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Dead trees tell no tales, but wives do

I’m stepping away from training, running and other talk to write a homage to something I held very dear: the cherry tree in my front yard. Why? It’s my blog and I can write what I want to.



More than three years ago when my husband and I signed our lives and incomes away on a 30-year mortgage, we did so when a beautiful house became available thanks to short sale. I was conflicted by the notion that we were getting our dream house because someone was losing theirs. But I was so very much in love with my four bedroom, three bath home.

We closed on it three days before my 26th birthday. The moment was the result of two years worth of saving our pennies while paying $1,450 in rent at a three bedroom, two bath house on the other side of town. That rental was the first home we shared together. While we were sad to see it go, we were happy to have a place where we could 1) Paint the walls whatever color we damn well chose and 2) Tend to the property how we saw fit.

I’ll back up to 2008.

We moved into the rental house two days before we got married. My husband and I had never lived together before then. It wasn’t for a religious reason or anything like that. It was because finances told us it would be cheaper to pay for our wedding while he lived with his parents for a couple months and I lived with my grandmother.

We were one of more than 20 people who applied for the rental, the only one we looked at. And we got it.

Fast forward to move in day when we discovered two unsettling things.

The first was that the house, unlike advertised, didn’t come with a washer or dryer. Great.

The second was the glaring dead tree in the front yard.

“Do you have any other questions?” the property manager asked us.

“Is that tree dead?” I responded, apparently when we walked through the property a month before I didn’t realize that there were no spring blossoms or leaves or any other sort of indication that stupid tree was dead.

“I’m not sure,” she responded. “If it is, let me know.”


I knew it. My husband knew it. Neither of us wanted to say it.

Then fall came. No foilage. Then winter. At least then it looked normal. When spring rolled back around and the stump started attracting unsavory bugs, I knew it was long past resuscitation.

“We have to do something about the goddamn tree!” I said about six months into our two-year stay at that house.

Finally, as it got colder outside at the beginning of year two, my husband cut off the dead branches. Then, with approval from the landlord, he rented a chainsaw and took that sucker down.

Words cannot describe my excitement about getting rid of that dead tree. I would stare at it everyday while I ran on my treadmill. EVERY. DAMN. DAY.

Too bad Google maps has been updated, otherwise I would have been able to show the monstrosity of a the dead tree. Instead, here’s what it looked like, without the tree in the planter in the center of the yard, the day we moved out.


Grainy photo courtesy of my old school BlackBerry Curve. Well manicured front lawn by me (after I fired the teenage gardeners, but that’s a completely different story). Camaro by Chevrolet.

The day we moved into our new home, I remember saying to my husband: “LOOK, NO DEAD TREE!”

Except my husband decided that at the new house, he would take over the gardening and landscaping duties.

He had “grand plans.”

Those plans included landscaping the backyard, which he has done a beautiful job with. But he also ripped out a set of bushes near the front door because they smelled like “tree sperm” and has threatened, repeatedly, to tear out a massively amazing Juniper bush right at the front of our yard.

We bought a 20-year-old home, with beautiful landscaping, folks.

The curb appeal sold me first. I grew up without sidewalks in front of my house. WITHOUT SIDEWALKS. I didn’t even live in the country.

Not only did I have sidewalks at my house, I had bushes and plants and pretty flowers and trees! Wee!!! Exciting.

A year in, my husband decided the trees needed pruning. Fine. Cut them back a little, I said. I didn’t realize he’d hired professionals who wouldn’t just cut my trees back, but would take away the privacy that I so loved about my house. I’m not kidding. I couldn’t see my neighbor’s backyard from my bedroom window when I moved in. Then my husband went and had the trees cut and NOW I SEE EVERYTHING.

It was a Friday when he had it done. I wasn’t home. I was at school in the morning for newspaper distribution for my students. Then I went and worked a 10-hour day at the newspaper. By the time I got home, after 8 p.m. I drove up to both my apricot and my beautiful cherry tree looking like nude models. And not artistic ones.


That’s what it’s looked like for two years.

I’m not one to hold my tongue when I’m upset. I try, but it’s not in my nature. In fact, I’m told it’s better for me to let it out then to let it build up. My neighbor caught the tail end of my tirade. I was pissed.


That’s the tame version.

And you know what? For two years I’ve told him repeatedly that the tree is dead. That one act of eco-violence killed it. I knew it then.

He had denied it every chance he gets. Nope, the tree isn’t dead. It’s “getting there.” He told me to “give it time.”

Now, I’m not a “tree hugger.” I went to Berkeley. I own Birkenstocks. I even bring reusable bags to the stores on occasion and when I travel. I have a can in my kitchen solely devoted to recycling even. I once floated a lavaliere microphone up a 50-foot Redwood tree near Cal Memorial Stadium, much to the dismay of my master’s project adviser, to interview a “tree hugger.”

But that’s about as far as I go. I wouldn’t chain myself to my cherry tree.

I did love it though. I loved the privacy it gave my yard. I loved it so much I once threatened a teenager who I caught up in it (seriously) with police action if she didn’t get her butt down and “get off my lawn.”

It was only THIS WEEKEND, after my half marathon in San Leandro, that my husband confessed what he did two years ago had finally taken its toll. Those little leaves you see? Those sprouts were the only remnants of the tree “coming back.” And now those little leaves, the only signs of life, are dead.



I have words. None of them are good. But I also know the dead tree isn’t staying in my yard.

My husband was surprised I was more upset about this than some other bad news I received lately. I felt more vindication when he admitted the tree was dead, though, than anger. I KNEW THE TREE WAS DEAD. I’VE COME TO TERMS WITH IT.

After I did the “I told you it was dead!” dance about 10 times, I calmly (calm for me, I raise my voice when I get excited) said: “You will cut down the dead tree. You will take out the stump. And you will replace it. But not with a stupid, small ass tree that you can get for cheap at the nursery. No, you will find a well-established cherry tree or something comparable and you will plant it there. And there will be shade. And it will be beautiful again. But I will not live with another dead tree in my front yard.”

You wouldn’t know by that assertion that my husband and I operated on an even keel around our house. I’m thankful that even know he’s been the “breadwinner” in our relationship since we got married, we both have equal say. But the tree leaves little room for negotiating.

Kill my tree, I also get to keep my Juniper bush.

The bright spot in all of this is that our front lawn, which had been neglected for months when we moved in because it was a short sale property, is thriving with more sun. I also don’t have to look it while on the treadmill anymore. Instead, my treadmill faces the nicely landscaped backyard where a newly planted Japanese maple is thriving next to a hand-laid cobblestone porch. But really, that doesn’t make it any better.

What do you when Kara Goucher signs your race bib?


This one time, at a race expo, super runner Kara Goucher signed my race bib. She was super nice about it and even let me take a photo with her. Which is amazing, because she’s Kara-freaking-Goucher. She can run marathons in the time it takes me to run a half marathon.

This is a fan girl moment for me. A running fan girl moment. I not only have photos of it. I also have the bib.


Now I keep all my race bibs anyway. I’ve included posts on this blog that include my “bib wall” in my home office, i.e. the place where I spend most of my day coding and working on WordPress blogs. I like to look up and be reminded of what I’ve done.

I also keep my half marathon “PR medal” right in front of my computer. All reminders of the amazing things I’ve done running and how far I’ve come just in the past five months.

But a bib signed by Kara Goucher deserves more than just a spot on the “bib wall.”

No. It needs to be put in a place of reverence. It needs to be put somewhere where not just my husband and I will see it. But it also needs to be incorporated into the decor of our home.

So it needed a frame.

Yes, I framed the Kara Goucher signed race bib.


It’s not a custom job, because that would have cost a lot of money. This is a Michael’s 12X12 frame matted down to 8X8. I found an online coupon for 25 percent off. I went for it. The matted area is almost the size of the Rock ‘n’ Roll race bibs, enough to fake it. And see Kara Goucher’s signature. Because that’s really what is important here.

And now the bib is sitting in my family room, above the mantle for my fireplace. It’s part of the decor. Because it’s so awesome it should be.

I should mention this isn’t my first race-related art piece in my home. I should probably do a blog post on all of them one day. Since running is part of my life, it’s also featured prominently in my home.

But this is now my newest prized possession. I’m actually considering taking it to school and putting it on the wall in my office.

So things keep happening


Like us getting a new puppy. She doesn’t have a name yet. My husband is working on that.

But she’s so fun. Our other dogs aren’t quite sure what to do with her yet. I don’t think we ever considered ourselves a three-dog family. But my mom had her. And she kind of found a way into my heart. She was the puppy who, every time I’d go over to my parents house, would come up to me and give me love.

These pups were born last November, about the time everything was falling apart for me.

It’s kind of fitting we have one now.

I’ve been spending a lot of time on WordPress lately, just not doing a lot for this site. It’s part of a freelance gig I have where I get to code CSS all day long. And. I. Love. It.

Words cannot express how much I love it. I get to spend all day doing amazing web work. Plus I get to code in my pajamas. Or running clothes.

In fact, when a friend stopped by the other day I actually told her she was lucky I was in real clothes.

Even better? I get to take a running lunch break. Seriously. When I’m not at school, which is more than 20 hours a week right now, I’m working from home.

So yesterday, when I started getting a little frustrated because I couldn’t figure out a specific line of CSS, I decided it was a perfect time to go for a run.

Eight miles of a run. During the middle of the day.

Of course, that means today I didn’t attempt a long run.

But Sunday is the Super Bowl. And that means I’ll be eating a lot of amazing goodies. So I’m getting myself up early and running.

Ten miles is on my agenda. I need to do 10. I kind of have to. Rock ‘n’ Roll Pasadena is in 15 days. It’s go time. My plan is to it in at least three 10 milers in the next few weeks. I wouldn’t normally go so crazy training mode about it, but I’m really suffering out there.

My husband reminded me that when I had my last surgery, I took off a lot longer than I am now. I reminded him that I couldn’t afford to forgo a $100-plus race right now. Especially since the hotel room is already paid for and everything is all planned out. We even already have our parking permit for the Rose Bowl!

I know none of that matters when it comes to injury, but I’m still just wanting to be where I was before the surgery.

I’m going to say tomorrow isn’t going to help with my waistline, especially since I already know that pulled pork sliders and other meat items smothered in brown sugar and marinades is on the menu.

Then there’s also the knowledge that I’m contributing to my own problem. My friend asked me to bake. I honestly thought my husband and I would take something savory to the party, like mini chicken bakes or a low-fat dish.

Nope. She wanted me to bake.


So I obliged. I made brownie bites with frosting. I also make mini cheesecakes covered in raspberry preserves.

“Better wear some elastic waist bottoms,” she said in a text to me. Yikes. Let’s hope I can knock out that 10-miler without issues. Otherwise I won’t be able to eat anything at that party.