Year of the Goat

Thursday is my favorite day of the week. Friday contains just the faintest hint of a depressing aura because subconsciously I know it’s seven whole days before the next Friday; Saturday causes the depressing aura to blossom, what with Monday so close at hand. Sunday, of course, is the worst. But on Thursday, I’m excited that it’s almost the weekend. I stay up late because I can sleep in on Saturday. You can’t beat Thursdays.

botanics one

Last Thursday, however, was an exception. That Thursday I was really feeling the string of bad luck we’ve experienced in 2015, so far. This requires some background, I realize. To begin with, mice invaded our house early in the New Year. After catching six or seven mice in traps, we spent seven or eight hours one Saturday boarding up every possible hole with steel wool, cursing the former owners for not having done this when they owned the house, spraying peppermint oil everywhere like crazy people, and disinfecting every inch of the surfaces and floor in the kitchen. It was exhausting—especially so when more mice kept slowly appearing. Then, our dishwasher broke; our ice cream started melting in the freezer, and when we tried to fix one of our two dripping toilets, we made it worse. Following that, I was diagnosed with two rare musculo-skeletal diseases, which requires untold amounts of time and money spent on physical therapy and new, orthotically-correct, shoes. The hits just kept coming, right along with the rude weather-forecasters predicting snow which failed to result in snow days, but did result in days of bone-chilling, record-producing lows. We could have handled all of these predicaments without much fuss, fanfare, or mental anguish, had it not been for our gnawing feelings of general unease and uncertainty about life.

You see, in order to someday get to here, we have a plan that involves many steps. We checked off step one last April. Step two we completed last August. We’ve been working diligently on publishing a paper in a law journal (step three) since December. Then, at the beginning of January, we started working on step four: submitting applications.

But since then, we’ve been waiting and waiting to hear the results of step four—with no timeframe on when we’ll hear. Nonetheless, throughout January, the paper was still going really well. But as January rolled into February and we continued to hear nothing, anxiety mounted. Then, about two weeks ago, we received news that step five (which we had also been working on) was far more complicated and difficult than previously thought. Unsurprisingly, when the conflicts with step five collided with step four’s waiting game, effective work on the paper ceased: step three ground to a standstill. For someone as planning-oriented as me, it’s hard to focus on the present—and on an admittedly technical, somewhat dry academic paper—when the future is suddenly unclear and complicated.

By last Thursday, I’d had it, and even the beauty of a Thursday did nothing to lift my ennui. After a dreary morning of work, I had finished my lunchtime gym workout and was in the shower with a head full of shampoo when the water suddenly went off. Great. When I made it back to my desk, I discovered that a water pipe had burst in the building, so we were all free to go home. Normally, this would be cause for excitement, but it was frigidly cold; I was starving and wasn’t able to eat my lunch, and was in no mood for sightseeing.

I headed over to the National Botanical Garden—which I hoped would be a pleasant way to escape winter’s chill—and walked smack-dab into the middle of a cooking demonstration for vegetarian meals comprised of whole grains and vegetables. Five minutes after I arrived, I received a hefty sample of winter-greens casserole. It was delicious. Then I watched the demonstrators prepare a Mexican black-bean and vegetable quinoa casserole. It, too, was delicious. Not only was the cooking demonstration fun, but I learned a lot. I even surprised myself by asking a question about the proper preparation of quinoa.

Then I toured the Botanics. Twice! It was beautiful and even more so the second time around. I learned about the Amazon, Alaska, orchids, the medicinal qualities of plants, gardenias, the environmental impacts of acidic rain on soil erosion, and I came up with one hundred and one new ideas for our garden this summer. It was a breath of nicely-scented, fresh greenhouse air. Things were looking up. For the first time in awhile, I was thinking about things other than our paper, applications, household mishaps, and step five. As I left the Botanics I was hopeful that the gray clouds had lifted and everything was beginning to fall into place. My hope grew when I learned later that that very Thursday was the Chinese New Year, ushering in the Year of the Goat. (Tanner dearly love goats.)

botanics two

This Saturday morning, after shopping for my sister’s wedding dress in Georgetown with my family, we stopped in at the Walking Company to check out their shoes. When we emerged an hour later to drive home, Georgetown was enveloped in a blizzard. After a brutal four-hour drive back home to Baltimore, we decided we had to all camp at our house for the night, and we started scrounging up bedding and dinner for seven (no small feat in a snowstorm). It wasn’t too long before we heard a deafening noise in the basement and witnessed an actual waterfall cascading from the basement ceiling, causing my hopes for better luck in the Chinese New Year to come crashing down.

And there we were: Seven starving people in a house, no running water, and no hope of a plumber until Tuesday.* We spent the rest of Saturday banging around in the basement, tracing the water pipes, identifying the problem pipes, and collecting and boiling snow for drinking water. (Thankfully, we’d already drawn water for spaghetti before the pipe burst.)
The plumber came yesterday, and we have running water again. We now know where the water valve is, where the propane switch is, and that there is an appalling lack of insulation in our kitchen. Focusing on the problem helped us center ourselves, and I think we’ve learned something from the ordeal. Things are (tentatively) looking up again.

As silly as it seems, the difficulty of not having water for several days puts things into perspective.* It may take us a long time to figure out steps four and five, and it will probably be confusing and difficult. It’s rotten not knowing what our life is going to look like five or six months from now. But I know we’ll have running water tomorrow and the day after that, and that’s no small thing. So for now, we’re going to focus on finishing our paper and the small day-to-day joys in life: books, cooking, gardening (it’s almost time to start planting our vegetable and flower seeds!), and, of course, family and friends.

Tomorrow is, again, Thursday. It does come around every week, after all. Here’s hoping the good Thursday-vibes will return (and cause tonight’s anticipated show showers to result in a Thursday work cancellation).

*Fortunately, we have three bathrooms.

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3 Responses to Year of the Goat

  1. notorious s.t.u. says:

    sorry about your bad luck streak. i am sure that it will end soon and the future is SO bright!!!

  2. Trevor Smith says:

    In my experience, there’s no such thing as luck.

    It seems you are being showered with opportunities to hone your home-maintenance skills, as well as develop your ability to improvise and adapt to unforeseen circumstances! The latter skills in particular will prove indispensable, no doubt. All plans are great until the first shots are fired! Continue to crush it.

    I’m sorry to hear of your malady. Work hard at your physical therapy, and watch your powers grow!

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