Monday, June 30, 2008

An Afghan for Sam

Yikes, Sam. How do you feel about being nice and cozy in graduate school? Grad school is good. Grad school is fun. MUCH better than college!

Oh, okay.... I'll work harder.

And I'll upload a better picture. But first I have to replace the batteries in my camera. And I have to acknowledge that I can't fit 4 AAA batteries (which is what I bought a big pack of) into the space that wants 2 AAs. In a just world, that would work. Alas. So, it's back to the store I go.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Finding My Spot

Last night I had dinner with a friend from graduate school -so we've known each other a LONG time. At one point, we reflected that both of us came to this little burg following a guy. We'd never even heard of this town before. And both of those guys -poor benighted fools that they are- left us and this town. So here we are. This is our spot.

At least for now. My house is here, and as you know I'm having great fun making it really mine. Many of my friends are here. And for now at least, my children are here. I'm sure they won't be here forever; in fact I want them to think of the world as their playpen. But they're here now, and you wouldn't believe me if I told you I didn't love that.

I've stopped pretending, though, that I can see very far into my own future. I'm taking steps now that could lead me anywhere -and I don't mean that metaphorically. Seriously.... anywhere. I know it's several years down the pike before those (or any such) opportunities present themselves, but one can't help wondering about it!

I found this website that lets you take a quiz and find 24 cities in the United States that match your preferences: Find Your Spot. Every single one of my spots was in the south, and number 2 on the list was the city I grew up in. How weird is THAT?

My spots:

Hattiesburg, Mississippi (Honestly, I don't think I could live in Mississippi. Maybe in Oxford.)
Little Rock, Arkansas
Alexandria, Louisiana
Gainesville, Florida
Tallahassee, Florida
Tulsa, Oklahoma (doubt it)
Clarksville, Tennessee
Athens, Georgia
Biloxi, Mississippi
Shreveport, Louisiana
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Jackson, Mississippi (actually, this could be another Mississippi contender)
Mobile, Alabama
Houston, Texas (Texas is probably a non-starter for me.)
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Chattanooga, Tennessee
Corpus Christi, Texas
Pensacola, Florida
Galveston, Texas
College Station, Texas
Hot Springs, Arkansas
Nashville, Tennessee
Ocala, FLorida
Memphis, Tennessee

Seriously, these are NOT the places I thought would show up. San Francisco, I expected. Portland, Oregon I expected. I even expected Chicago. I expected ocean. Lots of ocean. What I got was mid-size cities in the South, close to big cities and mostly with colleges or universities. I got DeKalb, moved south ;)

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Kicking Butt and Taking Names

So... I had one of those days that took a boatload of energy, but at the end of it I could say that I accomplished everything I said I would. Possibly not everything I ought to have done, but everything anyone was expecting me to do. Seriously... that's not an everyday thing in my world.

And then, because I was on an "I'm too sexy for my shoes" roll, I started....*gasp* not just cleaning my desk, but rearranging my files. See, I had this teensy little problem. My filing system didn't match much of anything -including the laws of physics and how my brain works. So I was afraid to file anything, figuring I'd never see it again. So, when my lawyer would say, "could you give me some data about... something or other?", I'd confidently reply "sure!", as though I knew exactly where those 400 pieces of paper were. Then I'd stay up all night finding them. Seriously, even I know that there has to be a better way.

But, all the systems you read about are for people who only pretend to be disorganized. Those of us who are have to think long and hard about how we can arrange things so that we will be able to locate them again. I need it to be true that the papers on my desk aren't singing the "Andrea can't succeed alone. She's too stupid to take care of herself." song. So, in the interest of shutting those pieces of paper up (WHAT???? You papers don't talk to you?), I poured myself a glass of wine and got to work.

This picture was already well into the process. Note the episode of West Wing playing on the computer, the almost empty wine glass, and the phone -in case I needed to call 911.

To give you the full effect, this came from off the desk and out of the file cabinet. Not good. But I hung in there.

I was beningly ruthless. I told myself that I didn't have to throw anything away. I had files on everything under the sun: ideas for research projects, ideas for community service, cards from people who love me, ideas for parties and decorating, half-hearted efforts at organizing my retirement information and my bank accounts. I went through them all.

I decided it was all about color. Blue files are personal. Yellow files are financial. Red files are for big pieces of property: the house, the car, my bike (worth more than my car, so this makes sense.) Plain boring files are for divorce documentation; that project doesn't merit the cool colored file folders. Green is for employment records, applying for new jobs, school stuff...that piece of life. I need one more color for insurance of all types -which I suppose could be financial, but in my brain it's its own category. Purple, perhaps? Check me out!

This is the inside of the file drawer. Am I the most organized thing, or WHAT????

Those of you who easily create order and grace wherever you go won't understand what a triumph this is. I know that; I am the child -and the despair- of such a person. There are things I'm good at that you aren't, I imagine. But this is a huge thing for me. I created a system that I can work with. It's not cumbersome, nor will it chide me when I get it wrong. I invented it; I can un-invent it. It won't mess with me ;)

Is this amazing or what?

I'm sounding flippant, but here's the thing. I got rid of stuff that has nothing to do with the new me. I revisited old dreams that really could happen now. I took charge of knowing what's going to happen in my financial future. (Nothing amazing, that's for sure, but I won't be eating cat food, which is what I had feared.) This was just another piece of making my life MINE. I'm beginning to suspect that is just, well, the beginning. I've already eliminated most of the clothes from the old me. I have a new hair style and new glasses. I'm starting to have new furniture here and there. And every time that I claim the new thing and eliminate the old truncated me, I feel stronger and better. And it was all because I had a good day at school ;)

Monday, June 23, 2008

Push-Button Living

Well, well. That last post is a study in why I shouldn't write and post late at night. That point could have been made in about 1/3 as many words. Sorry. And THAT is exactly my point this morning. Do everything you have to but don't do more than you have to.

I realized a while ago that my house cleaning during the week has devolved to "if it can get done by pushing a button, then I do it. Other than that, it waits until my days off." And of course now that school has started, I don't have days off. This could become a problem!!

I push the button on the dishwasher and my dishes get clean.
I push the button on Red October, the vacuuming robot. (He's red. When he's finished vacuuming or runs out of charge, he just stops wherever he is, which means I have to go looking for him. Hence, the Hunt for Red October.)
I push the button on my automatic shower cleaner. (He doesn't have a name, you'll be glad to know.)
I push the buttons on the washer and dryer. Sadly there is no button to push that folds the clothes. This is a terrible design flaw.
Obviously, I have stuff in the toilet tank which means I don't have to clean that.
My coffee makes itself in the morning and serves as my alarm clock.

There is a floor mopping robot, but I haven't talked myself into spending the money for it yet. I undoubtedly will at some point, since I seem to be shameless about these matters. There's even a gutter cleaning robot. There is a lawn mowing robot, too. I don't have those, either. Moving away from the robot idea, there are dishwashers that are cabinets, so your dishes are put away when they're finished washing -although I can't really see how that works exactly, unless every single cabinet is also a dishwasher.

Here are some more things a busy person could really use:
Closets ought to be, in some magic engineering way that I don't understand, washers and dryers. You hang your clothes up, and once a week they get washed and dried where they hang.

There ought to be a dusting robot that will crawl around over the floors and baseboards and furniture.

And what, for heaven's sake, are we going to do about windows? SOMEONE has to do them, and it's apparently not me. Someone please design a button I can push for that -and don't tell me that the Windex bottle comes with a button to push. I've heard that it does, but buying the bottle seems to be insufficient. Necessary but insufficient, as the logicians say.

So, what accommodations do you use that allow you to live in something other than squalor? I've considered hiring a person to deep-clean my house, but my "hiring people" budget has been used up with the lawn-mowing crew. Can I really work full time, have a big house, return to the university, see my friends, work out periodically, knit and do the occasional creative thing.... and live to tell the tale? (The thought does occur to me that once I'm finished with the thousand crappy details of getting divorced, that should free up some time.)

I concede that I can't do absolutely everything. I'm saying that I don't want to do everything. The things I'm willing (oh so very willing) to let go of are the homemaking tasks I never liked anyway. I'm not (yet) willing to let go of the idea of living with some sort of grace and intention, though. So what are the tricks you know?

Sunday, June 22, 2008

An Afghan for Sam

Finally, I'm finished fixing the (latest round of) mistakes and I'm back to making progress. That right-most edge where there's been some ripping? Yeah, I see it. I'm just hoping that blocking works its magic once again. Time will tell.

Friday, June 20, 2008


This post works the way the rest of my mind works; there's a long list of experiences and resources that I learned about from people who don't know each other. These things rumble around in (the vast open space that is) my brain. Eventually things become connected that probably aren't. But making those connections is powerful for me, and if nothing else the process keeps me off the streets.

So, here's the deal. A long time ago, I learned from Green LA Girl about TED talks. I think she wanted people to go look at Al Gore's talk, which was wonderful. While poking around on the TED site, I came across Sir Ken Robinson's talk on creativity, which was so wonderful that I have watched it again and again. I've purchased his books and actually read them -the connection between buying books and actually knowing what's inside them seems to require reading them. But hope springs eternal, and I don't always actually read the books I purchase.

He is writing a book called Epiphany where he interviews people to learn about how they discovered their talent. His point is probably going to be that we educate people out of creativity, which is going to have disastrous consequences in the future. While arguably true, that's not my point today. So, I started to think about how I discovered my talent.

This is going to sound improbable, but it's true. I discovered my talent by knitting, hanging out with a community of women who knit, and teaching beginners to knit. A lot of my life started to come together, with knitting as a catalyst for that process. It's not that I need to get a job that allows me to knit all day, although that would be terrific. What I need to do, I learned anew, is have a life that allows me to teach, think, empower people to take charge of their own circumstances, and maybe write a little to help other teachers do the same. (I need more than that, but this is a powerful start.)

More importantly, though, I've learned about creativity and how essential it is to my life. I've knitted and sewn and embroidered and crocheted for almost as long as I can remember, but I've never thought of myself as particularly creative. Here's the sequence of how that's gone -and my knitting group experience seems to suggest that this is typical. At first you can't read a pattern at all. So, for most of us, that means we can't make complicated things. A desire to make those more complicated things leads us to learn about patterns. Then for a while we MUST follow patterns -or so we think. But eventually, we've made enough sweaters or baby booties or whatever that we can start tweaking patterns. "I want this sweater to have that pattern's neckline and that other pattern's stitch and ...." You're essentially writing patterns now, but you think of it as pattern-tweaking, probably. You're using the template in your head of THE SWEATER to create your sweater. Pretty soon, you don't bother even with the template. Some knitters, sometimes, can rethink the template and come up with something completely new. I offer you the disturbingly creative mind of Cat Bordhi as an example of what I'm talking about. That woman doesn't let ingrained templates frame her thinking, not for a New York minute.

The remarkable women and men who come to the yarn shop looking for knitting help have taught me something life changing. There are no bad knitters. There are inexperienced knitters, certainly. No one's born knowing how to do this; there is a day when you start. And that day will involved dropped stitches, random increases, and a few tangles. To start down the path that might lead you to become a creative knitter, you have to be willing to be wrong. And being wrong occasionally won't end once you're an experienced knitter. (Did you read my last Sam's Afghan post?) Creativity is not the same thing as being wrong. But if you're aren't willing to be wrong, you'll never be creative.

And some beginners are courageous enough to begin exploring that tension. From them, I am learning about nothing less important than the gift of human imagination. In the process of teaching people to knit well, I worry the most about two groups of people: the ones who think mistakes are failures, which leads them to believe fairly quickly that they are failures, and the ones who pride themselves on perfectly implementing someone else's ideas. These people will say things like "I rip whenever I see the slightest mistake." First, ripping isn't always the best way of fixing a mistake. And secondly, look again at your work. Have you made a mistake, or have you created something uniquely yours? Again, creativity and being wrong aren't the same thing. You might have made a mistake that must be corrected, for reasons of fabric structure or a deep psychological need to have your creation match the picture in your head. Those are both valid reasons, but please be willing to consider the possibility that the thing you've done isn't so much a mistake as a design feature.

OK, I've wandered even further afield than I meant to -and that's saying something. But here's the point. (Did I hear you say "Oh thank God"??) I know I'm good at some things. I'm beginning to suspect that, in fact, I was put on this planet to accomplish something that is uniquely mine to accomplish. And I learned that from many people -some of whom I may never actually meet. But I've learned the most from my knitting friends, many of whom think I've taught THEM something. These remarkable women should stand up and take a bow for having accomplished the marvelous. They've taught me what my role in life might be.

And that the police won't come if you make a mistake in your knitting. It's just sticks and some yarn. Pick it up and try something. Which is a life lesson too.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Take This Job and....

OK... you know what's next and I didn't say that. And I won't say it precipitously, never fear. But there have been new heart breaks at work that just tear me up. The job I didn't get? They offered it to a 25 year old who can't spell. Who...ummm... used to work with me. And today I got a snippy little e-mail about completing some task that had been hers to do. Oh yeah, this is going to go well. How much disappointment, affront, and rejection can I endure? That's apparently not a rhetorical question. Sigh....

But there's this "Andrea returns to the academy" project -to make it sound more lofty than it really is ;) My heart lightens when I start to think about tiny research projects that I could begin. I'm interested in disaster response in fragile states. I'm interested in community change. I'm interested in social justice. I could sit down with someone from Doctors Without Borders, compare them to the Red Cross. (Don't get me started. Just believe me when I tell you that there are important differences.) Maybe I could learn something about establishing an effective response, particularly about disseminating credible information to people in crisis. (Don't get me started. Just believe me when I tell you that believed-information doesn't come from authority figures most of the time.) Maybe I could present at the Bangkok conference next year. Why NOT???? Maybe while I'm that far from home, I could use leftover international connections to see if I could meet Aung San Suu Kyi. (Yes, I know she doesn't live in Bangkok. Work with me here.) Another little project of mine is that I've always wanted to understand how (or if) communities heal from mass shooting kinds of experiences. Unfortunately, I don't have to travel to work on that one.

Seriously, my heart sings. I could get to do this.

Not soon, though. Not full-time, anyway. But I'm on the path. So maybe this job -even with its insults- is the job I need in the short term. I absolutely don't take it home. I don't care enough, truth be told. It pays the bills. It offers me a lot of flexibility in terms of scheduling. Most people, I'm guessing, don't love their jobs. It's a means to an end. I've been blessed up until now; I know that. But there's no harm, necessarily, in sharing the lot of the common man ;) Suck it up. Go to work. Get a paycheck. And let it take you somewhere you want to go.

Maybe I didn't get this new job because it wasn't the job I was meant to have. (Thanks, Lianne, for that insight.) I'm not sure why this message from the universe had to come with SUCH a heavy hand, but for now it's the assumption I'm going to operate from. And in the extra time that not caring all that much creates, I'll work on the stuff that makes me feel light -and powerful at the same time.

Remind me I said this when there are days that make me want to spew disdain, correct spelling, and use my intellect as a weapon.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

My Wise Sister

I've blogged before about the lawn mowers in my life. (I'll get to the wise sister part of this story. It's just going to take a few minutes. ) Basically the idea is that there are things in my life that I need to use, but that I can't use for some reason or another. The lawn mower is one of those things; I'm too bloody short to start it. Alas, my grass grows just like everyone else's. I want to be a good neighbor and not have that house from which people politely avert their eyes. But not being able to use my mower makes it less than perfectly useful.

Being me, of course, I have to over-analyze everything and start using the lawn mower as a metaphor for all the stumbling blocks in my life. Do I buy a lawn mower I can start and learn to mow the grass? Will that be the empowering, good-neighbor choice? Do I hire some neighbor child to mow? Do I stand on a chair and start the lawn mower I do have? (And don't you just know how that story is going to end??)

So, last October I showed up at my sister's doorstep, bloody and broken from relationship drama. (Not literally bloody. Don't worry.) I'm sure she remembers those days, but I really don't. Can't. Won't. Whatever. But I do remember sitting out on her deck, drinking...something.... wine, probably. And her lawn was being mowed (mown? that sounds wrong, somehow)-and not by her. What a fabulous idea. She'd worked some deal with the service that mows the grass for the common areas in the subdivision.

Somewhere in my shattered mind, the idea took root. The house just south of me is a rental and they have a service mow the grass. What if I call them and ask them to mow mine at the same time? It is not the most cost-efficient strategy for a girl on a budget. But I can't tell you how wonderful it is not to have to wince and worry and promise myself that I really will -I mean it this time- get to the grass this weekend. It's such a treat to come home and see that my grass has been mowed and the edges trimmed. And they even put the lawn chairs back where they belong.

It's almost like having a pool boy, without the pool ;)

And, by the way, that sister is wise about other things as well. My other sibling are brilliant as well, but this one has recently started a blog. Go see: Nina.

Monday, June 16, 2008

An Afghan for Sam

OK, Sam-o, Auntie Andrea hasn't been at her knitting best this week. We've had a bit of a setback. I have this knitting attitude that others might call hubris. Patterns??? Pish-posh. That's for the little people. And you know how hubris usually works out in the Greek myths?

Yeah, pretty much, that's the story. I didn't kill my father and marry my mother, or anything. But the reminder from the universe that I, too, am one of the little people has not been subtle. As Franklin says, " the knitting gods have chosen this moment to knock back a few beers and have a giggle at my expense." That light blue rectangle with the needles in it? I knit that one in dark green. And the little dark blue square? Oh yeah, that was the wrong color, too. So, I've done some ripping and re-knitting.

I'll pull myself together this week, I promise.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Falling Away

I'm giving up for now. I can't go to church. It's part decision and part fait accompli. But somehow it's good to admit it for now.

I work on Sundays. My schedule prevents me from going to the Mass I've always gone to. OK, that's not so bad. But my schedule actually prevents me from attending any of the services in the summer. I could -I really could- go to church in Aurora or Naperville, close to where I work. I kept saying I was going to try that, but somehow it never happened.

I tried all sorts or arguments with myself. I miss liturgy, I said to myself. Maybe I do. That's certainly something that Catholics say, and I'm sure they mean it. I'm not so sure it's the driving force for me, although I vastly prefer the Catholic liturgy over the Protestant version. I told myself that I needed the community -except I feel very little sense of community when I'm there. I even tried telling myself that Dave will be back soon, and I need to stake the Newman Center out as my turf. Oh for heaven's sakes. Fortunately for my self-esteem, that wasn't motivating either.

Here's the thing. There are people from church I don't want to lose. (Mike, are you paying attention?) But the parish itself is in a bit of a quagmire. There are times in a church's life-history and a parish's life-history when parishioners have to suck it up and wait for the good times to return. Catholics are used to taking the long view on this; things change at a fairly glacial pace and we're used to that.

When you're at your personal best - or even at equilibrium- you can wait. But I am so very far from that. Church -not the people, but the experience of being church together- is so much less than I need it to be. It's so much less than it's capable of being. It's just another disappointing relationship.

Of course, the negative self-talk starts immediately. A good person would value the relationship enough to stick it out through the bad times, I maintain. Of course, I could just be projecting from one relationship to another. Or, on the other hand, maybe I'm learning from one bad relationship and applying it to another! And, if you remove yourself from the pews and the collection basket, then you lose your ability to facilitate change. I've said that often enough, and it's true. But I just don't have enough energy to tend to being a change agent for the entire bloody church!

Here's my argument -for now. In a real community, people cycle in and out of being the needy one and being the supportive one. Everyone, no matter how needy, has gifts to offer. Everyone, no matter how gifted and energetic, has places of brokenness and abject neediness. A true community lets that be fairly fluid; people give and take as they need. If someone takes too much or gives too much (the more common mistake, as it happens) eventually someone notices and there is a gentle challenge to bring the system back to balance.

That process has been subverted. Somehow, we lost our sense of living community. I have been, historically speaking, one of the community nurturers. And recently, I haven't had the energy to hide my brokenness. But when I thought I literally couldn't survive, I didn't feel like the community was there for me. A few individuals were splendidly, blessedly there, but that's not quite what I mean.

So, in some ways, I don't mind skipping church on Sundays. Yet, I need to admit that that's what I'm doing. It's not a scheduling thing- or not solely a scheduling thing, anyway. I can't do it right now. It needs too much from me, and I jsut plain don't have the energy to spare. This relationship, at least, needs to have an honest breakup.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Reclaiming Abundance

Wednesday night I did 30 minutes of yoga, which is nothing short of miraculous. I had to modify poses like crazy. (Have I mentioned that I apparently have arthritis in my knees? Forcryingoutloud, is there no respite from the indignities???) And the aforementioned voices in my head would NOT shut up, and no it doesn't help to know the committee meeting in there is all me. In spite of all the racket, though, it was a remarkably yoga-like experience.

My life coach, God love her patient heart, challenged me to think about why I want to have yoga in my life. Am I just saying that to please her or someone else? Is it what I really want? Certainly, there are things about yoga I know I don't want.

Yeah... not so much with that.

But I don't really want this either:

I don't know much about Gurmuhk (Exhibit A) and her yoga, truth be told. But I know that if I start appearing in public dressed like that, I will deserve what I get. As for Ana Forrest (Exhibit B), I would love to be that strong, but only if it happened by accident. She brings a steely ferocity to her yoga that I can admire -from afar- but I don't really want to emulate.

So what does Andrea-yoga look like and why do I want it? Father Joe Pereira is onto something when he says that yoga is loving yourself back into life. As I did yoga, I encountered all sorts of "dead zones" in my body. I don't mean metaphoric chakra-stuff here. There were places along my back that I told to move in such-and-such a way. These places didn't taunt with me disdain or pain. They just plain didn't hear the suggestion that I wanted them to move. There was no response at all.

There have always been places where I struggled to find activity and where my yoga has been challenged. My upper back and shoulders are no yogini's dream come true, and never have been. But some of these dead zones are new, and that's just frustrating. It's daunting how quickly flexibility and strength disappear from the body. It's also true that my body is not pain free. Things hurt that didn't use to hurt. My doctor encourages me not to be sanguine about that. It's not old age creeping up on me, along with my impending 50th birthday. It's disuse. Get to work, he says.

But I'm still being negative, saying what I don't want. I realized the other day that the almost-constant refrain in my head for the past 25 years has been "I just want someone to love me". I thought the person I wanted was Dave and that I had to do whatever it took to make that happen. I apparently didn't HAVE whatever it took, because we all know how that story is ending. But I now know that there are people who do love me, and they turn out to be way more important and good and true than he ever could be.

They are loving me back to life, true. But they can't do all the work. It's time for me to do some of the loving. Part of that process has been for me to revisit and reclaim the girl I was in college -the last time I remember feeling powerful and competent. Along with her mindset, can I have her body? (Oh please, she said to the nice man with the red horns and the tail!) OK, there will be some wrinkles and stretch marks and gray hair that weren't there then. I get that. But why can't my body have the range of motion it had then? Why can't I have the certainty that I am attractive and desirable that I had then? Why can't I have the confidence that my body will do what I ask of it? My doctor tells me that there is no reason at all. Get to work. (Well, he didn't actually weigh in on the attractive and desirable question. I'm extrapolating.)

So, I don't particularly care if my chakras are balanced or my thymus is thumped (don't ask... it's the weirdest damn thing). I don't care if the sutras are studied or I EVER really finish the Pradipika. But I want more than stretching and strength, too. I want literal and metaphoric balance. I want a body that celebrates what the human form can attain. I want the experience of doing amazing things and the certainty that there are enough amazing experiences still to come to last a lifetime.

Yoga is a daily practice of doing only what you can do today. And the learning isn't linear (when is it ever???). Just because I could do a pose this way today doesn't mean I will be able to do it that way tomorrow. I might improve. I might not. I might get worse. And I get to learn to be okay with that. Challenge without denigration, that's my task. Don't be comfortable with too little from yourself, but nor should I frame modification of a posture as failure. Doing the think I can do right now is important for its own sake and it makes way for the next thing. If the dead zones in my body can resurrect (and they have before), then perhaps the dead zones in my psyche can do the same. It's about reclaiming abundance, that's what it is.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Choosing the Baseline Carefully

There are days -most days- when I feel nutty as a fruitcake. My glasses have been lost -in the house!- for over a week. And I don't have piles of junk to lose them in. This means that I did something ridiculous like put them in the freezer. (No. I checked.) Today I received a notice from the State Department of Revenue that I didn't sign my tax return. I spend hours and hours trying to figure out what I could have done differently to actually have the husband I thought I had.

Yup... nutty as a fruitcake.

But that's if you choose someone like you as the baseline to indicate sanity. We need to rethink this. There is this person in town who's right on the friend/acquaintance cusp. I am reliably informed that she has gone off the deep end. She has, I am told, paid $50 to a company that promises to remove alien probes from your body. By phone. You hold the phone up to the part of your body that has the alien probes. They play a sound that sounds remarkably like a fax machine. And then you go on to the next infected body part. Alas, they weren't able to remove all the probes on the first try, and there will need to be another appointment.

Now, aren't you rethinking my sanity? I certainly am.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Voices in my Head

Not those voices! Happily, I am spared delusions of voices telling me to...oh, I don't know... take off all my clothes and walk down Michigan Avenue. (And if that's what the voices would say, you should be profoundly thankful that I am spared. My comparative sanity allows for yours, in this circumstance!) No, it's the disparaging voice of Dave Rusin that lives in my head, and I definitely need to evict him!

Yesterday, the girl-child and I were cavorting in the waves (see below) and I learned that Dave arrived safely in Hong Kong, (Oh?? What for? With whom?) after having spent a week in London (Oh???? What for? With whom?) I realized almost at once that asking those questions (and I didn't ask out loud) was reflexive. I really don't care about the answers. I did care that he's off gallivanting on other continents and I was in... Indiana. I felt for a tragic moment like my perfect day was less-than and didn't measure up. If only I had been enough, shrewd enough, a person who planned ahead.... I too could be in Hong Kong.

But I was with Victoria, on the beach which restores me, far enough away from my troubles.... I knew enough -just barely- to avoid giving him the power to ruin my one and only vacation day. I told that voice in no uncertain terms to shut the #($& up. And it did.

The interesting thing was this (and don't say..."FINALLY, she catches on". I know. I know.) Victoria told me that he never asks how I'm doing. She told me that he understands that he's hurt the kids, but apparently doesn't believe that he's hurt or wronged me in any way. Until he left for London, he checked my blog almost daily -I assume for information he could use about my travels and resources. But he doesn't care how I'm doing; he probably doesn't spare me a second thought.

Which means...drum roll please... that the voice in my head isn't his. He doesn't give a flying flip. That voice is mine, projected onto him. Well, hell. To avoid seeming totally pathetic, I need to remind myself that I have decades of him belittling (very subtly, but very effectively) my efforts at almost everything. I think he needed to do that to make up for his own poor performance in some areas of his life. It made him feel bigger. But if I let him continue to do that, that's my responsibility.

The bad news is that I think this will be a very hard habit to break. When will I stop having conversations with him in my head? When will I stop wondering what he's doing now? When will I realize that it's been days since I even thought about him? There is no question in my mind that I am healthier than I was in October. I'm even healthier than I was a year ago, before I ever knew this was going to happen. But true health? Self-actualization? Thriving, at no one else's expense? That's going to be a long time coming. I wish there were medicine to quiet these voices that make me feel like a failure, equivalent to the medicines that work for the voices telling other people to do risky and risque things. Alas, I have to do the work of stilling them, like everybody else who's tried to reclaim a life :(

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Forget Engagement; Let's Go With Retreat!

There are three things in life -at least three- that nourish my soul, that make my troubles fall away: spending time with my children doing anything at all, big bodies of water, and holding a newborn baby for as absolutely long as I can get away with doing it. There was no baby involved today, but other than that it was an absolutely perfect day. Early this morning, Victoria and I set off on a "mommy and me" adventure to the Indiana Dunes.

The weather was perfect. We remembered everything we needed -no small feat since I worked until 1:00 this morning. We only got a tidge lost, and that was because the exit we needed was actually closed and the detours were not marked in ways we understood.

It was an exhausting day ;) We watched the sailboats.

We built sand castles.

We watched the waves.

When that became too exhausting, we read beach books and fell asleep. We ate baba ganoush and pita I had left over from something else. It's possible that we were a teensy bit late with the sunscreen application, but other than that the day was perfect. I feel restored.

And there are babies to hold at work ;)

Monday, June 09, 2008

Engagement and Retreat

A week from today my life bumps up yet another notch in the busy-ness department. I'm excited about this new project (a class) and I think it might take me in a good direction. Or, at least, it's worth the investment of time to see if this is a direction I want to go. Nonetheless, for 8 weeks, I'm going to be basically crazy-deranged-busy. I'm going to go from only one day off a week to none.

And I'm having a bunch of company later this summer -about which I am insanely excited. But a truly hospitable person would, say, evict the dust bunnies that have taken up residence in the guest room and create a welcoming space or two. And the fact of the company means that I need to save my paltry few vacation days for that! vacation time and even more claims on the 168 hours a week that I get -just like every other human, in spite of my clear need for more ;) A few weeks ago I realized that I have to (not ought to... we're talking MUST here!) find a way to sneak away to a restoring place and take some time for myself. I mean something more restorative than- something fundamentally different from- coming home, grabbing a glass of wine and a piece of pita bread and watching Buffy DVDs and knitting on Sam's blanket. That's fun and plenty good enough for the occasional week night. But I'm talking 12-24 hours of restorative goodness.

This train of thought is where the camping idea came from. That's still a go, by the way. So there's one sneak-away-vacation on the books. Tomorrow -assuming the weather improves- the girl child and I are going to the Indiana Dunes. It's a big beach, there's a big old lake (Lake Michigan -we're talking BIG lake!), and there are places for riding bikes. So, think good thoughts for the weather.

Got any other mini-vacation ideas? Any suggestions for themes? I'm thinking Lake Geneva in Wisconsin... kayaking on the Sugar River... a spa day in Chicago... The Cubs haven't started embarrassing us yet, so maybe I'll get tickets and go to a game.

I await enlightenment, oh wise ones.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

An Afghan for Sam

Or... we could call this post Accountability for Aunt Andrea. Whatever. Here's proof that I'm working on it, dear one.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Plan B

A while back I talked about two plans that required courage. One worked out, and as it turns out, the second one didn't. I applied for a job I didn't get. This happens. It stinks, but it happens.

In the "door closing/window opening" department we now have another interesting possibility. Remember Thomas and Rachel, the prematurely born children of my brother and his wife? Thomas is hale and hearty and two years old. The anniversary of Rachel's birth and death is almost upon us. I knit quite a few things for them; it's what I do. And besides, knitting for premature babies takes about two seconds. They are so VERY tiny.

When Thomas was born, I talked with one of the social workers at the hospital (Harvard, as it happens -and which turns out to be relevant) where he was born and asked if they wanted copies of the patterns I had developed. They could sell the booklet, give it out to frantic relatives who need something to do, use it for charity knitting.... I didn't really ccare.

One thing led to another, and it seems that this could actually be a book. I've hemmed and hawed. Are my patterns different enough from other patterns out there to be sure -really, really sure- that they aren't essentially someone else's design? I don't think of myself as a designer. MAYBE I'm a writer. Certainly I'm a teacher. It's not entirely a failure of self-esteem that's happening here. I don't want to write something -to go to all that trouble in an already crowded life- if I don't feel like I'm making a meaningful contribution.

But what about this? Say 10 patterns designed for preemies. 10 accompanying essays about knitting -that I somehow finesse to go with the patterns. (That part requires more than a little hand-waving.) And 10 accompanying pictures or drawings -maybe of Thomas? And the title could reference Thomas and Rachel. Life, death, knitting, saving the world... all in one little book. Now, THAT is a contribution that would be uniquely mine and possibly useful as well.

Questions? Comments? Thoughts?

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Feathering My Nest

I always wanted sweet porch furniture. Dave never did. Guess how that played out.

But, I had just resigned myself to not being able to afford porch furniture this year. It's kind of expensive. And I really do have to keep reminding myself that not everything has to be done at once. The difference between thinking you can't have porch furniture and knowing that you will is everything -and it's plenty for now. Getting the actual furniture can wait.

But... my friend Elizabeth and her mother came for a girls' day a few weeks ago, and there was a fabulous sale on this porch rocker. And Elizabeth drives a truck, so we were able to shove it in her car. And in the spirit of amazing friendship, she and her mother were willing to do that. I had the side table somewhere else in the house. I had the pillow. The hurricane lamp was a gift from a special friend from an internet group. So, it's my morning coffee sanctuary.

Clearly, the area needs some sprucing up and some more furniture. But it will happen. I'm sure of that now! And I realize that every time I make something that's only mine (as opposed to using something that I shared with Dave) a little bit of healing happens.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Crisis Averted

OK.... there's divorce, infidelity, betrayal, and life trauma. And then there's the bad stuff ;) I went to Panera this morning for coffee (and to do some homework for my life coach... that's another story!) and my iPod wouldn't work. At all. It's several years old and I'm not particularly gentle with it. And it's sort of been a little wonky lately anyway; I've been having trouble syncing it with my computer. It could be dead.

My heart just sank. iPods can be replaced, with...ummm.... the money I spent on tents and sleeping bags ;) But they can be replaced. Yes, I know iTunes tells you to back up your music. Do you really suppose I did that???? Please. The thought of replacing all that music -even of knowing what all of it is- sent me into a sinking spell!

But I got home and popped the podling into the player I use for household music, and it's playing away. I still can't get it to sync, but at least I have music!


Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Another Camping Question

I've never understood this. Enormous (light, but big) sleeping bags come with these teeny weeny stuff sacks that you're supposed to be able to actually get the bag in. It's a stupid thing, but not being able to wrangle my equipment has been part of my dislike (that's too strong a word, really) of camping. Who needs to sign up for feeling stupid? I get plenty of that, thank you very much.

So, this morning I was trying to get my new sleeping bag into its sack. Do you suppose it's an accident that it didn't come in the sack? I'm thinking the manufacturer couldn't get it in there, either. That's what I'm thinking! It probably would have been pretty hilarious to watch me in this doomed endeavor.

Is there a reason I can't just make a pretty drawstring bag that is big enough to be useful?

Hikers and bikers need things to be small. I get that. But I am not that girl. I'm not going camping using only my bicycle. I'm driving to a campsite and sleeping there. The sleeping bag only has to fit in my car, and I'm thinking that even I can make that happen. The stuff sack also helps keep the bag clean, I suppose. But for the love of Mike, I'll be sleeping on the ground. How much sense does it make to be worried about dust??

Of course, if I camp with a non-standard stuff sack I will label myself as terminally un-cool. But I think that ship sailed a while back. Am I missing something else here?