Saturday, December 29, 2007

The power of a table

When I was a girl the most important things were dealt with at the dining room table. This is where my mom and I met up each morning before dawn to have breakfast together and talk about the previous day. Mom often worked several part time jobs at any given time to make ends meet, and we didn't get much time together. The table was where I learned to sew and crochet; we put puzzles together at the table and played board games. I did my homework at the table, took my lectures at the table, and whenever I had to explain my bad behaviour to Mom, I sat at the table to do it.

A dining room table symbolizes adult-hood to me. I still do my homework at the table, and when I have something really important to talk about I still feel the need to sit at the table with a cup of coffee while talking about it.

The Husband and I don't agree on dining room tables, and he doesn't put the same level importance on them as I do. We've had several hand-me-down tables over the years, none of which I have been completely pleased with. The table he used when he was single was a small card table with folding metal chairs. I hated that table. The table after that was a fine table, from the 60s with a dark blue top but it had no chairs so we continued to use the metal folding chairs. Those chairs make me feel so temporary. The most recent table was glass-topped with matching chairs, but the chairs were not very well built and have been systematically breaking. The third of four chairs broke yesterday, and I was distraught. I persuaded The Husband to agree to a new table, which now lives right in my dining room. It is a wonderful table, with four perfectly matching chairs. I got up early this morning just so I could sit at my table with a cup of tea.

Since getting this table, I've also been more inclined to cook. If The Husband had known that the way to get me to cook was to buy me furniture, he would have done it long ago.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Cookie Emporium

I worked a half-day today. Ross came to work with me and spent the day shopping in Beaverton. Then I came home and baked. I'm not winning any awards or anything, but I'm quite pleased with my progress. When Tanya and I baked earlier this month we joked about opening a candy store. I'm starting to think I really should. I experimented with Fudge Tassies. This is a pastry batter poured into a muffin tin then filled with fudge and baked. It resembles a small chocolate pie. The batter is a little dry, consisting only of butter, cream cheese, and flour so it begs for something like whip cream. I also experimented some with my carmel. I've only made it once before, so I was not entirely sure what to expect. Last time it didn't hold a shape at all. This time I think I cooked it too long. It resembles brittle more than carmel, but I'm told the flavour is good. I don't actually like carmel so I don't know the difference.

Tomorrow my parents are coming over for coffee and homemade goodies, then I'll spend the rest of the day pretending it's a normal day and ignoring the fact that it's Christmas.

Happy holidays.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Restless frustrations

Today left me covered in a sticky, oily unhappiness. I felt pulled in so many different directions, and I wanted to give up on all of it. It didn't help that I didn't want to go to work today at all. Once I got there, I didn't want to stop for lunch; didn't want to take my breaks because of all the things I need to do. I didn't want to be concerned that I didn't get all my accounts caught up, and I still have to plan for holiday coverage, and I must deal with several personnel issues before the end of the year, and payroll is due Friday. I didn't want to make the long drive home in the rain. I didn't want to worry about eating dinner, and the timing of our evening plans, and what time I would go to bed so I can get up at a decent hour and get to the office early so I can worry about it all over again.

Once again I feel so negative about everything, but I can't give any good, coherent reason why I am unhappy. I keep thinking (hoping) that moving closer to the office will help alleviate the biggest source of stress in my life. I've also started thinking about my overall stress levels in life. I realized recently that for most of my life, something relatively large would happen every few years. Something that would change my life, something traumatic or important. That has tapered off in the past couple of years, and I feel like my spirit is tensing for something. Like a big, dark, hidden thing is waiting for me and deep down I know it's there. I feel restless waiting for it. I want it to jump out and gobble me up so I can stop fretting over it and get on with the dying part.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

December babies

Today Colin would have been 40 years old. He used to joke that he hoped to be dead before he reached 40.

December is a busy month for birthdays in my life. I missed a best friend's birthday yesterday, and I feel awful. Happy birthday, RHG. I'm sorry I suck at this whole friend business.

Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer

I saw the first Fantastic 4 on my honeymoon. I'm sure the excitement of being on my honeymoon made watching the movie more enjoyable than the movie actually deserved. I did like it, but I think the associations with watching it lent it more coolness in my mind.

We watched the newest Fantastic 4 last night. Jessica Alba remains cuter than cute, but I was not overly thrilled. The silver surfer was awesome, but I didn't feel we saw enough of him. There could have been more pew-pew, and the effects were under-done. There were a couple of fleeting "oooh ahhh" moments for me, but for the most part I felt rather underwhelmed.

Also, I hate Reed Richards. I find this character incredibly annoying. I was hoping he would die. A lot.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Holiday baking

I was out to dinner with a co-worker recently, and she was telling me about a holiday baking tradition in her family. Everyone gets together and bakes cookies and visits and shares their sweets. She lives far from her family now, and seemed a little wistful about enjoying that experience. My family doesn't have any traditions unless one counts ostracizing targeted family members randomly or gossiping about each other privately. I thought her family sounded much nicer than mine. Sometimes the lack of tradition and love in my family makes me a little sad; I suggested that she come to my house and she and I could bake and laugh ourselves silly. Those who know me know that I don't normally prefer to spend my time, holidays or no, with other humans; also, I don't cook. So, my offer surprised even me, and she took me up on it.

We spent today messing up my kitchen and laughing our fool heads off. We had a really terrific time, and I now have enough cookies and candy in my house to send me into sugar shock. The first thing we made were fudge thumbprint cookies. These are excellent, chocolately cookies; they have peppermint extract mixed in, and powdered sugar outside. They are very rich, and would make me want to drink a very large glass of milk, if I drank milk.


I'm not sure rosettes qualify as a cookie, but they are my new favourite thing. These are made with a two-pronged device that looks like it should poke both eyes out at once; the ends of both prongs are threaded, and different shaped "irons" are screwed onto the ends. Heat a pot of cooking oil to somewhere between 265 and 275 degrees; dip the iron into the heated oil to prime it, then dip the iron into a batter that is nearly identical to waffle batter. Submerse the batter-dipped iron in the heated oil and work the batter off the iron. Ideally, the batter will retain the shape of the iron, and you cook it for a minute or so then pull it out of the oil, shaking off any excess. We used a star-shaped iron and a heart-shaped cup. We filled our cups with strawberry jelly and topped it with more powdered sugar.

I learned about spritz cookies today. I had never made, nor heard of, spritz cookies. Tanya has a cookie press from her mother-in-law, which I think is the best thing ever. Spritz cookies are created by first forcing your cookie dough into the tube of a cookie press, then cranking the dough out the end of the tube which has been capped with a sexy shape. Today's shapes were trees, snow-men, and stars. The stars really looked more like nipples, and the snow-men really looked like dog turds, but they were green and flavoured like almonds. I also made shortbread cookies and carmels.

I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this. Baking and socializing and other such girl behaviour doesn't normally interest me much, but Tanya is enough like me that spending a day cooking with her is actually enjoyable. I am exhausted from a day of baking and laughing, but I had more fun that I expected to and I have so many yummy sweets to show for it.



Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Is it too early to make resolutions?

I don't normally make New Years resolutions. I find myself less likely to keep them if I make a big deal about making them. This year, however, I resolve to visit my dentist more often. I don't have any particular trauma associated with dentists, except that I hate them. I hated going to the dentist as a child, and have only been twice as an adult. I still hate going.

My dentist is a nice enough fellow, but he hasn't got any breasts. I'd be a lot more inclined to keep regular appointments if he had breasts. Because I tend to avoid regular teeth cleaning, it's a particularly painful procedure each time. And, because it's so painful, I avoid doing it for the most part. I've finally faced the fact that I am simply making the whole ordeal worse by allowing myself to procrastinate, hence my resolution.

So, I've been to the dentist two days in a row. I had the hands of multiple strangers stretching my mouth to its capacity, and not in the good way. I'm cranky and in a lot of pain. I would like copious amounts of booze or drugs. Unfortunately, I am all out of drugs and the only booze in my house is of the very cheap, very old, very non-consumable variety.

Someone please call my house to make sure I haven't killed my husband.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Spiderman 3

Spiderman 3 came in the mail. I assembled a snack plate, closed the blinds, and cuddled up on the couch expecting to be dazzled. I was not dazzled.

I enjoyed the action sequences and the story; I liked the graphics. I liked the part where Bryce Dallas Howard was hanging from the ledge and you could see right down her shirt.

It wasn't awful, but it sure didn't hold my attention. I'd forgotten how slowly the plot seems to move at times.

Friday, December 7, 2007

I need some help

Want to help me name some characters? I'm in the process of writing a fictional story and I need some names. I used to struggle over names, so much so that in the past I could not get my story out until I had a name. As those who write fiction know, names will often emerge as a character's personality develops. Therefore, sometimes you have to write the character before you get her name. Now, I tend to give all my characters generic names while I'm writing them and develop them as I go before I give them their forever-name. My girls are always Jane, my boys are always Jackson, and my dogs are always Dog.

I need help naming the following:

  • Female: my main female character is a business professional; creative, artistic, personally conservative and socially liberal. She's lonely and sexually frustrated.
  • Male: my main male is undefined at this point, but I'm looking for something that suggests inner darkness and negative qualities. He is not an antagonist.
  • Female character's dog: companion, protector; gender unassigned.

These characters are all very raw and naked so far. If you have some names to offer, please email them to jade@autumnweave.com.

Thanks!

I'm imagining you with your hair on fire

I work for a major trucking company in the Portland area. My job is “customer support” and entails a lot of things, namely data processing and minor accounting. Unfortunately among the things I must deal with on a daily basis is interacting with complete morons who don’t know their asses from their elbows, and have all the manners of a barnyard animal. I had an annoying call today, from an annoying woman who spoke in an annoying, breathless tone of voice.

“I need help printing invoices”, she breathes at me. I’m in customer support; I process payments. I don’t provide help printing invoices but I’m a helpful sort so I say, “I’ll be happy to help in any way I can. What are your invoice numbers?” This is a stall tactic on my part; I do possess the ability to verbally troubleshoot a printing problem over the phone, but first I like to identify that the invoices in question are actually those I have access to before spending too much time on the phone.

“I don’t know. Where would I find that?” is her reply.

You see, usually when people call me wanting to print invoices it is because they know they have a payment waiting for them to post; or, they can see the payment on the web and just need a paper copy to walk down to accounts receivable. Usually by the time they call me, they have all the necessary information together. What this woman is doing is the equivalent of calling up the bank and wanting to discuss some random transaction on the account, but not being able to give appropriate information in order to identify the transaction. Internal sigh.

I try to unclench my teeth before asking, “do you have information indicating that there are invoices available to you which need printing?”

“Hmmm, I’m not really sure”, she answers.

“I’d like to direct you to the dealer help desk ma’am. Please call …” I begin, only to be interrupted as she tells me that she doesn’t understand why they would be able to help her. She doesn’t have a technical problem, you see, and the help desk only deals with technical problems. I can see her mentally rolling her eyes at me, as though I am the idiot.

“The dealer help desk has tools and resources to assist you with many problems you may be experiencing, ma’am, and they are very helpful over there.” I say, grossly exaggerating both this group’s ability to use the tools at their command and their helpfulness towards anyone who does not bear doughnuts.

“I don’t want to speak to them,” she tells me again. “I got your number from someone who said that you could help me. So, help me!” She ends on a little commanding wheeze.

“From whom did you get my phone number, ma’am? Can you give me that individual’s name?” I ask her, recognizing this tactic. People say this all the time, as though, by mentioning the elusive ‘someone’, I’ll suddenly change my mind about being able to help her.

“WAIT! Wait, here it is,” she yells over me and rattles off an invoice number that isn’t part of my system. I recognize it as a number in another department within the company and explain to her that I cannot access that database.

“What do you mean? I’ve always called you for these types of invoices!” she bellows at me, seeming to forget that moments ago she informed me that someone else directed her to call me. I’m starting to suspect that I’ve got a big fibber on the other end of the line.

“I apologize ma’am, I do not have access to that sequence of invoice numbers. You need to call the help desk for proper assistance, and I’ll be happy to provide you with their number if you’ll let me know when you have a pen handy.” By this point, my voice is even and smooth as silk, a sure sign I’m imagining her with her hair on fire and the pointed end of something rusty up her ass.

She interrupts me again to describe how she’s worked for her dealership for four years and she has always had trouble obtaining invoices from my department. I find this amusing because I’ve worked for the company for nearly twice as long as she has and I've never provided her with these particular invoices and because seconds ago she told me that she has always called me “for these types of invoices”.

Which I think is a very good point and say to her, “So that I understand your situation better, is it that you always call me for these types of invoices or that you always have problems obtaining these invoices? I’m positive that it can’t be both, and I need to know where to direct you so that you receive the customer service that you deserve.” Which is none at all.

Silence from my mouth-breathing friend. A couple beats go by, bringing more silence.

“If there is nothing else I can help you with, please have a nice day,” I say in my same calm voice; I’ve moved on from fire and rusty things and am imagining that I’ve murdered this woman’s puppy and am beating her to death with it when she says “but you haven’t HELPED me at all!”

“I have two numbers you may dial for assistance. One is the aforementioned dealer help desk with which you are unreasonably reluctant to speak; the other is my supervisor, and I’m certain he would be equally happy to assist you. Please let me know when you have a pen handy …”

She agrees to take my supervisor’s number and gives this as a parting shot: “I’m going to suggest that you find a different job. I’m extremely disappointed in your ‘customer service’.”

To which I replied, “I appreciate the suggestion, ma’am. Have a nice day.” Burn in the hot place, cupcake.

Knitting project: scarf

I learned to knit when I was in the third grade. I went to a private Jewish school and they taught us dozens of interesting, important things. Like how to speak German, how to play the flute, how to identify poisonous plants like night-shade, and edible plants like licorice and mustard. They also taught me to knit. None of the third-graders could read, but they knew how to knit a pair of socks!

I don't recall very much about it, but I must have been good at it. I was good at everything back then. Then, I didn't knit for twenty years.

I do not recall why I wanted to knit again after so many years. I think perhaps I saw a friend knitting a scarf and I thought it would be a grand thing to know how to do. I crochet, and am fairly good at that. I decided a year or so ago that it was time to expand my knowledge base and take up knitting. I purchased all sorts of knitting accoutrements; friends encouraged me by buying me instructions books and magazines. Jeff encouraged me by promising to wear a scarf if I knitted him one.

Like everything else I do, I want it to be perfect. Stitches must be perfectly spaced, with even tension. No gapping or flapping, please and thanks. If I cannot do it perfectly, I don't want to do it at all. So I have many unfinished projects, and my husband still has no scarf.

After all this, I think I've finally got it. I am using a soft grey cotton blend yarn, very light-weight; it is 12 stitches across (I have a small neck) in ribbing (I'm purling two / knitting two) and so far it's probably three feet long. It's not perfect, and I am trying to learn that it's okay to be un-perfect.

I have no idea what I'll worry about now.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

When I should be getting ready ...

... I'm playing with lotion instead. This is my Japanese Cherry Blossom lotion. You probably cannot tell that from the photo. I squeezed it out onto my hand and it came out in this funny, elongated shape.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Dissecting metaphors: To beat a dead horse

In coming to terms with metaphors and my unreasoning dislike of them, I would like to get to know them better. Some metaphors I know the root of, and such interesting roots they have. Other metaphors make my ears bleed to hear them.

To beat a dead horse:

I understand the meaning of belaboring a point beyond which it is useful or advantageous to do so, but I don't know why this particular term is in use. Personally, I prefer to describe someone as belaboring a point beyond which it is useful to do so, but that's just me. I used to have an employee from Nepal. He would bring me copies of newspapers or emails and ask me what certain phrases meant and "beating a dead horse" was one of them. He envisioned folks standing over the bloody carcass of a horse and beating it with clubs. Understandably, he couldn't comprehend why such behaviour seemed to be so prevalent nor why some people needed to be told not to do it.

According to wikipedia, it was a description applied to Parliament in reference to that body's apathy towards a Reform Bill.

Also from wikipedia is the term used as slang for wages paid to men in advance of the work being performed.

I understand the use of the metaphors in these contexts, but I still don't fully comprehend the origins.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Everything is better with red shoes

These are my fabulous new red shoes. I am horrible at taking photographs, so if you don't understand why these are so cute, just take my word for it: they are adorifying.

Struggle

"Dig in to yourself, to the place that feels empty and tired and frustrated and angry. What do you ache for?"

Aerolin always knows what questions to ask that strip me naked. I ache for balance. This is the thing that is lacking in my life now, has been lacking for a very long time. My biggest, most enjoyable hobby does not nurture the creativity in me. Likewise, my creative expressions do not pull at me like my 'hobby' does. I like them, and they are a comforting, warm bubble in which I can float when I need to disconnect and unplug but they don't sustain me. I have to plug back in, have to level my fishing, have to farm herbs, have to fuck with my spec, have to stab things in the eye. I have to check my blog, and your blogs, and forums, and read Questionable Content. Questionable Content makes me laugh and laugh.

The thing that I spend most of my time focused on? Work. I like my job. I complain a lot, but I like it. It challenges me daily, keeps me motivated, and frustrates the hell out of me. I cannot seem to unplug from there either.

Without some stress in my life, I'm not motivated to continue doing what I'm doing. If I'm not challenged by my circumstances, I get bored. I'm not happy unless there is an obstacle to over-come or a goal to work towards. I don't know if this is because I have had so many challenges in my life ... do I need these challenges because my life has been fraught with stress or is my life fraught with stress because I need these challenges? Do I need to have some obstacle in my way because I've always had obstacles in my way? Does it even matter?

I'm trying to balance all that I have and I feel like I am failing at a lot of things. I am trying to learn that it's okay not to be in top form. It is okay that I'm not perfect. It is okay that I don't have all the answers. Is it okay that I had a corn dog for breakfast?

Monday, December 3, 2007

Herbal muscle rub

Recipe courtesy of a dear friend, Crystal_Dragon.

First, make some Arnica oil using 6 ounces of olive oil and about 1/4 cup of dried Arnica flowers. (CAUTION: Arnica can cause allergic reactions in sensitive people so gloves may be needed. Do not get Arnica in an open wound or near mucus membranes as it is toxic when used internally) Heat the oil and Arnica flowers in a double boiler for 2 to 3 hours, then strain the oil into a container. NOTE: Arnica is great for reducing swelling.

Next, make a deconcoction of Cramp Bark and Prickly Ash Bark. Place 8 ounces of water in a pot with 1/8 cup each of the Cramp Bark and the Prickly Ash Bark. Simmer over low heat for 20 to 30 minutes, then strain into a container. NOTE: Both Cramp Bark and Prickly Ash Bark are "warming" herbs and go deep into the muscle tissue to help maintain blood flow.

Now, place the bark deconcoction and the oil in a double boiler with 1/2 ounce of beeswax, an emulsifier (to keep the water and oil from separating - I used an emulsifying wax) and a little citric acid concentrate (as a preservative to extend the shelf life). Heat the mixture, stirring occasionally, until it's uniform in appearance. Pour into clean, sterilized jars and allow to cool. You may need to stir the mix as it cools in the jars to maintain uniformity. Once it's cooled, it's ready for use! Store in sealed jars in a cool dark place. Recipe yields about 12 ounces.

Ages ago, I made a batch of Crystal's herbal muscle rub for Jeffery. He's got chronic lower back pain and I just can't do much for him. Rubbing his lower back is akin to trying to massage concrete. Not only is it boring, but I have problems with my wrists and rubbing this area on his back makes me cry because I can't feel my hands.

I learned one very important thing: storing the mixture in a 'cool, dry' place is not a suggestion. Really, store it in a cool, dry place. I made this over the summer, and it moulded before I could use it all. I must have skimmed over that part when reading the instructions, much like I space out over anything that instructs me to 'pat dry' and don't realize why until I'm rubbing my skin raw instead of patting. Seriously, throw this shit in the fridge.

I did not get the opportunity to use very much of it, but I really liked this recipe. I had fun cooking it up; Jeff went out and bought a double boiler for me and he helped me make it while watching a movie. It smells sort of funny and it's a lot of work for a lazy girl like me, but I'll make it again.

Scattered energy, rancid thoughts

I had so many thoughts today; I was going to vomit out my thoughts here to keep them from strangling me. All day during work I became distracted by blog-thoughts: how I was going to mash my words together, how I was going to get it all out of my head. I was going to make you laugh and cry and love me. I couldn't concentrate on work then, and I can't concentrate on writing now.

I went to the library after work today and picked up the Novel and Short Story Writer's Market for this year. These books used to be categorized under "reference" and were not eligible for check out. Either they have re-classified the book or someone is going to lose a job, because they let me check it out. I also picked up a guide book about writing query and cover letters. I am excited and want to finish a project, but damned if there aren't too many things I need to master before anything is fit for submission.

This is the thing that holds me back: I'm not perfect.

  • My dialogue is all crappy.
  • My sentence structure is sloppy.
  • I don't know when to end paragraphs.
  • My writing is too loose.
  • My characters are unlovable and cold

Give me something technical to write and I can knock your socks off, roll your eyeballs back in your head in ecstasy, and make you burst out into a cold sweat. But fictional shit between fictional people in a fictional world? I fall flat on my face. So I don't complete anything, never write a thing from beginning to end, have never made any serious attempts to get something published.

I think my lack of exercise is impacting my mood. I think about running and I want to run, but the rain is pouring out of the sky in sheets and my house is so warm and brightly lit and inviting. I cannot bring myself to run out into the wind and rain and cold after I put on my red striped pajamas and big red cozy socks that feel heavenly, like sliding my feet right into the warm carcass of a bunny. So I think about it (which is a step in the right direction at least) and I plan to do it another day and I feel proud that I remembered about the exercise. Enter rationalizing and self-justification and DOUGHNUTS.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

First snow

It is snowing in Washington. It's not very serious yet, just wee flurries. My nose is very red and my cheeks are flushed. I do not enjoy the weather here.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

I'm a sucker for quizzes

85%How Addicted to Blogging Are You?

Boston Dating

Sexy little quiz from The Junky's Wife. There are many, many important and boring things that do not get accomplished at my house because I am busy reading, posting on, or drooling over someone's blog.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

Much love to my friends and family. I hope you get all the dead bird you need.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

One of the kitties I was taking care of last week died. I was checking in on a friend's cat every couple of days, feeding him and playing with him, while his owner was out of town. She came home to find him dead this morning.

He was very old and very ill. He was super thin and his bones poked up through his fur. I loved to hold him in my lap and pet him because I could feel all his bones under his skin. I am very sad.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Writers Talking

Portland's Central library has a programme called "Writers Talking", where local writers come to speak to the public. Phillip Margolin is a Portland lawyer-turned-writer that I have enjoyed reading for years, and he spoke yesterday; I dragged my dad with me and went to his appearance. I really enjoyed hearing him talk about his experiences as a lawyer and his method of writing. I took many notes and he autographed them.

I left the lecture wanting to write my heart out. I felt invigorated and encouraged to start writing again. I write now, but it's not very serious. There are so many things I want to write about, and I think I need to get started.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Robots in disguise!

We saw Transformers last night. It rocked. The effects were terrific and the fight sequences were awesome. I wish we had seen it in the theatres, since the fighting and blow-up stuff would have been much cooler on the larger screen. I actually wanted to play with my old action figures when the movie was over.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Frederick

My cousin Frederick drowned in a pool when he was two years old, and suffered permanent brain damage. He is 23 years old now, and lives out his life in a wheelchair being fed through a tube in his belly. His muscles are all atrophied, he has bedsores and rotten teeth. I want to throw up whenever I think of Frederick, so mostly I try not to.

I dreamed of him last night. We were at an all-night diner, drinking coffee and eating pie and talking. Only, Frederick didn't really talk; it seemed as though what he intended to say was communicated silently to me, transmitted by a combination of telepathy and body language and facial expression. He also did not eat nor drink; I remember thinking that I really wanted his pie but it seemed unkind to take it from him since I let him drown when he was a baby.

Frederick's appearance was unsettling: his face was grey and the skin was split and peeling away from his skull. His eyes were very deep-set in his head, and were black orbs like a fully dilated pupil. He was very tall and very emaciated. His hair was nicely cut and styled, and water was dripping from his eyelashes. Nobody seemed to notice this but me and I was very upset by it.

We were discussing death, in a rather philosophical manner. Frederick was explaining it to me, how death is transitional and can mean many things depending on circumstance. The dynamic between us was strange: he was quiet and peaceful and my impression was one of a wise and all-knowing Buddha-like figure as he was telling me how death doesn't have to be marked by sadness and trauma, but should be viewed as an opportunity for growth and improvement. Frederick was telling me about his thoughts while he was in the coma after 'the accident'. He was explaining that he was aware of all of us mourning for him, and that he remembered wanting to tell us that we were wasting our energy. He wanted us to be happy for him, because he was limitless in that coma-place. There he wasn't bound by size or age or ability; his mind became his vessel and he was connected to God, could do and experience and be all that God was capable of. He gained clarity in that time, understood what had happened to him and to our family, knew the future and knew that we would all spend our lives blaming and regretting and hating and puking over him. He wanted us to stop, to understand, but we were hopelessly unaware that the accident freed him. Released him in a way that we would never understand until we died and experienced it ourselves.

I woke up with several thoughts. One is that I don't ever remember Frederick speaking. He was under-developed before he drowned - he didn't learn things very fast and only spoke in single-word sentences. I remember that he was lovable, but I don't remember ever expressing any love for him; I remember that I liked him better than his sister, but I pretty much hated her from the beginning. I have never really thought about the sort of person he'd be if he hadn't drowned, but now I wonder. Would he be like his sister? Would he be quiet and smart and shy? Would he be gay? Would he be my best friend? There aren't very many boys in my family, and I don't really know what any of them are like.

I wish Frederick had been given the chance to grow up. I wish he could eat with a fork. I wish he could have played sports and gone to college and gotten a girl pregnant. I wish I could think of Frederick without wanting to throw up.

I think he will die soon.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Dead garden

I was growing a tomato plant. Actually, I was growing eight tomato plants. I planted ten seeds in a starter pot and eight of them germinated. I was so pleased. I had tomatoes, four of them, perfectly round shiny green tomatoes that were just waiting to turn red and be chopped up for salad. They are now lying on my patio, broken from their stems.

My rosemary also died. I can't keep anything alive.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Bonding with Dad

My father is a drug addict. He is an alcoholic, too. He is not in active addiction, so he's bearable to be around. Actually, my dad is pretty cool when he's not using. He relapsed a few years ago, after several years of sobriety. Since then, we haven't been so close. I said some awful things to him after his last relapse; I made him feel bad intentionally. I was mean to him and wanted to tear his limbs from his body, wanted to dig his eyeballs out of his head, wanted to beat him with his own hands. I settled for saying awful, hurtful, vicious things to him, then avoided him for a couple of years.

Every other time in the past that Dad had sworn to get clean, he was so vocal about it. He would make promises to me, and talk about how much better he felt without dope, on and on and on. This time, he didn't make one promise; he never talks about how much better he feels. But he's straight, very straight, and for a long time. Well, long for him.

Do I think he's straight for good? Naw. I don't. Am I waiting for that call from my mom? Only every time I see her phone number on caller ID. But I am trying to enjoy him clean while I have him clean. Reading The Junky's Wife has brought up a lot of the pain I grew up with watching my dad use, but it has also helped me recognize how I was giving my dad's behaviour an unhealthy hold on me. A hold that I don't have to allow.

Dad and I spent most of the day together yesterday. We haven't done that in nearly three years. We ate lunch at Ruby Tuesday's, where I ate two mini cheeseburgers. Which are fun, because they're so small. I saw them on the menu and told the waitress, "those are cute, bring me a lot of those!". I took him shopping for movies, where he bought movies for my mom on a gift card I had given him. He went with me to the craft store, and held my purse while I had to put my fingers on every ball of yarn I could find. We spent a couple hours at the library, where he scoured through shelves of books looking for a vague description of what I wanted until he found it. We talked about things I never knew he was interested in. He expressed opinions that I never knew he had formed. He made jokes about being old and talked about how lucky he is to have the chance to grow old with my mom.

I've seen a whole different side to my dad that I never knew existed. For the first time, I feel as though I don't need to be the grown up in our relationship.

_____________________________________________________________________________________

This post is part of a series of posts about my father.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Autumn

The leaves on the trees at my office complex are red. Today was very bright and the sun was warm on my skin. The wind was blowing, and the leaves were swirling around, and birds were doing their birdy things, and life was good. I was happy to be alive today.

I used to hate this time of year. I dislike cold and blowy wind. Autumn was Colin's favourite time of year, and since his death I've started to enjoy it for him.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Exploring emotionality versus intellectuality

I'd like to respond to Aerolin's recent comment here ... I have a lot to say and it's mostly stream-of-thought, so bear with me.
What is so wrong with emotions and being emotional? I seem to recall you assisting me with this concept a year or so ago now... I've come to recognize my emotions as a major source of my strength. I don't see emotions above intellect nor intellect above emotions anymore, but that's thanks to some serious deprogramming. We're taught that emotions hold little value and that intellect is superior. What is it for you that makes you shut off your emotions in this way and only respond intellectually?

My process of working through situations by responding intellectually versus emotionally isn't an intention to shut off my emotions; rather, it's my attempt to get my emotions under control so that they don't run away from me. It is very easy to be excessively emotional, and to react on purely emotional levels without thought or regard to the stimulus. I believe this contributes to the concept that woman are dismissed as "emotional" and disregarded when they feel or react passionately.

When I was much younger I had a habit, as many young people do, of allowing my emotions to rule me. I didn't examine them, or get to know them; I was not in touch with them. I simply let them take me over and rage inside me. I did not know how to express myself in a constructive manner, and often felt completely overwhelmed by the feelings I had. The overly-emotional, knee-jerk responses I had to events around me was a lot like a thunderstorm, damaging those in its path indiscriminately.

I have made the same recognitions regarding the strength that my emotions give me, but for me the process began with examining them and harnessing their power before letting them go. For me, this was fundamental in overcoming personal trauma and the pain it continued to bring me.

An example of this in practice is some of the interactions between Jeff and me. We have the ability to hurt one another greatly because of our bonds of intimacy and friendship. He can hurt my feelings with disapproving look, can make me feel infinitely stupid with a tone of voice, and can anger me beyond words with the smallest actions. When he asks me what I am doing in a tone of voice that I think is full of scorn I don't hear what are you doing? I hear You stupid bitch. Only a moron would do what you're doing. Why don't you jump off a bridge? The immediate emotional response I have to this perceived sentiment of his is to become caustic and waspish, to guard my hurt feelings and maybe hurt his feelings a little bit in return. This is not healthy expression of emotion, but it comes very naturally to me.

If, however, I stop to consider the situation from a standpoint of logic and intellect, rather than allowing my emotions to completely cloud my judgment, I can realize that of course Jeff doesn't think I'm a moron. By reacting initially with intellect and logic, I give myself the opportunity to drain the negative emotional response off and not give in to it. By keeping my emotions in check, I have the chance to ask him what he means. If I really want to address how his comments make me feel I can simply tell him that how he spoke to me hurt my feelings and give him the chance to explain his intentions. Oftentimes, he's in a crabby mood and I'm picking up on it; by reacting more rationally to him, I can avoid exacerbating a situation that doesn't really need to be a huge problem (cause we like to save our fights up and have really big ones).

Thus keeping my emotions in check in this manner helps us communicate more maturely and far more openly. Jeff is very receptive to calm, rational expressions of emotion or anger, and is willing to accept any responsibility he has in creating an unpleasant situation. When I explode at him, he's not so willing to see my side or see how he contributed to the situation. Not only does this greatly reduce the negativity in our home and our frequency of fights, it allows us to discuss feelings that can often be very, very difficult to discuss. I feel this deepens our bond, and strengthens the foundation on which we have built our relationship.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Metaphors in language

I really hate most metaphoric speaking. I was chatting with a friend about this the other day. I'm okay with metaphors to demonstrate a particular point, but I feel they are widely overused (hence, the cliche). The person to whom I was speaking tends to use metaphors liberally in his communications, and I'm forever making him clarify his meaning. Really, I was starting to feel a little stupid about the whole thing. In trying to figure out why I so dislike metaphors, I realized that I just don't get most of them. I think too literally about most things. I stumbled a page that helped me understand why I don't understand metaphoric speaking and why that doesn't make me a complete moron.

Metaphors are so powerful because of one simple fact of human psychology—we react more readily to the emotional than the rational. Thanks to the differences between the two hemispheres of our brains, what catches our attention and sticks with us is what we see and feel via our right brain. After that, the rational left hemisphere can be engaged by the relational nature of the metaphorical information itself.

There's a lot more to it, but I found this bit especially interesting. Something I've worked very hard on is not reacting on an emotional level to all stimuli; instead I work to remove the majority of emotion from my responses, or at least curb the knee-jerk emotional reactions that can be thoughtless and hurtful. The goal is that my initial responses to events or circumstances are grounded in intellect and logic. I've been putting conscious effort towards this practice since my teens, and it has become almost instinctive for me.

I have a book called Metaphors We Live By that I have put off reading for over a year. I think I will get started on it.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Identifying emotions

I have been intermittently reading a book on Buddhism written by an American Buddhist woman. I find it to be very heavy reading, so I end up putting it down periodically and going for something lighter. I am enjoying the process of thinking differently about several key concepts about life and religion. Something the author talks about is insight meditation. This is the process by which the practitioner questions the emotions they experience. Similar to the dream interpretation techniques I've learned recently, I would identify that I feel angry, then ask myself "what is anger?" and follow the answers to a root motivator.

Because of the way my mom raised me, and all the therapy I've had in my life, I feel like I'm very well in touch with my emotions; I don't question my feelings. If I'm angry or sad or depressed, I generally operate under the assumption that I have a right to be so and that those emotions make sense based on what is happening to and around me. As such, this exercise felt a little silly to me when I first read about it. After indulging it a few times, however, it started to change the way I think about my emotions, to question the right-ness or validity of what I'm feeling. I think by just accepting the feelings I have without delving deeper into them, I'm missing out on opportunities to get to know myself better, and possibly change unenlightened behaviour.

With this practice I have been able to identify some of the wasteful emotions I have. Anger at traffic, for example, seems to take a lot of my energy. When I really stop and think about it this is the single stupidest emotion I have. Being so angry at traffic tends to put me in a bad mood. I'm working on identifying a few key things about the emotions I have: what purpose they serve me, whether or not they are 'productive', how they affect others around me.

Monday, October 22, 2007

A time of wanting

Everything you want wants you, too.

Aerolin said this to me in a recent comment. I'm reading a book right now, the name of which escapes me. A co-worker loaned it to me and it's sitting on my bookshelf at work. The book suggests everything has energy, a signature 'vibration' that is particular to that thing. There is a theory that thoughts can tap into these vibrations, and attract the things we think about hard enough; when we want a particular thing we're thinking of that thing, subconsciously looking for ways we can get that thing, or attract that thing, so that we will eventually find a way to bring it to ourselves.

Can it be true that everything I want in life wants me just as badly? Am I lock to my desires' key, or vice versa? I'm fascinated by this idea, but I'm not sure what to do with it yet.

I do know that I don't know what I want. Oh, superficial things, like not having to commute sixty miles every day; the energy to resume my work-out program; more time in the day to get my work accomplished; unlimited funds for my education. Do these things crave me? Is there some exercise just waiting for me to do it? Are there experiences I'm not having that are languishing in my inattentiveness? Unspent money waiting for the opportunity to jump into my pocket? I'm right here, baby. Get in.

But the things that I really need to get myself feeling like a person again? I have no idea.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Lazy, lazy Sunday

I've been spending some time over at The Junky's Wife. Here is a woman I'd love to get to know. I stumbled it twice before I actually started reading it. I am incredibly moved by her blog. Seeing the fortitude with which she deals with her husband's addiction is amazing and inspiring. Having lived with and around substance abuse for most of my life, I can relate to so much of she has to say. It's not often that complete strangers will move me to tears with their words, but the Junky's Wife sure does.

Aside from spending my day on other people's blogs -I've also been reading through the Junky's Wife best friend's blog, Long Vowels, who also has interesting things to say- I've been pretty lazy today. I helped Jeff with some laundry and spent most of the day playing World of Warcraft finishing up some in-game rep-grinds.

I've been riding the mood-swing roller coaster lately. I'm pre-menstrual, which seems to be getting worse as I get older, and I think I'm headed into a depression cycle. Jeff is an absolute saint to put up with me the way he does; I am quite sure my life would be unbearable without him. Reading the Junky's Wife reminded me how lucky I am to have Jeff as a husband. I don't mean that to sound awful or condescending towards her at all, but reading about other people's challenges with their husbands helps me put Jeff's "faults" into perspective. I'll endeavor not to become so impatient with him when he does things I find irritating. I could be a lot worse off.

I am not looking forward to the holidays, in case you're wondering. I am quite sick of that question, however. I stopped for coffee Friday afternoon and the vapid girl-bot at Starbucks asked me if I was ready for the holidays; I cocked my head to the side and pulled a panicked looked and said "No, why? Is there going to be a test?" She wasn't amused, but I got a giggle.

My parents will be in Sacramento visiting my mom' side of the family this Thanksgiving; Jeff and I will be going to his parent's house. There are few better ways I can think of than spending Thanksgiving at the in-law's. I don't know a more relaxed group of people. I plan to take a crochet project (I'm crocheting a skirt out of dark grey yarn) and curl up on the couch after dinner until Jeff drags me home.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Out of sorts

I haven't been doing much for me lately. My exercise routine has been put on hold - I haven't been running, working out, or meditating, haven't been spending as much time on WF as I want to, haven't been reading or studying ...

I've been working so many hours, and I can't seem to have my hobby and exercise routine and put a lot of energy in at work at the same time. I'm so frustrated by my lack of ability to find balance with my selves.

The lack of exercise and physical activity really has me out of sorts. I haven't really been eating regularly nor sleeping well, and I've just but been feeling "blah" lately. I'm in such a rut.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Stiff ankles

My ankles have been really stiff lately when I run. I thought it was just getting into a new routine, and that the stiffness would wear off after my body fully adjusted to the amount of work I'm making it do, but that's not so. I ran again tonight and the moment my foot hits the ground my ankles screamed with pain. It's bearable pain, but pain nonetheless.

Aerolin suggested running on dirt trails, which sounds so much better than the concrete I have been running on. Until I have the chance to do that, however, I've got to work something else out. I have cut so much fat out of my diet that I wonder if that's the cause of my stiff joints.

I think I'll make a trek to a high school track sometime in the future

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The pain of running

I hurt. Mostly all over. My knees are aching; my ankles creak when I move. My chest feels as though it's in a vise, my breath coming in great, gasping, uneven breaths. My face is red, my hair matted with sweat; my body is sticky with perspiration and my clothes are plastered to my skin with it. My heart is trying to pound its way out of my chest

I had the worst day today, and I've just been out running. My body feels like it's going to tear itself apart, and I've never felt better.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

The sculpture of life

A very strong and wise woman said to me that she'd experienced an unpleasant and traumatic event because she felt it was a stepping stone to becoming what she is meant to be. She turned a sexual assault into a learning experience, into something that will help her realize her potential as a human being. I'm paraphrasing here, but this is the meaning I took from her words. I have so much love and pride for her, so much respect for her intellect and her wisdom.

I think of life as a sculpture: a sculptor adds and removes clay from their subject until a shape emerges; removing excess from one area and applying it to another, taking a step back and looking at the whole, judging the overall effect and making adjustments as necessary. This concept, applied to a person's life, works much in the same way. By examining events and actions, one can determine through reflection how the whole is impacted; take away what doesn't contribute positively to the overall affect and either apply it somewhere else or learn from the circumstance and discard it.

This can be a monumental task, because the emotions drawn out from events in our lives add a complex layer to our sculpture. Not only do we examine our work, but we have feelings for it as well; those feelings can cloud our perception of the sculpture, in such a way as to change our perception of it.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Running from negativity

I've been focusing on getting my body into shape now that my eating habits are so much better. I have been walking with Jeff in the evenings, and lately I've been trying to get in shape enough to run. For now this means running for a few yards then dropping back into a walk for a block, running for another few yards, and so on. It's slow going, and I'm sore from shoulders to ankles the next day but I feel great. I bought a walkman to listen to books on tape while I'm out on my own and I'm really enjoying the exercise.

I've also added some weight training back into my routine. I have to force my body to continue, and my mind seems to shriek with an overwhelming need to lay around the house and read, but I'm slowly getting my sedentary habits under control.

I wasn't prepared for the cathartic effect of running. I've always heard that when I'm in a funk physical exercise will break me out of it; when I'm in a funk, I just want to lay around and drink hot, sugar-laden drinks out of over-sized coffee mugs, read mystery novels, and be left alone. I feel so much clarity when I'm running, though. I feel like my body is breaking apart and releasing capsules of negativity, which I'm sweating out of my pores. Answers come to me in those moments, solutions to questions I have about life and changes around me, in a way that I seek when I meditate.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

South Beach diet good for headaches?

I get chronic headaches: frequent migraines (several each month) and almost daily headaches. I drink plenty of water for the most part, don't smoke any longer, don't use drugs, and rarely drink. And still I get headaches. The migraines are genetic in my case - all the women in my family get them.

Since I've been on the South Beach diet I have not had one headache. I'm incredibly happy with this. I have adapted to my headaches; I've suffered from them for years, so I've just grown accustomed to having them. Now that I'm not having them daily, I'm amazed at how differently I feel. Combined with a very healthy diet and even more water than before (which means far less coffee and no soda at all) and regular exercise, I feel physically terrific. My mood, general outlook, and depression have all improved greatly.

We're also spending less money and generating less garbage; we throw away almost no food now, because we're eating it all. And, in another five or ten pounds, I have fourteen pairs of pants and ten skirts and dresses that I'll be able to wear without greasing down my thighs first.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

On the pain of loss

Today marks the seventh anniversary of Colin's suicide. I've been anxious to read the new Harry Potter novel, and I keep thinking of the phrase "death-day". I love the phrase for some reason.

Happy death-day, Colin.

I wrote this the night I married Jeff. I'd like to share it here:

Jeffery is breathing evenly beside me, my indicator that any questions will go unanswered. The sound of the beach around me, usually a distraction, is tonight a soothing reminder of the continuity of the elements. It pulls me out of bed and to the picture window in our hotel overlooking the water. In all my days I have yet to have one so busy. Many emotions I've felt today, and many promises I have made.

As I contemplate what among my experiences I wish to commit to paper in this moment, the presence of my family crashes in on my awareness. The very fact of my grandmother's appearance at my wedding should be counted as a miracle of sorts. My grandmother, who has never approved me or my existence; she who has attended not only my wedding but my second wedding.

I am not quite over that fact when my mind takes a sudden detour ... I am married. Again. My thoughts are in such a jumble -- I have so many things for which to be thankful, not the least of which is that I am good enough for a man who will not someday take his own life.

I feel like crying, and I suddenly feel an overpowering connection to that elusive dead man. The man who first showed me how to love, and be loved; the man who taught me to love with all my heart and soul and hold nothing back. The man who taught me how to live in each moment as if it were my last. The man who showed me so many joys in life. I so badly want to turn and say to him "can you believe how far I've come?". Because, in a way, he would be the only person who knows me well enough to understand how truly far I have come. It occurs to me now, as it has many times in the past, that I've only grown as much as I have because he is dead.

I have difficulty with the magnitude of this thought, so I cast my eyes out the sea that he so loved, and I reach out with that little bit of my soul that still knows his, and I thank him for loving me.

And I thank him for leaving me.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Dieting ... is different

I've started the South Beach diet. I've been playing around with this diet for a few months now; I incorporate various aspects of this diet from the books I read but I haven't followed it as it's meant to be followed. The diet consists of three phases:

Phase one is approximately two weeks of "retraining" one's body to process food properly. That means cutting back on carbohydrates, eliminating sugars (from all sources, so even yummy fruit juice), cutting back on starches, eliminating fats, and so on. This period is somewhat like a detoxifying, in that we limit a lot of the excesses we don't really need. It's not meant to last very long, and that means about two weeks, depending on the target weight.

Phase two lasts until we've reached our target weight. During this phase, we can reintegrate certain things we've eliminated from our diet on a case by case basis. For me, it will be pasta. When I'm ready to add pasta back into my diet, I'll do so slowly. I'll monitor my weight to make sure I'm not gaining it all back, and if that looks good then I can add something else that I've eliminated. The idea is to do this somewhat slowly while maintaining weight loss. If weight gain occurs, then once again eliminate those food items from the diet.

Phase three
is the 'maintenance' phase, and theoretically when we reach this phase, we'll be eating this way for the rest of our lives. By this time, we're simply maintaining our weight (hopefully, we've reached our target by this phase) with occasional treats. Something I like about the diet is that it's designed by a doctor, and wasn't created as a way to 'look sexy' or obtain a stick figure. Arthur Agatston developed it simply as a way to maintain heart health. I avoided the diet because of its name - it made me think of skinny bitches running around Miami Beach in their butt-floss not-bikinis and their big fake boobs. I'm glad I finally decided to look into it further, because I think it will make a very positive difference in my life (thanks Cymbelyn).

I've talked Jeffery into giving it a go, and today is our third full day on the diet. We both feel a little different, not really better. We've experienced a number of effects that surprised us both: heaviness in the limbs, weakness, lack of energy, lethargy.

I've gone through many periods in my life when I ate better than at other times, and always an improvement in food choices and quality left me feeling better not worse. The only thing I think might be causing these symptoms is the lack of carbs.

For dinner tonight we had oven-roasted veggies (squash, zuchinni, asparagus, onion, and orange and yellow bell peppers), sirloin steak (grilled), and an edamame/radish/cilantro salad. It was all very satisfying.

Snacks on the SB diet include cheese sticks (part-skim, low moisture), sugar free gelatin, reduced fat cheese wedges (we like Laughing Cow), peanuts, and some other nuts.

Something Dr. Agatston talks about in his book is not going hungry. I think a lot of people set themselves up for failure on a diet because they put unreasonable expectations on themselves; they can't maintain them for very long so they end up being very unsatisfied until they decide to go overboard and eat a box of donuts or a bag of chips to get the thing they feel they are missing. I cannot withhold food from myself; I can minimize portions, or cut out excess snacking, but something I just cannot do is keep myself from eating if I am hungry.

I'm not very good at this sort of journaling, but I'm going to try to keep up with my progress here.

As of Thursday, August 9th, I weighed 106 lbs. Today I weigh 104 lbs. That's definite progress.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Patience

I'm training an employee for a Reconciliation position right now. Her duties include direct contact with parts vendors, processing correcting entry transactions, reviewing open items statements, and handling urgent invoices. She uses a computer, printer, copy machine, and scanner in her job. She started as a data entry operator, so she has a good foundation for the work; she's proficient with the equipment for the most part (she has trouble grasping the concept of how she can interact with computer drives, but that's somewhat secondary). She really struggles with policy though. There's nothing particularly wrong with her - she's experiencing a stiff learning curve and I understand that she doesn't learn as fast as everyone. My problem comes with the fact that I'm just so busy all damn day, and she has an urgent question at least every hour. I'm on the phone a lot, by nature of the fact that all four of my managers and every single adjacent group I work with are in different cities (and in some cases, different time zones), so she has a tendency to lurk around my office door waiting for me to get off the phone. As such, I barely have time to deal with anything before she rushes in to ask questions. Her questions aren't so difficult to answer or explain, but I feel as though I'm being constantly interrupted.

She's not at fault for any of this, but I find myself so frustrated with her. I've hurt her feelings a couple of times, so I finally devoted some energy to figuring out what I needed to do differently to avoid snapping at her. After giving it some thought, I realized I'm so frustrated because she's not like the lady that she replaced. The last person in her position - we'll call her Former Recon Girly - was such a quick learner. She was fast, highly efficient, dedicated, and professional. She and I became close friends, which is amazing in and of itself considering my disinclination to befriend employees. She's about my mom's age and we share several hobbies. I enjoyed talking with her about casual, generic stuff, and I could go to her for help on a crochet project or a cooking tip. She and her boyfriend relocated to New York state for his job in June. We keep in touch, so I haven't lost the friend; but I really miss the employee.

So, New Recon Girly shows a lot of promise and I have faith in her abilities, but I've realized the source of my impatience with her and I just need to stop putting unreasonable expectations on her. She'll never be Former Recon Girly, and I need to give her more reason to grow than just to fill someone else's shoes.

I feel like this impatience of mine at work is exacerbated by my lack of satisfactory practice in my faith. I just need to get grounded with a renewed morning ritual and better exercise.

On another work-related note, I've started to develop a friendship with another of the ladies in my office. She supervises one of the groups I manage, and we've discovered we have a lot in common. I tend to be a little stand-off-ish about work friendships with subordinates, but I think she's mature enough that we won't have a problem.

I feel like I'm growing, what with all the new friendships I'm developing.

Balancing work and practice

Something I've been struggling with lately is balancing my professional life with my spiritual practice. I'm very quiet about my faith in most areas of my life; I don't advertise or discuss my faith with co-workers or in general public; I make an effort not to draw attention to my practice. I wear a pentagram often, but it's not three inches across. But I'm finding that my work tends to overshadow other aspects of my life. From the moment I wake up every morning until well into the evening, I'm focused on work. If not actually doing it, then brooding venting thinking about it, or somehow focused on it.

I used to do have a morning ritual that included meditation and light exercise in the mornings, but anymore I can barely drag myself out of bed and through a shower and a cup of coffee before leaving for work.

My favourite Aerolin has talked about Medicine Cards, and I find myself very drawn to the idea of using these cards as part of my practice.

Another thing I've been having difficulty with at work is patience. It is no secret to those who know me that I am extremely lacking in patience with others. I do okay if I am working on something with a specific goal in mind that has a clear beginning, middle, and end. My problem comes when I think someone should be nearing the end, and they aren't there yet.

I'm training an employee for a Reconciliation position right now. Her duties include direct contact with parts vendors, processing correcting entry transactions, reviewing open items statements, and handling urgent invoices. She uses a computer, printer, copy machine, and scanner in her job. She started as a data entry operator, so she has a good foundation for the work; she's proficient with the equipment for the most part (she has trouble grasping the concept of how she can interact with computer drives, but that's somewhat secondary). She really struggles with policy though. There's nothing particularly wrong with her - she's experiencing a stiff learning curve and I understand that she doesn't learn as fast as everyone. My problem comes with the fact that I'm just so busy all damn day, and she has an urgent question at least every hour. I'm on the phone a lot, by nature of the fact that all four of my managers and every single adjacent group I work with are in different cities (and in some cases, different time zones), so she has a tendency to lurk around my office door waiting for me to get off the phone. As such, I barely have time to deal with anything before she rushes in to ask questions. Her questions aren't so difficult to answer or explain, but I feel as though I'm being constantly interrupted.

She's not at fault for any of this, but I find myself so frustrated with her. I've hurt her feelings a couple of times, so I finally devoted some energy to figuring out what I needed to do differently to avoid snapping at her. After giving it some thought, I realized I'm so frustrated because she's not like the lady that she replaced. The last person in her position - we'll call her Former Recon Girly - was such a quick learner. She was fast, highly efficient, dedicated, and professional. She and I became close friends, which is amazing in and of itself considering my disinclination to befriend employees. She's about my mom's age and we share several hobbies. I enjoyed talking with her about casual, generic stuff, and I could go to her for help on a crochet project or a cooking tip. She and her boyfriend relocated to New York state for his job in June. We keep in touch, so I haven't lost the friend; but I really miss the employee.

So, New Recon Girly shows a lot of promise and I have faith in her abilities, but I've realized the source of my impatience with her and I just need to stop putting unreasonable expectations on her. She'll never be Former Recon Girly, and I need to give her more reason to grow than just to fill someone else's shoes.

I feel like this impatience of mine at work is exacerbated by my lack of satisfactory practice in my faith. I just need to get grounded with a renewed morning ritual and better exercise.

On another work-related note, I've started to develop a friendship with another of the ladies in my office. She supervises one of the groups I manage, and we've discovered we have a lot in common. I tend to be a little stand-off-ish about work friendships with subordinates, but I think she's mature enough that we won't have a problem.

I feel like I'm growing, what with all the new friendships I'm developing.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Another workshop

I attended another dream analysis workshop with Gabi. I’ve learned so much about the way my mind works and how different events are still affecting me. What I find of particular interest is the symbolism that dreams take on – the people, places, and things in dreams aren’t really what they seem to be on the surface. I knew that dreams often present messages in subtext, but the extent that our minds go to represent other things is truly astounding.

Something we’ve been working on is understanding the setting and timeline of our dreams. She’s taught us how to examine the things in our dreams and label them. For example, the dream Gabi interpreted for me last night took place in an abandoned warehouse. She asked me what an “abandoned warehouse” is. My immediate, unthinking response was that it’s a place you can go to be yourself, because nobody is expected to be there. For me, an abandoned warehouse symbolized, in that dream, a place where there were no expectations of me, where I could just be myself and do the things I wanted to do.

I never would have come up with this on my own. I’ve always interpreted by own dreams, and those of my friends, but so much of it has been intuitive leaps based in part on what I know of the individual dreaming. She pulled all sorts of things out of my dream that she has no way of knowing because she doesn’t know me or my life.

I feel elated that I can finally start picking apart some of the issues that I have thought I’d dealt with years ago that still keep creeping up on me.

The workshop with Gabi is like a therapy session. My mom and I have been going together, and it’s been very nice to spend the time with her doing something we both have lot of interest in.

My mom's dreams are pretty telling too. I think we're both getting a lot of therapy out of this.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Lammas

Lammas, like many holidays, was difficult for me. I don't have a garden, so I have nothing to harvest. I'm a terrible cook, so I don't often do it. I'm often left feeling left out, in my own practice.

My husband and I walked up to a field that has wild flowers growing; in lieu of harvesting herbs from a garden, I snipped some flowers and gathered a pine-cone or two. I arranged this "harvest" in a deep green ceramic bowl that became the centre-piece of my kitchen table.

For dinner, I made a salad of radiatore pasta with shelled edamame and baked chicken, tossed with vinaigrette dressing. Jeff graciously agreed to forgo our usual preferred method of eating, which is usually on the couch with TV trays in front of BSG on DVD, and ate at the table with me.

All in all it was very nice, but I still felt somewhat removed.

I wish I had a garden.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Plastic People

Lately I've been dreaming of plastic people. Last night's dream was about me, and two friends - I don't know who these friends were, or what their significance is, but we were all sort of entwined in some mystery that never really developed beyond just a sense of urgency.

To start out, one of my friends, a female, was living with her parents and for some reason forbidden from seeing either of us. The other friend, a boy, was her boyfriend of sorts. He would sneak into her bedroom window and stay in her room. I get a sense that he was protecting her from something, but that was never explained or made clear. I would wait outside her house while he would stay with her at night. When he would leave her room, he and I would leave together and go back to my house.

Our female friend then started to sneak out of the house. Her mother didn't like me, but for some reason we were both on the same side, mad at the girl for leaving in the middle of the night. We would work together to try to find her, then her mother would shove me out of the house.

Me and the boy stopped spending time at her house at night, and eventually left her alone. During my whole dream, this girl never spoke. She seemed disconnected from us even though we were so constantly worried about her. The last time we went to visit her, after we left we went to my house where I lived with three women. They were older women, and I get the sense they were my guardians. I don't know how old I was in the dream, but I think I was not an adult. These women were partying constantly and I don't know how I ended up in their care, but they didn't pay much attention to me. I took the boy to my room, where I seduced him against his will.

The next morning, one of the women I lived with was found dead. Then she shifted identities, the way people do sometimes in dreams; she became the friend we were watching over. Me and the boy took her body to this odd industrial area that had an incinerator. He took her clothes off her and drew a long, black line on her back with a Sharpie marker and folded her up and put her in a box. At this point, I realize she's plastic. She looks like one of those old Barbie dolls, before their limbs were bendy. Back when they were hard plastic and solid, their arms were always bent at a slight angle and you couldn't do much with them. Their arms were either down at their sides, straight out from their bodies, or above their heads. He had a hard time getting her arms to fit in the box, so he was struggling with her. He finally got her situated, but her head was turned around backwards and she just lay in the box blinking at us like she was confused. Then he put her on the conveyor belt and we watched her until she scooted into the fire.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Dream analysis 101

I attended a dream analysis workshop with my mom and her boss last night. The lady who holds these seminars is amazing and lovely. I've been analyzing my own dreams for years as a hobby, and I realized after attending this workshop that I really have a lot to learn. She has an office across town from my house, and I'm looking forward to attending more of her workshops and seminars.

I've been somewhat lax about recording my own dreams lately; in truth, I've rather ignored them. I'm approaching the seven year 'anniversary' of Colin's death and it's hard this year. He died just after our 2nd wedding anniversary, and I'm about to celebrate my two year wedding anniversary with Jeff. That sounds way more complicated than it really is.

I feel stupid having anxiety over this - I know Jeff isn't going to do the same thing. It's such a non-possibility that it doesn't even seem worth mentioning, but that isn't changing the fact that I'm filled with dread. I feel as though I'll be fine once our 2nd anniversary passes. In the meantime, I feel weighted down by the looming notion that everything I love will be destroyed again.

The closer Colin's death-day gets, the worse my dreams get; they're vividly graphic and it's the same series I started having just after he died. Colin, ruined from the gun-shot, running away from me. Beckoning me to follow him, then losing himself in the crowd; always checking to be sure I'm following after him, but staying just out of my range. He keeps his wounded side away from me, so I can't see it properly but I know what it looks like. It's like the monster I saw as a child - it wasn't there if I looked straight at it but I could see it out of the corner of my eye, taking shape and overwhelming me. That's how I see his wound - barely out of the corner of my eye, which is worse. I feel like if I could see it clearly, I could scream out my horror and be done with it, but my cries are locked in stasis.

The other dream is me and my friends in a circle - the original group of guy-friends I had back then: me, Colin, Jeff, Ross, Mark, and Rudy. We're sitting in a circle passing a joint among us. Colin takes the joint, takes a hit and passes it on. Then he shoots himself. Jeff hits the joint, passes it on, then he shoots himself. I realize then they all have guns in their hands. And they are systematically hitting this joint, passing it on, then shooting themselves in my circle. I'm the last one left. I have the joint, but no gun. And all my friends are dead in a circle around me and there's no one there to help me.

I wake up from these dreams screaming and sick to my stomach, feeling as though I'll throw up. Every year around the date of his death I feel like this - I have more dreams about him, I have anxiety and mild panic, I experience depression. Since I know why it's happening I can just ride it out but it seems more pronounced each year.

Last nights' dream workshop with Gabi re-motivated me to focus on my dreams again, and I'm hoping that if I spend some energy analyzing them and maybe gaining some insight (besides the obvious) about what I can do to alleviate this awful feeling I have, it won't be as bad.

In everything else that's going on, I'd almost forgotten that today would have been our nine year wedding anniversary. I don't know why I still think of our wedding anniversary after all this time, but I think it will always be with me.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Planned Parenthood Funding


I ran across this post from BitchPHD today and wanted to re-post it.

If you care at all about providing low-cost or free birth-control to those who can't afford it, call.

If you care at all about allowing women to make informed, healthy choices regarding their reproductive rights, call.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Cultivating rosemary


I've got some rosemary that I purchased for a meal that is about to go bad. I've dropped a sprig in a clay pot filled with water, but I'm not sure how it will do.

Three people I know have had very good luck growing rosemary in water, but I have been unsuccessful in doing so. I'm not sure if it's the lighting, or timing, or perhaps I have a black rosemary thumb. I've read several different websites that offer advice about growing rosemary and so far none of them suggest growing them in jars of water.

My yard gets about 6 hours of sunlight a day now and temperatures are very warm. I'm hoping this time I'll be lucky.

I dried some of the rosemary sprigs and put it in baby oil, to try to make some rosemary oil. I have got to stop using baby oil as a base. That's the stinkiest stuff ever.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Moving


My husband and I have decided to move to a new state. We live just on the border between Oregon and Washington. We're moving to Beaverton, Oregon to be closer to my job (which is now 30 miles away through some really awful traffic).

Luckily, I have a partner willing to make this change with me. My step-daughter is now 18 years old, and she's graduated high school. She's not a child any longer, so leaving now wouldn't feel like abandonment on our part. She's known for quite a while that we've been planning a move to Phoenix in the future, so I like to think she won't feel abandoned when we move to Beaverton.

I'm really looking forward to this change. I've been frustrated with my commute and my job and my life for a long time now; only lately has it really started becoming overwhelming.

I've been looking through housing guides, getting a feel for what type of housing we're looking at, prices of the area, and so on. It looks as though we'll be in an apartment for a short time, but we eventually want to buy a home in the area. I'm having a lot of fun looking at images of the houses currently on the market. Even though we won't be purchasing a home for several years, it's a lot of fun looking at pictures of rooms and thinking about what sort of curtains I'd hang, how I'd arrange my furniture, what colour rug I would put down ...

I never imagined myself as so domesticated and homey as to enjoy spending hours searching the internet for interior photographs of houses. Oddly enough, coming to the realization that I am so domesticated doesn't bother me either.

There was a time, not very long ago, when the thought of being one of those docile wives in an apron and a big, big smile would have me gulping beer down and watching football just to prove I wasn't all girly ...

Death as a catalyst for change


The thirteenth card of the major arcana of the Tarot signifies change, rebirth, renewal, transformation. In its reversed form, it means literal death and can signify a loss, destruction, or failure. Regardless of its positive or negative influence in your reading or on your life, this card means an end of things as you know them; an inevitable and unavoidable change in your life.

I've experienced life-changing death; my husband of two years committed suicide in our bedroom. Most people's automatic reaction to hearing this is negative. Death, especially that resulting from a suicide, has very negative connotations. But the event itself is neither negative nor positive. It's our personal reaction to the events which are negative or positive.

Death can be a great catalyst for change if one chooses to use it as such. My husband's death nearly drove me crazy. I dreamed of him nightly, and always he was ruined and bloody and running from me. During waking hours I could think of nothing else but the vision of him holding the gun to his head. The images and thoughts that plagued me would not fade; I have them seven years later.

It is only in the conscious choice of using his death as a catalyst for change that I feel less a slave to those images. I've chosen to view his death not only as the end of his life, but as the beginning of a new path for my own life. Every choice I make is affected by that suicide; every decision is run against the filter of that death. Truly, my entire being was changed in the minutes and days and months after Colin pulled the trigger that ended his life.

I have striven to find opportunities that were not available for me before. One thing that I do much more freely now than when he was alive is express my faith. I no longer feel it necessary to put my religion on a shelf out of sight. When we were first married I was perfectly willing to forgo practicing my religion because of his squeamishness about it. Now, I would never allow a man to influence my faith in that manner. After Colin's death I felt I needed my faith more than ever. What a way to exercise my new freedom. How ironic is that?

All the things that I either couldn't do, or things I subconsciously held myself back from doing, I did after he died. I grasped the opportunity to do things my own way, since I didn't have him there to help me make decisions. Every new choice I made, every new decision made alone, were constant reminders of what I no longer had. I felt a profound sense of emptiness and loneliness; at the same time, I felt as though I was taking the lead in my own life. I was making decisions, and changes, and following through on commitments, all on my own. I didn't simply exist as a widowed woman, but embraced my chance to remain alive and live my life according to what I wanted and did not want.

I've always felt that the religion of my child-hood left many important questions unanswered. What happens after we die? Our souls go to heaven to be with God. Why does God need our souls? It's not up to us to question or understand the motivation of God. Why not? Because we are not capable of understanding God. His mind is too vast, his being too complex. This is not acceptable for me, and it never has been. Following a pagan path offers me no more answers than previous paths. The difference for me is that I'm far more comfortable with the questions I have.

Death is a subject that is dealt with so strangely in the West. I don't feel that we're encouraged to explore our feelings towards death and dying; we're taught to shun death, to avoid speaking about it. We don't embrace death and we certainly don't talk about it. We teach our children that all things die but we don't encourage them to express their feelings about dead things. Adults often prevent children from attending funerals of departed loved ones out of an effort to protect them from that death. We live our lives entirely in an unconscious effort to avoid death, far beyond the point when it is practical to do so.

Often in American society we simply see death as another opponent. We feel only our own loss and sadness and don't fully recognize death for what it is: a part of the wheel of life and possibly a powerful catalyst for change.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Cleaning out the negativity


I'm a lazy girl. I'd rather be doing many things other than cleaning. I am a part-time student; I play an on-line RPG; I am an avid reader; I study religion; I'm addicted to browsing the internet (thank you, Stumble Upon). All of these things are significantly more fun that cleaning house. I have three cats, one husband, and one teenager; my house gets messy. Admittedly, the teenager lives with her mother and only visits every other weekend - moreover, she's by far the least-messy of all of us. Still, the three-cats-and-a-husband more than make up for her tidiness.

For the nineteen years-and-ten-months I have lived in the Pacific Northwest, I've felt much animosity for the region. I don't see the beauty of the trees (so green) or the mountains (so white) or the free-from-smog sky (so grey). I see the overcast, dull, dreary, sopping wet environment that only a true Californian will see. I think I'm afflicted with seasonal affective disorder (SAD), and because of the perpetually grey-and-rainy weather here, I experience "winter blues" for about ten months out of the year.

Lately, I've felt a very strong desire to clean. I think all the negativity that I've been feeling towards my immediate environment has finally brought me to my breaking point, and I want to clean out the physical, and meta-physical, negativity.

I start with one room at a time and a list. By listing what I want to accomplish, I can easily break down the task of cleaning into small, manageable pieces. By approaching the task of cleaning in this manner, I feel less overwhelmed than if I thought of cleaning the whole house all at once. Once each room is cleaned to my satisfaction, I start at the beginning and perform a smudging ritual; armed with my sage bundle I traverse each room and banish the negativity. I "sweep" the corners of dust, and of gloomy thoughts and darkness. With a clean room, lit candles, and a purifying scent in the air, I feel free to sit in my positively charged space and read my favourite novel.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Recycling as a way of life


Of course I recycle, I'm from California! Paper, glass, metal ... the standard three. I recycled out of habit, not giving much thought to the process. As a modern pagan, I read everything I can get my hands on about being a modern pagan. Thanks to Llewellyn's yearly Wicca almanacs, I have the benefit of modern wisdom of new-age thinkers. Say what you will about Llewellyn publications (and believe me, I've heard it all), but I appreciate the opportunity to learn how other modern pagans live their lives. I get to hear opinions and get craft-trade information from people around the country that I never would have had the pleasure of speaking with in person. For that alone, I will continue to purchase Llewellyn's almanacs.

Something that modern pagans have in spades is advice about how to stay connected in today's society, and something that plays a very big role in many lives is the DIY-craze that's been sweeping the nation for the past 30+ years, which involves recycling and re-using. I've got the recycling down to a degree; re-using is rapidly becoming a way of life for me.

As I mentioned, I don't have a proper garden. But I do have potted plants and I'm trying my hand at growing tomatoes. In my research, I read about using coffee grounds and egg shells mixed in with the soil. Of course, I knew of this but being that I don't garden regularly, it hadn't occurred to me to utilize these household waste items when I began planting. My tomatoes are doing wonderfully, and with a healthy mixture of both coffee grounds and egg shells. I save glass jars and store the grounds within so that I'll always have a supply when I want to pot a plant.

Re-using newspaper as gift wrap has long been a practice in my family. The stock market pages are just as interesting as the comics when there's a gift inside. I re-use tissue and gift bags each year; my family always remembers this and takes special care not to throw these items away or tear into their gifts as bulls in china shoppes.

I re-use jars and bottles to store my oils and dried herbs. I often purchase items that comes in jars and bottles with a thought toward what I can use the jar for after it's empty. The jars that my vitamins come in are dark amber, and perfect for storing items that must be protected against UV rays. This saves me from having to purchase special jars later, and saves me from contributing that waste (even if it can be recycled).

Considering that there are only two of us in the house regularly, fresh herbs have often gone to waste in the past. I've begun planning meals with the herbs in mind that I'd like to use later in my practice; now, I use whatever portions appropriate for our meals and use the rest in ritual work before it spoils.

Not only do I feel better about my newly developed practice of re-using household items, it's much easier on my budget.

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