31 May, 2011

You know it ain't easy...

After work we did our usual thing, fed and walked the dogs. It was too hot today to walk Jake, he's just getting old-old and frail, and walking in this weather wipes him out, and he's too heavy to carry, so he got to stay home.

Walking in this weather is still good for me and the dogs, but I did not enjoy it. By the time I got home I was dripping in sweat. I give the lie to the saying that "women don't sweat, they glow." I plain out sweat until I have it running down my face, down the back of my neck, and everywhere else it possibly can. Even Ginger, who ordinarily wishes we could walk for 5 miles, looked sort of faded by the time we got back.

I've come to the unfortunate conclusion that I need to see both my therapist and Dr. Feelgood, the pill pusher. Even though I'm working as hard as I can to stay positive, my mood is just spiraling down. Really dark thoughts are a daily thing, and I feel increasingly reluctant to do things that ordinarily I would enjoy. I haven't been able to read a book in weeks, I just pick through old favorites, reading a bit here and there, because I can't concentrate enough to follow a longer story. I even got a mystery by an author I like the other day, and after the first two chapters, I thought, "Screw this, I don't even care." But I did care enough to turn to the last three chapters and read them, so I can tell I'm not in the pit of depression!

Trying to look at the positives, at least now when I start feeling like this, I recognize the symptoms for what they are. Years ago, when every sad story on the radio made me think, "Everything sucks so bad that it would be better if we were all dead," I thought the problem was that the world sucked. It doesn't exactly make me laugh, but I can appreciate the absurdity of some of my reactions now.

We leave on vacation next week, so I'll hold off on the therapist until we get back, but I think I'll call Dr. F and see if I can tweak my doses, an oz. of prevention and all that.

On a bright note - we planted some flowers this weekend, and the ones we planted several weeks ago all look  great. The yard is really beautiful. When I consider that when we moved in almost 11 years ago, it was full of wild grape vine, ivy, sticker bushes, and weed trees, I appreciate how pleasant it is now, and feel a bit pleased at how our hard work has paid off.

27 May, 2011

Put the good things on the shelf and the trash in the trashcan!

Years ago, in one of my biannual feeling that somehow I must reorganize my life, I bought Julie Morgenstern’s organizing books. 

You know how I am; I think that by buying books I can change my life. Want to get organized? Buy a book about it! Want to learn how to cook? There’s a book for that! New hobby? Feeling anxious? Want to plan a vacation? Book. Book! BOOK!!

Want to de-clutter your home of all the crap you have, including a LOT of self-help books? Guess what, there are MULTIPLE books that will help you do it!

Anyway, that’s a subject for another day. What I was thinking about is that this was about 10 years ago, and Ms. Morgenstern had started a forum on her site about all kinds of organizing, and one part of it was about cleaning. I used to read the forum every couple of days to see what people were posting about. And one day, on this Cleaning forum, a poster named Kimmy started posting about how she’d been living in squalor, until things were so bad she was about to be thrown out of her apartment.

This was YEARS before Hoarders was a twinkle in a producer’s eye. This was just a bunch of (mostly) women posting about their struggles to achieve and maintain some order and cleanliness in their homes and offices.

Anyway, Kimmy wrote a lengthy series of posts about her efforts to bag up and throw away a house full of junk, clean things that could be saved, and throw away what couldn’t. Then, my friends, she posted pictures. And that was when things when crazy on the forum. Somehow, this woman admitting that her life had descended into filthy, dangerous, demoralizing chaos and being brave enough to post before and after pictures – it gave a bunch of people permission to admit that they too were struggling along in situations that were beyond the usual “my house is a little messy.”

Pretty soon the “squalorees” had overwhelmed the Morganstern forums. (I am pretty sure Ms. Morganstern got aggravated by all these folks who were not commenting on her books and services, and were instead talking about their own problems.) Eventually Julie's forums were closed so the Squalor people started their own forum which was called (I think) Squalor Survivors. 

After a number of years, the woman who moderated it decided she needed to move on, so Squalor Survivors regrouped at Stepping Out of Squalor.

Occasionally when I am feeling overwhelmed, I like to drop in over there, to remind myself that I am not actually living in squalor. Yes, I wish I was a tidier person and that I was more organized, but I am not living in life threatening clutter or filth. So sometimes I go there to get a little bit of there-but-for-the-grace-of-God-go-I. And mostly I get a boost, and then I get up and clean something or throw something away and it's all good.

And then sometimes I read a post that just drives me nuts. Some of these squalorees have obviously read every psych books around and know every reason they live in squalor. They have tons of information and reasons and excuses. What they do not have is the determination to wash a dish or throw away a used Kleenex. And they are so verbal and well-written (like well-spoken, only written) that I don't believe that they are actually mentally ill at all. They are just full of bullshit excuses.

For example:

I know I have all sorts of organizing and sorting and categorizing problems and demand resistance and depression and probably ADD and maybe OCD - but I do wonder sometimes if I might also be the "L" word.

And then she goes on to explain why she's not lazy! No, she's a perfectionist and has "fear of starting" and "fear of failing." And I say, no my dear, your problem is that you are reading too many selfy-helpy books and psych websites, and you are doing too little picking up and throwing things out.
NO, OF COURSE I DIDN'T SAY THAT ON THE SITE. I never post on the site, since I am not a squalorous individual. But I thought it! I mean some of these people (mostly women) have every reason in the world why they don't throw anything out or EVER clean their house. Some of their reasons, like severe clinical depression, seem like good reasons to me. Others, like, "My mother threw away my stuffed animals once when I was little. Then I read The Velveteen Rabbit and saw Toy Story II, and now I can't throw away anything of my childrens, because OBJECTS HAVE FEELINGS!!!!"

So, I have vented and am feeling a little better. We are having a little bbq tomorrow, so I have cleaning to do! Adios, muchachas!

24 May, 2011

You kids have fun in LA, and don't do anything I wouldn't do!

So, I'm watching tv for the first time in quite a while, and American Idol for the first time ever. My parents are in the audience, thanks to the good people at Coca-Cola. Thanks to using their Regal Movie card, they won a trip to LA to see the two shows being filmed.

Until they won the trip they had never watched the show, but Mom watched a couple of times to see what it was like. I think Doyce probably would have been happy to take the trip, but skip the show, but Linda was super excited about seeing the show. It is something new and different and she is always up for new experiences. I'm just glad the finals are all country music all the time. What if it had been rap???

I love that my parents are up to all this travel and go out and have fun and try new things. They spent all those years raising us, keeping their noses to the grindstone, and now they are living large. I love them, and think they are fabulous. They are real American Idols, just good, good people.

20 May, 2011

The end of the world as we know it already IS

Beware: this entry is, frankly, not a lot of fun. I'm not particularly feeling "fun" and this is serious stuff. But it's my party and I'll cry if I want to blog and I'll write what I am thinking about..

According to EAARTH by Bill McKibbin, the planet we knew, the one we've been living on since the year dot, it is gone.

"massive change is not only unavoidable but already under way. Our old familiar globe is suddenly melting, drying, acidifying, flooding, and burning in ways that no human has ever seen. We've created, in very short order, a new planet, still recognizable but fundamentally different. We may as well call it Eaarth."

I posted a typically depressive post about it on facebook the other day when I was in the middle of the first chapter, because it IS scary, sad stuff.  But the news is not completely hopeless. McKibbin believes that we will have to scale back our consumption, learn to rebuild communities where we produce more of what we need locally, and learn to live more civilly. If we do those things, maybe humanity survives.

I hope so, but frankly, my view of humanity is that we are fucked. Most of us can't get along with enough people to create community, and we here in the west (and I do include myself in that) are used to having quick cheap energy at our fingertips, and we don't want to learn how to live with less. We don't want to simplify our lives, eat less meat, stop burning gasoline. We want more: more food, more luxury, more gasoline, more house, more, more more! And we poison the planet to get what we want. And we take advantage of other people to get what we want. And we want people to stay our of our bidness and not tell us what to do. And so what if another species or another hundred species go extinct while we have kid after kid after kid who all want more of everything?

A friend said to have faith. And I have a kind of faith. But my faith doesn't include the people of the world wising up and stopping the destruction we've wrought on the planet. Nope, I have faith that we're on the road to destruction, and have the pedal to the medal.

On a brighter note, if the whackaloons are right, maybe after tomorrow all this is moot!

18 May, 2011

You aren't just going to leave those socks on the floor, are you?

My mother had a friend when I was growing up who was good at everydamnthing you could imagine. She sewed like a fashion designer, she cooked like Paula Deen, she was always tastefully and appropriately dressed, and most of all, she did everything she ever did neatly, tidily, and without the least little bit of muss, fuss, or apparent disorder. Her children were also well turned out, organized, and high achievers.

Understand that I grew up in a wonderful house with everything I ever needed and much of what I wanted, but we were not tidy, we were not orderly, we had lots of muss, fuss, and disorder. I didn't like to comb my hair unless there was a good reason. We were not neat and tidy children, and our Dad - whoa damn, don't get me started on that. He likes stuff, lots and lots of stuff. Mom fought a pitched battle to create order, but you know, chaos theory: One woman cannot hope to win against three people who leave chaos behind them like slugs leave slime. My own house of today is my childhood house Part Deux. It's a lovely little place filled to the gills with lots and lots of barely organized stuff.

Anyway, this friend of my mother's, let's call her Betty Sue, has been on my mind a lot lately because I am drowning in clutter. How did Betty Sue keep that house so organized? I am willing to lay money that Betty Sue never had the experience I had today of digging a pair of pants she wanted to wear out of a laundry basket full of shoes (don't ask) to find that apparently the last time she wore those pants they had a four inch long tear in the groinal region. Sigh. I really liked those pants.

Now I am upstairs in my sewing area cutting out a multitude of 8" squares for MAQ in July. (I am at home today because I did not sleep at all last night and could not function. Instead I slept until 1pm and am now enjoying the rest of my sick day.) I took some pictures so you could see some of what I am doing. Also some of my new fabric. It's from a line called Sherbet Pips, and I just love it. I want to marry it. I may not even make anything out of it, I could keep it and fondle it and lick it and luxuriate in OWNING it.

Here are the fabrics from the Sherbet Pips line. The blue fabric has little dogs chasing balls.
Cuuute! The other are various pink and gray (with touches of blue) that coordinate perfectly.

Here you can see the little dogs and all the dots and squares and details.

37 of the 88 8" squares I need for MAQ. I've got red, blue, black, more blue, purple, more purple, brown, tan, orange, more orange, and yet more orange. I have other blues, purples, and oranges to add.
It's gonna be colorful!!!

Chaos anyone?

17 May, 2011

Deeply Disappointed

On Sunday a friend was supposed to come up. Her birthday is a little past, but she was going to visit. I have her a small (but tasteful) present I'm sure she will like. I also baked her a cake. An hour after she was supposed to be here I got the text that she was sick and couldn't come. I was disappointed, but these things happen.

Tonight I had a massage on my schedule. I showed up right on time and was asked to wait. When the child receptionist (she looks about 12) came out and said, "Miss Graham, didn't anybody call you," I knew I really, really didn't want to hear whatever she had to say. Seems that my masseuse (is that was they are called these days? NO, my massage therapist!) was in the hospital today and someone should've called me to cancel and reschedule, but did not. It was disappointing, but these things happen.

I have been asked to go see a movie on Thursday. Do you think anyone will get sick, be hospitalized, win the lottery and run off to Paris without notifying me? If they do, I'm just going to buy the Trough O' Popcorn, and the Bucket O' Coke and watch the movie by my own damnself. I am tired of being disappointed.

Which reminds me of an awesome, awesome poem:

"A Disappointment" by Louis Jenkins, from North of the Cities. © Will O' The Wisp Books, 2007.

A Disappointment

The best anyone can say about you is that you are a
disappointment. We had higher expectations of you.
We had hoped that you would finish your schooling.
We had hoped that you would have kept your job at the
plant. We had hoped that you would have been a better
son and a better father. We hoped, and fully expected,
that you would finish reading Moby Dick. I wish that,
when I am talking to you, you would at least raise your
head off your desk and look at me. There are people
who, without your gifts, have accomplished so much
in this life. I am truly disappointed. Your parents, your
wife and children, your entire family, in fact, everyone
you know is disappointed, deeply disappointed.

Now, this is me, Amanda, talking again. I love this poem, because haven't we all felt this way sometime in our life, that we are just sadly disappointed in ourselves, and sometimes, that we have been a disappointment to others? I sure have. Yet there is humor too, the line about Moby Dick. I do not truly believe everyone in the world is disappointed in the subject of the poem, but there are times when that is how one feels. And there are people in the world who go through life trying to make others feel that they are "disappointed, deeply disappointed."

16 May, 2011

Does this cookie make me look a little bit gay?

We had a hilarious discussion yesterday at a church dinner I attended. I was talking about baking with my Best Cookie Friend and mentioned that I had been reading my King Arthur Flour Company Cookie Companion book. Just....reading it, with no immediate intention of actual baking, since I'd just made Nigella Lawson's basic sponge cake (which was delish, if I do say so).

BCF said, "I have to bake for coffee hour next Sunday. I was thinking of baking Earl Gray cookies, that seems like a gay cookie to me." Whereupon I burst out laughing and offered my own suggestion for gay cookies - a recipe for Lavender brownies I just read about.

Seems that next week the LGBT group at our church is doing Coffee Hour. We enjoyed coming up with a list of candy, cake, and cookies that would be LGBT appropriate.

Here is a picture of a cookie we made for Halloween. Boo!

14 May, 2011

The Rain it Raineth Every Day

A whole bunch of random randomosity:

An excellent Mexican lunch in Westminster at a little joint called Pappa Joe's. Authentic Mexican more than Tex-Mex, I had the steak tacos with loads of onion and cilantro (I admit I scraped off a lot of the onions). It was good stuff.

Went to Helmand with a large group for Lisa G's birthday. The food was amazing, we did the family style dinner where they just brought out platters of food for the table and we got to try almost everything on the menu. Then back to Lisa's parents for a birthday cake.

The only problem with the day is that I now feel like one of those prize pigs you see at the State Fair: enormous, sluggish, and incapable of anything other than wallowing around pinkly. Ugh. I feel like maybe a day or two of nothing but tea and juice might be a good idea.

We dropped Jim and Andy off at their place and drove home in a downpour. Thomas was driving and I was nervously trying to make sure we were in our lane and not too close to anyone. Once or twice we hit large puddles and I could feel the wheels float a little.

It took me back to some of the family trips we took to Texas when I was a little girl. In my memory there was always a terrible thunderstorm at least once as we drove across the country towards the Panhandle. Is that true or have I just taken two or three storms and generalized? I don't know. What I do know is that I remember sitting in the back seat next to Carmen and watching Mom or Dad hunched over the steering well, peering through the windows into the driving rain. The windshield wipers on the 1962 Chevrolet Impala made a rhythmic whocketa-whocketa while they pushed sheets of water away. Trucks passed us, sending more sheets of water over us. Mom was always tense driving in those conditions, and Carmen and I knew better than to talk or laugh. In those situations, whichever parent wasn't driving would turn around and chew us out. "Your mother needs to concentrate on the road, sit there and be quiet!"

Driving in those crappy conditions now makes me feel much like my Mom did then, tense and out of sorts. Back then, in the backseat, with my parents driving us across Tennessee, Arkansas, or Oklahoma, I wasn't scared at all. Our little family cruising down the highway in that long white car felt safe and secure to me, and the thunderstorms just added a little excitement to a long, long trip.

13 May, 2011

Today was hard for the Triskadekaphobics

I am not afraid of the number 13, the 13th floor, or Friday the 13th. Today, a Friday the 13th, was actually a calm, quiet day.

My friend Samantha, she of the two spinning wheels, sent me a link to her photo album that covers the week long spinning class she took in the Hill Country in Texas. It looked like they had a great time. I do not particularly want to learn to spin, but somehow I wish I had been at the class and learned to dye wool, and been able to sit around with other crafty women and practice an anachronistic craft like spinning, and knitting for that matter.

I talked to my cousin Matt last night and we tossed around the idea of me visiting him next April and taking a Hill Country trip. Several of my Graham cousins (my Dad's first cousins) live there. Matt says April there is just beautiful with all the blue bonnets and other wild flowers blooming.

Deana, my friend and former bookstore supervisor, gave Thomas and I a wheelbarrow full of plants from her garden. We got Euphorbia, ferns, forget-me-nots, mayapple, brunnera, and some of those colored hellebores (as compared to the green ones I already have). All things that will do well in shade or part shade.

I am fortunate to have such a generous friend, and to have a husband with a strong back who will dig as many holes as I need. Thomas doesn't care much about plant material, but he is happy to plant what I choose.

This week I broke my No-New-Fabric vow and ordered some quilting fabric I suddenly just had to have. Not sure why, but it has inspired me to get back to my sewing machine.

I am doing a CSAC home visit tomorrow and meeting Sarah for lunch. Yay! It's supposed to rain tomorrow, so that lets me out of heavy duty yard work. Maybe it will clear up a little on Sunday, because I have flower seeds and veggie seeds that need to get in the ground.

11 May, 2011

Mama said there'd be days like this

Wednesday, which ordinarily is a good day, bit a big weenie on some fronts.

My boss has declared that Wednesday is the perfect day to have a morning full of meetings to discuss everything that is happening with this project.

He passed that down from Mt. Olympus and then took this week off, which is pretty typical of how things are going around the water cooler these days.

So for almost two hours I sat through meeting after meeting listening to people talk about things I do not understand. I have never studied business, know nothing about business analysis, or system engineering, and this project has a butt-load of new terms, acronyms, etc. I felt like the biggest moron, and also wondered how the heck I was supposed to take notes when people were speaking a language I could not understand at all. I spent about half of that two hours feeling like I was going to cry from frustration. Then I started getting angry. By the end of the meeting, if my boss was around, I'd have asked for a meeting to discuss my immediate departure.

I really do intend to talk to him about why he's not giving me more work I'm capable of and like doing. I'm great at administrative work like keeping schedules, maintaining databases, filling out the forms that we all have to fill out, and working with out HR and Security people to get new people set up. Talking about business analysis and designing processes - don't know how to do it, don't really want to.

We had a swim tonight and then went to the library for a little. Thank goodness, I needed to work off some frustration, and a new stack of library books will help fix what ails you!

05 May, 2011

Recommended Reads

I am watching a movie on Netflix - Practical Magic. It's an okay movie, but watching it makes me realize that the book was so much better. The movie does have a good cast, but it's kind of hokey.

I have read almost everything by Alice Hoffman and I would like to recommend some of her books, since I think we are heading into the time of the year when magical realism is especially appropriate.
  • Turtle Moon- A wonderful book to read in the warm weather. You can practically feel the heat and humidity of a Florida summer, when a single mother tries to solve the mystery of her neighbor's death and the disappearance of a baby.
  • The River King An atmospheric story that's the opposite of Turtle Moon, instead of the heat of summer, it's full of freezing images of the northern winter. Love, hate, mystery, and murder at a boy's school.
  • Blue Diary The questions are: how well can we know each other? Can anyone really change? What if you found out that someone you loved did something terrible, would it change how you felt about them? Different from Hoffman's usual stories, no "magical" and all realism.
  • Blackbird House Each chapter is a separate story of people who live in Blackbird House throughout the years. It's beautiful how they all fit together.
  • The Ice Queen  A woman finds that the physical and emotional changes caused by a lightning strike shock her out of her quiet, orderly life into a new relationship with her brother and sister-in-law, into a frightening new relationship, and into a search for a man who has found the secret for fixing lives blasted apart by lightning
  • The Red Garden  Like Blackbird House, a series of interconnected stories set in a New England town.

01 May, 2011

Welcome to the juuungle, it' gets greener here every day.

 The picnic table on our patio. We cleaned up the patio on Saturday and brought out all the chairs, and the cheerfully red umbrella my parents bought us two years ago. You can see a bunch of the plants we got on Saturday at the plant nursery in Davidsonville.
 A close up view of the previous picture. That is three Hosta 'Francine', a Dixie fern, a Heuchera, and Tiarella. All shade tolerant plants to go in shady places around our back yard.

 Corner shade bed that is taking off nicely. One of the Hosta 'Francine' will be taking up residence here.
 A new shade bed we started last year. Already home to about five hosta. Most of the new plants will be fit in here, and we will edge the bed, extending it out a couple of feet.
A potted geranium, purchased this weekend.  It likes sun, so it will be on the patio. We will get more annuals in the coming weekends.

Saturday was wonderful. We went to Homestead Gardens in Davidsonville with Jim and Andy, and Thomas and I were serious plant purchasers. I got all the stuff you see above, five African Daisies of various colors, and several packets of seeds.

While Thomas weed whacked most of the yard (we have got to get that mower out and into service) I potted up some of the new stuff and figured out where to plant the rest. We all (including the dogs) spent most of the day outside. I got out the dog combs and brushes and spent a while currying Ginger. That dog is a hair farmer! I got enough reddish dog hair from her to make a small dog, perhaps a 2 month old Chihuahua.

See that Ginger? She's standing right next to the Hosta 'Sum and Substance' - which is the largest Hosta we will have in the yard. Ginger is not sure what she thinks about the great big plant. The chair she's standing behind is a low reclining chair - Ginger's favorite place to hang out on the patio, she trots out there, hops up and reclines where she can watch the squirrels and birds.

Today, it rained.