Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Resting My Weary Heart

I've fretted here, there, and everywhere about the state of my gardens. I laughed with delight when I dreamed their new shape and texture. I've worried that I am not physically capable of maintaining them -witness my abject gratitude toward and willingness to fork over big bucks to the young people who mow my grass.

This is the Midwest. People here have very clear ideas as to what constitutes a good neighbor. Good neighbors mow their grass, alternating the direction of the mowing every week, lest... Well, I don't lest what. Lest something dire happen. They clean up their gardens during the growing season and before the snows fall. Good neighbors don't leave their recycling buckets out for 24 hours to blow around the neighborhood. Good neighbors are, all in all, someone other than me. While I get to have my more Southern-belle vision of what it means to garden (think of the difference between a peony and a rose) and to be neighborly (and the definition of neighbor is no less rigorous in the south; it's just different.) I do still want people not to have to politely avert their eyes from that eyesore of a house on Sixth Street. I really do want to be a good neighbor.

I finally figured it out. My gardens made me afraid. I thought I had lost my interest in nurturing, and THAT'S a huge part of my self image. What if I can't do it? What if even non-sentient (yes, I do get that part) plants understand that I have no ability to care for things anymore and just flat out die to prove the point?

Umm.... Andrea.... come back to the pack, sweetheart. You've gone 'round the bend.

Two things happened to snatch me from my dithering. While I was at my sister's house I read a book by Dominique Browning, Paths of Desire: The Passions of a Suburban Gardner. She too -beautiful, gifted and wealthy as she is- had her husband leave her for another woman. (Seriously, if she can't keep a man, I had no chance and should have known that from the beginning.) And she lost interest in her garden for well more than a year. Her claim, as she came out the other side, is that she hadn't lost interest in nurturing. She was just resting her weary heart. And the garden was waiting for her when she was ready.

And the second thing... this part is spooky. I told you I dreamed my gardens -at least the back yard and side yard parts. In the garden was very clearly a school desk (the old-fashioned kind that we used in the olden days, with a little bench and a writing desk that lifts up and where you store your books and papers and stuff) that I KNEW I would use for writing while outside in this newly-beautiful garden. My sister and I went to this antique furniture - consignment store while I was at her house and there was my desk. As she put it, you don't mess with the dream. I bought the desk. It's sitting in her guest room as we speak, but it will get to my house as soon as I figure out the details. I'm going to protect it from the rain with spar varnish (if it works on boats it will probably work on my desk) and come spring will write outside.

I still have heart-resting to do, but I think I'm going to do it with garden catalogues in-hand. My dream didn't come with a chart as to what the NAMES of those plants that I dreamed might be. This process involves some detective work ;) Research! Now THAT I understand ;)

Monday, December 29, 2008

The Wheels on the ...Luggage (??) Go Round and Round

I wish I had a youtube video of my nephew Thomas singing "the wheels on the bus go round and round". Unfortunately, you are denied -or spared, depending on your point of view- the doting-auntie videos. But anyway.... that's why the song is on my mind.

It's a long story. It always is, with me. The new-ish purple luggage got a workout this week, as I traveled to Pennsylvania to see a subset of the siblings and a smaller-yet subset of their children. As I tugged my little suitcase (the one that arrived in PA. Don't ask.) through the airport, I marveled at how easy the process was. Then I felt silly for marveling, because of course everyone has suitcases that roll these days.

And of course, I did too - even before the purple luggage. Except, like many things in my former life, it limped along not quite right. The former luggage lost a wheel on the floor of the airport in Switzerland. This did not happen recently. But all the other pieces of that luggage worked fine, so that piece got replaced in the attic. The thing is, that was the most usefully-sized piece of luggage. So time after time after time, I would haul out the broken suitcase and use it, with only one wheel. It still, I reasoned, held clothes perfectly well, and it's not as though I'm not strong enough to actually pick my suitcase up, as we did in the olden days.

And yet, it was embarrassing and silly and, on some level, just plain lazy to keep using that luggage. Now I have new purple luggage that rolls along quite nicely, thank you. And, being me, I must make this into a metaphor. How many other tiny little things aren't quite right that in the end take up an enormous amount of energy? Fixing them..replacing them... whatever it takes, would be a binary process. Do it and it's done. Dealing with them, accommodating them, working around the limitations they impose, is an ongoing, circular process. And worse, accommodation and limitation become the steady-state. It starts to take longer before it even occurs to you (ummm,.... that would be ME) that the situation is reparable at all.

I firmly resolve to tackle a few of these little things this week. I will report back!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Life Without a Computer

I did everything right. I promise!

At the beginning of the month I ran a virus scan. There were a boat load of viruses -but there always are, and they were safely sequestered. I killed the files and then re-booted my computer, as instructed. It didn't re-boot.

I tried the obvious things, figuring that one of the viruses had inhabited a boot-related file and needed to be replaced. That didn't work. I tried re-installing Windows. That didn't work. My hard drive has apparently become write-protected. Now, I'm done. I have no more tricks. The boy-child has taken my computer to his house for (I fondly hope) repair.

I can't decide how I feel about this computer-free existence. I'm reading more, that's for sure, and I really like that. On the other hand, I'm MUCH less efficient. I can't renew my library books without going to the library -and it need hardly be mentioned that they are already overdue. I wonder what the weather is going to be for my flight east. I can't check weather.com. I need stamps to mail my Christmas cards. I can't order them on-line; there is no on-line happening at my house. I just want to rest my weary brain and watch Grey's Anatomy. I don't have a television; all my TV-watching happens on abc.com, so that's not happening either. I can't update my iPod playlists; they're all sitting on-line at iTunes. My Christmas card address list? Stored on the computer. On-line friends have to wait until I get to work-and I refer you to weather.com again for blizzard information in my area.

I could try to wax poetic about living more simply and lower on the electronic food chain, or some such thing. Alas, it's just been freakin' annoying.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Dear Santa

I have to tell you, I don’t completely understand last year’s gifts. My husband of 27 years left me, in an emotional drama that hardly bears looking at or mentioning. I’ve had to learn to be single again, get a new job (since I had quit mine to follow his to Pennsylvania), and start to craft a new life for myself. I have to tell you, it’s been hard sometimes, Santa dear, to see the beauty in any of that.

Yet, here’s what I’ve managed to make of it. Within about 6 weeks of driving away from Pennsylvania, I had a therapist, an attorney, a full-time job, and was back in the house. Within 6 months of that, I was back at the university -in a part-time sort of way. Within another 5 months, and in this economy, I had secured a new job, increasing my income a bit, but also easing many other things about my life. I’ve moved from a job that was fine and that I was grateful to have, to a job that challenges me and makes me smile. I am grateful every day for that.

Of course, I haven’t done any of these things alone. The children, who of course have always been fabulous, have been stupendous supports and friends. Now that they are all grown up and pursuing their own careers and interests, we have moved to a new kind of relationship, and I am just delighted that they are willing to hang out with me. I see each of them at least once a week. Nicholas has recently moved into a duplex in a town north of here, but we go rock-climbing almost every week. (Yes, Santa, rock-climbing at 50! You should try it, although I understand that you might be a tad older than 50.) Victoria and I mostly just hang out, but she has taken an interest in helping me restore and remodel this big old barn of a house that I love so much.

My siblings and friends are wonderful –not that I didn’t know that, of course. But one learns it again and with new power when the chips are down. They have served as reality checks, staunch supporters, and as occasional dispensers of tough love. Mostly, though, they have staggered me with the simplicity (in the very best, most elegant, sense) and strength of their love.

So, Santa, maybe some of this has been gift in my life. I have learned all kinds of important things. I’m still plagued by grief for my marriage. Yet those moments, while powerful, are rarer than they used to be. And if nothing else, I’ve learned that I can survive them. I am starting to glimpse the young woman I was before my marriage, when all was possibility, and I was sure of myself and my place in the world. She’s starting to re-inhabit my psyche, and that’s pure delight.

But seriously, Santa, can I just have a puppy this year?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Tidings of Small Joy

I have a Christmas tree, lights, decorations, and Christmas stockings, and I did it all myself!

Last year at roughly this time, I wrote a post about my Charlie Brown Christmas. I was quite sad and lonely and, well, shattered. Christmas, for me, has always been the perfect time of year. Family, goofy family traditions that only a few people understand, cookies, people dropping by for no reason -or every reason. Children claiming not to LIKE the goofy traditions and then pouting exorbitantly when you threaten to stop them. Christmas ornaments made from popsicle sticks and cotton balls and glitter. Christmas carolers who can't actually sing. I love it all. Yet, when you love it like I do, a lot of your emotional life is held by those decorations and traditions. When my emotional stability had been battered, I literally could not force myself to look into those boxes of Christmas decorations. It was like looking into my emotional life and pain -and why subject yourself to that for no good reason?

So last year, I did no decorating and I fled. This year, the decision seemed much easier and more graceful. I'm still going away for the actual Christmas celebration, but it doesn't feel (quite) like fleeing. I bought an artificial tree -formerly anathema- and strung the lights myself. I bought new decorations that I love -coppers and golds and sparkly. There's a new Christmas tree skirt so I don't have to face the one I hand-sewed the first year I was married. There are new stockings for the same reason. I plopped right down on the floor and sobbed when I hung the third stocking and there wasn't another one to be hung. But I kept going, and hung a lighted garland on the headboard of my bed. I don't know why. It was in my hand and I didn't know exactly where I was going with it, and that seemed right.

So there we are. It's about 1% of the decorating I used to do. I still haven't looked into those boxes in the attic -even when I needed ornament hangars which are surely in there and can not possibly be emotionally laden. But it's mine. I can do it myself without feeling burdened or annoyed. I'll be able to take it down myself -and on a schedule I prefer.

And last night I sat by my tree and drank a teeny glass of cognac and admired my handiwork. And I saw that it was good.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Keeping Warm

Literally, of course, that's a bit of a theme for me in the winter. I HATE being cold. So, I buy electric mattress pads and I knit (a verb for keeping warm, as Jill says), and I buy horrifyingly expensive new windows for my house to eliminate (some of the) drafts.

Yet, really, I'm talking about metaphorical warmth. I'm trying to figure out what makes my house a warm home. What makes me smile about it? What comforts and soothes? Candles. They have a "company's coming - you're special" vibe that calms. Music in the background -or the foreground, as the case may be- is essential. My mom leaves the stereo on even when she's not home, to make sure there's a little noise in the house when she walks in. I don't do that, but I get the idea. Solitude can be good, in reasonable doses. But too much silence has a pressure and a heaviness about it. It's not good for people like us, apparently. Books are important. I curled up last night with a book -a book I was reading for pleasure, which felt unbelievably decadent- and was truly happy.

I need a better bathroom -candles, cozy rugs, bubbles, music, the whole girly thing. My bedroom still needs a smidge of warming up, although it's better than it was when I moved in. (And yes, I bought the remaining curtains!!!) At least one guest room needs to be ready and inviting, which right now it emphatically isn't. It's a bit more like Santa's workshop at the moment :( I had a party and we plowed through my modest wine collection (which was all of 4 bottles, but still....), so that needs to be started over.

But whatever I do, I think I have to ask the question "does it add warmth, or light, or welcome?" If I can't make the argument (to myself... and really, I'm not a tough audience.) then perhaps it's not the right thing for me to be doing.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Jobs I'm Glad I Don't Have

OK, I have a cool job. There is a guy on campus whose passion is developing harnesses for actors and dancers for when they need to "fly". Now, I don't claim to understand how this got to be his passion, but it seriously keeps him up at night. He and I were chatting, and I mentioned that I'm a rock climber. Rock climbers have a certain fondness for flying and harnesses, too, as it turns out. Of course it takes even an expert rock climber three or four minutes to get adequately attached to the various ropes and harnesses and carabiners that keep us alive. Oddly enough, this would not work in a stage setting. So, our harnesses are not the same as their harnesses.

But it opened the conversation. And because I have some experience he let me play with his inventions. So I spent a half-hour this morning flying. What did you do???? Even if I can't understand someone's work...even if I can't understand how, in a world with so many possibilities, THAT became someone's passion (I offer you mathematics as one possibility in that category.)... I love being in an environment where people are passionate about ideas and projects.

But walking back across campus, I thought of jobs I'm profoundly glad I don't have. Bless the hearts of the people shoveling snow today. Holy cripes. I am glad I'm not among them. I'm glad I'm not the person in charge of driving 18-wheelers down the little windy streets of this town -or worse, in the Chicago Loop. I probably shouldn't consider a career in professional light-bulb-changing, since that project isn't going all that well.

All things considered, I'm better off where I am.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Personal Magic

I'm not usually much about the un-know-able stuff that does not admit of proof one way or the other. I do, mostly, make an exception for matters of theological faith, but I don't even want that to go too far. ("Too far" being defined by...wait for it...ME!) Strategies like "the secret" for people allegedly willing things into their lives make me more than a little nutty. What about all those people who wish for and hope for and NEED things that don't come to be? They just didn't "do it" all hard enough or well enough? Nonsense.

Now... that said...I've been wondering lately if people don't, nonetheless, naturally have a little bit of magic. Starhawk talks about magic as the ability to change consciousness at will. If consciousness is the same as awareness, then I'm good with that definition.

I'm thinking of my mother, who has the ability to walk into a room in my house and move one thing, and then the whole room looks better. How did she do that? How did I not see the impact that one thing had on the feeling in the whole room? I'm thinking of my family and friends who have the ability to speak to the competent, capable part of me and, in doing so, bring that person to the surface. I'm even thinking of a knitter's ability to take two sticks and some string and turn it into a work of art. It's not just knowing the techniques; it's the awareness of what could happen with those tools in your hands.

As we approach divorce-day (still not established, but soon) I've been reflecting on what went wrong. So much is going right in my life, not because I know "the secret" (which I emphatically do not, and I would tell you if I did and then it wouldn't be a secret.)but because I have more -and better- energy. If you guys could have seen me in Swarthmore, you would not know that person. I sat. Seriously. All day.
Powerful negative energy that I could not yet accurately name took away everything about my self-definition. I didn't exist. It wasn't that I was becoming someone else. I was vanishing. That's some powerful negative mojo.

And then there's the whole "magic of the season" idea. Darkness becomes light as we pass the solstice. A baby becomes a saviour, if you're inclined towards that belief.

So, what's your magic? I know you have some. I don't know what mine is, but I promise to think about it and report back.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

I'll just sit here in the ...light

I'm living the light bulb joke. How many short moms does it take to change 14 light bulbs?

Things have been a little wild around here....new job, writing emergency, holidays, living and learning my new life. Sometimes there are little bumps in the road. This is a big-ish house -not McMansion size at all, but big- and the ceilings are high. And light bulbs live their little shiny lives, and then they die. Mostly, I work around that, because changing the light bulbs is a HUGE production. But 14 burned out light bulbs, well, that gets your attention.

Don't laugh. Don't -and this will be harder- roll your eyes. I'm not entirely sure I know how to change a light bulb. Sure, I can change the ones in lamps and low things. But when you have to unscrew the light fixture, while standing on a ladder, and holding big things with small hands WAY over your head..... yeah. There is no good outcome here.

I'll just sit here in the dark. And wait for my children to come over and fix this.


These are the children who, a mere few years ago, could not be trusted to pick up their socks. And a short few years before that had to be quizzed rather carefully about personal hygiene. I taught them those things. How can it be true now -WHY would it be true now- that I have to wait for them to fix this for me?

Yes, they are taller -as is your average 5th grader. Yes, they have demonstrated that they already know how to do this task. And they are very competent and fabulous, no question about that. But...really.... these are light bulbs we're talking about.

I can probably do this. I am smarter than a light fixture. Surely. It may take me a while, but the next time you see me, I will have changed 14 bulbs. And replaced them with CFLs, too, because I'm that kind of enviro-girl. If I can teach kids to not only wash behind their ears, but to value washing behind their ears, I can - shaking my fist at the heavens, like Scarlet O'Hara- as God as my witness, change a few light bulbs.

I'll report back.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

We're Tuesday People

Bonus points for anyone who recognizes the quote ;)

Hint: I have nothing so wise to offer as Morrie. But the fact is, I have a huge (to me) manuscript due Tuesday evening. There will be no other writing, no cleaning, no cooking, NO #)($ PLAYING ON FACEBOOK, until this paper is finished. It's not going all that well, truth be told.

But come Tuesday, I can take a deep breath, relax, and begin to meaningfully undertake my first Advent and Christmas as ME. Until then, if you see me on facebook, kick my sorry self back to writing. PLEASE.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

I Dreamed My Garden

This is weird on so many levels.

For one thing, my dreaming is strange. I don't typically dream in pictures at all. I don't know how to tell you about it. It's not strictly auditory and yet when I tell people "it's like when you read" that doesn't seem to help, either. Apparently most people get pictures from their reading too. But really, I dream. Just not in pictures. I was relieved to discover that at least one of my sisters dreams similarly, because I was starting to feel a little weird. Perhaps using her as a benchmark of normalcy isn't my BEST idea, but I'm grasping at straws here ;)

And the second thing is that I haven't gardened in years. There was that one day when Terri came and we yanked weeds for HOURS and had a lot of fun. But that is the sum total of the yard work I've done this year. I hired someone to mow, and will do so again next year. Oh, I raked once -about a year ago, come to think of it.

And in spite of all that, I dreamt with such breathtaking visual clarity about my yard and its gardens that I had to get out of bed at 2:30 in the morning and draw what I saw. I know which colors go where. I know where I'm building on things that are already there and where I'm crafting something new. I know where the deck I'm fantasizing about goes and how it's shaped. I know that I need a bench to go with my Adirondack chairs. I know that I want to make a mini-labyrinth from bricks in the side yard. It's all there.

It's a lifetime of work, I know. But I'm not freaked out about it. I know where I'm going now!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Organizing Andrea

I was going for a sort of "Educating Rita" theme with the title, but there's no drunken-but-wise professor helping me here. Quite the contrary. Do you ever feel that the universe is having a good laugh at your expense, thinking up ways to, well, fuck you over?

Nothing major, really. I'm past the latest (oh please god, the last) dark place due to what's his name. It's the little stuff -piled up- that ought to be funny, but never ever is, that's getting to me today. Historical examples include the time, 20 years ago, when I was all dressed for work. I thought toddler-Nicholas was coming over to hug me goodbye. Nope. He picked up the hem of my skirt, blew his nose in it, and wandered away -satisfied with a job well done. I was late for work.

Mostly, though, I do this stuff to myself. In the past few days, my mishaps have involved coffee -twice. I'm making a pretty little knitted coat for my baby niece. She's my ONLY niece, so, until she can talk and complain about it, she's getting girly ruffles and frou-frou from Auntie Andrea. After miles of fair-isle and ruffles and color changes, I dumped coffee on it. Because I thought that would be a nice touch :( I soaked it all day, and now it's drying in the downstairs bathroom -because it's the warmest room in the house, and I can put the garment on the floor right in front of the heating vent. Of course, if you have to actually USE the bathroom, you had better plan ahead and use the upstairs bathroom. I can't tell yet if the jacket is permanently stained, but I'm quite sure that walking on it won't improve the situation.

I started another little sweater -much less impressive- just in case. Sigh.

And, I dumped coffee all over my not-inexpensive, but useful to me, large-scale paper planner. As the last of the Luddites I use an old-fashioned write-it-down planner. I see things better this way. Unfortunately, though, I dumped a lot of coffee on it. A WHOLE lot. Don't ask. It's too embarrassing. Let's just say that the planner is a mess and pretty much unusable.

So, I hauled my sorry, messy self to the bookstore and bought a 2009 planner, with pretty picture of Tuscany in it. I can certainly use this as I go about to meetings. And the computing power of a university is considerably greater than that of a homeless shelter. So I've spent the day wondering if, with better tools, I can find a web-calender that works for me. Or, I can use google-calendar, like everyone else, and develop note-sheets and templates that work for my other notes and lists and reflections.

And here I'm a little stumped. I've developed the forms. I have to upload them to ...somewhere... to be able to see them while I'm at work, right? Where would one store these things? I was looking at blogger to see if there's a way to do it here, but I haven't come up with anything useful.

Surely, I can make this work, but I need a little help.

Friday, November 21, 2008

All Alone in the Dark

So much about my life is going really well, you guys. I'm flying -or starting to- and I had thought my wings were permanently broken. This state of affairs is not much shy of miraculous, when you get right down to it. But I do this thing that reveals that I'm still not okay.

I look at people's hands to see if they're wearing wedding rings, and it's not because I want to see if they're single. I want to see if they're partnered, and my next, covetous thought is "You don't have to be alone in the dark". "Somebody knows your flaws and keeps you around anyway."

I hate it when I think like this. But the thinking goes something like.... everybody is broken, I get that. Everyone is flawed. But for those of you who are still partnered, seriously...how bad could your flaws be? Your partner still sees them as less important than your good features. My no-longer-partner no longer weighs things that way, clearly, and in the last bit of cruelty wanted everyone to know. I'm SO flawed that he had to find other lovers and kick me to the curb and endanger my safety. It was justified, somehow.

Yes, I hear you. It's not about my flaws; it's about his. Of course, I'm flawed, but nothing in me deserved this. I'm still alone in the dark, you guys. I don't want to limit myself anymore, but I don't think I dare EVER risk a committed relationship again. So...yeah.... self-imposed limits. I can't do it. Because of him...because of me...because of the peculiar confluence of the two of us, I'll be alone in the dark for the rest of my life.

The only defense I have is that nobody's okay, when you get right down to it. Everybody has pain and sadness. They may not put it out on blogs, but it's there. Sadness is just part of the human condition; I will probably always have a Dave-sized hole in my heart. Eventually that will stop defining me.

But today is not that day.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Andrea's Parlor of Wonders ;)

I found my kitchen.

OK, it wasn't lost. And even MY legendary ability to get lost doesn't extend to getting lost in my own house. (Well, there was that one time, but I was sort of tipsy and we had just moved here. Let's assume that was atypical.) But I haven't eaten like a civilized person in close to two years; my kitchen was functionally lost to me. I think I'm on a better path now.

My long-suffering life coach encourages me to step into my new life as the real Andrea. (She says it better. I'm just struggling along in her jet stream.) And in that spirit, the thing I said I would work on this week is my physical health -hauling my sorry self to the gym and yoga class. And then I immediately got crazy-sick. I slept 17 hours yesterday. There was no gym happening.

I have been cooking, though, which is another one of those pieces of me that needs reclaiming and celebrating. I went to the grocery store and bought reasonable quantities of good food. Real food. There is some sadness (not much, but some) involved in leaving my job at the shelter, but there is no sorrow in leaving the food behind. Egad. If I never see another day-old pastry from Dominick's I will be fine. Now I get to eat the food I want.

Tonight's dinner: jambalaya and a glass of white wine and a little leftover salad. I bought the wine for the label: Little Black Dress. It may well stink, but it's a great label! And tonight before bed I'm going to throw some potatoes and stuff into the crockpot for a potato cheese soup for tomorrow's dinner. I'm on a roll.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Well, what do you know!

The AMW* is no more. I mean, she still (I assume) exists as a person, but she doesn't have a role in MY life any more. Huh.

I really don't keep tabs on these things. Here's the background. There was a court date last Monday. Mostly it went fine. But, the judge (in my always-revered legal opinion /sarcasm) overstepped his bounds once and asked if the girlfriend was still in the picture and would we consider getting back together. There was no answer (as much as I wanted one); the lawyers stepped in and promised to talk to us about it. I stuttered and stammered and made no sense at all when the question was addressed to me.

But -I confess- I did have a tawdry curiosity as to what was going on there. So, I asked someone who would know. Nope. This person was circumspect and did not give me details, just the barest fact. The AMW's out of the picture

But here's the thing. Either she dumped him -doubtless when he got to be troublesome and needy- or he dumped her, or they just drifted apart because they live thousands of miles apart. But the fact remains that he was willing to end a marriage for a relationship that lasted just over a year -18 months at the most. SHE was clearly a red herring. She was a device he used to let me know I was meaningless to him.

And THAT's why there is no possibility that we can get back together. She was an annoyance to be sure, but never the most important part of the problem as far as I was concerned. And now I know why. It just took me a week to figure out my answer, that's all. The good news about l'esprit d'escalier is that eventually you DO figure out the right thing to say. I am not meaningless and certainly don't need to be in a relationship with someone who thinks that I am. So there ;)

*Argentinian Math Whore

Sunday, November 16, 2008

And Darkness Covered the Earth

I've lost my voice. Not metaphorically, as I've fretted about in the past, but literally. It's really, really gone. And my head feels like it's about 3 feet across and filled with fluids of the most revolting viscosity. I'm not fit for human company; I'm going back to bed.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Grace Notes

Proving yet again that Andrea can obsess about anything at all, I finally have a new toy. It's wonderful, but it took me forever to actually plunk down the (small, actually) wad o' cash and get it done. It's improved my life so much I can't even TELL you.

Lacking a husband upon whom to warm my cold feet when I get into bed (never one of his favorite things about me, but surely a legitimate use of a husband!), I've been cold for AGES. I want to be warm and cozy in my bed. I have flannel sheets, which do take off that "oh my god, please shoot me now" chill when you first jump into bed. I have warm and pretty blankets. I was doing fine, I suppose, but still not really sleeping well.

And remember, this is a drafty large house. If I turn the heat up enough to be warm, I'd be paying so much for heat I'd probably have to not eat or something. (Question for the sages, why can't a women who actually likes to be hot be the one to have hot flashes?? Not a one. I suppose I should be grateful, but it does seem sort of backwards.) And besides, it doesn't make sense to heat the whole house when all that needs to be warm is my little space. It felt like I was being a greedy over-consuming American to have my house actually warm enough. On the other hand, it felt grim and mean to keep the heat at the suggested levels.

Then I noticed my massage therapist's trick of a heated mattress pad. Not the blanket, the pad. I thought you had to get one at some super-trendy massage therapist place. She looked at me like I was vaguely unintelligent. Nope, you can get one at Target.

Then I had to start worrying if they were safe and environmentally okay. As to safety, you can buy unsafe ones, so you have to be careful. But the wattage is much lower than an electric blanket. Some of them are on a thermostat and turn themselves off at a suggested temperature. Most of them are on a timer, so you can't forget and leave them on all day. There's the whole "sleeping in an electric field" thing... Anyway, suffice it to say I got the safest one -and paid a little more for that.

Then I started the "but is it a good idea for the planet" fretting. (Honest to God, it's a miracle I get anything at all done.) I'm not entirely sure yet, but here's my thinking. For one thing, it's better than an electric blanket, since all the generated heat stays in the bed. There's a sheet over the mattress pad, after all. And, so far anyway, I've been able to sleep comfortably with my furnace turned all the way down to 50 degrees (Fahrenheit) at night. So, I've added about 6 hours a day (as long as I have time to sleep) of not having the heat turned on. That has to be good for the environment (and my gas bill, I'm hoping).

Of course, the flip side is that I'm using more electricity and that bill will go up. But this is the frozen tundra, remember ;) Heat is a huge expense for us; my gas bill is just over $200 a month every month. This is the "budget plan". (Did I just hear WTF from the peanut gallery? That's what I say every month.) My electric bill is about $29 a month. Soon I'll be able to let you know if the one comes down more (or less) than the other goes up.

And... you know what, I'm sleeping really well for the first time in over a year. It's been getting better across the year, so some improvement is just getting over the emotional trauma. But there's been a noticeable improvement in the last week. And I think I've demonstrated to myself (ahem....again) that the small things matter.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Just Before Dawn

Lest you think that I have sole rights to leading a chaotic life within my family, here's some funny news. I just got my Christmas present from my brother - from last year. I celebrated Christmas with his family last year and collected too much loot to bring home on the plane. So I packed it up in a box, ready for shipping. I left it on the floor in their guest room, where it sat until three days ago.

I know how this happened. How often do you even go IN your guest room, to get a visual reminder that there's something in there you need to do?? And they have a spunky little two year old who keeps them occupied. And two older boys. And puppies. So I'm not at all aggravated, but -in the tradition of siblings everywhere- I do reserve the right to tease him ;)

I had forgotten when was even in the box, so it was Christmas all over again. It was thrilling! One of the things in there was a CD my sister compiled for me, of "you can do it, there is hope, that bastard's not worth your tears" songs. I uploaded it to Calliopod, the new iPod, last night. What a treat!!

And naturally, I'm at work without my iPod, so I can't even share the playlist with you. I'll add it tonight, because you should download these songs. Among other things, the CD showed me how far I've come in a year. I still love the songs, but I don't need them quite as much.

Grief is peculiar. People say you are going to get over it, and you know they're wrong. And then it turns out that they were right. It's truly starting to look like dawn around here.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Head Banging

Yes, that's what I'm doing -and I'm neither self-soothing (as in disturbed and frustrated children) nor dancing (as in Wayne's World). It's more like the Charlie-Brown-head-thunk, and it's all about this paper I have to (get to) write.

See, the thing is I want to know why classes in homeless shelters don't work. We offer parenting classes, and the parenting doesn't change. We offer nutrition claases, and the eating doesn't change. We offer money-smart classes and no one's any the wiser. So, what are we supposed to do??? We can't just pretend that these things aren't issues.

As a body of professionals, we thought it was about barriers. We've done yeoman's work towards eliminating those barriers. We have child-care, classes offered on-site, multi-cultural teachers, interpreters.... Nope. Still no change.

There's also a small body of literature that suggests that it's really an act of political resistance -possibly not articulated that way- to be non-compliant. On some level, people know that all social service agencies are actually state agencies. We aren't in a literal, technical sense. Nonetheless, a sizeable chunk of our funding comes from governmental bodies. We are, on some insulting level, trying to re-create these people in the state-sanctioned, middle-class mold. They sense that, and refuse to comply. If that's true, more power to them.

But, uninformed political resistance doesn't allow for the reality that if you are obese, you will die prematurely. If you beat your children, you will go to jail. If you smoke, you will die sooner rather than later. What would work, for crying out loud???? And what might work, allowing for the possibility that there is more than one right way to eat, parent, cook, and manage money?

I've been looking for the answer for months. Only today did it dawn on me that no one knows. Believe me when I tell you that if they knew, they would have published it. It's time to start thinking like a scholar, you lame-brain. Hence the Charlie-Brown-head-thunk. Get to work and figure something out.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Blogging -the Third Wave

I don't know quite what to say. Literally.

I sense that my blog is entering its third phase, which is probably a good thing. It is less good, perhaps, that I don't know what that third wave is. I've done the social justice writing. Heaven knows there's more to write there. And I've learned in that phase that I like to write and reflect and think. I've done my "oh my god the sky is falling.... I think I might fall apart" blogging. And I've learned that I have friends and family of incalculable wonder. And in the rebuilding of my life, I've learned that I'm better at writing and thinking and reflecting about social justice than I am at implementing it. (You guys, I threw my recycling in the trash this week. I missed the pick-up and couldn't stand looking at it for another week. I'm a slug.) And besides... I'm pretty much done with Dave, literally and metaphorically. I'm bored. Let's move on.

But what do I write about now? Rebuilding my life? Gidget goes to school/Andrea meets academe on her own terms??? Do I go back to social justice stuff? Learning to be the grown-up in my own story? I do have this goofy thought that I could use songs as themes for reflecting about my new life. Maybe third wave blogging is like third wave feminism -a lot more fun and considerably more drinking than its earnest and a little grim foremothers????

What are your thoughts, oh wise ones?

Saturday, October 25, 2008

We Need a Little Christmas

I felt a little like Auntie Mame last night, waltzing (metaphorically) through the Christmas Faire at the DuPage County Fairgrounds. I went looking for Christmas presents; I really did. I meant to be selfless and organized and....

Yeah...well.... you can imagine how well that went. Instead, I found things that I could begin to turn into a Christmas for me and the people I love.

Last year, I hauled my sorry self to my brother's house and sort of watched the celebration of Christmas. I wasn't miserable, by any means; he and his family were warm and loving and patient with my emotional roller-coaster. But any decorating that happened at my own house happened because someone else did it. Remember the launch party? People came over and decorated, and that was the sum total of what happened in terms of Christmas decorating.

This year, I have the beginnings of a glimmer of a fleeting idea ;) I am going to get a tree. I am going to find new decorations that aren't emotionally laden for me -just thinking of some of the decorations stored in my attic can make me cry. I will send out Christmas cards. I will gently and slowly -or at whatever pace feels right- reclaim the celebration of Christmas in this house that is so great for Christmas.

And oh yeah.... I won't forget to go Christmas shopping for other people, too ;)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

What I've Come to Expect

I got home last night about midnight (after working on my "day off" -don't ask) and discovered Dave's counter-offer for the property settlement. I KNEW I shouldn't open it then. I knew it. Yeah, I did it anyway.

I don't even know what to say. It ought to be merely another piece of evidence that the guy I loved is dead. Or never existed. Or something. THIS person has pretty consistently been willing to endanger me, in support of his own comfort and entitlement. It's just what I've come to expect, and how sad is that? But it's another kind of heartbreak, too.

My lawyer, to her credit, is outraged and is on the case. For now, I'm trying to "put it in a box", let the lawyers duke it out, and stay about the business of crafting a life for myself. When Dave is not around, I do pretty well at that.


Thursday, October 16, 2008

Note to Self

Be careful what you wish for.

OK. I admit it. What I said was, "I want to write more." What I meant was more like "I want to write at a leisurely pace." Seriously. Be very careful what you say -or even think very loudly. The universe has a way of providing.

I said that. And then this friend called and said, "remember when we did this project and collected these data...? Well, now, if we pull it together, it really works for this conference." Enter the necessity of crawling around in my scary attic to find the data, then the even scarier process of marathon-writing. On top of other non-optional writing.... things got a little wild around here.

But, the whole thing has unleashed a process of thinking outside the box. The writing didn't really succeed. It gone done, but it was UGLY and only on time if you squint at the clock. So, we're rethinking. I called my friend Elizabeth (actually, I think she called...whatever.) and asked her to tell me how to re-arrange this office that I'm sitting in, to make it work. She's really good at that stuff.

Nope. She suggested that I find another room altogether -some cozy, happy place. This room has always been the office. We added it on to the house to BE the office. She busted through the notion that it must be the office in perpetuity. (Why do I think like that?????) So, I'm moving my office to Nicholas's old room. I have been authorized by its former owner to re-purpose it ;)

This is actually an old picture.... the reality is worse yet, but I can't get my camera to work. (actual truth... I do not understand my digital camera.)

So, I've started spackling. (WHY am I spackling, when it was oh-so-not me shooting my bow and arrow at the walls of my bedroom???? A question for the sages....) Then I suppose I have to prime. I wonder what that means???? Then, I'm thinking of a cheerful cantaloupe-y color, with a lighter orange for the trim. Trust me when I tell you this would never have happened when what's-his-name lived here.

But for now, I'm learning to spackle. I don't think there's supposed to be this much goop in my hair. But I'm just guessing....

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

THIS time I mean it.

I am going to get organized. I am going to arrange this space so that it works for ME. There is going to be a place to put my things. I will know what things I even need. I am not going to procrastinate ever again. (I am going to lose 35 pounds by tomorrow. I am going to arrange for world peace, while I'm bloody at it.)

No, seriously.

You, there! Stop rolling your eyes. I do mean it.

I have had the writing marathon from hell this week. I love to write and this was grueling. I am seeing APA style in my sleep. There was nothing fun about this process. And even so, I only sort of made the deadline. I submitted the papers electronically with 6 minutes to spare. The paper copy...well, it's going to be express-mailed. At some point, I just had to say, "Well, fiddle-dee-dee, it's more important to get it right. I should just go slowly and do my very best."

Well, no, that's not quite what I said.

Here's the thing. NORMAL people can work in their offices in the morning without wearing sunglasses, because the sun isn't shining in their eyes, because they didn't put the desk and the computer in a stupid place. Normal people have extra printer paper and ink cartridges, so they don't have to run to Best Buy at 14 minutes before the deadline. What else do normal people do? I don't have the slightest idea, obviously.

But things are gonna change around here. I'm mad as hell and I'm not gonna take it anymore. Now, who wants to come over and help me rearrange furniture?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

I Think I Had a Bad Idea

Or... oh hell, maybe I didn't. There is no road map for this process, unfortunately.

Here's the thing. Dave and I have lived apart for 2 1/2 years, almost. Weird, huh? The last year has been astonishing for me. From broken -truly flat-out destroyed- I've made a life I love. I am pursuing big dreams, locating my power, and having a hell of a good time. I'm supporting myself and creating the house I want. I'm writing. I'm thinking about getting a puppy. I'm planning travel and all kinds of other things. And there are other dreams I haven't quite spoken above a whisper, so the process continues.

In part BECAUSE I don't need him any more, I thought I might write Dave a letter -not inviting him back into my life as a partner. Dear heavens, not that. The draft I have of the letter would have to win some kind of prize as the most grudging, grouchy invitation to have coffee EVER. But I thought that maybe from my new position of strength I could challenge us both to be sure we want a divorce. We made promises, and surely they are worth something more than money. Being certain of the path is the right thing to do.

And then I realized I was walking around my house thinking "It's a shame I won't be able to finish THAT or...it's a shame those bedroom curtains will have to come down". Or, too bad, I never finished.... whatever. As though I would have to stop my dreaming if he came back. The dread I felt wasn't huge, but it was real. And it got my attention.

That thinking might be just habit. Part of our dysfunction is that I gave away power he never asked for. He took it when it was offered, right enough, but the giving it away was all me. Or it might be a sign that I am not ready for re-entangling myself with anyone. Obviously I haven't figured out how to be fully me AND in a relationship. Or it might be a sign that a relationship with Dave can only be -for me- destructive.

Anyway, it was a sad realization that for now, I think, I have to abandon the idea of dialogue and possibly let the divorce continue unchallenged. I just can not risk going backwards. Surely, the ethical path does not include self-sabotage.

On the other hand, I've learned never to rule out the impossible. Since I am so clearly UNclear ;) about what I want, maybe the right thing will just happen. Maybe taking care of this isn't my job.

But for now I am going to bed in my pretty girl-bed, which I also am not giving up ;) Tomorrow I have still more writing to do. Deadlines loom.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Kol Nidre

Peace and good health to all.

A hat tip to Reading Under the Covers.

A Blogging Tool I Need

This exists. It must.

If you're on facebook, you've probably seen the "I was green today" application. People complete the sentence, thus sharing simple ideas for becoming more environmentally responsible. I changed one more lightbulb to CFL today, and darn it, I want credit for that ;) The application is a great idea for reminding us that the little things really do matter, but why can't I embed the same application into my blog?

Come on, wise ones. I've poked around as long as my brain can withstand. Do you know of some utility that works for this?

OK, So I'm Not Martha

Were you all just laughing at me? I would have been, if I'd had a clue in my head.

Do you KNOW what happens if you put flower pots in carved-out pumpkins and then water the plants??? Revolting, hideous things, that's what. This sort of thing doesn't happen to Martha Stewart. I don't know how I know this, but I do.

She is not the one wearing rubber gloves and gently, with as few fingers as possible, removing the slimy, squishy pumpkins from her front porch. She is not the one throwing the whole mess into a garbage bag and then into the wheelbarrow, so the glop doesn't spread all the way down the driveway as I try to hide the evidence of my failed holiday cheer.

Nope. That has me written all over it.

Plan B.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Today Marks One Year

Yesterday, one of the next-door-neighbor boys asked me if I missed "Mr. Dave." He didn't know that a year ago today was the day I got in my car and drove away from my marriage. He's just a little kid; he doesn't understand that he had asked a potentially painful question.

So, do I miss "Mr. Dave?" I honestly don't know. I miss the Dave I thought I was married to. I do miss being partnered. It's a peculiar day. I'm not wildly sad, or gleefully triumphant that I have made something of my life without him -more than I could have made with him, apparently. But it's not just another day, either.

So, what do I know?

I know that I owe another huge thank you to all my friends and family. Certainly, certainly that.

I know that lonely-alone is better than lonely-together. The emotionally distant and even emotionally absent Dave can stay far away from me. I don't miss him at all.

I'm gratified that I've been able to make a life for myself. There's certainly no "take THAT, you philandering jerk" triumph, but there's a glimmer of pleasure through the exhaustion.

I know I am not as broken as I was a year ago. I sometimes fear that that level of brokenness is waiting right around the corner, though. Tears are still very near the surface -always. Brokenness doesn't feel quite so far away to me as it perhaps looks from your persepctive.

I guess I'm just sitting quietly today, doing my school work and puttering in my kitchen. I did -quite by accident- take a few days off this week. Perhaps my subconscious was at work there, because I didn't think to plan them around this anniversary. Yet, I'm glad that I did it. I feel a pretty strong need for some quiet nesting in my cozy (if more than slightly messy) house.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Nicholas Bought Lunch

He did, actually. But really, it's code for "Mama did good!"

On Sunday mornings, Nicholas (the boy-child) and I go rock climbing -usually with his friend Brian. They climb insane routes -awe-inspiring, terror-inducing routes. I climb beginner routes. And then, as a thank you to two such handsome men for being willing to spend time -in public!- with a mom-aged, unimpressive climber, I take them to lunch.

Now, rock-climbing is just another one of those ways that we can get a glimpse into our psyches. I am willing, in these matters, to make slow progress, stay a beginner as long as being a beginner feels like fun, and just plain quit when I'm done. Yet, it must be said, I sometimes quit when I'm not quite done. I decided that I wanted to make slightly more progress in my climbing.

Climbing routes are graded for difficulty. There are no two ways about it. I climb the easier routes. But I've started working my way up the difficulty scale. There's this one route I've been trying to get for about a month. It's not a wildly difficult route, except there is one place that involves a new skill for me -switching from one rock face to another (metaphor, anyone???). It's hard for me.

Nicholas offered a few weeks ago that when I get that route, he will buy lunch. He either thought that a) his money was safe because I was never going to get it, or b) food was as big a motivator for me as it is for him.

Today Nicholas bought lunch!

Hats and Shoes

When the kids were little, they had an extensive collection of hats for dress-up. There were fire fighter hats, and train driver hats, hard hats, and baseball caps and one really huge sombrero. I'm sure there were more; it seems, in my memory, that it took a really long time at night to get them all picked up. The kids used these hats as props in their play -not the tiniest bit constrained by details of what the hat was supposed to be for. However the hats were used, though, they were clues and cues for meaning. It occurred to me last night that shoes have come to fill that same role in my life.

Yes, shoes. I'm not a girly-girl by any stretch of the imagination, but I do have kind of a lot of shoes. Last night, Victoria and I dressed up A LOT and went to the ballet (The Kirov was doing Giselle in Chicago). It goes without saying that she was stunning; I was a little brown wren who drove the car and glared at all the men who stared at her. But by my standards, I was wildly dressed up -and the shoe thing became important. I had pretty brown pleated-fabric pumps with an insane heel. Not the shoes you'd choose for trekking around Chicago. Needless to say, there was a certain amount of grimacing. Then I watched ballerinas en pointe for 2 hours. Ummm.... Andrea? Shut up about your feet hurting.

So I started to think about the shoes-for-roles thing. I have pointe shoes in the back of my closet, from a long-ago life. I don't use them. Even the thought of it makes my feet hurt, but I don't want to give the shoes away, either. I have my TEVA sandals and my clogs -much more "me" than the pumps. I have rock climbing shoes -in their own way as uncomfortable as the pointe shoes or the pumps. I have gym shoes and beach sandals and work shoes and play shoes and bike shoes and flip-flops for the pool. I'm sure there are more.

In fact, I got busted on this one -shoes as a sign of social class. Seriously, by modern girl standards, I don't have that many shoes. But one of the homeless residents of the shelter I work at asked me, with some incredulity, how many shoes did I HAVE???? My response? "I have no idea." Could I have thought of a more insulting answer if I'd worked at it??? I doubt it. I really do have no idea, but if I'd made up a number it would at least have meant that they mattered to me. As it is, I indicated (incorrectly) that I can have as many shoes as I want and don't have to think about them. Excellent move, Andrea :(

But let's leave aside the social justice questions -to say nothing of the feminist questions of why women subject themselves to uncomfortable shoes for beauty- and see if we can come up with something here. Do the shoes in my closet tell me something about the person I am becoming? More career-focused than before, for sure. I'm not really sportier (still working on this one), but I have decided that I deserve the tools for the sports I love.

And today? So far, it's just been the rock climbing shoes (excruciating after the torture of last night, but I thought of the ballerinas and soldiered on) and now my trusty TEVAs. Gotta love 'em.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Gratuitous Self-Care

Here's a thing.

You know how when you look at someone else's life and admire that person's accomplishments and general ability to lead forward into life? At the same time, though, when it's you people are affirming, what you're actually feeling is "#$)(, this is hard."

Yeah. That's where I am.

There's not a thing I want to give up. Well, I would make a few changes here and there. What I mean is that there's not a category of things I would give up. I want meaningful work (and I need to eat, besides). I want to work out. I want to create things and tend my home. I want to learn new things and chart a course toward academia. I want to hang out with my friends and family. I want.... I want...I want...

But there are days when I'm just bloody exhausted. Yesterday I took a nap at 6:00 because I literally could not do anything else. And I still went to bed at 10:30. I've been getting up at 5:15 so that I can have a 1/2 hour bike ride before getting ready for work and flying out the door. This morning, even with all the sleep, I convinced myself that it was still too dark to ride at that time. (And it is getting darker in the mornings which is going to throw a monkey wrench into my scheduling.) But what I really wanted was another half-hour of sleep. The darkness was a red herring and not even I was fooled.

All of which leads me to this conclusion. I have to ADD a category of things to my life. Don't you just love how I come to apparently insane conclusions and then try to argue that they are other-than-insane??

Gratuitous self-care. I need some. I go to yoga once a week. I get a massage about once a month. But I don't even mean (solely) things that cost a lot or involve me going somewhere. A bubble bath would count. A cup of peppermint tea while rocking in the rocker on my front porch would be lovely. But I need more ideas -things I can do on a moment's notice that take care of me. What have you got in the bright-idea department, oh wise ones?

And, you're free to borrow these ideas too, because I suspect that your life is no less complicated than mine.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Thalia Comes Through

Bless her heart, she always does! (Thalia is the green bike, in case you've forgotten.)

Two things: Today is my 27th wedding anniversary. Sigh. Heart ache.
I had swimming on the schedule as my fitness activity for the day.

But I worked all day. I always work on Saturdays, but I knew enough not to take today off, for sure. Keep busy. Then I thought I would drive straight to the pool, then do some yoga at home. Somewhere in there I would eat and fold those wrinkly towels that are still in my bedroom (see the Martha post). Then I could hold my school work in front of my face, pretend I was reading, and really fall asleep. They the day would be over, and I would have survived it. See? I can do this.

Here's what really has happened so far. Right outside my office -literally, RIGHT outside my office- is the Fox River Bike Path. While getting my car out of the parking lot (not always easy.... homeless people frequently have cars, but they aren't always mobile. It becomes a navigation problem, driving around the "stopped where they died" vehicles.), I saw a cyclist. A real one -the helmet, the gloves, the shoes, the whole thing. And he was working it. And I thought, "for crying out loud, I could go for a bike ride." What I really want is to be alone, anyway.

So Thalia and I went for a spin. I can't quite get over the notion that an hour on the bike isn't a real ride. Part of it is that Thalia is such an uber-bike, that riding almost feels like cheating. I'm hardly working. But my life just doesn't have 8 hour stretches in it that are available for biking. And don't tell Thalia, but I'm not quite willing to give up those other activities for her. Well, I'd give up my job, but I'd have to replace it with another one, so what's the difference?

But darn it, an hour long ride is long enough for a little fitness effect and a lot of cobweb-clearing in the old brain. I can get through this day. I know I can.

Heart ache, for sure. But a little smidge of heart song as well.

And I had another thought that's unrelated to these others, except for biking and homeless people. When I bike, I too have the helmet, the shoes, and the gloves... all of which is a little silly for short rides. But as I've mentioned, I have arthritis in my hands, and the gloves really help. Most of the people I work with have really compromised health. But they also contribute to their own misery, just a little, by not ever moving in an intentional way. They would say (and I'm not blaming them, at ALL), given arthritis, that they could no longer ride. I say I'm a cyclist who has arthritis, so I wear the dorky gloves. I'm still trying to figure out how to make fitness inviting for this population.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Romancing the Stove

I like to eat lovely things. I like to cook lovely things. Why am I not doing that??? I seriously considered (but didn't do it,just so you know) stopping by McDonald's after spending some time at the yarn shop today. McDonald's??? Do I have no shame???

Then I came home and opened the freezer and found some bread my friend Tom made. SCORE!!! I had French toast for lunch, made with Tom's sourdough. And I remembered again that part of graceful living is eating well. And it's not hard. Well, it's certainly made easier when friends leave bread in your freezer. But really, it's not hard.

I could make this a huge dramatic project. I could marry a chef -not that any have come calling. "Will trade inventive sex for elegant food." Probably that's not going to work ;) I could contract with one of those services where someone delivers your meals. That just makes me feel sad and lonely. Or I could assess where I am right now, where I want to be, and chart a gentle course for getting there. I don't know how to cook in small quantities. I come home from work exhausted. My schedule is quite peculiar. Two nights a week, I work until midnight and eat supper at the shelter -and I've blogged before about the food there :( I need portable food to help me avoid unimaginable junk food. My situation is unusual, and clever googling isn't going to give me the plan that will work for me.

I don't need homemade sorbet at this point. I need breakfast, lunch, and dinner. What will help me the most? Do I have to know? Do I have to know right now? If I need everything, maybe I don't need a plan. Maybe I just need to do something. Anything.

Tomorrow I will eat breakfast. I have sourdough bread, after all ;)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Another "Martha Moment"

I'm guessing Martha Stewart doesn't have a laundry basket full of unfolded clothes in her bedroom. So, any comparisons of me with Martha are stretching the truth rather a bit. But I remembered how fun it was at the beginning of spring to go buy the geraniums that graced my front porch all spring and summer. And I remembered how plunking two plants down on the front steps helped me to claim my space just a bit.

Yesterday, Victoria and I went out for a girls day. She kept calling it a "mums with mom" expedition. Egad, child, stick with dancing. We bought these:
See the knife? I have a plan.

Pumpkin guts: I wanted the neighbor boys to help me with this part. It's just disgusting enough to really please children of a certain age, but I guess they weren't home from school yet.

Then this happened:

Everybody who walked by had to vote. Did the pumpkins get grouped or separated? Do I need more, or do I perhaps need a basket filled with a mixture of mums on the top step? Should I stick some ivy in the pots? I love this puttering.

And yes, even as modest a project as this helped me to claim my space in the house and on the planet. Martha knows how important that is.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

I Have No Voice

My throat is fine. I can talk. I have no writer's voice. I don't know what to do about that.

One of the things we talk about in social work is self-authorship - a particularly cruel metaphor when part of the person's self-image is as a writer. But the idea (from Freud, who really did have some brilliant thoughts) is that our life is a narrative. There are many competing stories we tell ourselves about who we are. One or the other of them will float to the front of our brain at any particular moment, but they are all rattling around, making noise in our subconscious. It is our work, our meaning-making-work, to edit those stories. We have to figure out which stories are true, remove the power -the voice- from the false ones, and create a narrative that makes sense. We have to author a life.

We are all authoring our lives all the time, whether or not we claim the task. But I feel like I've been given (forced to undertake) the opportunity to do that quite explicitly. Sometimes that's wonderful. Sometimes that's terrifying. Sometimes it's lonely. Sometimes it just makes me unspeakably sad.

Things are not like they were last year at this time. My life is vastly better. But it's hard in different ways -ways that defeat me sometimes. The "I can't do it" voices can be quite persuasive.

If we move on to Jung, we are encouraged to assign an image to those emotions that rise up and seem disproportionate. I have to be the least visual person on the planet, so I've never been able to do that. But I can hear the voice of those nasty thoughts. I know exactly whose voice it is. Hint: it's male. We are supposed to stop asking "why" questions -which is very hard for me to do. We are encouraged to replace them with "what" questions. What happens if I calm myself, and step into these new roles as though they were already mine? Which really is nothing more than claiming a little of the "entitlement" that seems to have gotten other people so far.

But... anyway... my voice... my self-authorship, it's all taken a little bump. I don't know why I expect it to be a smooth road, but I clearly do. I'm hunkering down trying to move through it. And in the meantime, I don't have that much to say. I'm just surviving. Right now, that's my task, I guess. Perhaps doing that -just surviving- helps to remove some of the power from my "I can't do it" fears. I hope so.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

More iPod Love

It's been a long time since I had an iPod love post. One thing I've always liked about the iPod is how it allows me to reconnect with music I'd forgotten about. Putting songs together in playlists would jog my memory about some song from way back when. It would frequently also send me off on peculiar google searches; it's a bit of a challenge when you don't know either the song or the composer. Or I would start badgering my family.... "what was that song that was playing at the restaurant that time we...." That kind of thing.

I'm still getting my new iPod organized, eliminating songs and playlists that are sad for me, making new workout playlists.... And I discover that iTunes has made this process of rediscovering music even easier. The Genius feature looks at a highlighted song, scans your playlists, and suggests other things you might like. OF course it isn't perfect (and for all I know there are privacy concerns), but it's really really smart.

The forgotten song? Paint Me a Birmingham. For crying out loud, how did I not have THAT?

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

I Think I'll Learn Japanese Today

Or maybe I'll finally scrape the 1940s wallpaper off the basement stairwell walls. Or I could cook. I need to cook.
The psychological principle is this: anyone can do any amount of work, provided it isn't the work he is supposed to be doing at that moment.
("How to Get Things Done," in Chips off the Old Benchley, 1949)

I am supposed to be writing. Well, look at me. I AM writing. OK, I am supposed to be writing a proposal for presentation at a conference. Thinking about it makes me ill. But it also makes me wildly inventive.

I could start that quilt I've always meant to make. I could call the dentist. Oh wait, I really do need to do that. Hang on. I could play with my virtual puppy on facebook. That has to be a low point.

Or, I suppose, I could just pull up my big girl panties and get to work.

If I write one paragraph at a time, can I have some ice cream?

Monday, September 08, 2008

Hold On Just a Minute

Today I went to the gym and did a lovely yoga practice and a weenie-workout that nonetheless left me feeling quite worked. There's this thing that happens when I'm exercising, and I can't explain it. Maybe it's because I don't have the energy to tangle myself up in mental knots. The clouds in my mind open a little, and things become clear and easy that before had me all in a muddle.

And, I hadn't grumped about Dave and my marriage in...days... so I thought it was probably time.

I've been repeating this nauseating platitude that the marriage was a failure for both of us and needs to be put to rest. I was trying to make it be true by repeating it -and then I was surprised when it kept sounding hollow and silly. That's because it's not true, for crying out loud.

Here's the thing. Dave had ALL the resources in the marriage. He had the power. He had all the money, for longer than I've admitted. He could keep me from having something just by quietly being stubborn. Things just plain didn't happen if he didn't want them to happen.

It absolutely IS true that I could have called him on this nonsense, and possibly by demanding an equal role I could have saved the situation. And even if I couldn't single-handedly have saved the marriage, it would have been better for me if I had done that. But if, with all the resources, all the power, and all the love by the way, he STILL feels that the marriage truncated him, I'm thinking the problem wasn't me. That's saying that my very existence is so strong that, even with money, time, and love he couldn't live his life fully. Wow, I'm quite the force of nature. If that's true, divorcing me doesn't matter. I'm still here, exerting my dark will, working my magic. Or maybe my magic only works if you're close to me. Who knows???

The simpler answer is that he took all the resources to shore up his crumbling sense of personal power. However subconsciously(or not), he made me small and made it clear that he was more powerful than I was-so he was powerful, by definition. How sad is that???

So my bizarre fantasy (or fear)that we'll stand in front of the judge at the end of the month, and Dave will see the error of his ways and ask to stop the proceedings in the nick of time.... not only will it not happen -which I knew. But even if it did happen, I should say no. I would just do the thing I do -love with my whole heart and forgive as best as I am able. He would do what he can do, which is somewhat less than that.

That marriage didn't fail him. He failed him -and the rest of us besides.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Ten Minutes at a Time

Can a book be written ten minutes at a time?

This might be the Shakespeare/Shakespeare's Sister dilemma. A real writer, a true writer, a person who's already written something famous-ish, can sit in his or her library all day. There's an eloquently documented terror in that kind of life (try Bird by Bird by Annie Lamott), and I don't mean to minimize the stresses of it.

But I don't live that life. I live this one, where I have something like zero-sum time management. Yet here I am, dressed and ready for work and I don't have to leave for 10 minutes. The laundry is started. Sean Connery, the red Roomba, is vacuuming upstairs. My bed is made. My gym bag is packed; my stuff is gathered for the day. I'm going to stop for gas and the world's fastest oil change (they PROMISED!) on the way to work. Good enough.

Today I'm apparently using that available ten minutes for blogging -a good thing in my world. But some days, surely, I could use it for other kinds of writing.

Here's the project: Just over a year ago, my brother and his wife lost a premature baby. Well, they didn't lose her; they know where she is. She died, because she was born wildly prematurely and with no lungs to speak of. Rachel Grace still lives with us, in a real way, even though I never saw her and she only lived about 24 hours. She was the baby we were meant to have at that time; I absolutely believe that. She changed us.

And there's this other truth that I'm a knitter, and a knitting teacher, and a thinker about knitting and women's communities.... Slowly, slowly, the idea is coming together: a book of knitting patterns for premature babies dedicated to Rachel. I have two knitting patterns in my head that would work for premature babies, I think. One is a sweater that instead of buttoning down the front has a front panel that buttons down the left side and the right side (side-front, essentially at the clavicle...does that make sense?). That would allow the baby to wear cute sweaters made by doting aunties AND be attached to life-saving machines (that have cords and leads and things). If I'm a clever girl indeed, I could figure out how to turn this pattern into a sacque or even a jumpsuit sort of thing. (A slight pause here while I wish I still had access to geometrically-trained in-house help.) The other one is just a pretty blanket, with a satin binding. We don't use multiple fabrics much in knitting, and I don't know why. The thing babies LIKE about blankets is the satin binding, in my experience.

There will be more patterns if my brain remains active and appropriately caffeinated. Each pattern could be (will be) associated with an essay. I need these essays to be, well, fabulous. So far what they are is platitude-filled drivel. This is not an auspicious beginning. But again, I refer to Anne Lamott -shitty first drafts, is her advice. That we have ;)

But the question on the table is, can a person write in 10 minute slots of time? It will annoy me, no question about it. It's like snacking, rather than dining. On the other hand, it might provide some needed urgency. "Get some words on the page; the timer is about to go off."

So, what happens if I stop wondering if I can be (if I'm allowed to be) a writer and just step into that role? A real writer -a true writer- couldn't let 10 free minutes pass by without writing -any more than a dancer could avoid dancing when she hears a scrap of music or a singer could avoid singing in the shower or the car. Writing. That's why the universe provided those 10 minutes in the morning. I should honor that gift and claim them. Eventually I'll have a book, and eventually is better than never!

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Remember This?

It's the 18-month plan that on a lark I wrote up in January. Some things I didn't even dare to dream about (such as reclaiming my academic self) -and therefore didn't make the list- have happened. Other things (ummm...weigh 110???) are not even close. But all in all, I'm making progress.


Weigh 110 by August (N's graduation) -AHEM, I can only be called off-message on this one.
Train for a triathlon –whether or not you do one! -nope
GITAP (long-distance bike ride) -scheduling trouble for this particular ride, but I have been riding
Daily yoga practice -not yet, but I'm edging closer
Have people over for brunch regularly -not brunch, but I have been having people over -and I have some better ideas here.
Build a wine collection -yes!
Keep a bottle of good champagne in the fridge -yes!
Find a neighborhood bar -yes!
Exercise 6 days a week -not yet, but I'm edging closer
Maintain relationship with Sarah the wonder-hair-dresser -yes!
Rock climbing –the goal is weekly climbing, but I’d settle for twice a month –in March, become a member -yes!
Get better work clothes -yes!
resume daily riding as soon as the weather allows -well, it's not daily, but it's frequent
go to the gym at least three days a week -probably I'm at two days/week, and that's new. But it's progress.
set up workout room and yoga space -getting there, slowly

Figure out a way to do this relationship demise thing gracefully and how to survive it. -I'm surviving.
Send birthday cards -so-so
Get an address book -yes!
Update it yes!
Write to out of the area friends -yes!
Update emergency contact information -yes!
Get a will and advanced health care directives -not yet
Update funeral arrangements -yes!

Buy the house -very close now
Get a new furnace and central air -not until I own the house
Re-create the gardens -no, still lost here
Buy some new furniture -new couch and some outdoor furniture -I got the outdoor furniture and a kitchen table, instead. The couch is disgusting and must go, but I haven't figured out what I want.
Focus on safety, security, and grace -YES!

Professional; Financial; Educational
Re-learn to do a cartwheel -haven't even tried
Take a few yoga workshops -I went to one, so far
Think about the next job –craft the plan -working on it
Write the preemie knits book -yeah....about that.... this is slow
Get the preemie pattern book published -gotta have a book before it can be published
Work for the 18 months I promised at Hesed House. -getting there
At 12-month anniversary, start looking for the next thing. Keep working until you find it. -I'm not waiting.
Keep planning interesting things at the yarn shop. -hmmm..... musing, here. I DO want to plan interesting things with knitters, possibly not with the yarn shop as the focus.
Attend an international conference. -working out the details; this could happen
Keep the idea of a social justice institute alive in your heart and mind -what can you do to make it a reality? -every day, I think about this!
Retirement planning, in this brave new single world :( -yeah. yuck. but I'm doing it.

Spiritual; Communal
Find a volunteer opportunity that nurtures you and does some good. -my job is essentially a volunteer position, I'm paid so little :(
Buy flowers once a month -I just get them out of the garden now.
Join a book club -yes
Donate blood -I haven't.
Become an NPR member -yes
Get back to buying organic and fair trade whenever possible -yes
Advocate for bicycling in town and elsewhere -yes
See if Newman can still be your spiritual community -haul your sorry self back to church! -I tried. It hasn't worked just yet.
Reconnect with almost-lost friends -yes!
Nurture connections with all friends -I could do a lot better at this.
Daily meditation as part of yoga practice -well, it's not daily, but I'm getting there.

Expeditional; Recreational
Go to the movies once a month -probably
Travel outside of the US -not yet, but there are plans
See live music and dance -yes!
Stay up dancing until the wee hours of the morning -not yet!
Sib trip -YES!
GITAP -scheduling problems
Start planning for a volunteer vacation –internationally -I had forgotten about this one.
Figure out a way to go to an international conference. -yes
Save for Tuscany trip -well, the savings are modest, for sure, but they're there.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

I Didn't Know my Own Strength

Yesterday was a bad day. Bad days happen in perfectly wonderful lives. I know that. Of course, knowing that to be true doesn't make dealing with those days any easier. This day held many forms of ickiness. Work was hard and unrewarding and unsupported. I got some bad news about a house project I want to undertake. I couldn't spend time with friends when I wanted to, because of legal tasks that had to be completed. Whine, whine, whine...

The point is, I had a split second of thinking that I couldn't handle all of this, that I wanted someone else to fix it. I don't want that, really. I can fix it. I am not powerless here. It's just that things don't always turn out the way I want them to turn out. But engrossed in self-pity as I was, I almost didn't notice this song playing on the new iPod:

I've been livin' with a heart on the mend
Wonderin' how will I ever be strong
I know I'll live to love again
I just leaned on
you too long
It's been an uphill fight
But I'm gonna be alright

I didn't know my own strength
'Till I had to pick myself up
And carry on without your love
I'm gettin' back on my feet
It's been a long hard fall
But I'll make it after all
I didn't know my own strength

I've had oceans of tears to get through
And the weight of the world on my mind
There've been mountains of memories to move
And I've been beating back the blows to my pride
But 'til the times got tough
I never knew what I was made of
Then the times got tough
And I knew what I was made of

It's Lorrie Morgan. Go to iTunes and download it and sing it with me ;) I downloaded it in 2007, before I ever had the slightest inkling -in my conscious mind- that I would need it.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

My New Toy

There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth here in the cornfields. You thought that noise you heard was, possibly, the aftereffect of Hurricane Fay. Nope, that was me howling. My workhorse of an iPod -to whom (whom???) I had not been overly nice- died. I thought perhaps it was the battery, and brought it in to the apple store. Nope. They replaced the battery, for a reasonable fee, but that was not it. I had dropped the poor dear into a puddle. She seems to have gone on to meet her maker.

I apparently can not survive without an iPod. Well, I could survive. But... music in the house is essential. Music when I work out is absolutely essential. Music when I walk across campus is certainly nice. So, here she is. The new silver 160 gig iPod. 160 gig, forcryingoutloud!!! Who needs that? But it was cheaper than the 80 gig, because of a weird sale at Best Buy, so there you go.

Now she needs a name. I'm leaning towards Calliope.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

My Manga

Jill over at Writing or Typing knows all the cute new internet tricks. Her manga looks like her. Mine is cuter than me. I suppose I ought to have included some gray in my hair. Or eliminate it from my actual hair ;)

Friday, August 22, 2008

Happy happy day, dear one

V holds N -many moons ago
Originally uploaded by Andrea1

See how Victoria is staring at you, as though you were a gift from the universe? She still thinks that! And it's just mildly possible that I do, too!

Here's a more recent photo. You've become quite the man -if somewhat irritated with me for taking your picture in public ;)

glamorous climbers


Thursday, August 21, 2008

On-Board Navigation

NO!!! She's not going there! I will NOT use my new Tom-Tom navigation system as a metaphor.

Life is a journey. Show me the way. Chart a course. Plot your path.

Oh, just gag me with a spoon.

Stop bossing me the #($* around, that's what I think. But... the truth is, along with one of my sisters, I have a SPECTACULAR ability to get lost. Huge. Knows no limits. Truly a thing of astounding power. That's my ability to get lost. I ended up in Battle Creek, Michigan once when I was supposed to be in Milwaukee. Wrong state. Yeah, I know. In a tragic marital moment, I took us across the same bridge in Montreal THREE times, because I was reading the map rather than driving. That wasn't a good day. And then there was the day when the similarly-impaired sister and I were wandering around Philadelphia, looking for each other. We found each other because her son was with her and my phone had a fairly primitive navigation service. And even then, we almost missed each other because we were on opposite sides of the street. Viewed from the sky, it was probably hilarious. Not so much, when viewed at street level!

When one has an impairment, it is not weakness to ask for help. It's just plain sensible to use assisting devices and assistants when, otherwise, life would be smaller and more limited.

I use mapquest a lot. It has saved my backside more than once. There are several things that mapquest won't do for me, however. If, you know, just for the sake of argument, I turn left when it says right -and then completely screw up the correction and become hopelessly turned around- mapquest doesn't know what to do. It knows how to get me from where I started to where I said I wanted to go, assuming I do what I'm told to do. Ask my mother how likely that last bit is.

Tom-Tom will at least figure out where I am and allow for mid-point corrections. So far, she hasn't said "For the love of God, I SAID turn LEFT." I work in a town I don't live in -a town there's really no point in being in, except for work or living. It's not as though one seeks out Aurora, Illinois as a destination. People live there because it's close to Chicago. People work there, because....well, in my case, because poor people live there and someone was willing to pay me to help them.

I've worked there eight months and I've figured out a few different ways to get to work and back, how to get to the Panera for coffee, and how to get to the gym. That's it. But I could, hypothetically, go from work to the city (meaning Chicago) and THEN go home. Except my brain starts to melt at the navigational challenge. Or I could go rock climbing with my son and boy buddies and then go to Panera and then go to work. After I breathe into this paper bag because I'm sure I'll end up in Indianapolis by accident.

Tom-Tom was on sale. It's a bargain, even if the navigator is a little snotty. My life will get a little bigger -and all for under $200. I'm good with that.

And life actually is a journey.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Rigor Vita

That's probably the wrong declension of vita, and I'm too tired to go look it up. A thousand apologies.

But the point is there.... I've hit a spot in my life where I'm feeling rigid, literally and metaphorically. I've watched other women in the middle of a divorce go through this. There have been unspeakable, shaming boundary violations. Then, as part of healing there's a time when, truly, compromise is possible. But instead she draws a line in the sand and defends it for all she's worth. The line is not important, possibly even to her. It's the defense that's important. I WILL stand my ground. I will NOT permit boundary violations. There will be NO compromise.

Subtext: Because I'm afraid that if I give you even an inch, and you hurt me again, I will die.

That's the part I didn't know before. It's interesting.

Yes, I drew a line. I defended it. Possibly, modest defense was appropriate; rigidity was unnecessary. I'm not apologizing, exactly. He deserves all I can dish out and more. But I am saying that rigidity is uncomfortable for me. I don't care whether he likes it or not. I don't like it. I just don't know how to be both flexible and protected -or strong and open -or fierce, but not snarling.

This kind of rigidity really is rigor mortis, or rigor vita, I suppose, since I'm not dead. Life unyielding. That's not what I want. I want my life to soar, but something is weighing me down again. How can it be a person's presence in a community? Well, it can't be. It's the power I assign to that person's presence.

And wandering down the curvy pathways of my mind.... we get to yoga. Again. (I know... just hang on. There may be a point here, somewhere.) There's a "reclaiming my body" post rattling around in my brain, but it's not finished. But I do know that yoga -literally and metaphorically- knows something about strength and flexibility, and fierce concentration with an open heart. If I have lost my mental and emotional agility, I have also lost my (formerly considerable) physical flexibility. Both can come back, but it takes work.

From psychology, we know that sometimes people store unexamined (not-yet-examinable, frequently) pain in a physical body part. There's a reason that people get chronic stomach aches or neck pain or headaches or... whatever. A single individual typically gets a certain kind of stress pain, not all of the kinds. Without going overboard, the pain tells us a little something about what the unexamined issue is.

We usually think that therapy or time will heal the issue, and the body pain will ameliorate. But it can go the other way. Sometimes there's a physical release first; yoga and dance are frequently the agents here. The pain gives way, and the emotional issue...well, it doesn't go away, but it becomes available to examination.
Its power to frighten is reduced.

Good lord, is anyone still with me????

Here's the point. (and the crowd breathes a sigh of relief) I can confront these issues from both sides. I think. I muse/brood/reflect. I write. I talk. I post here. I have a long-suffering life coach. I'm doing what can be done on that side of the equation for my own healing and thriving. Yet, for so many reasons, I could try to reclaim some flexibility from the physical side. Even if the emotional breakthrough isn't sudden and momentous (and for most people it isn't), there's power in following my goals and dreams in the physical arena. That power could inform all the other dream-building that I'm doing.

And, my back might hurt a little less ;)