting and watching, and not a lot of being able to do anything about it.

Here’s a news flash: I’m not good at any of that. I much prefer an action item. Absent one, I tend to invent them. So today my nephew and I rearranged the basement while my husband ran screaming into the woods. (or to go play D&D, I forget which) Having been married to me for many years, my husband can sense a frustration fueled organizational frenzy from miles away. Like a meerkat, he can pop up from his car, sniff the air, and quickly drive away again. I didn’t marry a fool.

My nephew, I think, may be a bit more like me. I think he appreciated what was happening in the basement. After all, his grandfather is my father, so we’re going through some of the same feelings. I also think he may tend toward control-your-environment coping, because after helping me sort out the basement, he went into the yard and began clearing out stuff and loading yard debris into the back of the truck. It’s a beautiful day, probably the nicest one we’ll have for a while, and pulling vines and breaking up old fencing is probably more than a little therapeutic.

In the midst of all that mess, my nephew found two Japanese maples that had taken root. He disentangled them from some old lattice work, and moved some rotting firewood away from them. After a few hours, they were already starting to straighten up. Silver linings. Take them where you can get them.

Dear Mr. Chipmunk

You were no doubt displaced during the stump grinding of the gigantic oak, however, I feel that you have not adequately thought through the move to the flower box behind the porch. You see, the flower box is inside the fence. I recognize that the fence presents no barrier to you, but it’s there to stop the dogs from terrorizing the neighborhood. You’ve moved inside the fence and now they live to kill you. Seriously, they want you dead. You might have thought they were kidding when they chased you behind the rain barrel, but they weren’t. They won’t forget you are there and they won’t stop watching. Actually, thanks to you, my girls are getting along better than ever. They are even working together to kill you. That’s heartwarming in some ways, but I’d rather not have to pick up your lifeless body just so they can bond a little. Please move outside the fence or maybe to the neighbors yard. They don’t have a dog. Meanwhile, I don’t want to be an alarmist, but in the interest of full disclosure, this has happened before. See exhibit A. Then close up shop and go.

Best wishes,
The Lady Who is Trying to Save Your Tiny Little Life

Exhibit A

Exhibit A

The Tree

I’m a big fan of trees. I actually used to serve on the Fairfax County Tree Commission. I mention this because last week we had to have a two-hundred-year-old oak removed from next to our house and it was upsetting for a variety of reasons. At first, it was upsetting because a limb the size of a large tree fell off of the main tree and filled up our front yard and part of the street. The fire and rescue department had to come and cut off the limbs that were blocking traffic.

The next day, our friend the arborist, came out to assess the damage and remove the rest of the limb. The assessment wasn’t good. The falling limb left a hole that went more than half way through the base of the tree. Since the diameter of the base was six feet, the hole was quite large. There was no way the tree was going to survive, even though the rest of it looked fine from the outside. There is a lesson in there somewhere about not judging something by it’s outward appearance, but at the time, I wasn’t concerned about that as much as I was upset about losing the tree. It was a grand old tree and it provided a great deal of shade to our house in the summer, which saved us money on our electric bill. It was also beautiful and probably the nicest feature of our yard.

I was also upset about how much money it was going to cost to take it down. It was a lot. Much more than the cost of your average tree, although the estimates varied quite a bit based on whether or not the company had it’s own crane. Cranes are pretty expensive to rent and we needed one. One company just wrote “You need a bigger tree company,” on the estimate sheet that they left in our door. That was probably my favorite. We settled on JL Tree Service out of Fairfax and they did a wonderful job. Hector and his crew came out and worked from 8:30 in the morning until 5:30 in the evening without stopping. The crane was able to move long straight lengths of oak that could be planed into boards on to a dump truck. Smaller limbs were chipped on site. The broad base of the tree took the longest time to cut down because it was wider across than their biggest saw. When they finally were able to pull it over, I got really upset. The base of the tree was rotting, and the rot got wider and wider as it approached the ground until it reached the roots which were in terrible shape. None of this was visible from the outside.

I could take the toe of my shoe and push off chunks of sodden oak off. Below that the roots looked desiccated and were black like rotten leaves. Since everything above where the first limb fell off was solid oak, what we had standing next to our house was a ticking time bomb. The tree was incredibly top heavy and had that initial limb not fallen off, we never would have known that. Had it fallen, it would have gone through an intersection, hit two of our neighbors’ houses, taken out power lines for the entire street and pulled out part of the foundation of our house. It could have killed someone or several someones. Standing on the stump, I felt very lucky.

It took Kyle and his crew two days to grind the stump and above ground roots and haul away the resulting mulch. They did a nice job and now we just have a large area of the yard that we’ll need to seed in the fall. I suppose the moral of this story is to be mindful of the trees in your yard. They are beautiful, but they can also be deadly.

The size of the base.

The size of the base.

You can see the size of the base in comparison to the cab of the truck.

You can see the size of the base in comparison to the cab of the truck.