NC2NC: Dog 0, Skunk 1

My dog and I stepped outside Sunday for her last potty break of the night. I had barely closed the door when she took off, chasing something and moving fast. Before I had time to react, she was on the far side of the yard, stopped in her tracks, shaking her head violently. She had met her first skunk, and the skunk won.

Until this point, I had only encountered dead skunks and their unlovely smell along the highway. What filled the air Sunday night was something acrid and burning and immediately horrible, beyond what I would have imagined possible from a skunk.

I had no idea what to do, other than to keep her outside. She had taken a direct hit to the face and right away pulled her green bandana off with her front paw. My husband scoured the internet and made a hasty trip to the nearest grocery store for peroxide. He had to go right back for more.

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“I got skunked.”

I’m not sure how many baths and partial baths she has had since Sunday night. Yesterday, when we got home from running (which felt more like running with a skunk on a leash instead of a dog), I looped her leash to an outdoor hook and got ready to give her another partial bath. She looked up at me and then lay down and rolled over in surrender. “Please not again.” I’m pretty sure that’s what she would have said if she could talk.

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NC2NC: Settling in (and contest winners)

A dear friend of mine sent me to California with a bundle of letters to open on certain occasions (like “something that makes you hum,” and “when you just don’t want to get out of bed”). It was such a sweet gift, and her letters never fail to make me smile when I open them. There’s one I haven’t yet opened.

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An envelope still waiting

I’m not sure when I’ll feel settled. Maybe it’ll be the morning I don’t lose 45 minutes searching for things that I knew exactly where to find in my old house but am struggling to find now (that was me this morning—first, looking for my pup’s vet records so I can keep her all legal here, and second, looking for the little state flags I bought to share with you on this blog).

Maybe it’ll be the evening I don’t have to try every single light switch to get the one I want, though I’ve almost given up on that, convinced that the electrician who wired this house was drunk or otherwise in an altered state of mind, and therefore, I will never make sense of what switches activate which lights. Never.

Maybe it’ll be the afternoon I don’t have to pull up Google maps to find my way to Target. I’ll be doing that later today, and I’d love simply to drive away from my house without a second thought about how I’m going to get to the store.

So I won’t open the letter today. But someday soon, I’ll stop waiting and declare myself settled, at least enough to open the envelope my sweet friend prepared for me.

I did find the flags, though, and here they are:

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From time to time here, you’ll see NC2NC in the headline. That’s my move: North Carolina to Northern California. In each NC2NC post, you’ll see a flag for the state that wins on a certain point, like, say winter weather.

This morning, in my hometown of Raleigh, NC, an ice storm delayed schools. Now, I love a good snow day, but this was no good snow day. Ice is just a frustration and a danger, and I’ve grown to loathe ice storms more than any other winter weather. I heard through Facebook friends that it cleared up quickly, the kids off to school.

However, I didn’t have to experience it myself. Or last week’s chilly morning when my mom called to tell me it had been 14º when she and my dad left for their walk.

So today, I’m ready to declare a winner on the winter weather front: Northern California. Now, I know Tahoe isn’t far away, and I could get more than my share of snow and chains for my tires, but I admit: I’ve enjoyed being able to run in weather that’s warm enough to leave gloves at home and even occasionally take off my jacket and run in short sleeves. In January.

The other three seasons may have me singing a different tune and waving a different flag, but for today, it’s California. And that makes me feel one step closer to settled.

My question for you this week:

For those of you who have made major moves, what was the moment you realized you felt settled?

And now, a drumroll, please …
In last week’s post, I announced that I’d be giving away three copies of my book. Congratulations to John D., Chris B. and Vicky M.! I’ll be sending you each a Facebook message later today to arrange shipment.

For those of you who didn’t win, I hope you’ll consider getting a copy the old-fashioned way.

Asking for a favor
I need a little help. For all of you who have read the book or are reading the book, you would gain my undying gratitude if you would rate and/or review the book on Lulu.com, goodreads,  amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com or wherever else you like to talk about books. Books live and die by reviews, and right now, well … mine could use some TLC. Many thanks in advance.

Have questions about the book? Hop over to goodreads where I’m answering questions about the book and writing in general.

A love letter to my hometown, part 2

Dear Raleigh,

You host some great parties every year, and one of the biggest arrives tomorrow: the State Fair.

I have fond memories of the fair growing up, but somewhere between childhood and adulthood, I lost some of the thrill of joining the crowds there year after year. Last year, I couldn’t ignore your invitation to go to the fair for free during lunchtime. I made two trips in two days and had so much fun. I hope to fit in one last visit this year.

First, I’m not sure you as a city can take all the credit, but thanks for making this year’s fair feel a little safer for me (and many others) by continuing to ban guns. I would say to anyone who feels the need to carry a gun at the fair, well, if you feel that unsafe, maybe the fair just isn’t the place for you.

The fair is a place for fun, not fear, a place for games and rides and food and livestock and quilting competitions and giant pumpkins and pig races and walking until your feet hurt. Raleigh, I thank you for providing that all these years.

Best,
One of your native daughters

For those of you who can’t make it to the fair this year, here’s a virtual tour of some of my favorite (mostly quieter) spots at the fair.

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You’ll notice I’m on the ground looking up, but I used to love to ride the ferris wheel.

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You can’t have too many kinds of ferris wheels at the fair.

I love looking at the arts and crafts competitions. These quilts make me wish I was crafty. They’re beautiful:

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The Village of Yesteryear is probably my favorite place at the fair. This building is filled with craftsmen and craftswomen demonstrating traditional arts and crafts. Among my favorite stops last year were a wood carver and a candle maker.

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Tucked away in a far corner of the fairgrounds is a flower exhibit. Nurseries and other groups set up floral displays for competition and teaching. There’s always a bonsai display, and last year, gorgeous sunflowers stole the show (for me anyway).

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Bonsai tree

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Towering sunflowers

Ever since that one trip to the fair when I got violently ill afterward, I’ve steered clear of much of the food. But I can’t visit without getting a caramel apple. This one was perfect: granny smith apple coated in caramel and peanuts. Delish! I hope I can find this same vendor this year.

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An annual treat

If you only had two hours at the fair, what would be on your must-see, must-do, must-eat lists?

A love letter to my hometown, part 1

Dear Raleigh,

You aren’t a perfect city (there’s the mess you have made of Wade Avenue traffic, for instance), but there’s a lot to love about you. This past weekend reminded me of the particular culture in this place I cherish, one that I’ll carry with me out west when I go.

You understand the importance of celebrating the musical roots of our great state, and this past Friday, you closed down one of your busiest downtown streets for a good old-fashioned street party. IBMA’s World of Bluegrass was making a return visit to town and bringing with it a host of world-class musicians. You scattered stages across several blocks and asked these talented bands to pick and strum and sing for us … for free. You invited vendors who played up a love of music and a love of this fine state. You made it feel like the state fair had landed a little early in downtown, and you made me a little sadder to be leaving just as you’re hitting your stride as host city to this annual festival.

I couldn’t be too sad, though. After all, when Scythian plays on the stage, how can I not be filled with joy? They know how to get a crowd up dancing, singing, bouncing up and down, and making friends with complete strangers.

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Scythian delights the City of Oaks. (Sorry for poorer than usual photo quality. They’re from my cell phone.)

As my husband and I wandered through the vendor area, we saw lots of music-inspired art, plenty of North Carolina shapes on tees and more, and even a stylized banjo made out of license plates.

Then I heard sounds of “The Old Cookpot” drifting down the street. The Duhks were playing somewhere nearby! We couldn’t exactly see them because of the sardine-packed crowd, but what a treat to hear a few songs, including their iconic “95 South” that talks about driving all night to get to Cackalack (that’s Carolina): “95 South, 95 South. That is the way to my baby’s house.” Continue reading

On finding new trees to love

I hope you won’t mind a shorter-than-usual post today. Between trying to sell a house in North Carolina and buy a house in California and finalizing my manuscript to publish my first book, my 24-hour days seem even shorter than usual.

Last week brought a whirlwind house-hunting trip, but I had a few precious hours while my husband worked, and I found a new tree or two that would make my new home feel more like … well, home. Surprisingly (given that I love to support local coffee shops when possible), these particular trees live at a Starbucks in what will be my new hometown. This Starbucks has quite possibly the most beautiful outdoor seating area of any Starbucks I’ve seen:

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Just one side of the outdoor seating area; two stately oaks

Look closer, though, and you’ll see the effects of Northern California’s severe drought, browning leaves and an early leaf shed so the trees can protect themselves.

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I’m not quite sure how I’ll adjust to such a dry environment. Do you think it’s odd that I’m already praying for rain in a place where I don’t yet have any roots?

I’ll leave you with this map of all the trees in the contiguous 48 states (how I wish they had included Alaska and Hawaii in this). How’s it look where you live? If I visited, would I find plenty of new trees to fall in love with and sit under while I drink tea and write? And finally, if I may ask a favor, would you share a kernel of wisdom about uprooting gracefully and moving to what feels like a faraway land?